For the last couple years, I've really enjoyed sports radio. I think it actually started with the Jim Rome show. Once you get used to Romie, you kind of like him. But then you move on to more polished and reputable hosts like Mike and Mike in the Morning. The afternoon show that I often missed was Dan Patrick, the former host of SportsCenter. Dan's one-liners have become a legendary part of the show, but he took his opportunity and went into sports radio. Dan would have Keith Olbermann on for one hour of the show and it was called The Big Show. These two were absolutely great together!
Well sadly Dan Patrick left ESPN in August. He said he was returning somewhere, sometime - but we didn't know the details. Well I heard he was on Fox Sports Radio (100.5 here in Madison), so I tuned in Tuesday morning. This may sound funny to those who don't appreciate sports like I do, but hearing Dan's voice back on the radio was familiarity rediscovered. Sports are such a big part of our culture. While I need to keep my fanatic behavior under control, sports radio has pushed me to think critically about football, baseball, basketball, and the players in the headlines. (I draw the line with car racing and condemn ESPN for including it as a sport -- "you're driving a CAR". )
And my critical thinking has lately come to this: When I was younger (yes, I'm pulling out that line that solidifies the fact that I'm 30 years old) ---- when I was younger, athletes and sports were role models. There were guys I didn't care for, but there were superstars that were bigger than life. Today, athletes just disappoint me. Now someone 10 or 15 years older than me might say we had those kinds of players back in the '80s, too but I would disagree with the extent of letdown these players are exhibiting.
What a privilege to play a sport for a career! You throw and catch a football to collect a paycheck. You hit a ball and run on a manicured field like I dreamed about since I went to my first game and County Stadium. You get paid millions of dollars and years of wonderful publicity to do it. And now you're extremely likely to let us all down and force us to sift through our favorite athletes knowing it's entirely possible that you're two days away from having a major character malfunction.
Micheal Vick: a dog-fighting ring, disgusting
Marion Jones: steroids
Pacman Jones (stupid half-brother?): hanging with thugs involved in a shooting in Vegas
Ricky Williams: can't stay off weed long enough to take three handoffs
Stephn Marbury: gets benched, blackmails coach regarding coach's sex-abuse case
Barry Bonds: takes HGH, lies to a grand jury, and will disgrace the MLB record books
Athletes will let us down. It's not an epiphany for me, but it's sinking in as a reminder that they are just humans, and that they are part of an athletic culture that is often bigger than the games that they play.
I wouldn't compare sports radio to journalism like the New York Times or Fox News, but sports radio gets and keeps my attention. It forces me to think critically about issues and people. And it helps me keep sports and the athletes in perspective with the happenings in the rest of the world. Dan Patrick is back on my radio - life is good for a couple more days.