A lot of people out there who love sports talk radio hate The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz (from now on referred to as the DLS). I hate most sports talk radio. Not that I hate sports. Just the opposite. Because I love sports. Capital letter S Sports is fun. Sports talk radio is high-brow nonsense that does way too much navel gazing, takes itself way too seriously, and can’t admit most of the shit they talk about doesn’t mean a damn thing. Most of all, the vast majority isn’t any fun.
The DLS, on the other hand, is just pure nonsensical fun that isn’t afraid to wallow in its own muck. It embraces the oddities of not just the sports world but culture in general. In a way, it’s a variety show that tilts toward sports. It’s bizarre, absurd, but most of all, fucking fun. It isn’t afraid to hug and kiss the random. And usually when it does, there’s nothing greater in the world. I like to think of them as the happy accidents that make the best stories one tells others.
Perfect example: on one episode the boys somehow descended into talking about how Sean Connery said he’d slap a woman if hysterical, mouthing off after being warned to stop, or just plain being a bitch (they didn’t agree with any of his reasoning, BTW). From there, Connery impressions started up. Then the perfect idea; invite callers to call in with their own Connery impressions. From there, Dan started interviewing celebrity ‘90s singer Sebastian Bach. Bach conducted the interview mostly doing a Connery impression unsolicited. Meanwhile, Dan would cut Bach off every few minutes to have another caller do a Connery impression. And the vast majority of all the impressions were terrible. But all of it was damn funny.
None of the above is made up. I’m pretty sure all of it took up an hour of a four hour show.
A little of my backstory: I discovered the DLS a few years ago when driving home from work. This was back when it was on in the afternoon drive-time on the West Coast. I had a few options to listen to that included music, politics, or local Chargers talk. I liked music but not on the drive home unless I wanted to just unplug from the world. I didn’t mind politics but couldn’t stand the options. Lastly, I fucking hated Chargers talk. Usually, I’d just plug in the old iPhone and listen to a podcast. But one day I stumbled upon the DLS. After a few minutes, I was thinking, “What the fuck is this?”
It was equal parts THE GONG SHOW, MONTY PYTHON, SPORTSCENTER, ESPN 30 for 30, and NPR.
I was sold.
So, why am I talking about this? Well, a few reasons.
One: damn it, I want a show T-shirt, Billy (XL if you decide yes).
Two: Pure joy. Look, life is serious. The world seems to be going nuts in the most random of areas. I’m a father with three girls and a newborn son. Responsibilities and fears way heavily on me. The four hours I get from the DLS five days a week provide a kind of opiate/stimulant that allows me to divorce myself from the worries of the world. In a way, it’s a meditation, a drug, a comforter, and most of all, a joy. Within those four hours, I experience joy.
Let me give you some examples.
In late 2015, I was laid off from my job of six years. Not a long time but I was an expert and coveted. I knew my shit. However, I battled personalities that didn’t mesh with mine and was downsized. At the time, being the husband of a great woman and father of three young daughters, I felt not only like a failure, I felt despair. Living in California at the time, it wasn’t like I could just sit on my ass and wait for a job to come to me. Besides a mortgage, there was health insurance, car payments, and the ever shrinking royalties from my fictional writing career. I was also the sole bread winner. I worked hard so my wife could be a full time mom. In an instant, that was gone. We were smart enough to save money to cover such an episode. However, the fear was still there. And if you rely on a salary to cover your needs, you know how bad you feel when that salary suddenly dries up.
Failure led to despair. Despair led to mild depression. I was able to get several offers for new work within a few weeks and eventually landed a firm job. However, over those few weeks, I can’t even describe how much I worried. I’ve always had a job. Even if I left one, it was for another. And if I didn’t, it wasn’t when I had kids. At that time, I often wanted to just sit in the corner, hug my knees, and sip scotch.
But I had the comfort and joy of the DLS. As I updated resumes and applied for jobs and paced back and forth waiting for phone calls or e-mails to come in, I had the DLS always there to remind me life is fun. The world is fun. Spontaneity is fun.
The DLS taught me to embrace disgrace. And smile while you do it.
I remember one morning, sitting there, wringing my hands, when it hit me, it can be bad but that can be good.
Then I sat down and downloaded the latest podcast of the DLS and listened to Dan and Stu ask Big Boi for football picks. While I did, I put together a set of Lego’s. And everything felt great again.
A few weeks later, I got a job and moved cross country. Along the way, as I drove, I listened over and over again to the DLS. I’ve driven cross country more than a dozen times. It’s terrible. Especially through West Texas. But this last time, not so painful. It was like traveling with friends. Oh, and Adam Carolla, although I wouldn’t dare call him a friend. He’s more of a common spirit.
It was during this drive cross country when Dan opened up on how he felt about the President and the MLB going to Cuba. A lot of people didn’t like Dan’s stance. I did. I found it touching and profound. I find it interesting that Dan was not born in Cuba but is profoundly Cuban. I’m a white boy born in Cuba that only was there a few months yet longs to one day visit the place of his birth. Listening to Dan and the story of his family convinced me of one thing: not until there is change, however, don’t be afraid to admit it is a special place and people that deserves so much better.
Three: the DLS is a fun drug that finds a way to make you think. I don’t usually delve into the world of race and police and political injustice. However, my world view has sharply changed since 2014 (personal, don’t ask) and some of the topics Dan broaches have hit certain strings on my heart that relate to what I’ve experienced. And that’s speaking as a privileged white man. If something can make you think while making you laugh, buddy, that’s special.
Four: my kids love watching me laugh while listening to the DLS. My youngest has an odd love for Stugotz (she’s five, so, that says something). My wife knows my two man-crushes are for Dan and the Gos (she just smirks). It’s almost become a family tradition. They observe while daddy laughs but hey, daddy’s happy.
Five: it heals what ails you. I dare you, when you’re at your deepest darkest sadness, to listen to the episode after the 2015 Steelers-Bengals wild card game, and not crack a smile. I can listen to that on an endless loop and never tire of it.
Anyway, no one asked me to write this or even questioned why I love the DLS so much. But as I said earlier, I have a newborn son and am looking forward to introducing him, one day, to the DLS. Maybe not when Dan’s making subtle dick jokes or referring to nether regions, but eventually. Yet also I wanted to express my gratitude to Dan, Stu, Mike, Billy, Roy, Fat Chris, Greg, and all the people behind the scenes, along with guest hosts Bomani, Dominique, Sarah, and Pablo (even though Pablo is a guy I’d certainly punch in the forehead if I was still in high school).
All of you have put together a show that means a helluva lot to me. Being the selfish bastard I am, that’s all that matters.
Stu, sorry I didn't talk about you more.
And Billy, seriously, XL for the shirt.