When you write for a newspaper, you can’t simply write anything that pops into your head. You have to answer to editors. There is accountability.
But when you are a radio sports-talk show host, you apparently answer to no one. There is no accountability.
Be outrageous, be vulgar, be tasteless, be inaccurate. Only one thing matters: Don’t be boring.
Blame it on the success of Howard Stern, or blame it on a decaying society. Sports-talk radio is out of control.
Last Friday, on XTRA 690, the “Loose Cannons,” Steve Hartman and Bill Werndl, did their afternoon show from Hartman’s home. Problem was, they didn’t know that was what they were doing. They thought they had the afternoon off. At least that’s what they claimed on the air Monday.
They said they thought they were watching NCAA tournament games in the privacy of Hartman’s home and that they did not know their producer, Milton Hines, with the blessing of station management, had planted hidden microphones.
What ended up going out over the air was a raunchy “candid radio” show filled with four-letter words and dumb, bad-taste jokes.
On Monday, Hartman apologized to those who were offended by the language, including his mother. Werndl also apologized, and even Hines came on the air to apologize.
This is the same group that got into trouble in October for having an impersonator come on the air and pretend to be a drunk Dan Dierdorf.
On XTRA 1150 Tuesday night, at about 11:50, the “Sports Gods,” Dave Smith and Joey Haim, were talking about a woman whom they called a “sports-talk groupie.”
“You can get gonorrhea by just talking to her on the phone,” Haim said.
This wasn’t a public figure they were talking about, or a fictional character. This was a real person’s reputation they were tarnishing.
Nothing wrong with having some fun, showing some creativity, expressing opinions and taking advantage of the freedoms we enjoy in this country. But sports-talk radio often goes too far.
Finally, something is being done. Two hockey superstars, Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Eric Lindros of the Philadelphia Flyers, are taking a stand and threatening to sue two sports-talk stations in separate cases.
The Lemieux case involves a talk-show host at Pittsburgh’s WTAE who suggested that Lemieux pushed for the team to acquire Petr Klima because Lemieux’s wife and Klima’s wife were lesbian lovers.
The Lindros case involves a host at Philadelphia’s WIP who said Lindros was suspended for a Feb. 15 game against Pittsburgh because he had a hangover. The Flyers said he sat out the game because of a back injury.
If Lemieux and Lindros sue, they have little chance of winning. Both are public figures and they must prove the stories are not true and that the hosts knew they weren’t true. Also, the courts recognize the freewheeling nature of talk radio.
But then no one thought Carol Burnett could win a $1.6-million judgment against the National Enquirer, and that case prompted a flood of other suits.
At least the threat of lawsuits might cause some in sports-talk radio to show a little more professionalism.
There have been two things basically wrong with CBS’ coverage of the NCAA tournament. First, split screens don’t work--unless you have a 50-inch screen. Second, and more important, there are simply too many games through the first three rounds for one network to cover.
One solution would be for CBS to do something similar to what ESPN did with the first two rounds of women’s tournament. Only a few games during the first two rounds were on ESPN or ESPN2--USC’s game against Florida on Monday night was among those that weren’t--but subscribers to ESPN Full Court, a pay service available on satellite dish systems, got every women’s tournament game at no extra charge. The service supplied about 450 men’s games during the regular season for $79.
The technology is there to give viewers what they want. For instance, DirecTV’s MLB Extra Innings, which costs $139 for the season ($119 if you order before March 31), will deliver as many as 35 out-of-market baseball games every week of the season.
Maybe by next year CBS and the NCAA tournament people can figure out a way to take advantage of the technology so anyone who wants to watch a particular game from start to finish will have that option.
Although there wasn’t much doubt, Fox Sports West 2 on Thursday announced that Vin Scully, Ross Porter and Rick Monday will be the announcers on its 40-game Dodger package. . . . ESPN has hired former major league pitcher Joe Magrane as a baseball analyst and is close to a deal with former Texas and Boston manager Kevin Kennedy. . . . “Lawless,” the new Fox action drama starring Brian Bosworth, premieres Saturday at 9 p.m. . . . Ready for prime-time rodeo? Fox will show the world championships from Las Vegas on April 5, 9-10 p.m. Terry Bradshaw will be one of the announcers.
Attention boxing fans: Tonight, HBO offers an attractive doubleheader from Atlantic City, N.J., at 6:30. David Reid, the only U.S. gold-medal winner in 1996, faces Sam Calderon in the first fight, and then it’s Roy Jones Jr. vs. Montell Griffin in the main event. . . . On TVKO pay-per-view at 6 p.m. Saturday will be the much-anticipated Azumah Nelson-Genaro Hernandez fight from Corpus Christi, Texas, with Rich Marotta and Doug Krikorian calling the action. The undercard includes a Michael Carbajal fight and a Butterbean fight.
Attention golfers: A new one-hour instructional show, “High Performance Golf,” with Roger Maltbie as host, makes its debut on NBC Saturday at noon. . . . Attention soccer fans: XTRA 690 on Saturday, 9-10 a.m., begins carrying a weekly soccer talk show that focuses on the Galaxy. Joe Tutino, Rick Davis and Matt Cohen will be the hosts. . . . Irv Kaze will have two legends on his KIEV 870 show tonight at 6:15, Scully and The Times’ Jim Murray. Both will be in the studio for the full hour. Next Friday, Kaze will celebrate the fifth anniversary of his show by looking back at memorable Final Four moments.
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What Los Angeles Is Watching
A sampling of L.A. Nielsen ratings for sports programs March 15-16.
Event Ch. Rating Share College basketball: Xavier vs. UCLA 2 10.7 23 College basketball: Col. of Charleston vs. Arizona 2 6.9 19 College basketball: California vs. Villanova 2 5.5 16 College basketball: North Carolina vs. Colorado 2 4.8 14 Track and field: World Indoor Championships 4 3.0 9 Golf: Honda Classic at Coral Springs, Fla. 7 2.2 6 Hockey: Calgary at Kings 9 2.0 4 Bowling: PBA Showboat at Las Vegas 7 0.8 3
Event Ch. Rating Share College basketball: UNC Charlotte vs. Utah 2 7.0 19 College basketball: Stanford vs. Wake Forest 2 6.4 17 College basketball: Duke vs. Providence 2 5.3 14 Pro basketball: Houston at Miami 4 3.6 10 Soccer: World Cup qualifying, Costa Rica vs. Mexico 34 3.5 9 Golf: Honda Classic at Coral Springs, Fla. 4 2.6 7 Baseball: Montreal vs. Dodgers 5 2.5 6 Hockey: Calgary at Mighty Ducks 9 1.5 3 Soccer: World Cup qualifying, Canada vs. U.S. 7 1.3 3
Note: Each rating point represents 49,424 L.A. households.