Kroner: Ex-Urbana athletes get message across
URBANA – The names are ones of multi-sport Urbana High athletes from nearly a quarter of a century ago: Kirk Mammen, Mark Mammen and Dave Williams.
The individuals are ones, however, who are still prominent in the sporting community.
They might be more recognizable by their stage names as SuperDome, Tanglefoot Jones and Six-burgh.
They share a passion for high school sports – particularly in their beloved hometown of Urbana – and discuss it on their weekly Sunday night Wing-T Sports Show on WRFU-LP (104.5-FM). In August, the talk show celebrated its first anniversary.
They prefer the nicknames because the message – not the messengers – is what they want to emphasize.
"We don't want to draw too much attention to ourselves," said Mark Mammen, aka Tanglefoot Jones. "It's a good outlet to give back to the community we were raised in."
None of the three receives as much as a penny for their efforts.
"Kids are doing good things," Tanglefoot Jones said, "and we wanted to recognize that. If someone is doing good things in the area, we want to shed some light on that."
The hosts remember the years when Urbana's Tigers were competitive in most sports and outstanding in others. They didn't want to become people who dwelled on the past, complained that things weren't the way they used to be, yet did nothing.
They wanted to highlight the positives as well as the effort that goes into building or in some cases rebuilding athletic programs.
"Our intent," said Kirk Mammen, aka SuperDome, "is to focus on and promote the youth and high school programs of Urbana High School and local teams in the hopes of sparking the interest of the families and community to rally behind each program."
Urbana was a natural location because of their knowledge of the schools, the traditions and the past successes.
"I don't know if Kirk or I would be able to go to Sarasota, Fla., for example, and start a radio show and be very good at it," Tanglefoot Jones said. "We don't know much about the makeup of that town.
"We have a passion for Urbana and want to see Urbana return to where we feel it should be at, competitivewise."
Of the talking trio, Williams has the most sports-talk background. He had a previous year's experience on WEFT doing a Monday morning sports-talk program, which still can be heard.
Six-burgh, as he is known on the air, liked the Mammens' idea.
"We're doing it for the community," he said. "We're not trying to get anything out of it. We want area athletes and area coaches to get recognized."
Their nicknames came about in a variety of ways. Mark Mammen had a youth league football coach with the Golden Bears, L.C. Owens, who referred to him as "Tanglefoot." Kirk Mammen can trace his nickname to some junior high classmates who took notice of the size of his cranium. Thus, "SuperDome" was created.
Six-burgh is self-titled. A diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan, the first part of his moniker references the team's record number of Super Bowl championships.
There have been challenges getting the show off the ground. WRFU is a non-commercial station, meaning that once the hosts begin, they have nearly two hours to fill without the benefit of breaks to regroup.
A few times, especially when an in-studio guest backed out, they've looked at the clock and wondered how to fill the remaining minutes.
"We always come up with something to talk about," Six-burgh said.
"When we get in a situation where just one of the three of us is on (air), it gets to be a challenge not to have anyone to bounce ideas off of," Tanglefoot Jones said, "but when Kirk or Dave are on the show, we don't run out of things to talk about."
Kirk Mammen lives in Oklahoma but checks in via cell phone.
"Technology has allowed us the opportunity to hold such a show," SuperDome said. "It's actually fairly easy to pull off. Mark and I typically discuss the show throughout the week and continually bounce new ideas off of each other.
"We have tried many different segments where we have scrapped some ideas and maintained others. We want to continue to improve the quality of the content as well as maintain our sense of humor."
An expanding audience
Their second season is producing myriad firsts. The signal of WRFU-LN is such that listeners must reside within Champaign or Urbana to hear the program live. Two weeks ago, the show was produced as a podcast and now can be heard by folks anywhere who go to the website, http://wingtsportsshow.com/. Each show is posted for about a week.
"We had our Class of 1985 reunion this summer and a couple of guys in Texas wanted to hear it," Six-burgh said. "Now they can. This is great for people out of town."
The men broadcast a Little League baseball game from Blair Park this summer between the two suited teams in Urbana. They are not the only station to follow Little Leaguers, but their venture was unique because the color commentator (SuperDome) was not at the game. He was in Oklahoma.
"We asked both teams to fill out short bios on the players," Tanglefoot Jones said, "and when I would mention someone's name, he (SuperDome) would try to interject a few comments."
If the comments were not brief enough, "we'd miss a couple of pitches," Tanglefoot Jones said.
The baseball broadcast worked well enough that the hosts will try again Oct. 1, when Urbana plays Centennial in a Big 12 Conference football game at McKinley Field. This time, SuperDome will be on site for the homecoming contest. The broadcast will start at 6:30. Part of the pregame show will be interviews with former head coaches from each school, Centennial's Gary Hembrough and Urbana's Wayne Mammen.
When SuperDome arrives, it will be with a traveling trophy he created and constructed. It's called the Crosstown Classic Trophy.
"We think the Wright Street Trophy (which annually goes to the winner of the Central-Urbana football game) is one of the most unique ideas we have ever seen, and it has become a very coveted award," SuperDome said. "Although the Centennial-Urbana game does not have the same tradition, we are hoping to start one this year."
SuperDome has devoted about 30 hours to the trophy's creation and only needs to affix the topper (a football helmet half in Urbana colors and half in Centennial colors) when he gets into town.
"The intent is to create more interest in the game," SuperDome said. "It won't eclipse the Wright Street version, nor is it intended to, but we hope it will take on a life of its own ... and will provide an increased sense of pride for the victor and its community."
In years past, Tanglefoot Jones has attended area rivalry games such as Unity vs. St. Joseph-Ogden where he found "the atmosphere was incredible." He hopes to increase enthusiasm for games such as Urbana vs. Centennial.
"I don't believe because there's a trophy there will be 5,000 people," he said, "but if it creates additional interest it will be well worth it."
Tanglefoot Jones often finds himself walking a tight rope on the Wing-T Sports Show. One of Urbana's top football players this season has been his son, sophomore quarterback Cameron Mammen.
"I've tried to be careful as a parent not to put any undue attention on Cameron or Andrew (his sixth-grade son)," Tanglefoot Jones said. "I might be less inclined to talk about them. I don't want to create the impression that the show is in place to provide them additional attention."
The weekly show covers all levels of sports. Recent guests were members of the Urbana Bengals, a combined third- and fourth-grade peewee football team. Last week, Tuscola football coach Rick Reinhart was in the studio. This week, former Urbana coach and current superintendent Preston Williams is the slated guest.
"From the first show," Tanglefoot Jones said, "we knew as a group we were onto something that would be a lot of fun. We've received tremendous feedback, and it appears the listening audience has grown.
"We've had no negative feedback at all. It's a unique format (high school-oriented) that is not offered very often."
Fred Kroner is The News-Gazette's prep sports coordinator. He writes a weekly high school-related column throughout the school year. He can be reached by phone at 217-351-5232, by fax at 217-373-7401 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WRFU-LP (104.5-FM) broadcasts its first high school football game Oct. 1, when Centennial visits Urbana. The winner receives a trophy being designed by Kirk Mammen, who will call the game on WRFU, which joins a lineup of area stations that cover Friday night football. A look at what’s available this week:
WDAN 1490-AM Danville at Normal West
WGCY 106.3-FM Deer Creek-Mackinaw at Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley
WGFA 94.1-FM Momence at Watseka
WPXN 104.9-FM El Paso-Gridley at Paxton-Buckley-Loda
WRKH 94.9-FM Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman at Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac