When you have many show hosts covering similar topics and writing many blogs, odds are eventually there will be some crossover. In fact, I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often. So today, when I saw my show partner Kayte’s excellent blog here, I laughed.
I was about halfway through writing something on the same topic, and figured the early (and very tall) bird got the worm, but I’ve decided to post anyway. Mainly? Because this is a very important topic that we are all in a sense dealing with.
“Stick to Sports”, as Kayte put it, is a refrain anyone in sports media is used to by now. Especially when posting on social media, we will often throw in the occasional personal opinion on the world as well as our sports takes. An audience conditioned to talk Kings, Giants, UFC, and other sports with me may suffer a whiplash of sorts when finding politics in their “sports feed”.
Its a conundrum for sure.
For me, if I wasn’t in sports talk radio, I would probably be in politics in some form or another. I have always had a keen interest in the workings of the world, and I feel a little guilty complaining about things without rolling up my sleeves and getting dirty. When the Kings were leaving for Seattle, I really got my first insight in community organizing, and was able to work quite closely within the political sphere during the process of retaining the team. I was hooked.
Inevitably, when I leave radio, I will get involved in the political arena. I’ve never shared this before, but I was very close last year to letting my contract with KHTK expire, and running for Roberta MacGlashan’s county supervisor seat that was opening up in my district. I went so far as to take a few meetings on building a campaign committee, securing funding, and lining up a campaign staff. My experience with the Kings’ situation had given me some very valuable contacts and connections, and I think we would’ve made a run of it.
In the end, after talking with my family and also my KHTK family, the time just wasn’t right. I wasn’t ready to leave radio and sit in meetings all day, I still had much to say. And once I leave radio, I don’t want to come back. I want to open another chapter in the book, leaving the rest (fondly) behind. So I declined.
My point is, politics and the workings of government are a big deal to me. I don’t claim to be an expert by any means, but it is a major point of interest in my life. Regardless of your leanings politically, to say that the last couple of years have carried an extremely passionate election cycle would be an understatement.
So now Donald Trump is our president (still sounds crazy to say), and the water cooler talk has been dominated by this very subject. As we begin his first 100 days, every day contains a new news cycle where something dramatic seems to be happening. Other than sports, THIS is what I’ve been watching lately, and its tough to turn that part of my brain off for 3 hours each day, especially when it intersects with sports.
On this morning’s show, we covered the story of Tom Brady and his friendship with the new Commander-in-Chief. The subject met all the parameters necessary to make it worthy of discussion:
-Super Bowl week, star QB
-The President of the United States
-Passion on both sides of the conversation
That’s all I need. We asked whether or not Brady’s politics should matter to the fanbase, and analyzed why he might be reticent to talk about them publicly.
It was a lively and spirited conversation. The phones lit up, the text line was like a slot machine, and the segment flew by. These are the topics as a show host I absolutely love: great topic, good debate, no clear right answer, and passion. But a bug was in my ear as well.
For every 20 comments on the subject, the text and twitter response carried a message: “Stick to Sports”. Now on the surface, my reflexive reaction is “Stick to Being a Listener”. Of course this is a snarky and condescending message from me, but who the hell are they to tell me what to “stick to”.
Well….they’re my audience. They pay the bills, and they are ultimately my boss. I have to respect all opinions.
So a decision needs to be made. On one hand, I respect the “stick to sports” guy. Politics and “real life” are everywhere. People come to sports talk (or music) to escape. If they wanted to talk about Trump or whatever, they would tune into many of the news talk outlets we have in Sacramento, or watch them on TV. Everywhere people turn these days, politics dominate the culture and conversation. Is it that egregious to as that a sports show simply talk about sports? You don’t see Anderson Cooper and Shepard Smith breaking down the Packers failure against the Falcons, right?
But here’s the rub- I couldn’t do a show like that. Every show I’ve ever been in charge of has had one simple rule: what would we talk about at a sports bar? Is it compelling? Is is passionate? Is there a good debate? When I’m talking with my buddies, and Kayte and Nate (and the audience by extension) are my buddies, sure the conversation is dominated by whatever sports thing is top of mind. But then maybe we switch and talk about that new swimsuit model, or that weird commercial we saw, that TV show that is great (or sucks), or…….politics.
I can’t live in a bubble where I just pretend the real world isn’t happening. Sure, the show will always be dominated by sports talk, but I just can’t be afraid of pissing off a few people because we are speaking about what’s on our mind. Yes, being preachy and partisan and developing a bully pulpit is wrong, and kind of gross. I recognize that the listeners have many diverse opinions, be it on our government, sports, or the best tasting candy. I love it. And I want to explore it..
My biggest issue in today’s society is we don’t have enough conversations with each other. All we do is yell. I try to talk on social media, but 80% of it spirals into a bark fest where everyone is basically a snowflake, racist, needs a safe space, or a nazi. That’s pretty much it. You have people on both sides that are so entrenched in their beliefs, they simply can’t acknowledge anything positive on the other side. Their way is correct, and if you disagree, you’re just a flat out moron.
That’s not right.
If, in the space of a post or conversation on social media, I have people accusing me of being partisan on both sides (i.e. “you’re obviously a republican” or “don’t push your liberal views on me”), I know I’m doing it right. We are so spread apart screaming at each other from both sides, we don’t explore the gray area. And yes, there is gray area. Some may not see it, but there is. And if you don’t, you’re part of the problem, not the solution.
I ran a twitter poll today, asking if I should create a separate account to talk about politics on. That way it wouldn’t muddy up the two. I was honestly shocked at the results:
As of Tuesday evening, almost 600 votes, and 75% said no, keep expressing all views on my one twitter account.
I honestly expected the results to be flipped the other way, and was prepared to make another account. But the responses were very educational, with most echoing what I said above: people want to hear what others are passionate about, and they can choose to mute or unfollow any account they wish. Its exactly how I felt, I just wasn’t sure others felt the same way.
Ultimately, it comes down to a simple truth: you just have to be yourself. Sure I worry about listeners and ratings. We are all a family, and with all the choices people have out there to entertain themselves, it still blows me away when people choose to listen to us yammer in the morning.
Think about that responsibility: people wake up, and whatever they consume both mentally and physically can have a profound effect on their mood for the next 12 hours. There are podcasts, music, and tons of radio stations out there. For someone to choose to listen to us try to inform/entertain them still blows me away. I’ll never get used to it, and I take it as a huge honor and responsibility. I try to respond to every tweet and text, and when a listener has a criticism, I take it to heart.
But you gotta be yourself, its the only way it will work.
So in the upcoming months, as football season dies, and basketball comes down the home stretch, we will be opening up a bit more in the mornings. No, we aren’t turning into a variety show, we will still talk about sports and all the aspects of the sporting world the vast majority of the time. And we will also talk about the “real world.” Its the only way it can be.
Maybe some will leave. Maybe they will roll their eyes and wonder how these three yahoos are qualified to talk about any of this stuff (newsflash: we aren’t). But we are members of the same local community, we drive the same streets and have the same issues you do. This isn’t a nationally syndicated program talking to the audience from 50,000 feet. So are we qualified? Kind of.
We are simply fellow citizens. We are the guys at the sports bar that hopefully look fun to sit next to and strike up a conversation. And today, sports are more important than ever. We may be Republicans and Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives, but we all speak the universal language of sports. We may not agree with each other all the time, or even some of the time, but we can all come together in one universal truth:
The Lakers are trash.
Would love to hear your comments, on either Facebook or Twitter (@carmichaeldave), or in the comments below. And in case you aren’t on twitter, I’ll ask you: