Steve Duemig and the hole he leaves in Tampa Bay sports radio

When sports-talk radio host Steve Duemig died last week, he took with him the lionís roar in all of us.
Steve Duemig (right) talks during a 2002 sports-talk radio show with Derrick Brooks.  Duemig died on May 16, 2019, after a bout with cancer. [Times files (2002)]
Steve Duemig (right) talks during a 2002 sports-talk radio show with Derrick Brooks. Duemig died on May 16, 2019, after a bout with cancer. [Times files (2002)]
Published May 21

TAMPA – ”You hear what Duemig said today?”

Steve Duemig, a radio heavyweight around here for a quarter century, has signed off. He died last Thursday after a long fight with cancer. He left behind a family and friends. He left behind an army of lovers and an army of haters. He left behind:

“You hear what Duemig said today?”

He did it as well as anyone ever has in this sports market. None of us could ever hit our mark like that. Steve Duemig was, as his trademark said, the Big Dog.

Until Duemig, the biggest legends in Tampa Bay sports, to me, was Tampa Tribune sports columnist Tom McEwen, a mover and shaker for the ages. McEwen has press boxes and a road named for him.

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Duemig was a different kind of cat for a different kind of time. I once heard him lace a priest with profanity on the air. It made me cringe. But that was the way Duemig rolled. He became Tampa Bay’s bluntest object when it came to sports talk. He was our Stephen A. He was the lion’s roar in all of us, the volume turned way up.

“Did you hear what Duemig said today?”

How many people in Tampa Bay first learned hockey from Duemig, the transplanted Philadelphian? How many Tampa Bay residents who were transplants were told in no uncertain terms to get with the program and behind Tampa Bay teams? Duemig did most of the telling.

Duemig championed his friends. So many of them have stories about him that belied his razor-wire image. Stories about how Duemig helped them, how no one ever knew that at his insistence.

I never appeared on Duemig’s radio show. There are times I thought it was beneath me, that we worked far too different sides of the street. But I learned a little more about him when he came to my rescue.

My friend David Whitley and I signed on to do a live sports talk show for what was then the Sunshine Network. We were even given a clothing allowance. My suit coat was the best part of the show. Whitley and I bombed.

Enter Duemig. He was enlisted. I had never worked with him before, and it showed. At one point, we got in a heated exchange after he told me what he’d said on his radio show.

Me: “Well, I wouldn’t know, I don’t listen to you show.”

Duemig fired back: “Well, I don’t read your column.”

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Me: “That’s not a problem. I’ll send someone down to read it to you.”

Duemig’s eyes grew wide. I thought he was going to kill me.

The red light on the camera went off, signaling commercial time. I braced for the wrath of the Big Dog.

“Man, that was great,” Duemig said to me, genuinely excited. “That went great, don’t you think? I think it was great.”

Far more than the rest of us, Duemig got it. He knew what doing a show was all about, what made it go. He knew about juice. He was in a league all his own. No one around here has ever joined it.

Here’s to the Big Dog.

I hope there’s a 3 p.m. slot waiting for him.

Contact Martin Fennelly or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly