Some people in the radio business and newspaper business and every other business don’t like to listen. As you talk, they think about the gem they will offer next. They have little interest in what you have to say.
Taylor Zarzour, the co-host of WFNZ’s The Drive, cares what you have to say. When he talks to you, it’s as if you’re on a deck, a cup of coffee or a glass of beer in your hand, sun shining and humidity low. So adept is he at putting subjects at ease that they tell him things he wouldn’t have thought to ask.
Monday, unfortunately, will be Zarzour’s final day at WFNZ. Fortunately, he’s staying in town.
On Jan. 6 he will begin his new show, Bleacher Report with Taylor Zarzour, on Sirius Radio. The show will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on channel 92 on your satellite dial. He’ll broadcast from a studio at his Charlotte home.
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“You basically take the two or three biggest topics in sports each day and run with them,” Zarzour says, not on a deck but at a restaurant at the Arboretum, a cup of coffee in his hand. “That’s basically no different than what I do now.”
Zarzour, 36, has co-hosted The Drive, with Marc James, for three years. Before that, he worked in Raleigh for seven years.
Zarzour says he wasn’t looking for a job; Sirius came to him.
“Just to do a national show is too good of an opportunity to pass up for my family,” says Zarzour, who is married with two daughters. “The hardest thing about leaving is I had the best job in my industry in the eighth-largest state in America.
“And there’s just nothing like being a voice of a community you love. And that is going to be tough to walk away from. But fortunately I get to stay in this city and do a national show. I’ve never been this excited about an opportunity.”
Zarzour praises the people he worked for and with by title and name, devoting paragraphs if not pages to each. He praises James, who now will do the show solo. They were an interesting combination, Zarzour a boxer, James a puncher, occasionally tangling but often throwing blocks for each other.
“Listen, I’m excited about the future of the show,” Zarzour says.
What about the past; what are the highlights?
“There are so many,” says Zarzour. “I think that the Patriots game six weeks ago was one of the biggest sporting events I’ve covered since I’ve been on the air. When I left the stadium that night I was like, this is just so cool. You know that tomorrow I’m going to get to talk about the biggest moment the Panthers have had in five years. And then (QCB) will tell me why it wasn’t a big deal.”
QCB is a comedian on the show and one of Zarzour’s closest friends.
“When the Panthers’ schedule came out this year (Panthers receiver Steve Smith) was in studio and Q was going through the schedule,” Zarzour says. “Darrelle Revis had just signed with Tampa Bay and Q looked at Steve and said, ‘You got to play Revis and the Bucs on a Thursday night? Listen, pahtnah. Fake a seizure that night. Stay home in Charlotte. Play Madden video games with me. You don’t want any of that.’ ”
Did Smith laugh?
“He tried to be his intimidating self,” says Zarzour. “But he did laugh. I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe for five minutes.”
Former Indiana coach Bob Knight did not tell Revis jokes. A few months into the show Knight was in the studio. “He stared at me without looking at anyone else for what seemed like 30 straight minutes,” says Zarzour. “I told myself that if I can get through this interview and not seem rattled, I can interview anybody.”
Zarzour sounds like a fan – and this is a compliment – when he talks about the weekend of Dec. 21. On Saturday, Michael Jordan was on the court at Time Warner Cable Arena, introducing the new Charlotte Hornets’ logo and receiving a pulsating standing ovation. On Sunday, the Panthers rallied to beat New Orleans at Bank of America Stadium.
“I think that no matter what you do, you have to stand for something,” says Zarzour. “Above all else if I want to stand for something it’s that I provide listeners with an escape from yelling at their wife or their wife yelling at them or their financial issues or what practice they’re about to go to or the meeting they’re about to go to, and lose themselves in talking about sports.
“I just hope I never lose sight of that. I’m not talking about life and death. I’m talking about something you’re supposed to go to as an escape. And that to me above all else is what I try to be mindful of.”