It’s been one week since I lost my radio partner of almost 16 years, Andy Pollin. His contract with ESPN980 was not renewed after almost 25 years at the station. I haven’t taken a moment in this forum to say/write anything, so I wanted to do so now. For starters, your kind words to him – and us, by extension – on what the show “The Sports Reporters” meant to you as a listener all of these years mean more than you can imagine.
In radio, you sit in a glass box and talk into a microphone. You assume somebody is listening. Somewhere. You take some calls. You get some emails. You meet a few people at a remote. And that’s about it. You probably interact with 1% of your listening audience – if that! As such, you never quite get a feel for the actual reach and breadth of your work, and your show.
It’s not until you get fired that there’s at least a 10-fold spike in people emailing you to express their appreciation.
The feeling is wonderful. Not as wonderful as being gainfully employed, but it’s nice. It’s like you died, but get to stick around to actually hear people say nice things about you. Like I said on Twitter when the news went down: I’ve never had a bad day sharing a studio with him. He was and is a consummate pro and the most even keeled guy I’ve ever met. He has a pirate’s wit, and a cynic’s eye. It didn’t always shine through, but I saw and heard more of it off the air during breaks than anyone would ever know. Goddamn we laughed and laughed and laughed. Alot. On the air and off. Sadly, our local teams gave us so much dumb shit to laugh at all these years. More on that, in just a second.
Andy is a stud. He’ll have another run here in D.C. in some capacity. If fate allows, I’d love to be a part of it. For now, however I’ve got my own deal to focus on. Which is why I can’t do the “Sports Reporters Back From the Dead” podcast that we began last fall. If Andy starts some kind of digital offering – which I have urged him to do immediately – then I hope you people who liked him, and us together, will support it.
And I hope those of you who are big time Andy fans, come around to support my show in the afternoons going forward. No, it will not be the same. Not even close. But I intend to make it good – if not great – in it’s own way.
If you have not done so already, please download the ESPN980 app for your phone. This, is the future, my friends. In fact, it’s essentially the present. While I know that it’s easier to jump in the car and have the radio already on, it’s only 2 clicks and a swipe – if that – to fire up the station on the phone. Hell, I enjoy firing it up at home (in the shadow of West Virginia!), turning up the volume on the speaker, ducking the phone in my pants pocket, and I listen as I walk around the house doing stuff. It’s glorious!
As you already know here in the DMV, our signal on 980 AM craps the bed once the sun goes down. This is because we are required by FCC bylaws to “power down” at night. AM radio signals travel farther at night, so the FCC plays “traffic cop” to make sure an AM station 3 or more states away, doesn’t bleed over into other AM stations on the same dial position in a different city.
Your phone is a game changer. Not only can you easily get the show(s) you like, delivered in crystal clear stereo, in a click, but we get the added benefit of a more accurate count of listeners. The current Nielson/Arbitron system for radio ratings is well…. still very imprecise. Let’s leave it at that. Yet, it persists as the official “referee” of radio ratings for both broadcasters, advertisers, and marketing agencies.
Digital downloads don’t lie, however and someday soon, we’ll be at the point where quality programs get rewarded and advertisers don’t have to guess about where their target audience really is.
Get the app!
For the record, you might think that “The Sports Reporters” was cancelled due to low ratings. Not the case. We were (after just 9 months back together) trending higher than the previous drive-time offering on ESPN980, and even beating our across-the-street sports radio competition in the daypart. Some months, not always. We rode in the same general zone of Men 25-54 as we always have, for almost 16 years. I would gladly publish the numbers here, but the station would get in serious trouble with Nielson/Arbitron for doing so, as they guard those imprecise numbers with the ferocity of Olympic copyright lawyers.
Local radio fanatic/blogger Dave Hughes who runs DCRTV, has access to the numbers and shares them here in this video. Don’t take everything his says as gospel in this piece. But he’s more right than wrong.
Andy saw quite a run here at 980. Hell, he was here when the station was 570! He has seen four different owners, worked under at least 6 different general managers and 8 different program directors. He has worked about every time slot from sun-up to sun-down, and has covered every major sporting event and moment in this city along the way.
What Andy never got in all that time, however, was a championship – unless you count Maryland basketball in 2002. Wonderful as that was – especially for a die-hard Terp like himself – it’s nowhere near a pro-sports title among the big four. I have friends in radio in markets where teams WIN championships – and it’s like the money falls from the sky. And don’t kid yourself: EVERY sports town, is a front-runner town. EVERY. FUCKING. ONE!
How nice would it have been just once, for a radio lifer like Andy to ride that wave all the way to a parade downtown? He got screwed, like we all did. The Redskins never even graced the NFC Championship game in that span, much less made the Super Bowl, much less won it! And I sat there with Andy behind the glass, season after lost season of stupid and wayward, chronicling all of the missteps and disasters along the way.
There’s a myth that sports radio thrives when the local teams are bad – really bad, even dysfunctional. This is a lie. Sure, the phone lines light up like a telethon bank for the die-hard to spew their bile. But that’s all it is. The die hards. The core. There’s so many more casual fans who end up walking in the sports radio door when a team is on it’s way to a title.
I’m at 16 years and counting in the market, and I’d love to make it to 25 just like Andy did. It would be even nicer if we got a parade before then. I’ve got a real good feeling about this Caps team right now, which makes me a hopeless sucker for punishment. Nobody, but nobody, chokes like the Caps. The baseball team just needs to catch a damn break for once. The talent is all there, at least until Bryce Harper inevitably leaves for the Yankees. So they better hurry up.
And the Redskins, God bless ’em, need to figure out how lucky they are to have Kirk – and fast. I get a little less sure of that every day.
When there is that magical parade we all deserve so much as DC sports fans, I promise you this: Andy and I will do a show! “The Sports Reporters Championship Gala and Celebration!” Or something. It’ll be…. somewhere, somehow. Assuming we’re all alive.
It might be on a box, in the middle of the damn Mall. But it’ll be a glorious show. I hope you come.