The assistant content director for Barrett Sports Media is giving the late Rush Limbaugh credit for opening the door for sports talk radio to succeed. However, Demetri Ravanos immediately discloses he doesn’t like Limbaugh and frequently slams him and his angry, fearful audience throughout the Barrett piece.
“I don’t like Rush Limbaugh, both from a political standpoint and from an entertainment standpoint,” Ravanos admits. “I don’t understand what the appeal of that show and living with that constant level of ire towards everything around you is. But that is not what this column is about. Reveling in a human being’s death is gross, even if it is the death of a human being you think is gross.”
According to Ravanos, President Ronald Reagan’s 1987 repeal of the Fairness Doctrine opened the way for Limbaugh to bloom "into his final form: shameless, unencumbered provocateur."
Radio stations no longer had to provide free airtime for the community to respond to a host’s controversial opinions. (Rush often said he was equal time; television news was and still is in the tank for Democrats.)
Ravanos portrays the late host of the Excellence In Broadcasting network as a racist and sexist with “abhorrent opinions on women and anyone with skin browner than an albino alligator.” Limbaugh “was really really good at broadcasting. He knew how to command the airwaves and entertain his audience.”
Remarkably, Ravanos claims Limbaugh’s listeners “didn’t know what they wanted until Rush gave it to them, and they responded with blind loyalty … ” Truth be known, Limbaugh’s audience was made up of conservatives who knew exactly what they wanted: an antithesis for the a total lack of objectivity on CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN.
Ravanos also ripped on news talk program directors who “created a format that was exclusively for the angriest, oldest audience in the country. It was profitable. That can’t be denied. But realistically, how smart is it to build your empire on people that are ten years from death?”
Nevertheless all that anger and the total void of variety created an opportunity for sports radio, Ravanos says.
As Clear Channel flipped underperforming rock, AC, and CHR stations to “Rush Radio,” CBS Radio was flipping rock and alternative stations to FM sports talk outlets. Ravanos explains this further:
“Every time angry old white guy radio made advances, there was sports talk to build its own audience by picking up the guys that were left behind. The people that wanted to be stimulated with stories and conversation on their drives to and from work had their alternative. The format that appealed to the population that wasn’t operating from a place of constant fear had the audience it needed to thrive and grow."
There is a diversity of backgrounds, styles and diversity of content in sports talk radio, Ravanos insists. This is a total con. As soon as Donald Trump was elected president, sports radio went all-in on Trump Derangement Syndrome. Sports talk radio hosts are almost universally mouthpieces for social justice warriors in sports, Black Lives Matter, Colin Kaepernick, Megan Rapinoe and LeBron James.
Yet Ravanos hypocritically howls about Rush Limbaugh demanding sycophancy within the format and Mark Levin, Dennis Prager and Dan Bongino all repeating the same stuff. “Rush Limbaugh dared his detractors to disagree with him and then weaponized their disagreement with terms like ‘feminazis’ and ‘liberal media’ ”.
White guys turning 55 will keep conservative talk radio going strong, Ravanos predicts.:
“As long as that format stays as angry as it has been for more than 30 years, as long as every program director just rolls out Rush fanboy after Rush fanboy during drive times, the format won’t have personalities that listeners are invested in. They will have to rely on those listeners staying mad and bitter constantly. And sports talk radio will be there serving more interesting and fun content and finding an audience loyal to its hosts and advertisers in the millions of people that news talk left behind.”
Which television news organizations left behind. And “we won’t stick to sports” radio ignores.