We need the genius of Dan Le Batard. The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz represents exactly what sports media is too devoid of in the wake of an over-saturation of coverage. If you are a fan of the Dan Le Batard show, you are likely an individual who pines for cultural and societal enlightenment within the context of sports – a context that can provide such enlightenment in the easiest of fashions. If you are one of the legions of smartphone-addicted, ignorant and mindless individuals who would rather the Dan Le Batard show be replaced by yet another hot-take themed, boring sports show, then I’m afraid you are among those who represent why it must remain here to stay.
I am a Miami native, born and raised. Having said that, I am familiar with Dan Le Batard’s work. For those who are not so familiar with him, Dan Le Batard is a sports journalist from the old guard of beat reporting and sports writing who rose to prominence in Miami as a columnist for the Miami Herald. A son of Cuban defectors, Le Batard was raised as a first generation child of Cuban immigrants who fled their native country in order to provide a better life for their children.
As a result, Le Batard came of age in Miami with sensibilities unlike those of his multi-generation American counterparts; sensibilities that instilled within him the wherewithal to maintain an awareness of the world around him as it pertained to humanistic dynamics. A lover of sports, he would become a sports journalist and go on to harbor these sensibilities and use them as a means to infuse societal introspection into an arena that was largely absent of such observations.
His penchant for using sports as a vehicle to analyze race, sex, gender, and inequality oftentimes resulted in the incurred wrath of the sports world at-large who so desired that their sports remain solely about the game. This gave him the moniker of “contrarian” that persists to this day.
Despite him being considered a nuisance and a contrarian by both the sports world and his contemporaries, Le Batard persevered. He is now a certified lighting rod and a highly visible member of the ESPN broadcast machine. His daytime sports radio show, the Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, is hardly a sports show at all, as many times sports is merely used as a vessel to discuss concepts that range from race, to sexism, class inequality, and beyond. This is precisely what makes the show so fascinating and more importantly, good.
The problem with this is that sports fans simply want their sports, thus causing people to turn out in droves on their smartphones and laptops via social media to protest everything the show stands for. These people, I argue, are exactly why shows like Le Batard’s are needed, why there needs to be more of them, and why I hope more people emerge from the muck of sports zombieism to protest the genius that the Dan Le Batard show has come to epitomize in my eyes.
I loathe sports programming. I hate it for two reasons. First, the sports media landscape is rife with rampant political correctness and imperialistically imposed ideology that cultivates a culture of robotic professional athletes. They deliver one nondescript cliche soundbite after another, despite the media’s contradictory outcry for transparency.
Second, there’s too much of it. Why do we need “NFL Live,” and “NFL Primetime,” and “NFL Insiders,” and “Sunday NFL Countdown,” when they all offer up the exact same content, save for a couple subtle nuances? Compound that with radio show after radio show, and SportsCenter segment after SportsCenter segment, all giving us the same stat-centric, righteous indignation-fueled hot takes, and we have what amounts to too much airtime and not enough interesting programming to fill it. Outside of the games themselves, there is nothing interesting about sports programming.
Dan Le Batard, and by extension his show, provides a countermeasure to this paradigm. Events that take place in sports often have grander implications beyond the confines of the actual games, and Dan is aware and bold enough to bring these issues to the forefront in order to provide a viable platform for them to be discussed in an intelligent and introspective fashion. Yet sports fans detest and ardently protest against this. Why? I have a theory on why this is the case.
I have lamented previously on what I believe to be a wealth divide in America that continues to grow with each passing year. As the chasm between the haves and have-nots continues to widen because of the advent of the digital age, I sense that personal despair and dissatisfaction has seeped its way into the hearts and minds of those who are not on the better side of said divide. Because the majority of the cohort in question resides on the less-than-desired side of this wealth divide, what results is a majority of the population that is in despair and is otherwise unhappy with the general trajectory of their personal lives.
In times of despair, it is human nature to turn to escapism in order to cope with an unhappy existence; and if there is anything that history has taught us, it is that sports represents perhaps the greatest form of escapism known to man. In turn, sports has come to serve as the bedrock for escapism that people rely upon in order to better reconcile the destination in life in which they have arrived.
Fans don’t want their ultimate escapism compromised under any circumstances. When Le Batard attempts to make use of a sports event that perfectly encapsulates a greater societal theme that needs to be addressed, such as race, player safety in the NFL, or sexism, people take great offense, gleaning Le Batard’s analysis as an attack on their coveted source of escapism.
Consequently, people are galvanized by their need to have sports remain sports, resorting to Twitter mentions, mean-spirited and sometimes personal attacks on Le Batard because they are unable to resign to the fact that sports does not, and should not, be held solely within the confines of fantasy sports and your favorite player’s MVP chances, or an arbitrary debate over whether their favorite team is good or not. Really, people, these things do not matter. But, as Le Batard has noted on his show many times, people just want their sports, and damn if sports can serve as a prevailing tentpole for how we can be better as a species.
Bits like, “you don’t get the show,” and, “he’s that guy,” capture the essence of how sports fandom has spiraled out of control and serve as an example of how to use events in sports to bring greater cultural insights to the forefront. When Le Batard laments on the ridiculousness of the ruse that is the student athlete, or the fact that the NFL has managed to position itself as a product that will be consumed even if it’s delivered in a dumpster, it should serve as a referendum on our collective need as a society to reorient what matters most in life; to gain awareness of the need to reestablish the line between regular fandom and an absurd sports obsession.
Such points of view should be lauded within the context of sports media, not condemned. If for no other reason, the commentary of Dan Le Batard should be celebrated as an exposition of sports counterculture. One that challenges us to look deep within ourselves and take inventory of our relative sense of personal fulfillment, and whether a general lack thereof prompts us to maintain an unhealthy consumption of the games in such a way that we relinquish all perspective.
Sports provides us with many gifts. Chiefly among those gifts is the opportunity to tackle subjects in greater society – some more touchy and delicate than others – and systematically break them down so that we can come to a better understanding of who we are and how we can become better as people.To not see this and demand that sports remain strictly about the games does us a grave disservice.
As I pen this post, the turn of the year is fast-approaching. My hope for 2016 is that we wise up and stop being so damn anti-Le Batard. Dan Le Batard is ahead of his time when it comes to sports commentary. He refreshingly represents an antithesis to the Mike & Mike, utterly uninteresting hot takes aspect of sports media.
If not now, then hopefully in a few year’s time, the rest of the sports landscape will gravitate towards the Dan Le Batard brand of talking sports. I only hope that once this is reality, Le Batard has not been ostracized from sports, never to return. He deserves to remain relevant and revel in the enlightenment of sports culture that he no doubt has been influential in ushering. As for myself, I will continue to enjoy what Le Batard, in true underrated fashion, provides us in the way of interesting sports talk.
Here’s to you, Dan Le Batard, Jon “Stugotz” Weiner, and the rest of the Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz team, for bringing me the Bucket and Grid of Death and displaying how arbitrary and ridiculous that “expert” sports predictions are. Thank you for bringing me the Useless Sound of the Week and bringing to light how stupid, uninteresting and cliche that coaches’ and athletes’ responses to questions are.
Thank you for bringing me the Club and sending me off into the weekend with out-of-context sounds from the sports week. Thank you for all of it, here’s to hoping it continues well into the future, and thank you to Papi for being the second-most interesting person on ESPN after his son. Thank you for all of it. Here’s to you, Dan Le Batard. Don’t ever change, not that such a thing could actually happen.
I am of the mindset that sports programming has become a matter of too much. What say you? Do you think that there is a need for more social commentary within the context of sports, or is it fine just the way it is?
Javis Ogden is a Miami native turned current Tallahassee transplant and the founder and chief contributor to Conscious Approach. He has worked as a creative content specialist since completing his graduate degree in Integrated Marketing at Florida State University, and he aspires to be a cultural critic, screenplay writer, ½ of the ESPN First Take debate panel, author, or whatever his short attention span will allow him to be inspired by at any given moment. When he isn’t pursuing freedom, you may be able to find him on an indoor basketball court. He is always in search of his muse. You can help him find it by following him on Twitter @JavisOgden, Instagram @JVWins, Facebook /JavisOgden, and snapchat JavisOgden.