Friday, November 17, 2006


I was headed to the Bears game with my dad last month and, stuck in traffic en route to Soldier Field, we tuned in to some pre-game AM talk radio to get us fired up in advance of kick-off. The analysts and broadcasters were mercilessly criticizing someone's performance from the week prior, drilling down to the minutest details in offering explanations for why that player was under-delivering on the field. As the headless talking heads went back and forth, my dad offered up some food for thought.

"Imagine," he said, "if there were people in this world whose jobs were to analyze and criticize your work performance every day."

"Right," I said, catching his drift immediately. "And they'd question your salary, and your work ethic, and your desire. Every single day."

"Exactly. And then they'd do it over the radio so that millions of people could hear about how you messed up. And how you should have done something differently. And how you're not trying hard enough. Imagine being under the microscope like that."

It all seemed kind of absurd when we thought about it. These sports radio guys get paid to pick apart player performances day in and day out. They question absolutely everything. They orchestrate call-in programs where fans can get in on the bashing. They openly discuss details considered private in most employment agreements, like medical information and salaries. And they're constantly stirring up controversy by questioning commitment, dedication, intentions, and motivation. And, in many ways, high-profile sports figures are demonized by members of the media who don't know them personally - but who presume to for the sake of making a point.

Many of these folks say it comes with the territory - that professional sports figures are fair game because they're in the public eye. And because they make a LOT of money.

Then I imagined how I would feel if I turned on the radio this evening on my way home from work and heard people talking about ME.

"...that's exactly what I'm talking about, Mike. He clearly lacks focus. Let's go back to the conference call he had this morning. Completely unprepared. Hardly said a word. Mentally absent."

"No, you're right. But maybe that's because he's just not ready yet. He's too young."

"Too young? He's not a rookie anymore. By now, this kid needs to know how to handle a simple client call."

"But even the best have bad days. He's still learning the ropes. And let's give that conference call some props - those clients threw some real zingers at him today. Estimates? Schedules? I can guarantee you he wasn't prepared to handle those. Whose fault is that? The director."

"I agree. But he's got to have better instincts when he's under the gun. Period. But aside from the conference call. That's just one example. I'm talking about a pattern of behavior here that forces us to have to ask the question - maybe there's someone better out there. Maybe the agency should consider waiving him and re-staffing that position with some more proven talent."

"It always comes back to this. Keep him. Get rid of him. I still think he's going to be spectacular one day."

"One day, yes. But when? And how long is this agency willing to sit on his potential. He spends half his morning checking fantasy sports online. He spends another hour every day checking personal e-mail. And then there are the long coffee breaks. This is a guy who doesn't have the passion that is required to become great. Tons of natural talent - but no motivation."

"Well, we disagree again. Although I think he's overpaid, too. I'll agree with you there. They spent a ton of green when they went out and nabbed this guy. Signed him to a lucrative deal and have yet to see the investment pay off."

"Unless they figure out a way to bill clients for trips to the coffee machine."

"Right. That's right. Although he'll tell you he needs it to take his morning dump. Okay. Let's take a break. But when we come back we want to know what YOU think about AYNtK. Revenue-raising star or water cooler bust? We'll talk about the day he came in late because he couldn't find parking, the long lunch he had last Friday, his bad breath, and more. Stay tuned!"

"Oh man, the breath. That alone is grounds for dismissal. We'll be right back."

And then I'd flip the station and there'd be two more jackasses talking about me.

"What was with that sweater he wore to work yesterday? Did you see that?"

"It wasn't the sweater so much as it was the pants. I've never seen such a random dresser in my life. Different colors, styles, patterns. It's like he's dressing out of one of those Salvation Army bins behind the grocery store."

"Did you hear what his co-worker said about his breath the other day?"


Most of these sports dudes are pretty tough to begin with, but they must have skin of steel to deal with some of the crap these motormouths are belching out during the morning drive. I don't know how they do it - but I'm glad I don't have to deal with that kind of public criticism.

Anyone have a breath mint?

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