History will note that the first shot was fired Wednesday in the Great Chicago Sports Radio War of 2014.
It came in the form of a talent raid as 33-year-old producer and host Ben Finfer was hired away from CBS Radio sports/talk WSCR AM 670 to join upstart competitor WGWG LP 87.7. Branded as The Game 87.7 FM, the FM counterpart to Tribune Broadcasting news/talk WGN AM 720 launched with considerable fanfare Monday.
Starting Thursday, Finfer will co-host weekdays from noon to 1 p.m. with David Kaplan and from 1 to 3 p.m. with Howard Griffith and Alex Quigley.
“I went to Wikipedia, typed ‘insatiable sports fanatic,’ and Ben Finfer’s picture popped up,” said Todd Manley, vice president of creative content at WGN and The Game 87.7.
It’s a big step up for Finfer, who becomes a full-time on-air personality after spending the last 12 years mainly as a producer who doubled as a weekend and fill-in host. The north suburban native, who attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, joined ESPN Radio WMVP AM 1000 in 2002 and jumped to the Score in 2010.
“I’m Ben Finfer and I could not be happier to be here at 87.7 The Game,” he said in an appearance with Griffith and Quigley. “This whole thing is such a weird . . . it’s such a weird day. I’m not gonna lie. I mean, two hours ago I was talking on another station. Here I am and I couldn’t be happier. It’s just gonna be awesome.
“It’s craziness. We don’t even know what the show is going to sound like yet. There’s going to be all sorts of ideas. I am going to tell people this: There’s going to be a lot of laughing, we’re going to make you laugh, and we’re going to make you get really angry at us at times, I’m sure too. . . . That’s what we’re here to do — is to make people angry.”
Minutes earlier, Score midday host Dan McNeil, whose show Finfer produced, broke the news of his colleague’s move to competition. The two earlier had worked together under program director Mitch Rosen at ESPN 1000. But as gracious as the sendoff was, it was also brief. “Damn, I’ve already been locked out of my CBS email,” Finfer tweeted. “Those guys don’t waste time.”
As the three-way sports/talk battle gets underway, the Score enjoys a healthy lead in the ratings. Nielsen Audio ratings released this week for January show the Score in 15th place overall with a 2.6 percent share, while ESPN 1000 is tied for 24th with a 1.7 share. Among men between 25 and 54, the Score finished first with a 5.0 share, while ESPN 1000 tied for 13th with a 3.6 share.