A rhetoric of sports talk radio

A rhetoric of sports talk radio

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A rhetoric of sports talk radio
Reffue, John D
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University of South Florida
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Media studies
Popular culture
Performance studies
Dissertations, Academic -- Communication -- Doctoral -- USF
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ABSTRACT: Sports talk radio is a broadcast format that has grown exponentially through the 1990's and into the early part of the twenty-first century. Academic publications about the format, especially qualitative analyses, have been extremely limited and previous radio content researchers have called for a more in-depth study of talk radio, in particular the relationships between and among callers, hosts and the listening audience. This study examines sports talk radio as a format separate from political talk radio programming. An evolution of the format from its roots as a broadcast novelty to the modern day stand-alone genre is traced, including an examination of select individuals who pioneered the genre and advanced it against high industry skepticism.From September 13, 2004 though September 17, 2004, programming was tape recorded both from a nationally syndicated sports talk radio program (The Jim Rome Show) and a locally broadcast program (The Steve Duemig Show). Calls from^ listeners of the shows were transcribed to isolate patterns and recurring themes that may be emblematic of the format specifically. In the case of The Jim Rome Show, callers were found to employ specific strategy to gain favor with the host and ultimately become celebrated parts of the show in their own right. The concept of intertextuality is introduced to help describe the strategy used by callers to Rome's show, the highest rated nationally syndicated sports talk show in the country. Additionally, local sports talk programming is examined to isolate how callers utilize that format to deepen their experiences as sports fans by using the format as a vehicle toward empowerment. Issues of identity, both individually and as a community, come together in the study of local sports talk radio as callers, hosts and the listening audience strive together to become members of a "real" sports town. Finally, implications for future research are discussed, including predictions of how sports tal k radio will continue to influence the sports themselves and deepen and change what it means to be a sports fan in the modern era.
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2005.
Includes bibliographical references.
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by John D. Reffue.

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A rhetoric of sports talk radio
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ABSTRACT: Sports talk radio is a broadcast format that has grown exponentially through the 1990's and into the early part of the twenty-first century. Academic publications about the format, especially qualitative analyses, have been extremely limited and previous radio content researchers have called for a more in-depth study of talk radio, in particular the relationships between and among callers, hosts and the listening audience. This study examines sports talk radio as a format separate from political talk radio programming. An evolution of the format from its roots as a broadcast novelty to the modern day stand-alone genre is traced, including an examination of select individuals who pioneered the genre and advanced it against high industry skepticism.From September 13, 2004 though September 17, 2004, programming was tape recorded both from a nationally syndicated sports talk radio program (The Jim Rome Show) and a locally broadcast program (The Steve Duemig Show). Calls from^ listeners of the shows were transcribed to isolate patterns and recurring themes that may be emblematic of the format specifically. In the case of The Jim Rome Show, callers were found to employ specific strategy to gain favor with the host and ultimately become celebrated parts of the show in their own right. The concept of intertextuality is introduced to help describe the strategy used by callers to Rome's show, the highest rated nationally syndicated sports talk show in the country. Additionally, local sports talk programming is examined to isolate how callers utilize that format to deepen their experiences as sports fans by using the format as a vehicle toward empowerment. Issues of identity, both individually and as a community, come together in the study of local sports talk radio as callers, hosts and the listening audience strive together to become members of a "real" sports town. Finally, implications for future research are discussed, including predictions of how sports tal k radio will continue to influence the sports themselves and deepen and change what it means to be a sports fan in the modern era.
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2005.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic dissertation) in PDF format.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 176 pages.
Includes vita.
Adviser: Eric M. Eisenberg, Ph.D.
Media studies.
Popular culture.
Performance studies.
Dissertations, Academic
x Communication
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
4 0 856
u http://digital.lib.usf.edu/?e14.1462


A Rhetoric of Sports Talk Radio by John D. Reffue A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of Communication College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Co-Major Professor: Eric M. Eisenberg, Ph.D. Co-Major Professor: Daniel S. Bagley III, Ph.D. Elizabeth Bell, Ph.D Gilbert B. Rodman, Ph.D. Date of Approval: November 28, 2005 Keywords: media studies, popular culture, pe rformance studies, masculinity, community Copyright 2006, John D. Reffue


Acknowledgements I would like to begin by thanking my parents, David and Ann Reffue who supported and encouraged my love of comm unication from my very earliest years and who taught me that loving your work will bring a lifetime of rewards. Special thanks also to my brother and sister-in-law Doug and Eliana Reffue and my grandmother, Julia Tropia, for their love and encouragement throughout my studies and throughout my life. To my committee, you are my heroes in more ways than all of you know. Thank you, Eric Eisenberg, for rescuing me and for help ing me to see this project through to the end. The seeds of this dissertation were plan ted in your class by your words and I cannot thank you enough for helping me complete this journey. Thank you, Dan Bagley, for your perpetual confidence and positivity, fo r your honesty and energy and for motivating me to dig deeper and see things from multiple perspectives. Thank you, Gil Rodman, for your thoroughness and candor, and for the way you blend the two better than any educator I have ever known. Thank you, Elizab eth Bell, for your warmth and genuineness and for helping me to add the intellectual i ngredients and perspectives that made this dissertation so unique. All four of you have touc hed my life forever. I feel very fortunate that I was able to include a friend of almost 20 years as the outside chair of this committee, my fellow member of the Ride r University Class of 1990, Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan. Thank you, Judy for being a part of my life both then and now. Thanks also to the following members of the Rider University Communication


Department faculty who first taught me how to learn and think about this discipline and why it means so much to the world we live in: Howard Schwartz, Rick Turner, Barry Janes, Pam Brown, Bosah Ebo, and especially Myra Gutin who gave me the confidence to pursue advanced study of the field and who did so with a most graceful combination of logic and love. My masters degree studies at Syracuse Un iversity introduced me to rhetoric, and also introduced me to what it means to be a teacher and a member of a scholarly community. My thanks and gratitude to faculty members Jack Barwind, Ken Johnson, Jim Helmer, Arthur Jensen, Craig Dudczak, Amos Kiewe, Jane Banks, Kate Andrews and Rick Wright. Special thanks to my advisor, Paul Ried and to John C. Adams for introducing me to rhetoric and helping me make sense of it. My colleagues at Hillsborough Community College have been a constant source of inspiration to me. Thank you Barabara Goldstein, Sylvia Mari on Carley, Bob Chunn, Lydia Lyons, Kathryn Wyly, Carolyn Adams-Wallace, Eric Joost, Steve Johns, Keith Berry, Marie Colaianni and especially Jim Perry for your support and encouragement. I would like to thank the faculty of the USF Communication Department for being the best model I have ever known of an academic family. Thank you to my classroom professors Art Bochner, Carolyn Ellis, Carol Jablonski, Marsha Vanderford and David Payne, who along with my committee members reminded me that what we are teaching and learning is enriching the lives of people every single day. Special thanks to Keysha Williams for her help in making sure all my paperwork was complete and where it needed to be.


My fellow graduate students have provided me with limitless support, encouragement and much needed humor for many years. Thank you Jay Baglia, Elissa Foster, Krista Hirschmann, Matt Johnson, R obbie Shumate Polston, Beth Goodier, Nigel Malcolm, May Gao, Angie Day, Wendy Adam s-King and Deborah Walker and very special thanks to J. Emmett Winn, Robert Kreisher, Michael Arrington, Adi Thelen, Laura Ellingson and Elena Strauman for th eir friendship, collegiality, great good humor and love. Finally, to the three people I love the most in the world, my wife and partner Sherri Kincade and my children Thomas Reffue and Jessie Reffue, my thanks and love to all of you for reminding me every day what matters most.


i Table of Contents Abstract iii Chapter One Introduction 1 Why Sports Talk Radio (Player Introductions) 3 Talk Radio as Dramatic, Public, Discursive Form 6 Sports Talk Radio as Public Disc ourse: Communitas and Confrontation 10 Sports Talk Radio as Masculine Space a nd Style (The Locker Room of the Air) 14 Purpose of this Study 18 Methods: Establishing The Lines of Scrimmage 19 Methods: Rhetorical Criticism, Dram atism, and Close Textual Analysis 22 Outline of Chapters 27 Chapter Two History and Devel opment of Sports Talk Radio 29 Earliest Sports Broadcasts: The Representative Anecdote 32 Sports Talk Radio Takes Shap e as Reflexive Opportunity 36 Loudmouths and Masculinity 39 The Birth of WFAN: Lots of Watts and In Your Face 44 The Sports Radio Explosi on: Cementing the Form 47 Welcome to the Jungle: TH E Representative Anecdote 51 The Format Today 54 History is Written Everyday 56 Chapter Three The Jim Rome Show as Rhetorical Forum 59 Purpose of this Chapter 63 From Clones to Karma: The Jim Rome Show 64 The Jim Rome Show Â’s Intertextuality 68 Intertextuality and Performance Competence 76 Intertextuality and Social Identification 83 Intertextuality and Social Critique 89 Moving Beyond Translation and Analysis 93 Chapter Four Local Sports Talk Radio as Rhetorical Forum 100 Purpose of this Chapter 102 WDAE: Local RadioÂ’s Uphill Climb 106 Steve Duemig: Local Access and Education 107 Local Sports Fans as Academic Subjects 114 Coaching Sports Fans 116 Masculine Autocrat 120


ii Criticism as Instruction 121 Positive Reinforcement 123 The Masculine Coach and the Woman Athlete 126 Deferring to the Coach 131 Summary 134 Chapter Five Conclusions and Imp lications for Future Research 137 Findings of this Study 140 Community, Identity and Sports Talk Radio 142 Caller/Host Relationships 144 White Invisibility and Cultural Authority Over Race and Class 145 Sports Talk Radio and Gender 154 Directions for Future Research 161 Concluding Thoughts 163 References 167 Bibliography 176 About the Author End Page


iii A Rhetoric of Sports Talk Radio John D. Reffue ABSTRACT Sports talk radio is a broadcast format that has grown exponentially through the 1990Â’s and into the early part of the twenty -first century. Academic publications about the format, especially qualitative analyses, have been extremely limited and previous radio content researchers have called for a more in-depth study of talk radio, in particular the relationships between and among cal lers, hosts and the listening audience. This study examines sports talk radio as a format separate from political talk radio programming. An evolution of the format from its roots as a broadcast novelty to the modern day stand-alone genre is traced, including an examin ation of select individuals who pioneered the genre and advanced it against high indus try skepticism. From September 13, 2004 though September 17, 2004, programming was tape recorded both from a nationally syndi cated sports talk radio program ( The Jim Rome Show ) and a locally broadcast program ( The Steve Duemig Show ). Calls from listeners of the shows were transcribed to isolate pa tterns and recurring themes that may be emblematic of the format specifically. In the case of The Jim Rome Show callers were found to employ specific stra tegy to gain favor with th e host and ultimately become celebrated parts of the show in their own right. The concept of intertextuality is


iv introduced to help describe th e strategy used by callers to Ro me’s show, the highest rated nationally syndicated sports talk show in the country. Additionally, local sports talk programming is examined to isolate how callers utilize that format to deepen their experiences as sports fans by using the format as a vehicle toward empowerment. Issues of iden tity, both individually and as a community, come together in the study of local sports talk radio as callers, hosts and the listening audience strive together to become members of a “rea l” sports town. Finally, implications for future resear ch are discussed, including predictions of how sports talk radio will continue to infl uence the sports themselves and deepen and change what it means to be a sports fan in the modern era.


1 Chapter One Introduction On October 7, 1988, shortly before 6:15 p.m., I sat alone in a cramped dormitory room in Lawrenceville, New Jersey liste ning to a piece of broadcasting history: I’m Alan Colmes. Thank you. God bless you. And for the last time, this is 66, W-N-B-C, New York. Let’s do the countdown. 10-9-87-6-5-4-3-(sound of familiar NBC xylophone jingle in background) 2-1. (in distance) You heard the countdown…it’s over (groaning followed by subdued applause). I made time that day to be near a radio wh en the legendary New York City flagship station of the NBC radio networ k signed off for the last time. I have always had a deep appreciation for the history of radio, and on that day, it wa s important for me to bear witness, to be present at a death. It was something I wanted to do alone. WNBC was the last of a dying breed, the la st major AM station in New York to play music. Behind the microphones at WN BC through the years sat radio legends: Wolfman Jack, Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow, Soupy Sales, Don Imus and Howard Stern. But on that day it was Alan Colmes (the current co-host of the Fox News television program Hannity and Colmes) who would literally have the last word. In the studio with him were numerous alumni of the station, some in tears as the station faded to dead air. There were also current and former NBC executives and television news crews. The


2 higher-ups at Emmis Broadcasting, who ac quired WNBC in a $39 million deal earlier that year, demanded that moment be record ed as nothing less than a major broadcasting milestone. Sixty-six years of 66 WNBC were gone. What I didnÂ’t realize at the time is that, after just a fe w seconds of silence, I was to also be present at the dawn of a new c oncept in radio: a big city station with a powerhouse transmitter dedicated twenty four hours a day to everything sports. From out of the silence came a booming voiceÂ… Sports radio 66, W-F-A-N, New York Sports radio 66, W-F-A-N, New York! Though it had been on the air since July at a spot much higher on the AM dial (1050 kHz), WFAN was born anew that evening at Shea Stadium. Broadcasting for the first time on the 660 kHz frequency, the show was c onducted live from a parking lot at the Flushing Meadows home of the New York Mets The combination of the stationÂ’s clear channel frequency and 50,000 watt transmitter allowed WFAN to be heard during the day in a sizeable portion of the northeast and at night from Northern Ontario to South Carolina. But apparently the audience wasnÂ’t ready to be thrown into the new all-sports format. Longtime WNBC personality Don Imus was the only former personality hired to stay on at the new WFAN in his traditional morning drive slot. Imus, of course, was a New York radio legend who garnered huge ratings. Ironically, it was longtime Imus sidekick Larry Kenney who uttered the first words on WFAN as they began their new era on a new frequency. But instead of seriously ta lking sports (at least right away), Kenney


3 introduced Imus, in character as The Right Reverend Doctor Billy Sol Hargus, “God’s Other Son.” For radio listeners in New York it was, in more ways than one, a whole new ballgame. What is Sports Talk Radio? (Player Introductions) Sports talk radio is a broadcast format that has exploded since the early 1990’s in terms of both audience popularity and the sh eer number of stations programming the format. According to Snyder (2004), there ar e nearly 500 radio stations in the United States who identify themselves as being sports talk stations, with nearly 20% of those stations owned by corporate radio giant Cl ear Channel Communications. While the total number of radio stations in the United Stat es is nearly 14,000, the number of sports radio stations is still very significant, especially as an indicator of the format’s popularity around the nation. The target audience for sports talk is overwhelmingly male. The explosive growth of the genre has pa ralleled the growth of televised coverage of sports in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. While cable outlets like Fox Sports, Sunshine Network, YES, MSG and a host of other regional cable outlet flooded the airwaves with coverage of everything from the National Football League to high school track meets, the sports talk radio format began showing up in market after market around the nation at the same time, offering fans both a portable source for sports information and an outlet that encouraged a nd invited them to sound off about what they liked and didn’t like about their favorite teams, leagues and players. Stations like New York’s WFAN, Philadelphia’s WIP and Boston’s WEEI be gan to give the nation a sense of what it meant to be a sports fan in these regions of the country. The rest of the mass media took


4 notice and today these stations have become just as synonymous with and reflective of their local markets and local communities as WNBC once was to New York City. Technically, there is a difference between a sports radio format and a sports talk radio format. The differences are subtle a nd found in programming content. While both formats usually feature traditional host-c aller type programming, sports radio may include play-by-play coverage of a sports team(s) and/or non-sports programming that appeals primarily to men (i.e. in some ma rkets, a station may start the day with The Howard Stern Show and follow it with sports intensiv e programming for the rest of the day). Sports talk radio is usually programm ed exclusively with traditional host-caller programming. Sports talk radio fits into a larger ge nre, broadcast talk shows, especially news/political/public affairs radio shows, which have b een the topic of numerous scholarly explorations. Kohut, Zukin and Bowman (1993) descri bed callers to talk radio programs as true opinion shapers who speak smartly, rather than passive consumers of programming. Barker (2002), Hutchby (1996) and Bick (1987), analyzed news and political talk radioÂ’s history as a persuasive force in Am erican political and social thought, while such authors as Cook (2000) Page and Tannenbaum (1996), Bolce, DeMaio and Muzzio (1996) and Rusher (1995) have offered largely historical/critical treatments of news and political talk ra dioÂ’s effects on audiences and culture. Sports talk radio is a nexus of culture, s ports, and media. Analyzing the rhetorical strategies and accomplishments of hosts and callers offers a way to stand at this intersection to make larger claims about i ssues of race, class, gender, identity and community. American sports have never been solely about the games athletes play, but


5 an arena in which social practices, alignmen ts, and hierarchies are manifested in and across class, race, and gender. When a black man allegedly rapes a white woman at a Colorado resort, that’s a local story played out against a violent history of racism and sexism. When the accused rapist is Kobe Bryant, that’s national, talk ed-about news that j uxtaposes that violent history with contemporary constructions of masculine power. When a male soccer star scores the championship winning goal and rips off his jersey in celebration, we celebrate the goal with him. When female soccer star Brandi Chastain does the same thing, we speak not of the athletic achievement, but of the athletic bra she was wearing as one way to focus on and to digress from the polit ics of women’s bodies. When the National Football League was developed, it was envisi oned as affordable entertainment for the working man. Today, season tickets for NFL game s are financially out of reach for most working class people. The oft-repeated refe rence to “Da Bears,” however, is still a marker of class affiliation through sports. Sports have always been moments to mark race, gender, class, and their histories in our daily lives and communities. Sports talk radio is a venue worth examining for those marked moments, for the strategies employed in creating that discourses of privilege and oppression, and for the identities and communities formed in that nexus of culture, sports, and media. Below I review the scholarly literature rele vant to the key issu es this study: 1) sports talk radio as 1) dramatic, public discursive forum; 2) as communitas & confrontation; 3) as masculine space and style. I have grouped the literature in these three


6 large categories to highlight scholarship on wh ich I will build this study and to indicate gaps in the research that this study will fill. Talk Radio as Dramatic, Public, Discursive Forum Rhetoric offers an umbrella to account for both sweeping claims about the intersection of sports and culture, as well as a critical lens to examine the specific strategies mobilized by indivi duals. Scholars offer constructi ons and analysis of public sphere, rhetorical forum, and public discourse in ways that are central to this study of sports talk radio. Fraser (1993) offers a broad definition of public sphere as “[a] space in which citizens deliberate about their common affair s” including “an institutionalized arena of discursive interaction” (p. 110). Habermas ( 1989) urges the examination of a more plural “publics.” In their study of television talk shows, Ca rpignano, Anderson, Aronowitz & DiFazio (1990) do just that when describi ng a “typology of publics with different roles, functions and uses” (p. 45). Those publics include “edited publics” (i.e., documentary subjects and news interviewees)(p. 45) as well as “real people” recorded going about their activities of daily living (p. 44). Any examination of public sphere and “act ivities of daily living,” mandates an account, as Grossberg (1992) argues, of th e active creation of context by “forging connections between practices and effects” (p. 54). Andrews ( 2002) argues that the relationship between culture and sports is ve ry much about creating this context: “To operate within a contextual cultural studies strategy means recognizing that sport forms (practices products, institutions, etc.) can only be understood by the way that they are


7 articulated into a particular set of complex social, economic political, and technological relationships that compose th e social context…” (p. 115). Carpignano et al. (1990) point out that in order for a member of the public to “gain full recognition,” he or she must assume the role of the prota gonist, a role that broadcast talk shows uniquely encourage. Giroux (1996) writes of radio as a public sphere, characterizing th ese protagonists, as well as their purposes: Radio has become a new public sphere, but not one marked simply by audience interaction. The rise of talk radio also si gnals the emergence of a new type of public intellectual a nd pedagogy in America…Instead of fueling progressive social movement s, growing numbers of Americans appear to be using the airwaves to vent their anger and rage… (p. 143). Giroux continues to make claims about how talk radio functions in this sphere: The importance of talk radio pedagogical ly and politically rests, in part, with its ability to frame debates, m obilize desire, and to make a claim on public memory. The power of talk radio to attract a wide audience of young people and others in the United St ates suggests something about its pedagogical value in mobilizing indivi dual and collective desires across a wide spectrum of resentment, anger, hunger for knowledge, and need to assert some control over public life (pp. 153-154). Giroux’s metaphors encourage me to appro ach the public sphere dramatistically, finding fruitful analogies between the drama of daily life and the drama of sports talk radio. When the public sphere is considered a stage—with protagonists and antagonists, abundant outbursts of anger and spleen, as well as collective desi res for knowledge and


8 control—sports talk radio thri ves under a dramatistic approa ch to culture, publics, and mediated discourse. James Combs and Mich ael Mansfield explain how dramatism argues that… [L]ife is drama. Action means structured behavior in terms of symbols, which implies choice, conflict and cooperation, which men communicate to each other. Society is a drama in which actions, in terms of social symbols are the crucial events. The difference between “staged” drama and the drama of real life is the difference between human obstacles imagined by an artist and those ac tually experienced. The realms are homologous: life and art both deal wi th the fundamental problems of human existence, and both aim at the symbolic resolution of conflict through communication (1976, The Drama of Human Relations p. xviii). If the drama of the public sphere enable s large claims about actions, motives, and obstacles in constructing cultural conflicts a nd cooperations, then rhetorical forum is a second concept that highlights a critical appr oach to the discursive strategies employed by participants in the drama. According to Farrell (1993), a rhetorical forum “is any encounter setting which serves as a gathering place for discourse. As such, it provides a space for multiple positions to encounter one another. And, in its most developed condition, it may also provide precedents and modalities for granting a hearing to positions, as well as sorting through their agendas and constituencies” (p. 282). Talk radio as a “forum,” a discursive space for issues presented there, has also been metaphorized by scholars. Tierney (1995) sees talk radio as deeply revealing; a window into what is truly in the hearts and minds of citizens. Weber (1992) called it a


9 “town meeting of the air,” while Harrison (1994) extolled talk radio as “a bellwether of American opinion.” Laufer (1995) claims, “t alk radio has developed into [a] cultural force of consequence in America” (p. 9). How messages are shaped in this discursi ve space should also garner critical attention. As Kane (1998) notes, “[T]here is much in the emergence and popularity of talk radio that should inform students of public argument about current rhetorical practices” (p. 155). Brummett (1991) argues that rhetorical cr iticism should always look to “the social and implication implica tions” of those practices (p. xiii). These studies focus on familiar topics and issues for mass communication research. In Carey’s (1988) critique of this research, he claims: “Because we have looked at each new advance in communications tec hnology as an opportunity for politics and economics, we have devoted it, almost exclus ively, to matters of government and trade. We have rarely seen these advances as opport unities to expand peopl e’s powers to learn and exchange ideas and experience” (p. 34). This study seeks to look beyond sports talk ra dio’s abrasive exterior in search of what lies beneath it. The following pages wi ll explore this broadcast format as a discursive space – a place where many come to make sense of how sports fit into their lives. I believe that in this space, sports fans are afforded a singular and unique venue to cultivate not only a deeper understanding of the sports they lo ve, but to perform community and establish identity(ies), while knowingly or unknowingly contributing to the larger public discourse on race, gender, se xuality and class and politics. I believe this study will not only advance the ca use of rhetoric, but also enrich studies in media theory and culture.


10 Sports Talk Radio as Public Disc ourse: Communitas & Confrontation Sports talk has of late become a bigger part of our daily publ ic discourse. At the most basic level, sports talk can be described, as Farred (200 0) does, as “a language unto itself” (98). Farred continues: “Sports talk is an uneven, complex, multivalent conversation. Sport is a medium that enables pe ople to talk about se veral aspects of their lives: regional identif ication, vicarious athl etic accomplishments, race, admiration for physical skill and prowess, gender, hopes, dreams and anticipations, ethnicity, loss and painful defeats” (p. 99). When this public discourse draws peopl e together to identify with each other, their regions, and their teams in collective and public action, then Victor Turner’s concept of communitas is relevant to this public discourse. Turner (1969) defines ideological communitas as “at once an attempt to describe the external and visible effects – the outward form, it might be said – of an inward experience of existential communitas and to spell out the optimal social conditions under which such experiences might be expected to flourish and multiply” (p. 132). Those optimal conditions may well exist in the American South during college football season. Zagacki and Grano (2005) used fantasy themed rhetorical analysis to study calls made to a Baton Rouge, Louisi ana radio station af ter Louisiana State University football games. The authors f ound that sports talk radio gave fans the opportunity to share creative inte rpretations of the events of those games, which in turn allowed the fans to cope with losses by the te am, as well as solidify their regional identity and pride. The study was also critically impor tant in that it stre ssed the importance of radio talk shows as an important arena for modern academic study.


11 Several studies have examined how radi o has served as a rallying point for building and solidifying comm unities and identity. Cantor (1992) illustrated how Memphis radio station WHBQ was a pioneer in programming African-American music, making the station a point of reference a nd centering of/for the African-American community in the middle part of the 20th century. In her book Radio Voices Hilmes (1997) examined how the medium of radio help ed shape the culture and identity of the United States in the early and middle 20th century. What makes Hilmes’s work so important to this study is her argument that radio played a major role in defining American culture and that studies of radi o and television have largely drowned out studies of radio. Kane (1998) says, “Talk radio…may be vi ewed as both a form of resistance and as an attempt to create a community” (p. 159), while Balz and Brownstein (1996) say talk radio “encourages a community of the disaffect ed. It offers solidarity and reinforcement for those alienated from [the power structure] and provides its audien ce with and endless stream of outrages to harden their disconten t” (p. 163). Another attr active aspect of talk radio for those frustrated with not being ab le to be heard by those in power is the immediate gratification that it provides. As Levin (1987) writes, “Talk radio documents the personal and local exchanges that consti tute the immediate and concrete context of experience” (p. 145). Listeners with issues b ecome callers who can and will be heard – venting their ideas, praise, gripes and criticis ms to an audience of like minded souls who lift them up and make them feel empowered. This notion, I believe, relates directly to the bigger picture of both the American citizen and the American sports fan that of a sense of disconnect edness from the power


12 structure that governs both matters of state a nd matters of sports. Just as a citizen cannot bend the ear of the President whenever s/he has a gripe about government, the disgruntled sports fan cannot bend the ear of the commissi oner of the National Football League or a team owner whenever his/her favorite team lo st a critical game because of a perceived lack of competent judgment on the part of an official or a coach. This idea is summed up by Taylor (1995), “The average citizen feel s power to be at a great distance and frequently unresponsive to him or her. There is a sense of powerlessn ess in the face of a governing machine which continues on its way wit hout regard to the interests of ordinary people, who seem to have little recourse in making their needs felt” (p. 207). Talk radio serves to bridge that distance in more wa ys than may be obvious. For example, most people who listen to talk radio never call the pr ograms. But if a sports talk radio listener hears another person air a point of view duri ng a call which is similar to their own point of view, it can be argued that a bond exists between and among that listener and the caller, and perhaps the host, creating a sens e of community. This pa rasocial interaction builds bonds between hosts and callers and be tween and among callers as a community. While sports is one route to communitas, empowerment, and voice, sports talk has also added in many ways to contemporary American “culture wars.” Goldberg (1999) argues that the content of the sports talk radio format “re-creates the artifice of a whitemale [sic] community of like-minded, likethinking souls” leading to “the death of civil discourse as social contro l through fan-aticism [sic] takes over” (p. 40). In an article for the South Atlantic Quarterly, Haag (1996) calls out right wing “hate radio” and its divisive nature, and then offers up sports talk radio as the social and cultural antithesis. Haag sees sports talk radio as a uniquely democratizing forc e, helping people satisfy their


13 need to be “thrown together in unexp ected, impassioned, even random social communities” in order to “mix with people they have nothing (but sports) in common with. They want to be from [author’s emphasis] somewhere again, to be part of a heterogeneous tribe rather than a narrow ly defined political cabal” (p. 467). Talk shows also provide salient exampl es of what Tannen (1998) calls America’s “argument culture.” She notes just how mu ch the lines between news, politics and entertainment have been blurred in our postmodern world. Perhaps not surprisingly, sports provide the foundation of her followi ng point. Says Tannen, “If politics and other current events have been presented as sports how sports are presen ted is also changing, in the spirit of the argument culture. On television and radio, sports events are accompanied by running commentary that encourages and enhances the antagonistic elements of sports, emphasizing the ways that sports can be like war” (pp. 48-49). Talk shows, whether on television or radi o, reflect the argument culture. It’s no surprise then that Hutchby (1996) called radio conversation “conf rontation talk,” a reflection of our perceived need to argue. Other theorists are gentler. For example, Livingstone and Lunt (1994) ta ke a more positive view, l ooking upon the confrontational nature of talk radio as “an opening for th e empowerment of alternative discursive practices” (p. 52), an avenue toward fairness and seeing issues and events from a variety of perspectives. Most studies of sports talk radio up until now have been dominated by critical opinion about the cultural impact of the genre, rather than attempting to take the pieces that make up the content of the genre and put them together coherently to illustrate its rhetorical impact. Haag (1996) and Rosen ( 2002) can be included among those authors,


14 as can Goldberg (1999), who offers the following criticism of the imp act of sports talk radio on class… Sports talk radio likewise is all abou t class formation, even as it represents itself as classless – as class blind or class transcendent How could it escape class formation in a market wh ere 7-year contra cts run from $50m to $120m, where a 21-year-old golfer earns $40m on a promise before winning a professional tournament from a company able to pay him only because its product is made by those it barely pays at all. And yet the audience for sports talk radio rang es from the un-or underor lowlyemployed at one end of the cont emporary class structure to the beeper/cellular phone/beamer gene ration at the other (p. 32). While these type of critical pieces are very necessary in te rms of assessing the broader cultural impact of the genre (as well as fostering debate on the genre), the time for the sort of specific analysis that this study will cover is long overdue. Sports Talk Radio as Masculine Space and Style (The Locker Room of the Air) What are people (i.e., men) arguing a bout in public, on th e airwaves, with confrontation as their mode of argument? Pr ofessional sports have long been associated with heterosexual maleness. The explosion of mass media coverage of sports in the latter days of the twentieth century only served to bolster that relationship. Messner, Dunbar & Hunt (2000) examined what they considered the hegemonic ideologies that televised sports promotes concerning race, gender, sexuality, aggressi on, violence, and consumerism and came up with what they called “The Televised Sports Manhood Formula”:


15 What is a Real Man? A Real Man is tough, aggressive and above all a winner in what still is a Man’s Worl d. To be a winner he has to do what needs to be done. He must be willin g to compromise his own long-term health by showing guts in the face of danger, by fighting other men when necessary, and by ‘playing hurt’ when he’s injured. He must avoid being soft; he must be the aggressor, both on the ‘battle fields’ of sports and in his consumption choices. Whether he is playing sports or making choices about which snack food or auto produc ts to purchase, his aggressiveness will net him the ultimate prize: the adoring attention of conventionally beautiful women. He will know if and when he has arrived as a Real Man when the Voices of Authority –White Males – say he is a Real Man. But even when he has finally managed to win the big one, has the good car, the right beer, and is surrounded by b eautiful women, he will be reminded by these very same Voices of Aut hority just how fragile this Real Manhood really is: After all, he has to come out and prove himself all over again tomorrow. You’re only as good as your last game (or your last purchase) (p. 390). This provocative quote is a valuable entre into sports talk ra dio and masculinity. Much of the recent scholarly literature on me diated sports talk as a whole (radio and television) examines the genre as a refl ection of racial, cult ural and gender norms. For example, Sabo and Jansen (2000) point out that mediated sports talk serves as a cross-generational meeting place where traditio nal concepts of heterosexuality are both passed around (to peers) and passed down (to ma le children). Sabo and Jansen point out:


16 “Sports talk, which today usually means talk about mediated sports, is one of the only remaining discursive spaces where men of a ll social classes and ethnic groups directly discuss such values as discipline, skill, c ourage, competition, loyalty, fairness, teamwork hierarchy and achievement” (p. 205). Meanwhile, Farred (2002), calls sports ta lk an “overwhelmingly masculinist (but not exclusively male), combative, passiona te and apparently open-ended discourse” (101). He goes on to define sports talk radio programs as being “orchestrated and mediated by rambunctious hosts” that make for a “robust, opinionated and sometimes humorous forum for talking about sport” (p. 116). With regard to community and identity, Farred also says: “Sports talk is a discourse that can temporarily break down barriers of race, ethnicity, and class. More than that, sport faci litates the transient construction of alliances across racial class and ethnic lines” (p. 103). Perhaps the two best pieces of academic literature done on sports talk radio have been published in the last five years. In his piece commissioned by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Center for Study of Media and Society, Nylund (2001) examined The Jim Rome Show in terms of its relationship to heterosexism and hegemonic masculinity. Nylund’s qualitative st udy of the show’s content, including the results of his semi-structured interviews with eighteen self-described listeners of the show, suggested that while th e content of and approach to the program appears very heteronormative and at times even booris h, the program actually subverts the dominant paradigm on many levels. Nylund notes that Ro me’s show “is not a simple, completely obnoxious site of monolithic masculine discourse Rather, the show represents a complex, paradoxical, postmodern and polyvalent text…a mix of masculine styl es, identities and


17 discourses, ranging from highl y misogynistic to egalitarian” (p. 29). Nylund’s close textual analysis of the Rome show, combin ed with interview responses from show listeners, proves that there is more to sports talk radio than what exists on the surface. Primary among Nylund’s observations is that Rome’s show actual ly “simultaneously reproduces and disrupts hegemonic ma sculinity and sexism” (p. 8). However, not all academics have been as kind to Rome. Mari scal (1999) decried sports talk radio as “more openly racialized than any ot her radio format” (p. 113) and chided Rome for having constructed for hi mself a “faux hip-hop persona – generous borrowings from Black English, a gangster ra p attitude and an explicit dislike of rednecks” (p. 112) on his rise to syndicated sports radio success. Mariscal went on to criticize Rome for his apparent contradictory discour se of his show, which at times while kinder to African-Americans was seen by Marisc al as blatantly racist toward Chicanos and Latinos. Said Mariscal, “At his worst, Rome is essentially ‘taken over’ by the reified language North American racism, an ironic process that simultane ously solidifies the limits of his ‘nation’ of list eners and undercuts his attempts to get ‘beyond race’” (p. 115). When these studies of talk radio and s ports talk radio examine masculinity and race, they fail to account for how those iden tities are performed. Th ese performances are constituted in discourse and history. They are created and evaluated against the backdrop of whiteness and through the mobilization of femininity to create masculinity. These performances are deft rhetorical strategi es—of callers and hosts—that have emerged through history, are enacted in discourse, a nd are available for te aching community. This study seeks to explore these performativ e strategies on sports talk radio.


18 Purpose of This Study News and political talk radio shows, the type made famous by Rush Limbaugh, are centered largely on government, trade, pol itics, and economics, but this study moves beyond Rush Limbaugh, opinion pieces on the ta lk format, and fantasy analysis of LSU sports fans’ discourse. The purpose of th is study is to examine the complex and multivalent discourses that make up sports talk radio through the lenses of rhetoric and performance. These chapters will argue three interrelated points: 1) These discourses have origins in emergent and effacious mome nts in broadcasting history that became conventions in the genre. 2) These discour ses have specific performative forms produced by and evaluated through those conventions. 3) And these discourses serve pedagogical functions for local communities. In making these arguments, this study will reveal the rhetorical and performative strategies deployed by callers and hosts that cultivate and maintain hegemonic masculinity, that mask the authority of whiteness (specifically “whitemaleness”), and that forge identities a nd communities as a result of that rhetoric and performance. Put simply, there is much more to sports talk radio than meets the eye (or in this case, the ear). By focusing on th e rhetoric and performance of sports talk radio, we can become better aware of the unique opport unities the medium offers for learning, exchanging ideas, creating experience, and shaping identity and community through sports. By focusing on the rhetor ic and performance of sports talk radio, the specific discursive strategies performed by callers a nd hosts are the buildi ng blocks for creating and maintaining those experiences, identi ties, and communities through talk. By


19 focusing on the rhetoric and pe rformance of sports talk radio sports, culture, and media come together as unique mome nts that punctuate our lives. Methods: Establishing the Lines of Scrimmage To accomplish these ends, the backbone of this study will be analysis of hosts, callers, performative conventions and rhetorical strategies of two spor ts talk radio shows, The Jim Rome Show the industry leader in terms of ratings and overall popularity and The Steve Duemig Show the highest rated sports talk radio program in the Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida media market. I chose these shows for severa l reasons. Primary among them were their ratings success and my belief that these shows resonate very deeply with the people who listen to them. Th ey also happen to be the shows I am most likely to personally listen to when I listen to sports talk radio. Both programs feature listener call-ins, guests and monologues by th e hosts. RomeÂ’s show is nationally syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks, a di vision of national radio giant Clear Channel Entertainment which also syndicates programs by Rush Limbaugh and Laura Schlessinger. DuemigÂ’s show is a local program broadcast on WDAE-AM (620 kHz) in Tampa, FL. Fifteen hours of programming from each program were recorded during the week of September 13-17, 2004. Transcripts of the shows, I belie ve, will elicit the strongest representative examples of the genr e and isolate patterns that can help isolate both similarities and differences in local and national sports talk radio programming. The following is a brief history of both men and how their shows evolved: A 1987 graduate of the University of Ca lifornia at Santa Barbara, Jim Rome began his radio career as a lo cal traffic and sports reporte r at station KTMS in Santa Barbara. He then moved to San Diego, where he cultivated his unique on-air persona at


20 station XTRA. In 1996, Premiere Radio networ ks acquired the rights to Rome’s show and began syndicating it nationwide. Rome’s st yle was a hit, especially with men age 2554 and as his ratings began to grow, tele vision came calling. During the 1990’s, he supplemented his radio show with 2 years at ESPN2 hosting the program Talk2. He was then lured to Fox Sports Net where he hosted The Last Word Married and the father of a young son, Rome has returned to ESPN television as the host of Jim Rome is Burning and continues to host his radio program, the highe st rated nationally s yndicated sports talk radio program in the country, airing from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. pacific time Monday through Friday and based in Los Angeles. Simply put, Rome is to sports talk radio what Rush Limbaugh is to conservative political talk radio. How edgy is he? Here is a typical moment of commentary from Rome from his April 6, 2000 broadcast: Russian missile silo Anna Pornikova [ sic ] and [Florida] Panthers star and wannabe gigolo Pavel Bure announced that they never had plans to get married despite published reports to the contrary. Her pimp, ERRRRRRRR, spokesman says that th e original report s were erroneous and that they should not have been taken seriously. Let me clarify what that means – his client got dumped and they’re trying to cover the marks! She finally got treated like the little tramp that she is…[Bure] had her over, he lied to her, he asked her to get married, got what he wanted and then kicked her to the curb! For the last time – win a tournament or GO AWAY! After you’ve been around the block as many times as Anna has, no one is interested anymore! I can ’t tell you how classic it is that


21 somebody did her that way after she’ s been jerking everybody else around as long as she has! He is the face and voice of the genre nati onwide. His show begins each day with a thunderous clanging bell and th e thumping beat of Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life as the opening theme music. In most of the country, he is competing head to head with Limbaugh, a task he faces without fear. Each day he puts three hours of raucous, in-your-face, jargonchoked musings on sports and current events on the air throughout the country. These musings encourage listeners to phone in a nd e-mail back to him their own uniquely sarcastic responses, preferably in the exact same in-your-face, jargon-choked way. In the world of sports talk radio, Jim Rome is nothing short of a phenomenon. He is part talk show host, part rock star a nd sports talk radio’s biggest money maker. He travels around the country visiting those affiliate cities he deems worthy of his majestic presence in socalled “tour stops” which featur e bands, famous athletes, giv eaways, and of course, Rome himself waxing sarcastically philosophical. But to be sure, Jim Rome (both the man and the persona) would not exist w ithout the loyal legions of lis teners and fans who show up by the tens of thousands at these events – the men (and a smattering of women) he has dubbed “The Clones.” Their calls and e-mails ar e what fuel Rome’s wit and fire. They are a social force and a social unit, comple te with their own rhetoric and their own strategy for making sure their voices are heard. Steve Duemig, known in the Tampa market as “The Big Dog,” is one of Tampa Bay’s most outspoken sports talk radio hos ts. Known for his often angry outbursts and rants against athletes, team ow ners and callers to his show, Duemig’s show airs Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on stat ion WDAE in Tampa, a station Arbitron has


22 singled out for making great gains recently in terms of listenership. Born in Pensacola, FL and raised in Philadelphia, Duemig is also a regular contributor to The Golf Channel. While Duemig’s local show doesn’t get as much attention or as high a rating as Rome’s show, it does what Rome’s show cannot. Like other local shows around the country, it brings sports and s ports fans down to a more “back yard” level, and gives even more individuals a chance to let their voices be heard discussing the local teams. Analyzing this host, callers, and conventions in relation to the nationally syndicated programming simply enables a closer examin ation of community-bu ilding functions of sports talk radio. Duemig’s show is a vehicle for building Tampa Bay’s national reputation as a true “sports to wn,” a title hardcore sports fans have long bestowed upon New York, Philadelphia and Bo ston, but not yet associated with Tampa Bay (although recent world championships by the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning have helped that image to grow ). My personal interview with Duemig will also help reveal deeper insights into his program. Methods: Rhetorical Criticism, Dram atism, and Close Textual Analysis Rhetorical study and criticism have evolved over time. Similarly, our comprehension of the functions of rhetoric has also evolved. Twentieth century scholars gave us definitions that e ndure today. Richards (1936) defi ned rhetoric as “a study of misunderstanding and its remedies.” Bryant ( 1953) called rhetoric the art of “adjusting ideas to people and people to ideas.” Corbett ( 1971) defined it as “the art or the discipline that deals with the use of discourse, either s poken or written, to inform, persuade or move an audience, whether that audience is made up of a single person or a group of persons.”


23 While these definitions are classics and ar e still studied today, this study occurs on the broad playing field of rhetorical st udy that moves rhetoric beyond the textual to analyze its functions more deeply as cultu ral. It’s no accident that nightly news broadcasts cover three main areas that the public seeks information about – news, weather and sports. To put it another way – 1) What’s going on in the world? 2) Am I going to be inconvenienced by rain? 3) How di d the Yankees do last night? The rhetoric of sports talk radio is a large part of the rhetoric of our daily lives. Hart (1990) describes rhetoric as a new and subjective way of looking at something when he says it “…uses common ideas, conventional language, and specific information to change listeners’ feelings and behaviors. Rhetor ic always tells a story with a purpose; the story is never told for its own sake” (p. 9). Deeper st ill is the ability of rhetoric to make individuals feel like they are connected to something greater than themselves and their individual lives, which I believe is the main reason that people enjoy being sports fans (or Democrat s or Republicans, for that ma tter). Burke (1945) described literature as “equipment for livi ng” that dramatizes “strateg ies that sum up a situation.” These specific strategies fo r summing up are rhetorical. But perhaps the best insight into why a rh etorical approach to this study is so germane comes from Andrews, Leff and Terr ill (1998) when they note, “Rhetorical texts can be thought of as storehouses of rhetori cal possibilities, as places where people have employed a variety of techniques and strategies to address or change situations through the skillful use of language. It is not only more interesting to study persuasive strategies as they are used and modified by real people tr ying to accomplish real tasks, but it is also more useful to study them in this way: it is within speech texts that rhetorical theory is


24 given life, achieves form, and gains coherenc e” (p. 7). In summary, rhetoric provides a window into how human beings use language to make sense of the world around them and to feel more connected to other people a nd things. There is no better approach to the study of sports talk radio than a qualitative, rhetorical one. Kenneth Burke defined rhetoric as “the us e of language as a symbolic means of inducing cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols.” For both rhetorical and performance theory, dramatism enables a view of our daily lives as dramas—with heroes, villains, conflicts, and their resolution. Burke’s view of human beings as symbol using (and misusing) animals whose communi cative acts arise from motives maintains language is action Language is more than simply instrumental: it legitimates, thematizes, and performs social meanings. Even Webster’s Third International Dictionary acknowledges Burke’s definition of dramatism: “a technique of anal ysis of language and thought as basically modes of action rather th an as means of conveying information.” Through language, we dramatize our worlds. Raymond Williams, in “Drama in a Dramatized Society” (1983), elaborates on th is central notion of Bu rke. Drama “is built into the rhythms of everyda y life” (p. 12) such that we experience the world, its characters, and its stories as conflict, build, crisis, and its resolution. Moreover, “actions . are being played out in ways that leave us continua lly uncertain whether we are spectators or participants” (p. 17). Finally, Williams argues, dramatization has become consciousness itself as we envision oursel ves as dramatic “types”—“producer or consumer, married or single, member or exile or vagrant” (p. 18). As Brummett (1994) says, “As we go through life experiencing a nd enjoying music, cl othing, architecture, food, and so forth, we are also participating in rhetorical struggles over what kind of


25 society we will live in and what kind of pe ople we will be” (p. 4). I believe our cultural experience of sports experienced through sports talk radio is part of that constant rhetorical struggle. Dramatism is one lens for viewing, appreciati ng, and analyzing those struggles. James Carey, too, argues for a dramatistic perspective in his ritual view of communication. Reading the daily newspaper, ac cording to Carey, is not a description of the world, “. . but portrays an arena of dram atic focus and action; it exists solely in historical time; and it invite s our participation on the basis of our assuming, often vicariously, social roles within it” (p. 20-21) .Carey’s observation that a ritual view of communication serves to capture a picture of how society maintains itself in a given time. Says Carey (1985), “[Broadcast news and info rmation] does not describe the world but portrays an arena of dramatic focus and action; it exists solely in historical time; and it invites our participation on th e basis of our assuming, ofte n vicariously, social roles within it” (p. 20-21). By focusing on sports talk radio’s temporal eff ects, we can 1) begin to better understand how and why the traditional roles of speaker and audience have shifted (in some cases even completely trading places) in our postmodern world and 2) the effects of that shift on both the individual and our society. Dramatism, and its critical techniques to examine rhetorical and performative strategies, is a perfect methodol ogical fit for sports talk radio. Sports themselves are epitomes of drama: the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, the ri se and fall of heroes, the triumph of the underdog. It is little wonder, then, that sp orts fans want so much to become a part of that drama by and through sports talk radio. Burke’s notion of the representative anecdote, how a culture symbolically constructs stories that epitomize


26 conflict and its resolution, as well as conceptions of iden tification through cooperation and competition will be valuable tools for analysis throughout this study. The dramatic rhetoric of hosts and callers is further a pproached through the seminal work of Richard Bauman who provides a schema for exploring all works of verbal art as performances. With the three-fold classification of perf ormance competence, heightened experience, and evaluation, Bauman maintains that performa nces are emergent, ev en as they fulfill criteria of the performance ge nre and individual enactment. Discovering and evaluating the rhetorical strategies employed in performances will be accomplished through close textual an alysis of transcripts of the programs. Burgchardt (1995) defines clos e textual analysis as a met hodology which “seeks to study the relationship between the inne r workings of public discourse and its historical context in order to discover what makes a particular text function persuasively” (p. 513). Bick (1987) called on readers of her historical-based dissertation on talk ra dio to move toward thicker description of what is emanating fr om those radio speakers. Said Bick, “…the next opportunity for scholarly research might be the use of content analysis methodology to seek increasingly explic it patterns of behavior within the format” (p. 114 Through close textual analysis of transcripts, I will explore the language, roles, rhetorical strategies and performances that comprise The Jim Rome Show and the Steve Duemig Show This language is made up of not only common slang, but “inside” jokes and humor, much of it years old and diffi cult for new listeners to understand. For example, ten years after the killing of Ni cole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in Los Angeles, inside jokes about the killi ngs and about O.J. Simpson are still heavily referenced by the host and the callers on The Jim Rome Show. More than that, the content


27 of actual calls, some originally made up to a decade ago and previous, have become legend on the program and are subtlety referenced on Rome’s program for multiple reasons each week. Those in the know use it, I believe, to deepen their experience as a listener and/or caller and make better sens e of the points being made on the program. In the case of this study, this will m ean transcribing and making sense of what may look to the uninitiated as nonsense. The effects, however, reach much further into the fabric of American culture, as important manifestations of masculinity, whiteness, and community identity. Outline of Chapters Chapter 2 will deal with the history of sports talk radio and how that history is filled with representative anecdotes and dram a that allowed for reflexive opportunities for critique of the times. Chapter 3 will focus on national sports talk radio, specifically The Jim Rome Show The chapter will delineate the strategi c patterns by which individual callers produce successful performances on the Jim Rome show and demonstrate how these same performances fulfill larger social f unctions for the audience, fandom, and American sports culture. Chapter 4 will focus on local sports talk radio, specifically The Steve Duemig Show. The chapter contends that th e central social function of The Steve Duemig Show is not social identification or critique but a form of pedagogy enacted through the “coaching” of the host and the resultant team building that results among listeners, all with an eye toward making the Tampa Bay area a “true sports town.”


28 Finally, chapter 5 will offer conclusions and directions for future research, including some cumulative analysis regarding sp orts talk radioÂ’s effects on issues of race, class, gender, masculinity, identity and community.


29 Chapter Two History and Development of Sports Talk Radio October after October in the mid-to-late tw entieth century, I was one of legions of American boys sneaking transistor radios into our beds and hi ding them beneath our pillows. After ostensibly going to bed, we w ould slip the earphones or headphones on and stay up late listening to th e broadcast of baseball games. Depending on where we lived, we heard the voices of Mel Allen, Vin Scully, Jack Buck, Ernie Harwell, Frank Messer or Phil Rizzuto calling the play by play of a pennant winning game or a World Series nailbiter. For us, these were games we gladly lost sleep over. That tran sistor radio was first replaced by the Sony Walkman and has sin ce been replaced by laptop computers with wireless Internet connections and portable color televisions as large as those transistor radios. Even so, the feeling is still the same. It was a nd is the mass media and their hardware that brings millions of us closer to the games and players we love. Today, we still draw our most portable ha rdware close to our bodies as we immerse ourselves in the joy of winning or the sorrow of loss. In his essay “Mass Communication and Cultu ral Studies,” originally published in 1977, James Carey critiques communication studie s in the United States for its singular focus on persuasion and social control. As outcomes or effects, the cultural forms of communication are reduced to “objects suitable for attent ion by students of communication” (1985, p. 45). Such reduction le aves little room for describing or


30 explaining all those boys tucked into bed with their transi stor radios as particular historical moments and as individual relationships to technology. In his book Exploring Technology and Social Space (1997) J. Macgregor Wise discusses the relationship between society and technology by pointing out that, [H]istory, per se, has to contend with the past in the sense of ‘the popular past’ or ‘popular history,’ what is generally felt, within a society, to be ‘how it happened.’ The public past is a sense of tradition and collective memory; it is nomadic and rhizomatic. The public past is crucial in constructing contemporary social identity. Th erefore, how a public imagines its past relations with technology will have an impact on how it treats its present technology…even if these technologies seem s uperficially different from each other” (p. 96). Wise’s observations offer an important pi ece of the puzzle when putting together the historical importance of the s ports talk radio genre. In the simplest terms, the proliferati on of first radio, then television, in the twentieth century broug ht mass communication close to audiences in a way that the printed word, which most people previously reli ed heavily on for their sports information, never could. By and through radio and televi sion, audiences heard the human voices and saw the human faces of air personalities, av erage people and, most importantly in terms of this essay, sports figures, on radios and television sets in our kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms and automobiles. This forged a highly personal and very intimate connection between fans and the sports they loved. To begin to explore how s ports talk radio fostered such intimacy, one might examine how James Carey (1985) suggested m oving beyond traditional methods of social science: “the social scientist stands toward his material—cultural forms such as religion,


31 ideology, journalism, everyday speech—as the li terary critic stands toward the novel, play, or poem. He has to figure out what it mean s, what interpretations it presents of life, and how it relates to the senses of life hi storically found among a people” (p. 44). To sketch a history of sports talk radio is to do all those thi ngs—to figure out what it means, to glean how life is presented and interpre ted in historical mo ments, and to make educated guesses at how it relate s to the lives of a people. Additionally, James Carey’s Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society (1985) offered two cultura l views of communication in the United States since serious examination of communication began in the middle part of the nineteenth century: the transmission view and the ritu al view. Whereas Carey contends that the transmission view of communi cation is rooted in a sense of geography (i.e. information traveling over a distance to a source for the purposes of exerting control), the ritual view is more concerned with the maintenance of so ciety in time. News and information (which can, in this case, be expanded to include sports information and sports broadcasts) becomes drama. Says Carey, “It does not desc ribe the world but portrays an arena of dramatic focus and action; it exists solely in historical time ; and it invites our participation on the basis of our assuming, ofte n vicariously, social roles within it” (p. 2021). This chapter will approach the history of s ports talk radio as just that: a dramatic arena with heroes and villains, contendi ng with new technologies and creating the characteristics of the format “on the fl y.” Throughout this history, the important moments will be engaged as “representative anecdotes,” stories of origins that reveal emergent answers to newly presented problems: play by play turned to discussion; round-


32 tables turned to confrontation; masculine talk styles of the locker room and barroom aired on public radio waves. Such dramatic storie s wither under the transmission model, but thrive under a ritual model of communicati on. No longer just senders and receivers, Michael Calvin McGee (1998) noted, our mode rn technologies of communication have allowed for the traditional roles of speaker and audience to blur and in some cases virtually reverse themselves. The history of s ports talk radio is a drama that mirrors the social milieu and provides reflexive oppor tunities for critique of that milieu. Earliest Sports Broadcasts: The Representative Anecdote Sports talk radio in the United States enjoyed a long adolescence before coming into its own as a media force. During th e early and middle twen tieth century, radio broadcasts of major league ba seball were the most recogniz able form of sports talk. However, Halberstam (1999) not es that it was boat races and boxing, not baseball, that were the first sports broadcast on radio: “Rad io was actually tested before radio stations were licensed in the early 1920’s and sporting ev ents were a part of the experiment. From a steamship off the New York Harbor, G ugliemo Marconi broadcast an immensely popular event at the time, the America’s Cup. On shore, under the sponsorship of the New York Herald eager fans were able to follow the progress of the race in front of the newspaper building at Herald Square on 34th Street. There was such a rush of people that the crowds blocked traffic” (Halberstam, p. 1). The era stretching from the end of World War I to the middle 1930’s is often called the first “Golden Age” of sports (see, for example, Schaaf, 2004). Americans in the early 1920’s had a fascinati on with boxing, and boxing was about to become the very first sporting event broadcast on radio to a wide audience. It was also about to help create


33 the very first sportscaster. Major J. Andrew White was the editor of Wireless Age an inhouse publication of RCA. White was part PR ma n, part carnival barker with a flair for hype years ahead of his time. Together with David Sarnoff, RCAÂ’s legendary general manager who is often called th e father of broadcast radio, White hatched an ingenious plan. Boxing champion Jack Dempsey was sche duled to defend his crown in a bout with French champion Georges Carpentier on July 2, 1921. White wanted to broadcast the fight on the air. Why broadcast a boxi ng match? Halberstam (1999) explains: In the early 1920s, boxing dominated the sports pages, and coverage of a title fight rivaled that of a world war. The World Series and college football, the closest even ts in popularity, couldnÂ’t compare in sheer public interest. Mainstream Amer ica was so consumed w ith boxing that even the exalted New York Times would dedicate half its front page to the fight. Before radio, live event coverage wa s non-existent. Newspapers owned an exclusive so folks would run to the cl osest newsstands to await the arrival of delivery trucks. A newspaper was the closest definition of immediacy (Halberstam, p. 2). White had answers for all the questions that this venture posed. RCA still didnÂ’t have the equipment to do such a broadcast. White convinced the Lackawanna Railroad to loan him a radio tower and the U.S. Navy to loan him a transmitter. He told the fightÂ’s promoter that since he had already sold over 90,000 seats for the fight, broadcasting it would only boost the publicÂ’s interest in boxing. The prom oter agreed. Perhaps the biggest issue was the fact that most of th e public still did not ow n radio receivers. So, White petitioned theater owner Marcus Loew and several other owne rs to place receivers


34 inside their establishments. Finally, White re quested and received a one-day license to broadcast the fight. The assigne d call letters for the day w ould be WJY. White would be the radio call man. No one, including White, had ever broa dcast a sporting even t. Relying on his limited experience as an amateur boxer and pr eparing for the call by boxing in front of a mirror and describing what he was doing, White took to the airwaves at approximately 3 p.m. on July 2, 1921. Public response was ove rwhelming and sales of radio receivers skyrocketed. White was hailed as a genius fo r becoming the first ever sportscaster and America’s fascination with sports radio ha d begun (Halberstam, p. 2-3). Boxing would continue to draw audiences to thei r radios through the 1920s and beyond. This story, paraphrased as “man with vision and spunk does the never done before in a brand new medium to astounding su ccess,” is typical of Kenneth Burke’s representative anecdote, and it wi ll also be typical of the history of sports talk radio that unfolds here. Barry Brummett (1984) utilizes Burke’s critical tool, the representative anecdote, to explore mass media content. Br ummett then provides tiny plot summaries1 (like the one above) that “s um up the essence of a culture’s values, concerns, and interests in regard to some real-life issues or problems” (p. 164). Mass media content is based on these anecdotes; a history of mass media content is shap ed by those accounts. For the media critic, finding these anecdotes is “equipment for living,” for “stories do not merely pose problems, they suggest ways and means to resolve the problems insofar as they follow discoursively [ sic ] a pattern that people might follow in reality” (Brummett, p. 164).


35 For Burke, representative anecdotes are about beginnings: “eith er an origin in time (temporal) or a necessary startingpoint (logical)” (C rable 2000, p. 319). Major White is both an origin in time and a logica l beginning. In the drama of the history of sports talk radio, White will be the first in the “brash-men-of-vision” protagonists who find themselves up against financial, bureaucrat ic, and institutional an tagonists forces in the drama that evolves as sports talk ra dio. His “solution to the problem,” doing it bravely, against all odds, with American entr epreneurship and bravado will continue in the history of men, sports, and radio. Next on the horizon was baseball, and lik e boxing, radio would fuel the nation’s thirst for and connection with the great Amer ican game. Radio allowed baseball to reach people of all socioeconomic levels and helped galvanize the sport as the national pastime. Still, baseball play-by-play wa s a small part of the broadc ast day. During other periods, discussions of sports were “f iller” thrown in at random times. That changed during the 1955 baseball season, when WHN, the flagship station of the Brooklyn Dodgers, began to feature play-by-play man Marty Glickman, wr iter Bert Lee and local broadcaster Ward Wilson in a roundtable discussion that aired before and after each Dodger game. While listener call-ins were never part of the progr am, listening audiences were treated to the banter among Glickman, a New York Giants fan and Lee and Wilson, both fans of the Dodgers. Word began to spread and New York ers tuned in to listen to the arguments. This seemingly minor program planted the first seeds of possibility in the minds of radio programmers letting them know that this type of programming could be strong enough to stand on its own (Rosen, 4-5).


36 With the “banter” among Glickman, Lee, and Wilson, the antagonism of sports competition on the field is (re)created narrativ ely, discoursively, and dramatically in the announcer’s booth. More importantly, the demo cratic ideals of Am erican citizenry-based on voice, participation, and informed opi nion (Carey 1985)--is enacted at the ball park. Raymond Williams speaks to the developmental relationship between communication and institutions, important to understanding the model that was being created for live sports broadcasting: Many of our communication models become in themselves, social institutions. Certain attitudes to others, cer tain forms of address, certa in tones and styles become embodied in institutions which are then very power in social effect. . These arguable assumptions are often embodied in solid, prac tical institutions which then teach the models from which th ey start. (1966: 19-20 Communications ). In sixty years, the sports talk form at—before, during, and after the game—has evolved from the genial, competitive banter of men who talked about a table in 1955. Sports Talk Radio Takes Shape as Reflexive Opportunity During the 1960’s, the interac tive nature of sports talk radio slowly began to take shape. Roundtable discussion along with indi vidual commentary began airing on more stations nationwide. Timeslot s for the broadcasts were mainly during evening hours and the stations airing these broadcasts were mostly flagship stations of major sports teams. At that time, teams had significant influence over their flagships and acted to minimize criticism of team management. That meant that hosts, guests and for the first time callers, underwent close scrutiny so as not to s ound too hostile toward a team or team


37 management (Rosen, p.5). Hostility toward management, however, went way beyond sports in the political upheaval of the 1960s. In Richard Lipsky’s essay, “Toward A Political Theory of American Sports Symbolism,” he singles out the 1960s as especial ly important in attacks on the culture of American sports: the “left” attacked “antilife” and “fascist” appro aches to sports; the black power movement attacked racism in sports; the women’s movement saw sports as the “epitome of sexism in American life. The attack on the sports establishment ideologically replicated the attacks on other American institutions” (1978, p. 347). The interactive nature of the format took root in local stations in New York City. By 1964, at least 3 sports talk shows were airing in that market regularly. Art Rust, Jr., an announcer at WMCA, is credited by broadcast hi storians with being the first sports talk host in New York to air calls by listeners. Perhaps not coincidentally, the political upheaval of the 1960’s was beginning to take root at this time. While the assa ssination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Woodsto ck and the height of the pub lic protests of the Vietnam war were still a few years off, the handwriting was on the walls. As the 1960’s progressed, ownership at WM CA became increasingly critical of Rust for what they deemed a boring and dr y delivery style. In the streets and on the college campuses of New York, like in so many other cities around the nation, very loud and very raucous public protes ts of the Vietnam war, raci al violence and bigotry, and women’s rights were the order of the day. While it is not accurate to say that the inclusion of caller content to sports ra dio at the time represented a mirror image of what was going on in the streets, one can argue that it was, in a sense, a reflexive opportunity to comment and to critique. Victor Turner (1988) comme nts on how cultural media and its enactments


38 are reflexive : “a sociocultural group turns, bends reflects back on itself, upon the relations, actions, symbols, meanings, codes, ro les, statuses, social structures, ethical and legal rules, and other components that make up their public selves” ( Anthropology of Performance p. 24). Sports talk radio soon would be saturated with these turns and bends. After replacing Rust with numerous othe r personalities, John Sterling (who today is the lead radio play-byplay broadcaster for the New York Yankees) brought his raucous, confrontational, yet knowledgeable style to the airwaves in 1970 and became New York’s most recognizable local sports talk radio host. Sterling’s show was tame by today’s standards, but was pioneering in that his style was at times openly confrontational, harsh and be rating of callers that disagr eed with him. What Sterling created was a “theater of the mind” perfect for a New York audience. Radio personalities at that time were still required to mainta in a certain sense of propriety and pleasant conduct. Sterling bucked that trend and along the way got the attention of the FCC who monitored his show carefully waiting for him to cross the line. Station owners both inside and outside of New York knew that Sterling’s approach made for great radio. The content caused a buzz and got people listening to and ca lling their local stations (Rosen, 5-6). “Bucking the trend” in the 1960s was de rigueur, and Sterling suggests a shift in the representative anecdote of sports talk radio from “brash visionary” to “harsh and confrontational.” The protests, picket lin es, and anti-war demonstrations, and their critiques, have moved to the radio sound booth


39 Loudmouths and Masculinity Cleveland’s Pete Franklin, took the genre to new theatrical heights and is credited with making sports talk radio a nationally recognized phenomenon. A Boston native, Pete Franklin was a general talk show host school ed in traditional radio journalism who also loved sports. After climbing the ladder of sma ll and medium sized stations in a variety of markets, Franklin came to Cleveland in 1967 and began his signature program Sportsline on WERE, a small 15,000 watt station. During this time, Franklin was working himself into the ground. Sportsline would run at least three hour s, sometimes four. He would follow that up with overnight shifts of five to six hours of general talk shows. In 1970, Franklin moved to WWWE (or “3WE” as it was known in the market). WWWE had a 50,000 watt transmitter which at night could reac h as many as 38 of the 50 United States, Canada, Mexico and even some of the Ca ribbean Islands. This allowed Franklin’s arrogant, abrasive brand of sports talk to co me to the attention of not only listeners, but station owners and industry progr ammers nationwide (Rosen, 8-9). Rather than pretend that Franklin was in any way traditional, WWWE decided to promote Franklin on the air as he was, a se lf-described “obnoxious loudmouth.” On-air brawls with callers were referenced on Fr anklin’s show for weeks after they aired. Franklin’s show became synonymous with Cleveland sports through the 1970’s and into the 1980’s. His success with Clevel and listeners can be attributed in part to the fact that during the height of his show’s popularity, the local professional teams (the NFL’s Browns, the NBA Cavaliers and MLB’s Indians) were languishing at or near the bottom of the standings. Franklin was relentless in his criticism of team ownership. One local NBA owner thought Franklin had finally take n his criticism into the realm of the


40 criminal. Thus began perhaps the most important court case ever to involve what can be said on sports talk radio. Ted Stepien, a Cleveland advertising mogul, bought the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1980. Among other things, Stepien infuriated local fans and media throughout the early 1980’s by consistently trading aw ay high draft picks for vete ran players of questionable ability, changing coaches four times dur ing the 1981-1982 season (including hiring, firing and later re-hiring Bill Musselman) and th reatening to move the team to Toronto in the spring of 1983. For Franklin and his li steners, it was open season on Stepien. The following are transcripts from the case of Stepien v. Franklin [Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Case No. 058404 (1986)] isolating what Stepien alleged was defamatory and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In the following excerpts from Franklin’s show, the underlined areas represent just some of the exact phrases that Stepien’s legal team alleged were defamatory: Franklin: “No team in the history of any professional sport has ever been subject to a double mo ratorium and has been called ‘too stupid’ by its own league office to conduct its normal business. Twice in the history of the franc hise, the NBA by its own legal actions has declared Ted Stepien too stupid.” (March 15, 1983 broadcast.) Caller: “Listening to the Ted Stepie n tape, if I remember correctly he said first round draft choices are easy to get?


41 Franklin: (Laughing) Well, whatever he sai d, we know he lies and we know he’s crazy. What else do we need to know? Caller: Well I just don’t understand this man… Franklin: He’s crazy Caller: He cannot, every time he opens his mouth he plants…his foot firmly… Franklin: Right. That’s right. He’s nuts. He’s nuts. He’s certifiable .” (March 15, 1983 broadcast) Franklin: “It doesn’t make any di fference what Ted Stepien says. Caller: That’s true. Franklin: He’s a pathological liar Caller: Yes. Franklin: And he’ll say one thing at 10:00, at 10:05 something entirely different. Other t han being a certifiable nut and a pathological liar, there is really probably nothing wrong with the guy other than that. So I woul d pay attention to a handshake agreement with a man who has the ethics of a snake.” Caller: There clearly has never been a precedent like this in any sport. Franklin: Yes. The league office said, ‘you’re too dumb to exist and stay in business and you’re too dum b to trade. Twice. They issued


42 a moratorium on TS – ‘Too Stupid’twice.’” (Broadcast date unclear) Franklin: “We’re talking about a real honest loony. I don’t know what the NBA has in mind official ly. I know unofficially what the opinion is. They are willing to do anything and every-thing in their power to divest themselves of Step ien. He is an infestment [sic], a cancer, that has screwed up the le ague, has escalated the salaries and is responsible for everythi ng from venereal disease to whooping cough.” (March 14, 1983 broadcast) In his ruling on the matter, Judge Burt W. Griffin found the following: “Franklin’s program is based primarily on th e common sports knowledge of his listeners. In many respects, the interchanges between Fran klin and his callers resemble the locker room dialogue of informed, opinionated amateu r athletes about the world of professional sports” (p. 7). He went on to categorize Frankl in’s comments as tending “to be made in broad terms, often meant to be outrageous, provocative, and/or humorous.” Ultimately, Franklin’s comments were deemed by the cour t to be nothing more than hyperbolic hot air and Griffin found for Franklin, ordering Step ien to pay all legal costs. Said Griffin, “Franklin’s diatribe consisted of the common language of a tave rn or locker room sports outburst transferred to the airwaves. It is perhaps the style on the air of the emotional sports fan in a barroom discussion that attrac ts Franklin’s audience. Such radio dialogue cannot be regarded as ‘atroci ous and intolerable in a civi lized community’ however much one might prefer a different public style” (Griffin, p. 13).


43 The representative anecdote has again shifte d gears, this time with the aid of the court system, from the “brash and confrontatio nal man” to the discursive worlds of bar room and locker room. This important judicial approval firmly locates sports talk in the world of men, in the places they inhabit, a nd the discourses they create in those public places. Dale Spender speaks of the neighbor hood tavern and Ann Whitehead’s research in a community in Herefordshire, England: The pub is the centre for talk and it is almo st exclusively a male preserve, so the meanings of women are not allowed to surface in this context. Whitehead states that in the pub a great deal of ‘verbal dueling’ goes on among the males, and that male supremacy, and male dominance in their own homes, is fundamental to this ‘verbal dueling.’ ( Man Made Language 1980, p. 113). A court had now determined that high-oct ane, pointed, boister ous talk radio was within the scope of protected free speech. That this “free speech” was typical of male spaces and styles further naturalized, endorsed, and valorized masculine styles of talk on the radio. Franklin’s Sportsline continued, and with it came the development of some of the staples of the format today. For example, it was Franklin who began using television and radio soundbites (from both sports and news and entertainment) to up the entertainment value of his show. Franklin would drop thos e soundbites in at random times to incite laughter or to clinch a point. One of his favor ite recorded bits was that of actor Carroll O’Connor in the character of Archie Bunker, deriding his son in law Michael Stivic as a “meathead – dead from the neck up!” During pa rticularly heated calls where he disagreed with a caller, Franklin would often stop talking completely and end the call with the


44 “meathead” clip before simply disconnecti ng the call. Franklin was unabashed. He continued to describe himself as an “obnoxi ous loudmouth” and reveled in the acerbic back-and-forth between himself and his ca llers. Franklin was a new breed of radio personality and despite the risk of vitriol, listeners couldn’t get enough. The radio became the media’s version of the neighborhood pub. Pete Franklin is also credited with st arting some of sports talk radio’s most enduring characteristics. It wa s Franklin who first began feat uring repeat regular callers who would become known on his program by crea tive, identifiable nicknames. One such featured caller was known as “Mr. Know-It-A ll.” When Franklin finally left WWWE for New York’s WFAN in 1987, that caller, whos e real name was Mike Trivissano, actually took over for Franklin at WWWE. Almost two d ecades later, a former regular caller to the Jim Rome Show known as “J.T. The Brick” now hosts his own nationally syndicated radio show on Fox Sports Radio. These char acters, too, might be considered stock characters in the newest representative anec dote of sports talk radio: Man at bar makes everyone laugh and cringe while holding forth. The Birth of WFAN: Lots of Watts and In Your Face During the 1980’s, talk radio experienced a renaissance and broadened its scope and reach in terms of both content and audi ence. The AM dial, which for decades had broadcast talk and music programming, faced extinction as FM stereo broadcasts improved and FM stereo receivers (includi ng the popular Sony Walkman) became more inexpensive and popular. At the same time, the business end of radio began to change. Federal rules regarding owners hip of stations and format and content guidelines were loosened in a sweeping federal deregulation of the broadcast industry. That meant large


45 corporations now had the chance to expand their holdings. The Federal Communications Commission was chaired at the time by Mark Fowler, who saw deregulation as a way for more citizens to have their needs met by radi o. But what happened instead was a boom in corporate ownership of radio. Entire radio markets began to be dominated by ownership groups like Infinity Broadcasting, who in th e late 1980Â’s began to syndicate the popular and controversial Howard Stern Show, first in the Philadelphia and Washington D.C. area and slowly to dozens of markets across th e country. By the 1990Â’s corporate owned radio was largely responsible for the ove rwhelming growth and popularity of both conservative political talk radio and of s ports talk radio. Not surprisingly, growing numbers of individual stations followed the lead of WFAN and bega n solely broadcasting sports talk. The history of sports talk radio is filled with many famous names. Most of the men and women who became famous in the indu stry did so through their broadcasts. But one man, Jeff Smulyan, made his contribution to sports talk radio o ff the air by taking a huge gamble, and for that he will forever be remembered as a pioneer in the industry. In July 1987, Smulyan was the chairman of Em mis Broadcasting. That month, Smulyan launched radio station WFAN, a New York City radio station dedicated solely to sports all day and all night. In the interest of providing perspec tive, seven years earlier, the broadcast industry laughed, and then urged caution, when Ted Turner started CNN. Six years earlier, the industry responded simila rly when MTV came to cable television. Unsurprisingly, Smulyan was chided by his peers for formatting a station with nothing but sports. Paramount am ong the industryÂ’s critique of SmulyanÂ’s idea was that no station could survive by appeal ing solely to men. It should be noted that the criticism


46 of those industry insiders (e specially from those with 20 or more years of experience) was undoubtedly based on decades old concepts of radio audience analysis which were rooted overwhelmingly in the notion that all programming on every station must appeal to as broad a base of listene rs as possible in order to su cceed and attract advertisers. According to Lev (1990), it looked like those industry predictions of certain doom were correct. WFAN lost approximately $7.5 million in its first year of operation and was near collapse on numerous occasions. On the brink of failure, Smulyan devised a plan to save the station. In July of 1987, he and Emmis Br oadcasting bought the holdings of the NBC radio network for $39 million, including the legendary New York station WNBC. With that purchase, Smulyan instantly got f our things: attenti on, respect, big name programming and a station with a powerhouse 50,000 watt transmitter that could make his all-sports station heard throughout the no rtheast and at night from Canada to the Carolinas and beyond. Some smaller benefits in cluded the rights to broadcast the NBA’s New York Knicks and the NHL’s New York Rangers. Plus, Emmis would now have a heavy hitter on their roster that New Yorkers loved. Though he wasn’t a sports star, Don Im us was a radio personality who brought instant name recognition. After completing the purchase, Smulyan moved WFAN from its original 1050 kHz frequency to WNBC’ s clear channel 660 kHz frequency (AM stations from 540 kHz through the low to mi ddle 800 kHz range are often called “clear channel” stations because of their ability to be heard hundr eds of miles away from the transmitter when powered by high-wattage). He fired consummate nice guy Greg Gumbel from his job as morning drive host and replaced him with the abrasive Imus, who kept the general talk radio/comedy format that ma de him a New York radio icon. That move,


47 which no longer made WFAN an all sports station, accomplished what Smulyan and Emmis Broadcasting wanted. It saved the sta tion financially and unbeknownst to them at the time, it ensured a future for the all sports format. Imus was the catalyst the station needed. From 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. each weekday morning, Imus brought in the listeners, ratings, revenue and reputation WFAN needed to succeed. Sports dominated the rest of the programming day. Listenership rose and by the end of 1989, WFAN had dug itself out of debt and posted a reported profit of $24 million (Lev, 1999). Today, WFAN is still seen by those inside and outside of s ports talk radio as America’s flagship sports radio station. Don Imus remains in the morni ng drive slot. Play by play of the Mets and the Giants are heard on the station and callers are still calling the shows. Jeff Smulyan’s million dollar gamble became a broadcasting triumph. WFAN’s story truly is a re presentative anecdote for th e sports talk genre as a whole, a classic underdog story which ends in unexpected success. It began with a gambler (Smulyan), taking a risk with a format that those supposedly “in the know” within the industry said woul d never work, who added a “loudmouth” personality (Imus) as an insurance policy and ended with the crea tion of a station that stands symbolically, today, as a historical champion and model for excellence within the industry (much like Babe Ruth is to baseball).2 Like the underdog appeals to fa ns, this format continues to win over new listeners each day by appealing to a variety of concepts that resonate culturally and socially with so many people, whether they are sports fans or not. The Sports Radio Explosi on: Cementing the Form At the dawn of the 1990’s, sports talk ra dio was a profitable but mainly very cityto-city commodity. However, industry leader s and radio executives were beginning to


48 recognize that the format could be even more profitable in national syndication. The idea had been tried twice before in the 1980’s, but failed miserably. The di fference at this time boiled down to personalities and sheer broa dcast wattage. Both WWWE and WFAN had powerhouse transmitters that a llowed their programs and hosts to be heard in huge chunks of the nation. In a way, sports talk radio was already informally syndicated because of the sheer number of people it wa s reaching, but these people lived largely east of the Mississippi River. In the early to mid-1990’s, other syndicated talkers outside the sports world were beginning to explode with popularity. Wes tinghouse (later purchased by Infinity Broadcasting, a unit of CBS) had brought th e raunchy New Yorker Howard Stern to several huge markets including Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. and would go on to bring his controversial morni ng drive program to the nation’s four top media markets by 1996. Even WFAN’s Don Imus was being syndicat ed in other markets and showing solid results outside New York. But there was one man who was becoming the nation’s most recognizable syndicated radio voice – Rush Limbaugh. Even in the wake of the 1992 election of Democrat Bill Clinton, Limba ugh remained extraordinarily popular. He parlayed his talent into book deals and a short-lived syndicated television series. Limbaugh was re-defining what it meant to be a radio star. Stern and Limbaugh, at this time, were indeed cementing their places as th e singular model of their genres. They both did it with a combination of bombast and innovation, bucking the decades old system of rules and trends which rigidly dictated how radio was to be presented. Additionally, they actively sought to promote not just their shows, but themselv es, a step that both literally


49 and figuratively put their faces w ith their voices. Sports talk had yet to find its face, but it would not be long before it did. Sports radio syndication finally got the backing of a huge, deep-pocketed corporation in the late 1990’s when ESPN Radio, a unit of Disney, grew from a weekend only service for large markets, to a seven-da y-a-week mirror of their television sports network. Well known ESPN TV anchors like Dan Patrick and Mel Kiper, Jr. would frequently appear on ESPN radio (Dan Pa trick went on to anchor his own program, which remains on the air today) and the ra dio network liberally used the popular “SportsCenter” jingles and name dur ing semi-hourly score updates. ESPN radio broke gender barriers in 1995 when the network began national syndication of the program of personality Nanci Donnella n. Known as “The Fabulous Sports Babe,” Donnellan was a hit in the hype r-masculine world of sports talk with her aggressive yet personal style. She borrowed lib erally from the Pete Franklin formula with plenty of shtick and sound effects. She was famous for a dropping bomb sound she would play whenever she had enough of the opini on of a caller and disconnected the call. Frequently during the most heated of argumen ts with her callers, she would holler “Blow me!” before hanging up. In her 1996 biogra phy, Donnellan described her program and what she thought of working in a format dominated by men: At its best, my show is theater of the mind. These other sports talk shows are, at best, the outhouse in the rear of the theater of the mind – necessary, perhaps, but not fondly remembered. If nothing else, these other shows give jobs to radio hosts stewing in their own testoste rone, who don’t know anything beyond eating pizza, jerking o ff, and playing fantasy football,


50 today’s hobby for tomorrow’s serial killers. There is only one piece of advice I can give these hosts and thei r listeners: Get a job, get a haircut, get a life! (Donnellan, p. 6). How much of that quote was merely bluste r to help hype her program is open for debate. But during the height of her popular ity, you could not ignore Donnellan. She was an oddity in the industry and many men tuned in simply to see if she could “hang” with the men. Her success can also be attributed to shrewd business decisions by Disney, who bundled her Monday through Friday show in to a package of weekend shows that affiliates were required to air. The affiliate stations desperately needed that weekend programming and as a result, Donnellan’s show aired on nearly 150 stations nationwide. Donnellan used her gender to her best advant age. Her callers were overwhelmingly male, and Donnellan had a great talent for talking to them as though she were a lover, a sister, a mother or just another sports fan depending on the vibe she got from the caller. Her in studio guests were often ESPN television pers onalities talk ing about the day’s sports news, which gave her an added boost of cred ibility. Donnellan’s radio run was brief, but it was still an important milestone in the deve lopment of the genre because of her ability to get through to fans as knowledgeable, cr edible, prepared and fearless. By simply having her name on the roster, and keeping it there for as long as she did, she broke barriers. In 1998, after a series of disagreements with management, she disappeared from the airwaves and sports talk radio was still in search of a signature star.3 That star was about to emerge.


51 Welcome to The Jungle: TH E Representative Anecdote In 1994, a brash, 30 year old Southern California sports radio host named Jim Rome caught the attention of ESPN executives. His approa ch to sports talk was unorthodox at best, a program that combined an in-your-face, tell-it-like-it-is style with street slang and background urba n music. Rome’s style was a perfect fit for the fledgling ESPN2, Disney’s spin-off television station that was originally designed to appeal to younger audiences with action sports and a hip, contemporary lineup of shows. Rome signed to anchor the evening program Talk2 on began to settle in, bringing his biting, sometimes confrontational st yle to cable television. It has been said that one moment can ma ke or break a career in the entertainment business. In the spring of 1994, Jim Rome ha d his moment, and with it came instant national recognition. For years, Rome had ope nly bashed Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jim Everett on his radio show for what Rome opined was his wimpy playing style and tendency to choke in clutch situ ations. His critique of Everet t was merciless, as were his critiques of many underachieving players in hi s home market of Lo s Angeles. On this night, Jim Everett was a guest on Rome’s television show. Rome wasted no time comparing Everett to a famous female tenni s player with a similar sounding surname. The following transcript is from that broadcas t. It has come to be known to Rome’s fans simply as “The Incident”: Jim Rome: You may have even be en Jim Everett back there [in 1989] but somewhere along the way Jim, you ceased being Jim and you became Chris.


52 Jim Everett: Well, let me tell you a little secret ... that, you know, we're sitting here right now, and if you guys want to take a station break, you can. But if you call me Chris Everett to my face one more time ... JR: I already did it twice JE: You'd better ... if yo u call it one more time, we'd better take a station break. JR: Well, its a five-minute segm ent, on a five-segment show. We've got a long way to go JE: We do. JR: We've got a long way to go. I'll get a couple of segments out of you. JE: It's good to be here with you though ... because you've been talking like this behind my back for a long time now. JR: But now I've said it right here, so we've got no problems then. JE : I think that you probab ly won't say it again. JR: I'll bet I do JE: OK [short pause] JR: Chris. [Everett violently tosses aside coffee table, pounces on Rome] There has been speculation for years that the whole event was a carefully calculated publicity stunt. That speculati on has never been conf irmed. Whether it was


53 staged or not made no real difference. The c lip of the incident played over and over again on both sports and news televi sion and radio for days after and Rome was the talk of sports fans everywhere. They became curi ous about Rome, as did corporate radio executives. Two years later, Premiere Radio Networks made Rome the offer that would catapult him into national stardom, signing Rome to a syndication deal that in less than 10 years would put him on more than 185 stat ions around the country and expand his fan base from coast to coast. As representative anecdote, this “incid ent” operates dramatically on a number of levels: from trickster, boys -will-be-boys, to cultural fears. Rome displays many characteristics of traditional trickster figures, wily, witty, boastful, braggadocio, unintimidated by threats of phys ical violence, who lure big, aggressive, (and oftentimes) stupid characters into their own self-serving plots. As a typical “boys will be boys” playground encounter, the name-calling escal ates into physical violence. Most importantly, Rome utilizes the ultimate insult to heterosexual masculinity: he calls Jim Everett a girl. While “throws like a girl,” is a common sports slur, insinuating that Jim Everett plays like Chris Evert (famous for her two-fisted backhand) belies the multiple championships of her pro-tennis career. Instea d, “Chris” is emblematic of femininity: her need to accommodate for l ack of upper body strength, he r girlish figure, her bobbing ponytail. Brummett writes that the representa tive anecdote “taps what a culture most deeply fears and hopes, and how that culture conf ronts those concerns symbolically” (1984, p. 166). Rome has taped into the most masculin e of cultural fears: being called a girl in


54 public and then having to deal with that insult. This moment as formula for radio talk show performed masculinity wi ll be repeated over and over on the Jim Rome Show. The Format Today Today, sports talk radio is bot h solidifying its base nationally and growing roots locally. Along with Jim Rome, ESPN’s Dan Pa trick is enjoying a great deal of success with his nationally syndicated program. Arbitron data regard ing male listene rs age 25-54, the most coveted demographic in the format peaked in the fall of 2003 and has slipped since then only slightly. The industry is al so currently marveli ng at the success of Boston’s WEEI, one of the only sports talk sta tions in the country to program solely local hosts for its talk shows. WEEI launched in August 1994 following mu ch the same formula that helped start WFAN. The Don Imus Show provided a lead-in and the re st of the day was dedicated to sports. In 1998, current owner Entercom Communications bought the station and quickly decided to dump the Imus show in favor of local talent John Dennis and Gerry Callahan, who remain in the morning drive slot today. One of WEEI’s most successful attention-getters was developed by afternoon drive hosts Glenn Ordway and Pete Sheppard. Each day at 5:45 p.m., Ordway and Sheppard air the recorded voices of listeners who call “The Whiner Line,” a sp ecial phone line set up fo r listeners to call whenever they need to complain about anythi ng in the world of sports. The stunt was so successful that the station now conducts an annual Acad emy Award-style event each January called “The Whineys” where the best calls and callers are singled out for their success.


55 The history of sports talk radio would be incomplete without a discussion of how the format has made stars out of the callers w ho add so much color to the endless hours of broadcasts that are aired each year. While th is subject will be discussed in much more depth in later chapters, I find it very appropriate to mention it here because many of these callers helped write the hist ory of the format. Their cont ributions are invaluable. For many, talk radio is more than just entertainm ent, itÂ’s their lifeline. As Josh Stern of Boston UniversityÂ’s Daily Free Press (2003) said: There is something good and pure about the realm of radio stations, as throngs of passionate, faceless, hardcore sports fans call into their favorite shows to argue everything from off-season acquisitions to postseason letdowns. There is also, however, a sad and pathetic aroma that wafts from the airwaves. You get the feeling when you listen to some of these people that they are clearly lacking somethi ng in their lives. You almost get the picture of a bald, fat guy with holes in his tank top and Cheetos in his teeth when you hear some of these callers. Some of them are quite uneducated. Many are shot down and put in their pl ace by the hosts of the show. Then you have a select few who rise above th e fray. They dazzle fellow listeners with their knowledge and views on the game. They earn the respect of the hosts. They are the true superfans. (Stern, p.1). SternÂ’s quote again reflec ts CareyÂ’s ritual view of communication with callers utilizing the programming, as we ll as the programming format, to in a sense insert a small part of themselves directly into the sports they love. The listeners/callers assume a social role by and through the unique vehicle of spor ts talk radio. One WFAN caller, it can be


56 said, epitomized the ritual vi ew. She was Doris Bauer, know n to her fellow listeners as “Doris from Rego Park.” Each night for se venteen years – from the time WFAN signed on the air until she died, usually around 1 a. m., Bauer, a raspy-voiced woman with a chronic cough, would call the sta tion and ask to be put on the air. She was the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. She had an encycl opedic knowledge of the New York Mets collected baseball cards as a child and memo rized the statistics on the back. What Doris also had was a condition called neurofibromato sis, a disease whose most visible symptom is tumor-like bumps that grow on the skin. Th rough the course of her life Doris suffered the ridicule of other people, along with bone breast and lung cancer She never dated and never married. Her life, it can be said, was baseball and sports talk radio. She talked often about her Sunday season ticket package at Shea Stadium and would sometimes call the station after Mets games to rehash her fa vorite moments from the game. The hosts at WFAN, especially overnight personality Joe Beningo, were patient w ith Doris. She loved to talk, and when she talked, she invariab ly coughed – a lot. The cough became her trademark. She bristled when the hosts woul d take her call too close to a commercial break. She would end all her calls with another trademark, the simple phrase “Thank you for your time and courtesy.” Doris Bauer died in October, 2003 of complications from breast and lung cancer. She was 58 years old. Radio allowed millions of people to “see” Doris Bauer as she really was: smart, passi onate, enthusiastic, cantankerous and very human. History is Written Every Day What began with borrowed equipment and radio waves over eight decades ago has grown into one of the most promising and profitable radio formats of the modern era.


57 Sports talk radio has come into its own a nd carved a permanent pla ce in radio. Right now on stations around the country, callers are call ing, hosts are ranti ng, corporations are advertising and general managers and consul tants are plotting new strategies to boost listenership and bring new stati ons to new markets. From wh at was once fill-in banter on pre and post-game radio, sports talk grew in to a first a cantankerous oddity and then an undeniably profitable entertainment business, using the drama of sport as a launching pad for listeners to place themselves, psychologically at the very least, closer to the sports that make up so much of the fabric of their lives. The drama, encapsulated in representative anecdotes, is very much about a ritual view of communication. Sports talk radio does not solely present information and news, but according to Carey, “news is a historic real ity. It is a form of culture invented by a particular class at a particular point of hist ory. . Like any invented cultural form, news both forms and reflects a particular ‘hunger for e xperience,’” a desire to do away with the epic, heroic, and traditional in favor of the unique, original novel, new—news.” (1985, p. 21). The history of sports talk radio, viewed through the ritual model of communication, is the epic, heroic, and traditional returned to news events that would deny them: heroes and villains, the challenges and opportuniti es of new technologies, reflection and reflexivity, money and politics, masculine brav ado and insult, even tricksters and their unwitting victims. As I conclude this chapter, I would like to again make reference to the earlier quote by J. Macgregor Wise. He noted “[H]ow a public imagines its past relations with technology will have an impact on how it tr eats its present technology…even if these technologies seem superficially different from each other” (p. 96). Th e history of sports


58 talk radio is, in many ways, a history which year after year increasingly invites more and more direct participation from the audience. With that increased participation comes and increasing sense of both cultural and personal co nnection with sports. What lies ahead in terms of new representative anecdotes remain s to be seen. Surely, those anecdotes will drive even more people closer to and generate even more inte rest in sports as a cultural phenomenon.


59 Chapter Three The Jim Rome Show as Rhetorical Forum Sports talk radio provides simultaneously a likely and unlikely arena for scholarly inquiry. In the quest to continually expand the boundaries of rhetoric and rhetorical studies, inquiry into such untraditional arenas as talk radio can often uncover some of the most provocative, fresh insights into the wa ys rhetoric is moving beyond the textual and toward the functional. To the uninitiated, sports talk radio can appear, at best, circus-like and silly, quirky and confusing. At its worst, program ming content dips into the realm of the sophomoric and absurd. Nationally syndicated co lumnist Dave Barry made a sports talk radio conversation a constant call-back in his novel, Big Trouble Two New Jersey mob hit-men, waiting in their car for a re ndezvous, hear this conversation: Host: Where are the Gator fans now? All you Gators call when you WIN, but now that you LOSE, you donÂ’t have the guts. . Caller: IÂ’m a Gator fan. And IÂ’m calling. Host: And what do you have to say? Caller: You said we didnÂ’t have the guts to call, so IÂ’m calling. Host: Yeah, OK, and so what do you have to say? Caller: IÂ’m saying, here I am. IÂ’m calling. Host: ThatÂ’s it? YouÂ’re calling to say youÂ’re calling?


60 Caller: You said we didn’t have the guts. Host: Because you DON’T have the guts. All week I had all these Gator fans on here, talking trash, and now they run and hide. Caller: Well, I’M calling. Host: OK, so what’s your point? Caller: My point is, you said we didn’t have the guts to call, so I’m . (p. 114-15) Henry and Leonard, the Jersey mobsters, endure this same conversation no less than five different times in the novel while waiting in their car. Its content, tone, and circularity never change. While Barry captures a common caricature of sports talk radio, an actual caller, “Jeff in Phoenix,” called The Jim Rome Show to offer a stinging critique of the September 11, 2004 half-time show at the Stanford-B righam Young football game. The Stanford band has a long reputation for creatively and playfully ribbing the opposing team during their performances. On that day, five ba nd members emerged during the performance dressed in wedding veils, ostensibly to poke f un at the old (and no longer practiced by the mainstream) Mormon tradition of polygamy. Th e stunt offended numer ous BYU fans and players, forcing Stanford to issue a formal apology for the incident less than two weeks later. In the days that followed, sports talk radio was filled with callers reacting to the incident. “Jeff in Phoenix” had the following reaction… Hey, I just have uh one take here basically, and, and I just caught the uh tail end of uh, um you men tioning uh Stanford’s marching band and uh, that uh just awful display of poor taste. I mean, let’s,


61 let’s think about what we have he re, uh, Stanford, uh that school is located in the People’s Republic of Palo Alto, I think zoning requires, what, like 3 uh vegan cafe’s per block and multicultural sensitivity, you know, is the norm th ere. I mean let’ s face it, if you ignore a person of a different ethnic background or engage in inappropriate laughter you’re goi ng to find yourself in uh, student Nuremberg trials. And then th ese clowns go ahead and whack another school’s religion? The bo ttom line here is that BYU has standards for behavior and Stanfo rd has standards for thought! And that’s just dead wrong. I’m out. (9/14/04) “Jeff in Phoenix” is an exemplary caller. Though the call is very brief and filled with sarcasm and humor, contains references to history that so me people may not be familiar with, and insults the city of Palo Alt o, California, Jim Rome praised it at the end of that day’s programming as the best call made to his show that day. It is critical to note that this call dealt with abso lutely nothing related to an athletic contest beyond the fact that a band was performing on a football field. In a larger sense, this call to a sports talk radio programs transcends sports and provides pointed soci al and sociological critique, asking listeners by and through its rhetoric to critically cons ider what it means when representatives of one institution of higher learning mock representatives of another based on religion. This call is indicative of how sports talk shows “open a public space where ideas and attitudes of ordinary people seem to matter, enabling the fans and broadcasters to share dramatic interpretati ons about the relationshi p between sports and


62 society, whether or not these interpretations correspond to reality” (Zagacki & Grano, 2005, pp. 45-46). Sports talk radio programs serve importa nt functions. Those functions include “[The reaffirmation of identity ] through mediated interactions in which heroes, martyrs, villains and the role of the fans are r ecalled and renewed in common appreciation” (Zagacki & Grano, 2005, p. 45). Additionally, the programs function to, as Giroux (1996) suggests, frame debate, mobilize desire and ma ke claims on public memory in regard to sports and culture. These programs also provid e an opportunity for fans to actively vent, in one of the most public ways possible, wh atever emotions they are feeling regarding sports. They can rejoice in a win, find cons olation in a loss, or simply share opinions regarding the hot sports topics of the day, leaving them ofte n feeling empowered in ways they otherwise could not. The genre also functions in a less interactive sense to inform listeners with final game scores, the latest trade rumors, etc. For some, that information may simply satisfy a momentary curiosity, but for others, that information may mean a huge financial windfall or loss as the result of a wager or may mean that the receiver just vaulted to the top of the standings in hi s/her fantasy sports league. For many more listeners, such as Doris Bauer, the genre pr ovides companionship and a sense of comfort similar to that of close interpersonal relati onships. I believe this chapter will uncover yet another function of this broadcast format, th at of a performance arena whereby callers and audience members act in concert rhetoric ally to create and re-create meaning(s) through the “stage” of sports talk radio.


63 Purpose of This Chapter In an effort to put textual analysis of rhetoric into conversa tion with these social functions of rhetoric, this chap ter will examine transcripts of listener phone calls made to The Jim Rome Show during the broadcasts of September 13-17, 2004. The programming aired during that week was t ypical for the show, featuri ng the usual assortment of interviews, callers and monologues by the host. The purpose of this chapter is twofold: to delineate the strategic patterns by which individual callers produce successful performances on The Jim Rome Show and to demonstrate how these same performances fulfi ll larger social functions for the audience, fandom, and American sports culture This analysis assu mes the standards by which good rhetoric is defined lie within those whose lives are most connected to that rhetoric. According to Brummett (1991), “The ways in which patterns manage meaning, influence people’s attitudes and commitments, induce peop le’s acceptance or rejection, or lay claim to their allegiance is the rhetorical dimens ion of popular culture” ( p. 196). This chapter will delineate these rhetorical patterns and tie these rhetorical dimensions to popular sports culture. This chapter will first introduce The Jim Rome Show and its typical content, formulas, and layerings. The chapter then offe rs intertextuality as the best framework for understanding the form. Moving beyond the presence of intertextuality, this chapter will demonstrate how callers to the Jim Rome Show util ize intertextuality to 1) display performance competence, 2) create social identi fication, and 3) engage in social critique.


64 From Clones to Karma: The Jim Rome Show Today’s sports broadcasts are filled with excellent talk show hosts, from ESPN’s Dan Patrick to Tony Kornheiser of the Washington Post and ESPN television’s Pardon The Interruption and beyond. Both Patrick and Kornheis er have received much praise from both their colleagues and the listening public for their work. But make no mistake, sports talk radio is first and foremost an entertainment business, and no one in sports radio has done more to entertain and audi ence and help boost prof its than Jim Rome. The Jim Rome Show is a nationally syndicated spor ts talk radio program aired by Premiere Radio Networks every Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. Pacific time, featuring host Jim Rome (w ho is assisted in the studio by long time producer Travis Rogers and show contributor Jason Stewart), invite d guests and listener phone calls. Arbitron, the radio i ndustry’s most respected so urce for ratings gathering, places this program first in terms of nationa lly syndicated sports talk radio programming (see Spencer, 2001, 2004). I first listened to The Jim Rome Show shortly after I moved to Florida in the mid 1990’s. At that time, sports ta lk radio was still in its infa ncy and like many other sports fans, I found the format to be a great source of both information and entertainment. I had listened to a small sampling of other more “t raditional” sports ta lk shows and enjoyed what I heard. However, from the first time I listened to Rome’s show shortly after it began syndication in 1996, I knew I wanted to keep listening. The show was not just informative and funny, it was intelligent and subtle. There was certainly some content that went over my head, but the razor-shar p combination of inte lligent opinion, engaging


65 guests, and clever callers kept me listening on my lunch breaks and during quiet times in my office. On a typical day, Rome will begin the show with greetings, then offer the phone number and e-mail address of the show (war ning callers that in order to participate successfully they must “have a take, and that take must not suck or you will get run”), and then proceed to offer his comments on th e day’s leading sports stories. It is not unusual for Rome to continue his monologue we ll into the second and even third segment of the program. However, Rome usually begins to take calls in the second segment of the program (immediately following the first commer cial break). Interviews with athletes and sports journalists are also commonplace and feat ure a decidedly more serious tenor on the part of Rome and his callers. During the final half hour of a typical day of programming, Rome features “The Huge Call of the Day” and “The Huge E-mail of the Day,” isolating a single call and e-mail to the show that he deems the best that day. While callers and emailers win no prizes for these categories, they do receive a large measure of prestige among regular listeners of the show. The first thing many new listeners take not e of, and cannot help but to, is Rome’s language and word choice, a combination of standard English, hip-hop street slang, unintelligible noises and random, seemingly sens eless references to popular culture, all bolstered by Rome’s rock-solid knowledge of sports and sports history. His delivery is fast paced, his commentary is biting and of ten insulting, as this transcript indicates: “How about Fresno State laying th at beat down on Kansas State? In Manhattan. I mean you never see a Bill Snyder team get bitch slapped like that. Much less at home, much less by somebody out


66 of conference. Fresno State dropping 45 on K state! Are you kidding me? After an ASS kicking like that, you know Snyder is going to ban butter from the program altogether. Soft butter, hard butter, whipped butter. Now you s ee why Snyder refuses to ever schedule anybody out of confer ence who matters. Look what happens when he does. You fina lly play somebody not named the DeVry institute and you get hammered. (9/14/04) Rome’s monologues set the agenda, tone, a nd performance standards for subsequent callers. The agenda is sometimes hyper-critic al, the tone is often sarcastic and the performance standards are guide d by that agenda and tone. The Jim Rome Show is a modern day rhetorical forum named and enacted by Rome and his callers. Rome refers to his progr am as “The Jungle,” a label that can be read in numerous ways: wild, dangerous, open, exotic. As a rhetorical space, however, “The Jungle” (“It’s a jungle out there”) be st captures the daily competition for Rome’s attention and praise. Callers to Rome’s show compete to first ma ke it to the air, then stay on the air, and ultimately have their call “racked ” (set aside on tape to be considered later in the show as the “Huge Call of the Day.”) His listeners are referred to both by Rome and one another as “Clones,” a moniker give n because successful callers mimic Rome’s style and content. After almost eight years of listening and a full week of taping and transcription of the show, I have identified f our “through lines,” typical subj ect matter, attitudes, and language employed by Rome.


67 1) Rome’s sarcastic derision of his listeners is a staple of the show. He stereotypes the “clones” as unemployed, pathetic losers w ho continue to live with their parents well into middle age and have absolutely no ambiti on. This subtext ultimately led to some of Rome’s fans creating the website “LiveWithMom.com.” 2) Rome’s loyalty to his southern Califor nia roots leads him constantly to chide the people and sports teams of northern Calif ornia, particularly the San Francisco bay area. It is not uncommon for Rome and his clon es to call people from northern California “water hoarders” for not sharing their water wi th their neighbors in the south or “battery chuckers” for the local fans penchant for throwing hard objects, including alkaline batteries, at opposing players from the Los Angeles area during games. 3) Rome’s constant attacks on sports figures and celebri ties who run afoul of the law is a third staple. For nearly four full y ears after O.J. Simpson was accused of killing his former wife and a waiter, Rome and his callers mercilessly derided Simpson in innumerable ways. Rome often references his mythical “Celebrity Drunk Bus” as a preferred alternative to drunk driving that cele brities always seem to forget. When former University of Michigan head football coach Gary Moeller was arre sted for drunk driving several years ago, Jim Rome was extremely vocal in his criticism of him. That arrest prompted the creation of a new verb on Rome’s show – Moeller or past tense, Moellered the act of getting drunk (Rome often describe s being intoxicated as being “Moelleredup”). During the week I taped the show, it was revealed that actress Tracey Gold, who played Carol Seaver in the ABC comedy Growing Pains was arrested for drunk driving. Rome turned her arrest into material for his show.


68 4) The concept of “Jungle Karma” is a fram e that enables Rome to claim magical causes and effects. For years, Rome has advanc ed the legend that athletes who appear as guests on the show are destined that week to have tremendous success in their games. Guests who cancel scheduled appearances are de stined to fail miserably. This “karma” is as legendary to callers as the purported legends of the Sports Illustrated cover curse or the somewhat more modern Campbell’s Chunky Soup advertising curse. These through-lines create and name Ji m Rome’s persona, audience, agenda, and power. The Jim Rome Show fulfills Farrell’s (1993) definition of a rhetorical forum. It acts as a space for multiple positions, which range from support for or derision of teams and athletes to attacks on fellow listeners. It contains more than a decade of rhetorical precedent and relies on audience knowledge of that precedent (and on at least a small degree of cultural literacy) to guide the age ndas and constituencies brought forth by and through the program as a whole. The concept of forum, however, didn’t completely account for my own attraction to the show. What I began to notice after seve ral months of listening was that one factor above all others made me want to tune in day after day – the repeated subtle references to history, popular culture, music, movies and politics that bot h Rome and his callers would weave into their monologues each day to punc tuate (humorously, more often than not) their opinions on sports. Such complex weavings I maintain, deserve critical attention as rhetorical action taken in a rhetorical space. The Jim Rome Show’s Intertextuality The best way to account for the complex weavings, formulas, and references in the content and structure of The Jim Rome Show is through the post-structuralist concept


69 of intertextuality. As noted by Ott and Walter (2000), media critics in the early 1980’s began to take note of two important things. First, audiences can be viewed as active agents in creating meaning, rather than simp ly passive consumers of media; and second, movie and television programs increasingly cont ained content that made references to other areas of popular culture. Academic work s (Campbell & Freed 1993; Collins 1992) along with popular articles (Bark 1998, Griffi n 1998), used the term “intertextuality” to describe the phenomenon. It should be noted th at the use of intertextuality should not be viewed as something that was “born” in the early 1980’s. For example, Brummett (1994) notes that during his heyday in the 1950’s and 1960’s Martin Luther King “wove into a speech many brief passages from the Bible, proverbs, maxims and his other speeches” (p. 151). Also at that time, a controversy arose regarding how various writers began using the term somewhat differently, as either an audience-centered descri ptor or an authorcentered one. Literary theorists, such as Ba rthes (1988), supported the argument for the audience. Barthes, who throughout his career stressed that the unity of a text lies not in its origin [author] but in its des tination [audience], wrote, “The te xt is a tissue of quotations drawn from innumerable centers of culture … [and is] made up of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entertaining into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, and contestation, but there is one place where this multiplicity is focused and that place is the reader, not as was hitherto said, the author” (pp. 146, 148). Fiske (1987) conceptualized a theory of intertextuality which “proposes that any one text is necessarily read in relationship to others and that a range of textual knowledges is brought to bear upon it. These rela tions do not take the form of specific


70 allusions from one text to another and there is no need for readers to be familiar with specific texts to read intertex tually” (p. 108). Collins (1992) suggests that in tertextuality is used consciously and stra tegically by writers and producer s of media content as an invitation to a particular audience response. For example, in 1990, when actor A Martinez left NBC’s daytime drama Santa Barbara to join the cast of th at same network’s prime time legal drama L.A. Law the writers of his new show cleverly and purposely incorporated intertextuality into his very first episode. When his character, Daniel Morales, was introduced at the law firm, he was asked where he was from. When he replied “up north,” he was asked to be more specific. His reply? “Santa Barbara.” One can easily deduce that the writers of L.A. Law used that line to elicit a particular audience response (a quick chuckle), at least for thos e members of the audience familiar with his former work in daytime drama. This exampl e underscores the importance of the creators of content. The tug-of-war continued among authors of scholarly literature. While Suleiman (1990) defines intertextuality as “the presence, either expl icit (as in direct quotation, identified as such) or implicit (as in allusion, parody, imitation) of one text in another” (p. 219), Schirato and Yell (1996) call it “the process of making sens e of texts in reference to their relations with other texts” (p. 92) and as “the different cultural literacies we bring to any reading of a text” (p. 217). Ott and Walte r (2000) accurately note that scholars use the term intertextuality interchangeably to de scribe both “the centering of the audience as a site of textual production and the expanding role of intentional allusion in media” (p. 429).


71 Today, the cooperative intertextuality that exists between authors and audiences continues to be used for the mutual benefit of both parties and can be viewed as both a process and a mindset. This intertextuality in media is both blatant and subtle. Prime time television, for example, contains many examples of blatant intertextuality. On April 27, 1998, producer David E. Kelly brought th e worlds of two of his programs, Ally McBeal and The Practice together. On that night, on two sepa rate networks (FOX and ABC), the characters of both programs appeared together on one another’s shows in back-to-back episodes with the same storyline. Later th at same year, there was a more subtle intertextuality involving characters of both shows. In an episode of Ally McBeal entitled “Making Spirits Bright,” the title character played by Calista Flockhart, runs into a character from The Practice attorney Helen Grab le played by actress Lara Flynn Boyle. During much of 1998, both Flockhart and Boyl e had been the subjects of pervasive scrutiny by the media for their perceived unhealthy low body weight. In a clever intertextual retort, Ally and Helen bump into one another in an office. As the camera pans back, Helen sarcastically tells Ally she was “just admiring your outf it” and adds “Maybe you should eat a cookie.” Ally’s equally sar castic reply? “Maybe we should share it!” Numerous other programs, such as the multiple incarnations of the crime drama franchises CSI (CBS) and Law and Order (NBC), have incorporated much in the way of blatant crossover. FOX’s long running animated series The Simpsons and Comedy Central’s cartoon South Park are perhaps the most legendary shows in television history when it comes to using clever, subtle refere nces to popular culture and media in their storylines.


72 ESPN television’s SportsCenter the network’s signature news-style program of scores, highlights, wrap-ups and interviews, provides us with a s ports-centered example of how intertextuality has found a permanent place in sports culture. The programs hosts have themselves become entertainment figures in part, because of the way they borrow liberally from popular culture during their time on the air. When anchor Linda Cohn describes a basketball player faking left and driving right as “shaki ng it like a Polaroid picture” (a reference to the hip-hop group Outk ast’s lyric in their song “Hey Ya”), or when anchor Steve Berthiaume punctuates his description of a home run highlight by donning a Cuban accent and yelling character Tony Montana’s oft repeated line from Brian DePalma’s Scarface “Say hello to my little friend!,” it’s obvious intertextuality is a common device in the producti on of texts and audience. Intertextuality on the Jim Rome Show is ve ry much about a series of layerings of references to sporting events, popular cultur e, news items, celebrity, and understanding the in-house jargon of the show. Indeed, the li stener must be an astute and up-to-date cultural consumer to understand just how comple x this layering this, as demonstrated in the following transcript and my “translation” of it. JR: Let’s go to Jay in Providen ce. Back to the phones. Hey Jay, what’s up? J: Nothin’ much, Rome, you know, we’re on the heels of another Sox/Yankees series this weekend, la st thing I really needed to see this week was a, uh, another Jeff Nelson/Karim Garica flashback to last year. And, I mean, the Frank Francisco thing, it’s disgusting, I mean, they always say that thi ngs are better in Texas and now you


73 can say the A-holes are even bigger in Texas now. I mean, this is one of the most disgusting things I’ve seen in recent years. And while I was nice to see that the dud e did get a little jail time, but, I don’t know if that’s enough. I mean, Selig, his approval, it’s raising. He’s been preaching par ity all season long. But remember, he did blow the whole steroid scandal investigations and I’m curious to see how he’s gonna have this thing play out. ‘Cause I mean, we also have Todd Bertuzzi, he got suspended for the rest of the season and personally, I think th is is a lot worse that the Bertuzzi case and this guy should be tossed out of baseball if not given the rest of the season off. I mean baseball is America’s pastime, uh, baseball players they are role models for the children this is, this is disgusting and this is the last thing anyone needs to see. Uh, in regards to the Cubs, I know the Lizard’s taking off the gloves now and he wants to get his team’s back for all the heat they’ve been getting. But I think, uh, the Lizard needs to go out and check himself, check the team and speaking of checking yourself, Nomar, I understand that you do have to consult your wife in your decisions. We’re gl ad you’re out of Boston. But why don’t you go ask Skirt Warner a nd how that went when Marcy D’Arcy went to bat for him and started making all his decisions. And the one last thing I got real qui ck is if a tree falls in the woods and no one’s there, does it re ally make a sound? That’s the


74 question I got about the NHL. If no one watches NHL hockey and there’s not a season next seas on, does anyone really care? War Johan Santana the AL Cy Young and the MVP, war no more countdown to the world series of poker, war the Friday morning hangover. I’m out! JR: Rack him! Good job, Jay! That’s tight! (9/15/04) Even a cursory understanding of this transcript is impossible without understanding the dense background of sports, personalities, events, histories, and even spouses, that fund the content of this call. Ja y’s call is packed with references to Major League Baseball (including Chicago Cubs mana ger Dusty Baker solely by his nickname, The Lizard, Commissioner Bud Selig solely by his last name and the Garciaparra/Hamm marriage), the National Hockey League (Van couver Canucks player Todd Bertuzzi was suspended for the remained of the 2003-2004 season for a violent check against an opponent, while the 2004-2005 season was sta lled during a labor dispute), ESPN television (a jab at the netw ork for showing a countdown cloc k all day leading up to their broadcast of The World Series of Poker), w eeknight binge drinking and even a reference to actress Amanda Bearse. Bearse played th e character Marcy D’Ar cy on the classic FOX situation comedy Married With Children and bears a resemblance to Brenda Warner, the wife of New York Giants quarterback Kurt Warner (who becomes feminized by Jay by being referred to as “Skirt” Warner). Br enda Warner, who at one time had her own weekly talk radio show in St. Louis, was vilified by the press in 2003 for appearing on numerous sports talk radio shows and blas ting Rams head coach Mike Martz for not giving her husband more playing time.


75 Jay also made use of one of the Rome show’s most repeated forms of intertextuality by closing his call with phras es beginning with the word “War.” The War _______ reference is a longstanding play on th e Auburn University sports battle cry “War Eagle!” On the Rome show, seasoned li steners know the phrase is often used as a verb…to “war” something is to advance it s cause, to promote and advocate it in both serious and sarcastic ways. The Jim Rome Show provides an excellent text which allows for moving beyond the presence of intertextuality, to explore how intertextuality functions. If the author and the audience are equally impor tant in the creation and mana gement of meaning, then as Ott and Walter (2000) note, intertextuality is “a valuable theoretical tool” which “stands to aid media scholars in their quest to unders tand the complex interact ion of author, text and audience. It expands the way critics thi nk of the practice of reading, and enhances understanding of postmodern popular culture and its role in th e social world” (p. 442). As helpful as those observations are, no cri tic has gone beyond endorsing intertextuality as a construct to exploring how intertextuality operates in specific cu ltural performances. My close reading of the tran scripts of one-week of broad casts of the Jim Rome Show reveals that intertextuality operates in thr ee overlapping and interdep endent ways: 1) as performance competence, 2) as social identification, and 3) as social critique. Successful callers carefully enact each of these f unctions in formulaic and strategic ways. Unsuccessful callers, however, fail at each, in turn evoking and endur ing the wrath of Jim Rome and his audience.


76 Intertextuality and Performance Competence The Jim Rome Show is just that—a show—with a complex mixture of performers, audience, and emergent texts that constitute the show. Richard Bauman (1984) maintains there are three elements that are constitutive of all performance: 1) the performer must display competence, 2) the performer is su bject to and the audience is accountable for evaluating the performance, and 3) heighten ed experience is available in and through performance. All three elements of perf ormance are operating—with a vengeance—each day on The Jim Rome Show First, performance competence is the notion that a performer—any performer— must understand and enact the codes and convent ions of a genre of performance, “above and beyond the referential content” of th e performance (Bauman 1984, p. 11). A firstgrader, for example, quickly learns the code s and conventions of performing the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag: standing, hand on heart, facing the flag. Learning the “referential content,” knowi ng and saying the words appropriately, often comes during and as a part of the learning competency cu rve. Second, all performers are subject to evaluation by the audience; th e ways and means of that ev aluation vary across culture, community, history, and individual perfor mance, but “evaluation” as a constitutive element is a constant. Third, heightened e xperience, again defined differently across cultures, communities, histories, and pe rformances, is always a potential in performance—for performers and audiences. Given those constitutive elements, performance is emergent: “The emergent qual ity of performance resi des in the interplay between communicative resour ces, individual competence, and the goals of the participants, within the context of particular situations” (p. 38).


77 The Jim Rome Show is a performance genre that de mands displays of competence, renders swift and clear evaluation, and makes heightened experiences available to its community. Intertextuality is part an d parcel of each of these elements. First, the performance competencies enacted on the show include being able to utilize at least two of the following six call c ontent strategies: 1) e xpressions of gratitude toward Rome which sometimes turn openly solic itous, 2) at least one reference to current events, 3) at least one reference to the show’s own formulaic phrases, themes, or “referential content” 4) defe nse of your home turf and/or favorite team/athlete, 5) derision of someone else’s home turf and/or favorite team/player, 6) The use of the phrase “War _____” to make one final serious or sarcastic commentary before closing and 7) a “cloned” form of leave-taking at th e end of the call (mostly the use of the phrase “I’m out!,” although “good night now” would be an acceptable alternative). By way of example, this call from Joey in New Bedford successfully performs all seven competencies: JR: Let’s go to Joey! New Bedford! First stop today. Hey Joey, what’s up? J: Rome, to borrow a line, Romey, what’s up, bro? JR: What’s up?! What’s up?! J: How you doin’? JR: I’m great! How about you, Joey? J: Good, hey, Tiger Woods is killin’ me, man. Every week I have his back! He’s makin’ me look ba d still! I hope he doesn’t like his chances anymore. Did you catch that interview he had with Jack,


78 uh, regarding Jack Nicklaus a c ouple days ago? I guess he asked the media if they knew what hi s Ryder Cup record was? I don’t know what it is either. I know what Tiger’s is, what it is and it SUCKS! Anyway, on to, uh, Oscar de la Hoya this weekend. I think he’s gonna bring it. I think he’s got a big win comin’ and if Hopkins doesn’t know, he’s gonna find out, ‘cause De la Hoya is gonna send him a CD. One of the tracks on it is “You Don’t Know Me,” it’s just in Spanish. S ox/Yankees this weekend. I’m gonna borrow one more line from some body, “Make the world a better place, punch a Yankee fan in the f ace.” That’s Schmitty in Fall River. Uh, war Providence tour st op, eventually. War Memo in the 310, Crackberry Crew and The Mom. War T minus 29 days to TS 34, baby. Rome if we have a party for The Mom are you checking in? Late! JR: Alright, Joe. You got it! We’ ll see. Never say never. (9/17/04) This quick call to Rome’s show also successfully followed accepted show formula. After welcoming Joey to the show, Joey greets Rome by borrowing a line from legendary caller “Silk in Huntington Beach” (though S ilk usually pronounces “bro” as “bra”), indicating immediately that he is “down” with th e show’s caller protocol and appreciates being allowed on the air. His cal l proceeds to reference current and upcoming events such as the Ryder Cup and impendi ng Oscar de la Hoya/Bernard Hopkins boxing match. Joey successfully weaves in re ferences to the show’s fan website LiveWithMom.com, as well as the upcomi ng tour stop indicating more knowledge of


79 referential content. He saves his most point ed comments for last, blasting the New York Yankees and taking up for his team, the Boston Re d Sox at what was a critical time in the season. Finally, he “wars” the idea of a tour stop in his home market and some regular contributors to LiveWithMom.com and takes leave with the word “late,” homage once again to Silk who uses the phr ase often at the end of his cal ls. Rome is pleased with the call, and even though it was not “racked ” it made a solid impression and was demonstrated the caller’s rhetorical ability to contribute eff ectively to the show. Second, the evaluation techniques are dict ated by the host himself and are multilayered. Obviously anything which may end vi olating FCC regulations would be grounds for immediate termination and rejection of the call. Beyond that, a ny caller who makes it obvious that his/her call is in any way rehear sed, written down or pre-recorded will also be doomed to fail. Delivery plays an additiona l role. Any calle r who pauses for too long, uses vocalized pauses repeatedly, or has poor grasp of pronunciation, ca n expect to be run from the show and ridiculed. However, cal lers who can weave at least two of the strategies listed above togeth er with references to current and classic popular culture can expect high praise from both Rome and the listeners. Typi cal phrases of praise from Rome include, “excellent” and “that’s tight,” but the highest form of recognition comes with the phrase “Rack him!” (or “Rack he r!”) when it is made known that Rome considers the call to be one of the best of the day and, with that exclamation, alerts his staff that the call is to be made available on tape for possible playback at the end of the program. If a caller stumbles verball y, uses racist or profane language, or is perceived by Rome as having an opinion unworthy of air, Ro me is quick to “run” the caller from the


80 show. When a caller is “run” from the show, he or she is usually cut off in mid-sentence by the sound of a loud buzzer, similar to the one heard at basketball games. Several times a year, Rome treats long time listeners of the show to one of his fa vorite pranks involving the use of that buzzer. One of the rules of th e road when it comes to Rome’s show is that you wait your turn to speak to him on the air. Bill in Tampa, for example, begins his call this way: JR: Let’s go to the phones. We go to Bill in Tampa! You made it in, Bill! Good job! Nice to have you. What’s up? B: Jim, thanks for the vine. Waiti ng after 2 hours here to talk to you, man. Note that Bill thanks Rome for “the vi ne.” That veiled reference to Tarzan’s preferred method of transpor tation through the ju ngle becomes a metaphor for symbolic navigation of this jungle of the airwaves. Numerous times a year, callers plead with Rome’s call screener to be placed on the air immediately, feeling certain that they ha ve what it takes to ge t their calls “racked”. According to Rome himself, all calls to th e show are screened by staffers, but Rome makes the final decision whether or not to ac tually put the caller on the air. Like many other talk radio hosts, Rome views a computer screen that lists the name and hometown of the caller along with a brief synopsis of what that caller told the screener he/she wants to discuss. Rome’s setup for these moments is usually the same each time. Knowing the caller can hear him, he enthusiastically tells hi s audience that a caller is on the line who is sure he/she has something earth -shattering to say that is guaranteed to get racked (or in some versions, a caller tells th e screener he/she has an im portant meeting or class to


81 attend and cannot wait that long ). Rome then puts the caller on the air just long enough to thank him before the buzzer sounds and Rome sarcastically apologizes for their untimely demise. It’s an inside joke that l ongtime listeners never grow weary of. Third, heightened experience, or the “speci alness” that attends to performance, is very much about audiences and performers enjoying the experience of listening and appreciating the wit, sarcasm, and cultural critique available on and through the show. The markings of “heightened experience,” th roughout the transcript s, find numerous references to the upcoming tour stop, which so many fans of the show see as the ultimate community event celebrating ever ything they hold dear to th em as both sports fans and fans of the show. Psychiatric crisis counsel or John Karliak, known by Clones as “John in C-town,” is perhaps Jim Rome’s biggest advocate and self-described “guard ian of the jungle.” Karliak gained fame on the show after complaining to his local affiliate’s general manager when Rome’s show was pre-empted by a NASCAR event. The general manager was so impressed by Karliak’s passion in defense of the show, that he invited him to lunch. The event is now known in show lore as “lunch with the monkey.” In the middle of his tirade, John in C-town offers an in credibly sharp commentar y on the “specialness” available in and through The Jim Rome Show especially when the show spills over into tours that bring virtual audiences together as “real” audiences in their communities: A tour stop is about clones getti ng together, celebra ting the jungle, what you do for us, 15 hours a week! We listen as we trudge through our lives. You entertain us, you make us laugh, and we’re


82 all sports fans. And for one day, for about 3 hours, all we want to do is get together somewhere in th e U.S. and celebrate it. (9/16/04) This quote from John’s call summarizes th e feelings of so many regular listeners to the show. For them, listening to the show is merely an entre into what it means to be a member of this community. It is about that sense of identification, of being not just a sports fan but a sports fan in communion with other fans of the show, who speak, in a sense, their own language and view sports a nd the world through that larger intertextual lens. When I attended Rome’s January 2000 tour stop in Tampa, I felt that sense of both community and appreciation. When Rome t ook the stage that night (to the familiar sounds of a bell and his opening theme music, Lust for Life ), the ovation was as loud or louder than any rock concert welcome. While sports fans today have multiple outlets for their opinions to reach an audience, radio adds a critical dimension, the sound of a caller’s voice. It is the sound of that voice, with its inflection, volume, a nd accents, that gives an intimate, personal dimension to the words and opinions expressed. It provides an ingredie nt that nothing in print form can and in many ways, acts performatively to establish and promote identity on the show. To regular listeners to and callers of The Jim Rome Show performance competence is tied largely to the ability of ca llers to employ intertextuality into their calls (performances). In short, employing intertextuality, especially in a sarcastic, comedic sense, is the recognized code of the show ’s followers. The ability to employ it well, especially by weaving established show lore and stereotypes into one’s “takes,” is what separates average callers from show “legends.” It is what also turns a simple caller to a radio program into a “character” with a continuous “role” on this program.


83 Intertextuality and Soc ial Identification Sports are a microcosm for life. When we participate either as a players or fans, we live out life lessons about winning and lo sing, about doing your be st and yet not being good enough, about how working hard and play ing by the rules some times isn’t enough to overcome those who cheat and take shortcut s and win because of it. However, it must be noted that in the world of sports, the pl ayer and the fan are two entirely separate entities. The focus of this study is decidedly not about athletes. It is about fans and how sports talk radio is a rhetori cal forum for producing that soci al identity. Authors such as Roberts (1976) and Goldstein (1979) have i llustrated just how deeply rooted sports fandom is in American culture, but as Cial dini (1993) notes, “The relationship between sport and the earnest fan is anything but gamelike. It is serious, intense and highly personal” (p. 195). The word “fan,” of course, is a shortened form of the word “fanatic” and judging by how television cameras so of ten capture images of game attendees dressed as Elvis Presley or wearing face pa int and yelling at the top of their lungs, Americans are fanatical about their teams. The Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio even has a display dedicated to th e best individual fans of each team every year. Think about it. You could make it to the hall of fa me without ever playing one down of football. As Jenkins (1992) points out, “Organized fandom is, perhaps first and foremost, an institution of theory and criticism, a semistructured space where competing interpretations and evaluations of common texts are proposed, de bated and negotiated and where readers speculate about the nature of th e mass media and their own relationship to it” (p. 86). In the case of sports, however, fandom’s “institution of theory


84 and criticism” is very much about strategi es employed by individu als to produce social identifications—with individual players, with teams, with towns, with regions, with nations. The Olympic Games, no doubt, fo r most Americans transcends smaller geographies. For Kenneth Burke, identif ication works on two basic principles: consubstantiality and division. In “acting to gether,” Burke claims, “men have common sensations, concepts, images, ideas, attitudes th at make them consubstantial” (Rhetoric of Motives, p. 21). Ironically, such togeth erness is a product of division: The Rhetoric [of Motives ] . considers the ways in which individuals are at odds with one another, or become id entified with groups more or less at odds with one another. Why “at odds,” you may ask, when the ti tular term is “i dentification”? Because, to begin with “identifi cation” is, by the same token, though roundabout, to confront the implications of division . . Identification is affirmed with earnestness precisely because there is division. (p. 20). Claims to consubstantiality in sports are very much about finding common ground, and those commonalities are secured through claiming one’s differences from others. Asimov (1975), writing about how peopl e reacted to competitions they watched, said, “All things being e qual, you root for your own sex, your own culture, your own locality…and what you want to prove is that you are better than the other person. Whomever you root for represents you ; and when he wins, you win” (p. 11). On the Jim Rome Show, common ground is most often established geographically through naming. Place names imply geographic region, class position, and a variety of fan behaviors associated with a particular region. The calle r is not simply “John” or


85 “Greg” or “a caller from Colu mbus, Ohio.” The caller is “John from C-town” or “Greg in Vegas.” Often these callers are known fo r defending their hometowns as aggressively as they defend their hometown teams. One of the tactics of fellow callers is to insult someone not only on the basis of who they ro ot for, but also for where they live. Common ground, however, is inve rsely established through different grounds. For example, this short phone call aired on The Jim Rome Show were much more about insulting locale rather than any particular t eam or player. When golf’s Ryder Cup came to Detroit, Michigan in 2004, this call was aired: B: Uh, Romey, it’s Billy the cop from the D. Didn’t get the chance to talk to you on September 11, no all cop radi o this year. Hey, Romey, it’s gonna take me a second. I’m busy putting my 3 year old in the trunk, uh, er, I mean the car seat. Um…I was just down the road from the Ryder Cup, uh, at Maple and Cranbrook, and any of you Euros that parked in the local high school down there you’re getting your rigs ganked right now. Might want to scurry back there in your ki lts. That’s all I got for you, Romey. See you in Cleveland, buddy! (9/15/04) “Different ground” here is also very much about cla ss differences. The Ryder Cup is one of golf’s most prestigious and internat ionally recognized events, pitting a team of American golfers against a team made up of the best from around the world. Even though golf has begun to be appreciated by those on lo wer socioeconomic levels, it is still very much perceived as a game of and for the rich and privileged. It is not followed by the same kind of culturally diverse fan base as baseball and football. So Billy (who bills himself as a blue collar police officer in one of the most blue collar cities in America,


86 Detroit), uses this call to mock those differences and in a way galvanize the American, blue collar fans who are listening. He deri des the “Euros” (established show slang for Europeans), feminizes them for wearing kilts, and suggests that his fellow police officers are ticketing and towing their illegally park ed cars (“ganking their rigs”). Class and gender play a significant role in this call, working to establish both the identity of the caller and the cultural identity of the American fan, who ideally exhibits a dis tinct lack of pretense and snobbery. What is ironic about this call is that since the middle of the 20th century, it has become increasingly more difficult for all sports fans to experience the sports they love in person. Professional sports was designed as en tertainment for the working class. Today, experiencing a National Football League game in person is financially out of reach for most working class men and women. For ex ample, season tickets in the middle level price range for the National Football Lea gue’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers cost nearly $1100.00. When the prices of parking, transporta tion and concessions are also factored in, the cost of attending a game rises to over $100 per person, well out of reach for most working class families. That fact has not stopped millions of fans from continuing to support the NFL from a distance. One reason is because of the regional pride and personal self esteem boost fandom engenders in so many people. If geographies imply class identificati ons, then they also imply typical fan behaviors for a particular region. Also duri ng the week I sampled Rome’s show, a brawl broke out in Oakland between players for th e Texas Rangers and several fans of the hometown Oakland A’s. After pervasive h eckling by fans, several Rangers players, including Rangers relief pitcher Frank Franci sco, actually jumped over the wall into the


87 stands to fight with fans. At one point, Fr ancisco picked up a folding metal chair and threw it in the direction of Oakland fans Craig and Jennifer Bue no. Craig Bueno managed to get out of the way. His wife Jennifer, howev er, was struck with the chair and suffered a broken nose. On most talk radio shows around the country, this incident elicited discussion of how players and fans have both gone too far in how they dole out and deal with trash talk. On Rome’s show, it was an opportunity to reflect critically on the downside of social identificati on, especially Chicago fans’ re putation for “craziness” as a commonality for the entire group. Roger in Chicago said: R: Hey listen, I want to give a s hout out to Oakland fan for finally making Chicago fans look reasonable. I mean for once the story doesn’t start, “Crazed fan in Chicago jumps on to field, crazed fan in Chicago throws things at pitchers in bullpen, crazed fan in Chicago lifts cap off of somebody’s head and players pile into the stands.” ‘Cause geez, we’re just tired of getting piled on for being the bunch of meatballs that we are in Chicago. So thank you, Oakland fan. We really appreciate it. (9/15/04) As much as the “Clones” en joy identifying with the Jim Ro me Show, they also do argue with each other, setting themselves apart ge ographically as well as contextually from each other: S: Hey, uh, this guy from Tampa who keeps making cracks about my fianc. It is funny and I appreciate that fact because my future mother-in-law runs an office wher e every guy there listens to your show so she gets to hear it too, so I appreciate that. But, I want to


88 tell this guy, instead of talk ing about me, why…shouldn’t you be, like, helping people fill sandbags or something? Doing something constructive? Not to mention this whole thing about so and so needs to throw a bunch of jabs? Dude, you called Tony Bruno the, the other morning and said the sa me exact thing, the same exact phone call. So, my count, that’s 3 days in a row you’re calling saying the same thing, all different shows. I mean, is your opinion that valuable that we… that many people really need to hear it? I don’t think so. Uh, bro, I think I’m gonna to back to bed. I’ll talk to you later. (9/17/04) The “guy in Tampa” Silk was referring to was “Bill in Tampa.” Later in the week, the insults continued when Bill “crack ed back” at Silk in this call: B: You know, I made my debut in the jungle on Wednesday and I want to apologize to Silk. You know I said that you got your wife from a mail order bride service. I actually meant that you went across the border and you were handing out green cards to see which one was gonna with ya!’ (9/15/04) Regional identification and insults are common on the show, from the “Battery Chuckers” of Northern California to the “Chowds” of New England. Legendary callers “Jeff in Richmond” and “Otis in Austin” with their thick southern accents are routinely derided as “necks” (short for rednecks) by fe llow Clones. However personal these insults may sound, it is apparent that they are part of the performance with in the show, designed as parody for comedic effect. Additionally, ther e is also an intertextuality component at


89 work here, whereby adept callers are able to immediately conn ect not only obvious regional stereotypes but discreet, often obscure, references to things like incidents of bad fan behavior and even long-forgotten on and o ff-field blunders by athletes to other points they are making in their calls. In short, social identification on The Jim Rome Show extends several layers beyond what genera l audiences are commonly used to. Intertextuality and Social Critique Through transcribing one week of listener calls to the Jim Rome show, it is clear that successful callers to the program are knowledgeable and prep ared to make the best of the time they’ve been given to speak (perform). When those callers offer their best performances, it makes for what Rome calls good “smack,” a slang phrase that can be loosely defined as a solid combination of sports knowledge, wit, the ability to defend your team, the ability to crea tively insult others in ways which are commonly known to seasoned listeners and good humor. Once per year, usually in March or April, Rome hosts and invitation-only “Smack-Off” in which fans of the show compete for the title of “King of Smack” and, much like the lifetime exemption for winners of The Masters golf tournament, enjoy a lifetime pass to particip ate in future Smack-Offs. Clearly, Rome has set the stage for social critique to be highly valued on the show. Critiques the week I listened featured 1) appraisals of sports fi gures’ performances, 2) Actress Tracy Gold’s drunkenness, and 3) a running exchange of wife insulting among callers. For Jim Rome, the sports world often acts as a springboard for social criticism of the world at large. In Rome’s world, everyone is expected to follow the rules (both written and unwritten). But when you’re a high profile athlete, entert ainer or other public official and you’ve broken the rules, you can ex pect Rome to take full advantage of it and


90 unleash a sometimes humorous and sometimes a ngry diatribe against you, all for the sake of livening up the show. The tone which w ith he delivers this critique is usually forcefully angry, though it can come acro ss at times as ironically humorous (Rome sometimes laughs during these rants when he can no longer contain himself). Not surprisingly, Rome’s callers often follow suit with calls sometimes entirely devoid of sports content or references. Too much of this, however, is deemed in the program’s etiquette to be inappropriate and Rome will ofte n urge callers to adjust their comments to reflect more sports related themes. Some of the more astute callers to the s how will find ways to work jabs at other callers into the larger reference of their ca lls, while providing their opinions on sports. For example, caller “Bill in Tampa,” who was al so discussed previously in this chapter, wraps some insults toward a fellow caller’s wife around his critique of baseball, boxing and New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin… JR: Let’s go to the phones. We go to Bill in Tampa! You made it in, Bill! Good job! Nice to have you. What’s up? B: Jim, thanks for the vine. Waiti ng after 2 hours here to talk to you, man. You know, I made my debut in the jungle on Wednesday and I want to apologize to Silk. You know, I said that you got your wife from a mail order bride service. I actually meant that you went across the border and you were handing out green cards to see which one was gonna with ya! Anyway, the reason I called was to basically, you know the fact that Johnny Damon didn’t come into the jungle and he just jerked the karma means


91 good for the Yanks! I think weÂ’re gonna take 2 out of 3 here, especially with Arroyo and Lowe pitching. Those 2 combined have given up 42 runs in 7 outings against the Yankees. And the way that weÂ’re mashing and the way th at our pitchingÂ’s working right now, I believe weÂ’re gonna take 2 out of 3. IÂ’m not lookinÂ’ for, uh, a sweep outta there. Now with theÂ…with boxing coming up here, you, know. This fight Saturday, I said that De La Hoya is gonna need a can of mace in one hand and a baseball bat in the other to knock him out. He needs to jab at least 35 times in the fight, uh, each round in order to win it. If he does that and he keeps Hopkins off of him and doesnÂ’t let him get inside, heÂ’ll be able to win a decision. WeÂ’ve got some good fights cominÂ’ up here in October, weÂ’ve got Trinidad and Majorga. WeÂ…in November, weÂ’ve got Winky Wright and Mosley. And th en weÂ’ve got, uh, Eric Morales and weÂ’ve got Marco Antonio Bare rra the third cominÂ’ out! Memo to Lieutenant Coughlin, if you wa nt to keep your job you better stop the Full Metal Jacket reruns. Otherwise youÂ’re gonna have a, a, Private Pyle incident happe ning. Memo to Jeff from Richmond. Why did you let your wife go to the AÂ’s game? You know, she needs that, you know, letÂ’s say, uh, uh, extreme makeover goinÂ’ on there. Because if she gets that medal, you know, she needs more than a new beak! ThatÂ’s it Jim. IÂ’m out. (9/15/04)

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92 Note that Bill’s call contains a decidedly hype r-masculine tenor. It is important to note that masculinity, especially in the United Stat es, is socially performed on many levels and in many ways each day. It’s not surprising then that so many men choose sports talk radio as their “stage” of choice to enact and perform masculinity. The outlet is available, likable and has a built in audience of like minded men. The format of the show is inviting, almost calling out to men to jump in and prove their worthiness as men. Exactly what constitutes masculinity is open to debate. For example, Brod (1987) contends that there is not a singular mascu linity, but plural “masculinities,” a sentiment echoed also by Connell (1995). Still, one can argue that Goffman’s (1963) definition of the masculine ideal in the Unite d States is as relevant toda y as it was over forty years ago, and likely represents the ideal held by many s ports talk radio fans and fans of Rome’s show. Said Goffman, “[In] an important sense there is only one complete unblushing male in America: a young, married, urban, nor thern, heterosexual Protestant father of college education, fully employed, of good comp lexion, weight and height, and a recent record in sports. [...] Any male who fails to qualify in any of these wa ys is likely to view himself—during moments at leas t—as unworthy, incomplete, and inferior; at times he is likely to pass and at times he is likely to find himself being apol ogetic or aggressive concerning known about aspects of himself he knows are pr obably seen as undesirable (128). Certainly on the radio, there is no way to prove things like race weight, height, marital status, employment or even “a recent re cord in sports.” However, it can be argued that by simply phoning into The Jim Rome Show male callers are trying hard to prove every bit of that definition through performing masculinity. In a sense, they are engaging

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93 in a “sport” and trying to establish a successf ul “record.” The caller becomes an athlete seeking to outperform others in terms of presenting themselves as the most masculine caller to the show. One way to critique other callers, then, is to attack their masculinity. During the week I sampled the s how, it seemed that the best way to do that was to attack one another’s wives. Whereas Nomar Garicap arra was once seen as a hero to Boston sports fans, his injuries a nd lack of production in his final days with the Red Sox, combined with his trade to the Cubs, now makes him a targ et for callers like “Jay in Providence”. To knock and mock athletes like Garciaparra and Kurt Warner by attacking their masculinity and (assumed) heterosexuality helps make Jay and others like him more secure in their hegemonic masculinity. Garcia parra then goes from New England regional hero to emasculated henpecked husband, while Warner gets tagged as “Skirt,” becoming feminized and similarly emasculated by bei ng portrayed as dominated by his “dyke” wife. To be a fan of these players then also means to be similarly un-masculine. Moving Beyond Translation and Analysis I could have easily chosen a more “tradi tional” sports talk show to represent nationally syndicated progr amming in this chapter. By instead choosing The Jim Rome Show I believe I have given a better, more c ontemporary and in a sense, a more “real” picture of how sports and sports talk have evolved at the dawn of the 21st century. Rome’s show epitomizes how talk about spor ts has advanced well beyond the exterior statistics and games toward a deeper reflection of the interior experience of sports. As Farred (2000) notes, “Sport is a medium that en ables people to talk about several aspects of their lives: regional iden tification, vicarious athletic accomplishment, race, admiration

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94 for physical skill and prowess, gender, hopes, dreams and anticipations, ethnicity, loss and painful defeats” (p. 99). There is a certain level of danger when one attempts to generate a singular theory about sports talk. That danger lies in first in the fact that sports ta lk is not one single, static discourse. Instead it is a discourse that changes day to day and sometimes several times within the same day. Second, sports talk permeates our daily lives in multiple forms and in multiple venues. Very often it is the way men relate to one another when they are strangers. During the writing of this chapter, I went for a walk around my neighborhood and encountered a man I didn’t know. He appeared to be close to me in age, but different from me in the sense that he was African -American. After we exchanged pleasant but cursory greetings, I turned around and asked, “Did you see the end of that Pittsburgh game?” Immediately, the man’s eyes widened and he smiled and we began a spirited retelling of our reactions to the finish of the Steelers-Jets NFL playoff game that had ended less than 20 minutes before. The conversati on was punctuated with an excited tone, raised voices, increased gesturing and laughter on each of our parts and we performed, in a sense, a heightened sense of our experiences that day as football fans. For each of us, sports became the default topic of conve rsation; the least common conversational denominator which so many men seem to understand will connect them socially with other men, particularly when that man is a stranger. My random interaction with th is fellow sports fan lends a great deal of credibility to another point made by Farred (2000). He said, “[Sports talk] is a pervasive form of public engagement, dominating exchanges at th e office, in the home, on the street, in bars, clubs, parties, to mention only a few sites – a conversation th at heightens when a

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95 major sports event is in progress or in th e offing” (p. 101). As “public engagement”, intertextuality is a crucial co mponent of this conversation. The shows principals (host, callers and audience) purposely and speci fically. The Jim Rome Show utilizes intertextuality to achieve rhetorical pu rposes: performance competencies, social identification, and social critique. Though the co ncept of intertextuality is not new, these strategic uses are integral parts of the cons titution of contemporary American sports culture. As Andrews (2002) points out, “Spor t has meant, and continues to mean, different things in different cu ltural and temporal contexts. The structure and influence of sport in any given conjecture is a product of intersecti ng, multi-directional lines of articulation between the forces and practices that compose the social context” (p. 116). This chapter has attempted to trace those in tersections and multi-directional lines. According to Hart (1997), “Rhetorical cr iticism is the busines s of identifying the complications of rhetoric and then explai ning them in a comprehensive and efficient manner” (p. 23). The complicat ions of the rhetoric of The Jim Rome Show however, are where its uniqueness can be found and appreciated. With very few exceptions, Rome allows his callers to present a monologue once they are placed on the air. The overwhelming ma jority of other sports talk radio shows, including the program I will discuss in the next chapter, utilize much more in the way of caller-host dialogue and point-count erpoint banter. By allowing his callers to essentially “have the stage” in this fashion, Rome allows for a dramatic shift in rhetorical power, allowing the caller to own his/her words (at least tempor arily) in an arena where those words can be heard on broadcast airwaves from coast to coast and worldwide through Internet streaming audio. By creating this ki nd of discursive space, both Rome and the

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96 callers to the program become active agen ts themselves in helping to create both identifications with and against others in the social critique they offer. As Hart (1997) indicates, two of the most important functions of rhetoric are that it unburdens and empowers (pp. 15, 17). What can be seen in th ese callers is a desire to unburden themselves and be persuasive, to actively take advantag e of the best outlet they can think of to get their point of view across to the audience they believe is their best target. The above transcripts also indicate that the callers who both make it to and stay on the air with Rome exhibit several paralingui stic features in their calls. As Bauman (1977) notes, “Paralinguistic features, by their ve ry nature, tend not to be captured in the transcribed or published versi ons of texts, with the excep tion of certain aspects of prosody in clearly poetic forms. The reader is consequently forced to rely on the incidental comments of the occasional sensitive observe r who does note paralinguistic features of delivery style” (p. 19). One of th e features that textualized transcripts cannot capture is the tone with which these calls are delivered. Most of the time, it is a forceful, cynical and almost mocking t one (not surprisingly, much like Rome’s tone during most of the show) that commands the respect and admiration of both the host and the fans of the show. It is certainly implied in the transc ripts (by way of derisi ve language and put downs), but by listening to the calls themse lves, one can hear and understand that the more a caller can perform a sense of almost cynical outrage, the more respect he/she can and will command. This is especially true of ca lls to the invitation only “Smack-off” held once a year for the most celeb rated callers to the show. What also becomes evident through examini ng the transcripts is that the callers, host and listening audience collectively create standards for rhetorical and performative

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97 competence with specific regard to this s how. Callers are held rhetorically accountable for the content of their calls and face consequences, both immediate and long-term, for failing to measure up to accepted standards. Wh at all involved are hoping to share is that sense of heightened experience, whereby ca llers can combine interior and exterior intertextual references with references to popular culture and (of course) sports, to produce the best possible entertai nment form for this communit y. This is why calls to the show almost universally follow the caller conten t strategies I listed earlier and take on the type of tone I just described. Ag ain it is critical to point out the rhetorical significance of this community of listeners alone is res ponsible for both defining the rhetoric and defining what constitutes that sense of heightened experience. Still, there is the question of why these modern day fans feel that urgent desire to perform, to subject themselves to evaluation, to participate in this rhetorical forum that actively creates community by division. The role of sports in crea ting and perpetuating both hegemonic and complicit masculinity must be one part of an an swer. In his social history of masculinity in the United States, Michael Kimmel descri bes baseball (at the turn of the century) in a way that captu res much of its masculine characteristics: Baseball was good for men’s bodies and souls, imperative for the health and moral fiber of the body social. From pulpits and advice manuals the virtues of baseballs were sounded. T hose virtues stressed, on the surface, autonomy and aggressive independe nce—but the game also required obedience, self-sacrifice, discipline, a nd hierarchy. Baseball’s version of masculinity thus cut with a contradictory edge: If the masculinity expressed on the baseball field was e xuberant, fiercely competitive, and

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98 wildly aggressive, it was so only in a controlled and orde rly arena, closely supervised by powerful adults. (1996, p. 140) Today, in a sense, The Jim Rome Show has become that controlled and orderly arena, but you don’t need to be a baseball player to participate. Today, an yone with a phone who knows the rules of the road for the show can become a competitor That includes women, who often provide material which takes men to task for their overblown performances of hegemonic masculinity, allowing for a sense of ba lance. Still, this arena is obviously and overtly a male locale. The host himself becomes the powerful adult controlling the arena and demands obedience (by refe rring to loyal listeners as “clones,” Rome advances an expectation that what they say during the show must, in almost all ways, parrot not only his language choices but his mindset), self -sacrifice (waiting on hol d literally for hours before participating), discipline (“have a take, don’t suck or get run” is the mantra of the show) and hierarchy (sure, anyone can call bu t only the best calle rs get invited to participate in the annual c ontest to become “King of Smack” and be revered as a “legend”). Of course, to be recognized as a successful caller one must assert an aggressive, independent brand of s ports knowledge and social critique. A second part of the answer may have its roots in our media-saturated world, specifically the world of the visual media. Since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the events of the days that followed, where the same images were replayed over and over again for an audience glued to their television sets, and most especially since the birth of CNN at the dawn of the 1980’ s, it can be said that audiences have, in effect, placed themselves psychologically into the news and sporting events that have shaped our lives. Or, differently said, visual technologies constitute viewers, and the view

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99 is in the thick of it. As De Zengotita (2005) explains it, th at psychological placement is a consequence of “Reams of coverage, endl ess coverage, amazing coverage – in a way more compelling than if you had been there phys ically, because virtually, you were there from so many different perspectives. You weren’t in one spot…; you were everywhere there, because that amazing coverage put you everywhere there, and more or less simultaneously to boot. You had sort of a God’s eye view” (p. 7). What follows that experience, then, is a rhetorical after-effect, the immediate desire to give voice to that emotional expe rience. What follows this unburdening is a sense of empowerment, and it makes no diffe rence whether that power is real or imagined. By simply feeling that sense of empowerment, callers and listeners undergo a sort of evolution, continuing to strengthen their selves, their communities, their teams, and Jim Rome’s show—enjoying both the God’s eye view and the voice of God— disembodied, critical, and full of portent. “T he voice of God,” is always—like radio—a masculine voice, isn’t it?

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100 Chapter Four Local Sports Talk Radio as Rhetorical Forum Let me root, root, root for the home team If they don’t win it’s a shame From “Take Me Out to The Ballgame” In my hometown of Gloversville, New York, I grew up in a community peppered with large backyards, city parks, and wide open spaces. My brother, my friends, and I often roamed these spaces with baseball equipm ent. We played baseball first with Wiffle Ball sets and eventually grew into the standa rd equipment of the time: wooden bats made at the nearby Adirondack bat factory and har dballs. For most of us, especially ItalianAmericans, that standard equipment also in cluded a New York Yankees baseball cap. It was the first piece of clothing I remember cherishing. I wore it every where my parents and t eachers would allow me, including family trips to Washington, DC and deep sea fish ing expeditions with my grandfather to Gloucester, MA. Wearing my Yankees cap in Gloucester was es pecially dangerous: Gloucester is populated overwhelmingly by New York-hating members of Red Sox Nation. Even at the age of ten, I knew that I was sending multiple messages by wearing my cap. I was a Yankee fan, I was from Ne w York, I was Italian-American and I belonged, really belonged, to these communitie s that one embroidered logo on a cap had

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101 come to signify. Such “signifying” practices, in Gloucester, could be considered fighting words. Today, many high profile people have co me to understand the power of sports apparel to make statements about identity and community. In the days following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani clothed himself alternately in the logos of the New York Police Department, the Fire Department of New York, the Port Author ity Police Department and the New York Yankees. The day after the Boston Red Sox w on the World Series in 2004, Democratic Presidential candidate and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry prominently wore a Red Sox cap at his campaign stops. Throughout the 2004 World Series, Kerry’s daughter Vanessa would campaign with her father sp orting the words GO RED SOX written with black marker in large, bold lettering on her forearms. Film director Spike Lee is often seen in public wearing a New York Knicks jersey, and several members of the hip-hop and rap community, including Jay-Z, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Xzibit, have made retro or “throwback” sports jerseys popular. Over the past decade, NASCAR apparel has become nearly as popular as traditional footba ll and baseball appare l, especially with NASCAR’s traditional Southern fan base. Wearing your favorite team’s apparel has always been an outward, public statement of your connection with that team, but that statem ent is wordless. For today’s fan, sports talk radio has literally allowed fa ns to have a public voice in regard to how they feel and what they know about the teams, players, leagues and issues that make up the sporting world. Nearly 500 tr aditional “terrestrial” radio st ations in the United States

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102 have formatted their stations exclusively around sports, and bo th XM and Sirius satellite radio also offer spor ts talk programming. When sports talk radio switches its fo cus from national audiences to local audiences, the rhetorical forum is radically altered, and the rhetorical forms follow suit. While the social functions of sports talk radio remain largely the same in locally produced programming as they are in nationally syndicated shows, bot h the audience and the flavor of the discourse change substant ially. Put simply, the topics become more discreet, focusing largely on the teams, athlet es, and events that call one specific place their home. But when one listens carefully with a critical ear, one can also deduce that the conversations that take place on these programs go a long way toward defining both individuals and communities both locally and nationally. When it comes to the relationship between sports and society, local sports talk radio is first about negotiati ng and defining communities: be ginning with the actions of the players on the teams representing thos e local areas and continuing with the on-air debate that makes up the bulk of local sports talk radio content. It can be argued that, from there, local sports talk provides a unique rhetorical avenue fo r social identification and definition, coordinating the manageme nt of not only what it means to be a fan of the teams of a local market, but more broadly what it means to be a person who makes his or her life in that particular locale. Purpose of This Chapter While the previous chapter focused on performance competencies, social identification, and social critique enacted on Jim Rome’s national “stage,” this chapter moves to the smaller “stag e” of Tampa, Florida and The Steve Duemig Show If Jim

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103 Rome is Broadway, Steve Duemig is community theater. While the medium is the same, the performances, audiences, and rhetorical st rategies are very di fferent. This chapter argues that the central social function of The Steve Duemig Show is not social identification or critique but a form of pedagogy enacted through the “coaching” of the host and the resultant team building that re sults among listeners. As a local rhetorical forum, the performances are constant negotiatio ns of community, helping to teach what it means to be a “real” or “true sports town.” In an effort to put textual analysis of rhetoric into conversation with this social functi on of rhetoric, this chapter will examine transcripts of listener phone calls made to The Steve Duemig Show a local sports talk program in Tampa, FL, during the br oadcasts of September 13-17, 2004. The programming aired during that week was t ypical of the show, ove rwhelmingly featuring interactions between th e host and callers. The Steve Duemig Show is in many ways the quintesse ntial local sports talk radio show and may well be one of the best represen tative examples of local sports talk radio anywhere in the United States. During the w eek I recorded the program, the following local sports news was foremost on the minds of the host and callers: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers losing the opening game of the 2004 regular season on the road 16-10 to the Washington Redskins. Among the “low-lights” for Buc fans were a 64 yard run from scrimmage for a touchdown by Redskins running back C linton Portis and a groin strain suffered by newly acquired wide rece iver Joey Galloway that would sideline him for most of the 2004 seas on. The loss prompted fans to begin to seriously question the playing ab ility of veteran quarterback Brad

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104 Johnson and the ability of head coach J on Gruden to win with the roster he and general manager Bruce Allen had crafted in the off-season. The contract holdout by Buccaneers wide receiver Keenan McCardell, viewed by many fans as a selfish and arrogant move on the part of a good, but aging player. The very real threat of the Na tional Hockey League shutting down the 2004-2005 season due to a protracted labor dispute between the league and the players union. The Tampa Bay Lightning won the 2003-2004 Stanley Cup and many fans were con cerned that the team would not be able to defend its title. Former Buccaneers wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in a deal that brought Galloway to the Buccaneers, going public with scathing cr iticism of his former team. In an interview with Sports Illustrated writer Jeffri Chadiha, Johnson blasted head coach Jon Gruden as “two-faced” for his decision to de-activate him for the final six games of the 2003 season. Added Johnson, "He had the nerve to ask me once why I didn't like him. I said, 'Come on, mother fucker. You know why I don't like you.' This is the same guy who dogged Tim Brown in meetings all year and then went out and signed him. Why would I want to be with a two-faced mother fucker like that?" Johnson, who is African-American, also ripped into former Bucs teammate Ronde Barber, who is also African-America n, for Barber’s decision to back Gruden, saying, “Ronde Barber is an Un cle Tom. They’ll cut him one day

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105 like they do everybody else, but he’s trying to be political and kiss Gruden’s butt.” Johnson finished by atta cking former teammate and fellow media favorite Warren Sapp, who was signed as a free agent by the Oakland Raiders. Said Johnson, "Why is he still worried about me, especially when he knows his fat ass would've taken the same kind of money if he'd been deactivated, too?"4 The purpose of this chapter is to illustrate how callers and the host of The Steve Duemig Show work together dialogically and co nversationally to rhetorically coconstruct both fan identity and a commun ity. Unlike nationally syndicated programs which reach a broader national audience, The Steve Duemig Show airs only in west central Florida, and targets sports fans in the Tampa Bay region. Thus, the rhetorical dimension of this program differs greatly from The Jim Rome Show. As I will discuss further in this chapter, recurring themes of loyalty and commitment to both the teams and the region dominate the exchanges on the show adding an element of “fan education” to the broadcasts. This chapter will delineate patte rns unique to this local sports talk radio show in an effort to advance the notion that the programming serves to shape both identity and community. This chapter will first introduce The Steve Duemig Show including a brief history of the station on which it airs, quotations from an interview with Duemig and its typical content. The chapter then continues by illustrating how The Steve Duemig Show acts both rhetorically and pedagogically in a quest to define the Tampa Bay region as a “true sports town.”

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106 WDAE: Local Radio’s Uphill Climb Radio station WDAE (620 AM) is one of several AM and FM stations in Tampa owned by corporate giant Clear Channel Commu nications. The station’s call letters are some of the most recognizable in the Tamp a area. FCC records indicate the station was the second station granted a license in Florida on May 15, 1922, when the original owners, the Tampa Publishing Company, receiv ed permission to start broadcasting. By the late 1990’s, Jacor Broadcasting owned the station, using WDAE’s position at 1250 on the AM dial to bring their brand of sports talk to the Bay area. All sports radio formatting in Tampa Bay in the 1990’s was an extremely hard sell due to the sports history in the region. Since their incep tion in 1976, the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers developed a reputation nationwide as one of the worst franchises in professional s ports in terms of on-field success. The Tampa area was viewed both internally and externally as a “l osing town.” One other station in the market, WFNS, had already tried and failed to make an all sports format work. For two decades, Tampa was the butt of jokes and insults in th e national sports media, and the city and surrounding community suffered an enormous in feriority complex when it came to their association with professional sports WDAE was in for an uphill climb. In 1996, the station hired two men who w ould become their two most recognized personalities – former WFNS staffer Steve Duemig and then-WFLA television sportscaster Chris Thomas. Thomas wa s well known and well respected in the community and gave an instan t air of credibility to the station. Thomas, who pulled double duty as both a radio and television sports broadcaster, died of cancer in February 2004. His colleagues at WDAE kept his illness a secret from listeners for several months

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107 before Thomas died, at Thomas’s request. To honor him, the station re-named its studios “The Chris Thomas Studios,” and the chair once used by Thomas while he was on the air today sits in a corner adorned with pi ctures and mementos of Thomas’s show. WDAE later acquired the rights to air the games of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. To help those games and other team sports broadcasts reach a wider audience, new owner Clear Channel moved WDAE from the traditional 1250 AM frequency to a new home at 620 AM, a lower frequency which tends to travel farther when transmitted. That switch took place at 6:20 p.m. on Janua ry 14, 2000. Since then, WDAE has evolved into the most popular and highly rated sports talk station in Tampa Bay and has been singled out by Arbitron for its superior ratings growth. Steve Duemig: Local Access and Education On that night in 2000, the first show to air on the new frequency belonged to WDAE’s Steve Duemig, known to radio audience s as “The Big Dog.” Born in Pensacola, Florida and raised in Philadelphia, Duemig moved to the Tampa area in 1981 after spending 13 years as a professional golfer. His afternoon drive show on WDAE is the most highly rated local show in the market. Like many other radio personalities, Duemig has achieved his success by cultivating an audi ence of listeners who either like him or hate him. Those who like him often point out how knowledgeable he is about sports, especially golf and hockey, and how passionate he is about what it means to be a fan. Those who hate him often point out the cau stic, bombastic, and sometimes very meanspirited way he deals with callers with whom he disagrees. The people who run corporate radio, however, don’t care why liste ners are tuning in as long as they keep tuning in, and they are in record numbers. During the sp ring of 2004, Aribtron noted that WDAE was

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108 one of only a handful of stati ons nationwide to register a top 3 ranking in their market among all radio stations for the coveted male age 25-54 demographic.5 The Steve Duemig Show airs Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The program is occasionally pre-empted in part or in full by live sports broadcasts or athlete interview shows. Duemig’s interaction with ca llers is almost completely different from the style of Jim Rome. Rather than letting the callers essentially present a monologue, Duemig interacts with his callers dialogical ly, allowing for a much more conversational tone to the program. On balance, the show al so features less in the way of athlete and journalist interviews and fewer long monol ogues by the host (although Duemig regularly devotes his opening segment to a monologue mu ch like Jim Rome does). This allows for much more in the way of argument and debate between host and caller, which also allows for a forum more conducive to the co -construction of fandom and community. From the outset of this project, I knew pe rsonal interviews with sports talk radio hosts would elicit some of the best materi al and most unique in sights into how hosts interact with and perceive their audiences. To that end, I attempted to schedule in-depth interviews with both Jim Rome and Steve Duemig. During the week prior to the 2001 Super Bowl, I gained access to the NFL’s inte rnational radio broad cast center (commonly called “radio row”), which was located at th e Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, FL. It was there that I had a very brief meeting with Jim Rome following his show, at which time I told him about my research and inquire d as to whether he would be willing to schedule an interview with me. He suggested I contact his producer Travis Rogers, to “set something up.” After numerous attempts to contact Rogers via phone and e-mail, I received no reply. I requested the assistance of a then-head coach at my institution who

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109 was close personal friends with Rome and a frequent guest on his show, and found that coach not only unwilling to help secure the interview, but openly hostile toward the idea of me even asking for his help. Shortly thereaf ter, I discontinued my efforts to personally interview Jim Rome. Perhaps not surprisingly, my efforts to interview Steve Duemig were an almost polar opposite experience. Although I had friends and associates who worked for Clear Channel Communications, the ow ner of WDAE, I onl y needed to place one phone call to DuemigÂ’s producer, Jerry Petuck, and the proces s moved swiftly from there. Petuck gave me DuemigÂ’s direct e-mail address which I used to request an interview. Within 24 hours, Duemig responded and within one week, the interview took place. Having direct access to Steve Duemig (a nd not having direct access to Jim Rome) says much about this project as a whole. To someone like J im Rome, I may be viewed as one distant listener in a sea of millions who has a unique academic interest in his program, but someone who is not worth assi sting directly. That sentiment should not necessarily reflect negatively on Rome, but instead reflect the reality that access to national broadcast celebrities is not something easy to acquire. To Steve Duemig, however, it can be argued that I am viewed as a member of his community (both on-air and local), someone to whom he reaches out to daily with a direct and immediate effect close to home. The opportunity to speak dire ctly with Duemig allowed me to ask him specifically about his rhetorical intents and how he constructs his rhetorical forum. With this information and the show transcripts, I was able to examine his programming from a point of view uniquely different from that of Jim RomeÂ’s show.

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110 I interviewed Steve Dueming in early 2005, and he provided me with some unique insights into local sports talk radio fr om the points of view of both fans and sports radio personalities. For fans, Duemig sees s ports talk radio as a relatively new and more public outlet for people to expr ess their opinions about spor ts instead of sharing their views “at the bars or at the 19th hole in the locker rooms.” Fo r sports radio personalities, Duemig sees the format as a unique opportunity to discuss sports in depth and without time constraints, allowing for air personalitie s to develop a unique identity and rapport with their audience. To that end, Duemig is not afraid of keepi ng a good caller on the air for an entire segment, which can run between 8 and 10 minutes, a practice considered by most radio station general managers to be seriously detrimental. Duemig told me he was proud of the fact that WDAE management has never once complained about that practice, or any other aspect of his program. Duemig also pointed out that a clear “line of demarcat ion is set national versus local” when it comes to the delivery of sports talk to an audience. He gave credit to nationally syndicated hosts like Tony Bruno and Dan Patrick, but leveled criticism against industry leader Jim Rome for what Du emig perceives as too much “local” content in a nationally aired program. Said Duemi g, “He’s a national radi o talk show host who does a lot of L.A. conversation. But he doesn’t speak to just L.A. The true professionals, I think, like a [Tony] Bruno, like a Dan Patric k, they know they’re national. Rome goes national as well, but it seems like there’s a lot of L.A. talk in [his show].” It is clear that Duemig’s passion for sports is equal to his passion for building the Tampa community into a respected sports to wn. One of the moments that made a strong impression on me during my interview with Duemig was when he discussed what he

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111 perceives as his role in moving Tampa and th e surrounding area in the direction of being viewed as a true “big sports town.” Duemig’s own words help illustrate that he also perceives his duties on the show to have a pedagogical application…: “Personally, I’ve made it my own agenda to try to educate [the public] and [help Tampa] become a major league sports town. I’ve led the fight every year about not wearing another team’s jerseys into our arenas. Learn how to de fend your own turf! Learn how to be a big league sports town with hockey and educate the fans so that they’re not looked at as what I call ‘Gooberville’ – it’s not a term of [stupidity], it’s a term of just allowing things to happen and saying, ‘OK.’ When Hugh Culver house ran the Bucs everybody would go, ‘Well at least we’ve got a team.’ No! We demand a winner! If you let an owner sit there and say, ‘Hey the fans don’t give a crap, the newspaper writer s…aren’t criticizing the team...’ Now’s your chance to get the ear of the freakin’ owner and say, ‘Look, we’re not satisfied with your goddamn product right now.’ That will get their attention. That is when you become [a big sports town].” The above comment is striking in that Duemig views himself not solely as an entertainer, but also as an educator. Thr ough his show, he is “teaching” the area how to become better fans and in turn, helping the area gain respect around the country in terms of its sports identity. Duemig has become famous for putting new residents of Tampa on

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112 notice that as far as he is concerned, they have only “a three y ear window” to convert from fans of their old teams to fans of Tampa’s teams. My discussion with Duemig also included issues and concepts of power in sports talk radio. From the time he joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1994 until the time he was released in 1999, quarterback Trent Dilfer was a lightning rod for controversy among Tampa sports fans. During football season, disc ussion of Dilfer so dominated Duemig’s show that at one time, Duemig had to declar e that discussions of Dilfer would not be tolerated past a certain point. Callers to Du emig’s show were merciless in their criticism of Dilfer, as was Duemig. “I wasn’t about to let this guy come off like he’s a good quarterback. He’s not. And he was one of the reasons the Bucs did not win when they should have won,” said Duemig during our in terview. Duemig said he believes firmly, however, that general managers, owners and play ers listen intently to sports talk radio. When I pressed him to tell me if he believes hi s show actually led to Dilfer being released from the team, Duemig replied, “In part, yes. I don’t want to think that we can control who goes and who doesn’t. That’s up to the ow ner. That’s up to the coaching staff. If they want to [bow down] to what the public wants, they’ll do it. But I would think that they would do it from a football standpoint.” Duemig also believes his show had a hand in first the retaining and then the dismi ssal of Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Terry Crisp in 1997. It is critical to Duemig that he deliver informed opinions when he is on the air. I asked him if he sees his work as journalism or entertainment. “Both,” he replied. Duemig was quick to point out that ev en though he is not a journalis t nor has he been trained as one, he does establish rapport with players, co aches, general managers and other sports

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113 reporters in order to unearth critical information. He is also scrupulous about keeping material delivered to him off the record private and completely confidential. Duemig’s resolve was tested in 2003 when he repor ted on his show, based on information from confidential sources, that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were about to be sold. Duemig was badgered constantly to reveal his sources. He never did. But during our interview, he was adamant that the information he had wa s accurate and given the same set of circumstances, he would report it again. Keeping a four hour sports talk ra dio program going each weekday takes incredible stamina and for Duemig, making it through that four hours sometimes means incorporating non-sports relate d material into his program. Sometimes, stories from the world of sports lead naturally to discussions of other topics Such was the case in January 2005, when Duemig devoted nearly an entire program to the topic of bipolar disorder after former Oakland Raiders center Barrett Robbins was shot several times during a scuffle with police in Miami Beach. The enti re tenor of the show, and in effect, the station, was altered to explain what Duemig called “a topic th at transcends sports.” On that day, callers to Duemig’s show shared na rratives of how bipolar disorder had affected their marriages, careers, friendships and lives in general. The program made a significant impact on Duemig. Every four years on Presidential election days, Duemig also departs from sports, dedicating his entire broadcast to politics. Wh ile occasional callers will discuss crossover topics (such as whether the federal gove rnment should support legislation banning anabolic steroids from use in professional sports ), most of the callers on those days call to simply support or oppose a candidate. In 2004, Duemig was a vocal supporter of

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114 President George W. Bush, joining in the chorus of other righ t-wing non-sports radio hosts who piled on Sen. John Kerry for what wa s perceived to be his inability to take decisive stands on various issues. Not surprisi ngly, that stance motivated listeners to call his show both to agree with him and to take issue with him, making for an entertaining broadcast on a day when most Americans ar e not paying much atte ntion anyway to the world of sports. Local Sports Fans as Academic Subjects If sports research makes broad claims about social identific ation available through sports and fandom, then there is also a poc ket of academic research that seeks to find specific connections between win/loss records of sports teams and behaviors of sports fans. For example, Cialdini et. al. (1976) not ed that when a college or university football team wins on a weekend, that institution’s students are more like ly to wear that institution’s identifying apparel the following Monday than they would if the team lost. The same study noted that students used th e pronoun “we” more frequently when their teams won (i.e. “We won”) than when their team s lost (“They lost”). Cialdini labeled this phenomenon “Basking in Reflected Glory” (or BIRGing), a way to publicly connect themselves to the success of the team. Inspired by Cialdini, Snyder, Higgins and Stucky (1983) coined the phrase “Cutting Off Reflected Failure” (or CORFing) to describe the act of actively avoiding being connected to a losing team so as not to be looked upon personally as unsuccessful (or “a loser”). One could argue that for true fans of a team, especially the most vocal, public boosters, any attempt at CORFing would be doomed to failure. It is important to note the distinction between BIRGing, an aggres sive, outward effort to boost one’s public

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115 image, and CORFing, which is essentially a passive image-defense mechanism. Field work by Snyder, Lassegard and Ford (1986) confirmed that both of these processes do exist. Team success or failure also reaches in ward to the fan’s psychology. Sloan (1979) conducted research into the moods of basketba ll fans before and after home games and found, not surprisingly, that after victories, fans indicated high levels of personal happiness and lower levels of discouragement and anger, whereas when the team lost, the opposite was true. Schwarz, Strack, Kammer and Wagner (1987) noted that German men indicated significantly higher levels of satisfaction with their lives after the German national soccer team won the 1982 World Championship as opposed to before the game began. Hirt, Zillman, Erickson and Kennedy (199 2) studied basketball fans at Indiana University and The University of Wisconsin-M adison before and after they watched live broadcasts of games. They noted, “Game out comes significantly aff ected both subjects’ current mood state and their state self es teem. In addition, game outcome influenced subjects estimates of not only the team’s fu ture performance but also their own future performance on a number of tasks [like moto r and mental skills tests]” (p. 735). Not surprisingly, the resear ch above suggests that people feel better about themselves when they are associated with winning teams. The more that team wins, the deeper the association and personal connection goes, maki ng it harder and harder for sports fans to take an active interest in other teams. For many if not most sports fans, their social identity is defi ned in large part by their c onnection with/to the teams and athletes they love. That identification with a winner is what also spawned the concept of a “fair weather” sports fan (see Becker & Suls 1983). “Fair weather” fans are often the

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116 target of substantial ridicule by “die hard” fans who, it can be said, have the strength of their identities threatened by these Johnny-come-lately pretenders. As Shafer (1969) noted, teams are in many ways an extension of the self, thus the success or failure of a team means the success or failure of oneself. These cause and effect claims about s ports teams and local fans, no doubt, ring true with most sports fans. But they also emphasize end products—whether final game scores or identities of fans. This research ma sks issues that might be part of the gradual emergence of a local fan’s iden tity. In short, how do we b ecome fans of a local team? And by what rhetorical processes do fans m ove from fair-weather to die-hard? This chapter argues that this rhetorical process is an educational one—a fan must be taught to identify with a local team, must be schooled in the intricacies of local fandom, and must be punished and/or rewarded for performing well. This pedagogical function of local sports talk radio is evident on The Steve Duemig Show Coaching Sports Fans Any talk of pedagogy raises questions a bout the relationships among students and teachers, the processes of learning, and th e end of education. These relationships, processes, and ends are vastly different depending on the definition of pedagogy. The education that happens on sports talk radio might be surprisingly similar to that of critical pedagogy. Student voices are encouraged, the classroom is situated in a very public space, and critical thinking—not transfer of information—is the goal. Critical pedagogy, coming out of neo-Marxis t traditions, begins with a focus on the relationship between formal education and class, or socio-economic status (SES), the best predictor of student performance in th e United States. The de rigueur citation for

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117 contemporary critical pedagogy is Paulo Freire, whose work in Brazil continues to inspire education reformers worldwide. Freire reje cts “domesticating education” that teaches students to be receptacles of knowledge (Freire, 1985). In Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970), Freire advocates aba ndoning the transmission model of education, which deposits knowledge into students, in favor of educat ion as “transforming action,” that empowers students to “recognize their ri ght and responsibility to ta ke action” (Nieto, 1996, p. 319). A key concept in Freire’s work is “conscientization,” implying both critical consciousness and conscientious engagement, including activism. When bell hooks (2003) writes of the im pact of Freire’s work on her own teaching, she spends a good deal of textual time on what a “democratic educator” does not do: a democratic educator do es not shame, dominate, or silence students. Yet only a cursory listen to the Steve Du emig show reveals that is precisely what he does. Athletic coaches are indeed teachers Turman (2003) contended that “coachathlete instructional communication parallels teacher-student instructional communication” (p. 73). Turman found that over time, “athletes perceive their coaches to send increasingly controlling messages, decreasin g both praise and specific guidance. But these athletes do not seem to be put off by what might se em to be negative coaching strategies. In fact, they increasingly prefer the autocratic model of coaching” (p. 82). Duemig’s often bombastic behavior on the air and his established intolerance for any fan behavior he deems unacceptable has given him the reputation for being a “my way or the highway” hyper-masculine figure, much like th e stereotypical autocr atic head football coach.

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118 Part of Duemig’s “coaching style” is his la ck of tolerance for any diatribe that violates his “rules” of educat ed fans. One of Duemig’s bigge st rules is that fans should always look to the future, not the past. Prior to the start of the 2004 season, the Buccaneers released safety John Lynch, a futu re Hall of Famer and fan favorite who was drafted by the team in 1993 and played his entire career in Tampa. The decision to release Lynch prompted considerable outcr y from fans. Lynch, who signed with the Denver Broncos after his release from Tamp a Bay, was very much on the mind of caller “Ori” when he phoned in to the show… SD: Let’s go to Ori. Go ahead Ori. O: Steve, what’s up, man? SD: Hey. O: I want to thank Mr. Phillips for whiffing on a six yard touchdown run. If that was Lynch, th at never happens. Know what I mean, Steve. SD: Oh really?! Did you watc h Lynch play last night? O: (sheepishly) Yeah I did. SD: Well then what… go ahead. Be honest. How many did he whiff? Diphead! Get outta here !! You know, if you’re gonna be that narrow minded and that short sighted! Did Phillips take the wrong angle on Portis, yeah he did. But John Lynch WHIFFED four tackles last night. Please, get over it!! He plays for Denver! You know what, if Shelton Quarle s doesn’t over pursue, if this doesn’t happen, if the…don’t blam e Jermaine Phillips for crying

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119 out loud! What about the other 28 rushes where the held them to like 80 yards? Are you people that stupid already?! Are we gonna have to go through this for fifteen weeks…of your dumbass mentality? Shaming, dominating and silencing are all present in the above call, which illustrates that Duemig cannot be described as a “democratic” educator. It can be argued that one of the reasons he is not is a sense of urgency on his part, a sense that time is of the essence. If local fans do not “wise up” quickly and somehow become smarter, more aware consumers of sports, the local teams w ill continue to lose and the region itself will continue to suffer internally as well as ex ternally by and through the reputation of the area. The role that Duemig plays is, of course tailor made for this genre where sports and entertainment collide and the result has been high ratings and tremendous success. So how to account for him as an educator —when he does precisely the things that shut down libratory educationa l ends? bell hooks agai n speaks to this point: “Educators who challenge themselves to teach beyond the classroom setting, to move into the world sharing knowledge, learn a divers ity of styles to convey info rmation. This is one of the most valuable skills any teacher can acquir e” (2003, 43). Rather than critical pedagogue or democratic educator, Steve Duemig’s teaching style can be viewed as the “teacher/coach” of the Tampa Bay community. The transcripts reveal five strategies Duemig employs as coach of the Tampa Bay fan community: the bombast of masculine autocrat, criticism as instruction, posi tive reinforcement, and coaching women differently. The fans, in turn, constantly defe r to the coach. These interactions are central in the emergence of fan identity, a fan community, and a “sports town.”

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120 Masculine Autocrat Duemig constantly exhorts his “players” to grow into a cohesive team by acquiring the proper vocabulary a nd attitudes. Duemig’s goal in teaching is to raise the level of analysis, articulation, and fandom of Tampa Bay’s community of fans to that “established” sports towns like New Yor k, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. Not surprisingly, Duemig adopts the style of the autocratic coach to accomplish this educational goal. His rules and boundaries have been esta blished on the show for years beginning with the cardinal rule of the program: Tampa Bay fans must be true and fervent fans of their local teams. They must be smart a nd forward thinking. They must not whine or make excuses for poor performance. They must demand excellence. If you violate the rules (fail to perform), Duemig will come down hard on you, calling you a narrow minded, shortsighted “diphead” like he did to Ori. His show is not a democracy, just like so many other non-sports talk radio program s thrive on being single minded. It is a formula for ratings success and gene rates large legions of fans. Like so many athletic coaches, it can be argued that Duemig’s ultimate goal is not the humiliation of listeners (players), but in stead the quest to make them better and improve their “game.” One can surmise that ta king that approach will allow for listeners to become smarter fans, which will lead th em to publicly demand winning teams, make local team owners pay attention to their demands, and ultimately improve the product they see on the fields, diamonds and rinks throughout their home region. Taking a “nice guy” approach isn’t called for here. It is that bombast and intoleran ce, the argumentative

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121 and sometimes mean-spirited tenor, that gets at tention and gets results in the hard hitting world of sports talk radio. Criticism as Instruction But more than bombast and intoleran ce, a coach succeeds when criticism is utilized as instruction. As Ph illips (1978) contends, “For cri ticism to be used effectively as a teaching device, the student must be c onvinced that a partic ular change in his behavior will improve his effectiveness. He must understand that the change is worth attaining and that the ways suggested by the teacher will bring it a bout. If he does not agree to these ideas then he will not attempt to change. The student may thus inquire about the worth of the change in his life, whether or not the means proposed by the teacher will bring about the change, and wh ether or not the change will affect the responses of others in the desired way” (p. 193). There was no better example of Duemig as teacher and coach during the week I sampled the show that the following inte raction between him and caller “Damon”… SD: Hello, Damon. D: How ya doin’ there Big Dog? SD: All right. D: How’s everything today Man? SD: Aw, it’s just fine. D: Yeah, Man, I just wanted to chime in on a coupla things. Man, with these Buccaneers because you know, I’m sittin’ back and ah you know I’m no sports analyst or anything like that or no professional but I’m able to obser ve a coupla things myself about

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122 uh Mr. Gruden. No disrespect to him, Big Dog, but this guyÂ’s supposed to be a offensive genius as everyone is quotinÂ’ him to be so if heÂ’s such a genius at impl ementing an offense thatÂ’s going to put up points, I havenÂ’t seen it yet. IÂ’ve seen some spurts of it with some games like with the Washington game last year when they ran the score up but Big DogÂ… SD: Who else is, who else is, who else is know around the league as a quote, unquote offensive genius thatÂ’s a head coach in this league? D: A coupla of them. SD: LetÂ’s hear them. D: Parcells is supposed to be one. SD: Ah, heÂ’s a defensive coach. Let me hear, come on, letÂ’s go. D: Yeah, uh, well, IÂ’m just sayinÂ’Â…. SD: No, no, no, no, no. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Tell me who else is known as an offensive genius in this league. D: WellÂ… SD: As a head coach. And when you can call andÂ…when you can come back and tell me IÂ’ll let you back on. [with extremely sarcastic tone] That is your lesson for today, son. [disconnects the caller]

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123 Here, Duemig literally tells th e caller he has taught him a le sson about how to be a smart fan. The call would likely have gone a lot differen tly if the fan had been able to name just one head coach who is thought of as an “o ffensive genius.” The caller, in a sense, becomes representative of Duemig’s entire listening audience w ho is now put on notice that if they choose to call, they must be prepared and knowledgeable enough to back up their claims. To Duemig, this is what it m eans to be a real fan. Damon has now become both the student who has failed to complete his homework and the athlete who is pulled from the game for making a bonehead pla y. While his original criticism of the Buccaneers for not scoring enough points is wort hy enough to get him on the air, his lack of ability to provide coherent solutions or co aching critique results in his dismissal from the “lineup.” Positive Reinforcement Like any other coach, Duemig realizes that a constant barrage of negativity cannot endear him to his listeners. So when a liste ner (player) makes a great call (play), when a listener seems to “get it,” that listener is re warded with praise and admiration and held up as an example of a smart fan for all to admi re and take after. Such was the case with caller “Harry.” Like many other hosts, Duemig makes use of a computer screen in front of him on which his production staff posts the names of upcoming callers and a basic synopsis of what they plan to talk about. Wh en Duemig saw on his computer monitor that “Harry” wanted to discuss “Leon” McCardel l, Duemig was quick to put his call on the air… SD: Let’s go to Harry. Who I think might come up with the best of the day. Go ahead, Harry.

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124 H: Hey Steve. SD: How ya doing? H: Just a couple of quick things then I’ll get off and listen to you. Uh, one thing was, uh, I don’t know if Brad’s checking down to this but, every time I see him turn around and throw that quick pass out to the sideline, I ju st start saying “Oh, no!” SD: When does it ever work? H: It always is no gain or one yard or lost a yard. It just…that and the other underneath stuff that you were talking about frustrated you so much. And the other point I had was uh, I’ve seen just about enough of Leon McCardell. SD: [interrupting] Yeah, that’s what’s up on my screen and I had to laugh. Leon McCardell – that’s perfect! That is absolutely perfect for him! H: Isn’t his 15 minutes about up? SD: Yeah, it’s up as far as I’m concerned. And yesterday may have been the last straw. And any Buc fan that wants to see Keenan McCardell in a Buc uniform again has gotta be kidding. You know, I mean for him to stop by the CBS studios in New York? I thought he was traini ng in Houston. H: [laughs] Well, I’ll get on off of here, but uh, I just…it just kills me watching all the 3 yard plays with…nobody’s running out past the first down marker.

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125 SD: Well I donÂ’t like that either. Good job, Harry. I mean Leon McCardell. Yeah. He just happens to stop by the CBS studios in New York? Yeah! Saying its all smoke and mirrors, blah, blah blahÂ…blah blah blah. HeÂ’s litera lly name calling the Buccaneers. Maybe it is. You know. IsnÂ’t it something that both of your top receivers over the last 2 years ha ve had a problem with the coach. Is itÂ…is that ironic or is th at fact? I mean, I know what KeyshawnÂ’s story was. I donÂ’t know what Keenan McCardellÂ’s story was. Although weÂ’ve heard some of Keenan McCardellÂ’s story and a lot of itÂ’s a lie! So, I mean for him to conveniently stop by the New York studios? How coul d you as a Buc fan ever want that guy back in? I donÂ’t care if they have to go out on the street or call up Coach Markham and ask him to lend them T.T. Toliver and Freddy Solomon. I would never, ever take Keenan McCardell back on this football team ever again. And IÂ’d make him rot! Bruce, make him rot! This call stood out for a number of reasons. Primary among them are the fact that this call was the only call that week that in cluded a brief moment of intertextuality, for making a reference to a popular advertisi ng campaign by the famous American brewers Anheuser-Busch. In the campaign for their B udweiser brand, an actor portrays a spoiled, selfish professional athlete named Leon, who is interviewed by real-l ife sportscaster Joe Buck. The various ads parody the attention s eeking, overpaid, loudmouth athletes of the day. By likening holdout receiver Keenan McCa rdell to Leon, the ca ller actually gets

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126 more attention from the host than he does for his original purpose, cr iticizing the play of Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson. The call is also significant in that it “blames” a Buccaneer player who wasn’t even on the fiel d (or in the stadium for that matter) for the team’s loss the previous Sunday. Second, it can be argued that the content of this call is exactly what Duemig longs for from every caller – witty, insightful, in telligent criticism from a fan who demands excellence from the players who represent bo th his town and him. If Duemig is an educator, then Harry is his star pupil and if Du emig is a coach, Harry is his star athlete. He wins very public praise from Duemig fo r “getting it” when it comes to how a cocky player is ruining the game for both his teammates and the fans. But something else is also happening here when Duemig heaps this type of praise on a caller – Duemig’s own presence and performance on the program becomes decidedly secondary to that of the caller. Good coaches, li ke good teachers, value those moments above all others as a sure sign of the success of their missions. Their work is truly complete when those under their tutela ge shine and make them proud. This example serves to illustrate one of those moments. The Masculine Coach and the Woman Athlete With the impetus and enforcement of T itle IX in educational settings, women have increasingly become athletes and co aches. The relationship between men coaches and women athletes has been the attention of some academic research. If Turman (2003) found that athletes prefer an autocratic co aching/teaching style, then some argue that women athletes, coached by men, re quire a different communication style to be effective.

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127 For example, Anson Dorrance coached North Carolina’s women soccer team to 15 national championships. In an article in Sports Illustrated (1998), Dorrance is quoted as summing up the difference betwee n men’s teams and women’s teams: “Women are more sensitive and more demanding of each other, and that combination is horrible,” Dorrance says. “Men are not sensitive and not demanding of each other, and that’s a wonderful combination for building team chemistry. We can play with gu ys who are absolute jackasses. We have no standards for their behavior as long as they can play: Just get me the ball But if a girl’s a jerk, even th ough she gets me the ball, there’s going to be a huge chemistry issue: I don’t want to play with her But she serves you the best ball on the team! I would much rather play with Soand-so. But you’re terrible together I would rather play with her. Why? The other girl’s a bitch.” He shrugs. “It’s unfathomable to me,” he says, “but for them this is major.” (p. 88) Dorrance’s observations are confirmed by Deborah Tannen who maintains that cooperation, not competition, are motivations for most white girls’ and women’s connections: “To most women, conflict is a th reat to connection, to be avoided at all costs. Disputes are preferably settled w ithout direct confront ation. But to many men, conflict is the necessary means by which status is negotiated, so it is to be accepted and may even be sought, embraced, and enjoyed” (1990, p. 150). When these conversational strategies are deployed in coaching, direct conflict, name-calling, shaming tend to work with men, but are not effectiv e with many women athletes.

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128 During my interview with Duemig, we disc ussed the topic of female callers to sports talk radio shows. He indicated that while he believes women are intimidated by the prospect of calling a show, their calls end up being better, smarter calls because, as Duemig said, “Men spout shit and women come with facts.” The lone female caller to Duemig’s show during the week I sampled it seemed to prove Duemig right… SD: Let’s go to Bridget, who is up next. Go ahead, Bridget. B: Hi Steve. SD: Hey. B: Hey. First of all, I think ever ybody needs to just calm down as far as…I mean they’re acting like the season is just totally over. The year we went to the Superbowl, we lost our first game to the New Orleans Saints. SD: New England lost their first game last year 31 to nothing! B: Exactly. So, you jump on, you jump off it just makes no sense. And all these Phil Simms fans? The only think I have to say is Eli Manning. Did you see what happened to him yesterday?! SD: [laughs] He almost lost his head. B: He almost lost his whole body. SD: Yeah. B: Including his head. I mean, ju st give it a break. Calm down, everybody. Just, I mean, it’s going take time for the offensive line to gel. Um, honestly, I do feel like that Jon Gruden is going out getting too old, of, players, you know, but that’s just my opinion.

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129 Um, eventually, I would say maybe by the fourth or fifth game that they will gel. They canÂ’t blame it on Kenyatta this, um, this week. SD: Well no, but he shows how much of a team player he is. He asked to be traded yesterday. B: Right yeah. Exactly. SoÂ…but I, ya know, I think everybody just needs to calm down. ItÂ’s, itÂ’s ridiculous. SD: Well, especially with the o ffensive line. I mean, did anybody expect this offensive lineÂ…now gran ted, itÂ’s not rocket science but it alsoÂ…when you have sixty blitzes coming your way. B: Exactly. SD: ThereÂ’s gonna be some mixups. And, and, and when you donÂ’tÂ…itÂ’s all about learning wher e the other guyÂ’s gonna be. And we saw some gaping, you know misses yesterday ofÂ…one guy thinking the other guy was gonna pi ck him up and thenÂ…and once that happens, then I think you star t sealing up a lot of these holes and you start doing other things. B: You start doing other things YouÂ’re exactly right. So, everybody just calm down and you know, go Tampa Bay! But weÂ’ll be OK. SD: Thank you, Bridget. And, you knowÂ…well I expectÂ…if you want to vent. Go ahead and vent. ThatÂ’s what weÂ’re here for. But just, you know, back it up a little b it, thatÂ’s all IÂ’m asking. Back itÂ…it was an ugly game to watch. IÂ’ll be the first one to tell you

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130 that. I couldn’t stand it. You know what, but all said and done, as bad as they played, guess what? They still had a chance to win the game. Duemig’s interaction with Bridget is mark edly different from his usual insults and bombast. Instead, Duemig takes a much more cooperative tone with Bridget, laughing as he agrees with her review of the previ ous day’s game and even consoling fans by reminding them that with an underachieving a nd weak offensive line, fans can only hold a limited amount of hope for the success of th e team during the coming year. This caller seems to support Duemig’s notion that “men spout shit and women come with facts,” while also supporting the idea that female callers to his show are less in need of the masculine autocratic “coach ing” than male callers. That Duemig encourages Bridget to vent is also interesting in light of research on masculine and feminine styles of conver sation. Women, according to Deborah Tannen, “match troubles,” to demonstrate a sympathe tic understanding of one ’s plight and to reinforce similarities (1990, p. 58). Jennifer Coat es argues that one facet of conversation between women friends is “complaining to each other.” Coates maintains, “the mutual self-disclosure that is typical of women frie nds’ talk allows us to talk about difficult subjects, to check our perceptions against those of our friends, and to seek support” (1996, p. 52). That Duemig leaves his autocra tic masculine style to encourage a strategy typical of women’s friendships speaks to hi s ability to employ differently gendered, and effective, styles according to his listeners’ needs and proclivities.

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131 Deferring to the Coach A teacher/student relationship, like a teach er/coach relationship, relies heavily on dialogue between the two parties. This di alogue, however, is never symmetrical in a coach/athlete relationship. Indeed, Duemig’s lis teners work very hard to maintain their own “one-down” position in relation to Duem ig. They constantly qualify their remarks, hedge their discursive bets, and never engage in the kind of name-calling or criticism of others typical of Duemig’s authoritative style. The above callers, with the notable excep tion of Ori, introduce themselves and their topics with carefully cr afted previews which are almo st apologetic in tone—as if they need to justify taking up Duemig’s time: “Yeah, Man, I just wanted to chime in on a coupla things.” “Just a couple of quick things then I’ll get off and listen to you.” “Well, I’ll get on off of here.” This apologetic de ference also happens in the call below: SD: Let’s get back to the phone lines. Ray is up next. Hello, Ray. R: Hey, Big Dog. How’s it goin’? SD: Good. R: Hey I just wanna throw a couple of little numbers out at you . Tim is even more concerned with time in his preview: SD: Let’s go to Tim. Go ahead Tim T: Hey two things really quickly. On one hand, these apologetic previews might seem to contradict Tannen’s “conflict” argument: if men do connection through conflict, why are the callers so deferential? Tannen also argues that men recognize hierarch y and their “place” as one-down to other, more powerful, men. Bell and Golombisky ( 2004, p. 303) claim that “most students know

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132 not to pick fights with a boss more powerful or a coach whose word is law. This makes sense in any superior/subordina te relationship.” These callers are deferring to Duemig—a coach whose word is law. A second way callers enact their subordinate relations hip to Duemig is through qualifying their comments, taking care not to usurp Duemig’s expert role in the conversation. I’ve marked these qualifying comments with italics. Damon says, “Man, with these Buccaneers because you know I’m sittin’ back and ah you know I’m no sports analyst or anything like t hat or no professional but I’m able to observe a coupla things myself about uh Mr. Gruden.” Ray says, “And you know, to me, and I’m certainly not an expert, but from watching that game I could have sworn that one of those gray-hair coaches on the sideline for Washington was B uddy Ryan because that looked like the 46 defense to me.” Later in the same call, Ray says, “There was only one team, like I said I’m not a stat geek I didn’t check it all, maybe one of your guys in the back can, I think there was only 1 team that won this week in the NFL and that was the New England Patriots that had less running attempts than the other team.” Instead of care not to usurp Duemig’s e xpert role, Bridget o ffers an observation and then takes it back with the qualifica tion, “That’s just my opinion.” In a call responding to Bridget’s, Edward “sucks up” to Duemig through association with her call. Instead of giving Bridget her due, however, w ith total agreement, Edward even qualifies his support of her. SD: Let’s go to Edward. Go ahead, Edward. E: [sound of receiver being picked up from speakerphone] Hey, big dog, how ya doin?

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133 SD: Alright. E: Uh…I think the lady that just called, Bridget her name? SD: Yeah. E: I’m in pretty much agreement with you and her, you know, um…you got, we gotta be a little bit patient. Edward also sums up his take on the kick return game, not as “ just my opinion,” but as if his opinion—alone—counts: “But um, in my opinion, it was a few bright spots, uh, the kick return game was better than I’ve seen it in a long time.” Tim employs still another strategy to defe r to the coach as he ingratiates himself to Duemig through humor: SD: Let’s go to Tim. Go ahead Tim T: Hey two things really quickl y. One – I think we need to get Galloway some, maybe, Poli-Grip gloves to help him catch a ball… SD: Right in his hands!! No excuse! T: I know it’s difficult when the quarterback hits you in the hands… SD: [laughs] T: ... I know that’s a hard one to catch. And the other thing is of course Garner was on his way to the bus, because God knows he didn’t go to the house if you know what I mean. SD: [laughs] Alright, thanks! Tim made good use of the time he had on the ai r to criticize receiver Joey Galloway and running back Charlie Garner for perceived underperformance. The call elicited a laugh

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134 from host Duemig and doubtlessly had ot her listeners laughing along with it. Most importantly, Tim maintains his “one-down” status to the coach by not employing Duemig’s name-calling, shaming, and silencing style. Summary At the beginning of this chapter, I comp ared local sports talk radio to community theater, and as I close this chapter, I st rongly believe the performance analogies fit perfectly in the critical analysis of this genre. While The Jim Rome Show encourages callers to essentially present a monologue, rendering the host almost invisible in the wings during that time, The Steve Duemig Show is in many ways more of a series of two person productions during calls, with the hos t playing the role of the teacher/coach preparing his students/player s for the national stage. While these two programs are only a sm all portion of the sports talk radio landscape, they do speak volumes about how the format operates so differently on the national level compared to the local level. At the heart of the differences is caller strategy. Whereas the established form and format of The Jim Rome Show expects and rewards callers who perform bombast, bragga docio and a wide cultural literacy beyond the sports world, The Steve Duemig Show rewards callers who follow the lead of the “big dog,” i.e. crafting commentary that demonstrates to both the local audience and the rest of the sports world that fans in Tampa Bay know their sports, demand a quality product and refuse to settle for mediocrity. While cal lers to each program are certainly “performing” while their calls are aired, that element is far less obvious during Duemig’s show, and again the reason can be boiled down to strategy. Jim Rome’s callers appear to know that when they call, Rome will fade into the background, thus allowing them to

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135 have the stage alone and perform, largely, to an audience of their fellow listeners. As the transcripts of Rome’s calls show, many callers openly reference other “legend” callers during their comments as if to call them out individually in an attempt to prove them to be less masculine. Callers to Duemig’s show, on the other hand, seems to know that Duemig is there not just because he is engaging th em in dialogue during the calls, but because of the presence he creates for himself on his show. It can be argued that Duemig’s aura, that of a hypermasculine, auto cratic teacher/coach, is changing the tenor of the sports landscape in Ta mpa Bay one caller at a time by, in effect, changing local public attitude when it comes to how a community relates to and identifies with its sports teams. Though the callers to Duemig’s show are often heard subordi nating themselves to his (hyper)masculine authority, it can be argue d that in doing that they are willingly learning to become better sports fans and better citizens. In short, The Steve Duemig Show is a sense-making, educational, rhetorical vehicle, dressed in the clothing of (hyper) masculine performance and delivered as an en tertainment product to an audience eager to participate in and learn fr om what they are hearing. As Snow (1987, quoted in Brummet, 1991) notes, “Media are not simply organizations involved in disseminating inform ation to an audience; media function as a strategy for such matters as maintaining so cial networks, facilitating economic activity, providing the basis for everyday life rou tines and perhaps most importantly, for interpreting experience in othe r institutions” (pp. 225-26). Loca l sports talk radio, then, has become a vehicle for understanding and defining how a community relates to its sports teams. The Tampa Bay community is developing a vocabulary and a mindset for how to relate to sports base d in part on the content of The Steve Duemig Show I believe

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136 that findings of this chapter can serve as a roadmap to success for other communities long associated with losing sports franchises, as well as the radio stations in those markets who are looking to bring the sports talk format to those markets. Because the profitability of professional sports is tied directly with fan interest, a nd the profitability of radio stations is tied with the nu mber of listeners who tune in and (hopefully) patronize the station’s advertisers, sports talk radio has the potential to succeed above and beyond expectations if air pe rsonalities who approach their shows like Duemig does are a part of the station’s schedule. Put simply, the rhet oric of sports talk radio can and does fundamentally alter and define public perceptio n about what it means to be a “big sports town.”

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137 Chapter Five Conclusions and Implications for Future Research This study of sports talk radio dealt with the broad sweep of history of the medium, the national stage of the Jim Rome Show, and the local community created in Tampa Bay through Steve Duemig. Chapter Tw o argued that sports talk radio has historically invited more and more direct pa rticipation from its audience, leading to an increased personal and social c onnection with this broadcast genre. The chapter explored the changing forms of the “representative an ecdote” to help define how the format is enacted from year to year and decade to decade, conventions that hold today. Chapter Three illustrated how callers to a na tional sports talk radio program, The Jim Rome Show, employ distinct strategic patterns in order to produce successful on-air performances on the show, which in turn allows them to create social identification and engage in social critique. Chapter Four examined how a local sports talk radio program, The Steve Duemig Show, serves to help shape and define iden tity and community through cooperative dialogue and conversation, enabled through the coach as pedagogue, to rhetorically coconstruct a sense of living in a “true sports town.” At the beginning of this study, I set out to look beyond sports ta lk radio’s abrasive exterior in search of what lies beneath it and to explore this broadcast format as a discursive space – a place where many come to make sense of how sports fit into their lives. I believe that in this space, sports fans are afforded a singular and unique venue to

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138 cultivate not only a deeper understanding of the sports they lo ve, but to perform community and establish identity(ies), while knowingly or unknowingly contributing to the larger public discourse on race, gender, se xuality and class and th eir politics. I believe this study has accomplished what it set out to do, especially in the way of allowing for a closer and deeper analysis of a form of public expression that many dismiss out of hand as trivial and unimportant, especially when compared to the ha rder edged political discourse of right wing talk radio. I was in spired to do this study after writing a final paper for a seminar on identity, and I am not surprised to find that as I conclude the study, there are many ways that sports talk ra dio can help many of us to better express and better know who we are and who we wa nt to be as sports fans, members of a community, men, women, straight, gay, and as members of a particular racial/ethnic group. Sports talk radio is playing a critical role in the evolu tion of what it means to be a modern sports fan. For those who make sports su ch a big part of their lives, that evolution these days has included a heightened sense of the dramatic. The technology of radio has allowed many of us to get connected and stay connected with the sports and athletes we love and voice and cultivate our identity through the medium of sports talk radio in increasingly more dramatic, emphatic and sometimes hyperbolic terms. Barry Brummet reminds us of the importance of drama, “by examining what people are saying the critic may discover what cultures are celebrating or mourning—and the critic may recommend other ways of speaking which may serve as better equipment for living” (1984, p. 161). The rhetorical complexity and multivalence of sports talk radio places it squarely within larger frames of media, sport, and culture.

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139 Decades ago, being a sports fan was a much more distant and disconnected experience, both literally and figuratively. Fo r example, a fan of the Chicago Cubs who lived in rural southern Illinois may have lis tened to games broadcast on the radio. That fan may have owned a Cubs cap that a relativ e or friend purchased on a business trip to Chicago. There was no television, which meant th at fan could only construct pictures of the game in their minds. Because long distan ce travel was expensive, he would never see a game in person at Wrigley Field. A collec tion of baseball cards kept in a shoebox enhanced that fan’s experience. But today, the experience is colored in higher definition. Advancements in technology and the evolution of professional spor ts as a big business have allowed sports to be beamed into homes through television a nd the Internet, all da y and all night. The sports apparel industry is booming through sa les of both new and “retro” jerseys and caps. In response to the consumer demands, fa ns are now able to buy and wear the same style and make of uniforms and caps worn by athletes on the field of play, and if you have the money, you can literally own the same jersey that your favorite athlete once wore during a critical game in that championship season. Perhaps the ultimate in sports intimacy was conceived in the late 20th century, when both current and retired athletes tapped into the nostalgia market by offering fans with enough money the chance to at least go on a cruise with or at most literally play a sport with their favorite prof essional athletes in so-called “fantasy” encounters. These encounters have given fans up-close and pers onal access to their favorite players, while giving many aging players the chance to not on ly profit financially, but to stay in the public eye long after their playing careers ha ve ended. Many baseball “fantasy camps”

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140 charge fans $5,000 or more for long weeke nds with stars like Pete Rose, Brooks Robinson, Yogi Berra and Frank Robinson. Today, many professional sports teams have also responded to this evolution by hosting popular public relations events called “fan fests,” free (though heavily commercially sponsored) open-house events held prior to the beginning of the season where fans can walk around the field of play, receive autographs and take pictures with their favorite players, and participate in liv e question and answer sessions with coaches and owners. It’s no surprise then that this new bree d of fans that now feel so connected to sports have the desire to speak openly, public ly and often about the myriad of issues sports bring to our national and local discourse every day. Drama—protagonists, antagonists, conflict, and resolution—is the fo rm of that discourse From steroids to salary caps to non-sports topics fans participate in this dr ama through talk. Sports talk radio is the dramatic outlet for those con cerns. The growth and ratings success of the sports talk format has served the interests of both fans and radio executives better than either could have imagined. Findings of this Study Each of the findings of this study sheds new light on the wide-ranging effects this radio genre is having on the culture of sports fans today and on how we make sense of our lives and interact with the mass media in the 21st century. These findings have been uncovered because the perspective of this st udy acknowledged that sports talk radio was a text worthy of analysis. This is an im portant notion to point out because simply by making that acknowledgement, this study ha s simultaneously advanced the cause of

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141 modern rhetoric and most certainly offended so me rhetorical studies traditionalists. At the center of this controversy, I be lieve, are broad issues of power and politics as well as issues of how power and politics are played out in texts themselves. In fact, many so called “traditional” texts are ma nifestations of and claims to social and political power, from the orations on government by Aristotle to Martin Luther King’ s “I Have a Dream” speech. If they were not about those topics di rectly, then they were at the very least spoken or written by persons in positions of social or political power. Throughout much of the history of rhetorical st udy, the rule seems to have been that if the text doesn’t speak of social and political power, it’s not a text worthy of scholarly review. The findings of this study will help to reformulate what “wor thy” centers of rhetor ical study are, and subsequently help to re-conceptualize rhetoric as a whole, which I believe is an entirely healthy and appropriate notion. I believe that I have been tr ue to the directions that Brummett (1991) urged scholars to take when he said that “[R]hetori cal studies needs to expand the kinds of functions and manifest ations that it studies. The rhetorical dimensions of popular culture will not begin to be fully explored until scholars can break apart texts as defined by sources and consider how such diffuse texts, or discrete texts, broken up and resituated in appropriational manifestations, might be woven into the everyday flow of signification that constitu tes popular culture, or into the deeper conditional meanings that shore up whole ways of life” (p. 51). As I am about to illustrate, the common th read that links all of these findings is that the intellectual emphasis that went into studying them was not solely on the source of the message (which can alternately be viewed as either the sports talk radio genre as a whole or the host of the sports talk progr am specifically), but on the relationships

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142 between and among the host, the caller and th e audience. Again, traditionalists have always had a preference for keeping the critic al focus almost solely on a singular source or author (sender) and for keep ing the focus far away from the audience (receiver). It is the richness and drama of the audience and the c ontent of their calls th at gave this study its most revealing material. Community, Identity and Sports Talk Radio This study found that sports talk radio is an important lo cal resource through which fans individually and communities coll ectively build their senses of identity, esteem and public confidence. Authors such as Euchner (1993) a nd Shropshire (1995) have written extensively about the relationship between citie s and the image they portray both internally and externally through their sports teams. Eckstein and Delaney (2002) examined how many cities promote public funding for new sports stadiums by appealing to what they call “community self esteem” and “community collective consciousness.” The authors define community self esteem as having both an internal and external component, the former component being “a highly symbolic notion about how people living in a community perceive their co mmunity” (p. 237) and the latter component revolving around “what sort of social amenities, such as professional sports and sports stadiums, does one city have to offer relativ e to other cities” ( p. 238). The authors go on to differentiate community self esteem fr om community collectiv e conscience, defining that collective conscience as “the shared values, beliefs and experiences that bind community members to one another” (p. 238) In the case of sports talk radio interactions between ca llers and hosts, a socially construc ted reality is created with every call. These interactions constantly create, re-c reate and solidify the identities of not only

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143 callers and hosts, but of communities, teams and athletes. These identities are performed through conventions of the genre and taught by hosts to willing audiences. In an era where more and more of us do not know our next door neighbors by name, where voter participation in local elect ions continues to plummet, and where many of us are hard-pressed to name the city council representative or county commissioner that serves our district, professional spor ts bind communities together, for better or worse. Persons of different races, classe s, ethnicities and in comes all find common ground in cheering for the home team. Even though many studies have suggested that investing tax dollars in new stadiums to keep professional teams from relocating to other cities does not pay off financially in the l ong run, many people sti ll support the taxation solely on the basis of their desire to mainta in the image that they live, work and raise their families in a “major league city.” App eals to that sense of community self esteem and collective consciousness often trump th e economic and financial hardships that would otherwise turn taxpayers off when a vote is taken on whether or not to create a new tax for the purpose of keeping majo r league sports in their cities. Examining sports talk radio through a rhetor ical lens means looking at sports talk radio content as an example of individuals calling in to voi ce and to performatively create that community self esteem and collective consciousness and maintain the best possible public image of the community they call home. The constant goal is to help make sure that your community is set apart as excelle nt, unique and a winner on and off the field and that you, the listener, following whatever written or unwritten rules the program/host has set, make a positive impressi on on the listening audience.

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144 Caller/Host Relationships Talk radio hosts in general hold perh aps a unique position in the mass media: these hosts act as quasi-journa lists, community leaders, a nd friends to the listener. Because of this, the host holds unique power in that he/she can build up or tear down a caller’s self image based upon both the content of their phone call and the host’s response to that phone call. The roots of this uniqueness lie in the concept of parasocial interaction, a concept that Horton & Wohl (1956) defined as an “illusi on of intimacy” between media personalities and audience members. As Rubin & Step (2000) point out, “Audience members often develop quasi-relationships with media personalities, similar to that with social friends. They feel that they kn ow and understand the personae. They feel comfortable with the personae; as they do w ith a friend, and feel that the personae is natural and down-to-earth; they look forward to seeing or listening to the personae and empathize if he or she makes a mistake…” (p. 63 9). It is that sense of connectedness, that the sports talk host is a friend and fellow sports fan that takes people through listening stages that begin with curiosity and end with actual call-in participation.6 What sets sports talk radio apart from virtually all other t ypes of call in radio programming, however, is that when a caller is taken to task or ridiculed for his/her point of view by a host, which happens frequently in this broadcast genre, the caller actively participates in the drama of the event, the discourse, and most importantly, the conflict of the interaction. For Carey (1988) “The model he re is not that of information acquisition, though such acquisition occurs, but of dram atic action in which the reader [of a newspaper] joins a world of contending forces as an observer at a play” (p. 21). Live on the radio, the caller moves from observer to actor on stage, representing his home town,

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145 team, and point of view. Ridicule becomes an important part of th e rising action and the conflict of the drama, creating by host and caller. Conversely, if the caller makes a positive impression on the host and audience, the caller is seen as successful and likable and his/her teams and city are looked upon as being credible, wort hy “winners.” This, too, creates the drama of the action—with a successful reso lution to the conflict. The caller’s abilities to participat e in the action, the reputation of the teams they support and the public image of the cities they live in ar e on the line each time the decision is made to call the program. Caller/host interactions, examined through close textual analys is, illustrates how the sports talk radio genre is not best unde rstood through the hypodermic model, injecting an audience with information about sports Instead, these inter actions studied through their conventions, rhetorical strategies, and performed drama demonstrate how sports talk radio functions as a resource and a vehicle that sports fans utilize to participate in the larger drama of sports and culture. This notion also helps illuminate how the societal role of the media in general has changed and evolved in the modern era. As Snow (1997) states, “[M]edia are not simply organizations involved in disseminating information to an audience; media function as a strategy for such matters as maintaining social networks, facilitating economic activity, providing the ba sis for everyday life routines, and perhaps most importantly, for interpreting experien ce in other institutions,” (pp. 225-226). White Invisibility and Cultural Authority over Race and Class Throughout this study, the concept of sports talk radio as a source of empowerment for the fan has been a lens through which I have viewed all of the caller/host interactions, as well as my interview with local host Steve Duemig. That lens

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146 also allows one to examine the genre as a ve hicle toward revealing even more about race and class. The issue of examining race as it relates to sports talk radio presents a series of formidable challenges. Ideally, because radi o is a non-visual medium, race should be a non-issue when studying this genre and sw eeping utopian statements about how race “disappears” on sports talk radio shou ld be commonplace. But even though it’s impossible to see skin color when listeni ng to the radio, whiteness is the backdrop— invisible, assumed, standing for both “all” and “nothing.” Michael Dyer explains: For those in power in the West, as long as whiteness is felt to be the human condition, then it al one both defines normality and fully inhabits it. . White people have power and believe that they think, feel and act like and for all people; white people, unabl e to see their pa rticularity, cannot take account of other people’s; wh ite people create the dominant images of the world and don’t quite see that th ey thus construct the world in their own image; white people set standards of humanity by which they are bound to succeed and others bound to fail. Most of this is not done deliberately and maliciously; there ar e enormous variations of power amongst white people, to do with class, gender and other factors; goodwill is not unheard of in white people’s e ngagement with others. White power none the less reproduces itself regard less of intention, power differences and goodwill, and overwhelmingly because it is not seen as whiteness, but as normal. (1997, p. 9-10)

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147 The most popular and recognized faces of nationally syndicated sports talk radio, Jim Rome, Dan Patrick, T ony Bruno, Tony Kornheiser, J.T. the Brick and Andrew Siciliano, are white. Throughout the history of sports talk radio, there has not been one African-American who has broken through on a national level and enjoyed the level of both celebrity and financial bene fit that the white hosts have.7 The only person to come close has been Art Rust, Jr., the noted sports historian and talk ra dio pioneer from New York, who enjoyed regional success in th e Northeast, but whose show was never nationally syndicated. The world of sports radi o talk is very much a white, male, elite world, reproducing itself as the “norm” in its own image, unaware of its own power and privilege as normative. In the past 25 years, four incidents of r acist discourse, uttered in public, by white men caused huge ripple effects throughout th e sports world and beyond, and were fueled by repeated replays on televi sion. Those examples are: 1. The 1987 incident involving Los Angeles Dodgers Vice President Al Campanis, who, when asked by ABC’s Ted Koppel on Nightline about the lack of blacks in positions of power in Ma jor League Baseball stated… ''I truly believe that they may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a field manager, or perhaps a general manager . Well, I don't say all of them, but they certainly are short. How many quarterbacks do you have, how many pitchers do you have, that are black? Why are black men, or black people, not good swimmers? Because they don't have the buoyancy.”8

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148 Koppel was aghast at the remarks and gave Campanis multiple opportunities to retract them as the interview continued. Campanis di d not. One day later, he publicly apologized for the remarks. Two days later, the Dodgers fired Campanis. 2. The 1988 remarks made by the late Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder as he was videotaped by a news crew while dining at Duke Zeibert’s, a Washington, DC area restaurant. Snyder, who appeared on the tape to be at least somewh at intoxicated, said that blacks had “been bred” to have “big thi ghs” which therefore led to them being better athletes. Snyder added… “This goes all the way back to the Civil War, when during the slave trading the slave owner woul d breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid. That's where it all started.” Then, in an attempt to be funny, Snyder disc ussed the topic of black coaches in the NFL by saying… “They've got everything. If th ey take over co aching like everybody wants them to, there's not going to be anything left for the white people. I mean all the players are black. The only thing the whites control are the coaching jobs.”9 The public outcry over this incident far outweig hed that of the Campanis incident and led CBS to fire Snyder, which essentially de stroyed his credibility and his career. 3. The 1997 incident involving comment s made by professional golfer Fuzzy Zoeller following fellow golfer Tiger Woods victory at the prestigious Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Said Zoeller:

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149 "That little boy is driving well and he's putting well. He's doing everything it takes to win. So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it? Or collard greens or what ever the hell they serve.”10 Tradition at the Masters allows the previous years champion to set the menu for what is called the Champions Dinner, held each year during the tournament. Zoeller, who had a reputation on the PGA tour as a jokester a nd a light hearted man, la ter apologized for the comments, but lost severa l endorsements over the remarks, which were played ad nauseum on both television and radio. 4. Finally, in 2003, noted political radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who had been signed by ESPN television to provide commentary on their Sunday NFL Countdown program, infuriated fans and critics nationwid e by revisiting an issue that was thought to be long dead: African-American quarterback s in the National Football League. Of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, Limbaugh said… "I don't think he's been that good from the get-go. I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."11 What made Limbaugh’s comments even more re vealing was that it was not the first time he made racially insensitive remarks wh ile on the air. According to Reid (2003),

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150 Limbaugh once told an African-American calle r to “take that bone out of your nose and call me back,”12 while on another occasion he said, "Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemb le Jesse Jackson?" (online). While it’s fair to say that thrust of the comments were di rected toward the media and not McNabb, the ensuing furor caused Limbaugh to step down from his ESPN post and motivated ESPN to issue statements distancing the network from his remarks. What do these four incidents have in common? Each was uttered by a powerful white man in a position to be listened t o—in sports management, in gambling, as a player, and as a broadcaster. Each incident searches desperately for an “out” for the speaker (retractions, drunkenness, “a jokester,” media instit utions, not personal attack). And each incident obscures the institutional racism, classism, and sexism that granted these white men authority to speak and to be listened to, while treating the racist remarks as anomalies of individuals rather th an foundations of sports and media. Class, race, and gender are thoroughly imbr icated in the authority, deference, and obfuscation in these four media “events.” Patric ia Williams lists five “points” on race that are especially salient with regards to these four incidents: 1) Race is not a cipher for poverty. 2) Race is not a cipher for disease. 3) Race is not a cipher fo r bestiality. 4) Race is not a cipher for exotic entertainment. 5) Race is not a cipher fo r the whole of life (p. 62-63). Sports and media epitomized in these f our incidents make precisely these ties: whether a “Hoop Dreams” upward mobility of bl ack athletes or the economic power and prestige of the speakers, poverty/race/class/ gender are implicit in who is granted to authority to “judge” others—especially when the other is black. AIDS, especially among

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151 black athletes, is a constant topic of the white media. Bestiality—the power of “those dehumanizing stereotypes of big baboons”—satu rates sports and media construction of blackness, and inversely, absences it in white athletes. Exotic entertainment is made “exotic” in and through race. And finally, “whole of life” introduces the many, many ways the media justifies and discourses succes s and failure: “like hard work or personal responsibility or birth order or class or G od or the good old glories of the human spirit” (Williams, 1997, p. 63). Sports and media, ciphe ring race in those ways, also hides it under the “glories of the human spirit.” On The Jim Rome Show, Fuzzy Zoeller and Rush Limbaugh have joined the likes of Snyder and Campanis as targets of hum iliation each time racist incidents are brought up on the program. Rome will even play the audio of Zoeller making his remarks as comic relief during discussions of racist happ enings that make sports news and become show topics. But in the case of the Rome show, whiteness is the naturalized backdrop, even as he punishes “racist” remarks, and the spectre of “white guilt” raises its head. More importantly, the punishment Rome exact s reminds us again of Rome’s cultural authority—he is the final arbitrator of racism even as he freely appropriates one genre of black speech rhythms and styles. Rome constantly uses the phrases “fre sh” and “fat” (or “phat”) to describe anything positive. Even his acts of referring to his program and the listener community as “The Jungle” can be read as having racial subtexts (from the racist epithet “Jungle Bunny” to Spike Lee’s interracial love story Jungle Fever ). As E. Patrick Johnson explains of a speech community’s style be ing appropriated by others, “Once signs and symbols permeate the fabric of popular culture the foundations on which the meanings of

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152 the symbols and signs are based become sites of contestation” (1995, p. 138). While largely white, male audiences of Rome’s show may admire and imitate Rome’s appropriation of this genre and its symbols and signs, Williams reminds us that “language identified as black is habitually flattened into some singularized entity that in turn becomes synonymous with ignorance, sla ng, big lips and sloppy tongues, incoherent ideas, and very bad—terribly un ruly!—linguistic acts” (p. 36). Such “appropriation” and “flattening” by Jim Rome loses its celebratory ring for whites when applied to Latinos and in particular toward Ch icanos. Mariscal (1999) notes that Rome donned a faux-Mexican accent when attempting to re-enact for the listening audience boxing promoter Don King’s muggi ng in Mexico City where King’s $10,000 Rolex watch was ripped from his wrist (p. 114). Whether interpreted as flattery or raci sm, Rome’s allusions to and performances of blackness or Latino-ness stem from this cu ltural authority to render the world as he knows it and to “set standards of humanity” (Dyer 1997, p. 9). This social power with regards to class is blatant, and not at all ch ecked by class guilt. Rome is quick to deride low-class whites as “trailer trash” and “re dnecks” (or simply “n ecks”) and employs many similar stereotypes when discussing disgra ced figure skater and current boxer Tonya Harding. However, in the very recent past, Rome has backed away from what in the past was his frequent association of “white trash” with NASCAR. Rome had frequently called the racing circuit “Neckcar,” deri ded fans for wanting to watch a “perpetual left turn” and referred to the city of Fontana, CA, the home of California’s bi ggest annual NASCAR event as “Fontucky.” As NASCAR has increased its fan base, garnered bigger and better

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153 corporate sponsorship, and given attention to its white, wealthy, male stars, Rome has tempered his disdain for “necks.” NASCAR has gone mainstream: meaning middle and upper-middle class, white, and extremely profita ble for almost anyone associated with it. Today, this includes Rome himself, who now frequently has NASCAR drivers as guests on his show. Why then is this type of subtle racism or classism, or any racism or classism for that matter, largely absent from local sports talk radio? Much of it has to do, of course, with the differing missions of local and na tional sports talk. National personalities like Jim Rome now need to reach as wide an a udience as possible in a talk radio landscape where conservative rhetoric dominates the ai rwaves. As I pointed out earlier, Rome is competing head to head each day, in most of those markets which carry his show live, against Rush Limbaugh. Race baiting, sexi sm and classism, while never the most attractive or politically correct lines of discourse, do get th e attention of the audience. They get them talking, thinking, calling and listening. That’s what the hosts and radio executives are in business to do. I believe that sports talk radio, while not overtly racist, is racially polarizing. Similarly, while not overtly classist, the genre does at times play on class stereotypes in order to ge nerate listenership and ratings. The bottom line is still the fact that both Jim Rome and Steve Duemig are, in fact, white males, and are exercising a specific type of power through their programs that only white males can exercise. While Duemig’s face is not marketed actively in the promotion of his program in the visual media, Rome’s is Still, in ways large and small, Rome and Duemig make the most of the power of thei r images and create for their listeners, as Dyer’s quote above made reference to, the dominant image of the sports world both

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154 nationally and locally. Further, these men, through their progr ams, create community and forge identity in their own image In the case of Rome’s show, there is a particularly biting irony: no matter what race you really are, it can be ar gued that all “Clones” are white. Sports Talk Radio and Gender According to Douglas (2002), “Talk radio is as much – maybe even more – about gender politics at the end of the [twentieth] cen tury than it is about party politics. There were different masculinities enacted on the ra dio, from Howard St ern to Rush Limbaugh, but they were all about challenging and overt hrowing, if possible, th e most revolutionary of social movements, feminism. The men’s movement of the 1980’s found it’s outlet, and that was talk radio” (p. 485). Today, Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern have been joined by Jim Rome, Steve Duemig and many others in performing their own brand of masculinity on sports talk radio. In an era when all things male (and heterosexual) seem to be making a pop culture comeback through the mass media (as the new cable television network “Spike TV,” billed as “the first network for men,” illustrate s), sports talk radio seems a perfect fit to help give voice to this latest explosion of heterosexual malene ss. At work in sports talk radio is the dominant theoretical paradi gm of what Connell (1990) called “hegemonic masculinity,” defined as “the culturally idea lized form of masculine character” (p. 83). Also at work within the paradigm of hegem onic masculinity are the concepts that women and homosexual men are relegated to the margins. Indeed, Connell’s example of “complicit masculinity” is the Monday-morni ng quarterback, the fellow who hasn’t the physical “goods” to play on the field, but can certainly talk about the play the next day—

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155 with authority. Commenting on mediated cove rage of sports, Trujillo (1994) wrote, “Media coverage of sports reinforces tradit ional masculinity in at least three ways. It privileges the masculine over the feminine or homosexual image by linking it to a sense of positive cultural values. It depicts the ma sculine image as ‘natural’ or conventional while showing alternative images as unconve ntional or deviant. And it personalizes traditional masculinity by elevating its representatives to places of heroism and denigrating strong females or homosexuals” (p. 97). Professional sports, especially Major L eague Baseball and the National Football League, are in many ways the perfect contex ts to be analyzed and deconstructed by callers to sports talk radio shows because these sports represent the ultimate in hegemonic masculinity: strong, muscular, athle tic men engaged in a “battle” for victory in a zero sum game. What continues to fasc inate me, and I’m sure many other scholars who study the sports world, is that for al l of its macho, hetero sexual outer layer, professional sports still has a great deal of homoerotic subtext. Today there is still no active major league baseball player or professi onal football player in the United States publicly living his life as an “out” homosexual. The clubhouses and locker rooms of these sports are notorious for ha rboring an openly outward hom ophobia beyond any other arena in our culture. But just as uniquely homophobi c as the sports arena can be, a startling paradox is at play. Professi onal athletes often display what can be perceived as homoerotic behavior on the fi elds of play. Hugging a male teammate after a great play has been commonplace for a long time on sports fields, but certainly not in boardrooms following announcements of record profits. For years prior to his di agnosis of HIV, Los Angeles Lakers legend Earvin “Magic” Johns on and Detroit Pistons standout Isaiah

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156 Thomas would kiss during pre-game introduc tions when the Lakers and Pistons were playing one another. But what has always intrig ued me the most is the fact that as rigidly heterosexual as professional foot ball and baseball players are made out to be, their fields of play are literally the only arenas in our society where a man can slap another man on the buttocks and that action be deemed to be socially and culturally acceptable, causing no disturbance whatsoever on the part of the receiver of the slap. Foucault (1994) argues that men’s arenas ha ve always been shot through with this paradox: male only events, gatherings, and or ganizations give rise to opportunities for intimate social, political, and physical interactions, even as these same institutions produce discourses and practices that constantly survey and police the interactions that occur there. Male bodies—epitomized in the forms of (now steroi d induced) perfection— make sports and masculinity more than comp lex homoeroticism. Tim Miller writes, “our bodies are much more layered and comple x and messy than a nice tidy word like ‘discourse’ would ever suggest. The flesh that men occupy stinks, fucks, shits, is written on, is blown apart, is fetishize d, triumphs, fails, and eventually dies. . We jumped into the abyss of acknowledging the warfare that surrounds men’s bodies, these bodies trained to fear vulnerability and each other” (2001, p. 280, 298). I believe this study has shown that the caller/host interacti ons replicated and reinforced the ideals of hegemonic masculinity almost to the letter (especially in the local talk radio calls). Throughout my analysis, I found that the tenor of male callers was overwhelmingly aggressive, highly critical and competitive. This was especially true with callers to The Jim Rome Show who themselves were, each day, competing for their calls to be deemed the “huge call of the day.” The not-so-subtle refe rence to “huge” is a

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157 marvelous testimony to the social power that attends to the phallus. In Fiona Giles’s (1997) collection, Dick for a Day dozens of women writers and artists answer the question, “What would you do if you had a dick for a day?” Terry McMillan begins her answer, “First of all, I’d want to have a big one—and I’d show everybody.” “Showing everybody,” through aggression, criticism, a nd competition is the mark of sports, masculinity, and callers on the Jim Rome Show. Just as whiteness and “middle-class-ness” is the naturalized backdrop for sports talk radio, masculinity also assumes a norma tive function. Women callers, then, not only adopt a different style, but by their very diffe rence, reaffirm and reinstitute the masculine norms. If broadcasters are all white and el ite, reflective of ca ller’s race and economic hopes, then the topics are decidedly masculin e with a distinct lack of interest in discussing women’s sports, even to the point of openly de riding the WNBA. Discussions of women’s beach volleyball center on the skimpy bikinis worn by the competitors. If masculinity is alive and well, femininity ex ists on talk radio as absence, lack, and difference. This study found that the few women who called evidenced cooperation and common ground, a decidedly different style fr om the bombast and aggression of hosts and callers. Such difference only reaffirms the norm. However, it must be noted that while Rome and his callers do advance a highly hyper-masculine rhetoric, the program (and Ro me himself) will often become highly contradictory and advance a much more libe ral and tolerant rhet oric of anti-homophobia. As Nylund (2004) points out, “ The Jim Rome Show is not a simple, completely obnoxious site of monolithic masculine discourse Rather, the show represents a complex, paradoxical, ambivalent and polyvalent text” (p. 160). That rhetorical paradox is never

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158 more apparent than when Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Bean, one of the very few professional male athletes to openly adm it his homosexuality (though he did so after he retired), is a frequent gue st on Rome’s show. Most of th e time when Bean is a guest, the discussion stays squarely on baseball. Ho wever, when issues involving sports and homosexuality are current topics, such as when Out magazine editor Brendan Lemon wrote a 2001 column detailing his gay affair with an un-named major league baseball player, Bean addresses the i ssues openly and frankly. During the course of that same show, howev er, callers are likely to let loose with homophobic epithets and Rome hims elf may make at least mildly disparaging remarks or jokes about gays and lesbians in a variety of sports. The la ck of attention to women’s sports and lesbian athletes, further instanti ates the masculine, r aced privilege—whether heterosexual or homosexual—of hosts and callers For a reader or listener to understand how and why sports talk radio can offer up such rhetorical contradictions, how programming can at once advance hegem onic masculinity, heteronormativity and homophobia while at the same time advance a rh etoric of tolerance and acceptance of gay men, that reader or listener must always keep in mind that this programming is first and foremost an entertainment product, as are the conservative political talk radio shows that share the airwaves with sports talk. This en tertainment does not jettison it from political valences, of course, but heightens the importa nce of exploring the political implications of any media deemed “entertainment.” While The Jim Rome Show hails itself as protective, tolerant, even “gay friendly,” this license, I would argue, is granted by a heteronormative white masculinity that has the least the lose in that progressive stance. Being “gay friendly,” but not lesbian or wo man-friendly, is very much about shoring up

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159 hegemonic masculinity. Again, Patricia Williams chimes in with an appropriate point, “The limp little tag hanging from my teabag r eads: ‘It’s easy to be tolerant when you do not care’” (1997, p. 59). As I conclude this discussion of gender and sports talk radio, I want to revisit the incident that launched Jim Rome into nationa l celebrity. By calling Jim Everett “Chris,” Rome essentially feminized the very hyper-mas culine pro quarterback. By reacting as he did (knocking over a table and throwing Rome to the ground in full view of television cameras), Everett in a sense reclaimed his masc ulinity. By playing the clip of the incident over and over again, the media both reinfor ced hegemonic masculinity, licensed its violent expressions, and create d a new media star who today stands at the pinnacle of sports talk radio fame. As I began this study, I envisioned sports talk radio as a place where those who were not interested in the standard electoral and cultura l politics of programming like The Rush Limbaugh Show could come to listen and talk about something more unifying, the experience of being a sports fan. While I believ e that listeners do indeed take refuge in sports talk radio for just those kinds of purposes, I also believe that this study has illustrated that sports talk radio is not apolitic al. In fact, the politics of sports talk radio are concentrated in the building and ma intenance of community and identity by advancing a rhetoric of regional pride through athletic accomplishment, even as it masks whiteness and mobilizes masculinity. Throughout the country, citizens and electe d officials are engaged in heated and sometimes vicious debate regarding using public financing to build sports stadiums. In most cases, getting the stadium built involves passing sales and/or property tax increases

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160 that are politically unpopular. Many times th ese issues are accompanied by threats, explicit or implied, from team owners that if a new stadium is not built, the team will relocate to a city which will be willing to build them the new stadium they say they need in order to stay competitive in the ever mo re expensive world of professional sports. This study has illustrated that the identity of the sports fan is directly related to how that fan creates a drama of connection to a favorite team and the community in which he lives. Logically then, sports talk radio can and does become a vehicle for the social construction of identity, based in part on what Eckstein and Delaney (2002) called “community self-esteem” and “community se lf consciousness” as it relates to maintaining and reinforcing identity through a community being seen, both internally and externally, as a “major lea gue” or “big sports” city. Because sports talk radio is a place wher e the emotion and dramatic enactment of a message, not the logic, plays a bigger role, the medium is tailor-made for the advancement of a political message. That me ssage, more often than not, speaks of the pride and better quality of life one will have when professional sports are in the city you call home. It transcends the cold reality of economics and, ironically, actually helps widen the gap between rich fans and poor fa ns by making the prospect of seeing live sporting events even further out of the reach of many fans. New, expensive stadium always come with new, more expensive tick et prices and even stratification of fan experiences while at the games. Sports talk ra dio has the power to ensure that cities and fans retain a uniqueness of identity. Often, th at message can include subtle manipulation and the fear of a city losing its major league reputation. As Eckstein and Delaney (2002) pointed out, “Stadium supporters in many cities often manipulated community self

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161 esteem by targeting another urban area that ha d been socially constructed as inferior. People in Cleveland warned that without ne w professional sports stadiums, the city would be ‘just like Akron.’ Ballpark propone nts in Minneapolis and Denver seemed worried that without new stadiums the cities would be just ‘a cold er version of Omaha.’ Phoenix elites insisted that major league baseball would prevent Phoenix from turning into ‘another Tucson’ (pp. 240-241). It should be noted that all th ree of the cities mentioned in the above quote did ultimately bui ld new stadiums. Sports talk radio will continue to serve as a major political voice in cities around the nation. Would that social justice—for gender, sexuality, race, and class— were as easy to build as sports stadiums in these communities. Directions for Future Research Partly because studies of sports talk radio are still very limited, there is tremendous potential for future research of both sports talk ra dio directly and of numerous other areas of our soci ety as it relates to sports. In broad terms, I believe it is critical th at future researchers continue to examine the uniqueness of segmented audiences in qualit ative studies. Engaging actively in more qualitative inquiry can conti nue to reveal insights that have been overlooked and underappreciated by many kinds of audiences fo r years. When researchers decide to examine what lies beneath the surface, a rich er, fuller picture of th e audience begins to take shape. That picture goes from a simple black and white snapshot of the audience in terms of something like potential buyers/clients to a more colorful illustration of how and why the audience gets connected and stays c onnected to an idea, issue or concept.

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162 More specifically, one possi ble angle for researchers to examine is a side by side analysis of calls made to sports talk radio stations divided by gender, examining similarities and/or differences between th e callers and their calls. As I pointed out previously, calls by women to this very masc uline arena are often l ooked at as novelties. However, local host Steve Duemig was adamant in his belief that calls placed to his show by women were overwhelmingly intelligent, fa ct-filled and made fo r more stimulating programming. These studies could prove to be invaluable in illustrating the reflection of cultural trends as put fort h by and through sports talk radio. Paramount among these trends, I believe, will be examinations of how hegemonic masculinity is changing and evolving in a world where gender and sexual or ientation in sports is being placed under a more powerful microscope. There is also great potentia l in studying “routine” callers to programs (callers that call the shows one or more times per week and whose calls make it to the air) as a vehicle for understanding how ordinary people cultivat e a celebrity identity by and through their calls to talk radio stations. As in the case of The Jim Rome Show many of these callers have cultivated their own celebrity. Th e host is no longer the only “famous” person connected with the program. By studying cal ls qualitatively, one can examine, for example, the concept of celeb rity and how routine callers carefully and methodically construct their own celebr ity through their calls to sports talk radio. Earlier in this study, I noted that two former routine callers to s ports talk radio shows, Mike Trivissano, who regularly called Pete Franklin’s Sportsline and J.T. The Brick, a regular of The Jim Rome Sho w used the celebrity they built as callers to launch their own sports talk radio shows.

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163 Another provocative area for potential study is located in secondary texts that are created as a result of listening to the shows. One such arena is the Internet, where you can find numerous websites which callers and fans of sports radio talk s hows have created to help link them as members of a community. For example, the website LiveWithMom.com, created by fans of The Jim Rome Show plays host to hundreds of regular visitors and guests each day with its various chat rooms and message boards. The websites name, LiveWithMom, is derived from an ongoing joke on Rome’s show, whereby Rome constantly decries his listene rs as being nothing more than unemployed low-lives who continue to live with their parents well into their adult years. Other possible arenas for qualitative inquiry include fan clubs and sports bars, especially ones that are designated, authoritativ ely or not, as the “official sp orts” bar of a certain team.13 Concluding Thoughts The end of this project represents, in so many ways, a beginning. When we commit ourselves to the ideals of theoretical flexibility and when we commit ourselves to academic and social inquiry that refuses to be constrained by tradition, the results more times than not allow us to see a broader, more colorful and more se nsible picture of the world we live in. I want to stress again that this study was undertaken to help advance the case for examining the social and cultura l functions and dimensions of rhetoric and its subsequent benefits in helping a wide variety of a udiences understand and make sense of their uniquely human experiences. I believe it is dang erous in the extreme for anyone inside or outside the academy to indict examinations of the rhetoric of popular culture as somehow

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164 being disrespectful of the long tradition and hist ory of rhetorical studies or to demean or dismiss these studies as havi ng little or no social or intellectual significance. Whether we are experiencing ShakespeareÂ’s Hamlet PlatoÂ’s Phaedrus or The Jim Rome Show we are acting, thinking a nd constructing rhetorically when we do because we are ordering and making sense of thos e texts through a distinct strategy of understanding and meaning influenced by cu lture. In other words, we are employing rhetoric to help us understand the ro le of communication in society. Projects like this also help illustrate that there are still so many texts and subtexts in the rhetoric of popular cultu re yet to be explored, and even when people think they know all there is to know about a text (like sports), what they can discover beyond the text will provide them with new perspectives. Again, this is not meant to dismiss or minimize any text, but rather to encourage all of us to move beyond the textual and toward the functional in terms of how we view rhetorical studies. I find it disappointing in many ways that while a text like sports ha s been examined in thousands of pieces of academic literature and a text like news/poli tical talk radio has been examined in hundreds more, scarcely few academic inquiries have been made into this genre which has exploded in popularity in the past decad e and a half. Through more examination of sports talk radio, more sense can be made of how and why we c onnect individually and culturally with sports and how as sports a nd technology evolve over time, we come to rely on both of them to enri ch our human experience. I discovered sports talk radio when I moved to Tampa in 1994. Since then, it has been a regular part of my drives both to a nd from work every day. The blend of local and national sports talk, th e outright silliness of The Jim Rome Show combined with the much

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165 more serious and im mediate content of The Steve Duemig Show, has provided me with many hours of great entertainment. As I conclu de this study, I want to stress that when academics begin their search for subject ma tter, they should begin by looking long and hard at themselves and how they make sense of the world around them. Though I certainly experienced many of the frustrations that all academics face while drafting this study, the experience was made all the more worthwhile be cause I never stopped being fascinated by the material I was examin ing. Researching and writing this study was incredibly time consuming and one of the s acrifices I made was my own experience as a sports fan. I have held season tickets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since 1997. Seeing the NFL live and in person on game days is one of the things I enjoy most in my life. During the fall of 2004, when this study was in full swing, I attended only one game, choosing to sell my tickets to friends and coll eagues in order to stay focused on my work. Anyone who knows me knows what a huge sacrifi ce that was. However, what I learned about fans and sports and communication and rhetoric made that sacrifice more than worth it. Right now, in cities and town around the nation, someone is calling a sports talk radio station for the first time. In a few years, that caller might have his or her own sports talk radio program. Right now, fans and hosts are yelling at one another to prove how right they are. Right now, a radio executiv e is smiling because the sports talk radio ratings have taken another jump. The wild world of sports talk is on the air. IÂ’m out.

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166 Endnotes 1 Barry’s representative anecdote is this: “A person of high economic and social status patronizes a younger person of lower status for motives that seem not entirely altruistic. The younger person is radically altered and enco unters difficulties adjusting to his or her new status. A break between the two people occu rs, and it is healed through the alteration of the older person as well” (p. 163). He then explains that is the representative anecdote for Pygmalion My Fair Lady and the 1970s television show, Diff’rent Strokes 2 Smulyan’s story bears striking similarity to the efforts of Ted Turner and Reese Schonfeld to launch CNN. 3 Donellan resurfaced in the summer of 2005 as a fill-in anchor for WDAE in Tampa, FL. 4 The entire article is available at http://sportsillustrate d.cnn.com/2004/writers/jeffri_chad iha/09/14/ keyshawn/index.html 5 According to data provided to me by J ohn Snyder from Arbitron in an e-mail message on February 7, 2005. 6 These stages are outlined in much greater detail by Avery & Ellis (1979). 7 Fox Sports Radio Networks currently s yndicates “Fox Game Time with Craig Shemon and James Washington.” Washington is Af rican-American, however it should be noted that Washington, a former NFL player, does not have his own program and is billed second following Shemon. 8 See Callahan, T. Racism at ba t, No monument for Jackie. Time 20 Apr 1987, p. 62. 9 See Ballard, S. Scorecard: An oddsmaker’s odd views. Sports Illustrated 25 Jan 1988, p. 7. 10 As reported on CNN.com. See http://www.cnn.com/US/9704/21/fuzzy 11 As reported by Philadelphia television station WPVI. See http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/sports/10012003_sp_limbaugh-mcnabb.html 12 Though he made the comment in the 1970’s while deejaying a Top 40 music show in Pittsburgh under the name “Jeff Christie”, no t on his now famous conservative political talk show. 13 For example, fans of the Philadelphia Ea gles who live in the greater Tampa Bay area can go to the website http://www.tampadelphia. com, where they can find that fellow Philadelphia Eagles fans gather weekly at a hotel bar called The Players Sports Lounge to watch Eagles games and enjoy one another’s company.

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175 Tierney, J. (30 April 1995). How ta lk radio gets at what’s real. The New York Times, Sec. 4, pp. 1, 3. Trujillo, N. (1994). The meaning of Nolan Ryan. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press. Turman, P. (2003). “Athletic coaching from an instructional communication perspective: The influence of coach experience on high school wrestlers’ preferences and perceptions of coaching be haviors across a season.” Communication Education, 52, 73-87. Turner, V. (1969). The ritual process: St ructure and anti-structure Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. --------. (1988). The anthropology of performance. New York” PAJ Publications. Weber, B. (7 June 1992). A loud, angry world on the dial: 24 hours of talk radio is a town meeting of the alienated. The New York Times Sec. 1, p. 31(L). Wise, J.M. (1997). Exploring technology and social space. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Williams, P. (1997). Seeing a color-blind future. New York: The Noonday Press. Williams, R. (1983). Drama in a dramatized society. London: Verso Press. _________ 1966. Zagacki, K. & Grano, D. (2005). Radio spor ts talk and the fantasies of sport. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 22(1), 45-63.

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176 Bibliography Hall, S. (1984). Encoding/Decoding. In S. Hall, et. al. (Eds.) Culture, media, language: Working papers in cu ltural studies, 1972-79. London: Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies Jhully, S. (1989). Cultural studies and the s ports media complex. In L.A. Wenner (Ed.) Media, Sports & Society (70-93). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Root, R., Jr. (1987). The rhetorics of popular cu lture: Advertising, advocacy and entertainment. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, Inc. Wenner, L.A. (1998) The sports bar: Mascu linity, alcohol, sports and the mediation of public space. In G. Rail & J. Harvey (Eds.) Sport and postmodern times: Gender, sexuality, the body and sport (301-322). Albany, NY: Stat e University of New York Press.

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About the Author Originally from Gloversville, NY, John D. Reffue received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Rider Universi ty in 1990 and a Master of Science degree in Speech Communication from Syracuse Univ ersity in 1992. He began his career at Jefferson Community College in Watertown, NY, before joining the faculty of Herkimer County Community College in Herkimer, NY. Since 1995, he has served on the faculty of Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, FL, where he is a charter member of the collegeÂ’s Honors Institute, course coordinato r for speech at the Dale Mabry Campus and faculty liaison to the Harvard Na tional Model United Nations team. Reffue is the co-author of the textbook Speak to Succeed and is a past secretary of the National Communication AssociationÂ’s Comm unity College Section. He has authored several NCA papers and served on numerous NCA panels on subjects including honors programs, pedagogy and tenure review.


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