In Sports Talk: A Journey Inside the World of Sports Talk Radio
, Alan Eisenstock addresses one of the most popular and addictive radio programming formats in the country. Sports talk shows (dubbed "smack" by chronic listeners) focus on sports teams and players, and provide fans with an outlet to voice frustrations. Eisenstock, a confessed lifelong sports talk enthusiast, travels the U.S. to interview some of the most prominent show hosts in an attempt to discern why the format is so compelling. Interviews with Boston's Eddie Andelman, Chicago's Mike North, and New York staples Mike Francesa and Chris "Mad Dog" Russo provide amusing anecdotes and histories, but nothing terribly satisfying emerges as justification for sports talk's overwhelming popularity. While some of the interviews are engaging, a few are uninspired. The best endorsement for sports talk comes from one of Eisenstock's early experiences listening to Ed "Superfan" Beiler in Los Angeles:
Sports columnists and TV pundits don't know what to make of him. We, the legion of his followers, don't care. Hell, we're not even sure we like him. We certainly don't always agree with him. But we always, always tune in.
Sports Talk is definitely for smack listeners everywhere. --Michael Ferch
From Publishers Weekly
"Fan" is the operative word in these breezy, inside-the-booth sketches of the reigning personalities in sports radio's huge electronic community. The premise is a sharp elbow to the ribs of Howard Stern and the radio shock-jock industry: compulsive, mostly male listeners put sports talk in first place among moneymaking radio formats (WFAN in New York City is the largest ad-billing station in the entire country). A professional sitcom writer and self-confessed addict of sports radio, Eisenstock here indulges his impulse toward new journalism, never resisting the strong pull of his own attachment to his subjects. With ardor and the occasional grain of salt, he gestures at but never quite reaches the "heart and soul" of the form established by pioneers like Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton, with his XTRA Sports show on the "Mighty Six-Ninety" in San Diego, the "Stinkin' Genius" and "The Brick." The result is a smoothly written road trip diary to six cities by a guy-culture anthropologist who interviews other guys at a virtual frat party; it yields lots of anecdotes and interesting insider chat, but remains a fan's shapeless, sometimes entertaining tribute. "Mike and the Mad Dog" and a half-dozen other hosts are interesting characters and the fact that sports radio is the forum for connecting to a larger world for millions of men is real meat for sociologists and business writers but Eisenstock's loyalties to the ritual bonds afforded by the medium might have been better served by a long article in a sports magazine.
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