My last RaGE meanderings for awhile, I promise.
Every time I do an article that touches on Greggo the Hammer or RaGE, I receive comments or emails that express the view that Richie Whitt is "enabling" Greg's, shall we say, questionable lifestyle choices.
My current view is to the contrary. There are probably Confessors who know more about the history here than I do, but I find that judgment harsh and, based solely on what I know about the history of Whitt and RaGE – concededly, I am not a profound scholar of those relationships -- not supported.
Preliminary question, not too interesting: Have we concluded that Greg's absences, laryngitis, current voice troubles, bicycle mishap are in fact the result of the same kind of irresponsible substance use and other bad behavior that landed him in trouble with (a) The Ticket, (b) John Clay Wolfe, (c) RJ Choppy, (d) Richard Hunter? I've phrased the question prejudicially, begging the answer "yes," but in fact I really don't know.
The reason I'm hesitant to conclude that Greg hasn't learned anything is that for all his current physical issues, I've never heard him incoherent or out of it on the air since he's been with 105.3. I've heard him sling out some pretty good HSO's from time to time. He doesn't sound impaired to me, just tired and rough. Maybe his absences suggest a different answer, but again, I’m reluctant to conclude that Greg is continuing his historical behavior in the absence of evidence. Anyone have a different listening experience?
Actual question, much more interesting: Is it fair to accuse Richie Whitt of "enabling" Greg?
I've read Whitt in The Observer for a long time and have always thought his journalism was pretty good. I’m not one of those who found “The Hard Lie,” his cover story in The Observer, slanted. In fact, I thought it was fair and when I finished it I didn’t think The Hardline or The Ticket had been maligned. It more-or-less supported my previous view that things happened just about the way they should have.
I am not aware that Whitt has a reputation as someone who is exploitive of others. (I have heard that about other local media figures, but not Whitt.) It is undoubtedly true that he has wanted a radio gig for a long time, but I would hope that we are not holding mere ambition against him. I'd take an opportunity to get into show biz myself if I had (i) the chance and (ii) a molecule of show-biz talent. Commenters have also expressed the view that he was angry that he didn't get a full-time Hardline gig after his plus-one tryouts, but I don't know what evidence there is for that, either. (Again, anyone with knowledge, drop me a line.)
But let's put those aside and simply ask about his relationship with Greg Williams. Let's assume that (1) in reporting on The Ticket and Greg’s travails, Whitt put aside reportorial objectivity and developed a friendship with perhaps even sympathy for the man; (2) that that friendship and sympathy might possibly have had as an element the possibility that he could vault himself into an on-air position; and (3) that he actively promoted the idea of a Richie-Greggo partnership to Fan management. Now let me stress: I have no idea if any of these things is true – I am solely interested in the issue of enabling, not whether Richie or Greggo was “using” the other to get to the spotlight (or, in Greg’s case, to get back to it).
But even if we make these somewhat accusatory assumptions: Isn’t the result here that instead of Greg sitting at home feeling sorry for himself with lots of time to get into mischief and play with his guns and listen to questionable advice, he’s working? Working hard, in fact, the famous face of a major-network prime-time five-hour program? Isn’t the conclusion here that, whatever Whitt’s motivations and his true relationship with Greg, what he’s done has been beneficial for Greg? Again – while the voice issues, the motorcycle accident, the absences are all somewhat puzzling, there has been (to my knowledge) no recurrence of any broadcast disasters. Almost a year into the RaGE onslaught, he’s still broadcasting, struggling through the voice issues, not causing any internal issues at 105.3 (again, that I’ve heard). He seems prepared to discuss the topics at hand, more or less. If you didn’t know his history, would you think he was something other than a (somewhat fragile) Texas-bred sports-talk guy who’s an interesting listen from time to time?
We may find Richie Whitt a not-terribly-compelling broadcaster; we may find Greggo a shadow of the old Greggo; we may find the role he has been asked to play unsuited to his talents. But I think it’s going too far to accuse Richie of enabling the kind of behavior that has gotten Greg into trouble in the past. I'd actually go a step further and say that those who remember Good Greggo and continue to wish for his recovery -- quite a lot of us, I would reckon -- owe Mr. Whitt some thanks.
I am certain that Confessors will take me to task for naiveté, and maybe I deserve it. But I have a hard time concluding that Whitt is guilty of much more than helping himself by helping a man he regards, truly, as a friend.
Commenters: This is a sensitive topic. If you have information to share, please make sure it is credible, sourced (if possible – for example, reporting on something you heard on the air), and respectfully expressed. I’m interested in all points of view, but I’m extremely reluctant to air anonymous reports that sound only malicious.
If you think you have something valuable but a little hot to handle, please feel free to email me and I'll review it and post if it passes.
Of course, you’re entirely welcome to disagree with me.