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August 8, 2012 by David Gillaspie

A foundation block for sports fans, along with attending games, or watching on television, is sports talk radio.

Love it, or hate it, superstars line up for interviews and fans tune in. So should you.

There’s something special about living in a high-tech world of smart phones, tablets, and Curiosity where there’s room for something as basic as radio.

How basic? One version of emergency/camp ready radio comes with a hand-crank. As long as you turn the handle you hear broadcasts. You can still make a radio with no battery or power cord, just a wire antennae, a tuning coil of copper wire, and a crystal like galena. Add a pair of headphones and you’re ready to rock.

Try building a computer tower with ingredients from your broom closet. John Canzano‘s voice won’t come through that rig any time soon.

You probably don’t have a crystal set in the entertainment cabinet, but if you’re a sports fan in the Portland metro area and own a radio, it’s likely pre-set to 1080 The Fan, and 750 The Game.

Those two stations cover sports, local and national, and send broadcast teams to live events. One of them flies an ESPN banner, the other links to Fox Sports.

The superstar of local talk radio left town a few years ago. He’s a superstar by the way his career continues to blossom.  Colin Cowherd was a television sports guy before he added local radio to his work load. He went all in when he moved to the ESPN campus in Connecticut.

But switching from television to radio reverses the usual migration.

If you’ve got the chops and the looks for television, you take it and run with it. If you’ve got the chops without the looks, radio is home base. How many times have you seen radio guys and thought, “perfect face for radio?” That’s not true anymore.

More than one radio personality does their show with cameras in the studio. Radio has breached the final barrier. Even Colin Cowherd jumped from television to radio and back on a national television show. And he’s looking good all the way.

It’s all good until it’s not.

The problems on sports talk radio come on slow days when hosts fill time with their own issues. Worse still when a guest host starts spinning out of control. A recent show came from an east coast feed where it seems gargling with gravel is the vocal warm-up for going live.

A guest talker explained his health problems. He reported he is morbidly obese and diagnosed with Type II diabetes. If anyone ought to read Sherry Bonecat’s columns on, it’s him. In a low growl the radio man explained one of the complications of being diabetic and obese: frequent urination.

Sports talk or health talk? Neither one prepared listeners for what came next.

The host said he uses a trash can as a bathroom during the show do he doesn’t miss any air time. And he can’t get up and walk very well. Here’s a guy talking sports? Picture that. Better yet, don’t. In his next breath the man described an accident with the trash can. He called for one of the women on staff to get a mop and clean the floor.

There is no day slow enough in sports to include this guy’s routine. And that’s what it was, some of his shtick. At the end of the segment he plugged his comedy act a local club. Sports comedy? Should have guessed he was a comedian, except he wasn’t funny.

Local shows carry a format familiar to sports fans. A two man team usually includes a company man, a radio pro who can tell time and get the ads read, along with an athlete of big or small renown. The radio pro handles the entry and exit duties; the celebrity athlete plays the role of ‘everyman.’

You’ve met ‘everyman’, the guy who acts like he’s confused enough to need guidance, yet knows exactly where he’s headed. Apparently speaking in a high voice is one of the requirements for the celebrity athlete chair, which is odd because one station airs former offensive linemen, positions randomly described as ‘big uglies,’ by coaches.

Perfect for radio.

Big strong men with high voices spells broadcasting success as much as an Oregonian sports columnist with a high voice gets it done. Listening to these guys is a joy after experiencing the swampy croak of their east coast brothers, which includes Chicago.

Hosts cover the bases, but the biggest benefit of sports radio comes from the callers. On a national show the lines fill with voices from every point on the compass rose. It’s a linguistic carnival that echoes from a Kentucky holler to a down-east twang.

On local shows you learn more about Portland than you ever wanted to know. Oregon is full of transplants. A Texas voice from Gresham, or Iowa voice in Hillsboro fits in with the sixth-generation Oregonian from Oregon City and calls from the east side. They mesh and spin topics until you find a better handle on sports, your job, even your relationship.

Even in sports talk radio relationships are king. When men talk about the women in their lives, and their kids, along with the Portland Timbers, Trail Blazers, and local athletes on the biggest stages, you hear the true meaning of sports. Do you have trouble explaining complicated issues to the women and children in your life? Use a sports metaphor.

When your kid gets caught cheating, break out Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron to explain how dishonesty creates a ripple effect that rocks every boat the wrong way.

If your household suffers an outbreak of lying, find the story of Marion Jones giving back her Olympic medals and going to jail.

The next time you are the problem, smooth it over with CIP, Chad In Portland. You’ll find him on the Morning Sports Page, 750 AM.

Anywhere Hall and Oats and sports meet is where you need to be.

While counseling and therapy work for most, sports talk radio deserves a chance. Hook up your crystal set, crank up the emergency receiver, and let the show take you where you need to go.

(posted on

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