Years ago, Don Geronimo co-hosted a popular radio show with Mike O'Meara. One of the fixtures of the show was the occasional game involving listeners phoning in. One of those games was called "The Big Lie." The premise of the game is a listener tells the most ridiculous story that the hosts must be persuaded to believe - even if they have to call a few acquaintances to make sure the story is legit.
These days, Geronimo hosts a popular show on Sacramento sports station KHTK-AM, 1140 The Fan - and apparently a bitter critic of the host, who just happens to have an established reputation in Sacramento, was pining to play "The Big Lie".
KHTK was one of the charter affiliates of "The Don & Mike Show" when it aired from the winter of 1985 through the spring of 2008. After a semi-retirement period, Geronimo resurfaced at KHTK in June 2010 to host a local midday show. 2011 would be a banner year for Geronimo, as he would sign a new deal with KHTK's owner, CBS Radio, which would appoint him program director of 1140 The Fan. Months later, the morning show crew known as "The Rise Guys" accepted a job at a new FM sports station in San Francisco, opening the door for Geronimo to move into the vacant morning drive slot.
Enter Tom Couzens. The sports editor of the Sacramento Bee for nearly three decades was apparently not impressed with Geronimo's meteoric rise in less than two years' time. But what really gets Tom's goat is the fact that Geronimo doesn't talk sports enough on his show. And Couzens made that known in a column penned as "The Rise Guys" prepared to shine in the Bay Area. In the piece, Couzens lamented about how KHTK "has moved away from sports in the morning" and that their then-new morning host "thrives on sophomoric humor." And he shared how he was incensed that Geronimo asked a listener who called to complain about his show "to, well, perform a sexual act on him. Really?"
It appears as if Sacramento has their own version of the New York Post's Phil Mushnick. (And both of those guys have been at their respective papers for about the same long time, it seems.)
Couzens took another potshot in December in reporting that KHTK had extended their contract with the Sacramento Kings - which was rumored to be relocating to another city for quite some time - and reminded readers that Geronimo would be doing KHTK listeners a disservice if he didn't talk about the previous night's Kings game during his show on the station that bills itself "home of the Kings."
Geronimo just eats up such criticism. He is not afraid to use his radio show as a forum to publicly chew out anyone who has a problem with him. Especially during the "Don & Mike" era, in which the hosts engaged in radio wars with other hosts such as Opie & Anthony, whose banishment from terrestrial radio resulting from a contest which enabled listeners to engage in sexual intercourse at a house of worship, Geronimo took particular delight in: he and O'Meara, whose Washington, D.C.-based show had been in afternoon drive for over 15 years at one point, were bumped to middays when "O&A" began syndicating their afternoon drive show from New York.
It seemed as if nothing could top Opie & Anthony as Public Enemy No. 1 in Geronimo's world.
That changed last summer when he drew the ire of the Sacramento Bee's sports editor.
And it appears to have come to a head in late February of this year, when Couzens called KHTK with profanity-laced rants about Geronimo, twice in a three-day period.
It started on February 22, when the screener, Craig Harless, took a call and heard this: "This show sucks. How the f*** is this guy still on the air? Get this guy off the f***ing air." Click.
The number was blocked, but given the erratic nature of the caller, Harless was able to identify the number, belonging to a cell phone, and wrote it down just in case he heard from that kooky caller again.
He would. Two days later.
"This show f***ing sucks." Click.
The quick-thinking call screener saw that it was the same number that had called with a similar diatribe earlier in the week. So Harless called the number back - and was greeted by a message that the voice mail belongs to Tom Couzens.
When reached by the Sacramento News And Review, Couzens vehemently denied making the calls, and added, "I don't listen to his show."
Admitting he doesn't listen to Geronimo's show might be somewhat truthful - after all, he doesn't talk enough sports on his show. Of course, an open-minded sports editor would listen to the local sports station 24/7, but that's just my opinion.
But Couzens claiming not to have called KHTK to wax maniacally and then hang up, and giving the impression that Geronimo had made it all up - that grinded Geronimo's gears. Especially when he learned that Couzens allegedly informed his colleagues at the Bee that his cell phone was somehow "cloned." Geronimo proved right on the air that the number belonged to Couzens, by playing a portion of the voicemail greeting. He then proceeded to leave a message: "Are you looking for me, you piece of crap?"
For as long as Couzens denied making those calls, Geronimo argued that for a person with such an esteemed career, he's acting like a "professional douchebag."
As of Tuesday, Couzens was denying no longer. He quietly sent an email to the Sacramento News And Review confessing that he indeed placed those profane phone calls, while he had initially denied doing so. He blamed "errors in judgment" on both of those counts, adding: "For months, KHTK's Don Geronimo has vowed "to get" me for criticizing the format of his morning radio show, and unfortunately, I allowed him to get to me." He also failed to comment on the whole "cloned cell phone" story - but it's now rendered moot with this confession.
There's more. Sacramento Bee managing editor Tom Negrete weighed in: "We consider the matter an internal personnel issue and will handle it accordingly." Uh-oh.
Of course, Geronimo had his way with the "hack writer" on Wednesday in the wake of his mea culpa. Later that day, he tweeted a photo of Couzens with the following text: "Photo of a liar. He called my show dropping F bombs about how I suck. Tom Couzens, a pathetic liar. Tried to blame me."
Meanwhile, as I compiled this story, I noticed that new columns from Couzens are usually posted on Thursdays and Sundays. Today is Thursday... Could his absence be the fruit of his boss "handling this matter accordingly?" (Oh, and good luck trying to reach out to him on Twitter - his account is protected.)
So, let's review: Veteran sports editor hates the fact that veteran radio jock doesn't talk enough sports on the local sports station. Veteran sports editor then resorts to high school-style phone games in an attempt to make himself feel better. Then, veteran sports editor acts like a child, insisting that veteran radio jock is just putting everyone on. Finally, veteran sports editor fesses up and admits that veteran radio jock, in his words, got to him.
And that makes you, Tom Couzens, a loser.
Thanks for playing.