This is the first of a four-part annual series on the best and worst of the Los Angeles sports media. Today, the sports-talk show hosts. There is, believe it or not, a method to Petros Papadakis’ madness. “I know people say I’m too loud, or exuberant, out of control, too much style over substance – that’s OK,” he admitted rather calmly the other day, a couple of hours after he had come down from his two-hour midday sports-talk shift at KMPC-AM 1540 “The Ticket” and was ready for another pint of Guinness at a local South Bay neighborhood bar. “But to me, the style is the substance. There are too many people who can tell you who won or lost a game. I’m far too passionate to let it end there. If I’m excited about something, I scream. I mean, when you’ve got a bad lisp like mine, it’s just easier to yell when I work myself into a frenzy. I get like a rat with his piece of cheese.” “The great thing is, Petros hasn’t even begun to tap into what he’s capable of as a radio superstar.” One second, he’s ranting about the latest Sinead O’Connor reggae CD. But then it will strike him to scream over an Internet video clip he discovered that goes on and on about “Peanut Butter Jelly Time!” But that’s just about when he needs to launch into another outrageous version of a live commercial spot for Felix Chevrolet. It’s the kind of stuff Jim Rome used to pull off when he was a budding local sports-talk host more than a decade ago before emerging into a national media force. Papadakis actually started his radio career as a complement to the TV work he had going at Fox Sports Net West as a USC football studio analyst. Mark Houska, then the news director for the cable channel’s nightly sports show, hired him for that spot, then helped him land a pre- and post-game role on the Trojans’ radio coverage on its 1540-AM flagship station in 2001. That expanded to him doing game sideline reporting for the team while he co-hosted an hour each weekday morning on 1540. Once given the noon-to-2 p.m. slot in January 2004, Papadakis’ TV opportunities also took off. He got a role on CBS’ “CSI: New York” as a sports-talk host. He accepted a high-profile job as a game analyst on FSN’s Pacific-10 Conference football package. He’s hosted shows for the Game Show Network and Spike TV, and is doing a pilot for FSN. He’s even carved out time to become the Sports Arena public address announcer at the USC basketball games. “He’s one of the smartest persons I’ve ever met in my life,” said Fred Roggin, whose banter with Papadakis just before his radio show comes on at 2 p.m. is often so bizarre and entertaining that it runs far past the allotted time. “On numerous occasions during our cross-talk segment, he’s told me that he’ll dance nude in his apartment holding a bottle of bourbon while watching me on Channel 4. It’s an image that’s disturbing, but also causes me to laugh. His perspective is unusual, to say the least.” A self-described obsessive-compulsive who keeps telling himself he’s got to stop smoking the Newports, drinking Jim Beam and eating a half-dozen cheeseburgers every day, Papadakis admits he’s more than driven to do this radio show day after day. It’s reached a point to where he feels lost without it and misses the interaction with producer Brian Vieira, engineer Cornelius “Corndog” Edwards and former producer Craig Larson. “For me, it’s become a true gang mentality, although we aren’t wearing vests like in ‘West Side Story,’ ” Papadakis said. “Those guys get me excited and riled up, they pull it out of me, otherwise I’d be in a corner drinking wine out of a bottle. “I had to take two weeks off last year for vacation, and I was depressed, I wouldn’t go outside, I just hated it. I realized that this show keeps me alive, keeps me in touch with people. And I love doing this show for us and for La Raza. “I really just approach it day by day, just as I did when I was a player. I’ll work as hard as I can to be legitimate. I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder. And I’ll try to take this thing as far as I can until someone stops me.” Tom Hoffarth is at (818) 713-3661 and [email protected] TOP 10 1. Petros Papadakis 1540-AM weekday afternoons He’d only been on the air for about a month when he debuted at No. 3 on this list in 2004. Last year, he moved up a notch. With one year left on his contract at “The Ticket,” who knows what’ll happen by 2007? Last year: 2 2. Steve Mason 710-AM weekday afternoon drive When the short-sighted Tennessee Titans make Vince Young their first-round pick, have him hold a clipboard for a couple of seasons behind Steve McNair, then throw him out for a couple of playoff-less 7-9 seasons before watching him try the CFL, will Mason still be around to cut a rug and get the last laugh? Last year: 1 3. Dave Smith 1540-AM weekday afternoon drive A definite candidate for the top-dog spot as well, which he’s had in past years. The Valley boy remains ahead of the curve when it comes to loading up for an argument, and his no-fear commentary and diligent research comes through each day. Last year: 3 4. Matt “Money” Smith 570-AM weekday afternoon drive The “other” bankable Smith in this town, enough for the station’s program director to finally nudge Lee Hamilton out of the drive-time slot. Someone with a poli-sci degree from Pepperdine should be doing bigger and better things, and he probably will be a few years down the road, even if it’s back at KROQ-FM 106.7. Add to that his work on the Lakers’ pre- and post-game shows, and he’s quickly earning the “franchise” tag. Last year: Not ranked. 5. John Ireland 710-AM weekday afternoon drive Classic moment of the year was when he was interviewing Mark Zupan, the quadriplegic rugby star of the hit documentary “Murderball.” One of the subplots to the movie involved Joe Soares, Zupan’s former teammate who alienated the U.S. team when went to coach Canada, but then wanted to return to the American squad. Ireland’s question: “So, Mark, your coach wasn’t really popular with the team, and there was some talk that if he came back as coach, you guys would walk …” Last year: 5 6. Fred Roggin 1540-AM weekday afternoons Having hit the five-year mark this month, the KNBC Channel 4 sports anchor suddenly has the longest-running sports-talk show in the market that hasn’t changed people or format in its time period. And who’d have guessed that the Friday night high school football show would take off like it did during the fall? Fred did. He came up with the idea. Props, too, to producer Jared Kiemeney. Last year: 7. 7. Lee Klein 570-AM, weekday late night His bitterness is genuine, which can work for or against him. His cult following and regular creepy callers do make for an under-the-covers listen. Last year: 6. 8. Steve Hartman 570-AM weekday afternoons We’ve finally figured out why this brilliant mind has been reduced to shilling for every sponsor who offers a free clump of hair, eye surgery or car insurance. Considering who he has to work with on a daily basis, it’s his only way to get through the shift. Last year: 10. 9. Nick Nickson 710-AM Kings postgame talk Considering that he just finished doing an entire broadcast of the game, then takes the time to explain things more to fans who call in afterward instead of heading back home to Santa Clarita, that’s a noteworthy performance. Last year: Not ranked. 10. A. Martinez 980-AM Dodgers postgame talk Never pulled punches while expressing his opinions about the team’s roller-coaster season. If only he can work on that Ross Porter “mmm-hmmmm” to appease Jeff from Tarzana every night. Last year: Honorable mention. Honorable mention: Rich Marotta, 570-AM weekend boxing show; Brooks Melchior and Matthew Barry, 710-AM weekday afternoon fill-ins; Gary Miller, 710-AM weekday afternoons; Wayne Cook, 570-AM weekday afternoons. BOTTOM FIVE 1. Joe Grande 570-AM weekday afternoons Aw, those were “Good Times,” right? Nope, that’s not how we’re going to remember it once this grand counter-programming experiment ends. First, there’s really only one “Big Joe” in this town – and someday, we hope he makes it back into the loop. Meanwhile, what this Grande lacks in size, he makes up in … we’re still trying to figure that out. If in fact he has some street cred for what he reportedly did at Power 106, it has hardly translated to this gig. Last year: Not ranked. 2. D’Marco Farr 710-AM, weekday afternoons How far out there is Farr? “He’s our crazy Uncle Fester,” station cohort John Ireland has said after another one of the ex-NFLer’s completely ridiculous statements. And you wonder why he couldn’t hold down a spot on the “Best Damn Sports Show Period”? This is what the station decided was better than McDonnell-Douglas. Last year: Not ranked. 3. Mychal Thompson 570-AM weekday afternoons We’ve waited long enough for the ex-Laker to make a viable contribution to the show, other than getting Kobe Bryant to come on once in a while. But even he has to realize that by adding Vic “The Brick” Jacobs to the “Loose Cannons” mix, it wasn’t a sign that everything was going great. Last year: Top 10 honorable mention. 4. Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton 570-AM weekends The rumor is that “The Franchise” has been “re-positioned” (the words of program director Don Martin), putting topics on the table less frequently than a tired old waitress at some greasy spoon. Sure, being sent away after 19 years in the drivers’ seat was risky, but we’ll always have that moment when he told a Raiders’ fan to put a gun in his mouth and pull the trigger. That one still blows us away. Last year:5, bottom five. 5. This space for rent We’ll hold this for Doug Krikorian because we darn well know he’s coming back someday and will need a place to stay. Until then, Terry Smith, the Angels’ post-game talk host on 710-AM, will have squatting rights. TOP FIVE SYNDICATED RADIO SHOWS HEARD IN LOS ANGELES 1. Jim Rome, 570-AM mid-mornings. 2. (tie) Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann, 570-AM mid-mornings. 4. Colin Cowherd, 710-AM mornings. 5. Tony Bruno, 1540-AM mornings. TOP FIVE RADIO SPORTS UPDATE ANCHORS 1. Bill Seward, 980-AM afternoons. 2. Bret Lewis, 980-AM mornings. 3. Jeff Biggs, 570-AM mornings. 4. Rod Van Hook, 710-AM afternoons. 5. Vic “The Brick” Jacobs, 570-AM afternoons. THE SERIES: Today: Sports-talk hosts Jan. 20: TV anchors / reporters Jan. 27: Game analysts Feb. 3: Play-by-play 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa Anita With the same passion and head-of-steam he had as a short-yardage tailback on USC’s football team from 1997 to 2000, Papadakis has busted through the local sports-talk scene more like someone hopped on Red Bull in a china shop – wide-eyed, volume-challenged and, from what we’ve seen so far in just more than two years flying solo, willing to try just about anything. If the audience has learned anything by now about this 28-year-old self-proclaimed “afternoon typhoon” is that his daily ritual of weaving sports talk into pop culture, music, relationship advice, an old movie review, literary references or a scolding from his father is hardly an act. Otherwise, it all would have probably crashed and burned around him by now. The neurosis is real, the interviews are pure, the desire to distinguish himself as the host of the most original show of its kind in town often leaves the audience more exhausted than the host. But if the latest trend in Los Angeles’ sports talk is to put entertainment over news, Papadakis has turned the flashlight on himself and – with his sinister laugh – cut through all demographics, even if the station itself has yet to make any mark in the antiquated Arbitron ratings books. KMPC general manager Roger Nadel, who inherited Papadakis when he took charge at the station last year, calls him “one of those talents that comes along only very rarely. It’s not just his enthusiasm and unpredictability, his penchant for hyperbole, his first-hand experience as an athlete, or even his ability to put every guest he interviews at ease. It’s his ability to relate equally to a 20-year-old football player, that player’s coach, and a 30-year-old listener at the same time.