Dino Costa may have been the most divisive sports-media personality in Denver over the past several years. As we documented in a 2006 profile, he loves to stir things up, be it with his argument-generating takes or certainty about his own greatness.
The demises of Raw Sports With Dino Costa, his FSN television show, and DenverSportsRadio.com, a high-profile attempt to launch an Internet radio station, didn't dent his confidence. And now, his success as a regular on Sirus/XM Radio's "Mad Dog" channel -- a gig he landed in October -- has convinced him to abandon Denver for New York City.
Costa is midway through a move that should be final within weeks -- and while he's thrilled by how well things are going back east, he can't help but think about what might have been. "I would've loved to be a big fish in Denver," he says from NYC. "That was my dream."
In the beginning, Costa delivered his XM/Sirius opinions from a home studio in Colorado. But of late, he's been spending more and more time in the state of his birth -- a place Benjie Kaze, his producer at FSN, felt was perfect for him.
"He said, 'You belong in New York,'" Costa recalls. "And I told him, 'I want to make it here.' And he said, 'No, New York is custom-tailored for you.' And I ignored his advice for years. But when this opportunity came along, I re-opened my eyes to the possibilities, and it's worked out great."
Indeed, Costa's solidified his position on the "Mad Dog" channel even as he's earned extremely positive reviews from media writers -- something that rarely happened for him in these parts. Note two recent mentions by New York Daily News staffer Bob Raissman, who named him the "Dude of the Week" back on January 30 and followed with a February 20 declaration that Costa's program is a must-listen.
Of course, Costa felt that description fit his assorted Colorado shows, too. He chalks up the differences between his reception there and here to "timing and the willingness of the people who hire you to embrace what you deliver. The package that I delivered for five years in Denver was embraced by a couple of different people, but unfortunately, it wasn't embraced by enough people in decision-making roles.
"When I came out to Denver, I had no intention of leaving. I became a Coloradan and a fan of the teams. I rooted for them vociferously. I had completely kicked New York out of my system. I had no desire or inclination to look back here. But my agent started to push for me to take a look, because there were radio and TV opportunities. And the more I've been working with the people in New York at Sirius/XM, the more I've realized that I've been trying to win over the wrong set of decision-makers.
"Now I'm working for people who get me, who encourage the elements that I can bring whether it be on radio or TV. Opinion is championed by them. They don't run away from it."
In contrast, he feels that too many media executives in Denver are frightened of strong views.
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"I feel Denver has been underserved for years in sports-talk when it comes to personalities who do more than read scores and give mild opinions," he declares. "Denver's idea of controversy is a walking cartoon like Woody Paige.
"It would have been nice to have [Clear Channel Denver executive] Kris Olinger pick up the phone one day and say, 'Come in and talk to me,' but it never happened. I would have loved to be in Denver for the next twenty to twenty-five years and become one of the better talk-show hosts in town. But a lot of the decision-makers don't seem to want the kind of raw commentary and opinion I deliver. And in New York, that's embraced. There's a consistently rabid approach out here, an electricity, a sports fiber that runs through the city like very few places in the world."
Costa and his wife, who's expecting their second child, are actively house-hunting in the New York area. He expects them to be settled in new digs by mid-March -- and in the meantime, he's developing pitches for TV programming to supplement his radio position. "I feel well-positioned to really take advantage of the many options I have at my disposal," he says. "It's a super feeling."