Media Review: Roundtable on WJOX

I decided to take at least one hour of my life and devote it to listening to the major sport radio programs around the state (or at least the ones available online or over-the-air in the Birmingham-Tuscaloosa-Anniston I-20 corridor.)

I had planned on listening to the Opening Drive this morning, but a few commitments kept me from being able to listen. So, I’ll try to grab an hour to listen to that Friday morning or early next week. On to Plan B.

The Roundtable show airs Monady-Friday 10 a.m.-2 p.m. It features on-air personalities Lance Taylor and Ian Fitzsimmons. I said personalities instead of sports journalists because even the hosts claim to be entertainers rather than journalists.

And that is precisely the problem with the show.

Listening to sports “experts” in a newsroom, or on talk radio is different today than a few years ago—gone are real journalists and in their place are blowhards. Everyone wants to make the sardonic ESPN SportsCenter type comments.

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Does anyone remember when SportsCenter was about sports instead of the wisecracking hosts? I think that was back when MTV actually showed music videos. And when Australian Rules Football, or America’s Cup yacht races were shown on the total sports network.

But sometime during the 1990’s ESPN lost its way. Entertainment trumped sports. It was about the same time NBC ruined the Olympics—turning it from a celebration of athletics into a daytime soap opera with personal profiles of athletes.

Talk radio/sports radio has followed the same path. Hiring blowhards instead of journalists.

Who knew these guys would make me yearn to hear Herb Winches and Ben Cook again?

While Winches had his Miami Dolphin story, he was still someone who took his job seriously. He was interested in keeping the hyperbole to a minimum, and talk about sports.

The sad thing about the show is that both Fitzsimmons and Taylor know sports. They just hide it behind obnoxious turgidity.

Mostly the obnoxious behavior comes from Fitzsimmons. He tries to push fans into a reaction by saying outrageous things. Taylor was much better prior to Fitzsimmons.

One of the highlights of the program was an interview with a real journalist. (I’m using that term very loosely here…). Birmingham News columnist Kevin Scarbinsky appeared on the show during the 11 a.m. hour. Topics included the basketball situation at Alabama, Indiana’s NCAA situation, and the Clemens testimony before Congress.

Scarbinsky was far more interesting on the radio than in most of his columns.

Late in the 11 o’clock hour, the show spent time talking about entertainment instead of sports. Same for the noon hour.

A credit to Fitzsimmons and Taylor is the show is much better when those two are talking than when listening to callers. I’ve often said the worst things about the Paul Finebaum show are the callers.

One laughable moment was when Fitzsimmons called NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell smug. Fitzsimmons then said Goddell destroyed the Patriot Spygate tapes because the NFL had something to hide. It begs the question, who is he hiding it from? Loud mouths on talk radio?

Ultimately, shows like the Roundtable raise questions about why people listen to sports and news talk radio. Why do people listen? Usually it is for information, not entertainment. Presentation matters, but the Rountable’s presentation often ruins the experience. It is worth listening to, because both hosts are talented; however, it could be much better if the hosts focused on reasonable talk instead of bravado. They should stop trying to push buttons, and focus on the storylines of sports in Alabama.