The Curious Case of Don Orsillo

orsillo

It is one thing to begin this by saying that all was well in Red Sox Nation when New Englanders were stunned at the Don Orsillo news—except all was not well in Red Sox Nation.

The Boston Red Sox were mired in last place—a team that was going nowhere in 2015.

After winning their first World Series title at home since 1918 (in 2013—the year of the Boston Marathon bombings), it has been all downhill ever since then.

It was bad enough Red Sox fans had to suffer through losing games. It is another thing when you lose a beloved announcer—which is about to happen.

In late August, Red Sox Nation was rocked when NESN (a network which the Red Sox have an 80-percent ownership stake in) announced that beloved play-by-play voice Don Orsillo would not be returning to the broadcast booth at Fenway Park to call games.

Orsillo has been at the mic for the Red Sox since 2001, which means he and the Remdawg (Jerry Remy) witnessed the Red Sox “break the curse” when Boston won its first World Series since 1918 in a 4-0 sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals (after a miraculous 3-0 comeback of the Yankees in the ALCS).

It also means they saw the Sox win titles in 2007 and 2013.

From a business standpoint, Orsillo and Remy also were the Sox announcers when NESN took over the over-the-air broadcasts of Red Sox games that used to go to WSBK-TV and WBZ-TV (the latter of which is a CBS O&O affiliate for Boston).

It also means New Englanders have been treated over the past decade and a half to one of baseball’s most recognizable (also most relatable) voices. One of the things that made New Englanders fall in love with Orsillo and Remy was the bond they hand on air. Also, the stories they would tell to make sure Red Sox games were as entertaining in the booth as they were on the field.

In short, summers in New England over the past decade and a half have been synonymous with Orsillo and the Remdawg.

Personally, I have never lived in Boston. I have never even visited Boston, unfortunately but would like to one day. Maybe I’ll even work in Boston one day—who knows what life has in store.

But, I do remember ordering the MLB Extra Innings package in my younger years. I would tune in to the Red Sox broadcasts featured on MLB Extra Innings just to see if they would pick up the NESN feed—meaning Orsillo and Remy would be at the mic.

At the time I ordered MLB Extra Innings, it was also at a time when NESN’s sound quality was questionable to say the least—based on first-hand experience. Even with the shoddy sound quality, I still wanted to hear Orsillo and Remy call games because of the chemistry they had on air as well as them being two of the best on-air voices in all of professional sports, not just baseball.

It is needless to say that given the rapport Red Sox Nation has developed with Orsillo over the past decade and a half that when NESN and the Red Sox announced the decision, the backlash they received was swift and immediate.

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That immediately prompted someone to create a petition on change.org imploring NESN and the team to reverse their decision and bring back Orsillo.

As of this writing, that petition has obtained over 60,000 signatures.

https://www.change.org/p/john-henry-nesn-petition-to-keep-don-orsillo-at-nesn

The Red Sox later named their replacement—Dave O’Brien who is already the voice of the Red Sox on radio at the WEEI Radio Network. Given now that this leaves the WEEI Network with a void on the radio side, it led some to believe they were shifting Orsillo to radio.

Ever since, Red Sox Nation has simply asked why did NESN make such a decision to can Orsillo—a name that has become synonymous with Red Sox baseball and summers in New England.

According to a Boston Globe report, the source of what is going on seems to be Joseph Maar—the recently hired vice president of programming and production as well as executive producer of NESN. Maar, which has little to no Boston ties, worked previously at ESPN as well as with Fox Sports North in Minneapolis.

Maar, shortly after the outrage for the Orsillo ouster became public, he changed his Twitter profile to private. Way to be transparent with your viewers.

It was suggested Maar was never a fan of Orsillo’s and preferred O’Brien more—probably a connection to when Maar was at ESPN. It was also suggested the Red Sox were merely blaming Orsillo for the low ratings of Red Sox broadcasts this season.

Uh…yeah, right.

If anyone wants to know the real reason why Red Sox television (NESN) and radio (WEEI Network) ratings are down—it is because the Red Sox (as of this writing) are in last place in the American League East with a 64-72 record and 14 games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays.

If announcers for any sport had any effect on ratings, there would be a lot of announcers in all sports today that would not be calling games.

There was a report out of the Chicago Tribune that mentioned that Cubs ratings in Chicago for radio (WBBM 780/105.9) and television (Comcast SportsNet Chicago, WGN, WLS, etc.) are up this season. There’s one simple reason why the Cubbies’ ratings are high this year—THE TEAM IS WINNING FOR A CHANGE!

The Red Sox wanted to go in a different direction for the team? Have fun with getting rid of one of the only things with the team that was worth anything in 2015. Brilliant public relations, isn’t it?

After the announcement of the upcoming departure from NESN and the Sox, it was later revealed that the network was supposed to keep the thing on the down-low until January. Thankfully, sources got to the WEEI Network’s Dennis & Callahan, putting a monkey wrench in NESN and the Sox’ master plan to skewer Orsillo.

He didn’t talk to the media much after the announcement and hasn’t talked much to the media since—keeping the focus on doing his job as professionally as possible even if the Sox have a target on his back. The same couldn’t be said for Remy, who was noticeably fighting back tears when talking to reporters about the NESN decision.

http://boston.cbslocal.com/2015/08/26/jerry-remy-chokes-up-talking-about-don-orsillo/

“For the last 15 years, it’s been a pleasure to work with Don. I can remember him sitting in the booth when the job became available. He was asking me if there was any chance he could get it. I said a few things to a few people. He’s been an outstanding partner for 15 years, and I’m truly going to miss him on on a work-related side and I’m also going to miss him on a personal side because he has also become a very, very close friend of mine.” –Jerry Remy per ESPNBoston’s Gordon Edes

The shame of it is O’Brien is not a bad announcer, but he’ll be seen in some circles as part of the problem because Maar prefers him to Orsillo—per the reports coming out of Boston.

It appears Bostonians and New Englanders are more opposed to this decision than they were with the NFL’s handling of the DeflateGate controversy or the idea of hosting the 2024 Olympics in Boston!

Also after the news was announced, the obvious question asked was if Orsillo would be hired for a national gig. Of course he would be hired for a national gig because he’s that good of an announcer. He has done work in the past for TBS, so it is only right if he were to be tapped for a national announcing job at TBS, ESPN, or MLB Network.

Plus, Orsillo is only in his 40’s—so he’ll be a signature voice of sports telecasts for probably the next 30 or so years.

When the Red Sox returned home (they were on the road when the reports were confirmed of Orsillo’s impending departure), they were returning home to an angry Dontourage. Fans were protesting outside Fenway Park on Yawkey Way with signs in support of their soon-to-be-silenced voice.

Only one problem—those fans when trying to enter Fenway Park had their pro-Orsillo signs confiscated by Fenway security at the behest of the Red Sox.

Tom Werner, Red Sox chairman, was also involved along with Maar and Sox fans immediately reminded everyone that this was the same guy who gave us Bill Cosby. And if you have been reading the headlines lately, that is not a name you want to be associated with in 2015. Maybe in 1985, but not 2015.

Mediawise, it also comes at an interesting for the Red Sox in terms of who will broadcast their games. The WEEI Network has encountered intense competition from CBS’s 98.5 The Sports Hub ever since the station first debuted in 2009.

They’ve been praised for being more about sports talk than non-sports talk (i.e. that not-so-Boston-like political ramblings of D&C), they’ve inherited some of the audience that was with former legendary Rock station WBCN 104.1 when they moved its morning show of Toucher & Rich to the Sports Hub, and have become the flagship station for New England Revolution soccer, Boston Celtics basketball, Boston Bruins hockey, and New England Patriots football.

All the WEEI Network has is the Red Sox—whose contract with the team expires after next season. The Hub may not have enough room for the Red Sox and the team may not be worth bidding on since it is likely going to be a bad team next year again. So the team may stay with the WEEI Network.

Or they may move. Crazier things have happened in the realm of sports media. Just ask the White Sox who signed a multi-year deal to move to Cumulus Chicago News/Talker WLS 89 (a station with little to no sports history) beginning next year after a long time on CBS Sports talker WSCR 670 the Score (subsequently moving the Cubs to the Score for next year).

So this isn’t the first bit of media business the Sox will be engaged in over the next 16 or so months and if the team eventually signs for a less-than-desirable deal (which they won’t because the WEEI Network has to keep the team somehow, some way), then Red Sox Nation will immediately let the team know how it and the network handled this Orsillo sitch.

How badly was it handled? So horribly the WEEI Network reported NESN asked Orsillo to tweet the decision for him to part was “mutual” when it really wasn’t. It was a decision made entirely by NESN and the Red Sox.

Going back to how much backlash the Red Sox have encountered since the reports first came out, I immediately honed in on this tweet courtesy of Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsThe first thought that entered into my big head was 2003.

What happened in 2003? Oh, Atlanta Braves fans remember vividly what happened in 2003.

In the heyday of the Braves, they had a national following on TBS, including its announce team of Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren, and Ernie Johnson, Sr. Caray and Van Wieren, later on, as Braves broadcasters were paired in the booth with Joe Simpson and Don Sutton, respectively for TBS on the TV side and News/Talk 750 WSB on the radio end.

This was the case—until a brief period of 2003 that turned things upside down.

In 2003, TBS began experimenting with a concept that made a lot of Braves fans puke—the idea of announcers calling Braves games with a neutral outlook on the baseball without being so explicitly Braves-centric.

The broadcasts were rebranded as “MLB on TBS.” They also figured that Don Sutton and Joe Simpson were the men for the job, so they were at the microphone for the Braves…er…I mean “MLB on TBS” telecasts. Nevermind that Sutton and Simpson were still doing radio work for their flagship radio station, they were the men for the job.

It was also the surest sign that after America Online (AOL, for those keeping score at home) merged with Time Warner that this was no longer the TBS that was the brainchild of Ted Turner—the Braves’ former owner and that TBS was looking into its future sans the Bravos.

They planned to ditch the Braves altogether for a national MLB package that would likely include lots and lots of Yankees and Red Sox games. What happened to Skip and Pete? They were shifted to the radio side at News/Talk 750 WSB—but not entirely. Why? Because Braves games were also being aired on a network called Turner South, a southern sister station to TBS.

What was Turner South? This YouTube video it showed in its five-year anniversary in 2004 explains better than I could…but I’ll try: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AknjSXEF-EA

It essentially was a Southern-lifestyle kind of channel that showcased all aspects of living in the South—music, food, heritage, outdoors, history, radio (it simulcasted The Rick & Bubba Show out of Country 104.7 WZZK in Birmingham), and even sports as it aired Atlanta Braves baseball, Atlanta Hawks basketball, and Atlanta Thrashers hockey.

Well, in 2003, Turner South’s baseball broadcasts were still branded as “Braves on Turner South” with guess who calling the games? Ding, ding, ding if you said Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren.

Braves fans were ticked about this given that most games at the time were still on TBS and that Turner South was not a national network like The Superstation was. Turner South was a channel that was only available in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and the western half of North Carolina. It wasn’t even available in Florida which drew the ire of fans there because Floridians that wanted the channel (probably only for the Braves if anything) felt their state was just as “South” as Georgia or South Carolina.

Baseball’s territorial restrictions re: the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays and Miami (Florida) Marlins may have had something to do with those as well in addition to the perception that Central and South Florida aren’t really “South” so a South-centric network may not sell well in that part of the state. I digress, though.

So unless you were in the South, you likely were not getting you Skip and Pete fix.

Braves fans for two to three months let TBS and the Braves hear it. I remember frequenting the TBS message boards a lot that year. I could find almost no one on those boards that gave TBS praise for the Skip and Pete debacle. Everyone in those boards wanted them back on TBS and for the station to ditch its “MLB on TBS” branding. They lambasted also how out of touch Simpson and Sutton seemed to be with the average fan as opposed to the passion of Skip and Pete.

The backlash was so great that neither the team nor the network could ignore it any longer. Caray and Van Wieren were back with TBS by the midpoint of the 2003 season and in 2004, the “MLB on TBS” branding was dropped in favor of “Braves TBS Baseball.” This included the debuting of new, more interactive elements to TBS/Braves telecasts, including Friday broadcasts which were called “Braves TBS Xtra.”

Of course, TBS only remained with the Braves until 2007 with the number of Braves games on TBS gradually decreasing year by year until the beginning of their new MLB contract. Both Caray and Van Wieren, have since passed away.

So, yes, there have been instances where announcers were returned to a team’s telecasts because of public pressure except in that instance, Caray and Van Wieren’s role was lessened without being entirely jettisoned. Orsillo is being jettisoned by the Red Sox/NESN entirely and all of Red Sox Nation is in a tizzy.

And as you read this, the change.org petition probably just gained another 100 or so signatures.

The Braves scenario may not necessarily have to play out in this case because of a report suggesting Orsillo has an offer from the Angels to join its broadcast team, potentially meaning Victor Rojas (who was once at MLB Network) may be pushed out in favor of the soon-to-be-ex Boston broadcaster.

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2015/09/04/nesn-reportedly-asked-don-orsillo-to-lie-bout-his-firing-to-red-sox-fans-he-declined/

The backlash to the Orsillo in Boston isn’t going any time soon because ask any New Englander they would describe his broadcasting skills. They are likely to respond with two words—Wicked Pissah.

Whereas Werner, Maar and the rest of NESN are simply Massho… who they wish they could throw into the Hahbor.

Is this the end for Atlanta’s 790 the Zone?

790

If there was a such thing as a “dead station airing,” channel 79 on the ATL’s radio dial would qualify as just that.

WQXI-AM 790 in Atlanta, once a longtime Top 40 outlet known as “Quixie in Dixie” over the last few years has aired a sports format better known as “790 the Zone.” It was once an affiliate of the Fox Sports Radio network but has since been airing ESPN Radio over the past couple of years.

Recently, 790 the Zone along with its sister station WSTR-FM “Star 94” (Adult CHR) were sold from Atlanta-based Lincoln Financial Media to metro-Philadelphia based Entercom in a deal which saw LFM exit the radio business.

Entercom also bought a number of stations in Denver, San Diego, and Miami.

The stations Lincoln divested included a comedy station on a translator, a Rhythmic CHR KQKS “KS 107.5” and Oldies station KRWZ Cruisin’ 950 in Denver.

Entercom also bought a few Miami stations in the deal. They acquired WAXY-AM/FM 790/104.3 The Ticket, WLYF-FM 101.5 Lite FM, and WMXJ-FM Magic 102.7 (Oldies/Classic Hits).

The San Diego stations they picked up were KBZT-FM 94.9, KSON/KSOQ 97.3/92.1 Country, and KIFM-FM Easy 98.1.

Interestingly, the Justice Department told Entercom and Lincoln Financial that it had to divest a few of its Denver stations in the deal given that they felt Entercom after the deal would have too much of a hold on that market.

As a result Entercom had to offload a few of its well-cherished Rocky Mountain outlets. Among those were KOSI 101 (Adult Contemporary and heritage Christmas station), KYGO 98.5 (Country), and KKFN Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan. Entercom also also agreed to offload KEPN 1600 The Zone which has shows from from the NBC, CBS, Fox, and Yahoo Sports Radio networks on its station.

Entercom didn’t simply give them up for nothing as they called up Bonneville and asked if they could trade their Denver cluster for Classic Rocker KSWD 100.3 The Sound in Los Angeles.

Bonneville agreed. They bought the station a few years ago from Radio One when it was KRBV V-100—an Urban AC. It began as a AAA station before surely evolving into a highly rated Classic Rock station—including luring in Mark Thompson to join their station (yes, that Mark Thompson formerly of 95.5 KLOS “Mark and Brian” fame).

So, thanks to the Entercom-Lincoln Financial-Bonneville pact, the future of 790 WQXI is up in the air.

And that whole thing about this is 790 may not have any programming left unless they act fast.

Ever since Dickey Broadcasting’s WCNN-AM 680 The Fan ditched its ESPN Radio affiliation to become that of CBS Sports Radio (along with a lot of Cumulus and CBS sports stations) it allowed for the ESPN affiliation in Atlanta to be found elsewhere.

It went to 790 the Zone.

But recently, ESPN had announced it was returning to 680—joining a growing list of Cumulus/Dickey sports outlets switching out of their CBS Sports Radio affiliation—which is ironic given Cumulus handles sales for CBS Sports Radio.

Meaning as of August 17, 790 may not have any programming with ESPN going back to 680. This is why the station’s new bosses at Entercom need to act and they need to act fast if they haven’t already acted.

CBS already has a sports talk station in Atlanta—92.9 the Game which is currently the flagship station for Atlanta Falcons football and Atlanta Hawks basketball. With 680 ditching CBS, 92.9 will likely assume that affiliation.

With ESPN, Fox, and presumably CBS all with stations in the ATL, this could mean Entercom would probably affiliate 790 with either NBC Sports Radio or Yahoo Sports Radio if it wants to maintain the sports format.

It has also been speculated Entercom may want to sell its two newly acquired Atlanta outlets to CBS given the market was not exactly as important in the original merger talks with Lincoln as Denver was.

CBS has a small yet sizable presence in Atlanta between WVEE-FM V-103, 92.9 the Game, and WAOK 1380. All three stations draw high numbers among Atlanta’s African-American audience. They’re basically a second Radio One.

If Entercom makes 790 into a CBS Sports Radio station, it could be an indication they plan to offload WQXI to CBS and make it a sister station to 92.9 with 790 airing the CBS Sports Radio network on a 24/7 basis.

It would be another arrangement where CBS has two stations in one market—one of which airs CBS Sports Radio and the other that airs the local sports format. CBS already has this in Baltimore (1300/105.7 the Fan), Washington, D.C. (1580/106.7 the Fan), Detroit (1270/97.1 The Ticket), and Houston (Sports Radio 610/650) among others.

CBS also had this arrangement in Philadelphia with 610 and 94.1 WIP-AM and FM before it sold 610 to Beasley. It had it in Tampa/St. Petersburg before 1010 AM and 98.7 became Beasley properties (1010 became financial talk and 98.7 became WBRN-FM “Bubba (the Love Sponge) 98.7.”)

It is unlikely Salem would want it since they already have a radio station in Atlanta at WGKA 920 The Answer.

Or it could simply take the station silent or flip its format to something else, putting what has been (as of late) a miserable few years for the sports station. But how did it get this bad? How?

At one point in time, 790 The Zone was the biggest competitor to 680 the Fan for sports radio supremacy in Atlanta. While 680 marketed itself more as a station for the college football fan, 790 explicitly branded itself as the go-to station for Georgians who wanted their Falcons fix.

680 and 790 were also locked in this battle of wits for Atlanta sports radio dominance when there were only three major sports radio networks—ESPN, Fox, and Sporting News (which later became Yahoo Sports Radio).

One of the founders of the station was Steak Shapiro—but the 790 founders also had business interests in radio in St. Louis—business interests that did not turn out the way they hoped it would which hurt 790’s books.

But, what set The Zone apart from 680 were two personalities in particular.

2-Live-Stews

The Two Live Stews.

If there was any sports show that fit Atlanta like a glove, it was that of the Stews.

Ryan and Doug Stewart was exactly what one would think of if they were thinking of the prototypical Atlanta sports show. They were hip, they were young, they were in the African-American community, they talked sports as well as urban pop culture, and had a personality about themselves that made them relatable to the Atlanta sports fan.

In fact, the Stews’ star shone so bright at one point in time they were regular guests on ESPN’s First Take (when it still in its infancy as opposed to the Skip Bayless-Stephen A. Smith shoutfest it is today).

The station was also once the flagship station for the Hawks and Georgia Tech athletics.

Then—the Michael Vick dogfighting incident happened and many diehard fans of the Falcons wanted Vick to be thrown off the team.

Some were dog lovers but others simply wanted him off the team because they felt he was overrated and hadn’t delivered a Super Bowl to Atlanta like he was so widely touted to do.

It was said that some of the Stews’ opinions on Vick in the light of the dogfighting scandal alienated a lot of 790’s audience outside of the “Perimeter”—an area of the metro-Atlanta area that seems to separate the liberal/African American area of the region from the more conservative parts of the area.

Ultimately, the Stews were fired and despite their high-profile local and national notoriety have not been hired to a new radio station since.

But, along with the initial financial troubles that occurred in St. Louis, the programming changes that occurred with the Stews happened after Lincoln Financial assumed control of the station in 2010.

Lincoln Financial may have been based in Atlanta, but as evidenced by them trying to make the show sound more appealing to people who live in north Fulton County, Lincoln Financial apparently did not know diddly about Atlanta.

Slowly but surely, prior to their firing, they tried to remove all of the elements that made the show so appealing to an urban audience from the show. The Stews may have been an Atlanta show with syndicates, but it appeared as if Lincoln Financial wanted to make them sound like a show out of Denver instead of Atlanta.

Hint, hint—maybe this is part of the reason why LFM’s out of radio.

The Stews wanted nothing to do with Lincoln Financial tinkering with their show the way they did but they rolled with the punches—and were still released from their station before their contracts had expired.

And up to this day, no station has picked them up even after this had happened. Not even 92.9 the Game has picked them up and the bread and butter of their show is the black male listenership of the ATL.

It has even been something that has puzzled both brothers as they told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but they both at least seem to be financially stable.

Why hasn’t a national outlet like CBS Sports Radio or even NBC Sports Radio picked them up? This is especially the case for these networks like CBS which thrives on personalities and a network like NBC which is seemingly lacking personality.

Sports stations have said nice things about them to the papers, but seem to balk on the idea of actually hiring them. It is unbelievable that such a show with such a following has not been hired by a sports radio (or television) station two years after their non-compete from 790 ended.

That was undoubtedly the beginning of the end for 790. Steak Shapiro and another businessman, Andrew Saltman had business problems in St. Louis which precipitated the sale to Lincoln Financial. But it was obvious the Stews were Shapiro hires. Hiring the Stews was arguably the best move Steak Shapiro ever made.

And it looked to be obvious from the start Lincoln Financial did not know how to run a station Shapiro put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into making a powerhouse in Atlanta radio.

Ultimately, they lost the rights to air Georgia Tech athletics to Citadel (which later merged with Cumulus) when it flipped WYAY-FM Eagle 106.7 to Oldies as “True Oldies” 106.7 which later flipped to All-News and then to News/Talk (News Radio 106.7—now the co-flagship of the Braves with 680 the Fan).

They later lost Tech to 680.

In 2011, 790 did get a pick-me up when it was announced they were the official station to air Atlanta Falcons football—along with Star 94. It was a big get for a station that had explicitly branded itself as the station for Falcons coverage. Now they had the games to boot. Included in the coverage would be Chris Dimino and Steak Shapiro.

They assumed the rights from the previous Falcons’ station—WZGC 92.9 Dave FM which had spent eight years as the Dirty Birds’ flagship station.

But a couple of years into their Falcons contract, the unraveling of 790 really went into warpspeed.

In 2012, CBS replaced 92.9 amidst low ratings (and in the midst of a wild year in Atlanta radio that saw WKLS-FM Project 9-6-1 flip to CHR “Power 96.1”), with 92.9 the Game—the first FM sports station in Atlanta. 680 flexed its muscles by buying out a 93.7 translator.

Two of Atlanta’s three primary sports talk stations were on FM. 790 was nowhere to be found on the FM dial, leading to plenty of speculation on the radio message boards (and in the trade publications) on if 94.1 were to be sacrificed to make way for 790 or if Lincoln would buy another station and place 790 on it.

Neither happened. This was the first big mistake 790 made—and they would make plenty.

Ironically, it can be said CBS flipped 92.9 to sports because original speculation had 92.9 going All-News with Dave struggling in the ratings. Eventually, Cumulus did that with 106.7.

Between the controversial firing of the Stews and the fact that Lincoln Financial never invested in an FM for 790, it was not exactly the happiest of radio operations in Atlanta despite grabbing the Falcons’ rights.

gleason

Then, in 2013, an incident happened that would essentially prove the station was hitting rockbottom.

790 had a show called “Mayhem in the AM” which was hosted by Nick Cellini along with Shapiro and Dimino. They mocked the fact that format New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason was diagnosed with ALS by turning it into a bit on their show. The hosts themselves later admitted that they were uncomfortable with what went down, but they were prodded into doing it on air and they did it on air.

The hosts were later fired by the radio station for the bit—which did not go unnoticed by a New Orleans radio station—WMTI 106.1 The Ticket.

The three hosts later apologized—an apology that was accepted by Gleason.

They all later regretted doing the bit—a clear indication the bit was not the idea of either of the three hosts. Cellini later called the firing a blessing in disguise and also described 790 as a “sinking ship” because of the debut of 92.9 and Lincoln Financial not investing in an FM stick.

All had other gigs prior to what happened and all are back on the radio today at 680. Cellini later committed himself to donating to the Gleason Foundation.

The Atlanta Falcons also had to issue a statement given that it was their flagship radio station and the PR backlash also affected them. A national Fox Sports personality even planned to boycott the station (and this is while they were a Yahoo Sports affiliate).

But what the incident showed is just how far 790 had fallen since its heyday of the Stews. While 680 had the Braves and 92.9 picked up the Hawks, 790 didn’t have much left and the incident (plus 92.9’s presence) only made it easier for the Falcons to seek greener pastures on another radio station.

In early 2014, Lincoln Financial later pulled the plug on the remainder of 790’s local programming such as a morning show with Alge Crumpler and JP Peterson as well as an afternoon show with Mike Bell and David Archer. 790 was officially nothing more than a 24/7 jukebox for ESPN while still maintaining (for the time being) the Falcons’ flagship rights.

No way the Falcons were going to be on a station that has fallen as far as 790 has, so the writing was on the wall. It became even moreso after Georgia Tech signed a new deal with 680 the Fan. In addition, the Falcons began transitioning to 92.9 as they dumped Star 94 as the FM flagship for the CBS radio station.

The move was completed in early 2015. 790 had lost the Falcons. The only thing that kept the station afloat at that point was ESPN—and they even lost that in lieu of the (at the time) pending Entercom sale as ESPN reunited with the Dickeys at 680 the Fan and 1230 The Fan 2 (which will air the four-letter’s radio network on a 24/7 basis).

The only question remaining is what will Entercom do now that it owns the 790 frequency? Is a sale to CBS possible? Maybe even though it could be surprising given the way CBS has slashed payroll all over the country.

CBS has been in a selling mode as of late which is why the Quixie question has to be the most perplexing one on the minds of Atlanta radio aficionados.

There is one reason as to why CBS would want to buy 790—and that is to use it as a satellite stick for 92.9 in case of anytime Falcons and Hawks coverage overlaps to take any potential load off WAOK or V-103.

But again it may be unlikely given CBS is slashing properties nationwide.

Entercom has a heck of a decision to make as D-Day is August 17 when all ears will be following what (if anything) will be heard on the 7-9-0 in the A-T-L.

When Sports Teams Want to Be the Media

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This one is basically being written because of my reading of a Deadspin article. Yes, I read Deadspin articles.

Many of them are interesting, but this one in particular got my attention. It was one about Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and how he practically got a horde of sports reporters in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area to kiss his feet.

And his butt…

And a few other things on his body.

The article basically said that ever since Dan Snyder bought the Redskins in 1999, he has tried his damndest to essentially control the flow of information regarding his team. In other words, he wants the entire Washington sports media market to serve as a public relations outfit for his team.

Deadspin mentioned a deal that Snyder just inked with the Washington Times where a weekly Redskins magazine will be distributed via the Times and where its staff will appear on the Redskins’ website.

In other words, don’t expect to see any anti-Redskins stuff (including columns advocating for the changing of the Washington team name) anywhere within the pages of the Washington Times.

This is a newspaper that already is trying to uphold a reputation as one of the most conservative-friendly papers in the nation, rivaling the New York Post, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for that title. It tries to be a conservative alternative to the supposedly liberal-leaning Washington Post.

But, since you already have stated unabashedly that you’re virtually an advocacy rag that tubthumps for right-leaning causes, why should anyone be surprised that you have linked up with the Redskins and its owner, who also happens to be a Republican and donates money to GOP candidates.

So, what else? An announcement that Snyder is also going to be a Washington Times columnist himself?

Political mess aside, this is more about the idea of sports teams (more like, sports owners) being able to control the narrative about their teams especially when their teams’ on-field play is not exactly the best thing going on.

The New York Yankees (YES Network), New York Mets (SNY), Boston Red Sox (NESN), Chicago Cubs/White Sox (Comcast SportsNet Chicago), Los Angeles Dodgers (SportsNet LA), and Houston Astros (Comcast SportsNet Houston) are among the teams with their own RSNs. Even though in the latter cases in Los Angeles, and Houston, those RSNs are not attracting a lot of cable coverage.

The New York Knicks (MSG Network), Los Angeles Lakers (Time Warner Cable Sports Net), Denver Nuggets (Altitude), and Chicago Bulls (Comcast SportsNet Chicago) are among the NBA teams with regional sports networks that they own. The cases with the Time Warner channels in Los Angeles are also striking because, in both cases, the coverage of the teams is relatively soft—even though the Lakers are one of the NBA’s worst teams at the moment.

Many sports teams now own regional sports networks which are able to make a lot of money for their respective teams. Some even own their own radio stations, like the St. Louis Cardinals did a few years back when they moved off of KMOX 1120 for 550 KTRS. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim own their flagship radio station, 830 KLAA-AM.

All four major sports leagues also own their channels, but much to their credit, the on-air talent does not (for the most part) allow the ownership structure of the networks to dictate favorable coverage to a league commissioner. This was illustrated when MLB Network (especially Bob Costas—a common critic of Commissioner Bud Selig) roundly criticized Selig as part of baseball’s problem with performance enhancing drugs when Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was found to have used PEDs.

So, the Snyder case with the Redskins illustrates just how desperate he is in controlling the media narrative around his team. Instead of trying to earn positive coverage with (gasp!) a winning football team, he wants to be lazy and not help in fielding a winning football team, then control the media so no one will say anything negative about him.

In short, that’s what you call an owner who is only using a team as an ATM and could care less if his team has any on-field success or not. Money talks and BS walks.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the fact that Snyder owns the flagship station of his team’s radio network—ESPN Radio 980 WTEM. It also has two repeater signals on 92.7 FM WWXT and 94.3 FM WWXX. Needless to say, you won’t hear any more anti-Snyder blabbery on 980 AM moreso than you will see in the pages of the Washington Times thanks to that new deal.

That, perhaps explains why even with its extra sticks, 980 is still not up to par in terms of ratings with its rival across the street, WJFK-FM CBS Radio’s 106.7 The Fan—the flagship station for the Nationals, Capitals, and Wizards as well as an affiliate of Virginia Tech athletics and CBS Sports Radio.

Whereas The Fan does not hold The Fans hostage with pro-Snyder and pro-Redskins coverage motivated only by fattening of paychecks, 980 is essentially Dan Snyder’s PR outlet. In the July PPMs, 106.7 The Fan had a 2.3 whereas ESPN Radio 980 only mustered a 1.5.

Some of that 2.3 can be attributed to the Nationals and the fact that they are having a successful season up to this point. Nats radio ratings on 106.7 the Fan are surging this season, mostly because of the clarity of the FM signal and the success of the team.

But, it also has a lot to do with the fact that (especially) in Washington, DC, people will want to listen to any media outlet that does not have any financial stake in protecting any big boys.

Compare Dan Snyder’s idea of blacklisting any media type that dares to publish or utter one bad word about him in the District to that of the Jaguars and their media relations this year.

Even though the Jacksonville Jaguars are one of the worst teams in the NFL (so bad that they were once rumoured to be allowing fans to watch NFL RedZone on its JumboTron during games at Everbank Field), they seem to be pretty savvy in terms of media relations.

This year, the Jaguars ended a partnership with Cox Radio and its Conservative News/Talk radio station 104.5 WOKV that goes back to when the Jaguars became an NFL franchise in the 1990s. They signed with a new station this year to broadcast Jaguars games—WJXL AM/FM 1010 XL 92.5—owned by Seven Bridges Radio.

That station airs a sports format and is affiliated with ESPN Radio. It also includes for games to air WGNE-FM 99.9 Gator Country (owned by Renda Broadcasting).

The station talked all day on the occasion of the announcement that they landed the Jags’ rights about the deal and how big it was for the station to be the flagship of Duval’s only professional sports franchise. One of the guests on the station that day was Mark Lamping, team president. He said this:

“I want you to support us when we’re doing well and challenge us when we’re not doing so well.”

In my opinion, that was an extremely refreshing quote from a team president regarding a relationship that said team has or is about to enter into with a media outlet. Say what you want about the Jaguars on-field misadventures as of late, but there is no doubt about the fact that their media relations department is leaps and bounds better than that of the Redskins’.

He understood the concern that many in the Jacksonville/Duval area had about the possibility that the coverage on J-ville’s largest sports station could begin to get a little more skewed in favor of good coverage for a bad team. Lamping understood this and knew that he had to put out these concerns with one interview.

Granted, if the station actually stays to this promise is yet to be seen and heard and will be seen and heard by many in the area as the season unfolds. But, it was a refreshing first step.

Colin Cowherd on ESPN once remarked about how earlier in his radio career, he was on radio stations that happened to have rights to air team broadcasts. The on-air personalities had to temper their criticism of (or provide favorable coverage altogether of) those teams because of the financial ramifications of the relationship. He did not like being on those particular stations—and for good reason.

There’s no problem with sports teams becoming media. Sports teams, in fact, are already media by the fact that they have their own websites with their own content. But, does that mean that we can call a lot of these outlets, particularly Snyder’s, journalism?

There’s journalism and there’s public relations. What the Washington Times and ESPN Radio 980 are doing is public relations—and it’s not good PR either. We’ve found something else the Redskins are seemingly bad at.