Mass Shooting Takes Sports Out of 710 ESPN Talk Radio Equation

The first two hours of today’s Mason & Ireland broadcast on 710 ESPN AM radio, beginning at noon with Max Kellerman sitting in for John Ireland (who is on the road traveling with the Lakers), was much like the rest of today’s tragically interrupted U.S. sports talk radio slate. The mass shooting of young children at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut was suddenly and deservedly the only topic of discussion.

Instead of people calling in to discuss Lakers losing streaks and Angels free agent signings, Steve Mason and Kellerman were fielding calls from people like a SoCal male registered nurse. The caller said that in his experience, it was not so much the quantity of mental health care available that was an issue as much as the quality of treatment. Much of what is available for people who need it, he explained, falls far below what it should be, mainly because of the higher expense of top-notch mental health treatment. This caller also chillingly suggested he has dealt with many perpetrators who were simply “pure evil.”

Ireland called in from Washington, where the Lakers play the Wizards tonight. He addressed the issue of how to talk to kids about what has happened today, and the idea that school security must become more of a consideration for parents when they select the place to send their kids.

Kellerman and Mason also got into issues like the lifting of a U.S. ban on the purchase of assault weapons and how first-person shooter video games might play into the minds of vulnerable individuals. Adding an unusual layer of depth to the discussion is the fact that Kellerman’s brother was the victim of a brutal murder.

As Mason remarked at one point, it’s very rare for his program to begin with a live statement from President Obama. At 2 p.m., the plan was to finally shift to the Kia Lakers Shootaround pre-game show and get ready for tonight’s match. Kudos to Kellerman and Mason for handling today’s tragedy with grace, intelligence and the proper amount of solemness.

@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.