Posted: 5:00 pm Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
By Rodney Ho
Former 790/The Zone morning host Chris Dimino will be joining the morning show on sports talk 680/The Fan when he’s eligible to return to Atlanta airwaves March 17. He will be working with Perry Laurentino and Christopher Rude on the Rude Awakening, the Fan president David Dickey confirmed today.
Dimino has been with the Fan for five months but hasn’t been able to go on the air because of a non-compete clause in his previous contract with the Zone.
“We’re excited to have him on,” said Dickey, who simulcasts the Fan on 93.7 on the FM dial. “He spent a lot of time away. He misses it and is looking forward to being back in the saddle.”
Last June, Dimino lost his job as part of the Zone’s morning shot Mayhem in the AM after a brief bit his former colleague Nick Cellini thought up went viral – in a bad way.
In the bit, Cellini played Steve Gleason, an ex-New Orleans Saints football player suffering from the degenerative nerve disease ALS, in a robotic voice doing stupid knock-knock jokes. Dimino protested at the start of the bit and mostly kept his mouth shut during those two painful minutes. The audio bounced around the Web and by the end of the work day, he, Steak Shapiro and Cellini were gone. While it was Nick’s brainchild (and it was not terribly well thought out in the first place), the other didn’t stop it. (You can re-live that day here.)
All three have apologized in different ways.
A baseball specialist, Dimino had a nine-month non-compete clause in his Zone contract that prevented him from going back on air on a rival station until March. This non-compete clause went into effect despite the fact he was fired with cause.
After the firing, Dimino fell into a dark place but was buoyed when Dickey approached him and hired him in September, sources tell me. (He was also offered to return to the Zone, sources said, but he turned them down.) Though Dimino won’t receive a full salary until mid March, he has worked part time at the Fan since September behind the scenes with sales calls, production and Braves spring training interviews he can use once he’s back on air next month.
Dimino began his career at The Fan but spent the past decade-plus at rival 790/the Zone. He has declined interviews since last June, preferring to keep his privacy. (I’m still trying!)
Shapiro, who started and owned the Zone until 2010, is now part of the mid-morning show with Brian Finneran and Sandra Golden from 9 a.m. to noon. He began last month. (He had a much briefer three-month non compete clause.)
Of the three members of Mayhem in the AM, Dimino was the most popular. When I posted a poll last September gauging people’s reactions to his hire by the Fan, he received an 85 percent approval rating.
When he returns March 17, he will be in Orlando for spring training with the Braves, who use the Fan as a flagship station.
This leaves Cellini as the only one of the trio without an on-air radio gig. When I interviewed him last fall, he said the whole experience changed him, made him more empathetic of the plight of others. It made him less likely to make fun of people with disabilities. And he now helps ALS charity groups regularly.
Currently, 680/The Fan is the leader in sports talk, with higher ratings than 92.9/The Game in January. 790/The Zone lags far behind both, especially in mornings.
Some of my past stories on the Mayhem in the AM mess: