I have gone on record numerous times saying I really do not care for the whole "guy talk" format in sports radio. I think mixing entertainment with sports talk is great, necessary even, especially in the long stretch between the end of basketball season and the beginning of football season. What do they call that again?
So, it did not surprise me to hear that a morning team of sports talk bros in Atlanta were fired for making fun of a former NFL player with Lou Gehrig's disease. "Mayhem in the AM" on 790 the Zone broadcast a bit on Monday morning about former New Orleans safety Steve Gleason. One of the three hosts used a computer voice to pretend to be Gleason, who does speak using a computer similar to how Stephen Hawking communicates. At one point, the impersonator asked the other two hosts to do him a favor and smother him.
All three, Nick Cellini, Steak Shapiro and Chris Dimino, were fired by the station and all three attempted to muster apologies via social media. Not surprisingly, most fans did not approve and of course they shouldn't, but this is just another in a long line of incidents involving sports talk hosts trying everything in their power to push the envelope to raise ratings.
I personally have never understood the idea of listening to unoriginal comedy while driving to work, but it has a huge audience. Howard Stern turned it into a massive career and even consideration for replacing Jay Leno on the Tonight Show, so it is clear that people do like to listen.
But, when it mixes with sports, the combination can often times be cringe-worthy at best, degrading at worst. National sports talk hosts like Jim Rome and his former producer Travis Rogers have managed to strike a pretty good balance, though the scales can occasionally tip in the wrong direction. Locally, Lance Zierlein is probably the best at mixing hardcore sports nerdiness with entertainment. The Houston Press's own Sean Pendergast is another that is extremely good at finding the humor in sports.
The problem is that far too many are just not that funny and they end up sounding like drunk idiots at a sports bar. That stuff you think is hilarious after your fifth beer is pretty damn uninspired while sober.
This is a prime example of guys thinking a bit would be funny and no one stopping them and saying, "Guys, are you absolutely certain you want to make fun of someone with a serious disease?" They deserved to get canned for their actions and I hope sports radio on the whole learns from it, but the only thing they will probably gain from it is the knowledge that acting like an idiot on air might get you fired (ask Anna Megan Raley), but it is damn good for publicity.
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