by Evan Sernoffsky
Broadcasting from a climate controlled studio on Executive Parkway in Eugene is Steve Tannen, the host of Sports Talk on 95.3 “the Score.” Twenty years in the business has established Tannen as a seasoned veteran in local talk radio, and he exudes a coolness that fills the room and travels to listeners around Eugene/Springfield and beyond.
Tannen is 49 years old with salt-and-pepper hair and a thin build that is unexpected after hearing his commanding voice over the airwaves. Judging from his Derek Jeter T-shirt, he is a Yankee fan. Originally from New Jersey, Tannen exudes an energy that is hard to keep up with, and his thick accent, unmistakable. He walks quickly and he talks quickly. On air, Tannen sits at his perch in front of his laptop. He is surrounded by neatly folded sports sections from various newspapers that he shuffles while engaging his listeners. He was made for this job.
Across from Tannen sits co-host, Ryan Goff, and today they are talking about Oregon Duck Football, the Major League Baseball trade deadline and classic guy movies. Goff has seen embarrassingly few of the films on AMC’s 100 Greatest Guy Movies Ever Made. Tannen however, is able to talk in depth about most of them. Sports are not his only forte.
“I look for an entertainment angle with my show. The show is strongly listener driven and I have a great relationship with my listeners, and as we say, ‘this is a show for the fans, brought to you by the fans,’” says Tannen.
Today he is fielding calls from listeners on the Oregon Fuel Injection Hotline (the line to call if you want to talk Tannen on air). Brian, who is put through to the show, suggests that Bull Durham deserves a place on the list before talking nuts-and-bolts with Tannen on classic Oregon football tight ends.
Joe, the next caller, offers up Raging Bull as one of the greatest guy films of all time, and Tannen lights up. “Oh yeah, I think that came out about 1980,” Tannen says without looking anything up on his computer. He then goes on about the direction, actors and awards the film won. The man is an encyclopedia.
When it comes to sports, Steve Tannen is an authority. “I usually prepare four hours for a three hour show. I listen to the national guys and really try to offer up a different angle than what people have already heard that day,” he says. When Tannen doesn’t know a lot about a topic, which happens almost never, he provides a venue for his listeners to call in and contribute.
Off-air Tannen is very much the same man that listeners have gotten to know since first starting in the radio business in 1990. “Most people tell me when they meet me it’s me,” he says, “I talk about sports a lot, and I will put my credibility and approach up against anybody.”
Tannen has a charisma that helps him establish a dialogue with his listeners. “I try not to be too argumentative and I try to cover a lot of topics,” he is reluctant to tear one of his listeners apart on air with his stockpile of sports knowledge. “If everything is about debate then somebody is full of shit. Shows that are only about debate have a major credibility issue,” he says.
Bouncing around stations in Eugene several times during his lengthy career, Tannen has seen the medium change drastically. One thing that will never change is Steve Tannen’s love for sports. “It’s not working in radio that I love; it’s working in sports radio because I’m doing what I love,” he says.