by Mickey Charles, CEO Sports Network
Hatboro, PA (Sports Network) --
Every major market comes with one. A sports talk radio station. Even some of the smaller cities have determined a need to add one to the radio menu and have introduced a scaled down local version or have fallen victim to a satellite edition of an ESPN offering. In each case there is the seemingly necessary pompous, arrogant, self-important, out of control, egotistic host that has more than an opinion. He has a mandate. He is the standard bearer for the swaggering, audacious and totally rude mentality he puts forth during his few hours of near daily insults and condemnations of sports personalities.
Charlie Manuel in a "discussion" with an umpire.
In his rather diminutive state of mind, his weapons are the microphone and phone. Receive a caller that knows more, one whose opinion makes more sense, a fan that disagrees and it takes significantly less than the seven second delay built into the switchboard to hang up on him or her with the addition of an allowable expletive of some sort.
Do you recognize that person? I thought you would. From New York to L.A., Detroit to Miami, Seattle to Dallas, Chicago to Boston they infect the airwaves. Station managers support them as the hosts the fans love to dislike...to disrespect...to hate...to tune in. They are overpaid and pontifical. They revel in locker rooms and the smell of sweat. They get close to the players and relish in the whispers and finger pointing when they enter a restaurant or other public place. It is a trip!!! They wallow in it.
The fact of the matter is that they are very small fish in an even smaller fish bowl.
Consequently, in Philadelphia recently, one of those sports talk show hosts decided to confront Charlie Manuel, the Phillies? manager. Understand that the local baseball team told the world at large, predominantly the press corps from the City of Brotherly Love, that they would be more than a contender this year, they could capture the division crown and just go from there. Only the Mets and Braves stood in their way and, as of last week, a boorish talk show host. There is credence with the former two, none at all with the latter.
There are tough questions that the media can ask properly and there are stupid questions that they put forth insipidly intended to raise the ire and anger of the person to whom they are being addressed. In this case, mission accomplished. What happens, predictably, is that the beat writers and others go into greater silence than Benedictine Monks. Others, who fancy themselves friends and colleagues of the assaulter seeking ratings for his less than elucidating and entertaining time on air, rush to the ramparts declaring the question asked a tough one.
Manuel does not pitch, come to bat in critical situations, steal bases, drop fly balls or do anything else on the field that will turn the course of the game. He makes some decisions, a few good, and a few bad. He does not motivate by anger or daily demonstrations of what took place at the Spanish Inquisition. To what end? These players are presumed professionals. They know what has to be done. They are trying. They are failing. That will not always be the case. Screaming at them, getting mad, excoriating them in front of their teammates and/or the press will not change things, nor will a spitting match with any umpire.
Many of those that listen to the local sports talk show host think that they "know" when they speak, that they have been to all the games, spoken reasonably with the manager, shared some intense and intelligent dialogue with the players, truly analyzed the game and situation, and understand the make-up and personality of the person being interviewed. They have not, to all of the above, although this particular person has been known to frequent the press box.
It is not just the question; it is how it is asked. One does not have to challenge or provoke, throw down the gauntlet, confront and scorn to simply ask whether a display of upset or anger would help to stimulate what has been, to date, a lack luster performance by the team. Trust me, they do not like losing.
The talk show host in question does not like the manager and, from all reports, believes he took Larry Bowa?s job, with whom this radio personage appears to have a friendship. So, he has belittled him on air for three years. Manuel does his job when he gets a lot of overpaid athletes to rise to their abilities, to play as a team, to reach higher than they have in a winning atmosphere. Tossing a tantrum is not the answer and being asked why he hasn't done so to date borders on the inane. The screaming is best left to the fans, the disappointment they feel when their heroes blow it. The anger is directed at the field or, as the case may be, the plasma screen. The talk show host can do what he wants on air, within his cocoon and behind the microphone and phone, his weapons of choice. To denounce and invite reprisal comes from an amateur who calls it the posing of a tough question.
At least one sports talk host believes Larry Bowa should be the Phillies' manager.
The local station and radio host loved it -- mentions in the newspaper, footage on ESPN?s Cold Pizza, a spike in ratings. All precipitated by nonsense, by a host fueling the flame with taunts like "Grow up!" to a professional team?s manager, a shouting match that began in the locker room and spilled, boiled, over into the manager?s office. Kindergarten had come to Citizens Bank Park. Couching it as the asking of a "tough question" is like putting a bag on one?s head or foregoing the bag and just seeking out a soft spot in the sand.
This one took place in Philadelphia. What was the last one in your home town? They won't stop as long as the ongoing media definition of defiance and dispute, badgering and controversy is conveniently categorized as asking the tough questions. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Is it going to stop, will maturity and professionalism kick in? You gotta be kidding! There are ratings to consider and the "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who?s the most annoying of them all?" syndrome that is seized upon by those with much less influence and following than they would like us to believe they have.