My brother Jimbo, a bartender in Las Vegas, turned me onto The Dan Le Batard Show early last year. From Vegas, he listens daily to a podcast broadcast on iTunes through our local radio station 790 The Ticket. The podcast, similar to the radio program except void of commercials, is yet another example of Mr. Le Batard's multimedia expansion, which now includes a column for the Miami Herald, a four-hour radio show, and a daily program on ESPN he co-hosts with his father. As someone committed to the intellectual and cultural development of Miami, it is ironic how Mr. Le Batard's work slipped through my fingers. I knew his younger brother, David, aka LEBO, a respected street artist, but upon first impression, Dan's brand of media to me seemed dark and discombobulated. But like Dan, I consider my brother cooler than myself. So I tuned in and I turned on, with patience. And now I can argue convincingly that Mr. Le Batard is one of the best things to happen to South Florida.
Dan Le Batard Is Highly Intelligent
What do Robert Zimmerman, face-eating zombies, and a girl who tattooed her anus have in common? They helped define Florida last year. We are hardly known for being a Mecca of intelligence; on the contrary, Florida is the butt end of jokes and embarrassing lists highlighting the nut jobs, kooks and crazies inhabiting our landscape. Throw in a corrupt history and politics, a shallow and celebrity obsessed mentality, a transient community that often loses its best cultural talent to New York and L.A., and a smorgasbord of cultures that don't mesh together, what we have left is a community that isn't taken seriously by the rest of the country, and often by ourselves.
As South Florida evolves into the 21st century, we should rise above this shallow identity.
Enter Mr. Le Batard.
Whether in his writings, radio show or television program, there's no denying his wits. Mr. Le Batard began his career as a journalist for the Herald in 1990, he has had to cultivate his intelligence in a profession demanding a craftsman like dedication to one's inner voice.
When listening to his radio and television shows, his wits transfer outwardly just fine. In both shows, the formats go so much beyond sports talk, incorporating elements of music, film, psychology, other arts and sciences, and pop culture in general. The less patient may view Mr. Le Batard's shows, or this article, as some numbskulls who don't know their asses from their elbows, but no, wit beckons engagement, humor is awkward, and psychology always reflects truth.
We need more intelligence, humor, and awareness in a 21st century Miami.
The No-Game Game
Let's be clear, Mr. Le Batard's radio show is still an afternoon circus filled with laughs, clumsy, creative bits, and strange engaging interviews. As self-aware as they are, there's still plenty of Florida weirdness. Also, although the show and its producers are consummate professionals, they know how to make fun of themselves. In fact, what makes Mr. Le Batard (and his producers and sidekicks) extra awesome is their self-deprecation. They will never admit to being cool. Mr. Le Batard actually prides himself on awkwardness and creating uncomfortable moments. His style is touchy, relatable, in-your-face, truth-based, humbling, foolish, yet totally real and accessible.
It is hard to find a radio ego who doesn't think they're better than you. Think of Jim Rome. He refers to his callers as clones; how narcissistic. Think of Hank Goldberg, arguably the king of South Florida sports talk before Dan Le Batard. Mr. Goldberg's nickname was "The Hammer" because he often struck down callers with a Sam Jackson like vengeance and furious anger. What a turn-off.
Miami in the 21st century should not be a muscle-shirt, Scarface, Cocaine Cowboys, banana republic represented by Pitbull and South Beach nip & tuck elites. We should not be defined and consumed by ego, swag, impatience and hate. Miami, a true city of renaissance, needs to redefine itself and not find itself defined by outsiders. Then we must infuse that definition into Americana in a non-threatening way, one that doesn't play into pre-conceived stereotypes about our politics, history or minority cultures; Mr. Le Batard, with his humbling, self-deprecating manner would hate the role, but he's a prime candidate for & successful example of the new Miami.
IT'S A FAMILY AFFAIR
The best part of Mr. Le Batard's shtick isn't even shtick: values. Whether championing his brother, incorporating his lawyer into the radio show, or making his father the co-host of the television program, Mr. Le Batard possesses authentic family values that serve Miami's national reputation.
The best example is Gonzalo "Papi" Le Batard who's Spanglish and razor-sharp observations provide both comic relief and an opportunity for the rest of America to accept and begin to understand what's coming: a Latin infusion. It's easy to forget how the rest of the country feels about Latinos: clueless. The collective American consciousness regarding Latinos is arguably stuck somewhere between all-Latinos-are-Mexican and check-out the curves on Sofia Vergara.
Miami needs more home-grown talent representing family-oriented, humble, hard-working, multi-talented, multi-cultural values. We need psychologically accessible and astute down-to-Earth models like Le Batard. Again, it serves our city's renaissance, which is something we should monitor with commitment as we slowly evolve from a reputation still leftover from the 1980s.