"Is Czaban really a 'D'?"-Dave Feldman
This week marks a new era for the now sports-centric 106.7 FM “The Fan”, formerly known as plain old WJFK. Many people have come out against the WJFK’s move to sports-only coverage, claiming that the D.C. sports market isn’t large enough to host two different sports stations. The other side of the coin argues that Dan Snyder’s ESPN 980 gives poor coverage of the entire District sports landscape and needs a little friendly competition. Personally, I don’t believe that the market can handle the extra coverage for too long, but Danny seems to be feeling the heat a little bit from WJFK already, so who which station will outlast the other and why?
ESPN 980 has the backing from “The Worldwide Leader” and an established listener base, so they find themselves in a more comfortable situation from the outset. They carry popular national programs like “Mike and Mike in the Morning” and “The Herd” with Colin Cowherd as well as a local mainstays with “The Sports Reporters” in the evenings. I’ve listened to 980 regularly since moving back to the area fifteen months ago, and I often find myself tired of the same old shtick fed to me every day. Mike and Mike only regurgitate the same garbage that ESPN covers on television about the same old teams: Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Cowboys, Patriots, Steelers, Lakers, Cavaliers, and Knicks (and Brett Favre/Terrell Owens too). Personally, if I want to listen to crap about how good a citizen Tony Romo is or how Pittsburgh has such a supportive, loyal fan base (another issue for another day, since EVERYONE seems to have some ties to Pittsburgh or New England nowadays), I’ll turn on ESPN at home. There’s a reason why I’ve stopped watching SportsCenter altogether.
Don’t get me wrong…I spent almost every morning for almost fifteen years of my life watching the popular highlight show, but last February was the last straw. After Mike Green broke a 25 year old record (consecutive goals scored by a defensemen), and ESPN didn’t even MENTION it in their 90 minute Saturday show, I felt like it was time to watch something else. We all know that “no one” cares about hockey (except for Barry Melrose) according to the suits in Bristol, but that was a gross oversight their production team that day. Not to go on an ESPN rant, but this attitude is passed down to guys like Czaban and Pollin on a day-to-day basis. They give an EXTREMELY unbalanced amount of coverage to football and baseball while ignoring the best teams in the area. They regularly take 90% of their time to either badmouth management and ownership of any given DC franchise (including their boss Mr. Snyder and his live-in boyfriend Vinny Cerrato), or to discuss why people don’t care about certain sports like NASCAR or hockey. Even when the Caps were the only competitive team in the area (all the way up through December), they didn’t come around to coverage until about February because Czaban regularly stated on the air that he didn’t know or care about hockey whatsoever. Even considering the national disrespect that hockey gets, the hometown market demanded the coverage and 980 provided a POOR effort at best. Their best show, “The John Thompson Show” was scaled back to the point where Al Koken, who might have been the most intelligent person there, was laid off along with hometown favorite Brian Mitchell. Thompson now runs the show with Doc Walker (or by himself), and it’s a shell of its former self. There’s little left for 980 to offer the average DC fan other than the exclusive Redskins coverage that Danny provides for them, which leaves quite a lot to be desired).
I’ve taken this week to try and learn a little more about “The Fan” and I like what I see. Not only do the Junkies provide a better voice to the fans, and have always been loved for it, but the station has done a nice job of lining up Mike Wise to cover the lunchtime slot against Colin Cowherd. Wise grew on me through the course of the hockey season with some solid supplemental Caps coverage. He offered enough interesting stories to keep me looking for more every day. He does a great job of understanding the personalities of the athletes/coaches/management in the market (he’s proven that with solid interviews with Chris Cooley, Stan Kasten and Joe Gibbs already) and will continue to offer a non-Dan Snyder perspective overall. The most interesting (and possibly combustible) element to the new coverage has to be the new Lavar Arrington show, where the host continues to be a fan-favorite, but is very outspoken about his disapproval for elements of the Redskins organization. The closest that ESPN came to this type of show was with John Riggins, and they tossed him in favor of “The Sports Reporters” at the end of last summer. I’d love to see them bring in Koken around hockey season just to get a little better coverage on the sport, but I think that they’ve got a legitimate chance to put up a strong fight against 980. I believe that they carry a little less “industry standard” coverage and a little more fan voice, which is something that this town could use.
How do you all think this slugfest will turn out? Let me know what you think!
…oh even though ESPN wouldn't cover it, I will...is Ben Roethlisberger is a rapist? You make the call...