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Dino's Sore

Yakker Dino Costa takes on the world.

Regarding his split from KLZ, Costa blames station overseer Don Crawford Jr., who brought him aboard in 2002 only to abandon him the next year, after the Rocky Mountain News published an account from an offense report about Costa allegedly groping an unnamed woman. Costa, an ardent Christian who says "sexual harassers should get the shit kicked out of them," calls the allegation "totally ridiculous" and declares that "the lack of support from Crawford was beyond comprehension. It hurt my wife; it hurt my family." Crawford didn't respond to interview requests.

With the KLZ job gone, Costa hit the road again, but he kept trying to return to Denver. To him, that's more proof that he was falsely accused. "Would I want to come back here to jump into the fire if, in my conscience, in my heart of hearts, I knew that I'd done something wrong?" he asks.

Last June, Ron Nickel, a onetime producer of live-TV concerts (his partner was singer Kenny Rogers) who's now KRCN's general manager, stamped Costa's return ticket. Nickel says he buys Costa's claims of innocence and isn't interested in diluting his bluster: "If he wants to take off and say Coach So-and-So is a shmuck, I don't care. Controversy creates listenership."

That's the hope, anyway. At present, KRCN is entirely Arbitron-ratings free; its biggest draws are Business for Breakfast, a morning show abandoned by Clear Channel, and broadcasts of NASCAR races. Moreover, Costa's show features little advertising and few phone calls. Nickel explains that the dearth of ads is a purposeful effort to establish Costa in the market. As for the call shortage, Costa portrays it as a stylistic choice: "Nobody is tuning in the Dino Costa show every day, if they do, because they want to hear what Jim from Castle Rock is going to say."

Evidence that Raw Sports has scared up some viewers since its January launch is a bit more persuasive. The show, which consists of Costa spouting off about sports issues to the camera or a sidekick, has primarily run in the wee hours of the morning or afternoon dead spots thus far. However, Tim Griggs, FSN Rocky Mountain's vice president and general manager, says, "He basically produced an audience at one point out of a quarter-hour where we had no ratings at all." Griggs looks upon Costa as a "late-night personality," so he's curious how he'll fare on February 13, when the show screens at 9:30 p.m. Benjie Kaze, Raw Sports' de facto producer, thinks Costa, a relative TV novice, is ready: "He wants to be the best he can, and he's very focused and passionate. And working with somebody who cares that much is a dream."

Costa's dream is to reach the apex of the Denver sports-talk universe, where he's certain he belongs. But he's not going to kowtow to listeners or peers or agenda-driven columnists to get there. "I cross lines. I name names," he crows. "I don't hide behind my microphone. I'm everywhere in Denver. I'm at the Pepsi Center, I'm at Invesco Field, I'm at Coors. I do not hide. Someone wants to confront me, someone wants to take exception to something I said, I'm easy to find."

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