Bob Fitzgerald went to Notre Dame. You probably already know that, otherwise you wouldn’t have cared enough about the headline to click on this story. Fitzgerald is an accomplished play-by-play broadcaster, and he’ll occasionally deliver some cogent analysis about teams he doesn’t really care about. But listen to his thoughts about the Fighting Irish and Golden State Warriors at your own peril, because he has a vested interest in those franchises. Or just don’t listen to the show at all, which has generally been my preference for several years.
Surely you’ve heard about or even read the Deadspin story about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o's dead girlfriend never really existing, which was published at 1:10 PST on Wednesday afternoon. I was all ready to write up a post about football announcers and go take a walk or something before heading to Oracle Arena to watch the Warriors and Heat, and the social media explosion pretty much sucked up my entire afternoon. Forget fresh air, there are jokes to read on Twitter!
I turned on the radio around 1:30, and seconds later Damon Bruce started a segment about Te’o and how bizarre this whole thing is. But Bruce tackling the Te’o saga wasn’t at all surprising. It was the number one story of the day from the moment it dropped, and it was going to be the top topic for every sports talk show in the country for several hours, if not days.
Curiosity got the best of me. How might Fitz react to one of his heros going down in flames? What might the guy who for years has prattled on about the intelligence and purity of Notre Dame athletes have to say about an football star who was either woefully naive or incredibly conniving? What would Fitz, who brushed aside any ideas of toning down the smugness after the Irish were beaten down like Florida Atlantic in the BCS Title Game (because Alabama is a “semi-pro team”), say about all of this?
Turns out, nothing.
Neither Fitzgerald nor Rod Brooks broached the subject. Neither did the update guy. After Deadspin’s Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey cited a variety of mass media outlets that fell for Te’o's sob story — without checking to see if the reason for his tears actually, you know, kicked the bucket — Fitz and Brooks needed some time to make sure Deadspin’s story was legit.
Or, Fitz just didn’t want to talk about it. He was more than happy to guffaw like always near the end of the show when Brooks brought up how another college footballing rapscallion, Florida Gators offensive lineman Jessamen Dunker, was arrested for stealing a scooter. HARDY HAR HAR! A 300-lb scooter thief who plays for a school neither Fitz nor Brooks attended! Life is good, USC Trojan jokes for everyone!
When the clock struck three, Ray Ratto and Tom Tolbert went straight to the Te’o story as quickly as humanly possible as the show’s opening theme song/montage/whatever began to wane. Ratto and Tolbert could not have been more excited to talk about this, and for good reason. If you can’t do a radio show in the minutes and hours after a story like this breaks, hosting may not be for you.
And what do you know, each sports update segment suddenly included a summary of the Te’o saga once Fitz left the building.
It was a truly cowardly display from Fitz and Brooks. Both hosts may think Deadspin is an online rag that is not to be trusted due to the preponderance of photos featuring athletes’ genitalia. But it was still a ginormous story, even if it contained factual holes (I haven’t seen any yet). Also, I’ve heard Brooks do a “NiTwit of the Day” segment, where he pokes fun at some athlete for tweeting something stupid. So we know Brooks is at least familiar with Twitter. And even the media guys who aren’t posting anything on Twitter are on there anyway, just so they can get alerts whenever stuff happens like a Sharks trade or Stephen Curry’s styrofoam ankle crumbling into a thousand little pieces.
And the worst thing? I spent an hour and a half of my afternoon listening to Fitz and Brooks while they took on heady topics — like the scooter thing and congratulating themselves for not labeling Michael Crabtree a bust before this season. Perhaps someone else can listen and find out whether these two finally approach the subject during today’s show, because I’m planning on making plans to do something. Anything. Maybe I’ll find out once and for all if my wife is real. Most people think it’s weird that we’ve never met, but it’s an arrangement that has always worked for us. Wish me luck.