In the talk radio business, we all pretty much follow a similar formula for deciding what gets covered on our respective shows. We scour the news, search the internet, collect suggested stories from our producers, and even include various life experiences before deciding what should be discussed during our on-air shifts.
For me, the constant determining factor is whether or not a story or topic is relevant to the average listener. In fact, I picture a typical news/talk fan in my mind -- say, a 40 year old man or woman, actively involved in their community, usually well-informed and politically savvy -- before deciding whether or not to cover a story on my daily national radio show.
The story of the NBA referee who is alleged to have gambled on games he officiated is such a story.
At first glance, this appears to be a sports story. And since I’m not a sports talk show host (there are plenty of them), I tend to avoid sports stories.
But this really is a much bigger event than just another headache in the NBA. This is a morality tale, a time when, not unlike the magical Don McLean song that laments “the day the music died”, this is a story that has shattered the last vestiges of innocence and trust in the sports world.
It’s the day that a professional sports official is said to have cheated.
We’ve watched the steady decline of behavior by supposed role models in professional sports for years now. Maybe it started with Pete Rose and his gambling scandal. Perhaps it was when we were first exposed to the performance-enhancing drug use by so many athletes.
We winced when we watched our superstar athletes give the middle finger to booing fans or throw a chair into the stands and break a woman’s nose or we heard about off-field and off-court sexual and criminal antics by men behaving like drunken frat boys instead of respected multi-millionaires.
Through it all, it felt like we just had to endure the actions of the players, maybe realizing that it can’t be easy for a young, tough athletic warrior to be handed the keys to the kingdom because he could run, hit, or catch a ball better than most everybody else.
It’s not difficult to imagine what many of these thug athletes would be doing if they weren’t so talented at their respective sport. A third shift at Wendy’s or a middle level manager at a car wash comes to mind.
But we love our baseball, basketball, and football. So we shrug it all off and keep watching the games, expecting the next great catch or our team to win the next world championship.