“The hunger (for sports) here is insatiable,” said Jack Ebling, host of the daily radio sports talk show “The Drive with Jack Ebling” and weekly TV show “Press Pass.” “And it’s not just college. Lions, Tigers, professional sports across the board. It’s impressive.”
Ebling, 62, started “The Drive” on WVFN-AM in spring 2013. He said requests for a TV show soon started rolling in, and last September he launched the Sunday night show “Press Pass” on WSYM-TV, the local Fox affiliate (Comcast channel 47). And starting next week, Ebling will transform that program into “Press Pass Daily,” a TV show that will air every weekday on WSYM’s sister station, WHTV-my18.
“We’re always looking to do something to stand out, to give our station its own personality, and Jack has that ability,” said Gary Baxter, WSYM Vice President and General Manager. “People really respond to him and (his show) is wildly popular. It beats local news broadcasts — that was a great surprise for us.”
When “Press Pass Daily” starts next week, the name of the Sunday night show will get tweaked into “Press Pass All- Stars.” “Press Pass Daily” will be taped at the WSYM studios just south of downtown Lansing, whereas “All-Stars” is recorded in a separate studio on Allegan Street in downtown Lansing. Although the Sunday TV show and the daily radio show are live affairs, “Press Pass Daily” will be taped every day at 2 p.m. with a rotating guest host before it airs at 6 p.m.
“If a big trade happens or a coach gets fired at 4:30, it’s not going to be able to make the TV show,” Ebling said. “But we’re gambling that’s not going to happen.”
On Mondays, Detroit Free Press sports writer Joe Rexrode will accompany Ebling. Lansing State Journal sports writer Graham Couch gets Tuesday, MLive’s Mike Griffith has Wednesday and Detroit radio personality Rico Beard fills in the Thursday slot. Then on Fridays, Ebling will be joined by Tom “Blue Belly” Crawford, who was his cohost when he had his first radio show in 2002.
“He’s led a tortured life,” Ebling joked. “A (University of) Michigan fan in Lansing — poor guy. But that’s why sports is so great. It creates these rivalries where two people could be happily married all year, but then one week every year … .”
Ebling said he thinks the popularity of sports goes far beyond team colors and mascots. He thinks it appeals to certain parts of the human condition.
“A lot of things in life are ‘to be continued,’ but at the end of a game, there’s always a result — there’s a winner and a loser,” Ebling said. “And there’s a way to keep score. We can live vicariously through people who can do something we can’t. But we don’t just talk balls and bats — we get into sociological aspects of sports. If you listen to our show or watch it, if you’re not entertained and informed, we haven’t done our job as journalists. We’re just advancing our ball down the field.”
“Press Pass All- Stars with Jack Ebling”
6 p.m. Monday-Friday (starting Sept. 2) My18 (WHTV Comcast channel 8) drivewithjack.com