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Letter regarding Sports Radio - 9/18/2003   Link to original letter

Since we initially came out and aired our negative opinions about the Jim Rome Show early last year, we have had some more time to commute during the morning hours and reflect on the state of the phenomena/brain drain that is Sports Radio. Here's an update on the status of A.M. sports radio options in the Tucson area.

Jim Rome continues to be mostly an ass. His callers, the clones are painful to listen to as they try to parrot the host's "takes" and nothing sends us lunging for the frequency knob quicker than, Jim saying "We go to the phones, here's blank in Crapchester or da da da in C town." These listeners rarely have any remotely interesting comments and usually just read unabated from an ill thought out script designed to gain cred from the host and run down each other and the local squad until they either get racked or run. Either way it's bad radio and plays like being forced to listen to unfunny comedians from the front row.

Rome himself however is not a complete idiot and does the occasional decent interview. He does not shy away from tough questions although he does have a tendency to ask leading ones in the vein of: Q - "Has this last season been a disappointment or maybe, since you've rallied around the Cahill and Stumps romance, is there something good you can take from the experience." A - "Well Jim I definitely think, because of the Cahill and Stumps situation, there is something good we can ....." This style may be the inevitable result of dealing with monosyllabic athletes and there effluvium of "You knows" and "Like I said befores" but it doesn't always make for cutting edge listening. 

The upshot is that the show is not terrible but more hit or miss. You can usually listen to the first ten minutes and tell whether it's going to be an interesting day or not since Rome has a tendency to hit on all the topics in the first segment that he will spend the next three hours pounding away on. He has some pretty good guests once in awhile from the business like John Feinstein or Bob Costas and does fairly well at running down the athletes currently in the news. He can be as tedious as a barking Chihuahua however if he gets his teeth into something that is interesting only to him and the clones, who seem to operate at the lowest common denominator most of the time.  

The result of the above is that we end up lending our ears mostly to ESPN radio and Tony Kornheiser and The Dan Patrick show. Kornheiser is a neurotic and idiosyncratic figure who seems to want to play the part of a whining and crotchety old man most of the time. Don't let this fool you however as he is actually one of the more intelligent figures on the radio and compassionate and knowledgeable about sports and modern culture. He loves to act as if he is stodgy and set in his ways and knows nothing about what the kids are up to these days and then will proceed to offer insight and understanding on such a plethora of subjects that he clearly is more aware of things then he lets on. His commentary is honest and heartfelt for the most part and there is something endearing about the way he lauds his own shortcomings and shares with the audience his petty foibles and frustrations. As an ongoing columnist for the Washington Post, he also has a rotating interview panel of some of the best print journalists in the business on which he can call upon to offer their regional opinions on breaking news. It's a show that takes some getting used to but once you've put in a little time it ends up feeling like a bunch of guys you've known for years sitting around a barbershop grousing about the state of affairs outlined in that morning's paper. Unlike the Rome show, it's not formulaic and varies greatly from day to day. At it's worst, we would still chose it over Rome until commercials force us back to the dial.

Another morning option opposite the first part of the Kornheiser affair is The Tony Bruno show which is mostly annoying and has that sort of in your face, shrill, Fox feel to it that is highly unappealing at that time of morning or any other time for that matter. Bruno seems to find himself way to witty and acerbic for our liking and likes to bark sarcasm into the mike. We haven't really put in the time to make intelligent comment on the show however but the few times we've stumbled across it we felt like we were being accosted in a New York City subway and got off immediately.

Later in the morning, The Dan Patrick Show comes on ESPN and is probably our overall favorite. While Dan is a competent host, his personality is not as strong as Kornheiser's or Rome's and he acts more like a moderator than an opinionated driving force. He does have opinions on occasion but seems to temper his thoughts for the most part to stay the company line. Or it may be that after all these years the company and Dan are have morphed together to become nearly the same. In any event he's a likeable, comforting and pleasant presence who allows his guests and cohosts to do much of the talking. He gets all the top guests and also a good many call ins without warning serve to keep the show alive. Actors, politicos, forgotten about household names all seem to listen and call in frequently to weigh in on the topic of the day. He also has a list of regulars that include folks like Bill Walton, Peter Gammons, and many of his co-workers at ESPN that add intelligence and insight. Dan handles it all with been there before aplomb and has an understated style that doesn't make him the story but allows the story to be effectually told. 

Dan's cohost, Rob Dibble, the former fireballer and self promoted nasty boy, is one strange and confusing specimen. Dibble says a lot of the right things and seems fairly intelligent on the one hand but on a moment's notice can come off like some petulant headbanger from your high school parking lot days. His testosterone laden self revelations about smoking butts, getting countless tattoos, shaving his body hair, driving a Harley around Connecticut and listening to eighties heavy metal are not provocative or interesting so much as they seem some sort of cry for help. He has a good old boys approach to team sports which he is not shy about sharing and at times his allowing glimpses into the borderline psychosis of his relief pitcher mentality and attempts to be outrageous are enlightening if a little scary. Perhaps surprisingly he is not an unlikable figure most of the time and adds more to the show than he detracts but can often make you wonder if there isn't someone else a little better suited for the sidekick chair. He and Dan seem to get along well however and to his credit, Dibble knows when to keep quiet and stay out of the way. They both have pretty good senses of humor and appreciate the same things about sports as we do.

So then, the Goliard's recipe for morning sports during a two hour commute in southern AZ would be as follows. Start with Kornheiser and only switch to Bruno during commercials and even then perhaps the local news station or some classical music would be the better call. When the Rome show starts, tune in to hear the lineup for the day and decide whether you want to battle the inane call ins or not. Rome is pretty good about telling you when guests are coming on so it's easy to check in and out without hearing to many of the jackasses. Then switch over to Dan and Dibbs and stay there. You never know when Dan will say with no warning .. "Bill Clinton joins us now to talk about the Hootie Johnson situation..." or "Susan Sarandon is on the line to discuss the All-star game. Hi Susan.."

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