Currie can afford to be independent because he is suddenly so fashionable, so in demand. If you get on the merry-go-round in a me-too business, you don't ever have to get off. Currie has had offers from virtually every large city in the country. Part of his popularity may be accounted for by the fact that the competing stations in Pittsburgh mail videotapes of Currie around in order to give him greater exposure. "But I'm too old to go," he says. "There is a point where even my ego is saturated. They call me up from San Francisco or New York or some damn place, and I say, 'Hey, where were you 15-20 years ago? Where were you then?" I was the same guy down in North Carolina. I'm no different now. I'm just visible because I'm in a top 10 market. You bring three guys in for any job in TV—say one is from Detroit and the other two are from places like Youngstown or Charleston. If the guy from Detroit is downright unqualified and the other two are eminently deserving, you can still bet that Detroit will get the job because the Yummie who hires him can go to his boss then and say, 'Hey, we got a guy from Detroit.' So I tell those people who call me up about a job: "Why don't you look down in Carolina? Might just be somebody down there even better than me.'
"The only reason I ever got to a top 10 was a fluke. The salesman touted me. No one in the business had guts enough to recommend me. I'm too different. Even when I got here the radio station wouldn't use me, not till they saw I was such a big hit on TV. Then they came after me with sweet talk.
"You see, a large part of the problem with sports news is that most of the Yummies don't pay any attention to it. It's a stepchild."
"The people I talked to at the New York stations made a point—rather proudly—about how little they cared about sports," I said.
"Sure. So when a station in Philadelphia loses a sportscaster, all they know to do is to turn to the next largest market. Who's got the best ratings there? So they take a guy out of Detroit, and Detroit takes a guy out of San Francisco. It's the Peter Principle gone wild."
"It reminds me of pro football," I said, "where every team looking for a new coach looks to hire the top assistant on the champion."
"Sure, same thing. Then you can go to the fans and say we got an assistant off the winner. We got an announcer out of the next largest market. Never mind that there are probably more talented assistants coaching the Oilers or more talented announcers in Syracuse. Play it safe. Justify. Look, this is not a logical business. This is a justify business.
"I used to sell radio-advertising time. I learned early on that no matter how persuasive my figures or my arguments were, a guy would not switch his advertising to my station unless I could provide him with arguments to justify the change to his boss. Well, it's even worse in sports because the Yummies don't care. Very few of them are even in a position to judge sports reporters. So they always play it safe. They get the guy from the next market or some left tackle who just got cut. The Yummies get jobs because of their sameness, not their differences, so you can be sure they aren't going out on any limbs. The system perpetuates inanity. I've always said I could save any station money by playing both parts in a typical interview.
"And, my God, the jargon, the inside stuff. Why must sports announcers be so devoted to dissecting things? If a sports announcer went to see Hamlet, would he be interested in how they made the scenery and whether or not Yorick's skull was really plaster of Paris? I took a camera this fall and went out on the street and asked 100 people at random what a post pattern was. You know how many knew? Not a single one.
"That would stun most sports announcers. They don't know their audience. Every survey ever made shows that sports is the weakest part of the newscast, that only 25 to 30% of the viewers really care. Maybe another 25% have an interest in scores. But the rest don't give a hoot. They don't care who won or who lost, or where the franchises are this week in the World Hockey Association. They don't know what a hockey puck is. They have no opinion on Bowie Kuhn. And they're very happy without being burdened with any of this information. And remember that's 50%, maybe 70% of your total audience. You get up there and talk about zigouts and filling the lanes, you're in effect telling most of your audience to go to hell. So you ask why is television sports news so bad. Well, ultimately, because nobody cares. The Yummies don't care about who they put on the air and most of the announcers don't care about the audience."