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Tournour works radio tightrope between Bay Area, Las Vegas

By Norm Clarke  (VSiN Columnist) 

April 18, 2017 03:04 AM
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Sports talk host J.T. the Brick has a tale of two cities.
© Courtesy photo

Sports talk host J.T. the Brick is performing a tightrope act that spans from Oakland to Las Vegas.

Emotions are running raw in San Francisco’s East Bay since Oakland lost the Raiders for the second time since 1982.

He’s been thrust into a delicate predicament since the NFL owners approved the Raiders’ request to move to Las Vegas, his home for nearly two decades.

The last three weeks “have been the most difficult time of my entire 20 years with the team,” said the veteran host whose real name is John Tournour.

Over the years, Tournour has done a little bit of everything in the Raiders broadcasting department, from preseason TV host, sideline reporter, and pre- and postgame shows, to the team’s official podcast and currently a two-hour radio show on the Raiders’ flagship station (KGMZ-FM, 95.7).

Some callers from Raider Nation have suggested Tournour had a role in moving the team, he said.

“I had zero input in the Raiders leaving or coming to Las Vegas,” said Tournour, who began originating his nationally syndicated JT the Brick Show from Las Vegas in 1996.

“I’m not waving Las Vegas pom-poms while Oakland fans are grieving,” said Tournour, whose national show airs on Fox Sports Radio (KRLV-AM, 1340). He and co-host Tomm Looney are heard in 240 markets.

"Emotionally and mentally, it’s been a grind,” said Tournour. “It’s tough because all those fans put me on the map. Without them, there’s no J.T. the Brick.

“As excited as I am for them to come to Vegas it’s tough to see Vegas (after) what the Oakland fans are reacting to right now,” he said.

His balancing act may take another three years. For now it looks like the Raiders won’t arrive in Las Vegas until the 2020 season.

He’s one of the busiest talk show hosts in the country. In addition to his national show, he’s been doing a weekday Raiders show on their flagship station from 10 a.m. to noon.

After getting the national show in 1996, he moved to the Bay Area for a couple years as the Raiders pre- and postgame radio host before moving back to Las Vegas in 1999.

His backstory begins in Massapequa, N.Y., home of Jerry Seinfeld, the Baldwin brothers, Stray Cats, and Joey Buttafuoco.

After graduating from Geneseo State, near Rochester, in 1987, he became a cold-call stockbroker. Eight years later, he landed a job with Merrill Lynch in ritzy La Jolla, California.

But after growing up 35 miles away from Madison Square Garden, sports remained his passion.

In La Jolla, he found himself putting clients on hold so he could finish a call into the Jim Rome show.

His sports takes were so impressive that he won Rome’s first “Smack Off,” sports talk radio’s “version of ‘American Idol,’” said Tournour, who picked up his nickname after being a frequent caller about the New York Knicks. Rome nicknamed him J.T. the Brick, after the Knicks, whom he named the Bricks for their shots that clanged off iron like a brick.

That “opened up a complete new chapter in my life,” said Tournour. “I bought time on a radio station in L.A. on Sunday nights, 10-to-midnight,” he said. Less than six months later, a syndicator out of Las Vegas gave him an audition for a weekend overnight show at the MGM Grand.

Six or seven weeks later the syndicator, Sportsfan Radio Network, offered their national overnight show.

“I picked up everything I had and left a six-figure job and moved to Las Vegas for less than $30,000 (a year) for a midnight to 5 a.m. shift.

“I went all in,” said Tournour.

He caught another break when the network asked him to co-host an afternoon show with Pete Rose.

He was burning some serious midnight oil, between the day off and the overnight shift.

“I was a sports radio animal. I was working around the clock to become known,” he said.

Tournour was hired in 1998 by KNBR in San Francisco “the day the Raiders hired Jon Gruden and I’ve been with them ever since.”

 

He got his wish to heighten his profile.

From 1998 to 2001, he worked “the craziest shift of my career: noon to 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.,” said Tournour. He figures he might be the only sports host who filled eight hours of air time a day.

 

His 10 a.m. to noon Raiders show and national show from 5-8 p.m. “is a bit more manageable,” he said, in an understatement.

 

“It’s been the best,” he said. “Without the Raiders, I don’t have a 20-year career on radio. It’s opened so many doors for me.

“Having one of those jobs would be a dream. Having all of them is the ultimate,” he said.

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On this day…

April 18, 2012: The new Hangover Heaven bus rolling through Las Vegas garners international publicity for its medically supervised intravenous treatment to make last night go away. But Scientific American “is a moving binge drinking ad,” grouses the magazine’s ad.

April 19, 1939: Fred Martens, also known as “Fritz the Rooster,” passes into poker legend when collapses and dies during a game in Las Vegas. The players at the table continued play for a few more hands before a doctor arrived and they carried on elsewhere.

 

Sightings

Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli of the Los Angeles Kings, in a cabana with friends at Marquee Dayclub at The Cosmopolitanon Saturday…

Actress Brittany Snow, with friends at Tao (Venetian) over the weekend…

Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, dining at Beauty and Essex (Cosmopolitan) twice over the weekend.

 

The punch line

“The thing I love about Vegas is that it’s a melting pot. It’s like working Ellis Island.” – Don Rickles.

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