Once Kobe Bryant was charged with sexual assault, it was as though sports talk radio took it as permission to go crazy.
Restraint? What's that?
Every time a friend or acquaintance of the alleged victim opens his or her mouth, sports talk show hosts analyze and dissect every word.
Joe McDonnell and Doug Krikorian of KSPN (710), for instance, turned something reportedly said by someone who supposedly was the host of a party attended by the alleged victim into a one-hour bit on Wednesday.
And now they're asking everyone who calls their program, no matter what the subject, "Guilty or innocent?"
Meanwhile at XTRA Sports (690 and 1150), Steve Hartman and Mychal Thompson have gone overboard all week. They talked to a 19-year-old friend of the alleged victim. They talked to a Denver talk show host who claimed Bryant and the alleged victim had met on previous occasions. They talked to the NBC reporter who said the alleged victim was at a party talking about Bryant's anatomy.
Thursday, Hartman and Thompson were comparing hearing about Bryant being charged to hearing about John Kennedy being assassinated, Ronald Reagan being shot, the O.J. Simpson chase and 9-11.
It's all getting out of hand, and making matters worse is that much of what is going out over the public airwaves is inappropriate for children and offensive to many adults.
But there's no holding back. It's full speed ahead, often with reckless abandon.
Bob Steele, director of ethics for the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Fla., said, "With talk radio, restraint is not a value that holds much value."
XTRA next week will place 40 billboards around Los Angeles that read: "KOBE: What's Next? Just Listen."
And it's only just begun.
In Other News
There are other things beside the Bryant case going on in the sports world these days.
The Tour de France, with Lance Armstrong vying for his fifth consecutive victory, concludes Sunday, with CBS offering delayed coverage at 11 a.m. and the Outdoor Life Network also offering delayed coverage at 6 p.m.
CBS averaged a 1.4 rating for its first two weekends of Tour de France coverage, up from a 1.2 at the same juncture last year. Outdoor Life reports its Tour de France ratings are up 135%.
The highest-rated sporting event in Los Angeles the last two weekends has been soccer's Gold Cup in Miami on Spanish-language Channel 34.
A match between Mexico and Brazil on July 13 drew a 5.3 rating, and Sunday's quarterfinal match between Mexico and Jamaica had a 5.6. By comparison, the final round of the British Open on ABC did a 3.3.
The Gold Cup championship match will be televised by Channel 34 live at 10 a.m. Sunday.
Monday Night Golf
There's plenty of golf on television this weekend. ABC has the Senior British Open, featuring Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, CBS has the Greater Hartford Open, and the Golf Channel offers the final two rounds of an LPGA tournament from France today and Saturday.
And then there's more golf on Monday.
ABC comes back with its fifth edition of what might be called "Monday Night Golf." Monday's 5 p.m. show, titled "Battle at The Bridges" because it takes place at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe, has Tiger Woods and Ernie Els squaring off against Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia in a best-ball format.
The first of these Monday night made-for-TV golf events was the "Showdown at Sherwood" in 1999. It pitted Woods against David Duval. Then came three "Battle at Bighorn" shows at Palm Desert, all with different formats.
The one constant has been Woods, which makes sense. The event was created by Trans World International, a division of International Management Group, which represents Woods.
Stop the Presses
ESPN's "SportsCenter" will devote two hours to one topic Tuesday at 7 p.m. No, it's not a two-hour special on the Bryant case. It's a two-hour "SportsCenter" special on "SportsCenter."
ESPN, never shy about promoting itself, will answer such vitally important questions about its flagship news show as:
* How are highlight package created?
* Who determines what's in the show?
* Do the anchors write their own material?
* What do the anchors do during commercial breaks?
Norby Williamson, senior vice president and managing editor, in explaining why ESPN is doing this, said, "Viewers like to go where they can't normally go. There's a natural curiosity."
Williamson added, "We're not taking ourselves too seriously. We're not patting ourselves on the back. There will be a bloopers segment. We're not being self-indulgent, we're having some fun."
Stuart Scott and Kenny Mayne will serve as the hosts of the special.
For those more interested in the sports news of the day, there will be a regular "SportsCenter" on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. that night, with Dan Patrick and Kevin Frazier anchoring.