This media market — and, more importantly, this community — lost an invaluable asset with the passing of Chris Thomas. As so many have already noted, he was knowledgeable, witty and fun. Listeners to his late morning show on WDAE-620 felt better for having been privy to his insights and his antics.
Conversely, viewers of Channel 8 still felt cheated for having been deprived of his presence since WFLA-TV cut him loose in 2000 and started playing the junior varsity. Management still bears the responsibility — borne mainly of cost-cutting — for not renewing Thomas’ contract. And it still bears responsibility for having ratcheted down its on-air quality and chemistry — at 6 p.m and 11 p.m. — after Thomas’s firing.
What the station jettisoned was a media personality who truly saw sports for what they were. He was never defined by the athletic celebrities in his orbit. Nor did he ever play the part of “homer,” even if references to RayJay as the “CITs” wore a bit thin. No way were athletes “warriors” to Thomas.
Sports, as Thomas would remind us in his inimitable way, could be fun and exciting, but they — especially at the professional level — were also part of a parallel universe that was more like the theater of the absurd. Ultimately sports were just about games.
Thomas called it as he saw it — through his unique prism of knowledge and surrealism.
But in so calling, he manifested a depth of understanding and frame of reference that surpassed anyone else in this market. Thomas was the only on-air, sports personality in Tampa Bay who could have made it in any market. He was a pro’s pro who made it fun.
He has left both a legacy — and a void.