During the baseball playoffs in October, 92.9 the Game host Mike Bell tweeted his displeasure seeing a softball player doing baseball analysis on ESPN, going after her with a sexist insult made famous by the film “Anchorman.”
After hurling potshots and defending his position with foes for hours, Bell made an on-air apology the next day and was suspended for three days.
Though his insult was aimed at Jessica Mendoza, the ridiculous nature of his comment wasn’t lost on Sandra Golden.
Golden — Atlanta’s only female sports talk radio host, heard daily on the Fan (680 on the AM, 93.7 on the FM) from 9 a.m. to noon — has survived in a male-dominated business by successfully battling this prevalent attitude about women in sports media.
“His argument makes about as much sense as saying men can’t be gynecologists,” Golden said. “Most of the men in TV and radio have never been professional athletes themselves.”
At the same time, she is actually friends with Bell and called him soon after the kerfuffle happened. “I said, ‘Hang in there. That “Anchorman” line is funny. People are too serious.’ I’ve called him a meathead myself, but he really has a big heart.”
Bell, in return, calls Golden “a great loyal friend. I always loved hearing her laugh at my corny jokes back in the day when we were on mornings together. She’s the best.”
Golden has been in sports media for more than two decades, coming to Atlanta in 1997 after multiple broadcasting stints in Florida. She has built a reputation for her preparation, her sports knowledge and ability to wrestle with the big boys in their playpen. Before joining radio in 2004, she spent seven years at Fox Sports South covering the Atlanta Braves and ACC sports.
“She’s a sweetheart,” said Chipper Jones, the legendary starting Braves third basemen from 1995 to 2012. “It’s not easy to be a female in a professional locker room. She carried herself with the utmost professionalism. She always had a huge smile on her face.” (Golden said she was “kind of tough on him, but he was always respectful.”)
Golden is part of “The Front Row,” a show that features bombastic veteran host Stephen “Steak” Shapiro and soft-spoken former Atlanta Falcon Brian Finneran.
On the show, the Buckhead resident plays like the sassy older sister to the two younger men. “It’s almost annoying how happy she is in the morning,” Finneran said.
She also possesses what she calls a “loud cackle,” which she tried to suppress when she first started on sports talk radio station 790 the Zone as the news update person for the morning show. But Shapiro told her that this was part of who she was, so let it rip!
David Dickey, who runs the Fan and hired Golden in 2010, said he loves the trio’s chemistry. “They can poke fun at each other, but it’s not mean-spirited. They can laugh at each other and themselves. Sandra is very comfortable in her own skin.”
Occasionally, she’ll get hot on a subject such as athletes committing domestic violence. When the video of Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice punching his fiance in an elevator leaked last year, she couldn’t believe Rice had defenders. “I didn’t hold back calling it reprehensible behavior,” she said. “Nancy Grace was calling me about it. It definitely bothered me more than most men.”
And when she heard last week that Rice was rallying to get a job back with the NFL, she wasn’t impressed, noting he had just had a subpar year. “He can get a job at UPS or RaceTrac,” she said on air Friday. “You can earn a living. Listen. If he was such a great running back, he’d be back on a team. I don’t think the NFL would get all high and mighty if he could play.”
To a younger generation of female sportscasters, “she’s like the godfather,” said Rachel Baribeau, a college football host and analyst for SiriusXM and a sideline reporter for the ACC Network. She spent 10 months in 2012 and 2013 as a co-host on 92.9/The Game.
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