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COMMENTARY

WGR's Simon asked off pregame; 'Bills Tonight' has new host; McDermott's show moves

Are you ready for some pro football talk a day before the Buffalo Bills start the preseason?

The big news at WGR-AM during the Bills season is that veteran host Howard Simon won’t be involved in the station’s pregame show.

Inquiring minds wanted to know what that is all about.

Simon says it was his call.

“It was my idea,” said Simon in a telephone interview “It is a grind. My bosses were really cool about it. I asked to get off the pregame. They were really receptive to it. It was really nice of them.”

He added he “felt guilty” because everyone else on the station’s sports staff is working a six-day week. Simon, who also has worked at WBEN-AM and the Empire Sports Network, said he hasn’t had a Sunday off during a Bills season since 1993.

He believes getting Sundays off will refresh him for his daily morning program with Jeremy White.

Nothing should be read into the move’s impact on Simon’s future at the station.

The 57-year-old Simon confirmed he recently signed a multiyear contract to stay at WGR.

“It is long enough I don’t think about what I’m going to do after this one expires,” said Simon.

He said he was half-kidding and half-serious when he said this could be his final contract.

“It depends on if the Bills or Sabres start winning,” said Simon. Then he half-jokingly said, “If they don’t start winning, this will be my last contract. This job would be a lot more fun if somebody started winning this season. It’s been a tough stretch.”

He is baffled by people who believe sports hosts prefer to cover losing teams because there usually is more controversy to talk about connected to lousy teams.

“I don’t understand those who think talk show hosts prefer losing teams,” said Simon. “Losing is not fun.”

With Simon gone from his 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. pregame role, WGR has divided his role to multiple personnel.

Nate Geary and Joe DiBiase will host “Countdown to Kickoff” from 10 to 11 a.m. (Full disclosure: They both took my sports journalism class at SUNY Buffalo State.)

Sal Capaccio will host the roundtable show from 11 to 11:35 a.m., with Geary and DiBiase back from 11:35 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. before play-by-play man John Murphy takes over from 12:30 p.m. until kickoff.

Simon considers the extra time Geary and DiBiase are getting in his old role “a win-win.”

“They are going to do a great job,” said Simon. “They are on the ball.”

While the Bills had no role in WGR’s pregame changes, the addition of Geary and DiBiase does fit the team’s goal of making the broadcast younger as evidenced by the decision to bring in former Bills center Eric Wood as the game analyst alongside Murphy.

Simon’s departure from WGR’s pregame show is one of several changes and things of interest concerning Bills radio and TV coverage this season.

CBS announcer Andrew Catalon will do play-by-play and Steve Tasker will be the analyst on the three preseason games carried by WKBW-TV, starting with Thursday’s game with Indianapolis. The fourth preseason game on Aug. 23 against Detroit is a CBS game, with Greg Gumbel and Trent Green on the call and Melanie Collins as the sideline reporter.

This is the last year WKBW is carrying the Bills preseason games. The contract moves to WIVB next year. It is a good thing for DirecTV subscribers the switch isn’t this year, or they would miss the preseason games because a dispute between the satellite service’s owner and WIVB’s owner has resulted in the station being off the air. The pressure will increase on WIVB's owner, Nexstar, and DirecTV's owner, AT&T, to make a deal before the Bills games on CBS, WIVB's network.

Recent hire Maddy Glab is taking over “Bills Tonight” from Rochester TV sports anchor Mike Catalana after games Sunday. Last season, Catalana was replaced by Thad Brown as the sideline reporter on Bills TV games because Brown’s Rochester station, WROC, took the rights away from Catalana’s station, WHAM.

Glab, who also will be producing reports across all web and social media platforms and appear periodically on “One Bills Live" and "The Instigators,” spent four years on air at the University of Tennessee. A Chicago native and University of Missouri graduate, Glab was the sideline reporter on the Vols official football broadcast and for Tennessee basketball and volleyball games on the SEC Network.

Glab will be joined by Fred Jackson on “Bills Tonight.” It will be streamed live on buffalobills.com, the Bills app, the Bills Facebook page and on Bills twitter via Periscope about 10 minutes after the game. It will run for about 30-45 minutes, with McDermott’s and quarterback Josh Allen’s news conferences and locker room sounds from other players featured.

For those who aren’t into streaming, it will air from 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on MSG on Sunday nights and re-air several times on Monday and Tuesday.

Jackson, who is back for a second season in the role, will provide commentary on the team, players and plays.

Bills coach Sean McDermott's weekly show is moving from WKBW-TV to WIVB and sister station WNLO this season. It will air at 11:35 p.m. Saturday on WIVB, 11 a.m. Sunday on WNLO and 11:30 Sunday on MSG.

The Bills plan to stream a pregame show for a minimum of four to six episodes starting on week three, the home opener. It will be hosted by Glab and Chris Brown. If it does well, Jeff Matthews, the Bills vice president for media and content, said the Bills will keep producing it. It will air from 12:15 to 12:40 p.m. – while the Bills are warming up – on buffalobills.com, the Bills app, the Bill Facebook page and on Bills Twitter via Periscope. The show will be interactive, with the hosts answering questions and comments from Twitter and Facebook.

email: apergament@buffnews.com

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