In praise of the radio -- and really listening

In praise of the radio -- and really listening

It’s Thanksgiving time here in Chicago, which means another tradition for hockey fans like me: The Blackhawks are playing their games in western North America. That means starting much later than the normal Chicago times — and, therefore, ending later.

It’s a time when I value my lifelong habit of listening to games. If there was a time when I was both old enough and not too old to stay up and watch the late games, it must have been in the summer — when hockey means only field hockey and I’m not paying attention. Once the Hawks are on the ice, my attention is back.

Listening to the games does take attention. If all of the action is in the opponent’s end of the ice when I tune in late, I may not know who’s in the Chicago goal for a long time, or I may need to keep in mind to give him a little cheer (silently — sometimes).

Concentrating on what’s happening on the radio games is a valuable skill when my eyes are tired from a long day, or when I need to listen in the dark. Sometimes I think listening is even better than watching — someone’s there to take care of watching the puck for me, there are no silly pictures of people in the stands, and I can concentrate on the words.

Yes, I love words even when they’re simply tools to tell me about hockey games. Surprised?

Listening is a word worth defending in our noisy, over-stimulated world. I want to pay attention, whether it’s by reading or listening, and I want as few distractions as possible. There are times when I like to keep my ears busy listening to a game while doing cooking, cleaning, or other chores for the evening (or the next day), but when the game gets good, I can put the chore aside and just savor the action. (That’s what replays are there for.)

I like to listen to the radio at other times, not just game times. The news often reaches me best, or at least strongest, when I’m only hearing it. That’s what happened to me on Sept. 11, 2001, because I heard the events of that horrible day on the radio — oddly, while putting out weekly newspapers which didn’t refer to those events at all because, well, we had the stories ready. I still recall when I first saw the pictures of what happened, but my earliest memories are radio stories. My mind’s eye was working on the pictures long before I had time to see the videotape.

Listening to tapes (or midnight broadcasts) of old radio programs is a great way to practice really listening to stories. There’s no way to see an action unless it’s described… or, perhaps, reacted to. The action happens in the mind!

That’s why I love radio, from the morning news to the night’s games. I want to set up a better picture in my mind than any camera can produce.

So that’s why I’m thinking about radio now… and being thankful for listening.


Leave a comment
  • Theatre of the mind... a marvelous and mindful post!

  • One might be able to follow hockey on radio, but certainly not basketball. Some team might be up 10 and then the next instant be down 20.

    The thing that bothers me on radio more than on TV is the analyst complaining about the call, because there is no way one can come to an independent conclusion.

    If you are speaking of other radio, it looks like the corporate suits are certainly trying to make WLS and WGN totally unlistenable, and from the ratings, killing them. Personally, I use WLS-FM, WJMK, and WFMT as background music,which is certainly not the reason you expressed for using radio.

  • Sorry that the reply button isn't working, but here I am...
    Weather Girl, thank you for another beautifully articulate comment.
    Jack, I see your point about complaints -- I do sometimes wish they'd remember to present the evidence first.
    Background music as a term bothers me -- see my posts about the cello with "whom" I share my apartment. Background noise, yes -- but I prefer my music in the foreground.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    It isn't so much presenting the evidence first is that on radio there isn't any visual evidence. It is sort of like the radio guys saying that Kirk Heinrich never fouls, although on TV you can see him sticking an elbow in somebody's gut.

    By background music, I mean something I use when I proofread, since sports or political talk in the near ground is too distracting, but something has to drown out collateral noise from the adjacent apartment dwellers, for instance. But it is strange that while the talk radio keeps me from concentrating on my detail work, it is not sufficient to wake me up in the morning.

  • I'm glad to see you're still radio-active. Me too. WFMT. WTCP. Whither DePaul basketball. And sundry others.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Ah, the power of hyphens... and so you've added another idea to my list of future posts. (Time to stop listing and get writing!)

Leave a comment