This Week In The 'Drome: Building a radio battle, dissing Dickey, shipping Shea, winds of change on West End and more ...
Clay vs. Plaster : This week's least surprising news was that Nashville's avuncular sports-talk habit George Plaster is returning to the air, headlining a rejiggered afternoon show on 102.5 The Game that bears the Sports Night name his original show on WWTN had so many years ago.
The show will be syndicated across Tennessee — yes, this means my one-hour stint on Tuesday will be available from New Johnsonville to Defeated; I say this to disclose my involvement with the show up front — but the real battle will be fought in the greater Nashville market.
When Plaster left 104.5 The Zone last fall, it opened up a spot for the 3HL trio of Brent Dougherty, Blaine Bishop and Best of Nashville winner Clay Travis to step in, moving what was once a surprising midday success into a drive-time ratings giant.
Now, Plaz and his sidekicks — original Sports Night co-hosts Willy Daunic and Darren McFarland — will take on the upstarts.
It's no small task, despite Plaster's clout. The 3HL exudes a fraternity vibe — from its full embracing of bro culture to the cult-like devotion its fans have, complete with a super-secret hand signal and car stickers.
The ratings bear out that the formula works, but it's not for everybody. Travis, of course, is the target of most of the backlash — even among Tennessee fans, many of whom he's alienated with his battle against the insidious epidemic of "Dool-Aid Drinking." But 3HL is definitely the show for 35-year-old adolescents and people who enjoy 30-minute riffs on how The Bachelorette's outcome is related to the possibility that James Franklin will become UT's head coach on or before August 15, 2018.
And there seem to be plenty who fall into that category.
So, yes, 3HL is popular — but so is Justin Bieber and Two And A Half Men. And it offers a nearly antithetical option to Plaster's often vanilla approach to sports talk.
The shows appeal to different people, different demographics — which is great, because if nothing else it proves sports fans aren't homogenous.
In media — as in most things — inertia is a powerful force. People who either settled on 3HL after Plaster left or who abandoned drive-time sports-talk altogether will have to make a move back to Plaster. And the question is how many will do so.
The Week Behind
LaRussa is Italian for 'Buzzkill' : It was probably the right call for Justin Verlander to get the nod to start for the American League in Tuesday's All-Star Game over Murfreesboro's David Price.
But Matt Cain over R.A. Dickey, Nashville's knuckling comeback kid? All because NL manager Tony LaRussa had some weird concerns about whether the catcher could handle Dickey's floating bumblebee pitch?
Lame. It's an exhibition, LaRussa.
As it turns out, Dickey — the story of the first half — didn't enter the game until the sixth inning, the fifth NL pitcher to get the ball. He worked a scoreless inning, by the way, in a game the senior circuit had locked up early.
As if Tony LaRussa couldn't somehow get more reprehensible, the only people he made happy were executives at Fox. The ratings for the Midsummer Classic peaked during R.A.'s inning.
Title Bump : David Williams has almost as many titles as the King of Spain.
Thursday he added another: athletics director. He's the first AD at Vandy since Todd Turner left and the athletics department was merged with student life.
Vandy's Grand Experiment of operating without an athletics department continues, despite Williams' new title.
Garbage Time : Sounds pitcher Jim Henderson struck out the only batter he faced in the AAA All-Star Game in Buffalo. Fellow Sound Wily Peralta was named PCL Pitcher of the Week. And the Sounds may be better at the half than their record indicates. ... Vandy's Zac Stacy is on the pre-season Maxwell Award watchlist, but the coaches didn't give too much love to Vandy with the pre-season SEC teams. ... The Predators' Sergei Kostitsyn has filed for arbitration for some reason. ... Former Titan Lance Schulters was picked up on domestic assault.
Look Fast, Feel Sexy, Have Fun, Expect To Win : Vanderbilt rolled out its new football uniforms Wednesday.
There are so many combinations of helmet, jersey and pants, the official photo gallery will be used to illustrate word problems across Metro when pre-algebra classes get around to studying permutations and combinations.
Most notable is the return of white helmets, heralding back to the glory days of the 1980s and the annual race to two wins. But Vandy's also redesigned the gold jerseys, adding the weird shoulder accents so hip with the kids these days.
Outside of that, the Commodores didn't make many drastic changes. Kudos, though, for sticking with the classic Star V logo.
Awws Of The Week : The ESPYs are an interminable piece of media masturbation rivaled only in their mirror-gazing self-indulgence by The White House Correspondents Dinner. And its only competitor among "sporting" "events" which run far too long is the equally loathsome Home Run Derby. Nevertheless, there is one cool moment every year: the Arthur Ashe Award for courage. This year, Pat Summitt deservedly won it and ESPN took time out from speculating about Tim Tebow's importance to the Jets and the constant force-feeding of the Gloriousness Of The Yankees And Red Sox to make a very cool video tribute. ... A couple of dudes demonstrate how to have a constructive discussion about sports on the Internet. ... And very cool stuff throughout this week's City Paper Photo Issue, including Clyde Lee!
The Week Ahead
Shea Or Go? : While David Poile said he and representatives of Shea Weber's team have had "good conversation" regarding the captain's re-signing with the Predators and will take more formally next week, there is a looming question of what to do if it can't get done.
If the Predators make a $104.4 million offer to Weber, he might accept it. By all accounts, he likes Nashville. Perhaps more important, he can't be sure what the new collective bargaining agreement will bring. What if it contains restrictions on long-term contracts?
If he accepts the offer, the Predators can plan for the future. Weber is worth the $100 million. If he is signed for 12 years, the Predators will be able to recruit a prized free-agent defenseman to play with him.
If he doesn't accept the offer, the Predators have to trade him, and they should trade him a respectful way, the way Shero traded Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes. Why not take the high road, perhaps sending a message to every player in the league about what the Predators are about?
On The Forecheck's Dirk Hoag takes it a step farther. He says don't even wait, do it today:
And yet, Weber still hasn't signed a contract with the team. They went to arbitration last summer after failing to agree on the length of a new deal, or a salary (other than that, though, I'm sure things went swimmingly). Clearly, Weber is taking the slow walk to unrestricted free agency just as Ryan Suter did.
It's time to realize what's going on here. Good conversations can go on for weeks or months at a time, but serve to do nothing more than string the team and fans along with false hope, and delay the hard work of charting a path forward.
Yes, this sucks. But the time has come to trade Shea Weber.
The return on Weber would be remarkable. Allen speculated it would be somewhere in the neighborhood of a top-flight prospect, a couple of help-me-now players and a first-round pick. It's still a tough pill to swallow. The team entered 2011-12 with a ton of momentum, carried it through the regular season and went to the playoffs with the highest of hopes. But after it looked all-too-apparent the Preds wouldn't hoist the Cup (for many, this came after Game 1 against Phoenix in the second round), things have been all downhill for Preds fans, the signings of Paul Gaustad, Hal Gill, Brian McGrattan and Chris Mason doing little to salve the wound.
Now the fan base is increasingly resigned that their captain, their first real megastar, will have to be traded because he hasn't the desire to play here, for whatever reason. (He'd be the third consecutive Preds captain traded, by the way.)
Worthless Prediction: I'm not pounding the minor keys as hard as some. Because the NHL will have a new CBA — which could include an end to decade-long contracts — the Preds actually have some leverage here. Weber signs the largest — and last — long-term megadeal in NHL history.
We Don't Need Another Hero : David Poile's surprise and disappointment at the departure of Ryan Suter maybe shouldn't have been surprising or disappointing.
Maybe he misunderstood what Suter meant when he allegedly promised in November he'd re-sign in Nashville. Maybe, as Suter claims, such a conversation never happened.
Or maybe Poile is just spinning the Predators into the position of the white-hat.
But every white hat needs a black hat to be the bad guy and Ryan Suter isn't content to play that role, telling The Tennessean's Josh Cooper he regrets the pain he caused Nashville. He was complimentary of the team and even Poile who all but called him a backstabbing liar.
But why? Why does Suter feel the need to try to maintain his reputation in the city he just spurned? It's not going to do him any good. He's forever the enemy, except perhaps to that bizarre subset of people who do nothing and complain about team management while repeatedly spending money supporting the team. These are the kind of people who choose to eat at a restaurant they hate over and over again.
Suter has fallen into the relatively modern trap of pro athletes: a need to forever be loved, to never be the bad guy.
Take Tiger Woods. After his remarkable fall from grace, he feigned humility and contrition. He was going to be a better man. LeBron James? After The Decision, that horribly tone-deaf ESPN-driven infomercial, and his promise of a bazillion titles, he tried to rehab his image.
Did it work? Of course not. People — especially Clevelanders — still despise James. Woods, too, will never be the squeaky-clean choirboy again.
So why not embrace the villainy? Who cares if people cheering for another team like you or see your side of the story?
We can debate to death whether professional athletes make too much money, but one regrettable aftershock of big-money sports is that players no longer feel they can express themselves negatively. There were plenty of bad guys — and bad guys who were happy to be bad guys — in the sepia-toned days of yore. Today? Everyone's worried about preserving that image. To the mega-rich sports star, even if that image is having no personality whatsoever, that's preferable to being seen as a bad guy.
How amazing would it have been if Suter told Cooper he couldn't wait to get out of Nashville? Maybe take a page from old-school wrestling heels and insult the city and its residents. "Toothless, idiot hillbillies who don't understand or deserve hockey"? That probably would have worked, especially if appended with a unnecessary cheap shot about Goo-Goo Clusters and Johnny Cash.
Maybe fax down a photo of himself palling around with Craig Leipold while talking on a BlackBerry.
Look, Ryan, maybe the most rational folks in Nashville don't begrudge you your decision, but no matter how genuine your regret, you're still getting booed when you come back in a Wild jersey.
You might as well embrace it.
Questions, comments, esoterica can be sent to jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com.