Sports talk radio may have hit a new low when San Diego station XTRA pulled a questionable April Fools' Day-type prank in the middle of November without labeling it a prank.
Talk show hosts Steve Hartman and Bill Werndl claimed to be interviewing ABC's Dan Dierdorf on Monday afternoon, when actually it was a professional impersonator who sounded as if he were intoxicated. Neither Hartman nor Werndl informed listeners that it wasn't Dierdorf.
"What really burned me up," Dierdorf said Tuesday from his home in St. Louis, "was that people in Southern California who happen to be listening were led to believe that I was drunk only a few hours before I was to go on the air [to call that night's Charger game against the Detroit Lions]."
Dierdorf said he has informed ABC lawyers of the prank and that they plan to acquire a transcript and possibly pursue legal action.
Dierdorf said he learned about the broadcast while he was having lunch with his wife at a hotel in La Jolla.
"George Hill, our statistician, was out jogging and was listening on a headset," Dierdorf said. "When he saw me and my wife, he had me listen. I couldn't believe it."
The 25-minute interview had some odd moments--the impersonator at one point complained that play-by-play announcer Al Michaels had bad breath and another time said he looked trim because he wore a girdle--but mostly it came across as a believable interview with an intoxicated guest.
"It almost could have fooled me," Dierdorf said,
Milton Hines, producer of the show, said, "We were just having some fun. Radio is all about getting attention."
Jack Evans, the station's director of programming, said, "I don't see how anybody who listened to all of the interview could have taken it seriously."
Callers that followed sure seemed to, as they lambasted Dierdorf and complained that he was drunk. Even then, Hartman and Werndl never came forth with the truth. In fact, they went out of their way to sound as if they were defending Dierdorf, continually thanking him for being a good sport and coming on their show.
It wasn't until the start of the next show, more than half an hour later, that listeners were told it really wasn't Dierdorf who had been interviewed.
"I get to the stadium and Kelly Carter from USA Today, who is just doing her job, comes up and asks me if I'd been drinking when I did that interview," Dierdorf said.
"I was so upset I went into their booth to let them know just how bad I thought what they did was. Hey, I know as announcers on 'Monday Night Football' that we're targets, that we're criticized and lampooned. I have a sense of humor and I've pulled my fair share of pranks, but what about common decency?"
Werndl, who talked with Dierdorf when he came into the XTRA booth Monday night, apologized to him then and also apologized on the air Tuesday.