Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why I Wouldn't Be a Very Good Talk Show Host

I'd like to think it's a wellspring of nobility in my soul, but in truth, I'm just easily bored.

Tom Brady said that when NFL quarterbacks sign big contracts, that's good news for other NFL quarterbacks such as Tom Brady. This modest economic insight doesn't exactly translate to big news, or any news at all. A rising tide lifts all boats, and Brady's about the biggest boat in the pro football ocean. Of course he was happy about it.

So it was with dismay that I heard my former colleagues Tony Massarotti and Michael Felger, who were both good sportswriters and good teammates, attempt to spin Brady's remarks into a four-hour fear fest for Pats fans. Brady's unhappy with his contract!! Brady plays hardball!!!! Good-bye salary cap and Super Bowls!!!!!!

Farewell, sanity. The obvious truth is, Brady makes a lot of money today playing football, and when his time for a new contract comes, he'll make a lot more. It is almost as certain as anything can be in this shifting temporal plane that the New England Patriots will be the franchise giving it to him. Really, it'd be much more realistic to spend time in Boston sports talk fretting about how the impact of a comet on the Earth would disrupt the Red Sox' pitching rotation for the playoffs.

Nah, that wouldn't work. The first caller would say that if Varitek catches, the comet would miss the Earth.

Now, Mike and Tony know the score as well as I do. So why'd they pretend otherwise? You'd have to have actually been on the radio to know the answer. Nothing matches the primal terror of the possibility of a nanosecond of dead air. Anything that prevents such a moment is an imperative, reality be damned.

Manipulation becomes the order of the day. Sports fans, by definition, are emotional. Talk radio listeners are the most emotional of the lot. A topic need not be real to yank their chains. It need merely be the stuff that fears or rage are made of.

I know there are a lot of fans out there who say they'd love a lower-key sports talk show which went easy on the hysteria. I'm one of 'em. But I also know that the people who would listen to such a show would not call it. They'd expect the hosts to carry the ball. Four hours is an eternity of talking. Four hours five days a week of solo talk is an eternity as envisioned by Dante.

In the interests of their OWN economic standing, then, talk show hosts are obligated to throw as many rocks at as many hornets' nests as they can. It's not an edifying pursuit, journalistically speaking. Or as pure entertainment, I think, but many disagree.

Don't think for a second I'm above it on some moral grounds. My reasons for never having attempted sports talk radio are not high-minded. They're personality quirks. I could not bear to come into the studio and discuss the same stupid crap day after day, except on those happy days when I had made up some new stupid crap to discuss. If that's a good day at work, it's not work I could do. I liked being a columnist because of the variety of experience it offered. Sports talk hosts are essentially assembly-line workers with very high salaries.

Mass media's a miracle. Any fan can spend all the time they choose watching or listening to all the sports they wish. Why talk about them instead? Isn't better to watch a game with someone else, and talk to them?


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