Sports Talk Radio as Parable

When I was at FMC Devens I began what became a routine for the remainder of my incarceration – I listened to WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Show every morning. Sports talk radio that frequently goes off (thankfully) on political and popular culture tangents; hosted by two slightly right leaning but ultimately fair and intelligent guys who get great guests.

Whether I was writing or running, they were a welcome diversion and unlike other sports shows I was entertained (I used to drive around the greater New York area listening to Mike and the Mad Dog, but that was simply to infuriate myself enough to deal with New York drivers).

It is well known that sports radio in Boston is, by definition, rarely praiseful (“Yeah, Brady was good, had a perfect QB rating, but didehafta’ miss Welker in that first and ten in the first quartta?’), brimming over with angst (“Garnett’s knee’s shot, he’ll neva’ play again, I got it from my cousin’s, cousin’s, orthopedic”), sometimes downright morose (“They’re nevah’ winnin’ another game, nevah”), occasionally insane (Dis’ Belichick is wicked overrated ….”) and every once in a while right on the money (“The Sox gonna’ wish they got Kerry Wood – big mistake”).

In the three plus years of listening there were constants – ‘climate change is a con’ (I don’t have to agree with them to listen), Doc Rivers is a good guy and better coach, Belichick is as emotive and informative as a chunk of marble, Boomer Esiason is a great Monday morning guest . . . . . and J.D. Drew is the worst signing in Boston Red Sox history.

JD Drew, great fielder, great arm, great base runner, prettiest left handed swing in the universe . . . . and complete enigma. One of the largest contracts in the major leagues (which makes him untradeable), never missed fewer than 22 games a year with the Sox (none of injuries very impressive), never batted higher than .280, never drove in more than 68 runs, can go on hot streaks that make him look like Stan Musial, the rest of the time – and it is the majority – he’s Cory Patterson (don’t know him? Exactly).

Drew is cannon fodder on the Dennis and Callahan show, from the hosts, the guy that does the updates, and every caller who played an inning of Little league baseball and fancies himself an expert in the intricacies of the game (that’s everyone who calls, actually).

They rip away, inanely, creatively, accurately, inaccurately, profanely, academically, eruditely, ignorantly, reasoned, insane, humorous, dour, angrily, impassioned, coldly analytical . . . . . I would estimate well over a hundred hours consumed on air about Drew, his (constant) injuries, his contract, every aspect of his personality (or lack thereof).

All of those discussions revolve around opinions, conjecture, speculation, and pouring through the Baseball Encyclopedia to support one’s position. They continue still (I now listen via the internet rather than my battered, AAA battery powered, clear Sony Walkman SRF M35FP Am/FM Radio), concentrating more on how long until Drew’s contract expires and/or he decides to retire and will he ever ‘put it together’ for another Bostonian Last Hurrah (okay, that’s mine, but it’s what the callers and hosts mean).

In all the hours and hours of discussions no one – no one – has ever cited anything beyond their own impressions and opinions. . . . . . . And yet a Pulitzer Prize winning author and Hall of Fame manager weighed in – definitively- on the JD Drew ‘issue’ three years before the Red Sox signed (read overpaid) him.

Buzz Bissinger spent months with Tony LaRussa (sure, I despise him too for the one-inning closer, but he’s undeniably a Hall of Fame manager) and came up with one of the best baseball books of the last twenty years, 3 Nights in August. Note at once, this is not some obscure writer hanging out on the fringes of baseball to come up with some hackneyed treatise, it’s the author of Friday Night Lights (Sports illustrated named it one of the best four sports books every written – but that’s another discussion) with full access to Tony LaRussa.

It’s 2003, the Cardinals are in a, doomed, race with the Cubs, JD is LaRussa’s right fielder (well, for 100 games) and LaRussa has a lot to say and even more not to say in such manner as to allow Bissinger to say it for him.

You don’t have to read the book to get the gist, a simple flip to the index will do it:

Drew, J.D.

Indifference of 5, 32-33, 127-28
Injuries, 32, 126-27
Personality 125, 126
Talents of, 32-33, 124-26, 129-30 . . . . .

Then there’s the story of Albert Pujols’ injury, an elbow so ripped up that throwing a baseball would have resulted in a career ending injury, although hitting was fine. Drew was hurt (sore back), the Cards desperately needed offense, so a solution was designed by LaRussa, Pujols, the trainers, Edgar Renteria, and Jim Edmonds: Pujols would continue to play left field, on any ball hit in front of him Renteria, the shortstop, would sprint out to take the ball, on anything in deep left, Edmonds, the centerfielder, would sprint over and do the same.

This is story, of course, was juxtaposed with Drew’s back spasms and refusal even be available to pinch hit during the key 3 game series of the title with the Cubs.

Drew was traded to Atlanta after the season, had his best season, the Cardinals went to the World Series without him.

In any event, it’s all there, nothing, but nothing, about JD Drew as a baseball player with vast potential and little chance of realizing it (and not giving a damn) is missing from this book.

Three years of intense debate and outright complaining and not one reference to the authoritative source on the subject.

Yeah, those sports radio guys, never checking primary sources, cross referencing history, vetting information.

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