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Sports Radio Dynamics

Nick Mendola's move to WECK changes media landscape

Some people might react to last week’s news that Nick Mendola is switching radio gigs with a big “ho-hum.” After all, it’s just a radio personality, right? Some guy on the air who takes calls and reads scores and pontificates about our sports teams.

Nick Mendola

Nonetheless, it was big news, as in the four years that Mendola has worked in the sports radio biz, he has emerged as one of the premier talents and recognizable voices on the air. His signature “Let’s Go, Bills” rap song has earned almost universal acclaim among Bills fans, and folks walking the parking lot towards Ralph Wilson Stadium on game days hear the rap chant blaring almost more than the long-in-the-tooth “Shout” song.

Mendola follows Brad Riter, also a former WGR radio host, over to the competing WECK, an independently owned station based in Cheektowaga.

So does this portend a new round in the sports radio wars? We all remember the ’GR vs. WNSA battle of a decade ago, when the Rigas-owned Sabres team wanted to offer a competing voice to the sports airwaves.

“Well, they are our rival,” says Mendola, admitting that his new WECK family will be the underdog for quite a while. “But really, our job is to make everybody better.”

Mendola’s move to WECK happened after his request for a contract and a more prominent role on the airwaves at WGR fell on deaf ears. “It wasn’t a bitter departure,” Mendola says. “They just weren’t willing to match the terms, so that sealed my fate. I had intended to stay at WGR until my retirement at one point.”

Once Mendola gave his notice, his former bosses decided to pull the plug immediately, and he began work at his new station this past Monday.

While WGR sticks to an all-sports format, WECK’s programming is more varied, including news reporting and political talk. They are slanted towards sports, airing Yankees baseball, as well as UB college athletics. Mendola will be a part of the UB football broadcast crew this fall, and continuing his play-by-play of UB women’s basketball. “But my play-by-play work with Niagara University hockey is my number one passion,” he says. “Looking down the road, calling hockey games is where I’d like to be some day.”

Mendola is a passionate and unashamed Buffalo booster. He and his wife Lacey live in Tonawanda, and the two are expecting their first child later this year. “Anyone who’s heard me knows I care about this city reclaiming its stature as one of the top American cities more than most other things. So my topics are not going to be dedicated to just the Bills and the Sabres. The format will allow me to pick up on whatever story is important on that day.”

As far as his top accomplishment at WGR, Mendola replies, “Probably that my blog was the number one read site in the entire corporation [Entercom]. People read it and responded. My stories were always genuine as to my sentiment. I didn’t say or write things just to stoke the fire. It still is overwhelming to me that anyone cares what I have to say.”

The biggest question: Will listeners still be treated to the weekly rendition of the Bills rap song as they tune in to WECK this football season? Mendola laughs and says, “As long as Bills fans want it, they will have it. I do the music, I write the words. Nobody is going to take it away from me. And I have fun doing it.”

WGR still retains the title as the sports radio home here in Buffalo, with an outstanding and well known roster of on-air personalities, and as the radio home for Sabres hockey. But WECK is the little giant that roars, and Mendola insists that the station’s signal can be picked up in distant places. “I hung on to Riter Radio all the way into Pennsylvania on a recent road trip,” he says.

So don’t expect a new round of sports radio wars in coming months, just a new preset on the radio dial in the car as a new player in sports coverage continues to develop. If for nothing else, WECK is a must-visit for some great singalong fodder, with a tune that goes something like this: “Let’s go, Bills! Let’s go, Bills! Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-Bills!” Courtesy, Nick Mendola.

Taro Sez (ugly stats edition)…

• The Sabres have won six division titles in their history. This is the first one where they were then ousted in the first round of the playoffs.

• This is only the second loss in the first round by a Lindy Ruff coached team. (The first was 2000 vs. Philadelphia.)

• The last time a Sabres team lost in the first round as the higher-seeded team was in 1990 vs. Montreal.

• Buffalo did not score a power play goal in the entire series. Oh, and Tim Connolly: Games played, 6. Goals, 0. Assists, 1. Points, 1.

• It’s the sixth time Buffalo has lost to Boston in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the last time being 1992.

• Sabres road games aired in high-def nationwide: 2. Sabres road games aired in high-def here in Buffalo: 0.

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