Driving to work today, I was listening to a bit of the Dennis & Callahan Show on sports talk station WEEI. The hosts were talking quite a bit about the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. And I wasn't surprised. They often sprinkle their sports talk with right-leaning chatter about news and politics. A big event, like this one, can mean a wholesale shift away from sports for 10 minutes or 30 minutes or an hour.
The segment I heard was reasonably intelligent and respectful by sports radio standards. But it was still pretty ill-informed, compared to the opening segment of On Point, the NPR talk show I switched to as I got closer to the office. There, it was David Hemenway, professor of health policy at Harvard University, rattling off statistics about homicide and suicide rates and the impact of guns on both.
I found myself wondering, again, why the Hemenways of the world aren't calling into sports radio on occassion.
Sure, talk radio - in the main - is tough terrain. For someone like Hemenway, calling Rush Limbaugh's show would be a useless endeavor. But most sports talk hosts, even the most bombastic, have some sense for their blind spots - some willingness to air expert points of view on subjects they don't understand. And more importantly their audiences are a bit more centrist and a bit more persuadable than Limbaugh's listeners - or On Point's listeners, for that matter.
They are, in other words, exactly the audience that advocates - on any side of an issue - should be trying to reach. Forget NPR. Sports radio is the real public square.
Someone should be organizing the sports radio project.