The Most Boston Sports Radio Thing of All Time: Calling Bill Walton 'a Phony Hippie' and Playing a Clip of the Time You Hung Up on Him

Boston Globe. Getty Images.

Since it's been 24 hours since Bill Walton's untimely passing, I'll spare you the tributes. By now we've heard from everyone, and there'll be a lot more said in the days to come. Instead I'll just briefly mention that if you were around to witness the 1986 Celtics, no explanation is necessary. If not, no explanation will suffice. That team was arguably the most entertaining and unforgettable in the history of Boston sports. And as Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan put it early on, Walton and Larry Bird were the best passing big men ever, and the last time two men as gifted as them collaborated, their names were Lennon and McCartney. And they lived up to the hype. 

But Boston is a different sort of media market than the rest of the country. Especially when it comes to sports talk radio. If a character like Walton left the kind of indelible imprint he did in a town like, say St. Louis, Kansas City, Denver, or Milwaukee/Green Bay, his ticket would be punched forever and he'd be worshiped like a demigod for eternity. But Boston is built different. Here's the postmortem tribute Walton got this morning on The Sports Hub:

Source - [A] caller suggested to Toucher around 7:35 a.m. ET on Toucher & Hardy that the host pay tribute to Walton with a clip of him hanging up on Walton some 14 years ago after the Celtics lost the 2010 NBA Finals.

“While I don’t know, it happened,” Toucher said. “He called in and was acting a fool about his son on the Lakers.”

He then mocked Walton while mimicking his voice.

“‘Oh no, first of all, you gotta buy a Jeep Wrangler.’ But while he was selling cars, like make up your mind, you phony hippie. Are you really selling cars, or are you all about peace and love?” Toucher said.

Whether he was joking or not — we won’t assume — it’s in bad taste, especially calling Walton a “phony hippie.” … [P]erhaps you’re better off not commenting at all.

And when the show deliberated about playing the clip, Toucher uttered these lovely words: “Just go ahead; he’s dead. I didn’t kill him.” …

The clip played of Toucher asking Walton about Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals and where it ranked in the Celtics-Lakers rivalry.

“Over the years, I’ve learned to never rank coaches, concerts, children, championships or congratulations,” Walton says. “Just enjoy them all. And as a dad, that’s what I’m about. Because even though I’m a Celtic, even though the Celtics gave me my life back 25 years ago, more importantly I’m a dad. It’s not about me. I want what’s best for our son…”

That’s when Toucher hung up on Walton, accusing him of rooting for the Lakers. 

Let me start with some full disclosure here: I'm not impartial when it comes to Walton or Fred Toucher. Walton gave me more great memories in one season than some Hall of Famers do in their careers. Fred has had me as a guest on his show a bunch of times and has been nothing but gracious to me. I like him and I'm a fan of his work. So there's that. 

Now, you can argue that it's in bad taste to talk shit about someone before their body has even had a chance to cool down in those drawers at the medical examiner's office. Especially when the dearly departed is as universally beloved as Walton was. And you'd have a very good point. But with one exception. 

And that is, if it's how you really feel about the guy. 

Politeness paying your respects have their time and place. But so does honesty. If you've been publicly holding a grudge against a guy from 6am-10am Monday through Friday for 14 years, what's the point of hiding it? In a way, it's more disrespectful to a guy's memory to pretend you didn't hang up on him and didn't think he was a phony. Talk about how disrespectful saying this is to Walton's family, and I'll agree with you. But it's not like Toucher showed up to the wake and said, "I'm sorry for the loss of your phony hippie" as he went through the line. It's safe to assume they're too caught up in the grieving process and busy with the funeral arrangements to care that some radio host still hasn't gotten over the Celtics losing to the 2010 Lakers. 

To be clear, I wouldn't have said it. Or anything remotely like it. Because again, I loved Bill Walton. But we're all entitled to have some people in our lives who can die without us having to insincerely pretend we're grieving for them. If a thunderbolt from the heavens should come down and smite Roger Goodell for example, don't expect grudging tributes out of me about how he increased NFL revenue with his TV deals and grew the game overseas. When Raiders safety Jack Tatum (who paralyzed Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley with a cheap hit and then cashed in on it with book titled, They Call Me Assassin) died, I posted a blog about how he was being raped by Satan before his corpse evacuated its bowels. And I don't doubt there's hundreds of thousands of Jets fans who'd say the same thing about me. I regret nothing.

Strange as it might sound, Walton is one of those guys to Fred Toucher. And he chose honesty over decorum. You don't have to appreciate it. But at least you can respect it on a certain level. That's just how Boston sports radio rolls some times. It's not for everyone. And it's the opposite of what Tessio said about Michael Corleone after he tried to have him whacked: It's not business; it's only personal.