Sunday, April 06, 2008

Hilarious Sports Talk Show

When I go on my baseball trips, it's something of a tradition for me to listen to sports talk radio, both national and local, as much as I can. I love listening to people go apoplectic over whatever the crisis du jour happens to be...and if you listen to several shows in several days, and it gets repetitive, it becomes sort of strange (like a religious ritual you don't know) and sort of comforting (like a religious ritual you do know).

Anyhow, I'm blessed with a wife who accepts this sports-talk-radio component of the baseball trips. We did a scan and got an ESPN radio affiliate.

For a town in west Arkansas--population 6550.

I've found it fairly common for these small towns to have ESPN or Fox Sports affiliates. They'll usually play the National feed all day, perhaps breaking out to play college or pro games of local interest. It's a sure bet I'll hear Colin Cowherd or Jim Rome. I figure these tiny stations really only need two or three employees to sit in the studio and play the commercials.

But Friday I heard an actual local hour-long local show.

The poor guy was lonely. Really lonely.

Nobody called in. This left the guy in a position of just kind of riffing on sports for a while.

I'd like to think I could do well in that situation. I love sports, and my NFL (that'd be forensics) experience of extemp combined with DI, I can craft an argument and sell it.

It's a matter of narrowing your scope. To wit:

"The Memphis Tigers are in the Final Four, and coach John Calipari is playing the 'no respect' card again. In spite of his number one seed, his former number one national ranking, and repeated drubbings, he insists on a lack of respect. Tell me what you think: is he right? Or is this a ploy to motivate his players? If it's a ploy, do you believe it will work, or are his players savvy enough to see through it?"

Dress that up a little bit with some quotes, and you've got about two minutes of compelling radio. Attach it to "can't win the big one" controversies about Bill Self,and we've got ourselves a controversy. If nobody calls in, the net result is a little impromptu editorial, and that's fun in itself.

What was strange to me was that the the overmatched small-town sports guy didn't seem to understand the genre. His topic was, more or less, "sports." Once he stated that local softball and Little League games were rained out (yes, he did that), he meandered through absolutely every single topic imaginable. I didn't understand a bit of it. And then he'd say "The phone number is 123-4567. Call in. The lines are free, we'll get you in right away."

I tuned in halfway through the hour and listened to twenty minutes of this. It was mesmerizing. My heart went out to the dude...nobody was going to call. In fact, I had a strong sense that my wife and I were probably the only people who heard his voice.

Then, incredibly, things got worse for the guy.

"Oh!" he said, cutting off a sentence. "We have a caller! [pause] Hello, you're on Sports Talk!"

A woman called. I could barely hear her, but I think she was asking for the address of the studio or some such.

The poor guy. "Um, we're doing a live show. Call back in ten minutes."

Swankette thinks the caller may have been the host's mom.

Well, that did it. As my wife drove, I dug out my cell phone and called in. I simply had to have him realize that someone was listening.

I got right through...amazingly, there was no engineer, no call screener. Just ringing and then the guy picking up the phone. No delay, either...I was able to shut off the radio as I heard him announce my call.

I had no real question to ask, of course, so I thought I'd throw him a softball--take the biggest story of the day (Chris Henry released by the Bengals for bad behavior) and tie it to an important story for the home team (Cowboys' recently-dashed interest in Pacman Jones). Tailor-made! After discussing Henry and Jones, I asked, quite simply, how he felt about the NFL's recent rejection of players who behave badly.

He responded the only way he knew how--at length and incoherently. But he punctuated it with a question: "Do you think the Cowboys will go after Chris Henry?"

No, I didn't, but that wasn't really the point of my question. So I narrowed it a bit: "Do you think a player like Henry or Jones, as good as they are on the field, are worth the trouble they bring off of it?"

He said "No, but that's my opinion. Do you?"

I said no.

I don't know. Maybe the way I ended the call was a little patronizing of the small-town radio guy, but I felt I had to do it.

I said "Hey, great show man, thanks for taking my call." As if he had a choice...he had no engineer. Even the woman asking or directions had gotten through.

Still, I hope that getting one caller helped him feel better, and I hope his show improves or expands. But man, even with no experience in the field outside of play-by-play for my high school, I'd love to help the guy out. It was as if he'd never even listened to a sports talk show, and the result was some irresistible radio rubbernecking.

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