Big Lead Sports Bar



Mark Madden. He was as controversial as radio hosts come, sports or otherwise. The mere mention of his name could invoke the strongest of debates. And today, it's all over, because "Mr. Madden", as he liked to be called, was permanently removed from the ESPN airwaves.

As I booted up my ESPN radio player at 3 PM today, I was disappointed to hear Madden absent from the airwaves. I was truly looking forward to his analysis of the Penguins' nightmarish trip to Detroit. Instead, listeners were welcomed by Eddy Crow and Chris Mack for the four-hour shift. Sorry guys, but it's just not the same.
I know many of you could have cared less for Madden, but I'm an admitted listener for at least six or seven years. Sure, there were times I disagreed with his positions, most notably his stance several years ago that Willie Parker couldn't play in the NFL simply because he didn't start in college at North Carolina. But I found him to be the most interesting Pittsburgh sports talk show host on a day-in/day-out basis.
As far as Mondesi's House goes, there were few in Pittsburgh in a position of power that promoted this site more than Mark. He would quote entire posts and speak highly of Mondesi's House on a regular basis, despite his stated dislike of blogs. His influence and mentions were invaluable to the site's growth going back nearly two years.
He knew Pittsburgh sports inside and out, and he was a one-of-a-kind in this market. If you didn't "get" his humor, then you probably don't like shows like Howard Stern's, either. But much like Stern, there's more behind the "shock" persona that regular listeners would identify with. And either way, many would tune in to listen. Stern's Private Parts movie summed it up perfectly: "Those who love him listen to see what he'll say next. Those who hate him listen longer to see what he'll say next."
So Madden is no longer around for Bob Smizik to take to task on a regular basis. I'll be anxiously waiting to see what other members of the Pittsburgh sports media Smizik plans to publicly call out in the future, but the smart money says "no one". The Smizik-Madden war of words was well documented.
What's next at 1250? That remains to be seen. Madden will leave a gaping hole in the coveted afternoon drive-time slot, which currently goes head-to-head with Fox 970's Joe Bendel from 3-7 each weekday.
Whether you loved him, hated him, or ignored him, one fact remains: Mark Madden's absence will undoubtedly hurt 1250, at the very least in the near future. They are losing their biggest name, and considering what's going on in the city's sports scene right now, their best-known and most knowledgeable Penguin voice. Some of you will say "good riddance", but count me among those who will miss the daily controlled chaos that was The Mark Madden Show.


Luke said...

I know Mark hates he'll probably hate this one as well.

Koz said...

This is a loss for the Pittsburgh sports scene. Even from Indianapolis I would tune in to the Super Genius via the Internet. I haven't and won't be tuning in for Eddie Crow.

Like Mondesi says here, love him or hate him, at least Madden is different. I appreciate Madden for taking unpopular stances on things and for his hockey insight.

His show was definitely toned down as of late (I hadn't heard him talk much about strippers in years). I think most Pittsburgh fans hated him more because he wasn't a homer than because he was crude and rude (because if you ever listen to callers, you quickly realize many of them are no better and often with far less intelligence).

It's too bad Smizik gets to walk away from this with a grin on his face. It really turned into some personal vendetta for him. The Pittsburgh sports scene would be much better off with more interesting opinionated heads like Madden and less of the predictable curmudgeons like Smizik.

the nigerian nightmare said...

Great post. I am thoroughly disappointed right now. As you mentioned, I first visited this site because of a mention on Madden's show. Maybe some of his comments were out of line, but you know what, if you don't like it, DON'T LISTEN. I can only hope that Madden lands somewhere else. I can honestly say I won't be listening to any Pittsburgh sports talk radio for a while.

rocco14 said...

I admittedly would tune in to hear Madden from time to time to hear what outrageous statements he would make next, but I would soon tire of his schtick and his general lack of knowledge regarding any sport that wasn't soccer or hockey (soccer on ice). His attempts to sound intelligent when he spoke on football, baseball, basketball or golf were laughable and he would almost always quickly hang up on any caller who was able to speak on those sports with knowledge so as to mask his own glaring inadequacies.

Additionally, Madden's personal vendettas against Willie Stargell, Myron Cope, Jerome Bettis, Hines Ward, Arnold Palmer, etc. etc. showed him to be a shallow and personally insecure person that feels the need to portray a larger than life bravado in an effort to be the tough guy he apparently wishes that he was. I know several people who know him personally through his youth hockey work who claim that he is as obnoxious in person as he is on the radio and that he is just as disliked by many of those whom he believes that he impresses.

Here's to 1250 getting somebody on the air who truly knows what he's talking about when it comes to all major, relevant sports.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

I wasn't a listener, I thought he (and other DJs like him) had a pretty annoying act, just not my thing. I understand if you thought he was entertaining and listened for that aspect, but there were some people that took the guy too seriously and thought his word was the gospel. That was.... unfortunate.

Despite the fact that I'm not a fan, I still think that people should be able to listen to whatever they want so it sucks that he's off the air from that aspect.

But, he did kind of say he wanted a politician to be assassinated. I don't care what side of the stupid political "isle" you're on, if you say that and you're a SPORTS talk show host, you're gonna get nailed. Just a really stupid thing to say on the air about a Kennedy, a Bush, a Reagan, or anyone.

He'll find somewhere else to ply his schtick soon enough though.

Brian said...

Should be "couldn't care less."

He was pathetic, and while he gets points for some people for being "original," we don't need anymore windbags around. Always ridiculous that so many people bought into his wrestling act. He'd make pointless, baseless slanders against local sports legend just to generate "heat" to get himself "over" as a "heel." So rather than striving to do his job well, he tried to advance his own name as a radio personality. Awesome. Just what everybody loves.

Real McCoy said...

Bring Stan Savran back.

HotDog_Zanzabar said...

I can't comprehend why Madden was especially wrong in this situation. He basically made a rude statement about a murderer. If he said the same about OJ, do you think people would have reacted the same way?

If ESPN puts Crow in the 3-7 spot, I can assure you that will all but kill their audience. Crow is awful.

HotDog_Zanzabar said...

Hey Luke, quit leaving comments. Don't you have a city to ru(i)n and a morning skate to attend?

CapitolMAN said...

Madden is an impresario, an entertainer who understands how to perform on the unique medium of radio. With the exception of the Penguins and a few other sports stars, he disdains the sycophantic ooze so commonly heard from the pie holes of no-talent, jock-sniffing radio duds. And what differentiates Madden from other shout-jock polemicists is that he doesn't treat sports like its the Alpha and Omega of our existence. The ESPN Round-the-Horn yappers of the world cry and scold with the sanctimony of a preacher in a Sinclair Lewis book.

Get a life, Cowherd.

I think Mark's listeners, notwithstanding his callers who were a different breed, enjoyed him because they aren't the type of person who lives vicariously through accomplishments (and defeats) of professional athletes. I tuned into Madden because his comedy was smart and trenchant.

I'd wish a pox on the house of ESPN 1250, but the substantial revenue loss will be gratifying enough.

matt in dc said...

Can all of the Madden defenders point me to one intelligent and insightful thing the guy has said? Everything I've seen and heard sounds like pure opinion or like it was proved wrong at some point or another.

I keep hearing that he was "honest," or "not a phony," or not afraid to stir things up and tell it like it is. But what exactly did he shed so much light on? (Other than the fact that, as a young boy, with the first downy beard of youth and before he'd even hit 250 pounds, he may have been turned down for an autograph once.)

LeeTunnel said...

He called me a "meathead" on the air once after I wrote a letter to the editor concerning Tom Barrasso. I didn't hear because I haven't lived in Pittsburgh for a long time. When I would visit, Madden definitely wasn't my cup of tea, I found him pretty crude and obnoxious. But I understand his market, his allure and accept if for what it was. What was most annoying about his show, though, was his typical, ignorant callers. It was just fodder for the abuse they received from MM.

Anonymous said...

Good riddance!!

Backyard Scrawler said...

I will miss the big galoot. The most annoying thing about sport talk call-in shows is "most" of the callers are knuckle-draggers who when they call in try to vindicate their own boneheaded opinions, excessively compliment the host/show, or want to tell the world what a great fan they are. Madden weeded through all that and got to point. People want sharp opinions. Whether we agreed or not, Madden gave us plenty.

Anonymous said...

Gave us plenty of crap.

ManBearPig said...

You know what I liked about Madden? He enjoyed taking on the "Sacred Cows" in this city. Sure, people like "Whines Hard" and the Rooneys are throwing parties this week, but tell me that Madden didn't make valid points about them albeit done very crudely.

He had a way of making me laugh because I never took him seriously and I'm really going to miss that.

Now as far as Bob Smizik...I've never known a writer that I've disagreed with more in this city that is polluted with bad writers. It sickens me to think that his bloated ego is inflated even more by Madden's release by ESPN.

Hey Mark, I know you're reading this blog. Why not use Mondesi's House as a conduit to your fans while you're awaiting your next gig, hopefully on Sirius Radio?

One final thing...I think ESPN sucks, period. There's no one else on that station that I care in the least for. I hope that they all burn in ratings book hell!!!!!

apk said...

the worst thing about this is that somewhere, Smizik's puffing his chest, when he's the worst sportswriter in a town full of terrible sportswriters.

I was by no means a huge Madden fan, but I enjoyed his insight during the hockey season, and I suppose I'll miss that. Considering our options are now the sleep-inducing Bendle/Benz show or the increasingly sanctimonious Ellis show (what's happened to him?), my vote is to re-unite Stan & Guy for the drive home. I'd listen, and the nostalgia factor would, at least for a few months, problem help soften the ratings blow for 1250.

ManBearPig said...

Come to think of it, I'm kind of glad for Madden that he got fired by ESPN. That station's so lame, you can barely hear it after you hit the Swissvale exit. Mark, here's your chance to get onto a REAL radio station, one you can hear more than a block away.

The Duke from Dukes Court said...

I'll miss Madden. His show could be frustrating at times, (I hated listening to him talk to callers) but he was witty and kept me on my toes. Mark Madden is the only radio personality in Pittsburgh who would say or do something on the air that would prompt me to call or email a friend.

1250 is going to lose a lot of money with Madden out of their lineup.

You don't have to like Madden or his show, but you have to respect the fact that he knew how to run a successful and popular sports radio show.

The Duke from Dukes Court said...

I'll miss Madden. His show could be frustrating at times, (I hated listening to him talk to callers) but he was witty and kept me on my toes. Mark Madden is the only radio personality in Pittsburgh who would say or do something on the air that would prompt me to call or email a friend.

1250 is going to lose a lot of money with Madden out of their lineup.

You don't have to like Madden or his show, but you have to respect the fact that he knew how to run a successful and popular sports radio show.

BurgherBoy said...

The way you treat people eventually comes back to you ......he would treat older callers, who maybe talked a little slower or maybe told a story, with no respect at all.....he would berate others and put them down for the sake of 'entertainment'...his mother's death or his heart problem never got his attention enough for him to change his ways....his arrogance droned on.....whether you want to hear it or not - there is a supreme being who is always trying to push us to be better people - more than we thought was possible.......and if we don't cooperate with this "nudging" then a life of chaos and a lack of peace is drowned with alcohol, porn and hookers......I can only hope this turns his life around to a more healthy it or not, we all eventually reap what we sow....if not in this life, then the next… truer words have ever been spoken....and that applies to you, Madden and me.

Mick Kraut said...

I vote Good Riddance...I DL'ed his podcast for a while and couldnt tolerate it...

What some suggested was "controlled chaos" felt more like "contrived controversy"

You could see his points and controversies coming a mile away. Not because he chose the obvious cliche or safe path, but because he chose the obviously contrarian viewpoint.

He reminded me of a teenager that says outrageous things to their parents in order to get attention or some sort of response.

Perhaps I am mellowing out in my 30's but give me Junker and Savran instead of Madden's bluster...with them you will get genuine insight and interesting discussion...they TRULY know Pittsburgh sports.

HotDog_Zanzabar said...

I find it funny that there are some people that find Mark Madden despicable/unholy and clamor for Guy Junker at the same time. Jerk or not, Madden didn't get busted soliciting hookers.

Steeltown Mike said...

Three years ago, I would have been proclaiming V-P Day from the rooftops (Victory in Pittsburgh, not Vice Pres).

Madden's show actually got me fired up enough to try to break into the industry myself...get back into radio, period, after a six-year break.

I still didn't like the mounds of disrespect he heaped on the masses, but I have to respect how he was able to rule the time slot for so long despite (or because of) his methods.

He'll be back. Just not immediately.

Anonymous said...

It is indeed a sad day...

Yeah, he was a loudmouth and a jerk, but his show was unlike all the other sports talk dribble you hear on the airwaves across the entire country.

Fear not. If Don Imus can find his way back onto the airwaves less than a year after his Rutgers scuttlebutt, Double-M will be back in business soon, too.

Full disclosure - I once sang Jim McMahon's portion of "The Super Bowl Shuffle" live on Madden's show in '98 or '99 as the lead-in to an interview with Jimmy Mac while he was in town for Lemieux's golf tournament.

Name one other talk show host who would invite listeners to participate on such a level.

(Don't say Thor Tolo.)

MOVE the NEEDLE said...

I loved listening to madden and hated listening to Madden all at the same time. My full rant at Move the

Please come back to this great site after you read my take.


The Needle

Billy Bearcat said...


If you are reading this...

Do Sirius...It might make me re-up my since canceled subscription. I did not agree with most of your contentions about Pittsburgh sports but your thoughts about the world and business of sports were much more right on... besides I thought what you said about Kennedy was not that bad...tasteless but not offesive. Besides bringing up that midnight swim from the summer of 69 can never get over mentioned. Good Luck I hate to see any one out of a job for such an incidental incident.

Schide said...

Man, this is total BS. I just heard about this today and am not just frothing at the mouth that those weak-willed jackasses at ESPN radio. I hope their station loses so many listeners that they have close up shop and they all get fired. I know I'll certainly never listen to those pieces of crap again. Nobody else on there is even remotely worth listening to. I hope Madden turns up somewhere else so I have an opportunity to listen to him again.

And Jesus, what a terrible weekend for Madden, first the Pens lay a couple goose eggs and then he gets fired. If I had a way of contacting him I'd let him know that he has at least one supporter who feels for him. I guess this is about the only way I have to do that.

Of course I'm writing this before I actually read this article or any other comments, so...yeah.

Anonymous said...

He had is good and bad points. For example, I was never a fan of his over-the-top sexism. It was obviously done for humor sake. Problem was, it was never funny.

Like him or not, he was the only place in Pittsburgh that I could tune in to for consistent hockey talk. On the eve of the Penguins first playoff game of '08, talk elsewhere on ESPN was about Tiger Woods and the Yankees. (Yes, we know why...ESPN)

For years he gave Mario and the Pens a nice long passionate on air kiss, but I can't think of a Pittsburgh sports organization that deserves it more.

And if the worst crime he was guilty of is failed attempts at humor, and bad taste, then boy howdy we should be so lucky.

That said, I could also care less about English Premier League. Just sayin'...

ryanm2215 said...

mark did his best to be entertaining. his fly by the seat of his pants, off the cuff style made for some great listening. When you take big risks, though, to make people laugh, sometimes you hit homeruns, and sometimes you fall flat. The kennedy thing was unfortunate, but i think if espn was based in, texas, say, instead of in connecticut, mark would still have his job.

ryanm2215 said...

and another thing, why did the staion manager have to lie today on his little intro to ken laird? he said the station was going another direction, and reorganizing, and that was why mark had been let go. No. If it was the station's choice, mark would have been publicly fired friday. No, we all know that the station is caving into espn, because, with that affiliation, the pittsburgh station no longer has final say on matters like this. 1250 acted against their own wishes and interests at the behest of espn, bristol. Whether they had a choice or could have stood up to espn in this is a matter for the lawyers, i don't know. But at least, mr. station manager, don't tell us such a baldfaced transparent lie in the only words we're ever likely to hear from your mouth. Be a man and admit you caved, and if it was up to you you woudn't have fired mark, unless, for some strange reason, you don't care about whether all of the other employees of 1250 will keep their jobs after the possibly catastrophic consequences this firing could have for your station. Especially if mark goes to work for fox 970 or god forbid an fm station in his old timeslot.

BurgherBoy said...

For the white trash (yes you can be white trash if you "have money") that listened to Madden - here's an intelligent outside view of Madden from the Washington Post - those who listened to Madden just perpetuated the stereotype of the typical uneducated yinzer...thanks guys for keeping that one alive and keeping us as a town others "point at" instead of "point to"

BurgherBoy said...

Rightfully Let Go, But Not Soon Enough
By Leonard Shapiro
Special to
Wednesday, May 28, 2008; 2:15 PM

Unless you've been living in Pittsburgh in recent years, you've probably never heard of Mark Madden, let alone had the displeasure of hearing his highly rated low-brow sports talk show on the city's ESPN-owned and operated radio station.

Lucky you.

And better yet, no one except the people in the same room with him will be listening to Madden any time soon in Pittsburgh, and perhaps anywhere else. On Tuesday, he was permanently taken off the air of 1250 ESPN, six days after making despicably vile comments concerning the news last week that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

"I'm very disappointed to hear that Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts is near death because of a brain tumor," Madden said during the opening of his popular afternoon drive time show from 3-7 p.m. "I always hoped Sen. Kennedy would live long enough to be assassinated. I wonder if he got a card from the Kopechnes."

(The last sentence was a reference to Mary Jo Kopechne, a Kennedy aide who drowned in a 1969 accident, with Kennedy driving a car that plunged off a bridge in Cape Cod.)

Madden made his comments last Wednesday, but incredibly, was not initially disciplined. Instead, his immediate boss, station general manager Mike Thompson, told him he had to go on the air and apologize. Madden did, and was allowed to keep broadcasting that day, and Thursday, though he did not appear on the show Friday on what station promos often refer to as "The Mark Madden Station."

"The fact is, we took action right away," Thompson told the Pittsburgh Press-Gazette. "Frankly, it was a comment that was stupid. He admitted that. I didn't think it requires any such thing as (discipline)...I had a long talk with him after the show and went out for dinner. He clearly understands my position. He was wrong. He knows that first-hand and he also knows that (management) is involved."

Some offended listeners clearly disagreed, as did readers who learned about Madden's Kennedy comments in last Friday's editions of the Press-Gazette in a column written by Bob Smizik, a long-time Pittsburgh sports columnist. Smizik also questioned how ESPN, the sports media juggernaut, could possibly continue to allow Madden to stay on the air.

"Keep in mind that 1250 ESPN is owned by ESPN, a network that prides itself on high ethical standards," Smizik wrote. "ESPN is part of the ABC family, and ABC is owned by Disney. It only can be concluded that no one in this steep chain of command, and they should have been aware of it, felt Madden's comment merited punishment."

ESPN clearly had been aware of it, and on Tuesday following a three-day holiday weekend, the cable network finally took action.

"We've taken him off the air pursuant to our contractual right," Josh Krulewitz, ESPN's vice president of public relations told "In the moment, we immediately said what he had said on the show was totally inappropriate. There was never any question about it, and we told Mark that. We apologized to our listeners and Mark apologized on the air.

"Since then, we had a chance to regroup, to review the situation and to take a longer look. We came to this decision and we feel it's the right decision."

The only remaining question being asked in many quarters of the Steel City is "what took them so long?"

There obviously was some outrage over Madden's initial comments, but for years he's been maligning some of Pittsburgh's more iconic sports figures with half-truths, innuendo and mostly inappropriate comments. Steelers owner Dan Rooney, golfer Arnold Palmer, football stars Jerome Bettis and Franco Harris, former Pirates manager Jim Leyland and even the late and wildly popular Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope, among many others, often were the targets of a boorish broadcaster making a six-figure salary whose main redeeming quality was the fact his show dominated his time slot with unusually high ratings.

Fair comment and criticism is one thing, but Madden often took the low-down road any chance he got, often with the exception of the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team he unabashedly rooted for as a fan on and off the air.

"The sad part is he had a following," said one long-time Pittsburgh newspaper reporter. "He's wished death on people before, even said on the air he hoped their planes crashed. He's told listeners he had sex with their wives. There was some talk about him being fired last December, but they put him on a short leash and told him this stuff had to stop. But this one was pretty bad, the worst of anything he's ever said."

"I'm not that surprised he was allowed to stay on," said one long-time Washington radio executive. "The competition for ratings in a lot of markets has driven some people nuts. So many stations are barely making it by the skin of their teeth. To survive, sometimes you do wacko things to attract an audience. It's dead wrong, but it's the reality of what's happening in the business all around the country. When you tell me what he said on the air about Kennedy, I just can't imagine anything that would keep his rear end from being dumped."

In the end, ESPN clearly did the right thing in a decision that ultimately came down from the worldwide leader's Bristol, Conn., headquarters. Madden will be paid for the duration of his contract, but sources indicated he will never appear on the station again.

Perhaps ESPN's proper but somewhat belated dismissal also will serve as a warning to some of the mean-spirited, frequently irresponsible shock-jock broadcasters who talk sports, politics or whatever in radio studios all across the country (are you listening Michael Savage?) Maybe they'll now think twice before spewing their venomous remarks.

Then again, after Don Imus was tossed off the air last year following his offensive and totally inappropriate on-air comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team, you might have thought some of these mopes might have paid attention and cleaned up their own acts.

Mark Madden surely did not, and for now (emphasis on "for now") it cost him his job. Still, how much would you care to wager that he won't be unemployed for very long. He'll be back on the air somewhere, maybe even on a rival station in Pittsburgh. Sadly, the ratings beast must be fed, and far too often, at any price.

Leonard Shapiro can be reached at

Unknown said...

Some times it is better to take the high road and get a paycheck than come up with the type of comment that Madden did.

Even if what he said was heartfelt, this is an era of keeping quiet, regardless of the content and context.

Further, ESPN's actions were clearly more to keep advertisers from getting their shorts in a twist.

Talk radio is mundane and highly repetitive. Madden is almost too culurally relevant for his work.

I think he is a great writer waiting to happen. I think his print work is great.

Regardless, he will land on his feet.

Unknown said...

Some times it is better to take the high road and get a paycheck than come up with the type of comment that Madden did.

Even if what he said was heartfelt, this is an era of keeping quiet, regardless of the content and context.

Further, ESPN's actions were clearly more to keep advertisers from getting their shorts in a twist.

Talk radio is mundane and highly repetitive. Madden is almost too culurally relevant for his work.

I think he is a great writer waiting to happen. I think his print work is great.

Regardless, he will land on his feet.

mbgutt said...

Wow, So according to "Mr. Shapiro" This should serve as a warning. Whatever happend to turning the radio off if you were offended. I wonder if the same thing was said about a Republican would the ax have fallen. Liberals love to claim that they defend individual freedom, but again, we are warned that if ones opinion or statement does not fit the mold, then there will be consequences. If you don't like Madden or Savage then turn your radio off. Its simple, but having that choice is not an option to "Mr. Shapiro" Mark, Big Fan, Big Fan down here in Virginia Beach, I hope that you finally land on a real station. You like Savage hit the nail on the head more often than not. Sit back, and watch your Pens bring the Cup back to Pittsburgh. As for ESPN, more corporate nothings who do standard format radio so as not to "offend" the sheep in the Steel city. Maybe the Post Gazette can include a Bob Smizik Bobble Head Doll with the Sunday Paper this week. Hey it works for another Pittsburgh Sports team.

Robert Ullman said...

You conservative creeps really crack me up. Yeah, if Madden was a scary "liberal" he could say whatever he wanted, and no one would care...I swear, the terrifying depths to your collective persecution complex baffles me. You're just never happy unless you have someone barking at you over the airwaves about who and what you need to be pissed off about today.

I wasn't gonna weigh in on this, 'cause I feel like I've already had my say on the Madden matter, but I agree with almost everything Mick Kraut had to say in his comment a few days ago. I don't know if Madden's contrarian schtick is all just an act or a pathological need for attention, but it'd serve him better if he were actually funny (like Stern, of whom I'm a big fan) and not just a loudmouth.

Corwin said...

It sucks, the idiots claim yet another victory. Actually I think that this is just another indication that Western Civilization is doomed. I wrote a blog post about it, check it out if this kind of thing pisses you off.

Mark Madden Fired, Pittsburgh Radio Sucks Hard, Western Civilzation Doomed