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.