Sports Radio Without The Outrage? A Crazy Idea

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Jason Gay is a sports columnist at the Wall Street Journal, which seems like a pretty fair gig, but he dreams of hosting a sports radio show called "Don't Fly Off The Handle Like A Lunatic" — or so he has recently written.

Gay joined Bill Littlefield to explain.

BL: As you see it, how would “Don’t Fly Off The Handle Like A Lunatic” be different from other sports radio shows?

You probably read this column and said, "Excuse me, I have the patent on this thing. What is this guy talking about?"

Jason Gay, Wall Street Journal

JG: Well, you know, Bill, it occurred to me deep into writing this column, which really is a reaction to what I see as just the extreme opinion making that happens in the world of sports — but it occurred to me that we need a radio program where people listen, where people sort of take a deep breath, where people don't fly off the handle like a lunatic and it occurs to me it's your show! That's your show, Bill. So you probably read this column and said, "Excuse me, I have the patent on this thing. What is this guy talking about?"

BL: Well, I read the column and laughed all the way through. Your enthusiasm for "Don't Fly Off The Handle Like A Lunatic" is tempered, however, by your skepticism. Is this just because without people flying off the handle as if they were lunatics, there wouldn’t be enough to talk about on these shows?

JG: Well, I think, Bill, that you and Only A Game have successfully found the only non-lunatic sports radio audience that exists in America. You have cultivated it. You've grown it. It's yours.

But the rest of it is a pretty bleak landscape. We know that just flipping around the dial. I was in the car last night driving home and the outrage that exists around such banal topics as "RGIII! Is he done?" "Derrick Rose! Is he done?" "College Football Playoff! What are we gonna do?" Bill! It's the fourth week of November! We don't have this thing locked down yet!

BL: Who's more at fault for the high volume on sports call-in shows: the hosts or the callers?

JG: It's you, Bill. You're the problem. I mean, I think it's sort of one of those things that you get this little carrot and stick routine going where you scream and you yell and you say ridiculous things and you say a quarterback should be benched and you say a coach should be fired and you say a franchise should be moved; it's an electric opinion that drives attention and — theoretically at least — drives ratings, but the problem is there's such a national sameness to it.

There's no room for careful consideration. Let's take the New England Patriots. End of September --

BL: They're finished! Everybody knows it. They were done! Get rid of Brady!

JG: Bill, Tom Brady — is it time for the Jimmy Garoppolo era!? I mean, is it Jimmy time? That was a conversation.

BL: Your article provides numerous examples of people who have flown off the handle and gotten it all wrong — for example, the people calling for Bill Belichick's head two weeks or three weeks into the Patriots season. Do people who fly off the handle ever get it right?

JG: That's a very good question. OK, so let's take a very recent example which is the Robert Griffin III conundrum in Washington. Why I am hearing on-the-hour updates on the quarterback situation for a 3-8 football team I have no idea.

BL: Because there's time to fill!

JG: At the same time there's mounting evidence that he might not be the guy that people thought he was. You know he has been given opportunities and there doesn't seem to be the kind of the growth. And you have ... what clearly seems to be a developing schism with the coach Jay Gruden. So that might be a case where the screamers have it right. He might not be the guy. But I don't like the way that we've gotten to this point.

BL: You express some worry in your article that the show that you propose would get lower ratings than a show titled "Talkin' Ultimate Frisbee With Turtles and Ferrets." Do you have any idea how many people in the Ultimate Frisbee community you've alienated with that assertion?

JG: Well especially the turtle- and ferret-based Ultimate Frisbee community. I've really alimented those folks and I'll probably never get them back. Look, I know all about Ultimate Frisbee, Bill. I know people that are passionate about it. There are people that wake up in the darkness near where I live and they go out to the park and they're playing for an hour and a half before work. I get it completely. What I was saying, Bill, was that there is such a deeply passionate audience that that audience would easily eclipse my idea for a rational sports show, not unlike yours.

BL: Do you think we should change our name to "Talkin' Ultimate Frisbee With Turtles And Ferrets?"

JG: Or just add a couple of exclamation points: Only A Game!!

This segment aired on November 29, 2014.


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