The Smack-Off is an annual competition on The Jim Rome Show, in which select listeners are invited to provide their best "smack talk", with Show host Jim Rome and his show personnel determining the winner. The contest is a way to recognize the best callers to the show, as well as a means of determining the best caller of the year. The show takes up the entire program on a Friday. Rome has referred to the Smack-Off as the most important show of the entire year.
The Smack-Off began in 1995 while The Jim Rome Show was still on local radio but has continued into syndication. To date, nineteen Smack-Offs have been held, the last on June 14, 2013.
During Rome's tenure with Premiere Radio Networks, the Smack-Off was usually held in April or May, with the exception of the 2003 event which was held in June. With the show's move to CBS Sports Radio, the 2013 Smack-Off was moved to summertime, during a time when more people could listen and when participants would be a little looser.
- 1 Background
- 2 How the Smack-Off works
- 3 History
- 4 The Hack-Off
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
According to Rome, the idea for the Smack-Off came after an extended period of mediocre to outright horrible calls to the show. Rome and show producer Travis Rodgers got together to talk about the lack of good callers, and Rome voiced the opinion that he would like to be able to pick and choose who could call the show. Rodgers felt that this would not be feasible on a daily basis but could work for one day, which Rome agreed would work. 
How the Smack-Off works
Invitations to the Smack-Off are obtained in two fashions. The first is for recognition for a caller's body of work on the show: multiple "awards" of the Huge Call of the Day, a history of consistently good calls, or as a reward for an especially exceptional call. The second is in the form of a "lifetime exemption." Previous winners are automatically invited every year, regardless of how often (or even if) they call the show. J. T. the Brick, for instance, has not called for many years but still is invited to participate. Sean "the Cablinasian," once a regular caller, flaunted the fact that he only called the show to participate in the Smack-Off until he was banned from the Smack-Off for taking a radio job with a rival radio network.
Rome admits that the invitation process for non-winners is totally subjective, that he can offer invitations for any reason, or no reason at all, and that he has a bias toward the So-Cal Clones when selecting invitees. He also will threaten to deny invitations to previous invitees who have not called the show for an extended period of time, and some callers are considered to be "on the bubble." These callers must prove that they deserve invitations or they will not be invited. During the time between the official announcement of the date of the Smack-Off and the event itself, Rome will begin announcing callers who have secured or been denied invitations, as well as callers who are "on the bubble." The show's website often has polls asking for listener opinions on who should or should not have been invited; however, polling results do not directly affect the field. This period also features numerous calls from newcomers attempting to secure invitations; most, however, end up getting run.
For the Smack-Off, Rome almost completely breaks show format. No interviews are scheduled, and Rome offers no takes of his own. On the day of the event, Rome explains the history of the Smack-Off, repeats the list of invitees, and warns those invited that invitation does not guarantee participation, then begins taking calls. Rome has indirectly stated that callers who are expected to perform more strongly will get airtime first, and those on hold when Rome announces the top 10 callers do not get to participate. Usually, the first hour's callers begin at about 15 to 20 minutes into the show. The second hour is dedicated to calls, and the third hour's calls stop at about the bottom of the hour, allowing Rome to name the top 10, replay the winning call, and hold a short interview with the winner. During the contest, Rome will read e-mails from listeners commenting on the calls, and offer brief comments of his own.
Callers are expected to follow the general guidelines for calls to the show, and are as susceptible to being run (cut off) as if a normal show was airing (see The Jim Rome Show for details). Rome also stipulates that while there is no set time limit for calls, he expects callers to finish their takes within roughly 5 minutes, and that only calls with very strong content can be allowed to run long. Callers Orrin in Denver was run in 2006, and Rachel in Houston was run in Smack-Offs 2007 and 2008, and Brad in Corona was run in 2013, all for running too long.
Over the history of the Smack-Off, first-time invitees have generally not fared well, but exceptions occur, such as Brad in Corona winning in 2009. Joe in the O.C. and Casey in Vegas have become consistent invitees. Several callers from the "So-Cal" area of California are also long-time invitees, including Silk in Huntington Beach, Terrence in Sierra Madre, Trapper in Dana Point, and Irie Craig.
Rome and the Clones generally separate Smack-Off history into four distinct eras: the "pre-syndication era" (1995 and 1996), the "old school years" (1997-2001), the "Cablifrate" era" (2002-2008), and the "New Blood era" (2009–Present).
This era is known primarily for three things: the DiTolla brothers, J. T. the Brick's win and later estrangement from Rome and the show, and Jason in Fullerton. J. T. the Brick won the first Smack-Off and was offered a radio position from a competing radio network. Rome continues to invite J.T. each year, but J.T. has not shown up since. Doc Mike and Jeffrey "Esquire" DiTolla were both noteworthy competitors during this period, with Jeffrey winning Smack-Off 1996. Jeffrey DiTolla was third in the initial Smack-Off, following Adam in Pacific Beach. Caller Jason from Fullerton was one of the first Smack-Off callers to be run. Rome later called his performance "truly horrible" and said that it "might be the worst call ever in the history of the Smack-Off." However, in an ironic twist of fate, Jason Stewart would later became the call screener for The Jim Rome Show, known as "J-Stew" and "Mr. Automatic", a position he held from 1999-2013.
The old school years (1997-2001)
This era was dominated by those callers referred to by Rome as the "SoCal legends." Doc Mike Di Tolla won in 1997 and 2000, while Steve Carbone took the title in 1998. Sean the Cablinasian became the first caller outside of Southern California to win the Smack-Off in 1999, and Silk in Huntington Beach, also known as "Silk Brah," won in 2001. This also was an era marked by controversial decisions. Carbone (previously known as Stevie from LMU) was "Phoneslap," the phone screener for The Jim Rome Show at the time. Carbone's call, while considered strong by Rome and noted for his announcement that "I am not a [expletive] clone!" generated conspiracy theories, since he was both the last caller of the day and the phone-screener. In 2000, caller Dan in D.C. made a potentially winning call but was denied the victory because his station, WTEM, did not carry all three hours live. Rome essentially admitted this when he said, "Dan, bang your monkey. It cost you the title." Doc Mike Di Tolla became the first two-time winner because of this. Jim Harbaugh, who at the time was playing for the Indianapolis Colts, also called in 1998, becoming the first celebrity to participate. His call was regarded as weak, but Rome was not about to run off an NFL player, so the Clones had to sit through it.
The Cablifrate era (2002-2008)
The syndication of the show allowed for a wider range of callers, which brought many new callers to the Smack-Off and essentially ended the "SoCal legends"' domination. This era would be dominated by two callers, Sean "The Cablinasian" and "Iafrate" Ken. Jeff in Richmond, one of the most controversial callers in the Jungle, won in 2002 with a typically loud, self-promoting and defiant call. 2003 featured more new callers and the second two-time winner, Sean the Cablinasian, after Greg in Vegas was denied the win because he ended his call with the line "...maybe Tom Watson could have won the U.S. Open if not for his caddy suffering a one stroke penalty," referring to Bruce Edwards, who suffered from, and eventually succumbed to ALS. This Smack-Off featured a surprise third-place finish by Joe in the O.C.. Smack-Off X, in 2004, featured Iafrate's breakthrough victory, featuring a parody song, "Whitey's Dad" (for the show's engineer at the time, Brian "Whitey" Albers). Terrence in Sierra Madre again did not win, earning him the title of "best caller never to win the Smack-Off."
Smack-Off 2005 was considered by Rome to be the best up to that point (a distinction now attributed to the 2010 Smack-Off). It featured the highest placement of a woman in the Smack-Off (Rachel in Houston), Iafrate's fifth second-place finish, another third-place finish for Terrence in Sierra Madre, and the first three-time winner, Sean the Cablinasian. Smack-Off 2006 featured Sean the Cablinasian becoming a four-time champion, and the first-ever back-to-back Smack-Off winner, though with controversy since many of the clones felt Greg in Vegas and Rachel in Houston had better calls that day. The 2007 Smack-off was notable for both the winner and the runner-up being awarded tickets to the De La Hoya-Mayweather boxing match, as well as the absence of a highly touted rookie, Vic in No-Cal. In the months prior to the Smack-Off, Rome regarded Vic as "the next big thing," and many of the day's callers referenced Vic. However, Vic never called, leading Rome to audibly hope "nothing bad happened" to Vic. Although Rome expressed the thought that perhaps Vic was scared off by Sean's smackdown of the rookie, it seems unlikely given the mild nature of Sean's comments. However, when Vic "called his shot" on the Wednesday prior to the Smack Off, he finished with a comment about coming in with a post-fight announcement. Upon returning from the "basement" a week later, Jim told the Jungle that Vic had emailed J. Stew to explain that he couldn't make a call because the phone was busy, he has roommates, and a job. Jim derided his explanation as weak, and that you have to get in to the Smack-Off, regardless. In the end, Sean became the first ever 5-time winner of the Smack-Off and a three-peat champion. Joe in the O.C. finished second.
Soon after winning the 2007 Smack-Off, Sean the Cablinasian accepted a position as the afternoon talk show host with 1560 KGOW, located in Houston, Texas. Because KGOW was a rival to the affiliate station that broadcasts The Jim Rome Show, there was speculation that Sean Pendergast would not be allowed to compete in the 2008 Smack-Off. After months of silence, Rome announced that Cablinasian would not be eligible to participate in future Smack-Offs, in spite of his lifetime exemption. Rome explained that this wasn't personal, but that business practices in radio demanded this. J.T. the Brick, on the other hand, was welcome, because he and Rome worked for the same company, Premiere Radio Networks, though J.T. hasn't made an appearance on the Smack-Off since gaining his own talk show. Even after Rome moved to CBS Sports Radio, he still invited J.T. to compete.
In 2008, Iafrate won his second title in the event, although he admitted his victory should be accompanied by an asterisk because the Cablinasian wasn't allowed to compete. Iafrate's call directly referenced the five-time winner's absence, comparing it to a golf tournament in which Tiger Woods chose not to compete. Specifically, Iafrate said the Cablinasian turned the event from "The Masters into The Wachovia."
Iafrate's call came early in the second hour of Smack Off, not long after the efforts of "Doc" Mike Di Tolla, the two-time winner who would finish second in the 2008 Smack Off. Di Tolla had not competed in several years, and Iafrate tailored his take to rubuke the long-time veteran for his absence. He attacked Mike for his lack of originality, calling him the "Official Jungle Mad Lib" and also hammered Jay Mohr. Rome dubbed Iafrate's take as "awesome" after it ended, and only one competitor following that take - 1998 winner Stevie Carbone from LMU - attempted to critique Iafrate's efforts. Iafrate was awarded a Slingbox, and the choice of a computer or plasma TV, whereby he hastily choose the computer ("Ooh that's a tough one. I'll take the computer dude"). However, Iafrate's wife vetoed this, as revealed on Sean the Cablinasian's postgame show, and he ended up calling back to get the plasma TV instead. Iafrate was also the subject of Rome's final burn in his TV show, Jim Rome is Burning.
Vic in No-Cal attempted to go "wire-to-wire" in the Smack Off as the day's first caller, but he did not finish in the top ten. Comedian Jay Mohr demanded the slot right after Vic, and spent most of his time talking "smack" about the newcomer. Mohr finished sixth. Shortly after the Smack-Off, DiTolla announced on The Jim Rome Show that he would resume calling in more frequently, prompting commitments from Vic as well as Gino in San Antonio to do the same.
The New Blood Era (2009-Present)
In the 2009 Smack-Off, three first time callers got into the top ten (Brad in Corona, Mike in Indy, and Josh in Grand Rapids) with Josh in #7 and Brad and Mike at #1 and #2 with Brad being the first rookie to win the Smack-Off. The defending champ, Iafrate, ended up at #5. In 2010, Vic in NoCal became the tenth different Smack-Off winner in what Rome called the best, most competitive Smack-Off ever. In 2011, Brad in Corona won his second Smack-Off, edging out a very strong call from 1998 winner Stevie Carbone. Vic in NoCal finished fourth. In 2012 UFC fighter Chael Sonnen became the second professional athlete to participate in the Smack-Off, and was named the winner.
Sonnen returned to the 2013 Smack-Off, and so did Jason Stewart, the former call screener and former Smack-Off participant from 1995. On the June 11 show, Stewart called to announce his intent to participate in the 2013 Smack-Off, his first participation in eighteen years. Rome agreed to allow him to call, provided he use his former caller identification, "Jason in Fullerton".  However, neither one of them came out on top, as the 2013 Smack-Off championship was awarded to the 2012 Golden Ticket winner, Mark in Hollywood. Mark won the event by manipulating his iPhone voice, Siri, to help him insult Mike in Indy.
|I||April 14, 1995||J. T. the Brick|
|II||April 5, 1996||Jeffrey E. "Esquire" Di Tolla|
|III||March 28, 1997||"Doc" Mike Di Tolla|
|IV||April 10, 1998||Stevie Carbone from LMU|
|V||April 2, 1999||Sean "the Cablinasian" in Houston|
|VI||April 28, 2000||"Doc" Mike Di Tolla|
|VII||May 4, 2001||Silk in Huntington Beach|
|VIII||April 19, 2002||Jeff in Richmond|
|IX||June 21, 2003||Sean "the Cablinasian"|
|X||April 16, 2004||"Iafrate"|
|XI||May 6, 2005||Sean "the Cablinasian"|
|XII||May 5, 2006||Sean "the Cablinasian"|
|XIII||May 4, 2007||Sean "the Cablinasian"|
|XIV||April 25, 2008||"Iafrate"*|
|XV||May 8, 2009||Brad in Corona|
|XVI||April 23, 2010||Vic in No-Cal|
|XVII||April 8, 2011||Brad in Corona|
|XVIII||May 18, 2012||Chael Sonnen|
|XIX||June 14, 2013||Mark In Hollywood|
From 2010-2013, Rome had a spin-off of the Smack-Off called "The Hack-Off". Rather than the "Best of the Best", it was the "Worst of the Worst", which included Clones who previously got "run", save for those who are permanently banned from the show. Clones were selected either due to a horrible call from the show's history, a reputation for bad calls, or a recent spectacularly bad call. Whoever won the Hack-Off got an automatic invite into the Smack-Off.
The Hack-Off was also known as "The Eddie In Boise Invitational", as it was inspired by the continued efforts of Eddie in Boise, Idaho to make great calls; but no matter how hard he tried, he either got run or mocked by the other Clones. Eddie was glossed as "The Rudy of the Jungle", a reference to Rudy from Notre Dame. Ironically, in the four years the Hack-Off was held, Eddie never won his own event.
|I||2010||Vinnie Mac in Des Moines|
|II||2011||Ray-Ray in Tampa|
|III||2012||Jolene in Farmington|
Other Notable Participants
Aside from these winners and Eddie, other notable participants in the Hack-Off included
- Ryan in Wichita, Kansas, a caller who was consistently voted as "most likely to get run" because of his irresponsible calls. Shockingly, he completed his 2011 call without getting run, but he was run in the other three events. Rome noted that Ryan couldn't even get through RSVP calls to the Hack-Off without getting run.
- Matt in Cleveland, a Clone who had a spectacular flameout in the 2011 event. Rome and the Clones have used Matt's "Val Kilmer" and "global warming" sound bytes from this call for humorous effect.
- Brendan in Wilmington, a former Smack-Off participant from 2008 who had fallen out of favor with Rome for a series of bad calls. He only participated in the 2010 event; he was later blocked from calling.
- Lance in Louisville, Kentucky, a caller notorious for Neil Sedaka song parodies. He only participated in the 2013 event, where he coined the expression "SedakAttack" and used a parody of Sedaka's "Oh! Carol" to mock Ryan in Wichita. His call sharply divided the Clones, with some demanding he be crowned Hack-Off champion and some demanding he be given a lifetime ban from the show.
- Jason in Ottawa, Canada, glossed as the "Canadian Star Linebacker", a former high school football player who had become infamous in a 2004 call for foolish comments about rape and sex. He participated in all four Hack-Offs, and was run in three of them.
- Fabian in Los Angeles, a caller who had been glossed as "Flamian" due to a spectacular flameout he had in a 2000 call to the program after "guaranteeing a huge call". But he restored his reputation in the 2010 Hack-Off and has since begun calling the show on a regular basis.
Demise of the Hack-Off
According to Rome, the Hack-Off peaked in 2012. But he was so disappointed with the results of the 2013 event (no calls were either exceptionally good nor hilariously bad) and the absence of the three previous winners that at its conclusion he announced that no one was worthy of winning the Hack-Off and that the Hack-Off was permanently cancelled.
On June 18, 2013, Rome ran Lance in Louisville who protested its demise, affirming the Hack-Off's cancellation, though he hinted at bringing it back if he could find new bad callers.