December 28, 2009
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Sports Talk

The iPod transmitter in my car went up in smoke, and while I figure out how to replace it I’ve fallen back on the radio. It’s no longer safe to listen to politics on the road, so the alternatives are music and sports.

Music is hard as well, because one of Boston’s excellent PBS outlets “saved” WCRB, Boston’s very mediocre classical music station, and so absolved itself from the need to carry classical music. Instead of a bad classical station and a part-time classical station, we have a bad classical station that shows some glimmers of improvement. They continue to play isolated movements of symphonies and concerti, which is deplorable, and even to cut off movements in mid-stream, which is worse.

Announcers use the time between pieces to tell us how they enjoy the composition or the performance. When they do so, they seldom if ever mention something specific: it’s always a purely personal and emotional response.

And then we come to sports radio, where suddenly we have two major Boston outlets. The old one is bad, the new one is only slightly better. Both dwell endlessly and rumours and feed the specious idea that professional atheletes are just like high school players, only better -- that they need to be inspired and disciplined in exactly the way the pundit (or the caller) experienced back in JV.

And, weirdly, it’s as if these guys don’t know what they’re talking about. They do: I once read an account of a job interview for one of these positions, and the first handshake for the out-of-town sports anchor was a list of ten hard Boston sports history questions.

Last week, for example, I sat through twenty minutes of belly-aching over how the Yankees were bound to outbid the Red Sox for Joe Mauer, the Twins’ phenomenal young catcher, when Mauer becomes a free agent next year. At no point in this repetitious rant did the host mention any of the following facts — all of which, surely, he knows better than I, and all of which seem very pertinent.

This is stuff that a sports pundit could tell people. It’s not obscure or secret, but if you don’t happen to read the right story, you wouldn’t know. I simply happened to stumble across Kevin Goldstein’s BP story (sorry, paywall) the same day. But sportscasters are paid to know this stuff; why note talk sense, at least part of the time?

And don't get me started on steroids. How is it that getting a cortisone shot is good, and getting your tendon stapled to your bloody sock is good, and little cheats to get an edge — blocking the plate, phantom tags, hard slides, judicious spitters — are good, but taking some over-the-counter diet supplement that isn’t against the rules is, by sports talk rules, a ghastly moral failure?