Part of the reason I got into radio was because of ESPN’s the Fabulous Sports Babe sports talk show. She made even the small stuff sound interesting. Some would say she was brash but that is what you want to hear. It didn’t matter if it hit a nerve, what she said was honest and it was the truth. She would make Sarah Palin sound like Mother Teresa.
When I was applying for a job at a prominent sports radio station years ago, I was told by someone in charge of programming that listeners want to hear the hosts talk about sports when they tune into their station and that I needed to brush up on that if I wanted to work there one day. So I have to ask, why aren’t sports radio stations today talking about sports? In fact, there has not been a lot of talk about sports in sports media over the last 20 years. Never has sports media (both in Canada and the United States) been so politically correct like it is now. Even PTI, where hosts once called players and coaches out and got on each other’s nerve, is now a hippie-style lovefest. Nobody wants to offend anyone, except if it’s on Twitter. And even then whoever tweeted out their hate ends up retracting it later.
Debate seems to be limited to what is comfortable. For example, there is a lot of talk about fighting in hockey but all the discussion seems to be towards the anti-pugilistic side. No one other than Don Cherry (and yours truly) publicly supports fighting in hockey but I know there are a lot more hockey fans in Canada that share that same view. Like fighting in hockey, listener/viewer/reader input also seems to be contrived, reduced to fake callers and emails written by staff. Then there’s the Toronto media making a big spectacle about equality in sports but they are the same ones who tried to run Blue Jays Manager Cito Gaston out of town in the early 1990’s even during two World Series championships. The sports section of the major newspapers is easy to find, just look for the glass house.
Speaking of Toronto, when I tune to the Fan or TSN 1050 I expect to hear a lot of about Toronto sports teams. Hosts would often make a big whoop of their hometown team while slagging teams from other cities. But you don’t hear much of it. Why? Because a program from Toronto is also aired in Montreal, Edmonton, and Vancouver so it seems kind of pointless to focus solely on, for example, the Leafs. The show I do in Orillia takes a more local view of the sports scene. When people tune in they expect to hear news on the Barrie Colts of the OHL, Junior C hockey, high school athletics, etc. That makes my show unique compared to others.
Sports media is a niche format that caters to a specific audience. But lately there has been an effort to attract the lowest common denominator. At times there are topics on sports shows that have absolutely nothing to do with sport. Hosts seem to want to tie popular culture or political agenda to the topics being discussed. As much as I like to be aware of the social issues affecting our world today (i.e. Russia’s ban on gay propaganda during the Olympics), there are other channels for that. It kind of makes you understand why the bosses at Rogers want George Stroumboulopoulos as the new host of Hockey Night in Canada.
It is becoming such a bore to hear and watch sports shows on TV or radio. Sports media does not always have to air good news. Talking about whose struggling or playing badly and why IS sports. Tying it to the state of society isn’t. Sorry, call me Kevin O’Leary but unless it’s about wins and losses I don’t really care about how offended the natives are with the name Redskins.