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Columns > Lee Abraham

Published: 2001/06/19
by Lee Abraham

Punctuation of Silence

Punctuation of Silence: Sports talk radio, music journalism, and a refreshing dose of peace and quiet
There was a time when I could listen to music all day and all night. Usually at high volume. And although most of my hours these days still have a musical soundtrack, I find myself listening to a lot of sports talk radio. Especially during the afternoons.
Mornings are another story. My mornings are reserved for easy-on-the-ear soundscapes and melodic, instrumental jazz. Stuff I can enjoy without becoming distracted by its charms. Or lyrics. Morning is when I write. Maybe its different with you, but I have a hard time navigating my way through a sea of verbiage when somebody is speaking or singing. Part of my mind wants to listen. And unfortunately, I just cant spare the brain cells.
Things are going well when I suddenly realize Im writing in silence. Totally wrapped in the energy loop between my creative imagination and well worn word processor, I lose track of sound easily. Just sorta happens. One minute Im staring at a blank computer screen, savoring a fresh cup of java, and maybe a nice, warm, whole wheat bagel with cream cheese as a little Mickey Hart or Sun Ra shimmer through the air, and before long, words begin to flow. Slowly at first and then in waves. Next thing I know, the only sounds I hear are my fingers hitting the laptop keys and the birds chirping outside my window.
Sometimes I need to inject more energy into the loop, so Ill play another CD. Other times Ill just keep pounding away. Call it the punctuation of silence. Taken in doses, a vacuum of structured audio stimuli allows my creative momentum, which music propels into motion, to find its own direction. Its own message.
Either way, after a few hours of working in peace and quiet or to a backdrop of music, a stiff neck, sore back, or hungry belly, will invariably seize control of my mind and demand immediate attention from the rest of my body. Thats when Ill take a break, get away from the computer, and click on the good old AM radio.
Its an occupational hazard. As someone who is not only passionate about music and fascinated by its role in this crazy thing we call the human condition, but also makes a living writing about music, theres a risk of burn out. Of musical overload. And where silence allows my thoughts on music to come full circle, sports talk radio allows me to step outside the ring. Its a safe haven. A place where I cant talk shop. Plus, I grew up playing and watching sports, so listening to people talk about sports is a natural progression. Time management, not to mention aches and pains, make the transition inevitable.
Here in San Diego, we are fortunate to have one of the best sports-talk radio stations in the country with "Extra Sports – 690." Ill usually tune in around the noon hour to find out what Steve Hartman and Philly Billy Werndl, AKA the Loose Canons, are arguing about, and then at 1:00, its time to tap into the rock star energy of Jim Romes nationally syndicated radio program, "The Jungle." For those of you who are not familiar with Jimmy Van Smack Rome, the self proclaimed Pimp In the Box is a very funny guy, with a sharper intellect than the typical sports journalists. OK, so thats no big deal – trust me though, Rome is worth a listen.
Next up is Lee Hacksaw Hamilton in the drive time slot from 4pm to 8pm. What a character! I started listening to the saw in the mid 80s when I lived in Arizona, and he did a sports talk show there at the time. Hacksaw made the move to SoCal 15 years ago, and I was totally psyched to find him on the local airwaves here when I rolled into town for the first time a couple of years ago. This guy is a sports encyclopedia. Not just football, baseball, basketball, and hockey, but auto racing, horse racing, track and field, soccer, boxing… name it, hes the expert. Just ask him. "I am bleeping brilliant!," says the irrepressible hack at least once or twice a night. And ya know what, hes right.
Like I said, listening to this stuff when Im writing, or even reading, doesnt work for me. And I agree, you cant really party to it, and theres no point even discussing going out for a night on the town, or a weekend of camping, to check out some sports talk radio live and in person. But if Im cooking up a batch of my world famous catfish stirfry, some other culinary concoction, or just doing whatever around the apartment, sports radio can be a nice change of pace. Ive even been known to tune in sports radio on the road. Especially on a long drive. I dont know about you, but after four or five hours of listening to anything, I need a break.
And thats the point. Sometimes the closer I get to something, the more I need to get away from it for a little while. Even something as important as music. Helps unclutter the mind and keep things in perspective. Plus, that way I also get to hear the birds chirp every once in a while. ###
Lee Abraham is a freelance writer/photographer currently on assignment in Ocean Beach, California. Visit his Adventures In Music Journalism website at or contact him directly at

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