May 23, 2012 by David Gillaspie
(also posted on oregonsportsnews.com)
For the uninitiated, the unfortunate, and the uninformed, The Smack-Off is a yearly contest between long-time callers to the Jim Rome Show.
Throughout the year fans enter The Jungle and either swing on the vines, or fall. If you get from one tree to the next with style, you get racked. Do it often enough and good enough and you’re invited to The Smack-Off.
If you have a take that sucks, violating the golden rule of The Jungle, that of ‘have a take and don’t suck’, you get run. You’ll know you’ve been run by the sound of the manual buzzer, a recording of Rome saying “A-A-A-A-A-A-A.”
Fear of that sound is enough to make Joey Chestnut choke.
For anyone calling a sports radio show for the first time, expect a few things to happen.
- You’ll be on hold where you’ll hear the other callers.
- You’ll be on the air with short notice.
- You’ll have your radio turned up next to you so you can hear yourself
While you’re on hold, keep your talking points in mind. Go over the highlights. Don’t write everything down or you’ll sound like a shopper going through a grocery list.
Once you’re on the air, avoid saying things like “Love your show” or “Long time first time” or “I’ve been waiting three hours.” Any of those tell the rest of the audience you have no life, which we’ve already guessed since you’re a caller waiting for a chance to shine.
Turn your radio down. Better yet, turn it off. You’ll be able to hear yourself on a podcast later. With the volume up you’ll hear a strange echo. Listeners recognize the sound as you calling from the cavernous basement of your mom’s house. We know this because that’s where we live, too.
Win the Smack-Off and become a god to millions of listeners. Blow up in the Smack-Off and you may get invited to the Hack-Off, the alternate call-in contest for the worst visitors to The Jungle. The Hack-Off runs the week before the Smack-Off with the winner of the worst being invited to the big time. It’s a tight circle.
Oregon has a few connections to The Jim Rome Show besides the legions of listeners.
750 AM The Game broadcasts a show called The Morning Sports Page hosted by Chad Doing. Chad was a fan of Jim Rome before he got his own show and used to make elaborate calls to The Jungle that no one has matched since. Those stellar audio moments made Chad a household name. No one expects greatness everyday, but Chad makes a run at it every morning.
An Oregon native hit the Smack-Off this year and walked away with the top prize. Chael Sonnen, former UofO wrestler and current UFC middleweight title contender, rolled out his entry in classic fashion. No hello, no thank-you for inviting me, no nothing except the Chael trademark: Attack relentlessly.
“Enough of amateur hour and rookies calling in on bad cell phones. What a boring waste of our time, Jim. Me and the listeners would have rather looked at racy photos of Wayne Gretzky’s daughter on Twitter than to have to listen to that again. Fans would be more entertained watching John Travolta practice rough trade than by some of these rants I’ve heard today. I’ve been in the presence of silent films that had better vocals than these guys that have got on.
“Hey Jay Mohr, I know you’re out there listening, buddy. Loved you in Suicide Kings. It’s an apt title for your career, by the way.
“Football, America’s past time. Look guys, nobody cares what you do with the ball out on the gridiron for 11 minutes of action in a four hour game. It’s about the beer people; take the beer out of the stadiums and you’ll take the people out as well. I wish I could wear 40 pounds of Kevlar body armor, run 10 yards, then rest for two minutes. Hey guys, that’s what I do before practice.
“Basketball. It used to be about great athletes. Now it’s about who’s taking their turn on a Kardashian next. I was going to work Kobe into this whole rant but what can I do to Kobe that god hasn’t already done.
“Baseball. It’s America’s sport because Americans are obese, the end.
“Golf. That’s the sport where Dancing With the Stars rejects go to die. The best thing Tiger Woods ever did was that hot Norwegian wife of his.
“NASCAR. Wow, I just love it. A bunch of guys with a tooth missing for every decade of their life thinking they’re Vin Diesel or the Dukes of Hazzard. It just kills me. You know what else chases each other in circles, Jim? Headless chickens. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and getting a different result. Yet every Sunday, they take the same white privileged males, put them in the same car doing the same thing and we get a different result. FIXED. Let’s not forget, NASCAR plays to the same uneducated, southern white males professional wrestling got its licks from in the 1970s. How many of your listeners have a car? How many of you listeners if you raced your neighbor today and beat him would expect to not also win tomorrow and the next day. Look guys, the only way the results change if you’re in the same car doing the same thing is if you let the results change. WAKE UP, KENTUCKY.
“I should probably go off on my own sport for a minute but here’s a question for you guys. I heard the winner gets UFC tickets, right? That’s what I heard. I’ve heard you’re all pandering, gabbering and whoring out for chuckles for a glimpse of yours truly. Well shucks, guys, I can understand and I’m flattered.
“Still undefeated Jim, still undisputed, you’re listening to Chael ‘Perfection’ Sonnen and that, ladies and gentlemen, what you just heard, was the ‘Voice of Reason.’”
Disclosure: When I’m in the car with my wife the radio seldom finds sports talk radio. On the rare occasions it does, she says things like, “How can you listen to this?’ or “Is this what men sound like when they’re on their own?” My favorite, “They all sound angry, like they’ve missed out on the most important part of their lives and they’re trying to get it back.”
A tip for the ladies: playing sports takes a special sort of person; making a career out of it takes an entirely different sort of person. The guys who transition from professional sports careers to broadcasting careers take it to a whole ‘nother level.
Men who rode the bench in high school and have trouble working multisyllabic words into their vocabulary have a right to sound angry. They know they could have been better, could have been contenders, and all they have left is sports talk radio. It fires them up, and it’s enough.
The echo in their voices come from more than their mom’s basement. It comes from a measure of regret, and carries an important message: Live right and play hard, you only get one chance.
If Chael Sonnen is working on it, maybe you should too.