St. Petersburg Times
Online: Tech Times
 tampabay.com
Print storySubscribe to the Times

Sports on the Air

Creek rises, memories never fade for the best

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published February 20, 2004

Main story
Share your thoughts and condolences in our guestbook

It was the day the staff at WDAE-AM 620 had feared:

The chickens mourned.

The cows finally came home.

And the creek rose.

Chris Thomas, the station's greatest talent and one of the few giants in the Tampa Bay sports media market, died Wednesday night, leaving a huge void in the sports-talk market.

Callers to WDAE lit up the switchboards Thursday for a chance to share stories about the popular Thomas, whose show was the highest-rated sports-talk show in Tampa Bay.

The station devoted the entire day to eulogizing Thomas, even skipping the popular Jim Rome Show from noon-3 as Ian Beckles filled in.

There is little debate: Thomas was the best thing sports talk had going for it in this market. Get past the animal and flatulence sounds, and he was the most intelligent, most well-spoken host, and had a knack for developing relationships with listeners.

Callers praised Thomas the family man, Thomas the friend, and mostly Thomas the funny man. He had an amiable spirit that, judging by the phone calls and e-mails the station received, touched many lives. Many of the memories shared by callers included his days as Ch.8 sports director, where he would dance to music while reading high school football scores.

The outpouring was impressive.

Many callers failed to get through their comments without breaking down in tears.

Tedd Webb, a longtime friend and another local broadcasting icon, openly sobbed while telling listeners about the kind of father Thomas was. In a day filled with similar calls, it was the most memorable.

Thomas was a student of history and culture, talents that served him well on Sept.11, 2001, and the days after. While other hosts played the brainless role of angry white guy, Thomas turned in arguably the best work of his WDAE career.

The Mediocre Sports Hunk, as he called himself, railed against the taxpayer-funded Raymond James Stadium, always referring to it as the Community Investment Tax Stadium, or CITS, one of the many acronyms he used to amuse his audience.

In the era of the know-it-all sports talk-show host, lumps of flapping lips that pass themselves off as journalists, ready to criticize on air as long as they don't have to confront the criticized, hiding behind so-called "sources," know this about Chris Thomas:

He was none of those.

Would any local sports talk-show host or television anchor do this, a memory shared with me Thursday?

At the news conference after Tony Dungy's firing as Bucs coach by the Glazers, as the rest of the press danced around the tough question, it was Thomas - then working for Ch.8 - who stood up and pointed the accusing finger at team vice presidents Joel and Bryan Glazer.

You mean to tell us, tell our viewers, that after firing the winningest coach in team history, that you've had no contact with any other coaches to replace him?

Is that, he vociferously added, what you're telling us?

The news conference, an amiable question-and-answer session to that point, suddenly changed. Thomas, a longtime thorn in the Bucs side, had called out the Glazers. The rest of the media horde followed suit.

Years later, those that were there still call it one of the most memorable news conferences in Buc history.

Thanks to one of the most memorable figures in Tampa Bay sports.

- Times staff writer Roger Mills contributed to this report.

[Last modified February 20, 2004, 01:31:57]


Baseball

  • Steroid link irks Sheffield

  • Black History Month
  • Tony Dungy

  • College basketball
  • Bonnies hit with probation, '04 postseason ban
  • FSU star senior honored
  • Jackets snap Maryland hex
  • Stanford labors past Trojans to remain perfect
  • Women: Duke still the class of ACC
  • Women: Vols fend off UF

  • College football
  • Another assault allegation at CU

  • Golf
  • Pros hope to avoid the cons of pro-am
  • 2 share lead; Woods' cut streak in danger
  • A happy return for Fleisher

  • In brief
  • Ruling may cost U.S. gold medal

  • MLS
  • 14-year-old phenom Adu packs stadium

  • Motorsports
  • Junior hopes to crack struggles at the Rock

  • NBA
  • Wallace winds up in Detroit
  • Wolves overthrow rival Kings

  • NFL
  • Bear, Colt coaches speak up about the Bucs' denials
  • Clarett is not in the running yet

  • NHL
  • Atlanta spoils debut by Bondra in Ottawa

  • Obituary
  • 'Chris Thomas touched us all'

  • Outdoors
  • Capable sailors
  • Daily fishing report

  • Preps
  • Family takes relationship all the way to the mat
  • Gators unable to hang on to lead
  • Group effort gives SPC needed lift vs. Arcadia
  • Lessons learned give lift to Tornadoes
  • Nature Coast Tech rebounds for first playoff victory
  • Panthers battle illness and Ravens to advance
  • Ridgewood survives another close call
  • Tarpon Springs savors a season to remember
  • Third time proves the charm for Durant
  • Yellow Jackets overcome sluggish start

  • Sports on the Air
  • Creek rises, memories never fade for the best
  • Remote Patrol
  • Rays
  • Now batting ...
  • Piniella eager for bonding to begin
  • Lightning
  • Reasons to feel blue
  • Andreychuk involved in power struggle
  •  


    Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111