First, a little background: The Chicago White Sox entered play today with an 0-2 record. So we’re all a little disappointed, but considering that they still have 160 games to play, we’re not going to get too worked up about this. Now by “we” I mean we fans of at least moderate intelligence. So the radio host is talking today about the White Sox. He says, “I’m not ready to push the panic button yet, but if they lose today to go 0-3, then it’s time to push the panic button, jump off the bandwagon, and declare a state of emergency.” He went on to state that the White Sox' season is hanging by a thread and that hope might be just about gone for them for this season.
I find that comment breathtaking in its idiocy. A cursory look at sports history will reveal a great number of championship teams that got off to starts a whole lot worse than 0-3. Now look, I’m not picking the White Sox to go all the way this year, and neither is anybody else I’ve read to date. They would do well to be contenders. But that’s beside the point. By the way, they won today to avoid starting 0-3, but that’s beside the point too, except to make one wonder whether Radio Guy has now recommitted himself to the White Sox bandwagon.
I bring all of this up because I want to go a little deeper in my examination of Radio Guy’s thought processes. The easy answer is to dismiss him as an idiot and keep on walking, but I see another distinct possibility – that he is saying things he doesn’t believe himself. If we go down that road, it branches once again into the possible reasons why he would do that. He could be trying to generate controversy and attention, on the theory that this will help either the station’s ratings or his own personal notoriety here in town. “After all,” he might reason, “if I simply say, ‘Well, folks, it’s the first week of the season; this doesn’t mean a thing,’ that pretty much ends the discussion, and I want to stir the passions of the more excitable fans and fill the airwaves with their reactions.” Yeah, that's just the sort of illuminating commentary I tuned in for, guys.
I think there is a conscious choice made on the part of a lot of such radio/TV personalities to try to project a meat-and-potatoes, shot-and-a-beer, man of the people persona on the assumption that it’s what the people want to hear. Unfortunately, it forces most discourse on sports down to the lowest common denominator. Intelligent sports fans like myself are left on the outside looking in, forced to wade through a lot of shallow posturing to find meaningful commentary on the sports scene.
I should add that I do not consider these notions to be at all far-fetched; I think we see this sort of calculated behavior all the time from all sorts of public figures, from columnists to politicians to entertainers, so I don't think my suggestion that Radio Guy might be a bullshit artist is particularly radical.
Of course, we still have to circle back to that first impression – that the guy actually believes what he’s saying. If that’s the case, it calls into question the priorities of the people doing the hiring at these stations. Because the fact is, there are some popular sports commentators out there who are quite reasonable, intelligent people, e.g., Bob Costas or even Dan Patrick for that matter. Yes, Mr. Patrick can be a bit of a wise guy, but I think there is an ultimate sincerity and integrity to most of his work. So I’m not asking for the impossible here.
There are a few sports media people in this town (I’m not going to name names; if you live here and follow such things, you know who they are) whose entire persona is based on being a shallow asshole. I change the station when I encounter them, as they tend to generate a great deal of heat without generating any spark of light. In such moments, I don’t care a bit whether their sentiments are genuine or calculated; I want only to escape their noise and inanity.
But there is still a game to be played. It’s called baseball. We will turn down the sound if necessary, and we may skip the post-game wrap-up, but the game remains a beautiful thing. Play ball!