Radio ‘talkmaster’ is all talk

Published 2:38 pm Friday, May 22, 2009

This is the column I always wanted to write about the commencement speech that radio talk-show yakker Neal Boortz always wanted to give.

You remember Boortz, don’t you?

He is the guy who loves to jump on “pitiful government schools.” Evidently, he has always wanted to rant and rave at a bunch of college graduates and faculty, and just as evidently, no college or university gives a roaring rip what he thinks about anything.

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I am sure he wants everyone to assume he is “too hot to handle.” In fact, he is a cartoon character, and cartoon characters don’t make good commencement speakers. Not even Dilbert.

Since he can’t get invited to speak even to a school of fish, a well-meaning charity provided him a platform from which to pontificate. I received a note from a good friend touting the speech. I had to tell my friend that I wouldn’t promote Neal Boortz if he was to referee a pig fight even for a good cause. They will have to find another flack.

As you might imagine, there is a little background to my high dudgeon.

Several years ago, I heard him berating “pitiful government schools” because they don’t teach our children basic economics. He continues to beat on this theme even today.

The first time I heard that comment, my oldest grandson, Zack, then a junior at Chapel Hill High School in Douglas County, happened to mention that he was taking advanced economics and began to talk to me about supply-and-demand and economic theories and stuff I hadn’t heard since my days in BellSouth’s corporate offices.

Clearly, we had a disconnect between what Boortz thought was happening in public schools and what kids like Zack were actually learning.

Being somewhat nave about how show business works, I thought it would be fun to get “the Talkmaster” out of hiding from behind his microphone, cutting off people who have the temerity to disagree with him and let him debate Zack on economics. To make it easy for Boortz, I suggested the debate could be held anytime, anywhere, under any conditions, and I would pay for the whole thing. We would sell tickets, and the money would go to charity. What a deal.

Alas, I failed in my quest.

Over several years, I wrote a number of columns imploring him to accept the challenge. No response. When I finally corralled him at a social function, he sniffed that he was not interested. Although I wasn’t surprised, I remain at a loss to see what he had to lose.

If public schools are as pitiful as he says they are and are turning out economic idiots as he says they are, this would be a slam-dunk for him. Just to make it as fair as I could, I would have even counseled Zack not to bring up the Laffer Curve, in case Boortz thought it was something that measures the wit of standup comics. I certainly wasn’t out to embarrass the guy. You don’t do that to the Talkmaster.

The debate is moot now. As many of you know, Zack died suddenly last fall. He was a junior at Georgia Tech, majoring in civil engineering and doing exceedingly well there in spite of his “pitiful government school” education. At his memorial service, a stranger came up to me and said he wished I could have convinced Boortz to debate Zack, because Zack would have whipped his — well, something you don’t normally say in a Baptist church. And he would have, too.

I looked up Neal Boortz’s Web page recently, and on his site he makes a big deal out of being sure everybody knows he doesn’t read his mail. God-types seldom do. So there is a good chance he will never know about this column. Still, I have my fingers crossed. Maybe I will get lucky, and one of his minions or loyal listeners will get word to him that I think he is a self-promoting blowhard who doesn’t have the guts to back up his blather. About that, there is no debate.