Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thoughts on Sports Radio and the State of the World

A few years ago after many years of being away from it, I began listening to sports radio again while waiting for one of my daughters to get out of an after-school activity. I had started my publishing company, Sporting Chance Press, and was spending entirely too much time in front of a computer. It was good to get out of the house/office for a few minutes break. I was surprised to hear the commentators bash pretty much everyone in sports. They bashed the players--the coaches--team management--and when a fan called in with an opinion, they bashed him as well. It seemed to me that this kind of negative hyperbole about most every subject was new--at least on sports radio. Shock jocks have been bashing people for decades. But it was a real wake-up call for me to hear that such bashing had gone mainstream. When my middle school daughter got into the car, I had to change the channel--it was just not appropriate for anyone her age to listen to this program although it was 3:30 in the afternoon.

I decided to give another station a listen when I was driving one morning. This one wasn't quite as hateful, but one sports commentator talked about how he had watched porn the night before in such a casual voice that it was as if he was talking about having coffee or ice cream. I learned that it took some channel surfing to get someone decent on sports radio--"decent" being the operative word. I found that the national shows were more of a PG variety and they weren't inclined to bash everyone.

Another problem with local sports radio was the sponsorship. One channel in particular used to promote Gentleman's Clubs and all types of male enhancement therapies. Again, these commercials ran in the morning and afternoon when most anyone might be listening. I thought that these types of messages were the wrong ones to be sent to young people who listen to these shows. For me, it was a social and communications endorsement that this kind of self-indulgent life style was now the norm.

I have noticed that the local sports shows seem to have improved their sponsorship lately, but there's no telling what a young person might hear on one of these stations at most any hour of the day. You still hear a lot of hate.

Some of these commentators are former sports figures. Some have held previous positions as newspaper reporters. Whether they realize it or not, they are role models themselves because they are in the public eye. Yet, often when the commentators talk about their own lives it involves excessive drinking, excessive eating, expensive gadgets they buy, and stuff they get for free. Not all of the commentators are poor role models for young listeners, but in my judgement many of them are. There is little talk about nutrition, healthy living, moderation, sacrifice, hard work and other things that each of us must do if we want to live well. Why not?

I guess I wasn't surprised when the same guys who bashed everyone and seemed to back porn, pills and clubs couldn't seem to express enough indignation over sexual abuse scandals in sports. Coverage of one situation in particular, especially received saturated discussion. The same men who basically preached total self indulgence wanted to take a front row seat at the hanging of those involved in abuse.

I think the lesson in this is simply that sports commentary/media needs to promote good. We need to abide by boundaries of good taste and moral--ethical behavior. The media cannot keep chipping away at the moral fabric of this country and then expect to be a voice of reason in something like the tragic child abuse scandals. It just isn't going to work. Those in sports media need to set the bar a little higher--I am not sure how much lower it can go.

Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press, Inc. Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Baseball (and Life), Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle, Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout, and Maddie Takes the Ice.

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