Fort Worth

Even in jest, ESPN radio host crossed the line in comparing UConn loss to JFK’s assassination

Did a radio talk show host in Dallas cross the line with his comments?
Did a radio talk show host in Dallas cross the line with his comments? Star-Telegram archives

Driving to the gym Saturday morning I turned to KESN-FM 103.3 — better known as ESPN Radio — for a dose of sports talk and was greeted with “The Show,” co-hosted by Matt McClearin and DJ Ringgenberg.

They were talking about Mississippi State’s Friday night upset win over UConn in the women’s NCAA Final Four at the American Airlines Center in Dallas and the conversation was fairly predictable, with mentions of Dak Prescott (a Mississippi State alum) bringing his magic courtside, and opinions on the game’s place in history.

But McClearin — whose Twitter bio says “you can’t possibly hope to comprehend me with a normal human brain” — then drifted to the dark side.

Poking fun at fans of the University of Connecticut Huskies, McClearin suggested that UConn had suffered a similar fate to President John F. Kennedy in Dallas and suggested that perhaps they should head over to Dealey Plaza to see the site where JFK was assassinated in 1963.

“They didn’t see it coming either,” McClearin said, talking about the Huskies.

I can’t imagine a single listener thought it was funny.

Ringgenberg seemed surprised by the remark and quickly tidied up the conversation, steering it toward the Texas Rangers.

I went ahead to the gym but the comment kept bugging me. So here I am at work now, a good four hours later, and I still can’t believe what I’d heard.

Surely there’s an unwritten list of taboo topics that sports talk folks should avoid joking about — such as rape and domestic violence — but shouldn’t the assassination of a president make that list as well? I understand that the Howard Stern School of Radio specializes in “shock jock,” but the JFK comment crossed the line.

What if he’d suggested that UConn fans wander over to downtown where five police officers were killed in an ambush last summer? Would that have been OK? Of course not.

I’ll keep tuning in to EPSN because it’s usually entertaining and makes my daily commute a little more bearable. “Mike & Mike” drive me to work in the morning and “Dennis and Cowlishaw” take me home in the evening.

I’ve listened to McClearin before and he seems like a decent guy, but he should have known better.

And the UConn family, city of Dallas — and JFK’s legacy — certainly deserve better.

Lee Williams is the managing editor/news at the Star-Telegram: 817-390-7840, @leewatson

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