Super Bowl's Radio Row Unleashes 'Animal' Within

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new coach, Raheem Morris, is swarmed outside Radio Row. i i

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new coach, Raheem Morris, is swarmed by the media as he stops to chat outside of Radio Row at the Tampa Convention Center. All week, the local Tampa station has been discussing whether Morris will be successful in the upcoming season — a topic that should be dismissed in a sentence. Dirk Shadd/St. Petersburg Times/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Dirk Shadd/St. Petersburg Times/AP
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new coach, Raheem Morris, is swarmed outside Radio Row.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new coach, Raheem Morris, is swarmed by the media as he stops to chat outside of Radio Row at the Tampa Convention Center. All week, the local Tampa station has been discussing whether Morris will be successful in the upcoming season — a topic that should be dismissed in a sentence.

Dirk Shadd/St. Petersburg Times/AP

What Radio Row lacks in rows, it makes up for in radio.

Parked in the biggest room on the main floor of the Tampa Convention Center in Florida, Radio Row is actually a warren of local and national sports talk radio shows. There's the Sports Animal, the Sports Leader, the Beast, the Team, the Zone, the Huddle, the Franchise and every other sports collective noun imaginable.

(Except the scrum. Hmm, I gotta start a rugby-intensive show called the Scrum.)

By my count, there were about 75 radio shows simultaneously opining, decrying, declaiming, inveighing and haranguing. This collection of mostly burly men held forth on player trades, coaching decisions, acts of gutlessness, brainlessness and fecklessness clad mostly in station-issued golf shirts — nothing says "Let's play 18" like the Sports Animal logo above the breast. Quite a few of these gentlemen failed to realize that microphones actually amplify the voice.

The effect was that Baltimore's 500,000 W blowtorch of coach-squawk leaked into the ears of someone trying to tune into Buffalo's sports talkers doing their sports talking. If either of these guys had shut up, their audience could have heard the other radio show with no problem. Most of their same shtick — OUR OWNERS ARE GREEDY! OUR RIVALS ARE ALL BANDWAGON FANS! OUR COACHES ARE IDIOTS! — travels well across state lines.

Would it really be that big a loss to have one designated ranter, a pool denouncer if you will, to hit the big talking points of the day?

I actually love Radio Row, because I love sports talk. I love slavish attention to minutia. I love that these guys communicate directly to the reptilian brain of the sports fan. I love that one station had a life-size cutout of Barack Obama at its table (why?) and that another guy has spent the past four days in some sort of furry Mongolian hat. Actually, I don't love that guy. He was ahead of me in the line to ask Bruce Springsteen a question* during his news conference, and when the moderator saw Mongolian hat guy, it was decided that our side of the room would be ignored for the rest of the conference.

I love one common Radio Row occurrence: producers who flock to anyone who looks like an actual football player making the rounds. The quarterbacks are easy to spot. But because all of football takes place under a helmet, every time a fit young guy with a head of dreadlocks and an attendant or two walks in the room, there's a rash of "Who's that? Yeah, that guy."

A day after former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Simeon Rice made national headlines by using a quasi profanity to describe former coach Jon Gruden, a mini ruckus broke out when he was rumored to be in the vicinity. "That's Simeon Rice," one producer whispered. "I heard that was Simeon Rice," the buzz went. But the producer for all the local New York ESPN shows cocked his head and said, "That's Simeon Rice?" We were looking at a guy who seemed much younger and skinnier than the 6-foot-5, 270-pound Rice. The player turned out to be Sidney Rice, a wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings who is 70 pounds and one Super Bowl ring lighter than the unrelated Simeon.

I also love the fact that a four-hour debate can ensue over a topic that should be dismissed in a sentence. One example: All week, the local Tampa station has been discussing whether the Buccaneers new head coach will be successful in the upcoming season. The only sensible answer is: "We'll have to find out." Raheem Morris, 32, has never even been an offensive or defensive coordinator, and there's no way of knowing how he'll do. I guess I like the fact that these guys can fill whole shows — a whole week of shows really — discussing the unknowable. I like the fact that it happens, but I don't want to consume it, sort of like the presence of poetry in The New Yorker.

Finally, I like this about my favorite sports talk show: Since I was a teenager, I listened to "Mike and the Mad Dog" on WFAN in New York. Mike Francesa and his partner, Christopher Russo, were essential to the rise of sports talk radio. They split up earlier this year, and the Mad Dog went to satellite radio. Francesa has a prominent space on Radio Row, right when you walk in the door. But he's actually broadcasting from a hotel four blocks away because he can't take the convention center chaos. He misses out on some big guests who don't want to walk the four blocks, but when I listen to his show each day on podcast, I just hear Mike and his non-Simeon, non-Sidney Rice guest. No Sports Animals braying loudly in the background. I like that.

Back To The Boss

*This was what my Springsteen question was going to be:

"Hi Bruce, Mike Pesca, NPR."

Bruce would say, "Hey cool, NPR. You can hear the new album on NPR."

To which I'd come back with something clever like, "Thanks, Bruce, your tote bag is in the mail."

Then he'd adopt me and let me play with his horses.

If not, I'd uncork this question:

"Bruce, I've been examining your lyrics ... many, many references to steel. There's 'Steel Wheel' in 'Land of Hope and Dreams,' the guy in 'Youngstown' owns a steel factory, you wrote a song titled 'A Good Man Is Hard To Find (Pittsburgh),' and one of your first bands was called Steel Mill. But I've racked my brain and can't come up with a single reference to Arizona or cardinals. Am I missing something or can you tweak a lyric to mention the other team, too?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.