- The Washington Times - Monday, April 6, 2020

For precisely 22-and-a-half minutes on last week’s Tuesday broadcast, “Grant and Danny” listeners were stumped. During a segment aptly called “Guess What’s in Ryan Kerrigan’s Hand,” 106.7 The Fan hosts Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier had callers, well, guessing what, exactly, the Washington Redskins linebacker was holding.

“Is it a TV remote?” one caller asked. No. “Is it an accounting calculator?” another said. Not quite. By the sixth caller, Jamie from Waldorf finally got it: A baby monitor.

Sports talk radio hosts, like a lot of Americans these days, are winging it.

For Paulsen and Rouhier, who have been doing their daily program remotely during the coronavirus crisis, filling up hours of airtime with no live sports to talk about means getting creative — dreaming up unconventional segments with athletes, playing trivia games with listeners or just sharing the lighter side of life on lockdown.

It’s a chance, Paulsen said, for the longtime radio partners to “let their hair down.”

“Just from a creative standpoint, we’re now more throwing things out there,” Paulsen said, “more things against the wall, trying to come up with ideas, whether that’s sports related or out of the box because there is going to be less (sports) content.”

Added Rouhier: “We’ve been doing this show for long enough where we’ve got a pretty good shooting percentage. … We’re not going to come in and do animal voices tomorrow for 15 minutes to fill the time. That’s not who we are.”

In the weeks since the NBA and other leagues suspended their seasons, sports talk shows have straddled the line between discussing what’s happening in the world of sports and expanding their focus to topics not normally part of the mix.

For instance, instead of spending Friday talking about what was supposed to be the Nationals’ home opener, Paulsen and Rouhier did an entire segment on action star’s Jean-Claude Van Damme’s performance in the 1988 cult hit “Bloodsport.”

Good-bye, Max Scherzer’s fastball. Hello, Van Damme’s leg kick.

It was just the latest installment of the duo’s daily movie club (listeners are encouraged to watch the assigned film the night before and join in).

They aren’t the only sports hosts digging deep.

Nationally, sports personalities have found untraditional ways to chime in.

On the popular sports podcast, “Pardon My Take,” hosts PFT Commenter and Big Cat scored a big get last month when they had Dr. Anthony Fauci on to discuss the coronavirus pandemic. WFAN’s “Boomer and Gio” spend a portion of their New York-based sports show discussing the daily coronavirus update; On Monday, Boomer Esiason debated whether a vaccine was feasible in the short-term.

Other shows still focus on sports, but the bar for what qualifies as newsworthy seems more flexible nowadays. On ESPN’s “Get Up,” host Mike Greenberg led a show with news of the NFL planning to begin their season as planned. On Fox Sports, Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe debated the merits of the new NFL playoff expansion — before moving on to other pressing topics like LeBron James working on his free throws and Terrell Owens being voted the greatest “No. 81” of all-time.

What will happen when the standard sports news of the day becomes harder and harder to find?

“The real next challenge is the next few weeks or however long we’re in all this,” said Al Galdi, host of “The Morning Blitz” on The Team 980. “When it comes to that, I think there’s going to be a lot of look-back conversations. There are sort of these evergreen topics you can do.”

For now, shows like “Grant and Danny” have found ways to solider on. Paulsen said he enjoyed coming up with ideas like having listeners guess what an athlete is holding in their hand. He called it “Jimmy Fallon fun,” inspired by the late-night host’s knack for getting his celebrity guests out of their normal element.

Occasionally, Paulsen and Rouhier will touch on the developments and impact of coronavirus, viewing it as balance. But in general, Paulsen said they view their show as a distraction — for however long the listener tunes in.

That means amid the fun and games, Paulsen and Rouhier know their audience still expects sports talk.

“We are a steakhouse and we need to serve steak,” Paulsen said. “People don’t go to a steakhouse and expect you to serve a bunch of Mexican food at the table.”

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