Sports radio still has some advantages compared with sports on TV after all these years. This observation started during one of those "What did you do to keep up with out-of-town games before the internet and before cable TV?" discussions.
I was explaining to a 20-something friend that when I was growing up it was radio that had the magic for sports fans. You could hear every pro game of your local team compared with a handful of games televised locally. Unless there was a storm in the region at night, you could pick up games from around the region and the country on clear signals coming in from distant cities. Ask a baseball fan at least 40 years of age how he or she got hooked, and chances are listening to legendary broadcasters on the radio late at night will be among the top 3 answers.
Long before the internet and SportsCenter, radio stations also gave us sports news night after night. There was WJR Detroit doing a 15 minute sports wrap up at 11:15 PM. On weekends KYW Philadelphia used to do as much as 12 minutes of sports each half hour, especially during college football season. KMOX St. Louis "At Your Service" would run down the scores consistently overnight. And on it goes.
Through it all, radio has and continues to this day to broadcast every game of the pro and most college teams to the local or regional audience. No "blacked out" broadcasts or "pay per listen". To the point of now having more than one sports station in most markets, and pre-game shows lasting 2 to 4 hours for some football games.
It is the TV people that have made me realize what a solid job radio has done regarding play-by-play sports. I'll admit I, too, have been guilty of taking my disappointment at how the stations that play music have all gone to limited playlists, endless commercial clusters, and lacking local personality, and let it reflect on AM and FM radio in general. But as sports fans, we shouldn't do that regarding sports.
When it comes to the local teams, radio never lets me down. Their games will be on, live, and usually with pre and post-game programming and recaps. But television? Try aggravation at times.
It is getting worse every year trying to follow a MLB or NFL team on local television. Twenty years ago we never heard of a split package of TV games. One station carried the team, end of discussion. Now we have most MLB teams with shared over-the-air and cable packages. Some on more than one cable channel. Your local NFL team could be on Fox, CBS, NBC, or ESPN from week to week.
Even in this era where almost every pro game is televised, the TV people don't seem to want us to easily watch our telecast of choice. It seems like people can never get all of the games they want in one place.
Among the media issues in the news are DirecTV dropping Versus, as did some cable systems. This has NHL and college football fans up in arms, since DirecTV has NFL offerings they can't get on cable, but now cable has Versus which they can't get on DirecTV.
This week has brought us several stories about how the NFL is facing the largest number of home telecast blackouts it has had in years. I am quick to point out that the NFL blackout policy has been in effect for many years. It is quite an improvement for those of us old enough to remember when home games were not televised at all - sold out or not. Since the NFL is clearly the leader at marketing teams around the league, this "rule" could actually work against the league this season.
Some of the NFL teams not selling out home games are not expected to have a good season. Yet, those local fans instead get another NFL game, which likely would be a better and more appealing game than a crappy local team anyway. Just ask the fans in Detroit if they would rather see a Lions game or see Dallas vs. the Giants (for example). Media Week reported that the NFL has had only 4% of its games blacked out locally over the past 4 seasons, compared with 38% blacked out 20 years ago in 1989.
To me, the Versus story is way bigger than NFL blackouts. Sports fans are stuck without something they want when forced to choose between specific cable and satellite packages.
Meanwhile, on the college sports scene, the Big Ten Conference is coming under fire for its revised media coverage policies. Funny how this happens right after the Big Ten Network adds to its coverage base, expanding around the Midwest and now into the New York City area.
A detailed explanation of that situation can be found at:
On the other hand, given how many more colleges and universities are taking in millions and millions of dollars for expanded media packages, I can understand their wanting to protect the amount of outside coverage.
Yet, while all of this goes on and the fans win some and lose some without a choice in the matter, radio continues along broadcasting all of the games, just like it has always been.
Meanwhile, the sports media lost a couple more long timers within the past few days. Sad to learn of the death of longtime baseball play-by-play man Buddy Blattner at the age of 89. Buddy worked in St. Louis with the legendary Dizzy Dean before moving on to the early days of the Los Angeles Angels from 1962-68. He then moved along to the expansion Kansas City Royals in 1969 until he retired in 1976. By the way, when he left the Angels broadcasts after the 1968 season, his replacement on radio was a young sportscaster by the name of Dick Enberg.
Long time sportscaster Steve Daugherty passed away on Sunday after many years of radio reporting and local play-by-play in West Virginia. Both will be missed.
Former Patriots standout and 3-time Super Bowl champ Tedy Bruschi has joined the ESPN family as an analyst. He is expected to be a prime contributor to ESPNBoston.com, which officially debuts this coming Monday (9/14), the same day as the Patriots' season opener.
With college football going full throttle this coming weekend, CBS College Sports Network begins steady coverage with 4 live telecasts this Saturday (9/12). At Noon ET, Duke will visit Army, followed by Louisiana Tech at Navy at 3:30 p.m. Then it will be UTEP at 7:30 p.m., with Oregon State-UNLV at 11 p.m.
NEW YORK: The Mets will try something different on Wednesday night (Sept. 9). No, it doesn't mean they will win. TV play-by-play voice Gary Cohen takes the night off with pay, while Mets TV will feature analysts Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez only. People can see the game, so it might not make much of a difference.
BALTIMORE: It won't be the same. Ted Patterson has really retired, after an incredible 45 year run in Baltimore area sports. We're talking Orioles on TV in the early 80's working with Rex Barney. He also called games for UMBC, Towson State, and Navy. He hosted what may have been the market's first true sports talk show on WBAL before moving to WPOC for 16 years. For the past 11 years, he was Sports Director at WCBM-AM. From Brooks and Frank Robinson and Johnny Unitas all the way through Cal Ripken right up through last week. Wow.
PHILADELPHIA: No more "Jody Mac" on 950 ESPN. After being with the station for all 4 years of its existence, Jody McDonald did his final broadcast this past Friday (9/4). McDonald had previously worked at WIP, and reportedly hopes to catch on elsewhere in the market.
950 ESPN has kept co-host Harry Mayes in the 11 AM to 3 PM slot, and is moving Dan Schwartzman from nights into the co-host role for middays. The station may add local football related programming for nights or go with more ESPN programming.
CSN Philadelphia has expanded "Daily News Live" to a full hour on weeknights now starting at 5:00 PM. This keeps SportsNite at 6:00 and leaves room for a pre-game show for home and east coast Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers telecasts. It remains to be seen whether or not this is a pilot program for other CSN Networks. In Chicago, for example, their one-hour talk show begins at 5:30 with SportsNite at 6:30 and no pre-game shows for games that begin at 7:00 PM local time.
DETROIT: WDFN 1130 is bucking the sports radio trend and going to local sports programming as of this week. Sean Baligian now handles mornings, while Channel 2 Sports' Ryan Ermanni handles 10 AM to Noon. "Sharp & Shep" take over from 2 to 6 PM, consisting of Drew Sharp of the Free Press and Matt Shepard.
MILWAUKEE: Fox Sports Wisconsin will show 70 Bucks games for the upcoming season, dividing it up among 35 home and 35 road telecasts. And yes, Jim Paschke returns for his 24th season as play-by-play voice, while Jon McGlocklin begins his 34th year as analyst.
HOUSTON: Change is in the air at KILT 610 as Adam Clanton leaves the morning show after nearly 2 years. The move seems to be Clanton's doing since he has expanded duties at KPRC-TV Channel 2.
KFNC 97.5 has added an early afternoon local show, as Fred Faour and Matt Dean team up from 1 to 3 PM weekdays.
Comcast Cable has moved CBS College Sports Network to its Digital Preferred package for the Houston area in time for the season getting into full swing. The Network has 5 Rice and Houston games on its upcoming schedule, including SMU at Houston on October 24th.
WASHINGTON D.C.: As of Tuesday (9/8) Tony Kornheiser is back on the local radio scene on WTEM 980, WWXT Prince Frederick, and WWXX Warrenton. In addition, fans of Tony around the country will be able to hear him on ESPN980.com.
MIAMI: Speaking of returning hosts, this Thursday (9/10) marks the return of Sid Rosenberg, as he takes over middays on WQAM during the week.
DALLAS: The new Cowboys Stadium held a football spectacular on Labor Day with 4 high school football games taking place that started at 10:30 AM. Fox Sports Southwest televised them all, going until about 10:00 that evening.
SAN DIEGO: If you are paying him, use him. XTRA Sports 1360 had laid off host Chris Ello in January even with his contract running through this year. After more than 7 months, Ello returned Tuesday (9/8) to the 9 to 11 AM spot.