Remembering 790 The Zone

The sports media landscape is so overrun with content, opinions, and canned ESPN bullshit these days that it might seems silly to mourn the loss of a local radio...

The sports media landscape is so overrun with content, opinions, and canned ESPN bullshit these days that it might seems silly to mourn the loss of a local radio station. The local media are often mocked by national outlets for their homerism, outrageous opinions, and general reliance on toilet humor for laughs. And yet, I can’t help but feel sad that 790 has converted over to the dark side and taken on syndicated ESPN programming. 790 was basically the 99x of talk radio—they pushed the boundaries, held events at the Cheetah, and most importantly made me laugh almost every day.

Of course, 790 wasn’t perfect. It was poorly managed, evidenced by their poor signal strength and lack of an FM presence. Steak Shapiro is not the Rupert Murdoch of Atlanta as he’d have you believe, but I always appreciated that 790 pushed the limits of propriety by having such a great freaking time on seemingly every broadcast.

The on-air personality that I’ll miss the most is Mike Bell—gonna change that Twitter handle anytime soon, bud? He’s a genuinely nice guy that I’ve met at a couple of the station’s events over the years, and I was a huge fan of his straightforward opinions and constant thrashing against the restraints put on him by his producers. I once saw him participate in a Bear Fight—a race to drink a Jaeger Bomb and Irish Car Bomb in successionagainst the owner of Churchill’s. I chose not to partake for fear of losing my man card after intense vomiting.

Bell is a guy who knows how to make things interesting; he intuitively understood that I tuned in for entertainment value above in-depth sports analysis and predictions. That’s why I follow sports in the first place—it’s entertainment, not life and death! Half of sports is an excuse to drink; I don’t need Peter King shoving his self righteous bullshit about “icons”,  “leaders”, and “values” down my throat. I’d rather hear Dave Archer interrupt himself with, “Ohhhhh, those are real!” during his Falcons analysis as he broadcasts live from the Cheetah.


I’ll always remember March Madness parties at the Cheetah. c/o

That’s the main idea that 790 understood that ESPN never will. Sports are a form of entertainment, and I want to be regaled with escapist drinking and sexual escapades as I consume my sports news. Where will I learn my ebonics without the 2 Live Stews? Was there ever college football analysis as good as the Southern College Football Show with Wes Durham and Tony Barnhart? For that matter, who will I hear do Foghorn Leghorn impressions now that Mr. College Football is no longer on the local AM radio dial? And Wes, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, don’t leave the state of Georgia! There are no other candidates worthy of winning Georgia Broadcaster of the Year–they’ll simply have to discontinue the award.

We all saw the writing on the wall when Nick Cellini made an ill attempt at humor when he impersonated Steve Gleason, getting the entire Mayhem in the AM cast canned. One misstep in a business that broadcasts to the masses in a large media market can unfortunately be the undoing of something great. The Mayhem cast may have had deep Yankee roots, but they were the foundation of the sports programming on the station, setting the table for the station’s excellent lineup. So thanks for the memories to all the guys who really understood exactly what I wanted from sports coverage. Hopefully our little site can do its part to fill this void and give fans who like to pair their sports with a healthy dose of partying a voice in this city.



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Contributing Editor to Sporting ATL - I'll write about anything and everything to do with Atlanta sports and culture. Also, any funny jokes in any other contributor's articles were added by me. The un-funny ones were not.
8 Comments on this post.

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  • atlsportsguy
    2 July 2014 at 12:19 am - Reply

    I loved 790 for all the reasons you outlined, but they were more than a laugh factory. Dimino, John Michaels, Archer, Wes/Tony, and John Newton are all knowledgeable, well-balanced personalities. Cellini was usually funny, and the unfortunate falling out from his dumb joke was a bit harsh. He should be on the airwaves. Too talented, and overly apologetic.

  • Sean Breslin
    2 July 2014 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    I really enjoyed reading this. I’m a former 790 employee, and dammit, we had fun. It was a sad day when I heard so many good people were getting laid off.

    • atlsportsguy
      2 July 2014 at 2:26 pm - Reply

      Thanks for reading, Sean. You guys sure seemed to have a lot of fun, and the chemistry over there seemed to be what made the station work.

    • n0tfrench
      2 July 2014 at 2:44 pm - Reply

      Thanks for reading, Sean! We miss you guys, I hope everyone is able to land somewhere great.

  • Scott
    3 July 2014 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    The loss felt by local sports fans cannot be understated. And this isn’t exclusive to fans of the local sports teams. As with 95% of the population, I am not from Atlanta, but I have listened to the 790 gang for over a decade. I have had a long commute for most of my years here, so I really only heard the 7-9 morning show and the 4-7 late shows. I miss the good old days when Cellini and Dimino were the afternoon rush hour crew. What a great pair – Dimino was more straightlaced, and could spew volumes of baseball knowledge in between Cellini’s various rants about the general stupidity inherent to the human race. But Mike Bell’s patented shenanigans are why I never went completely apescat in traffic all these years. His hilarious impersonations, random anecdotes, and general approach to his craft took enough of the edge off me driving nearly 50 miles home each evening to keep me from throwing things out my windows at other vehicles or pretending mine was indestructable and just plowing through backed up cars. To me, there just wasn’t anything better than getting the golf leaderboard updates from “KJ Choi” and “Dusty Rhoades” and I always looked forward to calling in to Rapid Fire. In recent years, Bell was joined by Dave Archer and John Michaels, who each also brought a lot to the table in terms of sports knowledge and sense of humor. Who didn’t love to hear Dave drop his “punch in the head” line on a dopey caller or media target? And I really enjoyed Football Night in Atlanta – even though I usually lost the signal 30 minutes into the show.

    But this was all taken away from me, and many other fans of the 790 gang, and for that I will always harbor a deep-seeded hate of Steak Shapiro. I blame him almost solely for the demise of 790’s local programming, and I trace it all back to an on-air incident that didn’t even involve him. On August 4, 2011, another 790 talent, the beloved Beau Bock, unleashed an absolute tirade of viscous anger on a caller who dubbed Bock a “homer.” Bock’s response ( so epic, it was picked up not just in blogs and the twitterverse, but on SPORTSCENTER. Well, this did not sit well with Mr. Shapiro. He could not believe that in all his years of reporting on food and high society – and, occasionally, sports – that he had not had his ten minutes of fame, and by God (or Moses), he was gonna get it. Almost immediately, a change in Shapiro’s on-air persona was noticeable. He was brash and overtly controversial, and shamelessly combative with any caller touching on the most remotely of arguable topics. Over and over, Steak pushed and pushed callers and his broadcast team into deeper and harsher conversations, just hoping he’d catch lightning in a bottle and hear his name on the four-letter network. It all culminated with the morning sketch in which Cellini posed as Steve Gleason, which we all know was the death knell of 790. Steak was and always will be a pathetic glory whore, and for that may he rot in hell, because he robbed all of us of talented sports and entertainment personalities that helped make our days a little more fun, even if we were just living vicariously. Come to think of it, Steak better not ever cut me off in traffic in his Benz SUV or he’s gonna have my hunk of crap car parked in its back seat.

    • johnrockersmullet
      3 July 2014 at 1:18 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the read Scott. Steak & Cellini have always been ass-hats in my opinion. I don’t know why 92.9 the Game hasn’t picked up Archer & Bell. They need talent there, cause a strong signal is useless when you’re putting shit personalities on the air.

  • Georgia Tech vs. Miami Match-Up Q&A With John Michaels | Sporting ATL
    1 October 2014 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    […] 1, 2014October 1, 2014 / n0tfrench If you know me, you know I was a huge fan of the now-defunct local sports talk station 790 the Zone. The personalities talked sports with a lot of humor and rationality, something that is completely […]

  • Jim
    26 February 2015 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    Listening to 790 was good times. 790 had good shows for every demographics during its peak from wes & durham, to the 2 live stews, mayhem in the am, archer and bell, and so on and so forth. Segments such as the hub-hub were awesome. I’ll never forget 790, too bad they had awful management.