Till the last show, he never shied away from discussions of race, and it seems only apropos that his final broadcast marks the end of Black History Month.
“You know what black folks call Black History Month?” he said, teasing his audience. “‘Mess with White Folks Month.’”
He said his most memorable moment was when Justice Clarence Thomas called in on the listener line to comment on a topic, which said everything: As gold standard as the guest list once was, Thompson’s convictions about society and race trumped anything about sports he opined about.
“Much of sports radio is antagonistic and sometimes mean-spirited; that was never the object of ‘The John Thompson Show,’ ” said Chris Johnson, Thompson’s producer for the show’s first seven years. (Full disclosure: Johnson’s now the producer of the radio show I co-host on WJFK 106.7 FM.) “John was always much more interested in dealing with issues. That’s not to say that the show wasn’t critical of certain players, coaches or franchises. But it was always done in a way that considered the people he was talking about.”
Thompson said he’s not retiring, “because that’s when they stop paying you,” he reminds everyone. He’ll continue to call national college games, including this year’s men’s Final Four.
But an era definitely ends locally, one in which a Washington legend through and through was finally unplugged and revealed in full. When we finally got to experience the persona behind Hoya Paranoia, we found out he wasn’t paranoid at all; mostly, Thompson was just perceptive.
“I’m not here to offend anybody,” he said. “But if the truth offends them, I’m not going to apologize.”
Congratulations on a great run. It’s time to lay back, kick your toes in the air and enjoy a sausage sandwich — because it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, John.
For Mike Wise’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/wise.