Monday, September 8, 2014

Killing the Radio Stars

I listened to about twenty minutes Chad Dukes' radio show last week. I've never particularly cared for him, but I have a 25 minute drive to the rink for work, and I only get about seven channels on my radio, so I take what I can find when it comes to sports talk radio.

Anyways, I was listening, and he was talking about something or other, I don't remember what, and I noticed I was getting agitated at random moments during the broadcast. The noteworthy part of this experience was that my spurts of disgust weren't in response to a particular position or topic. After a few minutes, I realized that I was reacting to his words, the actual words. Chad Dukes (and, I've been realizing, countless other radio sportscasters) lapses into cliches on a regular basis. You don't notice them regularly because you're not looking for them, and they certainly sound like normal discussion. But the content is as worthless as when you said "um" or "ah" during high school speech class.

They're not just any cliches though. You would expect sports-based cliches, like "give 110%" or "taking it one game at a time." But these aren't limited to sports; you'll hear them from anyone in any line of work. And they make my skin crawl.

Some examples, just from the past week:
  • for all intents and purposes
  • any way, shape, or form 
  • by any stretch of the imagination
  • be that as it may
  • goes without saying
  • things of that nature
As I said, Chad Dukes is far from the only culprit here. I've heard this type of filler from almost every non-news sportscaster I've listened to recently. Herman Edwards, Kevin Sheehan, even Grant Paulsen, who I mostly enjoy, strays into this "no man's land" of discussion on a regular basis. And now that I'm acutely aware of it, I have trouble getting past it when it arises.

These are verbal crutches that all of us use, because we're not comfortable sitting with silence while we search for the right words. But it's that discomfort that creates the problem in the first place. If we'd just not start talking until we had our words ready, we'd be good.

There are two guys who notably avoid this problem in two different ways.

Dan Patrick doesn't use any of the above filler phrases. The way he avoids them is that he embraces silence. If you tune in to Patrick on a given day, there's the chance that you initially think your radio's busted, because there's just a lot of dead air when he's on. It's not bad, per se, but there's a limit to how much dead time you can have before you sound like a douche, (see Jim Rome. By the way, Rome has insane amounts of dead air and uses the crutches above. It's amazing people like him; it's literally amazing).

But the guy who does it right on all accounts is Tony Kornheiser. He uses silence occasionally when he's trying to decide what to say. But by and large, he simply provides interesting, useful commentary for virtually every second of his radio or television segments. He obviously knows a ton about sports, he has definitive and well-described opinions, and he's funny. On top of all that, he doesn't waste any time with those horrible nothing phrases above.

How? It's pretty simple actually. He was an English major. His command of the English language is superb, and he's able to craft his messages without any of the nonsense we hear from so many other places. He also probably doesn't give a damn about anybody anymore, so he's not worried about what comes out of his mouth. Intelligence, wit, and candor, that's what Kornheiser gives you.

Anyways, I hope I didn't ruin sports radio for you by pointing this out. But if I did, it'll just be my rebuttal to my college buddy Adam Marino, who ruined Steal My Sunshine for me by telling me to just listen to the wood block. It never stops; it's the same beat the whole song.

Also, I just found out that the music video is terrible. So sorry about showing you that, too.

Note: When I started this post, it wasn't supposed to be a Kornheiser lovefest. Truthfully, he wasn't even in the initial concept of the post. That's just where the path led. Also, Kornheiser doesn't have Twitter, so I linked his Wikipedia page.

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