Sunday, March 21, 2010

These junkies are an addiction worth having (Part 1)

According to former baseball manager Leo Durocher, "Nice guys finish last," which I hate to admit seems to be generally true in this dog eat dog society we live in. Also, normally when you hear the words junkie and addiction in the same sentence, it is never about anything positive or good. However, in this supposed violent world of MMA, there are a couple of nice guys who have proven that being addicted and classified a junkie defies all of the negative stereotypes that come along with it.

Ironically, to tell their story, I have to begin with another extremely nice guy who was also addicted to MMA. The late great Ryan Bennett was a well-established sportscaster with an NBC affiliate in San Luis Obispo, California. He was also a huge fan of Mixed Martial Arts, thus prompting him to use his broadcasting skills to host a daily Internet radio show dedicated to the sport. 'Soundoff' was the Godfather of MMA radio and could be heard daily Monday-Friday for one hour from 9-10AM Pacific Time or 12-1PM here on the East Coast.

He would co-host the show with MMA fighter Frank Trigg and I was such an avid listener and fan of the show, I would schedule my lunch break either before noon or after 1PM, just so I could listen to the show live while I worked at my desk. It instantly became a part of my daily routine and something I looked forward to intently. Thus, when Ryan suddenly passed away in an auto accident in May 2006, I felt a void in my life. It was so strong that I was compelled to write a column in tribute to Ryan Bennett in a local newspaper all about how I had lost a friend. Hard to believe, but the show had become a part of my overall being.

Little did I know there were a couple of other guys on the other side of the country who felt the same way I did. Brothers George and Brian Garcia, better known as 'Gorgeous George' and 'Goze', are originally from Santa Ana in Orange County, California or as they like to refer to it, The O.C. At the time that I was religiously listening to 'Soundoff' on the East Coast with my lunch hour routine, they too were listening, only they were just starting their day with a dose of Bennett and MMA. Just like me, it became part of their daily fabric; unfortunately, also like me, they felt the void that was left with Ryan's untimely passing.

Sure the show was ultimately carried on by a couple of Ryan's friends @ MMAWeekly, however it just wasn't the same. The time slot was moved from morning to evening, thus knocking Trigg, a vital part of the show, out of the equation since his schedule would not allow his participation. Also, no slight on the hosts of the show, but they paled in comparison to Ryan's engaging demeanor and quick wit. With the rapid growth of the sport, other MMA radio shows soon popped up, but nothing seemed to fill the void. In all fairness, there were some pretty big shoes left to fill following Ryan Bennett and 'Soundoff'. I assumed it wasn't possible; that was until TAGG Radio.

Born out of a conversation one-day at an IHOP restaurant about this void that was left in their day and how at that same time of the morning they would normally be listening to 'Soundoff', Goze unexpectedly said to George, why don't you do it? In other words, why don't you host your own show. At the time George had stopped working to try his hand, no pun intended, as a professional poker player and Goze decided to go back to school full-time and work on a college degree, so they had some free time on their hands.

Also, through Ryan Bennett prior to his death, George had been given an opportunity to meet Frank Trigg, who at the time was also living in Southern California. So the plan was simple, they would start their own show at the same time 'Soundoff' used to be on 9-10AM Pacific, George would host it along with Trigg and Goze would produce it. Simple, except they didn't have professional broadcasting experience like Bennett and more importantly, they still had to get Trigg to buy into it.

After constant prompting and selling, Trigg finally agreed and in April, 2007, literally days after a fight he had in Hawaii, Trigg got off a plane in LA, was met by George at the airport was taken directly to their homemade studio at their house and TAGG Radio was born. TAGG, an acronym for Trigg and Gorgeous George, did not start without an audience either. Goze, who used to blog regularly on Myspace, a social network to over half a million people, had so many followers, he was accorded top ten status; so the word was already out about the show and it had an instant following.

The question now was what would it be like? By their own admittance, they were extremely nervous at first; so much so they had to take tequila shots before the show to calm their nerves. Also, as was to be expected, the bumps in the road were many, but they forged ahead. Because of their affiliation with Trigg, one thing the show had that others didn't was instant access to professional fighters in the SoCal area. Thus, on only their second day, they already had an in-studio guest when Trigg brought in Mike 'The Joker' Guymon; not bad, for a couple of guys whom nobody knew.

Before long the kinks were ironed out and the show started to take flight. With a "couple of guys sitting around shooting the stuff about MMA approach," people started to embrace the show, even becoming a part by calling in regularly. Surprisingly after about a month, offers actually started coming their way from professional entities such as ProElite and The Fight Network. Never expecting this to happen, the brothers were at a crossroads; do we take one of these offers ultimately selling off on something we started that could get bigger or do we go ahead on our own and see what else may be out there?

They eventually decided on the latter, but to their dismay, the expected offers dried up and now thoughts of having to throw in the towel, due to finances and other circumstances, were seriously being considered. Trigg had moved his base from California to Las Vegas and Goze was accepted as a full-time student @ UNLV, so he too had made the move to Vegas, thus two-thirds of the show were in the desert while the host was still in California.

Amidst all this, they still had a show to do and covering MMA meant they had to do just that. So, when Strikeforce decided to put on a card at The Playboy Mansion, Trigg, George and Goze just understood business is business, so they obtained press passes; it's a tough job, but somebody has to do it! While there, Goze noticed Actor Chuck Zito was also in attendance. Knowing of Zito's tough guy background and his role on the HBO series 'OZ', Goze thought it would be cool if they could get him on the show.

So, with some assistance and name dropping of Trigg, Goze introduced himself and asked if Chuck would be interested in doing the show. One thing led to another and eventually Chuck did the show live at the studio in SoCal with George hosting while Trigg and Goze were in Vegas. A few shared stories later along with a bite to eat afterwards and now George had another friend, who was not only an MMA fan, but also a contact in the entertainment industry.

Part 2 of 'These junkies are an addiction worth having' will follow on Thursday

1 comment:

  1. I can't waite for Pt. 2 of this very intense story. It's a very strong piece. Good job writing it SamAllJam.


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