The Sports Voice On The Radio

We have a clock radio on the end table next to our bed.  It basically functions solely as a clock, because the radio is never turned on.  When was the last time any modern American sat in a room in their home and listened to the radio?

There was a time, though, when the radio was a regular night-time companion.  It was the early ’70s.  UJ and I rooted for the Tribe, even though they were not good.  In those days, the Indians were never on TV, and of course there weren’t personal computers or cellphone apps to give you constant score updates, so the radio was the way to follow the team.  We’d listen to the games Gaylord Perry pitched and hear easygoing Herb Score talk about the Indians’ woes and occasional triumphs.  And then, after the game, we’d listen to a show called Sportsline hosted by a guy named Pete Franklin.

pete-franklinjpg-d5c7b706a3af8778Pete Franklin was one of the pioneers among the call-in sports broadcasters.  Before there was Mike and Mike in the Morning, there was Pete Franklin at night.  He was knowledgeable, sure, and terrifically opinionated, but mostly he was the king of the dismissive insult.  Some guy would call in to argue with Pete about his pick on the next Browns game, and Pete would just cut him off, call him an idiot, and make some cutting remark about the guy’s intellect.  A kid would propose a ludicrous trade through which the Indians would somehow end up with Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter on their roster, and Pete would tell him it was past his bedtime and to quit calling the show or Pete would tell his mother.  Virtually every caller got a liberal dose of Pete’s caustic wit.  And yet, people couldn’t resist calling in to cross swords with him, which made the show all the more entertaining to its fans.

There was something about listening to the show on the radio, too, that made it even more enjoyable.  Sportsline was carried on a 50,000-watt, clear channel station, but it was still AM radio.  You’d have to precisely tune your cheap transistor radio to land on just the right broadcast band to get the station, and even then there would be crackles of static and hisses and Pete Franklin’s brashness would fade in and fade out.  You couldn’t listen to the show without realizing that it was coming from somewhere far away, which added to the exotic element of the experience.  And there was something fun, too, about sitting quietly and listening carefully, hoping that Pete would come up with a really good insult for the next loudmouth know-it-all that you could share with your friends the next day, before you finally turned off the show and went to bed.

TV is great, but radio, with voices floating over the airwaves, is wonderful, too.  When I’m in the car at night, I’ll try to find one of those local Cleveland sports talk shows, listen for a bit, and reconnect with that inner teenager chuckling at Pete Franklin’s latest putdown.

The Flavor Of The Week

I notice that the Baylor Bears lost to the Oklahoma State Cowboys last night.  In fact, losing doesn’t seem quite like the accurate word when you fall by a score like 49-14.  Perhaps crushed is more accurate.  Or obliterated.  Or shellacked.

I’ve got nothing against Baylor, and I’m not one of those thin-skinned Ohio State fans who becomes enraged at every perceived slight from the national media.  I don’t watch ESPN, I don’t read sports columnists on line, and I really don’t much care what some carefully coiffed commentator has to say about whether one team is better than another — because they are so often, and so predictably, wrong, wrong, and wrong again.

This season, however, members of Buckeye Nation can’t help but notice that the sports chat community always seems to want to talk up some team other than Ohio State.  I think that’s not only because the TV shows and the talk radio community focus on ginning up controversy to attract viewers, but also because they are just dazzled by high-scoring offenses.  Until yesterday, Baylor was a high-flying offense that was putting up the points, just as Oregon had done before it.  (Coincidentally, Oregon also got mauled yesterday.)  These teams are like the flavor of the week at the local ice cream shop — it’s interesting to try the vanilla mango cherry pistachio mix, but at the end of the week you realize chocolate chip is just better.

It’s an old saying in college football that November separates the contenders from the pretenders.  With Michigan Week now officially upon us, Ohio State remains undefeated.  There are not many teams left that can say that.

The Mindless Drone Of Sports Talk Radio

We had our family retreat to Sawmill Creek Lodge this weekend and on the way home I decided to catch up on Cleveland sports news by listening to the Sunday morning talk show on WKNR, 850-AM.  I quickly came to regret my decision.  The two hosts broadcast about the most droning, repetitive show imaginable.  During the time I listened — and I admit I gave up after an hour or so — the principal theme was that Josh Cribbs is overrated, is simply a special teams player, isn’t among the top 100 players in the NFL, and is being ridiculous in asking for more money.  In the process the hosts kept saying precisely the same things, over and over and over.  Sprinkled in the endless Cribbs discussion were bits about whether Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson should be the quarterback for the Browns this year, whether Braylon Edwards will have a good year, and whether any rational baseball fan should ever buy a ticket to an Indians game so long as their current ownership remains the same.  The hosts even chuckled about Beanie Wells’ unfortunate injury on his first day of practice.  Even worse, the hosts occasionally veered into even more dreadful non-sports topics, like one host’s experience in the “mosh pit” at a bar mitzvah and his time in the “VIP” section at some local bar.  Do any listeners actually care about this kind of stuff?

Sports talk radio has to be the most irritating radio format ever invented, and today’s Sunday morning show on WKNR was Exhibit A for that proposition.  No sports “news” is ever presented on these shows, just opinions that are typically stated in the most over-the-top fashion possible in an effort to provoke bored people to call in and try to argue with the host.  I tuned in the show hoping to get some actual information about the Browns, and I tuned out feeling like the mindless discussion had, if anything, reduced my understanding of what is going on with the team.