More Sports and ...
You know the rest
Certainly not someone you would think of as a senior, Les Levine just barely qualifies under the "50 and over" rule. But he is definitely a veteran in the field of sports broadcasting and his expertise is evident in his work.
Les was born in Cleveland and received his degree in Political Science from Ohio State. Although he says his degree isn't very helpful in his field ("It allows me to vote!") it may be instrumental in helping him deal with the callers on his shows.
From the very first, Les knew he wanted to be a sportscaster. He made it a point to hang out wherever the sportscasters hung out. He found and answered an ad for a sportscaster position he found in a Broadcasting Magazine. The job was in Jaspur, Indiana and it would give him a chance to do play-by-play in all three sports (football, basketball and baseball).
It also required him to be a DJ. At the time he didn't know he wasn't very good as a sportscaster; he was young and inexperienced. He did, however, know that he wasn't a very good D.J. The job gave him a full year of news casting, and play-by-play and also started him out selling radio airtime.
He came back to Cleveland to discover that an old family friend, Dick Klause had bought radio station WNIR (formerly WKNT). Les started there as the local sales manager and sportscaster. It was here that he learned to do High School games - and he became a master at it.
He pounded the pavement to make money for the station, which would in turn give him more airtime. More airtime meant more sponsorships and so on and so on.
Les became very good at both selling and sports casting. He was scheduling 40-50 games during football and basketball season. He called each one as well as selling the airtime.
Still not enough - he also did the Kent State games bringing his yearly total of games (between high school and college) to eighty or more.
During this time both the Cavs and the Crusaders (Cleveland's Hockey team) were playing at the Arena. During the last two years at the Arena, (before the move to the Coliseum), Les was chosen to call the Crusaders games and also had the opportunity to do 8-10 Cavs games. "This was the best experience in the world. I did High School, College and now Pro."
After about nine years Les moved on again - this time to WKDD and WSLR where he became the Regional Sales Manager. The most alluring part of this position was that they allowed him freelance sports opportunities. It was during this time that Les became the radio (and then television) voice of Cleveland State Basketball.
He has just entered his 20th year of radio/television for CSU which means "People aren't listening so they don't know I'm doing it wrong or I'm good at it. I don't know which". But the people are listening and they know he's doing a wonderful job. He took part in the broadcast when CSU went to the NCAA Championship.
Les loves to travel and his career as a sportscaster has provided him the opportunity to do play-by-play in 38 states "places I would have never seen otherwise".
In the mid 1980's Les started doing talk after the Ohio State Games and then a 10th Inning Show on then WWWE (now WTAM). The Indians were not a good team then, but it didn't matter. It was a 50,000-watt station and "all of a sudden people all over the country were hearing me!"
1992 took him to WERE as both a sales manager and a talk show host. This was the Merle Pollis, Joel Rose era and the station was a well-run local station. Then one day they were told the station was being sold and a lot of the programming was going to become syndicated national shows.
Until everything became final Les was offered a new opportunity. The station needed something local and Les was a big favorite of the listening audience. Their proposal was for Les to continue doing his 3-hour show. The hitch? He wouldn't be paid. The hook? He could sell the ad space and keep 100% of the ad money he brought in.
His first reaction, of course, was to be offended at being let go. Even though it was due to the station being sold he had never been fired before and was not happy about this. His second reaction was again to be offended that they were "willing" to keep him on but at no pay.
But it was his third reaction that clicked in and got him to thinking. It would be totally up to him how much money he would make, and, he would still be doing what it is he loves the most.
So he took the deal and was very happy with it. Then WHK came along and wanted to get more into the Sports arena. They wanted Les to be the sports anchor of the station. Les insisted on the same deal and they agreed. The station paid his benefits, but nothing else and he got 100% of the money he brought in.
"Sports talk is very good in this town. Things went very well. Take something like Art Model selling the Browns. The worst thing that could have happened to Cleveland. The best thing that could have happened to Sports Talk Shows. It brought mainstream audiences to sports talk"
As happened so many times before, WHK was sold. It only took 3 weeks though before Les got a call from Steve Liverani from The Sports Channel (now Fox Sports). They were looking for a radio-type show on television. Liverani was a big fan and knew Les Levine was the perfect person for the job. Here he was getting calls about Cleveland Sports from all around the world! It seemed a little odd, but very exciting.
Soon history repeated itself yet again and the Sports Channel was sold to Fox
And Fox didn't want to do Local Sports. His friend Steve introduced him to Cablevision (now Adelphia) and Les was once again on the air broadcasting Cleveland Sports. This current show "More Sports and Les Levine" is his own - he owns the entire show.
This means everything from paying 8-10 people to scheduling guests to selling airtime. But it is working out very well for him and he wouldn't have it any other way. "What looked like a bad deal at WERE turned out to open a lot of doors and be a very good thing for me".
"I am a fan. It's that simple. I have been through 40 years of bad baseball. So when somebody calls, I know what they're talking about. I recognize the names they bring up; I feel the same frustration that they do. Maybe that's why it works. I'm one of them"
"Its' not like Butch Davis calls me up and consults with me. Sure, I have access to some sources, but I've cultivated them over the years. I take what they give me and make informed opinions. And of course, I've been wrong. And my callers don't hesitate to remind me. It's all part of it. But my track record is better than most"
When the Indians were so close in 1995 he had a rule on his radio show. "If you weren't 40 or older you couldn't go to the World Series. You haven't suffered enough". Of course callers tried to barter and explain their shared pain, but he never gave in. ("Not that I had any say about who got tickets!")
He has come to terms with Cleveland Sports by resigning himself to what he sees as their fate. "You've got to understand that we'll never, ever win. That makes it easier. We're allowed to get close and we did. But then there was Jose Mesa."
Les is unquestionably the King of Puns. He loves the wry intellectual humor that a play on words provides, and the groans that so often follow. This is probably part of what became yet another of his trademarks. "How Come Quickies".
The standard question "How Come you park on driveway and drive on a parkway?" is a very simple example of the questions his viewers/listeners send in - and have been providing for years.
Les has been married to Allison for four years and they make a beautiful couple full of love and mutual respect. He has a son and a daughter, as does Allison, whose daughter also has two children "Whom I adore," adds Les. Allison is 100% supportive of her husband "Anything he wants to do is fine - he loves it so much".
Growing up he played amateur baseball at Brush High School and in sand lots. He loves racquetball and golf, and is very good at both.
He is also involved in a radio show, Sports Club Radio on WERE with Dan Coughlin and Mark Schroeder. It can be heard every weekday from 5-6 or you can participate live on the Internet at www.lakeeffectradio.com weekdays at noon.
His television show on Adelphia Airs weeknights from 6-7:00.
"It's been over 30 years and I still love it - the business end is a job, but talking sports for a living - that's great!"
His expertise, wit, and general good nature keep his audience faithful and his fans clamoring for more. Of course the "How Come Quickies" and puns don't hurt either.
More Sports and Les Levine may be the name of the show but his audience would love to have More Sports and More Les Levine.
Profiled by Debbie Hanson
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