Jamie Dukes, one of the most popular hosts on 92.9/The Game, is stepping down today after three years at the sports talk station.
Dukes, who has also worked at 680/The Fan and the now defunct 790/The Zone, lives in Braselton, which meant a commute that ate up more than three hours of his day every day. Over time, that wore him down. He took three weeks off recently to deal with shoulder, neck and back problems stemming in part from spending too much time in the automobile.
Dukes said the Game management was unwilling to allow him to do his mid-day show with Rick Kamla from his home even part of the week. Without that option, he couldn't handle the commute anymore. "This is really about my health," he said. "It's not worth it if I can't work smarter."
CBS Atlanta, which owns 92.9/The Game as well as V-103 and WAOK-AM, is based at Colony Square in Midtown.
Dukes, now 51, spent 10 years in the NFL including eight seasons with the Atlanta Falcons as a center from 1986 to 1995.
He will continue to contribute to the NFL Network and work with Sirius/XM on Saturdays. He could also podcast, like Doug Stewart on Spreaker. And though Dukes has a non-compete clause that will keep him off Atlanta AM/FM radio for six months, he is confident other radio opportunities will pop up.
"The sports fans have evolved," said Dukes. "They want more than just stats and who's going to win the game. I tried to be in tune with what fans wanted. They need more insight, more in-depth conversation. That's the reason they liked what we did."
His departure was low key. He didn't want to turn his final show into the "Jamie Dukes farewell show." He waited until his final segment at 1:40 p.m. to break the news to the fans. And go figure - Kamla wasn't even in the studio to hug it out with Dukes.
"I got a heavy heart," Kamla said on air at 1:44 p.m. "I love you. You're a dear friend. I have learned so much of the craft of radio from you."
Kamla said Dukes is not just a sports analyst but a true host and comic. "You have taught me the art of the spin and the art of radio... I'm going to miss you terribly."
Dukes repeated what he told me about the commute issues that led to this unfortunate decision. "I wanted to thank all the listeners for being part of something that was very special," he said. He said Kamla has "heart. You are a very passionate man. So I want to thank you being my friend."
Dukes and Kamla's mid-day show frequently drew the best ratings for the Game, which has generally under-performed for most of its past three years in the ratings despite a vastly superior signal to 680/The Fan, which also simulcasts at 93.7 on the FM dial. In the latest monthly ratings, the ratings of the two stations are neck and neck.
Dukes gave the Game several weeks notice about his pending departure to give management a chance to rejigger its lineup, which I presume will be announced soon. (PD Terry Foxx said an official station response will be forthcoming.)
Of the original dozen people hired to be on air at launch October 24, 2012, there are now four weekday on-air personalities who have been at the station its entire three-year run: Kamla, Randy Cross, Mitch Evans and Carl Dukes.