A CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL officer clocks him driving 104 mph late one night and pulls him over. But the moment he recognizes the driver's distinctive, raspy voice, he breaks into a grin and pockets his ticket book.

Speeding isn't the only thing that Scott Ferrail, 31, is getting away with these days. As the motormouthed host of the hit syndicated radio sports call-in show Ferrail on the Bench, he has unlimited license to shoot from the lip. In a typical three-hour broadcast, Ferrail—accompanied by pounding rock music and pouring-beer sound effects—spews forth maniacally on sports, chides his callers ("No poems, you freak!" he shrieks at one listener, who offers a rhyming opinion) and accepts their inarticulate fealty ("You da man!"). "Sports is my passion," says Ferrail. "I make people laugh, think, cry and get ticked off."

Among the ticked is columnist Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, who decries Ferrall's shtick as "repulsive, mean-spirited, in-your-face stuff. It caters to young drunks and wannabe drunks." Observed New York Times critic Richard Sandomir: "It's Animal House without the funny stuff."

And yet Ferrall's nightly talkfest, which airs in 85 markets (and 9 of the top 10), draws huge ratings, especially among gen-X males. Born in Kansas City, Mo., the younger child of a public relations executive and a piano teacher, Ferrail claims he was "obnoxious and irritable" from early on. After graduating from Indiana University in 1987, he covered sports for radio stations in Pittsburgh, Chicago and Florida, where in 1992 he met his wife, Stephanie Taylor, 32, now his manager. Three years later they settled in L.A.

Despite some protests from advertisers, Ferrall's stock is rising: The Fox-TV network has approached him about covering hockey, and down the road he sees himself as a fixture along the lines of Oprah. "I like her," says Ferrail. "She's got vision. She's, like, 'I want to be on every TV ever made.' That's what I want too."