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Talk radio is, in fact, the perfect lightning rod for discontent and rage that have no other way to ground. When Congress was preparing to give itself a 51% pay raise two years ago, the voters burned up the phone lines to get on the air, and their indignation forced the lawmakers to back down (temporarily). That established call-in radio as one of the most effective platforms for expressing voter discontent.
In sports, the issues are usually local, and the feelings are often intense and, occasionally, out of control.
Eddie Murray's honeymoon with the Orioles turned sour a few years ago, largely because of the vituperation of Baltimore fans. Murray had been their darling when he came up from the minors in 1977, but in '87 and '88 he slumped, and the fans who had worshiped him were worse than disappointed—they felt betrayed. So they took to the airwaves.
Murray was overweight.
He was dogging it.
He was overpaid.
He needed glasses.
Three competing shows in the Baltimore area whipped the callers into a froth. Murray tried to ignore the fury, but his friend Floyd Rayford, a journeyman third baseman, listened to the shows avidly and told Murray how badly he was being ripped. Rayford evidently couldn't help himself. Murray took it hard.
When he was finally traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in December '88, Murray talked about the vast relief he felt to be getting away from the Baltimore fans and "all the negative things." He was referring not only to the booing at the park but also to the calls in the night.
In New York, the wife of Mets left-fielder Kevin McReynolds grew so weary of the abuse he was taking on WFAN that she herself called in to defend him. More and more, when players complain about the way they are treated, it is not the press or certain writers or even "the media" they have in mind. It is the fans with their radio voice, calling night after night to express their unvarnished opinions.