Sports Talk Radio
I love talk radio, especially sports talk radio, and I’ve been lucky enough to experience talk radio not only as a consumer of the product, but also as “on-air talent.” I will not lie; part of me thinks my brief radio experience, in a very small media market, qualifies me as an expert on the subject. So every day, while at work, I turn the dial until I find some program to critique. From Rush Limbaugh to Thom Hartmann, from Mike and Mike In The Morning to The Hardline, if they are talking, I’ll listen and many times I’ll end up writing about something I heard that day.
Today is no different!
Since moving to Dallas, I’ve been amazed at how The Ticket (KTCK 1310 AM) kicks the local ESPN radio affiliate’s ass (ESPN 103.3 FM). Ask any Metroplex male in between the age of 24-50 and you’ll probably get a hundred different answers on why they prefer The Ticket to ESPN radio, but I suspect 95% of those answers would deal with entertainment value. In the end, sports talk radio exists to entertain. If a station fails to entertain, it fails to serve its’ purpose and will eventually fail.
What makes for entertaining radio? Well, it’s kind of like pornography–you’ll know it when you see it, or in this case hear it. I think we can begin by listing what makes radio NOT entertaining.
1.) Phones Sure, listener feedback can be helpful and possibly even entertaining, in small recommended doses, but when I tune into a radio program, I do so to listen to the on-air talent and not “Doug in Garland“. As I began my journey into radio, a great talent taught me that an on-air personality should not go to the phones more than one segment per hour. Tune into ESPN 103.3 and their shows contain a ton of phone calls and text messaging, especially Randy Galloway‘s program.
2.) No Experts Needed In the world of sports, experts don’t exist and anyone who claims to be one is lying out their ass. Sure, it helps to understand the techniques and nuances associated with the games; however, in the end, there are way too many intangibles to attempt to proclaim some universal truth. Sports journalist serve two functions—report and entertain. The last thing I want from a sports journalist is conversations with other media members. If I wanted to know what Todd Archer thought about the Dallas Cowboys, I’d read the Morning News. If I cared what John Clayton thought, I would watch ESPN. If, for some reason, I turn on Randy Galloway’s radio program I do so with the hope (or fear) of hearing Grandpa Urine. The on-air talent who depends on “experts” expresses low confidence in their ability to both report and entertain.
3.) Tunnel Vision We have all read the various studies; we live in a country of shrinking attention spans. Yet some radio producers failed to read the memo. Many sports talk radio stations, especially the generic sports talk stations, want to take a 3 hour radio program and focus on one or two issues. Even in July, material exists to fill a 3-hour program. Sure, you may have to venture off the sports page, but being cultured and diverse never hurt anyone. In short, after two segments on a subject, it is time to move on to another subject. After that time, you’ve said all that can said and you risk rambling or even worse yet, becoming cliché.
4.) Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously Jock talkers are the worst when it comes to egos. Turn on sports talk and you’re going to hear extreme bravado. While I think it is necessary to be self confident, on-air personalities need to realize that in the end, they’re talking sports, which is entertainment and for which there are no experts. For example, let’s take Dallas sports talk personality, Chuck Cooperstein, “Coop” carries himself as a man’s man. He speaks with the deep baritone falsetto of “radio voice” and issues strong opinions, often against the home team, to appear non-biased. He grows impatient if talk deviates, even for one second, from sports and grows even more irate if the conversation turns to certain sports topics he feels are not worthy of “talk” (i.e. high school football, fantasy sports, etc.). “Coop” needs to realize he might be a little more successful if he broadened his horizons.