Former Buffalo News broadcasting critic Alan Pergament gained a reputation inside media circles as one who rarely liked anything that made its way through the sports journalism windmill. If he was talking about you, there was probably an 80 percent chance you were going through a thresher in front of the entire town’s readership.
Part of the hullaballoo — and I can guarantee this will sound (and probably is) weak-stomached — is that publicly calling out colleagues or ex-colleagues is generally frowned-upon unless someone has done something egregious. There are plenty of discussions about “what he wrote/said” in the media rooms, but considering the pressures and politics of what can and can’t be reported there’s massive leeway given to your peers.
I write this because I am about to use a specific and I want to be clear that I am solely using it as an example of what’s wrong with sports media in the nation. It has nothing to do with his on-air talent, interaction or knowledge. It’s strictly a critique of a tactic I deem unsavory.
WGR’s Mike Schopp and The Bulldog program opened Thursday’s show from St. John Fisher College for Bills training camp by waxing poetic about the first day of camp and the hope it brings every year (and rightfully so!).
However, Schopp and WGR morning show voice Jeremy White have an uncanny ability to set the tone for the entire city’s sports culture. If they want to run a dialogue, whether White’s amusing 2011 Arthur Moats bandwagon or Schopp’s wry asides, it gets run.
Which brings us to today and my grievance with a local radio show. I’m on a bit of a Batman kick, and it was the Joker who said, “Gotham deserves a better class of criminal” during the “The Dark Knight.” I feel the same way about conversations on sports radio (we deserve a better class) particularly on the topic being pushed ad nauseam by Schopp when it comes to the Bills quarterbacks. In fact when it comes to the marks from angst and derision on the collective jerseys of Buffalo football fans, there’s no need to ask, “Do you wanna know how I got these scars?” It’s the horrifying super-deliberation on quarterbacking.
Since the moment Vince Young signed with the Bills, Schopp has made sure everyone knows that he is astounded the majority of Bills fans didn’t consider it an affront to Ryan Fitzpatrick. He also remains surprised that he “isn’t hearing more fans” call for Young to get a chance to win the starting job. He’s also surprised Chan Gailey isn’t catching more grief for his 10-28 career record as Bills boss and wonders what would have to happen for him to get fired this year.
I listen to sports radio when I’m in my car and I’ve heard these incendiary comments more than a handful of times. Perhaps this is what’s become prep work for easier future shows, but even the majority of ardent turmoil tenders amongst Bills fans aren’t clamoring for a look at a QB competition or controversy. In the locker room culture that is the NFL — whether you’re an outside the box thinker or not — it would behoove no one in that locker room, including the infamously mercurial Young, to make it an open job when Fitzpatrick is unquestionably one of the leading voices in that room.
I certainly understand the sports broadcasting doldrums of late July, even in this Olympic year. Maybe this passive aggressive QB firestarter won’t last more than a day or two. Perhaps the first day Joe Buscaglia or Paul Hamilton tells Mike & Chris that Fitz struggled and Young was remarkable won’t coincidentally be the day the radio begins its “VY is Our Guy” campaign.
The Buffalo Bills haven’t had a star quarterback in a long, long time and hopefully Fitz becomes the first. It’s certainly the broadcaster’s privilege and perhaps even his duty to explore all potentialities. But the continued surprise that Young is competing for the No. 2 job talk is begging for those who continue to call for approval to pick up what he’s laying down, and that absolutely bothers me. In some ways, it feels lazy, especially when Schopp has repeatedly stated that he knows Buddy Nix listens to and is sometimes swayed by public sentiment.
I just hate that my only option for Bills talk on the first day of training camp was the umpteenth questioning of the quarterback. I’ve got an mp3 player, a stereo, a record player and iTunes. I don’t need music on the airwaves and I don’t need either of the Left/Right politics talk airing on the non-tunes station. I need sports talk for intelligent people, not silly kindling for the easily swayed.