Monson: Ownership has changed at The Zone, but independence remains
Radio • LHM may own the station now, but my opinions will remain my own — guaranteed
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Eleven years ago, after spending six years at another radio station, I helped launch new sports-talk programming in Salt Lake City that came to be known as 1280 The Zone. It started as an idea shared between Craig Bolerjack and me, an electronic public forum through which we could freely express our opinions and listeners could call in and do the same.

And, man, did we — and they — ever.

Sometimes we all agreed, sometimes we disagreed, sometimes we congratulated one another on our brilliance, sometimes we beat each other over the head, questioning how any sane person could think that way.

It was a beautiful thing.

As Dave Mason once sang: "There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys, there's only you and me and we just disagree."

Nothing wrong with that. In fact, when it comes to sports, not only is truth relative, and up for debate, agreement is overrated.

Well. The Zone now has been sold to the Larry H. Miller Group. Starting Wednesday, many of their guys — including David James, Pat Kinahan, Scott Garrard and Spence Checketts — came over to the Zone studios and broadcast on 1280 AM, joining Jake Scott and me, who remained.

Some listeners, and now readers, will wonder what all that means for an independent voice on a station owned by the Jazz. What I can tell you is this: My opinions will stay completely uncensored, both on the radio and in The Tribune. Not only has that been required by Tribune editor Nancy Conway and assured by Jazz president Randy Rigby, it's been guaranteed by specific language in my radio contract. Whether an idiot or a genius at any particular moment, I will continue to say and write exactly what is on my mind, without inside or outside pressure, on all sports topics, including all things having to do with the Jazz.

I will not hold back. I will not clean up messes. I will never be a honk. I hope to make you think and give you a chance to share your unvarnished opinions. I'll tell the truth, as I see it, even if it is relative, and open the door for you to tell your truth. I'll cause some people to bob their head up and down, some to shake it side to side. And I'll tick everybody off. Again. It's what I do. It's what I've always done.

An atmosphere was created long ago on 1280 that encouraged big-time independent thought, even thought that was seen by some as heresy. Homer radio it wasn't. It was, rather, a meeting place for honest discussion and argument among a greater sports brotherhood and sisterhood, a group that wouldn't be spoon-fed a bunch of BS. It was the on-air equivalent of sitting around a table or a bar and having at it, tossing the topics and issues of the day back and forth like a spiraling — and sometimes wobbling — Wilson.

I loved it.

It was wonderfully informative, entertaining, ridiculous, outrageous, passionate, unfiltered and spontaneous. Sometimes it devolved into unabashed "guy talk."

We hashed through and argued over everything and everyone: from the inequality of the BCS to the inaccessibility of the Mountain network, from Gary Crowton's incompetence to Urban Meyer's arrogance, from Rick Majerus' vulgarity to Tiger Woods' infidelity, from Deron Williams' petulance to Derrick Fisher's early exit, from Andrei Kirilenko's free pass from Masha and his teary breakdown in Houston to Bronco Mendenhall's methods for choosing a starting quarterback, from the hatred of Max Hall to the resignation of Jerry Sloan, from the Utes going to the Pac-12 to BYU going independent, from the rise of Jimmer Fredette to the demise of Jake Heaps, from Carlos Boozer's bad foot to Carlos Boozer's bad hamstring to Carlos Boozer's bad knee to Carlos Boozer's bad abdomen to Carlos Boozer's bad attitude.

We talked about abject failures and soaring triumphs.

There were serious and sensitive issues — like performance-enhancing drugs poisoning our trust in great performances all around and the child abuse seeping out of the Penn State tragedy — that often enraged us and sometimes made us cry. We laughed a lot, too.

Over time, the turnstiles kept churning at The Zone. In addition to a slew of gifted producers and sales people who came and went, Bolerjack left to do play-by-play for the Jazz. Ian Furness left for Seattle. Ryan Hatch went to Phoenix. Eric Ray left. Dave Fox left. Alema Harrington left. Pace Mannion left. DJ left. PK left. Scotty G left. John Lund left. Kevin Graham left.

Now, Hans Olsen and Sean O'Connell have left. Kyle Gunther and Jan Jorgensen have left. And all of those great talents, every single one, left their significant mark here.

It's been a great run at 1280. I'm as proud of what we built at The Zone as anything I've accomplished in my 32-year career. And now, though changed, it goes on.

Pull up a seat at the table or at the bar, then.

Speak your mind.

Let's have at it.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on 1280 and 960 AM, and 97.5 FM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.