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Why Do I Listen?

2012 September 7
by Randy H. Milgrom

This concerns a certain local sports talk radio guy named Mike Valenti — though in fairness to him (and this may be the last time in this post that I will be fair to him) — he did garner a modicum of wider notice for a 2006 rant following a Michigan State-Notre Dame football game: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWmXe1w6XBk).

The Rant aside, this is mostly what I hear when I listen to Valenti’s show, which he co-hosts with the long-suffering Terry Foster of The Detroit News: “I can’t watch it,” or, “It’s unwatchable,” or, “the state of [pick any professional or college sport] stinks,” or, “I don’t care anymore,” or, “Who cares about any of this,” or, “Go ahead — you talk about it. I’ve stopped listening and I’ve stopped caring.”

So my question: Is this young man really as unhappy and as angry as he appears? Does he hate his job — and his callers, the subjects they want to discuss, and the opinions they dare to express — as much his sour demeanor and harsh words suggest? In other words — Does he really mean what he says?

Perhaps it’s all just an act. A ploy to stir tension, bring attention, and increase his audience. Does he do the job solely to please his employers? Is it only about the money? Or does he genuinely enjoy sports, and his job, but merely thinks this is the best way to entertain himself, his bosses, and his listeners?

My best guess is that it’s a show, primarily because it’s got to be: this guy couldn’t possibly be as obnoxious in real life as he is on the air. Nothing wrong with putting on a show, but Valenti’s knowledge, talent, and smarts go largely unnoticed because they are so vastly overwhelmed by his disdain for both his audience and his subject matter.

It’s impossible for me to listen for long, so I punch up another station. But then I return. (I admit that I have listened to him — thankfully leavened by the mostly mild-mannered Foster — many more times than once.) So Valenti is winning. But what I want to know is why. Because if Valenti is as tortured by having to watch and talk about sports as he says he is, then shouldn’t he just quit? Do you know how many other 32 year olds would kill to have this guy’s job?

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