By and large, national sports talk radio can be pretty homogeneous, focusing on the same stories, the same games and the same talking points. “The Outfield,” a new show debuting on Sirius XM this weekend, certainly can’t be accused of that, as it will focus on LGBT issues across sports. That’s a bold step in the talk radio universe, as host Eddie Robinson knows well. Here’s what he told The Associated Press about why he wanted to do this show:
When Eddie Robinson, who has worked for the SiriusXM SportsZone channel, pitched the idea, Gorab said his immediate reaction was “we have to do this.”
As host, Robinson envisions a mix of news analysis, features and listener call-ins. One of the guests for Sunday’s premiere is Sheryl Swoopes, the women’s basketball star who at one time was the most recognizable athlete to come out in a team sport. The college coach at Loyola of Chicago later became engaged to a man.
Robinson’s resume reads like someone preparing for this job — except the position never existed until he created it. A former high school football player, he has worked for CBS News, public radio and MTV. He was also an engineer and producer for New York sports talk radio station WFAN, remembering the discomfort of spending time in that testosterone-soaked environment when he was still in the closet.
But there’s much about the in-depth analysis and relaxed banter of sports talk radio that Robinson wants to emulate. And he suspects many in the LGBT community long for those kinds of conversations, too.
“Here is a platform that’s outside ‘Glee,’ outside ‘Queer Eye,’ outside RuPaul,” Robinson said.
The idea is certainly promising, and Robinson’s envisioned mix of content sounds like a solid idea; it’s also notable that he wants to talk about LGBT issues in high school and college sports, not just on the brightest stages. It’s going to be interesting to see the reaction this receives, though, and if regular sports talk listeners will tune in. “The Outfield” won’t be airing on a sports channel, but rather on Sirius’ OutQ channel for the gay and lesbian community; that’s a good fit on a number of levels and will probably help provide this program with at least a base audience, but it may make it tougher to draw in your average straight sports fan. Still, there’s a lot of potential here, and if Robinson’s show does start making cultural waves, it might help pave the way for serious discussions of LGBT issues on mainstream sports radio. It might also be proof to radio executives that some diversity in topics and opinions can be a good thing.
It’s not going to be an easy task for Robinson, though. First, his content mix will require a lot of balancing given how diverse his topics are and how different his potential audience may be. This show could well feature both a discussion of Michael Sam’s draft prospects and thoughts on the challenges of being a closeted high school athlete in the same program, and while both are worthy subjects, it could be tough to transition between the two and keep the audience interested. There are also plenty of minefields in the topics he’ll be covering, and the instant reaction required in radio (unlike, say, print) can make those difficult to avoid. Still, this sounds like a worthwhile endeavour, and something that will certainly be worth checking out. It’s also evidence that LGBT issues are becoming a more and more important part of the sports world. A radio show like this is unlikely to ever replace your standard sports radio broadcast, but it could well influence it. We’ll see what Robinson does with this platform, but this could be the start of something bigger.