Best Seat in the House column by Chris Graham
I’m going to go ahead and answer that one there.
“Chris, Bill Roth for you …” was the message from down the hall.
I knew right away what it was about.
A reader on our live game blog during the Virginia-Virginia Tech basketball game a couple of weeks back had mentioned that Roth, the play-by-play man for Virginia Tech sports, was insinuating that the Hokies was gettin’ robbed by the refs during the game, which through my biased-for-the-night UVa. alum eyes was farther from the truth than the suggestion that donkeys can achieve low-level orbit.
My first response: “He is horrible, not to mention a jerk to try to deal with.” Provocative, to say the least.
Then, egged on to do so: “I can say that here because I will NEVER, NEVER try to get him to be on a show or participate in a story or radio show that I am doing ever again in my life. He can rot in hell.”
This all went through my mind as I picked up the phone.
“Hi, this is Bill Roth.”
To his credit, he wasn’t calling to complain – he mainly just wanted to know what I was so obviously steamed about.
The particulars are what they are – without getting into too much detail, Patrick Hite, my former colleague at “ACC Nation” and the coauthor with me of Mad About U: Four Decades of Basketball at University Hall, and I had been talking about another book project involving profiles of play-by-play broadcasters in the ACC, and we had received some good feedback from a couple of the people that we would need to profile for the book, when we got a frosty-at-best response from Roth that led us to decide to kill the project basically because it was clear that we wouldn’t be able to get anything from him for it.
OK, so that’s a lot of detail. Anyway, no big deal – I’ve got plenty on my plate. I understood then what the hangup was – ISP Sports, which signs Roth’s paychecks, doesn’t go for the sort of thing that other broadcasting companies affiliated with other schools do. For example, I had no problem getting Mac McDonald, the voice of UVa. sports, to give me time for Mad About U, and outside of Mac, we had a ton of cooperation and outright aiding and abetting from Rich Murray in the UVa. sports media relations office tracking down players and coaches and formers of both of the above there.
Roth explained that to me again this morning, and I told him that I understood totally the position he was in.
I didn’t tell him – probably didn’t need to, looking back on it – that my opinion of ISP Sports and the people behind the scenes at Virginia Tech sports wasn’t exactly positive and glowing in the wake of what had transpired a few years back.
He didn’t have to tell me that he was unhappy with my remarks about him – the fact that he had called and thus in effect raised the issue would have been enough there.
I will say that he was polite and genial throughout the entire conversation. I said I was sorry for saying what I had said – I didn’t specifically apologize for wishing him to have to rot in hell, but that was obviously not the kind of thing that one should be saying.
The phone call ended amicably – again, as I said above, I don’t think I could characterize anything that transpired as complaining, again to his credit.
I’ve been a public person for more than a decade now – and in the course of that have had my name dragged through the mud in print at various times.
Hell, I was called out as being a “fake journalist” in my hometown newspaper – which incidentally was where I had gotten my start in writing the news back in the day.
I don’t know. It seems to me that maybe this wasn’t the biggest thing to ever have happened. You know, having an offhand comment made about you on a live game blog that was read by right at 250 people.
In any case …
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion.