I’ve gone over a year without listening to sports talk radio, outside the occasional game broadcast. This might seem like a fairly trivial admission, given I’m a moderate sports fan at best these days, and that listening to sports radio is a fairly harmless past time. It’s not like quitting drinking, drugs, or some other addiction.
“Hey Man, I’ve been Cold Turkey from Lefty and the Sportz Nutz for 12 months!”
But I also shouldn’t underplay that cutting out the toxicity of sports radio (even the best sports radio — I stopped listening to the Neanderthal knuckle draggers over at WEEI in Boston over a decade ago) was for my mental health.
Basically, Felger and Maz and Toucher and Rich, it wasn’t you, it was me. Okay, it was a little bit you. We’ll get to that.
At some point in my life, the amount of time I spent watching and following sports took a dip, while the time I spent with my car radio glued to sports radio rose. Initially, sports radio was a wall against the depression and negativity of the news. If you’re going to retreat from the real world, listening to endless babble about whether the local football team should be drafting a defensive tackle or a wide receiver in the fifth round is a pretty good way to do it.
“WE NEED SPEED DOWN THE SIDELINES THEY ARE WASTING BRADDDDYYYY’S PRIME YE-AHS!”
“MIKE YOU MORON WE NEEDA STUFF DA RUN!!”
And on and on through every other round and every other position and every other round and every other sport. Repeat into infinity.
I’m not going to be overly dramatic and claim I started to tune out the real world for the fake sports world. I never lost sight that sports radio, even the slightly smarter sports radio I listened to (seriously, screw WEEI, though) was nothing more than the FM version of professional wrestling. Fake outrage and arguments to bump up the ratings. I get it. I got it. But I’ve also known that listening to nothing but sports radio, to the exclusion of music and other programming I love and brings me some joy was not a cause of my depression, but without a doubt, a symptom of it. This isn’t to say there haven’t been long stretches of time when I’ve been perfectly happy and content where I’ve listened to some sports radio or its own intrinsic entertainment value. But when you don’t want to think about what else is going in the world or with yourself, listening to the dull roar of mostly mediocre white guys drone on about potential Red Sox trades that will never happen, and wouldn’t matter if they did, can be an effective emotional sleep machine for a depressive’s mind.
Still, I’m not even sure I gave it up because I was going through anything especially mentally taxing at the time. (This is the it was you, not me, part.) I’d tune in every morning on the way to work to the morning show that was marginally funnier and smarter and better (and less sports-oriented) than the other shows. And one of the hosts was doing one of the hosts things where he hangs up on a guy doing his job because the guy doing his job was annoying to him.
“Hmmmm, he was kind of being an asshole there,” I thought. Nothing major, lots of people are assholes a lot of the time, and it wasn’t anything that would normally merit much notice in the asshole department on a typical day. Then, a few days later, there was a bit where the same host made some dumb comment about about audio from a non-sports related news bit.
Once again. Nothing outrageous. It was far from a Don Imus “Nappy Headed Hos” moment.
But for me, for whatever reason. It was enough.
Enough of the negativity, enough of substituting noise for things I might otherwise enjoy, or educate me, or at least not insult my intelligence.
I’ll still listen to a Red Sox game on the radio, because for all the numerous faults of baseball and professional sports in general, listening to baseball on a radio is about as close as we get to a Zen-like experience in the Western world. But sports talk radio has been an easy cut to make to help ever-so slightly improve my mental health.
I know there are a lot of other things I could do to improve my overall mental and physical health, and this year, I have been trying to be more mindful of all those things. I don’t need all the beer, and all the pizza. But beer and pizza can bring me some joy in ways that listening to Lefty from the Cape complain about middle relievers never can, so I am conscious of cutting down on beer and pizza and cutting Lefty from the Cape out completely. I would rather not exercise than exercise, and sometimes I like to think of myself as a writer without, you know, writing.
I’m working on all those things. Just without the radio chatter. Can’t say I miss it.