Monday, July 18, 2011

My New Game

It's very simple. I listen to sports radio on the way to work in the morning (most of my podcasts are either taking the summer off or are operating a little below normal levels) and wait for a discussion of an event that actually took place on a field or a court. I'll admit that starting this game the week before the All-Star Break was a little unfair, but I had a solid, one-week streak going. During that week, I was enlightened on the following topics:

  • Steak Shapiro going to New Orleans for the wedding of Tulane's play-by-play guy;

  • How excited the 680 morning crew were to see Zookeeper;

  • Floyd Mayweather being a "punk" by burning hundred-dollar bills at a club;

  • Nick Cellini deciding not to go to a friend's 40th birthday party in Vegas because the group going was going to waste hundreds of dollars on table service (no s***, they discussed this without a hint of irony one day after venting about Mayweather wasting money); and

  • Wall-to-wall James Harrison discussion (nothing lights the fire of sports radio hosts like negative comments about teammates).

Truly, this is sports radio in name only.

So this morning, Sandra Golden finally snapped the streak by discussing her experience watching the Women's World Cup Final, so I only made it a little more than a week without hearing a discussion about an actual sporting event. The discussion on 790 was on the changes at 680, which Shapiro naturally credited to 790 winning in the afternoon slot.

In reality, the change in the lineup could be a good harbinger for sports radio in this town. I've never been a big fan of Buck & Kincaid, mainly because Buck isn't especially interesting to me and Kincaid fills out the caricature of a sports radio host to a "T": opinionated Northeasterner who spends as much time trying to rile up his audience as he does thinking of something intelligent to say. In other words, emotion over intellect.* I much prefer Matt Chernoff and Chuck Oliver because they seem less emotionally manipulative. In fact, I reached the decision that the sports radio medium had left me** when I realized that the two local shows that I like the most - Chernoff & Oliver on 680 and Tony Barnhart & Wes Durham on 790 - are both in the wasteland of late morning and that it's probably not an accident that the shows with the best sports content are in the worst slots, while the "how can I titillate or annoy the most people?" shows get drive time. Putting a likeable, sports-heavy show in PM drive time is a good step.***

* - Shapiro made the point that the comments to Rodney Ho's AJC articles on sports talk radio reflect the strength of the medium because of the passion displayed by the commenters. By the same reasoning, I suppose that the race wars that break out in the comments sections of news articles show the strength of American democracy. If your sole goal is to rile people up to the point that they express how much you annoy them, then yes, you are a success. If your goal is that people get out of their cars when they get to their homes or offices and say to themselves "that was a quality product and a good use of my time; I'm happy with how I just spent my commute," then hundreds of negative comments on an AJC article are not an indicator of success. It's like the difference between reading intelligent sports commentary on the Internet (and Alex Massie is right; the college football blogosphere is rife with smart analysis) and "look, boobs!" posts on Deadspin. The latter gets a ton of clicks, but at the expense of credibility. As some guy from Hibbing once sang, all the money you made will never buy back your soul.

** - No lineup change is going to address the fundamental issue that sports talk radio has, which is that it's inferior to a good podcast. If my choice is to listen to a 30-minute interview with Tim Vickery or a seven-minute interview with Darren Rovell, followed by a lengthy commercial break and then recitation of scores that I can get on my phone at a moment's notice, I am going to choose the former every time. Even when the local stations get good guests and assuming for the sake of argument that the hosts asked good questions, the chopped up format of sports talk radio prevents the guests from ever getting into detail with their answers. The format has not evolved with technology, specifically the facts that: (1) listeners now have commercial-free options; and (2) there is no point in wasting time on scores that listeners can get with ease if they are so inclined.

*** - Though Cellini has scratched his schtick itch a bit too much in the morning slot, my favorite drive time show on either channel was the Cellini-Dimino afternoon program. Oliver & Chernoff seem like a good replacement for that.


Alex Morgan said...

This was a tough week to talk on the field action. We had the all-star break, no football, no NBA...

But your point on sports talk failing to evolve with the times is a good one.

Anonymous said...

Unlrelated but interesting football read...

"A national football team is the nation made flesh; it's the visible manifestation of a nation"

peacedog said...

This is my experience. I don't listen to them during the entire drive to work (and sometimes not at all). In the past few weeks there has been little actual sports talk (mostly Harrison) when I have been listening. Sometimes this spans two commercial breaks. That's just ridiculous.

Not that I have high hopes for the quality of the sports talk. Today on Buck & Kincaid a caller wondered if this was the "real Heyward, who isn't ready. Because if you look at the last year after his hot start [-sic] he's only hitting like .220". Buck & Kincaid reiterated the Braves had faith in Heyward but he needed to get going.

That's it. No mention of the obvious [i]wrongness[/i] of the statement. After his ~month of fighting before his stay on the DL last year, Heyward was pretty good (but not great and not performing at his initial start levels, and that was readily apparently in September when he was worn down). Much better than this year.

Likewise, he got off to a pretty good start this year before obviously getting hurt and playing for a spell while suffering.