SAVVY SPORTS TALK RADIO HOST
STORY: Carl Danbury
PHOTOS: Sara Hanna
Sandra Golden is the very definition of a consummate pro. Back in October, the audacious sports talk trendsetter, who can be heard every weekday from 6 to 9 a.m. on The Front Row on 680 The Fan, was traveling back and forth between Atlanta and the rented Panama City Beach condo where her parents and sister were staying after the roof of their Florida home was ripped off during Hurricane Michael. All three were home at the time, but luckily unhurt. Although they are still picking up the pieces.
“Everyone is used to me being optimistic, sunny-side-of-the-street Sandra, but I didn’t feel like my best self,” she confesses. While the event created some internal emotional mush for the Buckhead resident, few listeners would have known any differently, further proof of her unassailable, 20-plus-year sports broadcasting career. Brian Woodrum, a producer of live events and Atlanta Braves’ games for Fox Sports, worked with Golden on a variety of productions in the early 2000s and marveled at her professionalism and preparation. “Sandra was fairly new to the Braves’ scene back then, but she was never looked at by the players as anything but professional. They quickly respected her, because she was all about the story and she knew the game,” says Woodrum.
While Golden’s TV work has earned her three Southeast (regional) Emmy Awards for feature reporting, in 2004, she was coaxed by her Front Row co-host Steak Shapiro to consider a career in radio. “I met Sandra at an event. She was extremely gregarious, engaging and dynamic. I told her she should be in radio,” Shapiro recalls. “She’s a natural and has a personality that just jumps out at you.” Shapiro first hired her at the now-defunct 790 The Zone.
Now approaching her ninth year at 680, Golden says she’s happy doing the morning show with Shapiro and former Falcons receiver Brian Finneran. She enjoys the less structured, no-teleprompter world that radio offers, where the conversation is more organic and unscripted. “I am super grateful to be able to do the show,” she says. “The three of us are friends. We care about each other. We are very different and yet very much alike. There is a chemistry, and each of us has a different set of qualities.”
“It’s the best show I have ever worked on. It’s my favorite three hours of the day,” says Shapiro.
Golden also enjoys carrying the torch for her female listeners, but is resigned to the fact there is a specific audience segment that will never appreciate a woman talking sports. “I get it,” she says. “I’ve heard it forever. That’s on them.” Her expertise is undeniable, though. For one, when she was growing up, her father refereed football and basketball games and umpired softball games. Family outings were often centered around those events. So she was not only fully versed on their signals and calls, but learned a lot about the strategy and intricacies of sports.
Shapiro says there are some roles in sports media that women can adapt to rather easily. The sports talk segment isn’t one of them. “There is nothing more challenging because the level of skepticism from men is just really high,” he says.
Despite the tumult of sports talk radio, Golden has endured as the lone woman in the format in Atlanta and one of the few in the Southeast. When asked for her own definition of what it means to be a bold woman, Golden goes for a new connotation. “I was going to say loud,” she says with a chuckle. “But being bold to me is being an authentic woman who stands for something.”