Revenge of the Monkey Boy

Sports-talk radio host Scott Hastings is riding the Broncos—and his wild image—all the way to the bank.

Such ambitions may sound strange coming from a guy who spends a full hour of one show gushing about the first time he tried hummus: "I never had stuff like that growing up in Kansas," he says. "When I was living there and was feeling adventurous, I'd go have a Big Mac as opposed to a Quarter Pounder with Cheese." But Hastings is no hayseed. He's a canny fella on the rise, and if his main goal is to show listeners a good time, he feels that his lack of seriousness makes a serious point. "I think people overanalyze things, whether it's sports or the O.J. trial or whatever. They analyze things to death. But to me, we're talking about kids' games, things we played when we were little. And why should you have radio hosts hollering at people about something like that -- or anything else, for that matter? If you don't understand that, get off the air."

A big part of Hastings's act -- and it is one -- is to play the rube, the bumpkin. A couple inches shy of seven feet tall, with sleepy eyes and a doughy face, this 39-year-old native of Independence, Kansas, was a professional basketballer for eleven years, but because he spent more time on the bench than on the court (he cracks that a highlight film of his NBA career would feature him waving towels in every arena in the league), he's cast himself as a cross between a towering Bob Uecker and a freak of nature. "I'm like the guy in the 1500s who'd walk around and people would throw potatoes at him," he says. "If I was 5' 11", I'd be okay, but I'm like a Frankenstein monster. I scare people."

Glory days: Scott Hastings as a state championship high school player in Independence, Kansas.
Glory days: Scott Hastings as a state championship high school player in Independence, Kansas.
Hastings and his wife, Judy, as high school sweethearts.
Hastings and his wife, Judy, as high school sweethearts.

Hastings, though, is hiding a dirty little secret: He's not an idiot. When he's on Sports Zoo with Logan and/or relatively new addition Susie Wargin, he can seem like a sufferer of comic Tourette's Syndrome, spewing out mischievous comments in knee-jerk fashion; when describing an impressive stiff-arm move by Broncos receiver Ed McCaffrey during the Green Bay game, he repeatedly says that McCaffrey "got a stiffy." But Hastings is so in control of his idiosyncrasies that associates think of his screwy side as a separate character. Sports Zoo producer Ivan Sokalsky refers to this outré creation as "Monkey Boy"; KOA program director Don Martin dubs him "Booger Man."

When the circumstance calls for less crazed comportment, though, Hastings can deliver. As the number two gabber on Broncos games, he reins himself in, sticking to boisterous but relatively straightforward observations of the action; if the rare exceptions to this rule (like last August, when he begged on the air for a pre-season massacre of the Arizona Cardinals to finally, mercifully end) leave fans of his quirkier moments hungry for more, his enthusiastic contributions still make for a nice contrast to play-by-play-man Logan's extremely traditional approach. Moreover, on April 20, immediately after news broke about the shootings at Columbine High School, Hastings and Logan -- not members of the KOA news department -- anchored the coverage with sobriety and decorum, providing basic information and, as fathers themselves, offering frequent expressions of compassion for those who might have lost loved ones. To Martin, leaving the Zoo keepers in charge on such a day was an easy call. "I feel comfortable having them do whatever needs to be done on this radio station," he notes. "When people turn on the radio at three o'clock, they're doing it to hear what they have to say, whether it's about a police killing or penis jokes."

Of course, Hastings remains much better known for the latter. On a show this summer, for instance, his discovery that sperm contains zinc, a mineral lauded for its effectiveness at fighting the common cold, led him to goad listeners into guessing the last time the very pregnant Wargin's husband Mike slipped her a health-giving "injection" -- a routine that Wargin heard about when she got home. "Mike told me, 'Well, honey, maybe we should keep some of this stuff private,'" she says, chuckling. "He's a teacher, and the kids don't tend to listen that much, but all their parents listen, and all the other teachers listen, too, and when we talk about him, he hears about it. Usually he doesn't mind, but that subject went a little too far for him." Judy Hastings, Scott's wife of seventeen years, knows how Mike feels. When Hastings recently tried calling her to ask if she sometimes pees in the shower, she made herself scarce. "The worst thing for her is caller ID," he contends. "Because if she knows I'm talking about women peeing in the shower and then I call, she is not going to pick up."

But Hastings's naughty talk is more akin to a preteen eager to see how his folks will react instead of like Howard Stern's calculated leering, so he seldom offends the surprisingly large number of females who tune in (much less the 25- to 54-year-old males targeted by Sports Zoo); Martin cites surveys showing that 75 percent more women visit the Zoo than any other Denver sports-talk program. But that hasn't prevented mainstream media writers such as the Rocky Mountain News's Dusty Saunders from denigrating Hastings's work: One Saunders column suggested that by focusing on "double-entendre dialogue" and "guffaws," Hastings was dragging down the staunch Logan. Martin has little patience for such criticism. "There are a lot of people covering the media around here who time has passed by. They should take a whiskey and go to bed. Scott tells a joke, and you have some of these people acting like he's the anti-Christ. They expect him to cross his hands and talk about morals all the time, but that's not Scott. He's a hip guy who gets into what he does. And he doesn't just do sports radio. He does entertainment radio."

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