A Few Last Thoughts About The Death of “The Sports Reporters 2.0”

7
130

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.

SLIDES_studioIn 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.

AA_steveczaban_showAndy 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.

AA_pollin25Andy 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.

SLIDES_nicklaus

7 COMMENTS

  1. Before I moved out of state, I would listen to “The Sports Reporters” all the time. Hands down, my favorite sports talk program. You kept it real, you actually talked about sports (amazing how many sports shows talk more about the entertainment industry instead of sports) and you made everyone laugh. I tune in on the app when I can and it feels like home. Gonna miss Andy Poley. You two were the dream team. I’ll never understand how these gasbags who always feel the need to yell and make up controversy succeed in sports media. “The Sports Reporters” was a class act with two real guys.

  2. Thanks for the tip on the app. Its what an old boss used to call a blinding glimpse of the obvious (its only obvious after its pointed out). Sorry to see Andy get the short end of the stick. I hope we see him back on the air sooner rather than later.

  3. As usual a great incisive article making known to us listeners some of the nuances of your business However you speak and write so well that the use of invective diminishes the final product – Cleaned up a bit and you’re on the way to become one of those iconic sports writers Think Bob Ryan – Mike Lupica – Tony Kornheiser ( but maybe that’s too close to home).

  4. Live in Charlotte, born and raised in Wisconsin, no ties to DC teams but have been a fan of both you and Andy, nationally and locally for quite some time. Starting with the Andy Polley days on the TK show and first heard you on the old One on One Sports Network. Thanks for making radio entertaining

  5. Very sorry to hear about Andy getting set aside like that. Radio is most definitely a tough business. I never listened to “The Sports Reporters” show much as I’m not a native to the area and just have no interest in the local angle on these shitbag teams that are horribly mismanaged, and yet the local fans (present company excluded) still somehow truly believe they are going to win the Super Bowl every August. That said, from what little I did listen to the show, I did appreciate Andy’s professionalism, sense of humor and grip on reality.

    Ok, all of that said…. WAIT WHAAAATTTTT!!?????? Don’t fuck with me Czabe. You’re telling me you’re getting the band back together???? I thought Christmas was in December! Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod, aaeeeeeeeeiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!! I don’t have to listen to real estate podcasts every damn minute I’m in my car anymore???

    I simply CANNOT adequately explain how desperately I have tried and inadequately I have failed to find any kind of non-puke-worthy sports and “bro-tainment” talk show to fill the MASSIVE void left in my life since the Czaben show went off the air.

    Hot DAMN it’s going to be good to hear you and the guys’ voice again, friend (that I have not met and you have no idea I even exist). You have no idea how happy my wife is going to be tonight when I tell her the good news. I’m simply a miserable grump without the Czaben show in my life.

    (BTW, as it dawned on me reading this piece, all I could hear playing in my head was that crazy happy celebration music with the violins and crashing symbols, etc. The voices in my head have sadly slowly started to die away, but the many Simpsons, Family Guy, etc.. soundbites from the old Czaben show remain an internal soundtrack to my life)

  6. I really do miss Andy with you in the afternoons. You two are an amazing pair on the radio. Add in Thom or Chris to the mix and it is radio gold, no matter what the sports topic of the day might have been. I like your new show. . .it reminds me of the show you SHOULD STILL BE DOING in the AM hours! I miss my Czabe two a days. The boys hold it down well in the AM in your absence. You got a good afternoon drive going. Still though. . .you with Linn and Solly in the AM and Andy Pollin in the PM was just so good. . .

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here