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Barnestorming: Caller ID? How About Caller IQ?

by Steve Barnes
Oct 10, 2013 4:37 PM EDT



I am not sure Paul Finebaum, Johnny “Ballpark” Franks and Scott McKinney are fishermen, but they should be. They are the most patient men I know since they are sports radio talk show hosts.

Speaking of patients, a lot of their callers should be just that in various state-run institutions.

The three gentlemen have three things in common. First, they are sports radio talk show hosts. Second, they are educated and qualified for their occupations after having spent years in journalism, broadcasting and college sports information. Finally, third, they have to put up with idiots on a daily basis.

Before the said idiots go off on me, let me explain.

You all believe yourselves to be sports fans. That is fine. The aforementioned gentlemen and I were also sports fans in our time before we took jobs that forced us to be objective. I am sure we are all still sports fans. But that is where the hosts and writers differ from the callers.

We were once fans, not fanatics. There is a difference between the two.

I am not saying all hosts are good at their craft. These three men are. I’ve met many who are not. There is a guy in a market where I used to live who wants to be Jim Rome — basically a sports “shock jock” — he even sounds like him. And he tells callers they have no idea what they are saying.

Neither does the host. I am positive he has never covered a college game or even a high school contest. I am not sure he has even attended to one.

Another person once told me she hated her job because for the morning show she had to be up at 5 for “show prep.” I asked what she did. She watched ESPN’s SportsCenter. Twice.

Most sports fans I know watch the show. What did she bring? Nothing.

As bad as the hosts were, the callers can be worse.

Just because you are an Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State, Texas, USC, Florida or LSU fan, remember one thing. The people you criticize on the radio actually see the teams on a daily basis in the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and the ACC. Most callers, at best, have a season ticket and see six games a year.

I spoke to McKinney to ask what about his worst call ever. There was a guy who waited 3:50 to get on the air. That means three hours and 50 minutes. What did he hold on that long to say to the public? “Roll Tide." That’s all. There wasn’t a garage sale going on or something?

Franks had a great one too. He was once called a “buffoon.” Franks asked for the caller to spell it. The caller couldn’t.

My favorite was a person who called to tell me my column was wrong. The person had read two lines, then called me. She disagreed with a point I had made, but neglected to read the next three paragraphs that proved my conclusion. She told me I could not say what I wanted without proof.

I let her know I had three people, including the person about whom I had written, who agreed with me. She said that was not enough because I was wrong. I asked her opinion and she yelled she just knew she was right. She could also say anything she wanted if she wanted to.

In other words, I had proven I had not done what she accused me of doing, she had done it herself. She can say anything she wants without any facts.

There is a difference between sports fans and sports fanatics.

A sports fan can separate emotion and fact.

The best sports fans I’ve ever witnessed — and this is tough since I am from the South — were from the University of Nebraska. I’ve only been there for one game, but I had been told about the Cornhuskers’ “Sea of Red” in Memorial Stadium, that the fans were classy and knowledgeable.

Walking out of the tunnel in that stadium is still the most awe-inspiring thing I’ve seen in college football. The night before the game, some fans were informed I was there to cover the opponent. The fans greeted me and knew about the team I had followed all season.

Nebraska fans get it.

My friend Tony gets it. He is from Ohio, yet is a Michigan fan. Last week I asked him how hard he was rooting for Wisconsin to beat the Buckeyes.

Tony said he wasn’t. He wanted OSU to go undefeated and be ranked high so his Wolverines could knock them off the block and out of the national and Big Ten title games.

Tony gets it.

Think about it, for example, Alabama fans. The year Auburn came into Tuscaloosa ready for a national title run and with a soon-to-be Heisman winner, did you like taking it to the Tigers in the first half of that game? Sure, Bama lost, but I have friends who consider that first half a great thing.

Last year, the Tide beat Auburn, 49-0, and the game was over before that. What had more enjoyment? Beating a national-title bound team for a half or crushing a team that had not won a conference game?

For the sports fanatics, please consider three factors before calling a sports talk show.

First, have a point. If your point is your team is good, refrain from saying this: “Ah, alright, alright, my (insert school here) is the best. Alright, alright? You know I am friggin’ right, alright, alright. And alright, alright, everyone knows I am friggin’ right, alright, alright?”

You have no need to say that and take up two minutes. Simply “My (team here) is better than yours,” works.

Second, listen to the other side of the argument. If a caller says something stupid and an expert — and that means someone who gets paid for analyzing college football — might know different information, shut up and listen and think about it. That person might have information you don't.

Finally, don’t yell. If a host proves to you that your point is either a non-point or invalid, shut up. When you scream into the phone the same thing that has been shot down, it does not make your point a valid one. You just sound stupid at a louder volume.

Still, many callers will ignore that advice for one reason: They want to hear their own voice on the radio and can call their buddies to make sure they heard him.

If a friend of mine called a show and was proven wrong and they yelled and then he called me, I’d tell them to not call me anymore because he is embarrassing.

This has been a long column and I believe the callers I am describing have stopped reading a few minutes ago. If you happen to be here still, I’d love to hear how what I have written is inaccurate. Notice I did not say what was wrong. I want to know what was inaccurate. I don’t believe anything that I have written is wrong. I can be reached at acceditor_barnes@yahoo.com, or if you can figure it out, you can leave a message here.

For the sports fans out there, please keep calling with thoughtful questions and have the ability to see other sides of things.

For the fanatics, stop calling these shows. There are several stores that sell recording devices. If you feel the need to hear your own voice screaming stupid things, buy one. Then you can listen to yourself all day. But for the rest of us, you are giving our ears a well-needed rest.

Happy fishing, guys.