Sports media sucks. In particular, sports talk radio sucks. That isn’t a revelation, but with the August 2009 advent of 98.5 FM “The Sports Hub”, a second daily sports talk station in Boston (the first being WEEI AM), area sports fans are subjected to double the amount of inane babbling and self-aggrandizement about sports (which, in the end, mean nothing). Aside from The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich, who are clever and imaginative rock radio DJ’s who had a successful gig at WBCN before it switched formats to a sports station, basically everyone on sports talk radio in the city of Boston makes me want to drive my car into a tree. Every time I listen I hear the same stupid bullshit from the same morons. Here are the things I dislike the most about sports talk radio, in no particular order:
- The use of “Again”, “Look”, and “Listen!” by the hosts.
I swear every third sentence begins with one of these three words. Sports talk radio hosts, trust me: it doesn’t make your points any more salient and it doesn’t make you sound more authoritative when you say these words. Here’s an example of how ridiculous it sounds.
“Again, I think the Red Sox would be better off trying to trade Josh Beckett to the Angels. I mean, look, they have a great lineup, but you need pitching to win in this league. Listen, Beckett gets a change of scenery, maybe he gets it together, and if you can pry a Trout or a Trumbo away from them, I feel like you have to make that deal.”
(Sports talk radio hosts also say “an Ortiz” or “a Garnett” or “a whoever” an awful lot.)
Usually, when the host starts one of his tirades with “Again”, he hasn’t even made the point he’s supposedly reiterating in the first place. And who are they talking to? The evening hosts on both stations have solo shows, so they’re firing off ridiculous sports soliloquies with endless “look”s and “again”s to an audience that isn’t present to argue with them (except for callers, who we’ll discuss shortly). It’s just a really weird crutch that they think makes their point stronger or more legitimate. It doesn’t.
- The self-seriousness of the hosts.
I’d like every sports radio host to remember that in the end, you’re a shitty sports radio host. You go on the air and get paid to babble on for four or five hours about fucking sports. Stop taking it so seriously, and stop taking yourselves so seriously.
A recent phenomenon has been the sports talk “comedian”, who does bits and cracks jokes throughout the show. I don’t mind a host trying to create a niche for himself and trying to gain an audience. It just seems like the bits and the jokes are always painfully lame, and the host and the producer and the interns and everyone else crack up on the air, trying desperately to sell what they’re doing. Stop trying so hard. Stop laughing at your own jokes and trying to create your own dumb memes, and stop doing callbacks to your own dumb memes that no one understands because they had the sense to tune them out in the first place. Comedians need timing and material. If you have neither, recognize that and talk about sports.
Also, we have a wave of ex-athletes on the radio and on TV now. Most have acquitted themselves decently well on television (with the notable exceptions of Emmitt Smith and “Fuckface” Mark Schlereth). Some have done well on radio also. Here’s the thing. Fans are much more likely to listen to a noteworthy and unquestionably successful player than a mediocre one, even though both played the game. Boomer Esiason has a popular radio show. He’s also a four-time Pro Bowler and he won an MVP award. He commands respect. Scott Zolak, midday co-host on 98.5, was a shitty backup quarterback for a few years. He doesn’t.
Zolak played professional football. I know he was really, really good at it at one point. He also knows more about football than I and probably all of the listening audience ever will. You’d think that he’d be able to take that knowledge and we’d get a decent radio show where we might learn a couple of things and he might have some interesting thoughts on the game. Instead, he puts on this weird tough-guy broseph façade and yells at everyone the whole show. It’s awful. I feel like the loudmouth party guy blowhard is his self-created shtick to carve out an audience for himself on the radio, which is a shame, because otherwise we might have gotten something thoughtful. To the vast majority of ex-athlete radio show hosts: you weren’t very good. Stop taking yourselves so seriously and please stop yelling.
- The propensity of the hosts to say stupid things.
Radio hosts will say anything if they think they’ll get one more rating point out of it. Yes, this is indeed shocking, but I’d hope there’s some room for reasoned analysis. Hosts either fan the flames of public opinion and try to spark more conversation by agreeing with the prevailing idiotic line of thinking, or they’ll purposely troll the listeners and say outlandish things to trigger discussion that way.
Recently, Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz was diagnosed with esophagitis. We really didn’t know why, though the early line of thinking was that this was caused by taking too much Advil or aspirin. Of course, the radio shows went into a frenzy. Why was he taking so many pills? Was he abusing them? Does he have an alcohol problem and he was taking them for hangovers? After all, he was in that “I Like Beer” video and he hangs out with Lackey, Lester and Beckett!
Buchholz gets treated for his mild condition, is released from the hospital, and then attends a charity event that I’m sure he had already committed to. At Foxwoods (GASP!) Sponsored by Stoli vodka (ZOMG!) The sports media had a god damn field day. 98.5 evening show host Damon Amendolara (whom I generally like) said, and I’m paraphrasing, “You don’t think he would go to an event like that and not drink, right?” Well, yeah, I do. I’d like to think he’s not a complete fucking idiot, I don’t think you have to drink just because the sponsor is a vodka company, I wouldn’t assume he’d be eating Whoppers all night if the sponsor was Burger King, and I don’t think he’s evil. It’s just insulting to the listener. Be rational, even if others aren’t.
There’s also no accountability for anything the hosts say. If they make a prediction and it comes true, they’re geniuses and won’t hesitate to gloat about it for hours on end. If they’re wrong, it’s never mentioned, listeners who call him on it are cut off, or he claims he was “misheard” or “never said that”. Christ, it’s sports, not politics. I’d love a radio station or TV network (hell, I’d settle for one show) devoted to measured analysis and discussion of sports and not bombastic jackassery.
- The burying of teams by stations that don’t carry their games.
The Red Sox are awful right now, but it’s not something we’re delighting in. It sucks. We like the Red Sox. So when 98.5 tells you in every segment just how horrid they are and shits on every single thing they do (even starting before last year’s September collapse), it’s annoying. It’s also transparent. They don’t have radio rights to the Red Sox and their competitors do, so they bury them as much as they can.
WEEI does the same thing to the Bruins. Listen (oh no, I’m doing it now too), we like all of the teams. We don’t give a shit what radio station they’re on. Take them to task when they falter, but don’t do a jig about it.
- 98% of the callers are pea-brained half-wits.
By definition, people who call into these shows are dipshits. But sometimes, they’re colossal fucking morons. It’s hard to believe this, but the callers make these shows worse. Here’s your stereotypical caller:
Thick Boston accent, which often sounds a little artificial and showy; argument for the stupidest possible trade or roster move; facts generally wrong or missing some vital piece of information that renders entire point useless; usually parroting whatever the host said, the most recent newspaper hatchet piece on a player, or most recent public opinion; no original thought; ends with “I’ll hang up and let you guys talk” (gee, thanks).
Sometimes a caller offering up a ridiculous notion only to have it buried by the host is great sport, but usually it’s just grating. Perform better vetting. Call screeners: If you hear that thick accent or they’re not articulating their points well, hang up! Let’s raise the discourse!