Hearne: The Rise & Fall of ‘Husker’ Greg Hall

Greg Hall Gone Again

Greg Hall
Gone Again

Who’s gonna believe they’re getting an unbiased opinion on this one? 

Then again, does it really matter? What opinion really is completely unbiased, including those of “reporters” for newspapers such as the Kansas City Star?

Truth is, with the odd exception there’s no such thing as an unbiased opinion.

With that in mind, allow me to wade into the Greg Hall going toes up story.

First a little history…

Once upon a time there was a local sports radio call in dude who went by the name Husker.

I heard Husker one time on – I believe – 1340 AM and and called host Denny Trease to track him down. Unbeknownst to most listeners, his real name was Greg Hall.

Greg was one of the youngest in a large family of Nebraskans and he’d relocated  to Kansas City. A die hard Cornhusker and Chiefs fan, Hall became a regular on KMBZ 980 AM, 1340 AM and KCTE-AM, a new station former Channel 4 weekend TV sports nerd Kevin Kietzman had signed on with.

In other words, when it came to sports talk radio Hall was everywhere.

And a clever rascal he was…

“For some time now a sports talk junkie who goes by the name of “Husker” has been making the rounds of area stations doing variations on David Letterman‘s Top 10 theme,” I wrote in the Kansas City Star in late 1994. “His identity: Greg Hall , a free-lance ad creative writer. His latest effort: A schtick on Chiefs honcho Carl Peterson‘s booting of former Chief Nick Lowery from the sidelines during a recent game. It’s called the “Top 10 Reasons King Carl Kicked Nick Off of the Chiefs Sidelines. ” Some highlights: “Carl can’t stand seeing anyone but him in an expensive trench coat; Nick was reading a copy of The Kansas City Star ; Carl’s last suit from Peter’s Clothiers shrunk. ” And the No. 1 reason: “There isn’t enough room on the sideline for both Nick’s and Carl’s hair. ”

Nick Lowery

Nick Lowery

For me it was love at first sound byte.

Less than two weeks later I presented Hall’s “Top 10 reasons Dan Cofran had a family of Czechoslovakians waiting in line at 13th and Locust.”

The former KC councilman had hired the Czechs to stand in line for three days in order to get Cofran’s name first on the ballot for KC mayor.

Some highlights:

“The Czechs figured waiting in line would be less boring than watching the Chiefs game; Cofran’s family was unavailable because they were vacationing in Czechoslovakia; the Czechs were cheaper than hiring out-of-work Royals.” And the No. 1 reason: “You didn ‘t think Cofran was going to stand out there in the cold, didya? ”

From that point forward, I used Hall’s Top 10 lists and other clevernesses in my column on a regular basis, until some dude by the name of Jason Whitlock showed up in the sports section and adopted Hall as his daily muse.

Hall had been faxing his radio and TV soundbites column to the sports section at the Star every week and to the extent that they did or didn’t appreciate his efforts, somebody there kept calling Greg and asking him stop wasting their precious fax paper.

brisbane_blogSmallInlineI thought it was the greatest thing ever and began dropping off copies of Hall’s work off to then Star editor Art Brisbane who – like me – thought Hall’s schtick to be clever and entertaining. 

A year or so later, I made the hookup and Art ordered the sports editor to hire Greg.

Without getting bogged down in the details, the rest is history…

Fast forward to 2009 after my layoff from the newspaper when I called Greg and asked him to join forces with me on KC Confidential. Because I’d taken my severance check in January of 2009 instead of December of 2008, new Star owner McClatchy wouldn’t let  FYI section head Mary Lou Nolan hire me to freelance the column for a year so I’d decided to launch KCC. Greg had matriculated from the Star to radio to the Johnson County Sun, Platte County Landmark and The Pitch and was out of the biz.

Those who know Hall know he’s kind of a hot head, and taking orders while being paid next to nothing had not been his strong suite. However, we’d remained tight and he thought the timing was right for KCC to make zillions.

Alas that was not to be the case.

So Greg came on board free of charge in the heady, early days of KCC and as the site grew I started paying him anywhere from $100 to $350 a month to blog five times a week. Tony joined later and did the same for $100 a month.

That said, Greg is a very sports-minded dude – very competitive.

And as had been the case with Hall’s website sports waves, the bottom line was disappointing and Greg  became a bit frustrated with wanting to micromanage KCC.

In short, Hall felt that I wasn’t doing a good enough job on the ad revenue side.

He was right, however making ends meet on a local website is easier said than done. 

And so after two or so years behind the mast, Greg let me know – similarly to his message to readers on his website last week – that he was going to take a break.

"Team Kietzman"

“Team Kietzman”

However it sounded far more ominous.

Which resulted in a somewhat caustic breakup than neither of us had anticipated.

So off Greg Hall scampered into the wide world of online blogging – doing pretty much exactly what he’d done on his original faxes, in the pages of the Sunday Star, the Sun. Pitch and KCC.

Capturing soundbites by the likes of Soren Petro, Nick Wright, Don Fortune and Kevin Kietzman off the radio and adding his often caustic comments was a dream comes true for local sports media devotees, but a nightmare for sports talk radio hosts.

ry3d400ca95alm7

smartman

And as infamous KC Confidential comments section habitué smartman used to say, “Without Greg Hall this sign ain’t nothin’ at all.”

However after taking a couple month dip in readership immediately following Hall’s departure, KCC’s traffic nearly tripled (whew).

And I remember Greg writing something early on about getting his site’s traffic up to 10,000 unique visitors a day to catch up to KCC. Unfortunately I don’t think he ever made that goal on a consistent basis.

Based on outside evaluations, Greg’s site languished at a fraction KCC’s traffic in it’s early, formative years. And based on my experience with Google ads, he went from  taking in $350 a month at KCC to probably $25 or less on his own site.

I will say this…

When it came to attracting reader comments, Greg Hall was the king.

However, as many of you know, comments are but a very small indicator of readership.

So when Greg wrote last week that he was closing down his website because of the  “embarrassing” comments he’d been getting, it rang hollow.

Greg’s comments where far more civil than KCC often get, even though I’ve tackled the subject of cleaning up the comments section several times. And it’s totally not that hard to do; screen a few bad words and maybe put someone like Harley’s IP address on the  approve-before-posting list. It’s s

Greg may believe he’s exiting Stage Left because his comments were not as scintillating as they once were, but I don’t buy it.

Knowing Greg, I think he gave up the ghost because again he was unable to convert his craft into a reasonable – if even only a small – paycheck. Not many people relish working five days a week for free – present company excluded. And how much fun can it be playing to an ultra small readership?

Now here’s a little secret:

On numerous occasions Greg told me readers always believed he spent hours and hours slaving over the radio and TV, writing down all those quotes.

Not true.

1_123125_2126996_2279939_2286906_110309_tech_youstinktn.jpg.CROP.original-originalBecause with rare exception it was pretty much a no-big-deal matter of Hall listening while driving to and from work and adding in his snarky comments later.

The bottom line being radio sports talk show hosts put their feet in their mouths all too often

And now Greg Hall is gone again, an all too sobering reminder of the fact that we get what we pay for. And he’ll be missed, despite our small scale falling out.

It’s funny how many people – Craig Glazer, The Stomper, Will Gregory and others – who told me they truly enjoyed Greg’s columns on KCC, yet for some reason didn’t bother to follow him over to the New World of his website.

Here’s what I suspect though…

I think Greg’s a solid citizen – a dude who loves his family, his job, sports and his life – and one who will celebrate all of the above until he one day finds a way to share his special talent with locals again.

Guess we’ll see, right?

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17 Responses to Hearne: The Rise & Fall of ‘Husker’ Greg Hall

  1. bob says:

    “So when Greg wrote last week that he was closing down his website because of the “embarrassing” comments he’d been getting, it rang hollow.”

    I found it funny because just two years ago he was bashing Jack Harry for not having thick enough skin from criticism.

    “and one who will celebrate all of the above until he one day finds a way to share his special talent with locals again.”

    I agree. He’ll be back. How many times has he given up on that column? We’ll always have Neilbonics.

    http://www.ootpdevelopments.com/board/talk-sports/55342-neilbonics.html

  2. chuck says:

    I also liked Greg’s column here at kcconfidential, yet did not really follow OTC.

    “Off The Couch” critiqued the critics. It was a brilliant idea. Greg would comment on comments made by sports radio personalities and sports newspaper columnists and then post his comments on the quotes. His bete noire, Kevin Kietzman, a slow moving target encumbered with sports prejudices hidden with a faux patina of objectivity, provided an easy target through the years for acerbic, pithy and sarcastic attacks which were more often than not, hilarious.

    The irony of a column no longer viable, that commented on comments reaching the end of the road because of the comments is noteworthy, if for nothing else, it’s…, oh yeah, irony.

    Greg Hall is a very talented guy and I would encourage folks to read his excellent short stories of his trips to participate in the Boston Marathons. His trip to Boston in in April of 2013, when the Muslims set off bombs at the finish line, is his very best and would indicate, as he says in his farewell, that he has at least a couple of good books in him.

  3. jimmy says:

    “I think he gave up the ghost because again he was unable to convert his craft into a reasonable – if even only a small – paycheck. Not many people relish working five days a week for free – present company excluded.”

    Doesn’t he have a full time job as a manager at a software company or something like that? It wouldn’t seem that he is hurting for a pay check. Compared to the output KCC and TKC put out then OTC would seem like a part time gig at most. More of a, I don’t know, hobby as opposed to a career? I don’t mean that to be insulting because I enjoyed his columns but he seemed to put out between 2 – 4 columns a week. This is just speculation but what little amount of money he was making wouldn’t dissuade him from pursuing a hobby would it? Do you think he was actually looking to turn blogging into a full time gig at some point?

    • admin says:

      He does indeed have a paycheck, Jimmy but…

      He had one while writing over here too, but he still wanted to be compensated for his work. Five days a week, 12 months a year for more than three years is a long time to work for grins.

      And with a disappointing readership that never really took off, how much fun can a white boy from Nebraska really have.

      It’s a grind – and a grind Greg no longer has to endure.

      Early on it was mainly a passion…back when Greg really didn’t have much, if any of a job. Clearly putting in his two cents worth as a persona named Husker was little more than a lark. Something fun to do.

      Then he got the idea of the media soundbites and started choking those out a couple times each week – at that point he was able to pickup a little chump change from the Star, Sun and Pitch for his efforts.

      And with larger readerships, there was a sense of accomplishment as well.

      Given his first shot at a real paycheck – with Chad Boeger, Kevin Kietzman and the WHB boyz – Greg jumped at it. He even turned down an offer from Entercom to replace Danny Clinkscale and do talk radio plus some Royals broadcasting duties.

      Greg blew that one, because the goofy guys at WHB got their panties in a bunch a handful of weeks in and fired Greg. He well might have fashioned a sports broadcasting career if Jason Whitlock hadn’t talked him out of turning down Entercom.

      By the time he started writing for the Pitch,, Landmark and later KCC he had a real job and paycheck and could afford to be picky (and moody – Greg is nothing if not that,

      So he stormed out of the Pitch, quietly stopped writing for the Landmark and left KCC because he didn’t think we were making the sort of progress he’s hoped for and expected.

      So yes, clearly there was passion involved for Greg and while it wasn’t really a money play, he wanted it to grow into one…if only a small one. But Google ads with the traffic he had would barely keep his family in toothpaste and tooth brushes for a year.

      And writing practically daily for a small handful of readers wasn’t wildly rewarding either.

      You ask if he wanted to turn blogging into a full time gig…

      That’s exactly what he wanted and tried to pull off after the WHB guys fired him but after working day and night seven days a week for more than a year, he folded his “sports waves” website.

      The rest is history…

  4. Kerouac says:

    Hall’s blog provided local info to Kerouac and that was the allure for me, my no longer being there KC (ditto a KCC or any other website blog, the blog’s subject matter being of interest, sports fare moreso than any other, mine.)

    It’s no revelation that people are biased, but, the often ridiculous comments of those who he quoted (and his own comments same at times) were fertile ground for yours truly. Pushing the buttons on Chiefs & Royals fans loyalty (if not common sense) and watching them lose it narrative form defense their boys, worth the price admission.

    Beyond said, Kerouac could not good conscience refrain from addressing such via his own internet pen. When a Championship drought (45 years become 46 football & 29 become 30 baseball) results in local overhype to the absurd, said lends itself rebuke.

    [Examples: the Chiefs headed for the Superbowl & Charles the best RB that ever was, Royals wild card entrant post season yet clearly better than the (now) 3x in five years World Champion SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS due regular season success head to head, patently risible.]

    Kerouac tried give ’em advise:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHug0AIhVoQ

    Now, comes the time pay dearly through the blogosphere trail of tears, ducts …

    🙂

  5. Wolfe says:

    Greg Hall’s column, wherever it appeared, was a highlight of my day. I frequently copied and pasted portions of it and sent it along to friends.

    I always figured he wasn’t making anything and always appreciated his work.

    I hope he comes back somewhere, someday.

    • admin says:

      We’ll see, Wolfe…

      Was a time when I felt pretty much just the same as you.

      That said, I’m one of the guilty parties who seldom bothered to go to Greg’s site. Whereas I read each and every fax – back in the day – and obviously while he wrote on KCC.

      He’s amazing.

      But there are only so many hours in the day.

  6. chuck says:

    Nice pic of Smarty.

    • harley says:

      of course chuckles the sad racist clown loved smarty.
      smarty was the one who said “hitler should have burned all the jews”…
      nice hearne…..I’ve got that saved in case you want to see it again.
      The comment you took down was actually very complimentary consideroing
      what smarty said before he was shut up.

      • admin says:

        I had to kill a number of smartman columns, H…

        He was a troubled soul who vacillated between achingly funny, pithy comments to horrendously tasteless funny, pithy comments to vulgar and sick comments.

      • chuck says:

        Harley JoJo from Red Bridge, get back to hanging off of Al Sharpton’s nut sack where you live.

  7. Kyle R says:

    Interesting to read a bunch of this history, though I wonder what Greg’s perspective is on a lot of it! I’m just the opposite of the guys you mentioned above; I came here daily for Greg’s column and read the other stuff as a by-product but only rarely make it over here these days. Read Greg’s column religiously.

    As far as your theory about why he really gave the column up, I don’t buy it. The comments over there have gotten a lot worse over the past month or so and, if that’s the big motivation to keep putting in the time on the column, I can see why he decided it wasn’t worth it. The trolling was getting ridiculous, though nowhere near Gawker levels, of course.

    • admin says:

      True confession:

      Kyle I dream of you coming over here every day!

      But like Greg, I’m working pretty cheap, so I know I’d have to work a lot harder to make that happen.

      The advantage I have over you in this argument though is, I’ve known Greg quite well – I got him his job at the Star and the Pitch – so prior to our mini falling out, I got to know him ULTRA WELL.

      I’ve seen some of the comments you speak of.

      And while they’re obviously tedious, it would take five minutes to eliminate the problem – if that.

      You may think you “understand” why he would quit, but frankly you’re on the outside looking in on this. It’s a nice excuse and if you want to buy into it, knock yourself out.

      That’s the little picture.

      The big picture is far more telling…even if Greg used this as an excuse to help convince himself.

      From what I have gathered about you, you’re a businessman. What’s so hard about understanding why someone who had high hopes for a sports media career would pack it in after 20 years of trying and having only a thimble of readers following a blog you work for free at five days a week?

      Now tell me what I need to do to get you to 1) trade your Mustang in on an Abarth and 2) get you to make KCC a daily stop…at least once a day.

      • Kyle R says:

        Ha. I agree that his overall reasoning may have been exactly what you said and you do know more than I. You’re right that they’d be easy to eliminate too. Maybe the comments were just the final straw and a convenient excuse. Who knows – only GH.

        I’d love to have an Abarth for a little race car, but the Mustang ain’t going anywhere! As far as daily stop, I’m subscribed to it in my Feedly so the stories come in…

  8. Late Breaking says:

    Very fair column Hearne. Good for you, rather than taking the Glazer approach and flaming a guy for not being famous. He was trying to put out a good product and trying to get paid, and the 2nd part failed. Happens to lots of companies/people

    Great to hear the whole backstory, sprinkled in with the belief that there was “something there” with his columns, just hard to monetize.

    I liked his stuff because you could keep up on KC sports talk, without having to listen. Kinda like getting your daily email update. Wait a second, Greg if you’re reading this, what about doing an email that people subscribe to? No comments, but I’d pay $25/yr to get a daily installment.

    • admin says:

      From your lips to Greg’s ears, Late breaking…

      Unfortunately, this isn’t Greg’s first rodeo. Sports waves was totally cool and he worked 24/7 on that baby for more than a year in the early days of the web.

      At this stage of the game, Greg has a life – kids, a wife, bills to pay and Cornhuskers, Chiefs and Royals to ogle.

      Maybe someone will make him an offer he can’t refuse…that’s actually a good possibility. Or maybe he’ll be like the vet who lost a leg but still wants to scratch it and un-retire.

      Greg’s kind of an angry guy and angry guys are volatile.

      And volatility breeds contempt which might make him miss being in the game.

      That said, he needs a larger stage and readership to make it all worthwhile.

      Unfortunately, he writing about Kansas City lowlifes – not national – and outside of the Star or the Pitch, there’s nobody likely to pay him.

      Actually, what ought to happen is for the Pitch to pick him up again.

      They totally need online content and five times a week is damn good.

      Greg had a falling out with CJ but she’s long gone so…

      Trouble is the Pitch doesn’t have any money. Then again, a couple/few hundred a week for five columns…that actually makes sense.

      Joel?

  9. Jack Springer says:

    Why so much hate?

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