Thursday, August 5, 2010

The General Unified Theory of BaD Radio -- PART 2

When we were last gathered together, I'd started thinking about BaD Radio. I said some nice things about Bob and Donovan.

You may think I'm going to be critical of Dan McDowell, but you would only be partly right. Early on in my Ticket-listening career I zeroed in on Dan as the source of my discomfort wtih BaD Radio, but I wasn't sure why. So in the spirit of fairness, let's review some of Dan's good qualities.

     --  He is very smart. I suppose everyone at The Ticket is pretty bright, but Dan gives an impression of both quickness and thoughtfulness. Example: A couple of weeks ago when Mark Cuban was first dipping his toe in the Rangers' cesspool, Dan came up with a great instant analysis. His point was that he liked Cuban as an owner where (as with the Mavericks) he's an emotional wild-assed fan. But he liked the thought of Cuban as an owner a lot less when he was acting more as a self-interested investor. Struck me as exactly right, and pretty soon we did see the unattractive side of Cuban with his apparent abandonment of Greenburg and Nolan, contrary to what he told The Ticket in a memorable interview.

     --  Good family man.  Likes dogs. 

     --  Quickness + intelligence = sometimes funny.  (Sometimes -- see below.)

     --  I have heard that he is very P1-friendly via e-mail and at remotes, along with Bob and Donovan.  That recommends him very highly, as I do not get that vibe from the other hosts.  Unfortunately, this particular quality is not one that has much to do with the broadcast on a day-to-day basis.   Important to the fan base overall, but not meaningful to me, as I don't attend remotes or correspond with the hosts.

     --  Again, along with Bob and Donovan, much less smutty than The Musers and especially The Hardline.  I speculate that this is why the showgram has a reputation as being the most popular show among women.  (Irrelevant aside:  Not only that, but being broadcast during the work day when many women are home or out running errands or driving the kids around, the percentage of women who are able to tune in will be higher than it is with the other shows.  Hence its reputation as a hit with the ladies.)

So, some very good things.  Against these positive elements:

     -- Those pipes. Not fair, I know. Highly subjective, I know. I just find that sound unappealing and there's nothing either of us can do about it. BUT: I got used to Howard Cosell. I got used to Pee-Wee Herman. I could get used to Dan.  So the voice shouldn't have anything to do with it.

     -- He calls out colleagues on the air. And not in an amusing, teasing way, but in a way that should be saved for private meetings with whoever has upset him that particular time. When I was listing these pluses and minuses I hadn't heard his attempt to read an internal memo on the air that would likely be embarassing to Ticket producers -- the one that got BaD booted off the air for 1.5 segments. When I heard it, I thought yup, sounds like something he'd do. Yes, other show hosts flog underlings on the air. Usually it sounds like good-natured joshing. With Dan, it sounds like mean-spirited scoreboarding of guys who don't make a fraction of his coin.    I discuss this in my article about his memo-reading.

     --  Norm is right:  Dan makes a joke out of damned everything.  Jokes are good, right?  Lotta jokes on The Ticket, right?  Two problems:  (1) His jokes are frequently offered by interrupting other speakers.  (2) The jokes are almost never of a quality that justify the interruption.  Dan's humor tends strongly toward the sarcastic, cynical and, most of all, smug.  Danny Balis is not the chief Dark Cloud on The Ticket.  Dan is.  As a result:

     --  He's a segment killer.  He does this in a couple of different ways:

         (1)   I can't believe I heard Danny B say it on Monday, August 2, the same day I wrote this:  Danny was badgering Corby and Mike, who were squabbling over some irrelevancy or other, to get the segment back on topic, and Danny said -- I wrote down his exact words -- "You're almost as bad as Dan McDowell in terms of bogging crap down."   Yeah, that's it.  Dan bogs crap down.   In this regard, Dan reminds me of Ben and Skin -- each was so interested in commenting ironically on the other's previous ironic comment, that the communication of actual content was agonizingly delayed.  The other day I was waiting for BaD to get going on an advertised segment, and Dan simply thrashed it to death with his interruptions and not-so-hilarious asides.

         (2)   He says the same thing over and over again.  Bob gets criticized for long-windedness, but Bob is more like Your Plainsman -- he goes on at extreme length, but he's going somewhere.  Dan takes one thought and repeats it ceaselessly.  Even Bob had had enough the other day.  Dan had delivered a lengthy disquisition on how upset he was about some guy -- to tell you the truth, I couldn't understand exactly what this guy was supposed to have done -- who was hosting some kind of online chat that was somehow connected with The Ticket's online presence, and who referred to Dan as a c-bomb, if I understood him correctly.  When Dan turned to Bob for agreement, Bob noted with some irritation that Dan's time-consuming rant had done nothing more than encourage people to search online for this miscreant.


I've heard from listeners (see comments to previous post) who believe Dan is the best host on The Ticket and that BaD is the best showgram.  Good, thoughtful comments.  I've also heard from people who dislike the guy and think he should be fired.  (Didn't his firing get a vote on E-Brake of the Week last week?)   As I look back at the Dan ledger sheet of assets and liabilities, I can't say that the the latter so outweigh the former that he can be said to turn BaD radio into, well, bad radio.  I can listen to the show.  I rarely switch it off when I have it on.  Yeah, I wish he were different, but to be fair I have to say that the overall BaD Radio listening experience is positive.

And then I realized that this the most pixels I've ever devoted to a single host in a single article in the year I've been flogging this site.  Which leads to the first element of the General Unified Theory of BaD Radio:

(1)  Dan McDowell is the most polarizing figure on The Ticket and, accordingly, BaD Radio the most polarizing showgram.

Yes, more polarizing than Corby.

And I'm listening.  I'm trying to listen more.  It's sorta aggravating, but I do it.  Even the people who outright dislike the guy must still be listening in order to offer that opinion.  Which leads to the second element of the General Unified Theory of BaD Radio:

(2)  Dan McDowell's negative influence on BaD Radio, if any, is not so great as to render the showgram unlistenable.

So far, these are pretty wimpy elements, I concede.  I mean, obviously -- the showgram has been on with the Bob/Dan team for ten years, so someone is listening and liking it.  But remember, I'm writing about my struggle with the thing.  And my conclusion that the showgram is worth my time, despite misgivings about one of its marquee figures.

I've got one more element that is even more diffuse and abstract, and one that gets at my personal discomfort with the show.  I still haven't gotten to what really -- I guess the word is intrigues -- me about Dan McDowell.

I know I said this was going to be a two-parter; nevertheless, PART 3 -- finally, the conclusion -- will appear in a few days.


Christy said...

I refrained from commenting on the first BaD Radio post and from giving away my BaD Radio leanings in recent comments so I could read your posts in its most organic state...but I just can't wait another "few days" (read: a week) to waddle into the fray (congrats, Mr. Plainsman, on sparking a healthy debate in the comments section from a number of people).

Long, rambling comment, Part 1:

My favorite shows are The Musers and BaD Radio. They're both organized, creative (they're not just shooting the bull about whatever; their talk is centered around an actual bit. The distinction makes a world of difference to me), and have a healthy balance of bits and sports talk. I also put stock in what both hosts of each show has to say (although recently I've discovered Danny's hot sports opinions to be of substance so the scales are tipping back).

Nitpick of the first BaD Radio post:
I think Bob has a great sense of humor in non-sports areas. He's not going to budge if he has a hot sports opinion (ex: he absolutely didn't think people who joined the Americans/Algerians World Cup game late got the full impact of U.S.’s dramatic win, but as a late audience member to that game, I disagree, as did Dan), but I find his humor awareness otherwise to be of wide range (ex. when he picks up on bits and tells different Ticket hosts that he "enjoys their entire repertoire").

I have been picking up on the vibe of BaD Radio being the most polarizing Ticket show, for similar reasons the Plainsman and other commenters here and at the UnTicket have voiced.

Even though BaD Radio celebrated its 11th birthday in June, it’s seen as the station’s baby brother. People still think Dan’s low enough on the totem pole to be fired for any little thing (every week, someone asks for his head during the E-brake).

I love the unique qualities BaD Radio brings to the station. I love the "extreme" stances BaD Radio takes on sports topics, stances their fellow hosts shy away from/distance from/disapprove of. I love their rants. To me, there is nothing better on the station than when Bob and Dan are taking whoever’s in their sports crosshairs to task. I think Bob and Dan work very well together on these opinions - Bob brings statistics and Dan brings humor and both bring insight. I need some statistics to back up sports opinions and I need intelligence to back up a passionate rant.

I loved the BaD Radio curse when it was happening. I love Bob’s struggle with being both a fan and a sports bully. I love how self-aware Bob and Dan are; I love that they usually will readily admit when they’re being homers. I love Bob’s sports blog and wish he would keep writing.

Although I don't like all their bits (I have to brace myself for awkward humor, which is what they thrive on), I like that their bits are different, a breath of fresh air. I like that they're actually trying. I feel like they feel like they're the baby brothers of the station and so they try harder.

Part 2 below...

Christy said...

Long, rambling comment, Part 2:

For the same reason Dan admires the Jimmy Kimmel Show, I enjoy BaD Radio because of the amount of media it incorporates. I think BaD Radio is doing things the other, older shows don't even think about doing but should: putting out a weekly podcast, inventorying past hot sports opinions to dig up when it either bites a host in the butt or showcases the host's insight, recording various mediums’ media and entertaining its audience with them. The Hardline has gone away from a once frequent audio bag segment (perhaps because its usual punching bag is no longer with the station). Corby oddly had a hard time using his media player to share audio with us a few months ago (much to Grubes and Danny's exasperation). The Musers even seem to be taking a page from BaD Radio and incorporating the occasional outside audio into the show (I'm sure any correlation is only in my head).

I don't know how much pre-production BaD Radio has delegated to its interns or to producer Tom over the years, but I remember Bob long ago talking about how much time Dan devotes to the show - how Dan watches the various sports games after his kids are in bed AND hunts down and cuts audio for the show. Goldilocks mentioned Bob being a lunch pail guy; I think Dan is as well.

AP wrote the following in uploading the Double Rainbow interview, which explained partly BaD Radio’s essence and appeal:

Most people would realize that despite the fact that the chick at the end of the remixed video is wearing a tanktop, this double-rainbow thing isn’t worthy of being saved in the same directory as “two girls, one cup”, and they’d move on. But oh no, not Sturm and Drong – they’ll scour the corners of the earth to find the author, get his HSO’s, determine his political opinions and time permitting, find out his hopes and dreams. And noon-to-three P1’s love them for it.


Regarding your comment, Mr. Plainsman, on how its status as a midday show reveals its quality level:

"there's a reason it's on middays instead of drive."

You might absolutely be right, and the station's own program director might agree with you, but allow me to play devil's advocate. Perhaps the reason why BaD Radio is on midday is there isn't anywhere else to put it. Who would have the guts to demote either The Musers or The Hardline - the station's oldest programs, the most revered shows - to midday? There would be an enormous outcry/a huge controversy from everyone wondering what the gossip was, what the office politics was, in regards to that move. My, what tension there would be! People would analyze every on-air syllable and pause that came across the airwaves for signs of conflict and true feelings.

Why don't the BaD Radio boys move to another station and be on drive time? Maybe what they say on-air about not being able to imagine doing any other time slot is true (probably bullsh). Or, maybe they understand they have a really sweet gig at this extraordinary radio station, that being number 1 in men 25-54 over their competitors is a good thing, no matter what their time slot is. Maybe they haven't been offered enough money, yet.

Part 3 below…

Christy said...

Long, rambling comment, Part 3:

About their ratings:
It was hard to find breakdowns while canvassing Barry Horn's Sports Media blog and Richie Whitt's Sportatorium of ratings of individual shows or time slots so this is a small sample size:

In March 2010:
BaD Radio's highest rating: 7.4
The Hardline's highest rating: 8.2
The Musers: 10.2

In May 2010 (the bold is my own stylish choice):

The Ticket handily won every weekday hour from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. It was most dominant in morning drive when Dunham and Miller attracted double digit shares. The Musers averaged a 13.7 share for their four hours. Bob Sturm and Dan McDowell at noon was the only other hour that posted a double-digit share.

In June 2010 (according to the comment of "ratings guy"; no, I don't know how accurate this is):
The Musers had a 12 share.
BaD Radio had a 7.2 share.
The Hardline had a 7.2 share.

I only included The Musers as a formality. My point is BaD Radio is holding its own with and occasionally beating The Hardline.

Perhaps some day, BaD Radio will take over the afternoon drive time. And that's why they're "only" at middays...they’re bidding their time.

I don't disagree with everything you, Mr. Plainsman, or others have pointed out in the negative about BaD Radio. I had a glass shattering moment when I read Wayne's comment (4th from the bottom) from an UnTicket post:

" nice to take a break from Dan and Bob constantly talking over one another."

Bob and Dan are the worst at not allowing the other to finish his thoughts, and they're both the worst at hogging all the air time. Dan does bog down. He does call out co-workers in a humorless, unprofessional manner, and I do wish he would chill out in that regard (to which he would tell me to mind my own business).

Btw, spot on observation on Ben and Skin. I’m glad you’re around to articulate how I feel.

I thought you, Mr. Plainsman, would bring up your stance on past, infamous Dan incidents - his dust-up with Lee Corso or his interview with Mark Teixeira, in which he joked about Mark getting a divorce or some such off-color topic - but you sorta did:

"Dan's humor tends strongly toward the sarcastic, cynical and, most of all, smug."

As a Ticket defender and as someone whose own humor can and has come across as inappropriate, I side with Dan. People should have more of a sense of humor, no?

Part 4 below...

Christy said...

Long, rambling comment, Part 4:

While I’m glad you’re finally writing in-depth on BaD Radio and I appreciate you trying to thoroughly enjoy the show, I don’t think you’re any different from most P1s. We all have shows and on-air talent people we don’t like as much as others, but yet, we still listen. I think my stance on BaD Radio - and to a certain extent, on Dan - is similar to the one you, Mr. Plainsman, have on The Hardline and Corby (and here and here). I hear the bad (no pun intended) and I acknowledge them, but I'll defend BaD Radio to the death.

Looking forward to your next post…next Friday. Don’t even bother asking why I’m up so late; this was a very long comment.

Phil K. said...

Burying the lead here:

Dan is the perfect foil for Bob, thus the reason for long tenure.

Anytime people clamor for someone's firing at a steady clip, that person will absolutely not get fired unless they commit a crime or the ratings fall off a cliff.

My one beef with Dan is simply this: the man has no obvious loyalties to any local teams. It may seem counter-intuitive that I desire my "media" guys to have bias but I do. Because Dan has no rooting interest, I think it actually DETRACTS from his credibility as a local sports personality.

Bottom line: all sins are covered by the fact that Dan retains the title of "Sports Humorist." Indeed.

P1 Steven said...

@ Christy... when are you starting your blog? Due to the 5-8 hours I listen a day, there are times I just have to turn it off .Like Norm during the Musers Slot. Although I have listened to Norm since I was very young, he can beat me down. If you can learn to listen to Norm, you can listen to anyone! Dan does irk me sometimes when he loses it on his co-workers. Gribble bugs me slightly, but he gives it back when he plugs his cover band. The one that always bugged me was the blow up on Donovan when Dan did not know he had fallen off the air, and continued an interview with Ralph Strangis. (I repeatedly called to harass whoever was in studio to ask what was up.) Donovan seems like noting but completely nice to the guys. Then again I can identify, man at home w/ wife he has to deal with, sometimes he can only unleash on the people who dont deserve it.

The Plainsman said...

My Ticket Confession: the favorite Ticket blog of speed-typists.

Christy, you're going to drive traffic to this site all by yourself. 'Preciate it.

If I'm not careful, this site may become the gathering place for the more ruminative Ticket listeners.

Phil K: I hope you don't think I'm calling for Dan's firing. He's not a fave rave, but he's not driving me away. As Christy says, every listener has his/her own preferences. (And if you know the phrase "fave rave," I have an eight-track to sell you.)

Next post will be my most speculative, abstract, and subjective ever. Inspired by Dan.

The Plainsman said...

Christy, we need a headshot for you.

Anonymous said...

Dan's not my favorite Ticket personality, but I've really come to appreciate what he does.

Dan bogs things down because he has to. He would never get a chance to talk the way Sturm goes on and on. And frankly, Bob's non-stop droning gets boring. I'm often GLAD when Dan jumps in. Usually it's right when Bob has gone on long enough and the segment is dying anyway.

Yeah, Dan's calling people out and making people uncomfortable is sometimes hard to listen to. But I think it's ultimately a good thing. I mean, these same guys have worked together so long, it's good to have a disrupter in there to keep things lively; to keep everyone from getting just a little too comfortable. I like Danny's "negativity" (I consider it a form of awareness and selectivity, which are good things), but you're right - Dan IS the true dark cloud. He makes people uncomfortable. He goes places people don't like. And he enjoys doing it. And it's interesting to listen to. Dan is the only guy you really never know what he's gonna say (Gordon is positioned as a sort of rebel, but it's just a persona, and he's the first to say so).

BaD Radio is definitely harder to listen to than Musers or Hardline. It's the most un-Ticket-like. Or is it the most? I think a lot of the humor that all the shows share (think dedication to Step Brothers/The Hangover, the more "out-there" drops) gets initiated and incubated on BaD Radio. Then, when it's proven, it kind of seeps into The Musers and Hardline. Their contribution to The Little Ticket is undeniable.

I guess what I'm saying is, BaD Radio takes chances. And that's not because of Bob or Donovan. Dan haters need to pipe down or go listen to Barsky and Gregg on The Fail.