Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sportstalk radio -- where is the line drawn between inane and insane these days?

I have long ago copped to the fact that I listen to sportstalk radio even though it is the entertainment equivalent of eating high caloric food that tastes bad—and doing it on a continuing basis.

Most mornings, after I drop my son off at school, I drive to the health club where I work out to try to get in a swim. That’s not so easy these days since I’m usually in-between book promo interviews most of the day and night. My family pretty much hates me right now. (Swimming update for my Masters friends: I’m a LOT better than when I started back but still months away from even thinking about a meet. The good news is I MIGHT be able to finish a 100 fly off the blocks at this point but I can’t swear to it). I always turn on the radio and go back and forth between the two local sports talk shows available in the DC area in the morning.

I like The Sports Junkies. I like them personally and I’ve been on with them often, most recently on Monday to talk about, ‘Moment of Glory.’ If they’re talking sports, I listen to them. If they’re interviewing an actor I’ve never heard of—as they were this morning—or talking about their next trip to Atlantic City, I usually move on. Which leaves me with the morning guys who work for the four-letter network.

I’ve never met Mike Golic and get tired quickly of his, ‘when I played the game…’ act or the incredibly worn-out jokes about how much he likes to eat. In fact that’s pretty much what the show is: worn-out jokes between the two hosts (Mike Greenberg is a perfectly pleasant guy); a non-stop raft of commercials and drop-ins for nine million sponsors and interviews with big names (ESPN can get the big names as we all know) in which the toughest question is usually something like, ‘skip, are you concerned about having lost two in a row?’

This morning though, was a new low—and a new low for me because it took me a solid five minutes to decide this was a morning to listen to music. Greenberg and Golic were actually debating whether it was wrong for the Celtics Rasheed Wallace to wear a Philadelphia Flyers cap in public since he’s a Philly guy now playing in Boston.

I honestly don’t know if Greenberg was serious about thinking this was somehow wrong or if it was just an unbelievably slow news day. Maybe they had already dealt with Phil Jackson’s silly, ‘I may retire,’ talk or there just weren’t enough NFL mini-camps going on this week. Maybe there’s a 40-hour weekly limit on talking about LeBron. My theory is that he’s going to give up basketball to become Tiger Woods’ swing coach. Put that one on the internet and see how quickly someone reports it as fact.

Seriously folks, where is the line drawn between inane and insane these days? Last Friday I co-hosted a local show here in Washington with Steve Czaban, a very nice guy who is—by his own admission—a creation of the 21st century talk-show world. Czaban does not try to pass himself off as a journalist on any level—although the show he co-hosts is called, “The Sports Reporters,”—which is clearly an oxymoron—and he’ll pretty much take a swing at any topic if he thinks it will generate interest among listeners.

Maybe Greenberg thought Rasheed Wallace’s cap would interest listeners. All I can tell you is if Golic is the voice or reason in an argument you’re in trouble.

Anyway, during the show last Friday—my main purpose in being there was to flack, ‘Moment of Glory,’ if truth be told—I suggested we talk about the Nationals. They were on a pretty good roll and the question I wanted to address was how good they might become this summer when Stephen Strasburg arrives. Could they maintain the pace they were played at for the first five weeks and be a legitimate postseason contender?

Czaban wanted to talk more LeBron even though we had talked about him at length in the first hour. “The Nats are playing well, things are going well, there’s nothing to discuss,” he said. “Sportstalk radio is built on controversy, on things going wrong, on ripping people who are failing.”

You know what, he’s probably right. When I listen to WFAN nothing generates emotional phone calls like the Mets because the Mets are constantly screwing up. (I’m not even bringing up the Wilpons AGAIN passing on the chance to fire Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel in Atlanta last night. My God, are they waiting for Casey Stengel to become available?).

In Washington nothing generates interest like the Redskins—12 months a year—especially when they’re losing games in the fall. People want to vent and everyone has a solution for whatever is wrong with the team. Even when a team is winning, most fans want to talk about the next game or the next problem or even the next season. I think I’ve said this before but my most vivid memory from the night Maryland won the national championship in 2002 was that of Maryland fans behind me screaming at Chris Wilcox that he HAD to come back for his junior year. When Duke won the national championship this year, their fans chanted at Kyle Singler, “one more year!”

One national championship from the kid wasn’t worth, you know, 15 minutes of celebration?

That is the way of jock world though, no doubt. It is certainly the way of sportstalk radio and it isn’t going to change anytime soon. Here’s my answer to Greenberg’s question this morning: My guess is 99 percent of the fans in Boston could care less what Rasheed Wallace wears on his head as long as he helps the Celtics win. And if they don’t win, he can wear a cap with the logos of all four of Boston’s teams and no one will care about that either.

My God, let’s go to a break Mike. It’s been at least seven minutes since the last nine-minute break so it must be time. It is also time for me to get satellite radio. Not to mention a life.


John's new book: "Moment of Glory--The Year Underdogs Ruled The Majors,"--is now available online and in bookstores nationwide. Visit your favorite retailer, or click here for online purchases

To listen to 'The Bob and Tom Show' interview about  'Moment of Glory', please click the play button below:


Don said...

99% of all sports radio shows are unlistenable. Especially the shows with hosts that have no real plan other than answer phone calls from people that don't have anything better to do.

Phil said...

Um...I have satellite radio...and the grass is not necessarily greener there from a sports talk perspective: this morning, when I could no longer take the Rasheed talk on Mike-and-Mike, I switched over to Fox Sports Talk...where you can find Stephen A Smith holding court during morning drive. Even the most obscure guest/topic in the hands of the talented Bob Edwards on XMPR beats that.

Greg said...

You blog today is why Tony's show is the closest I come to sprts radio. He and you only talk sorts if somethig is going on. Often your waist is more important than what's up in sports.

pulmcrit1 said...

I have satellite radio too, but mainly listen to Jim Rome for sports talk. I like his personality and takes, even when he talks about something other than sports. I turn it off if he's taking phone calls because most of the callers only want to show off or rip on other callers, rather than express an opinion or thought. I live in the Bay Area, and the afternoon drive show on KNBR, "The Razor and Mr. T" is good most of the time. Even some of the callers are OK.

Tim said...

It is quite amazing that everything has to be dumbed down, in a manner of speaking and screamed yelled and spliced. It seems to me that in todays sports talk, and quite frankly much of the writing too, has become too quick, too extreme and too flashy and with not enough thought. I guess its all a product of who advertising execs want to spend their money with (and how the media sells it) as the vast majority have to have so many eyeballs on it, so many ears hear it, but I/we don't have to like it. Many of the talk radio guys, and writers, flip flop all over the place with opinions and soundbites and never explain their position. I think that's why I come back to this blog -- not because I like your opinions more often than not because I don't, but because you take a stand and explain it. And unlike the ESPN guys you speak of, and probably all the others, because you aren't schilling for a network all the time, you don't have restrictions on your opinions. Maybe there-in lies the problem with most.

Has anyone ever offered you a radio show? Would you do it in the right situation?

Marc said...

isn't that the good and bad of sports talk radio? All radio hosts have high and low points in their shows. M and M if nothing else don't yell or get too preachy like some other hosts do. I listen to the sports reporters too and even their show becomes pointless from time to time. Oh if only Steve could get andy to play golf/get cell phone/ get a sling box. And does a sports show really need a play by play of the WHCD? OK, that show I did find entertaining. Look, four hours is a lot of time to fill I bet. Anyway, the only thing that really matters is that I can listen to Stan and Guy streaming live from the Burgh!

Anonymous said...

Heard you down here in NC on the David Glenn Show. We are glad to have him, a cerebral, funny, non-psychotic sports talk guy. Perhaps because he is an attorney and a writer first, his approach is much more, well... non-screaming.

WRB said...


I live here in DC and just can't listen to M&M anymore, so boring as my son would say. Before Snyder bought WTEM and turned it to that awful 4 letter word I would listen to Czaban on Fox Sports, pretty good show. He got canned for Stephen A Smith, can you believe that, you ever work with that guy? I miss Czaban in the morning. I'm just surprised Snyder hasn't torn WTEM apart, any day now.

Anonymous said...

Mike Greenberg may be a pleasant person, but he is absolutely clueless when it comes to making himself pleasant to listen to. From his high-pitched, whiny voice to his penchant for speaking at 500-miles a minute when he gets worked up to his blatant homerism at anything New York or Chicago, Greenberg makes Golic amazingly tolerable. Both offer nothing more than pathetic softballs to guests and the insistence of having Dick Vitale every single week of the year, even to talk about anything than basketball, M&M, especially the Greenberg, are as fun as nails on a chalkboard.

Someone needs to make AM/FM radios with three buttons so you can quickly switch amongst three stations. AMU, TEM and JFK.

Tom Hawley said...

I know you and Mitch Levy have some kind of distaste for each other that goes back, what, years? But the reality is the guy can really conduct a compelling interview here in Seattle on KJR-AM. His conversation this morning with Fred Funk regarding the upcoming US Senior Open here at Sahalee CC, where Funk will defend his 2009 title, was outstanding. Good interviewers have the ability the draw personality out of the more impersonable people in sports - not that Funk fits that category - and Mitch is one who can do that with flair, humor and genuine interest. In 25-20 minutes I don't believe I detected one trite question, and therefore one canned response from Funk who, I sensed, enjoyed the breath of fresh air. Most guys, though? Not that good, and again, even though you may not like him, he's very good at what he does.

Gordon said...

If you listen to M&M or any talk show on ESPN you get what you deserve. A nonstop shrill for the network and waaaaaaaaaay to much Dick Vitale.

Rome sucks except when John guest hosts. All other times its worse than open mike night at an awful comedy club. Nothing is bigger than Jim Romes opinion of himself.

The only decent sports radio is XM204, "HOME ICE". Speaking of hockey John what about a hockey book. Perhaps about your beloved Islanders and how a 4 time cup winning franchise has been so bad for so long. Thanks to Mike Milbury and all the past Islander draft picks that he traded away to become all stars on other teams. Never mind the disasters they have had for owners and coaches.

Mr. X said...

Czaban's tendencies to veer into GOP lovefest aside, morning sports radio is poorer for his show's demise. He and his crew were fun to listen to.

Until DP at 9am there is nothing worth listening to on the sports radio dial. Too bad Snyder won't move Tony to the 8-10 slot and then repeat it to 12 like the old days.

Good luck in the lap pool John, and feel free to splash any blue haired biddies when you get the chance.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how anybody listens to Mike and Mike in the morning - it's has to be the worst radio show to ever grace the airwaves. And a chose secodn has to be the Sports Junkies - foor of five of the least entertaining people on the planet - cue the crickets everytime those idiots are on.
Music, the Sports Reporters (if Steve isn't talking to much) and the occasional traffic check on WTOP are the only way to survive a DC commute.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the honest and accurate description of M&M and the four letter. The M&M show has become unlistenable. I've long suspected that the four letter radio network has at least twice as many commercials as any other radio show. I've even contemplated timing it but......that would really be pathetic.

Gunnar said...

I didn't catch a lot of the Gasman's show today, but he had a bunch of stuff on the 30th anniversary of the Mt St Helens volcanic eruption. He even interviewed a seismologist/volcanologist(if there is such a thing).

You can only talk about a losing baseball team for so long...and Griffey's sleepgate is getting very tired.

Anonymous said...

I was listening to you on Friday hoping you could convince Czabe to talk Nats.It's amazing you have a winning team and refuse to talk about them because they are not the Redskins.They would not spend time talking about the Caps unless Ovie was suspended or until the playoffs started and they would jump on the bandwagon, and just as quickly jump off when they lost.
They think talking about who were the three greatest linebackers in Redskins history for an hour is more interesting.
They should be called "The Redskins Reporters"

Mike Barer said...

Sports radio has changed the way that we perceive sports--I'm old enough to remember the time when wins, losses, and batting averages were all that we knew about sports. Know we talk about Steroids, salaries, luxury suites, and Tv contracts.