The Smack-Off is an annual invitation-only competition on "
The Jim Rome Show", held in mid-to-late spring and which takes up the entire program on a Friday. The contest is a way to recognize the best callers to the show, as well as a means of determining the best caller of the year. Show host Jim Romehas referred to the Smack-Off as the most important show of the entire year.
The "Smack-Off" began in
1995while "The Jim Rome Show" was still on local radio but has continued into syndication. To date, fourteen Smack-Offs have been held, the last on April 25, 2008.
According to Rome, the idea for the Smack-Off came after an extended period of mediocre to outright horrible calls to the show. Rome and show producer Travis Rodgers got together to talk about the lack of good callers, and Rome voiced the opinion that he would like to be able to pick and choose who could call the show. Rodgers felt that this would not be feasible on a daily basis but could work for one day, which Rome agreed would work.
How the Smack-Off works
Invitations to the Smack-Off are obtained in two fashions. The first is for recognition for a caller's body of work on the show: multiple "awards" of the Huge Call of the Day, a history of consistently good calls, or as a reward for an especially exceptional call. The second is in the form of a "lifetime exemption." Previous winners are automatically invited every year, regardless of how often (or even if) they call the show.
J. T. the Brick, for instance, has not called for many years but still is invited to participate. Sean "the Cablinasian," once a regular caller, flaunts the fact that he now only calls the show to participate in the Smack-Off.
Rome admits that the invitation process for non-winners is totally subjective, that he can offer invitations for any reason, or no reason at all, and that he has a bias toward the So-Cal Clones when selecting invitees. He also will threaten to deny invitations to previous invitees who have not called the show for an extended period of time, and some callers are considered to be "on the bubble." These callers must prove that they deserve invitations or they will not be invited. During the time between the official announcement of the date of the Smack-Off and the event itself, Rome will begin announcing callers who have secured or been denied invitations, as well as callers who are "on the bubble." The show's
websiteoften has polls asking for listener opinions on who should or should not have been invited; however, polling results do not directly affect the field. This period also features numerous calls from newcomers attempting to secure invitations; most, however, end up getting run.
For the Smack-Off, Rome almost completely breaks show format. No
interviews are scheduled, and Rome offers no takes of his own. On the day of the event, Rome explains the history of the Smack-Off, repeats the list of invitees, and warns those invited that invitation does not guarantee participation, then begins taking calls. Rome has indirectly stated that callers who are expected to perform more strongly will get airtime first, and those on hold when Rome announces the top 10 callers do not get to participate. Usually, the first hour's callers begin at about 15 to 20 minutes into the show. The second hour is dedicated to calls, and the third hour's calls stop at about the bottom of the hour, allowing Rome to name the top 10, replay the winning call, and hold a short interview with the winner. During the contest, Rome will read e-mails from listeners commenting on the calls, and offer brief comments of his own.
Callers are expected to follow the general guidelines for calls to the show, and are as susceptible to being run (cut off) as if a normal show was airing (see "
The Jim Rome Show" for details). Rome also stipulates that while there is no set time limit for calls, he expects callers to finish their takes within roughly 5 minutes, and that only calls with very strong content can be allowed to run long. Callers Orrin in Denver was run in 2006, and Rachel in Houston was run in Smack-Offs 2007 and 2008, both for running too long.
Over the history of the Smack-Off, first-time invitees have generally not fared well, but exceptions occur, such as Joe in the O.C. and Casey in Vegas, who have become consistent invitees. Several callers from the "So-Cal" area of
Californiaare also long-time invitees, including Silk in Huntington Beach, Terrence in Sierra Madre, Trapper in Dana Point, and Irie Craig.
Rome and the Clones generally separate Smack-Off history into three distinct eras: the "pre-syndication era" (1995 and
1996), the "old school years" ( 1997- 2001), and the "new generation era" ( 2002-present).
The pre-syndication era (1995-96)
This era is known primarily for three things: the DiTolla brothers,
J. T. the Brick's win and later estrangement from Rome and the show, and Jason in Fullerton.
J. T. the Brick won the first Smack-Off and was offered a radio position from a competing radio network. Rome continues to invite J.T. each year (both currently work for
Premiere Radio Networks; J.T. for the Fox Sports Radiodivision).
Doc Mike and Jeffrey "Esquire" DiTolla were both noteworthy competitors during this period, with Jeffrey winning Smack-Off 1996. Jeffrey DiTolla was third in the initial Smack-Off, following Adam in Pacific Beach.
Caller Jason from Fullerton was one of the first Smack-Off callers to be run. Rome later called his performance "truly horrible" and said that it "might be the worst call ever in the history of the Smack-Off." However, in an ironic twist of fate, Jason Stewart would later became the call screener for "The Jim Rome Show", known as "J-Stew" and "Mr. Automatic."
The old school years (1997-2001)
This era was dominated by those callers referred to by Rome as the "SoCal legends." Doc Mike Di Tolla won in
1997and 2000, while Steve Carbone took the title in 1998. Sean the Cablinasian became the first caller outside of Southern California to win the Smack-Off in 1999, and Silk in Huntington Beach, also known as "Silk Brah," won in 2001.
This also was an era marked by controversial decisions. Carbone (previously known as Stevie from LMU) was "Phoneslap," the phone screener for "The Jim Rome Show" at the time. Carbone's call, while considered strong by Rome and noted for his announcement that "I am not a [expletive] clone!" generated conspiracy theories, since he was both the last caller of the day and the phone-screener. In 2000, caller Dan in D.C. made a potentially winning call but was denied the victory because his station,
WTEM, did not carry all three hours live. Rome essentially admitted this when he said, "Dan, bang your monkey. It cost you the title." Doc Mike Di Tolla became the first two-time winner because of this. Jim Harbaugh, who at the time was playing for the Indianapolis Colts, also called in 1998, becoming the first celebrityto participate. His call was regarded as weak, but Rome was not about to run off an NFL player, so the Clones had to sit through it.
The new generation era (2002-2007)
The syndication of the show allowed for a wider range of callers, which brought many new callers to the Smack-Off and essentially ended the "SoCal legends"' domination.
Jeff in Richmond, one of the most controversial callers in the Jungle, won in 2002 with a typically loud, self-promoting and defiant call.
2003featured more new callers and the second two-time winner, Sean the Cablinasian, after Greg in Vegas was denied the win because he ended his call with the line "...maybe Tom Watson could have won the U.S. Open if not for his caddy suffering a one stroke penalty," referring to Bruce Edwards, who suffered from, and eventually succumbed to ALS. This Smack-Off featured a surprise third-place finish by Joe in the O.C.
Smack-Off X, in
2004, featured Iafrate's breakthrough victory, featuring a parody song, "Whitey's Dad" (for the show's engineer at the time, Brian "Whitey" Albers). Terrence in Sierra Madre again did not win, earning him the title of "best caller never to win the Smack-Off."
Smack-Off 2005 was considered by Rome to be the best to date. It featured the highest placement of a woman in the Smack-Off (Rachael in Houston), Iafrate's fifth second-place finish, another third-place finish for Terrence in Sierra Madre, and the first three-time winner, Sean the Cablinasian.
Smack-Off 2006 featured Sean the Cablinasian becoming a four-time champion, and the first-ever back-to-back Smack-Off winner, though with controversy since many of the clones felt Greg in Vegas and Rachael in Houston had better calls that day. The 2007 Smack-off was notable for both the winner and the runner-up being awarded tickets to the
De La Hoya-Mayweather boxingmatch, as well as the absence of a highly touted rookie, Vic in No-Cal. In the months prior to the Smack-Off, Rome regarded Vic as "the next big thing," and many of the day's callers referenced Vic. However, Vic never called, leading Rome to audibly hope "nothing bad happened" to Vic. Although Rome expressed the thought that perhaps Vic was scared off by Sean's smackdown of the rookie, it seems unlikely given the mild nature of Sean's comments. However, when Vic "called his shot" on the Wednesday prior to the Smack Off, he finished with a comment about coming in with a post-fight announcement. Upon returning from the "basement" a week later, Jim told the Jungle that Vic had emailed J. Stew to explain that he couldn't make a call because the phone was busy, he has roommates, and a job. Jim derided his explanation as weak, and that you have to get in to the Smack-Off, regardless. In the end, Sean became the first ever 5-time winner of the Smack-Off and a three-peatchampion. Joe in the O.C. finished second.
Post-Cablinasian era (2008-)
Soon after winning the 2007 Smack-Off, Sean the Cablinasian accepted a position as the afternoon talk show host with 1560
KGOW, located in Houston, Texas. Because KGOW was a rival to the affiliate station that broadcasts " The Jim Rome Show", there was speculation that Sean Pendergast would not be allowed to compete in the 2008 Smack-Off. After months of silence, Rome announced that Cablinasian would not be eligible to participate in future Smack-Offs, in spite of his lifetime exemption. Rome explained that this wasn't personal, but that business practices in radio demanded this. J.T. the Brick, on the other hand, is welcome, because he and Rome work for the same company, Premiere Radio Networks, though J.T. hasn't made an appearance on the Smack-Off since gaining his own talk show.
In 2008, Iafrate won his second title in the event, although he admitted his victory should be accompanied by an asterisk because the Cablinasian wasn't allowed to compete. Iafrate's call directly referenced the five-time winner's absence, comparing it to a golf tournament in which
Tiger Woodschose not to compete. Specifically, Iafrate said the Cablinasian turned the event from " The Mastersinto The Wachovia."
Iafrate's call came early in the second hour of Smack Off, not long after the efforts of "Doc" Mike Di Tolla, the two-time winner who would finish second in the 2008 Smack Off. Di Tolla had not competed in several years, and Iafrate tailored his take to rubuke the long-time veteran for his absence. He attacked Mike for his lack of originality, calling him the "Official Jungle Mad Lib" and also hammered
Jay Mohr. Rome dubbed Iafrate's take as "awesome" after it ended, and only one competitor following that take - 1998 winner Stevie Carbone from LMU- attempted to critique Iafrate's efforts. Iafrate was awarded a Slingbox, a computer ("Ooh that's a tough one. I'll take the computer dude") and was the subject of Rome's final burn in his TV show, Jim Rome is Burning.
Vic in No-Cal attempted to go "wire-to-wire" in the Smack Off as the day's first caller, but he did not finish in the top ten. Comedian
Jay Mohrdemanded the slot right after Vic, and spent most of his time talking "smack" about the newcomer. Mohr finished sixth.
Shortly after the Smack-Off, DiTolla announced on the Jim Rome show that he would resume calling in more frequently, prompting commitments from Vic as well as Gino in San Antonio to do the same.
The Jim Rome Show"
Jim Rome Is Burning"
Jim Rome Tour Stops
* [http://www.jimrome.com/ Jim Rome official website]
* [http://www.stucknut.com/ Stucknut.com, Unofficial fan forum]
* [http://www.andrew.moorehill.net/Jungle/ A history of the Smack-Off, with a lot of audio]
* [http://1560thegame.com/ Official website of KGOW]
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