Fri. Mar 22nd, 2019

High Stakes

Grease those light poles! For the second time in two months the city of Philadelphia has a championship to celebrate and utility poles to grease up to discourage fans from climbing them. It started with the Eagles winning Super Bowl LII in early February. Up next were the Villanova Wildcats who smacked around Michigan 79-62 to win a national title on Monday night. Maybe the Philadelphia 76ers can convince Crisco to sponsor those 2.5-inch jersey ads to bring them championship luck too.

Donte DiVincenzo was magnificent against Michigan. “The Michael Jordan of Delaware” became the new-school version of Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson. His 31 points marked the highest total scored by a bench player in National Championship Game history. DiVincenzo was also named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

Charles Barkley made an interesting point after the game that Villanova’s defense is often undersold because they’re such an offensive juggernaut. It really is true. There is a Warriors quality to Villanova — they both play excellent defense, but that isn’t the primary strength either team is known for. They’re known for their offensive dominance before anything else. It got me thinking about sports radio hosts — what they’re primarily known for, and what control they have over those perceptions.

I believe that a strength often makes a weakness appear even weaker. Take Carmelo Anthony for instance. Melo was a great offensive player in his prime. He was never close to a great defender, but his great scoring ability made his defensive skills appear even worse than they actually were. It works the same way with radio hosts. A host that is a deep thinker might appear to be stiff. A host that is hilarious might appear to lack the ability of saying anything thought-provoking.

It’s a shame that a host’s secondary strength might appear weaker than it actually is. That’s the way the sports talk cookie crumbles though. There is only so much that can be done about certain perceptions lining up with reality. However, hosts are far from powerless. A host has absolute control over a much more important category — avoiding a bad reputation.

San Diego host Kevin Klein was set to launch a new show on “97.3 The Machine.” Klein tweeted a picture of the Coronado Bridge that included the words, “JUMP to a new morning show.” Sadly that’s the same bridge where hundreds of people have “jumped” to their death while committing suicide. The tweet ticked off the San Diego Padres while several San Diegans voiced their displeasure as well.

Kevin Klein’s show was supposed to debut last Thursday (3/29). His status remains uncertain as the new show still hasn’t hit the airwaves. Look, I don’t know this guy. I would hate for his career to go sideways because of one tweet, but it shows how easily a reputation can be impacted. It’s scary to think that one mistake can undo all of the hard work that goes into building a solid reputation. A host can battle everyday — put in the hard work and generate great content only to wipe it all away with one dumb move.

Klein isn’t the first host to fail at thinking things through and he won’t be the last. The question in my mind becomes — what’s an easy way to think things through so mistakes are avoided before they even happen? Where is the line between coming up with edgy content that’s permissible and risky content that’ll either get you fired or completely jack up your reputation?

Anything related to death and disease are very sensitive subjects. Thin ice, baby. You should hear alarms in your head and see danger signs while thinking about making fun of either. Of course that hasn’t stopped everybody from doing so. There’s the infamous Atlanta bit gone horribly wrong when local hosts made fun of the battle former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason has with ALS.

Think of it this way — imagine if someone you love dearly was in the same position as the person you’re about to make light of. If your parents, wife, siblings, kids, nieces or nephews had a disease or died in a tragic way, would you make fun of it? If the answer is no, or an even more forceful hell no, then it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to make light of somebody else’s horrible situation. It’s much easier to talk trash or make light of someone you don’t really know. The game changes if you substitute your loved ones and imagine them being in the same terrible position.

I bought a new car yesterday. After my previous car got totaled following a bad wreck, I finally have some new wheels — a Nissan Altima Midnight Edition. I don’t know what my deal is with black cars and clothing, but that’s how I roll. I told my wife that it sure is easier to spend money quickly than it is to earn money fast. She laughed as if to playfully say, “In other news, water is wet.” Although this isn’t a great discovery either, it definitely is worth emphasizing — it’s way easier to ruin a reputation quicker than it is to build one quickly.

The movie Rounders is one of my favorites. Matt Damon’s character Mike McDermott faces off against Teddy KGB in high-stakes games of poker. The stakes for a sports talk host are actually even higher. It isn’t just thousands of dollars that are on the line — it’s also a career. Make the wrong move and you’ll “end up humping crappy jobs on graveyard shifts, trying to figure out how [you] came up short.”

I’m not trying to make a host shake like the principle on Beavis & Butthead in fear of saying or doing something wrong. Just use a little common sense relating to the misfortune of others and things should be perfectly fine. My dad used to tell me when I was younger, “Just keep your wits about you.” That meant to be aware of everything that’s going on. Sometimes the thing you need to be looking out for the most, is actually yourself.

2 thoughts on “High Stakes

  1. Good read mixture of business and humor. If you enjoyed this article you need to catch one of his radio shows.
    Some network should sign him to a national schedule always a good listen.

  2. I look at it a little like this – talk radio hosts are tightrope walkers doing 12 passes (every segment is a pass) each day. Our creativity is the wind, which makes the journey thrilling to consume. Some are good enough to make it from here to there in high winds, and some aren’t. Some don’t have any creativity and they make it across without incident, but no one cares. To belabor the metaphor – social media is lightning, which can knock you quickly and permanently from the tightrope.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.