Thu. Sep 20th, 2018

The Opinion Business

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that opinions are like — [anatomy south of the equator] — everybody has one. It’s generally true, especially when it comes to sports. We rush to second-guess coaching decisions. We love to argue that one player is better than another. Our relatives have opinions. Our friends have opinions. Our dentist, mechanic, restaurant server, mailman, and grocery store cashier have opinions.

There are some exceptions though. Ironically, you can actually find a shortage of sports opinions in the sports world. NFL head coaches are notorious for saying painfully obvious things about their teams. One of my favorite bits in radio is the useless sound montage on ESPN Radio’s Dan Le Batard Show. It’s a barrage of coaches making comments that are a total waste of time. Here are a couple of gems from this past Sunday:

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien summed up Houston’s (4-9) record by saying, “It’s football. One team wins. One team loses, and right now we’re not on the winning end of things.”

After a 17-point loss to the Chargers that dropped the Redskins to (5-8) on the year, head coach Jay Gruden said, “Well, you don’t want consistent problems. That’s the goal of coaching — you wanna have no problems. Right now we’ve got problems in a lot of areas.”

Awesome. Thanks, guys. Major discoveries have been made.

Although we often roll our eyes when coaches make cliché and mundane statements, at least their approach serves a purpose. They don’t want to create chaos by saying their players completely stink. They also want to avoid doubting opposing teams, which would fire them up. It’s understandable for coaches to be vague and passive. It’s never understandable for a sports radio host to have the same approach, yet many hosts make this exact mistake.

Sports radio is the business of opinions. Yeah, it also includes various things like entertainment and being relatable, but the foundation of sports talk is expressing strong opinions. It boggles my mind when hosts don’t deliver the most important ingredient. Working in the opinions business with a lack of opinions is like being in beer sales while being fresh out of beer. It doesn’t work.

I call it sports page radio when hosts sound like they’ve opened up the sports page and just started reading an article. “Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passed for 506 yards against the Ravens on Sunday. He’s the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 500 yards in three separate games. The Steelers beat the Ravens 39-38.” Blah blah blah. Where are the opinions?

No story is good enough by itself. A story is like an unplugged Christmas tree. Opinions are the lights that give the tree color and life.

When I was tiny, my mom would challenge me by saying, “I bet you can’t put your pajamas on during this commercial break.” I’d tear into my room like the Tasmanian Devil and throw on my clothes. I’m a very competitive person. Later in college, before bench pressing I’d say to a buddy of mine, “You don’t think I can lift this, do you? You don’t think I can do it.” I thrive on competition (possibly while driving others crazy in the process).

Now that you’re aware of this weird competitive thing I have going on — I also think of shows as competition. I’m actually competing against the stories that I present. If the stories are more memorable than my opinions, then I’ve lost. Whether my stance is serious, funny, edgy or silly — it needs to be the most memorable part. Otherwise, what would separate one host from another? We’d all be interchangeable if the story was the sole focus. Anybody can do that.

A story by itself isn’t a topic. Giancarlo Stanton being traded to the Yankees is an interesting story. Expressing unique opinions about the trade makes it an interesting topic. Chris Rock once said, “You can’t slip a Puerto Rican by me. That’s not Pocahontas, that’s Jennifer Lopez!” Well, hosts can’t slip stories by listeners. Your audience has access to information. They want opinions and topics, not sports page radio.

Jim Rome’s email address is my personal favorite — Amen. Have a freakin’ take. We shouldn’t be able to scan sports radio and hear hosts that need addresses like,, or Being shy about firing off opinions is a sports talk crime. Let ‘em rip.

A host should never sound like your typical NFL coach following a game. Coach-speak is lame and host-speak is even worse. The equivalent of “one game at a time” and “giving 110 percent” should get a talk show host run right out of town. Take the time to sharpen your stances so it’s always the main focus and actually worth listening to. The name of the game is opinions, opinions, opinions.

Another popular Jim Rome phrase is to “have a take and don’t suck.” Remember, if you don’t have a take, you automatically suck.

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