My favorite are the sports shows. Usually, once I got tired of the same old pop music dribble at night, and oldies weren't doing it for me anymore, I would eventually find late night sports talk radio on my Walkman. I loved this. When pumping through my headphones it was like there was someone there with me telling me about all the great games I missed while I was at work during the evening. But then they would invariably open the phone lines and America would call in. And, as it turns out, late night America is kind of nuts. And a little retarded.
Lots of people would call, but there were a few stereotypical ones. First was the West Coast guy. The thing about sports on the West Coast is that often times the games are played at night so most of the country is sleeping and misses them. This leads the West Coast people to always think that their sports teams are being sold short or disrespected. And that's always what West Coast guy is going on and on and on about. And you know what? He's right. No one cares. Not one single person listening, including the host and the call screener/producer, cares one bit about what he has to say. I mean, let's be honest, nobody really cares what you think about the NBA anyway, but when you are West Coast guy going on and on and on about how great the Lakers are this year, well everybody cares even less. They actually care so little that if you represented their level of caring on a scale of 1 to 37, with 1 being not at all and 37 being more than they care about their own reproductive organs then America's level of interest and caring in what West Coast guy has to say would be way into negative numbers. Actually, it would be like -i, which isn't even a real number. It's imaginary. That's how little America gives a shit, West Coast guy. They can't go to commercial break fast enough when you are on the radio.
Usually after the break is the insomniac sports nut who calls in just about every night. The host knows him kind of like the bartender knows that guy with the big gin blossom down at the end of the bar: he knows his first name and all of his thoughts and opinions and indiscretions, but he would be hard pressed to tell you what color car he drives or what he does for a living. So the host goes on with him, and often times the guy has had way too much caffeine and the host can provoke him. That is when it gets a little fun. And since the host is familiar with the caller he can usually find the questions that will drive the guy over the edge until the host, who has been playing Devil's Advocate for the last 15 minutes, has to say "Well Norm, we agree to disagree I guess." And then they do it all over again tomorrow night.
My favorite though, my all time number one favorite caller to the late night sports talk radio is the guy who has no idea what he is talking about. Oh he is great. I don't know how he gets past the screener, first of all. I mean, I know that we are picturing the call screener the same way: he is about 23, dark hair with some sort of gel in it, leaning back in a stock office chair with headphones on and his feet propped up on the console, wearing a brand-name T-shirt made to look like a generic version of a sports team's fanware with jeans that were way to expensive, twirling the keys to his Jetta while he talks to caller after caller. And I know that we are not picturing this guy as the epitome of detail oriented employees, but come on. How can you not stop a call from the guy who has no idea what he is talking about. Let's say that tonight's topic is football. The guy calling in will start by saying that he's a long time listener but a first time caller, and then he will chit chat with the host about what is going on in his life, where he is, what the weather is. He will inquire about whether the host prefers 2% or Skim Milk. He will talk about the Detroit auto crisis or some other news of the day. Sometimes I think he just calls because he's lonely, to be honest. Or maybe he's bored. But he sure isn't into too much sports. So eventually the host will attempt to steer him somewhere by saying "So, do you have something to say about the Jets?" and the guy will answer yes. So he then goes on to talk about something absurd and unrealistic that is vaguely connected to the New York Jets, but he will use all the wrong place and person names while doing so until all of late night America that is listening in will be confused, angry, and a little hungry inside. And he will go on and on until the host has to cut him off and blurt "You have 15 seconds left so let's wrap this up!" But he never does. He trails off into the night. A fitting end to a strange call. But I like it. It makes me feel a little better about myself. And it makes me glad to be wherever I am, because he is not there. In a way you could say that it makes me feel safe. And isn't that what the voice of America, or Sporting America, is all about?