Mark Neal, ESPN WING 1410 program director and host of the daily Dayton Sports Scene talk show, loves talking about sports, but if you really want to get his attention ask about his vegetable garden.

Neal, Dayton’s only sport talk radio host, enjoys a lot of hobbies, but growing tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, green beans and you name it is one of his favorites. 

“I have a big garden. It’s one of my passions. One day when I retire I’ll try to build a greenhouse and garden year round,” says Neal, who has been doing sports talk on WING since 2000 and hosts the Sunday morning Bucknuts talk show and a pre-game show before Ohio State football games.

How did you get into sports broadcasting?

I grew up in Fairborn, graduating from Fairborn High School (where he was named to the district’s Hall of Fame this year) and from the University of Dayton in 2000 with a degree in communications. Growing up I was always interested in sports and media. At Dayton I wrote for the school paper and wanted to be sports writer. I was working at a bar while in college and a guy I worked with helped me get a job in the station’s promotions department. Lo and behold, six months later I had my own show. Seventeen years later I’m still doing it.

What are the keys to success in sports talk?

You have to be entertaining and you have to be relatable. It helps that I’m from Dayton and a fan of the teams I talk about. You also have to know a lot of information and statistics from the past. I can’t remember to take the trash out sometimes, but I can tell you the starting lineup for the ’85 Reds. I’m not a journalist; I’m an opinion maker. It’s inevitable some people are not going to agree with me and vehemently disagree in some cases. Over time you have to develop a thick skin. When I was younger that was tough, but now I’ve gotten used to it.

What makes the Dayton sports scene unique?

I think it starts with the fact that this is a town that loves sports. One of my favorite things about doing a show in Dayton is that I’m not limited. I can talk about what’s happening in Cincinnati or Cleveland or Columbus. I can talk a little bit of everything. If I were in Cincinnati I’d have to talk about the Reds even when there’s nothing to talk about. Here I can talk about the Browns, I can talk about the Indians, the Blue Jackets, Ohio State, the Bengals, Reds or whatever the case may be. I have a lot more flexibility and range of topics.

What’s the best sports rivalry in Dayton?

Troy and Piqua is the most famous for its longevity. They’ve been playing each other since the 1800s. I think from a competitive standpoint the Wayne- Centerville matchup is the most intriguing. They’re two powerhouse football programs. At the college level, there’s a never-ending hope by a lot of people that Dayton and Wright State will resume their basketball rivalry. On a slow day you can always talk about whether the Gem City Jam will be renewed, even though they haven’t played each other in 20 years.



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