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How I Met Jim Rome – Current Public Enemy #1 in the Band World

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Sports talk show host Jim Rome is famous for saying “Have a take, don’t suck!” It’s been his tagline for many years. What I think it means is, have a well-formed opinion and be able to articulate that opinion in a clear, concise way. It is actually good advice when you think about it. It is his way of getting good contributions from the listeners who call his show. And woe to the poor caller who isn’t prepared for their 15 seconds of fame on his show lest they get “run” (hung up on and perhaps made fun of) by the host for “sucking.” On New Year’s Day, he did not live up to his own words, at least by my humble definition. He tweeted (and later deleted) the following:

“Is there anyone not in a marching band who thinks those dorks running around with their instruments are cool?”

And yes, disappointingly, it got favorited and retweeted – many times.

But if we can agree a well formed “take” or “opinion” should have some thought and expertise behind it, his clearly did not. With an offhand remark posted on social media, he managed to offend not only millions of band kids across the country, but our men and women in the military who represent us and, in fact, defend us. Marching bands have their historic roots in the military. Think the drummer and flutist (fife actually) playing “Yankee Doodle” from the American Revolution. And football fans for decades have come to enjoy their halftime contribution to the spectacle we call football, especially at the high school and college level. Most schools (high school and college) are just as proud of their football team as they are their marching band – and with good reason. Marching bands work their asses off. Try lugging around a set of drums or a sousaphone (or any instrument for that matter), playing difficult music, and marching intricate patterns around a football field in 90+ degree heat or bitter cold. The hours spent perfecting this endeavor are mind boggling.

To his credit, Mr. Rome did issue an apology after “band nation” responded. You can see some of those great responses in this Huffington Post article.

But the lessons we can all learn are many. Don’t underestimate the size of the group you might offend nor their passion. Know what you are talking about. And think before you tweet. The problem with social media is every funny remark that you might have uttered in private in 1995 does not have to become something the world needs to hear in 2015.

While many have chimed in on the topic of Mr. Rome’s comments, I think I can offer a unique perspective on this whole thing. I am a former band kid myself. My high school marching band was not the greatest, but the overall music program was excellent and I love watching and hearing a well-executed marching band performance. I am also a sports fan. I used to listen to Jim Rome and I found him to be, at his best, entertaining, compelling and informative and, at his worst, a little snarky and mean spirited. On balance, he usually made you think and he always had the back of our armed forces, which made his recent comments all the more disappointing. And I actually met Jim Rome, twice to be exact. When Indianapolis hosted the Super Bowl in 2012, Jim Rome was here, along with practically every other sports personality in the country. I was selling ChopSaver from a downtown mall kiosk in an attempt to harness the masses of people who came for the event. (As it turned out, I was the one “local” who was upset about the unseasonably mild weather that week, because cold weather helps lip balm sales.)

It was evening early in the week and the mall was pretty quiet. I noticed a quartet of men obviously looking for a place to eat and I knew right away one of them was Jim Rome. I managed to get away from my booth and peeked into a few restaurants in the mall. Sure enough, they ended up in the back of a quiet Italian place and the manager confirmed my suspicion. The manager was kind enough to pass along some samples of ChopSaver along with a brief note. About an hour later, Mr. Rome and his friends passed by my booth again. They thanked me for the product and he was kind enough to pose for a picture. We did not chat very long, but all were friendly and gracious. And he even mentioned it on his radio show the next day heard by millions. Unfortunately, he did not say “ChopSaver” but rather something like, “…and I even met a guy in the mall last night selling lipstick he made in his kitchen!” or something close to that. No matter, I did get a kick out of it hearing it on the radio, if not an increase in sales because there was no way for people to search his rather cryptic description of my business minus the brand name.

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Later in the week, I managed to run into him again on the sidewalk. He was obviously again on his way to a dinner meeting, but we chatted briefly while walking. It went something like this:

Me – “Hi Jim! Thanks for the shout out on your show!”

Jim Rome – “No problem, my man. Did you get a little bump out of that?”

Me – “Well, not really since you didn’t mention the name of the product. But no worries. Hey, how can I become sponsor of your show, like 5 Hour Energy?”

Jim – “Oh, you don’t want to do that!”

Me – “Why not?”

Jim – “Trust me. You don’t want to do that!”

And with that, he smiled and escaped into the hotel with the rest of the crowd.

 

So now, three years later, perhaps I know why he said that!