Sunday, July 13, 2008

Reason No. 858,423 to not like Daniel Snyder

You'd think that a sports radio station in Washington, D.C. would want the pre-eminent expert on baseball in Washington, D.C. to host a show on its airwaves. You'd think the station would consider it a selling point, a coup. But you'd be wrong.

Phil Wood's two-hour Saturday morning baseball show on WTEM Sportstalk 980 disappeared this week. He was one of the first victims of Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who bought the station a few weeks ago and took control of it at the beginning of July. Don't worry about Phil--he was already cohosting "The Tom Davis Show" broadcast on a Baltimore sports radio station (and simulcast by MASN)this past Saturday morning. But what he said about the reason for his departure from WTEM confirmed all my fears about what will be the sad future of sports talk radio in Washington.

Much of the talk since Snyder's purchase has revolved around whether he now will allow criticism of the Redskins on the stations--whether he will create some sort of "Pravda" version of sports radio. That's certainly an important concern, but I think a little bit overstated. There's no way to have a sports radio station that anyone would want to listen to without people criticizing the playcalling of the Jim Zorn in the game that week or complaining about Jason Campbell or saying that the Redskins should have drafted a defensive lineman. (I could see the Redskins owner decreeing no one could say anything bad about him on the air, which would probably make him look like more of an a-hole than anything anyone could say about him.)

No, the bigger problem is that Snyder would turn the station into all-Redskins, all-the-time, to the exclusion of all other teams in town. WTEM's biggest flaw as a station over the years is that a number of its hosts, most notably its afternoon rush hour team, either don't know enough about or don't care to talk about anything besides the Redskins and perhaps a little basketball on occassion. But the station has been making some improvements in that area over the last year, actually spending signifcant time during the Caps playoff run, for instance, talking hockey. But it looks like Snyder and his people don't like that.

Phil Wood said Saturday that WTEM's new program director told him that he didn't think the station wanted to "move forward" with a baseball show at this time. Remember, it's not like this was a daily program. Phil Wood's show was on two hours a week! Apparently, Dan Snyder thinks that's too much time to spend on talking about the Nationals. I can't imagine he'll treat the Caps, or anyone else besides the Redskins much differently. Those people who want to hear Larry Michael do live shows from Redskins Park 52 weeks a year are in luck. Every other Washington sports fan are not.

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