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Tom has a bit of advice for ESPN radio

Dear ESPN radio:

I am a somewhat loyal listener to your network (broadcast locally here on KFFN AM 1490). While I am a lifelong athlete and sports fan, I came to your network pretty much by default. Having endured all the bilge spewing I could stomach from the hate-mongering Sean Hannity and his drug-addicted idol, Rush Limbaugh, during the 2004 political campaign, I switched my car radio over to sports talk. I figure that the average guy who calls in to a sports-talk show is an idiot (just listen to Jim Rome's show for five minutes), but at least he's not going to accuse me and millions of other people of treason because we voted for a guy who is an American combat veteran and medal winner.

I mostly listen to CDs in the car. This week, it's OutKast's Idlewild, Isaac Hayes' classic Hot Buttered Soul and Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense. But when the music stops, y'all are it. I understand that you guys are the worldwide leaders and all, but perhaps you might like some input from someone who listens to you sometimes and occasionally yells back at the radio.

First, here's a story for you. When the UA handed out parking passes for the UA-Brigham Young University football game, they were mistakenly stamped "Bringham Young," which, ironically, is the motto of breakaway Mormon sect leader Warren Jeffs.

· You know how that guy yells "DING!" every time some major leaguer hits a home run in a game that's being played during The Dan Patrick Show? You need to have somebody scream "KA-BOOM!" every time one of your commentators says something that is blatantly stupid and/or offensive. Granted, it is sports talk, so we're not expecting a solution to the Middle East or a translation of what George W. Bush is uttering. However, it would be nice if commentators wouldn't toss out offhanded comments that are not only wrong, but serve to ridicule the core audience.

The most egregious example of this is when the talk turns to steroids and so-called "performance-enhancing drugs." Inevitably, someone on the network will say, "I don't even know why we're talking about this. Sports fans don't care about steroids."

Let's get this straight (and I'll keep it simple in case someone is reading it to Michael Irvin): Sports fans care about sports. Sports involve competition according to a set of rules, standards and guidelines. The use of steroids is cheating, and real sports fans don't like cheating. A true sports fan isn't going to show up or tune in to watch cheaters try to out-cheat each other.

Now, if you wanted to say, for example, that "some of the people who show up at baseball games don't care about steroids," that would probably be true. Some people have no standards.

I used to be a pretty big baseball fan, but after the strike of 1994 and the steroid-a-thon put on by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998, I will not spend a penny on what passes for Major League Baseball these days. If, at some future time, MLB could prove to me that not even one player is juiced, I might be willing to give 1/100 of a crap about the sport. But, for now, the only way I would attend one of those "games" is if everything was free, and I could take a tape measure onto the field, because I have "Full-Sized Computer Monitor" in the "How Big Will Barry Bonds' Steroided Head Get?" Pool.

Just don't tell me that sports fans don't care about steroids, because we do. We hate them. We want them gone forever, and we want those who use them gone forever as well.

· Can you find people who speak the language? I don't mind the slang and vernacular (although Stuart Scott's shtick wears thin after the 5,000th invocation of "cooler than the other side of the pillow"). What I do mind are people who haven't got a grasp of basic grammar and syntax. It's infuriating to hear an announcer (Freddie Coleman, for example) say, "He should have ran" or "She could have went."

If the average person says something like that, you just wince. If someone who is making an enormous amount of money just for talking on the radio does that, you scream. If a paid announcer comes off as uneducated, why would anybody want to listen to what he has to say? For that matter, why would a network hire anybody like that?

· Finally, let's talk about Michael Irvin. He's a convicted criminal. He's still getting in trouble with the law. He mangles the language, and he offers no insight whatsoever. Why is he on your network, other than to show that Dan Patrick is chummy with an African American?

Now, if you were going to have the Cocaine and Crack Ho Hour, I would expect Irvin to be the host. At least then he would know what he was talking about. In the meantime, I'm guessing that there are probably millions of black guys in this country who would be willing to go on the radio and call Dan Patrick "Dawg" in exchange for money.

Your moderately faithful listener, Tom.

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