I CAN'T BELIEVE It's been five years since Ralph Barbieri was fired from KNBR. Seems like yesterday the "Razor" was bellowing out the latest injustices involving Bay Area sports.
Barbieri sued KNBR and Cumulus; the case was about to go to a jury trial when both sides settled and by all indications, Ralph did very well.
As he battles his various health maladies (including Parkinson's Disease) Barbieri and his son, Tate, are enjoying life in Marin. Too bad he's not back on the airwaves.
You either loved Ralph or hated him. There was really no in-between. Either way, you LISTENED. You listened to his rants, his raves, and his takes on things, some things that didn't even involve sports, but again, you were there. For all of Ralph's major irritants; his non-stop questions; his over-pontificating broadcast style; his self-aggrandizement mojo; his boisterous blah-blah-blahs, he kept you glued and interested.
I for one hated Ralph early in his career for his hatred of the Oakland Raiders and frequent putdowns of the late Al Davis. I thought he went overboard on a man who was clearly losing it--Ralph went too far on his anti-Al 'tude it but nevertheless made for entertaining radio. Yeah, I too listened.
I listened when he went ballistic with Giants GM and biggie, Brian Sabean --he was literally screaming one afternoon and it was fun to listen to TWO BIG Italians go at it. It wasn't radio shtick either; it was sincere and passionate and real and genuine which made it so good and chewy. Today's artificial radio gimmicks wouldn't cut it because everything is manufactured and made-up shock radio. It's a good thing Barbieri didn't get the memo.
The Razor was compelling because Ralph was compelling himself. His stories about growing up in the advertising business and working for Sport Magazine (which he must have mentioned a thousand times on the air) were cool and quaint. He was a pretty damn good inquisitor and got a lot out of people who didn't exactly open up. Ralph's chats with Rick Barry were some of the best interviews ever on local radio. His one-on-one with a moody Kareem Abdul-Jabbar could be placed on a highlight reel --I doubt anyone could have picked the brain of Abdul-Jabbar like Ralph did.
Sure, there were days when Ralph was too much to take and so you'd tune out but you quickly tuned back in the very next segment too. He was a pain in the ass but he was a sincere pain in the ass. Phoniness was not in his DNA so there you were glued to the radio on Monday through Friday.
KNBR/Cumulus management won't admit this (of course they won't) but they made a huge mistake in letting The Razor go too soon. They let ego get in the way of good business. They lost a big part of their mantle and for such a dumb reason: Ralph was showing up late. Big deal. He made a lot of money for the company not to mention he was KNBR's biggest and most popular personality.
Ralph was the last beacon of light for Bay Area sports-talk radio. Nobody today comes even remotely close. There's a few morsels left but they're bogged down by the current business stream and what seems like a gazillion commercials. Worst of all, they're mostly imposters and don't possess an ounce of The Razor's passion.