Facebook friction is typical Warehouse garbage

June 23, 2009 | Drew Forrester

I owe this little surge of adrenaline to one Glenn M. Clark.

We were buzzing along nicely this morning, having played “Raised on the Radio” and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to kick-start The Comcast Morning Show, when suddenly, Glenn said:  “Oh, did you hear?  Steve Melewski chimed in again about the whole “WNST-negativity thing”.  

Thanks, Glenn.

Or, shouldn’t I say, “Thanks, Steve”…??

These truly are the dog days of summer now.  Football takes a 6-week break to get ready for their training camp.  The NBA and NHL seasons are (finally) over — and starting again next week, it seems.  Our baseball team in town, while improving, still lags behind in last place in the division and unless a bobblehead or t-shirt is being given away on a Wednesday night, 80% of the games still feature 30% of the stadium’s capacity.

You’ll notice a lot of vacations in sports talk radio in June and July in Baltimore.  Once August rolls around and footballs start flying in Westminster, everyone in town starts paying attention to sports again.

That’s precisely why I might owe Steve Melewski a measure of thanks today.

He has, temporarily at least, cured my boredom.  

For background purposes, you should know that over the weekend, Melewski chose to file a comment on a Facebook page hosted by WNST’s longtime baseball analyst, Allen McCallum.  It was there, while Allen reveled in the O’s Saturday night comeback win over Philadelphia, that Melewski fired the opening salvo.  “I wonder how WNST will spin that negatively?” he wrote.  

It’s interesting that Melewski wrote that:  “I wonder how WNST will spin that negatively?”.  That’s EXACTLY what I say most nights when I listen to him on the flagship following an O’s 9-3 loss.  “Gee, I wonder how Steve will spin that loss positively?” But I digress.

All kidding aside, and I said this on the air yesterday and today:  I think Melewski and Dave Johnson are the best one-two duo on the flagship.  I think Steve handles the flow of the show well and Dave, obviously, is the baseball expert who actually played the game.  They have a good synergy with one another and when it comes time to nitpick and talk about the actual game, Melewski pushes a button or two, brings up a call, and DJ delivers the mechanics of baseball in his inimitable style.  They’re very good together.

Unlike Melewski and the others on the air (and in print, elsewhere in town), I’m actually allowed, by my boss, to applaud and recognize the work of “rivals”.  So it’s easy for me to speak my mind — because I’m allowed to speak my mind.  I think Melewski and Dave Johnson do a very good job on the radio.

That said, I now have to offer a distinction between Steve’s on-air work and his ramblings on McCallum’s Facebook page because – well, as you’ll see – Melewski has publicly displayed his inability to portray an accurate picture of life between WNST and his quasi-employer, the Baltimore Orioles.

In a follow-up to his initial “negativity” post on McCallum’s page, Steve made reference to the fact that “several WNST on-air staffers have access to press credentials at Camden Yards but no one is there on a regular basis to cover the team…they whined all off-season about being allowed to cover the team and now that they can, they aren’t there to do it.”

By the way, for a station that’s “negative” about the team, we’ve now sent eight busloads of baseball fans to New York and Philadelphia over the last 10 months.  And another trip to New York is slated for July.  When’s the last time Melewski and his gang at the flagship organized a trip for their listeners/fans of the team?  If you guessed zero, you win.

Let’s set the record straight again, for Steve Melewski and everyone else.  I am allowed in the press box.  I have access to press credentials.  I have to grovel for them and “apply” for a game-by-game credential like the kid who wants to come out and interview a player for his term paper at Stevenson University.  But, I do have credentials at my disposal.  Nestor, of course, has NO access at all.  He can’t have a game-by-game credential or a credential of any kind.  But that’s his battle to wage, not mine. I have enough issues with those n’er do wells at OPACY, I don’t need to fight for Nestor.  Melewski KNOWS, of course, that not providing me with a season media credential is wrong.  He KNOWS that if Jerry Coleman, for example, gets a season media credential that I, too, should get one.  I have – and Jerry won’t like this reminder – of course, been doing talk radio in Baltimore longer than Jerry or anyone else at his station, for that matter.  So,while Melewski knows how bush league it is for the O’s to not grant me (or Nestor) a season credential, he dances around that topic by simply saying, “Several WNST staffers have press credentials to cover all of the games at OPACY.”  Spoken like someone who works for the team, huh?

Here’s the dirty little secret that Steve didn’t bring up on Facebook.  He acts like it’s some sort of privilege to go down to the ballpark and cover the team.  “Cover the team” means what, exactly?  

It’s been my experience that THIS is “covering the team” at OPACY:  First, as part of your coverage “rights”, you may or may not be allowed to park in the media parking lot (Lot A) depending on several things:  a) whether or not the team likes you, b) whether or not the team likes you, c) whether or not the team likes you.  Take your pick.  If you can’t get the ultra-cozy “A Lot” parking pass, you’ll park over near the football stadium.  In a way, that’s kinda cool.  I’d rather be covering the football team anyway.  

Next, you get the “privilege” of paying $10 for a pre-game meal that would be $4.99 with-a-coupon at Golden Corral.  Perhaps if they SOLD MORE SEATS!! at the ballpark for their 81 home games, they wouldn’t have to swipe a 10-spot from every media member who’s hungry at 6pm.  (passing thought here — the Ravens sell-out and they don’t charge for their pre-game media meal…hmmmmm).

Anyway, after that, you get to watch the game in the press box.  That’s always fun.  Then, when the game ends, you get to go down to the locker room and listen to the manager and players speak.  If the team wins, the manager is cordial (almost).  If the team loses, he’s abrasive and wildly unpredictable based mainly on your affiliation and longevity in the media.  The players are actually all pretty decent guys.  If only we were actually allowed to speak with them on OUR terms.

And that’s my point about “covering” the team.  Melewski doesn’t get it, because he HAS unlimited access.  He works for the team, essentially, as part of MASN.  If “covering the team” is watching baseball and getting a couple of quotes after the game, I think I’ll pass, thank you very much.  I can sit home and “cover the the team” by eating for free with Ethan, watching the game, and checking out the post-game coverage, as filtered as it is, by Melewski’s employer…MASN (code word: the Orioles).  

To me – and hey, maybe I’m on an island to myself here – “covering the team” is having the ability to talk with the players and the executives to gather information than can be dispersed to the ever-eager fan base.  You know…the way the Ravens do it. I’ve had a dozen or so Raven players on over the last six weeks.  Some have off-season charitable endeavors in the works, some are just happy to be part of a great organization and a few are just guys who like to visit occasionally to talk football.  Even though he’s no longer with the club, I had Dan Wilcox on last week to talk about his free football clinic at Cardinal Gibbons last Saturday.  To me, that’s “covering the team”.  

“Covering the team” does NOT mean having Andy MacPhail dodge me.  “Covering the team”, to me, means I should be allowed to have a 30-minute sitdown with the team’s GM.  Just him — and I.  Real questions.  Real answers.  If I want to speak directly to John Harbaugh, for example, I set up an appointment and I go meet him.  When Nick Markakis announces his plans to start a foundation that benefits MY community, I should be allowed to have him on the air to hear him talk about his efforts — that is, if I’m “covering the team”.

I’m not “covering the team” these days.  I’m going to the Prom with the team.  If they’re nice enough to take me, that is.

This insane policy that the club continues to follow of not allowing their players to talk to the media unless you’re writing the club a check is unacceptable.  Period.

I tried to get Brian Roberts, Jeremy Guthrie and Nick Markakis on the show to talk baseball with them — and to promote charity endeavors THEY are involved in because those programs benefit the community I call home.

No such luck.

The Orioles don’t allow their players to talk to the media unless it’s on THEIR terms.

Steve Melewski is a broadcast veteran in this market.  He does a good job.  He knows the truth, too.  The truth isn’t that WNST is “negative”.  The truth is this:  Someone has to be willing to take the team to task for the way they run the operation when the policies they carry out are not fan-friendly.  I sound like Jack Nicholson now:  “Who’s going to do it?  You Steve Melewski?” Ha!  Hardly.  

He knows the truth is also this:  If Steve were still employed at WBAL and he wasn’t provided with a media credential and was treated differently than the other 20 “regulars” in town, he’d been blowing so much hot air about it they wouldn’t need tanks to fill up Preakness Week balloons.  “Oh, the outrage!” he’d bellow.  And I wouldn’t blame him one bit. 

“Covering the team”…he wrote.  I almost spit out my Royal Farms coffee when I read that today.

Covering the team, to me, isn’t about begging some cyber-space connection for a press credential on a game-by-game basis. It’s certainly not about being forced to park in East BumF because I’m on the blacklist with the “Communications” guy (who hasn’t returned a call or text or e-mail since Bush was the President).  It’s not about paying $10 for a meal that you wouldn’t feed to a college field hockey team at The Days Inn.  And, by all f***ing means, it’s NOT about standing around and watching players get dressed after a game and asking them how it felt to hit that home run with two runners on, down 4-2 entering the 9th inning. 

That’s NOT covering the team.

Covering the team is about sharing information with the fans and being allowed to portray the athletes in the light they deserve to be portrayed in.  If they strike out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th, that needs to be discussed.  If they’re raising money for a Children’s Cancer Fund at a local hospital, that needs to be discussed too.  

But it needs to be discussed WITH THE ATHLETES, not through some crafty press release written by some kid that just graduated from Temple last May.  And I say that with all due respect to Temple University.

Steve Melewski knows the truth.

He chose to avoid it on the Facebook “encounter” that he initiated on Sunday, but he knows the truth.

I know the truth too.  The truth is, we (at WNST) will continue to try and fix the team.  We’ve made some strides already and we’re going to make more, I can assure you.

If nothing else, we’ll keep trying until football season starts.

And for all of you about to hit “comment” and start your bellyaching about WNST “starting a war” with Melewski or the Orioles or CBS Radio, save your energy.

I didn’t *start* this one…Melewski did.  While I was busy watching Ricky Barnes fritter away a 6-shot lead at the U.S. Open on Sunday, Steve decided to whack us around a little bit on the world wide web.

Not that I mind, actually.  These ARE, after all, the dog days of summer.

What else would I be doing today if I weren’t writing about this Facebook friction?