Philadelphia Sports Radio Listeners Get “Schooled” During Groundbreaking Radio Interview
Gotta give a shout out to my fellow journalist colleague Rob Quinn. The Philadelphia writer, who happens to have cerebral palsy, has shattered a significant barrier and his accomplishment needs to be more thoroughly acknowledged. So click “share” and “like” and “retweet” for the good of society!
Gotta start with a little personal background:
Many years ago during the rise of my nationally syndicated “On A Roll” radio show, I did a remote broadcast at a disability conference in Ohio. One of the organizers of the conference was a man with cerebral palsy. His speaking was difficult for me to understand. He wanted me to interview him on the show. I rejected him.
My rationale was that the conservative decision makers at the news/talk radio stations to whom I was marketing the show wouldn’t be receptive. I was trying to “expand the voice” for people with disabilities by increasing the number of affiliates and I made the difficult judgement call to not allow him as a guest. I’ve long regretted that decision, made nearly 20 years ago.
So, fast forward.
On February 25, 2016, Quinn broke new ground by commanding the airwaves during a 15-minute (that’s a hellava long time) live radio interview on a top sports radio station in Philadelphia! He was promoting his new book. John Marks of 97.5 FM “The Fanatic” was the host.
While listening to the stream, I closed my eyes and put my brain in a very familiar place: right between Marks’ headphones. In the first 30 seconds, I cringed twice.
My first cringe was in reaction to how Rob was introduced: (“Rob suffers from cerebral palsy…”)
The second cringe was my reaction to the way Rob spoke and the fact that I couldn’t understand him! I had never heard him speak before. All of our communication had been online.
Of course I continued to listen and what transpired next was self-revealing: I started to listen more intently. I started to pick up on his speech patterns. I couldn’t understand every word. But I understood enough to realize that I was enjoying the interview!
I could tell that Marks was reacting similarly because at first, he seemed too controlling of the dialogue, pulling from Quinn’s bio as his “GPS” to a destination he had in mind for the interview. But as the conversation went on, he began to relax and let his guest make points that struck a chord.
Like a true public relations pro, Quinn handled his business, first focusing on the task at hand: promoting his book. Philadelphia sports fans learned that The Adventures of Red O’Ryan: The Birth of Super Crip, is a fictional story about a high school kid who has cerebral palsy and is being mainstreamed into his neighborhood school. He is a sports fan and is dealing with a bully.
When Marks asked about Quinn’s motivation for writing fiction, the conversation immediately careened off-road, causing the wiring on Marks’ “GPS” to go haywire.
- QUINN: I wanted to do something fun and entertaining. At the same time, I wanted to write a realistic book about a disabled character. There’s so much out there that they (undecipherable) play up the handicap … a point without being inspiration and all that and a lot of disabled people are fed up with that.”
- MARKS: “So you wanted to inspire, because I know you had written something before that said ‘I’m not here to inspire you.’ With this story you were maybe looking to give some inspiration.”
- QUINN: “No!”
- MARKS: “No inspiration!”
- QUINN: “What I’m saying is a lot of stories that go down that road where it’s all about overcoming and all that stuff. This is not that.”
- MARKS: “It’s not about that. This is just real. Because in real life, there’s not inspiration happening. You’re just trying to live life and deal with it.”
- QUINN: “Right. For example, when you introduced me you said that I suffer from CP. That’s ok. I get it. A lot of people say that. But the way I feel, I don’t suffer. I have a life and yeah I happen to have CP. I know that must sound like a subtile difference but it really is a big deal for a lot of people with disabilities.”
- MARKS: “You make me feel like an idiot, Rob. When someone says to me ‘You suffer from diabetes… I feel so bad for you.’ No diabetic feels bad for themselves. You have what you have and you deal with it because it’s everyday life. On a regular basis you’re not thinking about it. You live life, so I feel silly saying you suffer from cerebral palsy. You’re not suffering from it. You’re living with it every day.”
Home Run! Quinn flips the bat, stares toward the left field fence and rounds the bases! Thousands of Philadelphia sports fans learn how to avoid feeling like idiots!
I smiled while listening, but it was short lived as another cringe quickly developed! Marks over-reacted to how he felt stupid.
“I manage to stick my foot in my mouth every ten minutes or so,” he joked. But that reaction is universal and it is one of the reasons why educating the mainstream population about disability etiquette is so difficult. We want to tell non-disabled people what we think, but we don’t want to offend them or make them feel bad.
I know it’s confusing. You have some disabled people talking about how they don’t want to be perceived as inspirational. And then you have people with disabilities like me who build their careers around inspiration.
Here’s my take: People with disabilities, like any other group, are a bag of mixed nuts. Some are smart. Some are absolutely stupid. Some are fun to be around. Others make you sick. And some inspire people while others host pity parties. I hope Quinn has inspired you at the very minimum to check out his book.
You can listen to the show here:
Rob Quinn was very instrumental in getting the ADA Fan Cam initiative rolling in 2015. His article about my project was the first coverage of the campaign which led to 3 million people seeing fans with disabilities during Major League Baseball games on July 26, 2015 — the 25th Anniversary of the ADA. We’re gearing up for a repeat this year, and adding our push to get fans with disabilities represented in random shots of the crowd more regularly throughout the season.
Please go to www.Facebook.com/ADAFanCam, post a picture of yourself in the crowd at a MLB game, “like” the page and “share” it with your online following.