scandal, mules and the future of local sports radio

I was riding home from the theater a few weeks ago when I noticed a big sign on the side of the road that read “Avenue of the Athletes”. I’ve driven from downtown Los Angeles to Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard many times but I never noticed the sign before. It turns out that there is a section of Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park with plaques of sports figures embedded in the sidewalk. We like that kind of thing here. We have the Hollywood Walk of Fame, stars for famous entertainers, and RockWalk, handprints of famous rock musicians at The Guitar Center. You do not, however, see many tourists wandering around the Avenue of the Athletes taking pictures of plaques. I have lived here seven years and never knew it existed. A customer in an Echo Park pet store had to direct me to the plaques.

Avenue of the Athletes was erected for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. I suppose it is in Echo Park because Dodger Stadium is nearby. I assume that the athletes all have a connection to Los Angeles. Tommy Lasorda is obvious but I’m not too sure about Ralph Guldahl. There are plaques for a number of Olympic athletes. Sammy Lee won gold medals in diving at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics. He grew up in a Korean American family in Los Angeles. At one point his family tried to move onto Sunset Boulevard adjacent to the block where his plaque now lies but the family was asked to leave one week later. People did not want Asian Americans neighbors, “no chinks, no Japs.” Lee is also known for mentoring the young Greg Louganis.

I was driving from downtown because I had seen School for Scandal, a play by Richard Sheridan first performed in 1774. There are two brothers in the play named Joseph and Charles Surface, presumably for the depth of their sincerity. Charles is a wastrel. He spends all day at the local pub and sells off his belongings, including the family silver and portraits, to support his lifestyle. His saving grace is that he is a very honest and open guy. Joseph is seemingly a paragon of virtue but is, in reality, a lying schemer. Errol Morris recently wrote an editorial in the New York Times explaining that John Kerry lost the election because he tried to fudge his opposition to the Vietnam War. People do not like to vote for fudgers. Kerry really did oppose the Vietnam War. Bush made no bones about it. He didn’t go to war. Instead, he hid out in the National Guard. He should thank his lucky stars he isn’t serving in the Guard during his current war. Not only that, but Bush said he was a drinker and a carouser and a ne’er-do-well until he became a born-again Christian and turned his life around. You could say that the recent election featured one candidate who was a self-admitted wastrel and another who was a lying schemer.

Do you know what mules are? Not the animals, silly. I’ve been reading a book called The Surrender by Toni Bentley. It’s the memoir of a woman’s search for faith through anal sex, a version of sex only recently deemed legal in this backward country of ours. Bentley writes that during sex she wore high-heeled mules and, evidently, kept them on as long as she could. The point at which the mules fell off was an indication that she had reached a full state of ecstasy. I was at the theater with my friend Barbara who had no idea what mules were either. So, during intermission of School for Scandal, we surfed the internet on her cell phone and found a website explaining that mules are bareback shoes.

I’ve never surfed the web on a cellphone before and it got me thinking. If I had an iPod-like machine and it ran an iTunes-like program, and if the machine was wireless and could connect to Sprint, Verizon, or AT&T just like a cellphone, then I could have my little iPod thingy with me and my ear buds and wherever I roamed I could listen to any sports radio station in the world that streams on the internet. I could listen to the Two Live Stews in Atlanta or Pardon the Interruption on ESPN. I could listen to a cricket match at the Adelaide Oval in Australia. And I could probably use it as a radio TiVo to automatically record any radio program I choose.

There would be no more local sports radio. Every radio show would be not only national but international. Why do I care about this? It might be the only way to improve local sports radio. I’m an inveterate sports radio channel-flipping listener. Of course I change the channel every time another ad for male private parts comes on the air. How many Viagra and Cialis ads am I expected to listen to? But I also flip channels to get away from the incessant, infantile name-calling and juvenile homophobia.

Until Rudy Tomjanovich got ill and resigned from coaching the Los Angeles Lakers, Dave Smith repeatedly called him Coach Gump and played sound clips from Forrest Gump every time the subject came up. He has similarly negative names for players on the team. If you persist in calling a player or coach by such a name, you cannot possibly present an objective opinion about that team. Some times it’s their fellow workers. A few weeks ago Joe McDonnell called one of his assistants an idiot on air because a promised interview turned into a probable interview. And that’s not unusual for him. You can have your man card taken away. You can hear jokes about sexual activities in prison. Sportscasters accuse each other, while nervously laughing, of being light in the loafers. Definitely enough to make me change the channel extremely quickly.

There would be no more local sports radio. Every radio show would be not only national but international. Why do I care about this? It might be the only way to improve local sports radio.

My theory is that exposure to a greater audience should bring greater tolerance and a more enlightened view of the human experience, sports being one of those experiences. The more worldly one’s exposure, often the more tolerant and open minded a person becomes. There are examples that disprove this theory. Jim Rome’s show airs nationally. He spent part of a recent show discussing the record for sailing around the world set by the British sailor Ellen MacArthur. Rome wondered why she didn’t just take an airplane. They get around the world in a number of hours not days. He didn’t seem too concerned that Nascar drivers take so long to get around a racetrack. Clearly his reach does not extend very far beyond our borders.

You could say that there are so many local sports radio shows streaming already that the moment is already here and where is the improvement? But I’d guess that a very high percentage of listeners are on their radio, not their computer. Philadelphia is considering turning the entire ity into a wifi hotspot. You won’t have to go to Starbucks to get wireless DSL, you’ll be able to get it anywhere in the city limits. It can only help.