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He might have exited Buffalo as quickly as Ricky Williams left Miami, but Jim Brinson's departure is much appreciated by his sports talk show teammate Howard Simon.

Sure, Brinson left less than three months after they began a new venture on Empire Sports Network and a week after their show, "Simon and Brinson," was being simulcast on WLVL (1340 AM) in Lockport.

But Simon feels Brinson is doing him and producer Neil McManus a salary cap favor by taking a job as program director of an all-sports station in Little Rock, Ark.

"It would have been hard for the three of us to make a living," Simon said. "I think he knew that. He didn't have ties to Western New York, like Neil and I do. He told us if one of us were to leave, he'd be the easiest to go. He went out to look for a job and that gave Neil and I a better chance to survive in Buffalo."

Brinson has the Arena Football League to thank for his new opportunity. He was doing a game in Little Rock when he met the owner of his new station, KABZ-FM. Soon, they were talking about a job. Brinson gave his Buffalo teammates a heads-up that it might work out a few weeks before the Arkansas deal became official. He'll do play-by-play for University of Arkansas football and basketball on his 100,000-watt station, which has 15 stations on its network.

Thus ended his unique partnership with Simon. After all-sports station WNSA-FM was sold and its format changed to music, Simon and Brinson became freelance teammates, first on Empire and then WLVL.

Essentially, they provided their show free of charge to the broadcast partners and in return got to keep several advertising spots to pay their salaries.

Besides preparing for their shows, they had to sell advertising to sponsors. To add to their difficulties, they began their show at a time most advertising budgets were already spent.

They had their severance packages to smooth the transition, but it still wasn't an easy proposition. Simon recently signed a few sponsors and is optimistic it can work now that there is one less mouth to feed.

"I think so," he said. "The numbers aren't there yet where we need to be in terms of sales. I just want to keep the show on the air and pay the bills.

"I feel comfortable we're OK through the football season. If there is no hockey season, that could create a problem. It might make it hard to renew our new sponsors."

Though Brinson's departure eases the financial situation, Simon says it makes things somewhat harder during the show.

"It was nice having someone to play off," Simon said. "It is not as much fun going solo. It is much easier when there is someone you can debate. I'm not really thrilled to be on alone. It is more fun to work with people."

Brinson's departure also means Simon has no permanent reserve player in case he needs time off.

"I can't get sick," Simon said.

He is planning to take a vacation in August. His plan is to have Jim Kelley fill in for the week.

Simon hopes to work this fall with Kelley and the other member of "The Sharpshooters," Mike Robitaille. Simon says Empire already is out selling the popular hockey show, which will debut in October if the NHL season is played. Kelley and Robitaille would be paid out of the sales revenue.

In another piece of good news for former fans of WNSA, Simon hopes to have Steve Tasker and Larry Felser on the air during the NFL season. Advertising packages for their shows are also being sold. Felser's show would premiere Sept. 13, the Monday after the Bills' opener. Tasker's show would premiere on Sept. 15. In addition, auto racing writer Larry Ott has begun making appearances on Simon's program.

Simon doesn't expect to get rich on this new venture, just to survive. He would like it to grow to the point where he makes as much money as he did on WNSA.

Some things clearly are out of his control. He is somewhat dependent on NHL management and players arriving at labor peace. And he also can't control how powerful WLVL's signal is in certain areas of Western New York.

Since his studio is in West Seneca and his home is in Amherst, Simon gets a pretty clear idea of the station's range. The Lockport station can come in with some static in West Seneca and points south and even in Buffalo. When he gets closer to home and the northern suburbs, the station comes in much clearer.

One thing is crystal clear: If talk show fans really want to find Simon, Kelley, Robitaille, Tasker and Felser on Empire or on the radio, they'll be willing to put up with some static.


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