1570 and the first all-sports radio station in Baltimore, all while being nationally syndicated on One on One Sports and Sporting News Radio for three years while acting as an affiliate and have now successfully owned and operated all aspects of WNST since 1998.
I have seen firsthand every change and every nuance of the sports media industry from television to radio to newspapers to magazines to the internet. From the sports and ownership side, to the players’ side to the business side of the media world, I’ve made this industry and my passion for this city and its teams my life’s work. The business of sports and media has been my life and my focus for as long as I can remember.
The history of the media before I came along is a tad bit fuzzy, but it’s pretty clear the 1940’s and 1950’s were the era of the sportswriter and radio broadcaster. That’s where folks became sports fans by listening to sportscasters paint the excitement on the radio and then became inspired to go to a baseball game at old Oriole Park or take in a Colts game on 33rd Street or bet a few races at Old Hilltop.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, local television at 6 and 11 gave you highlights, scores and late race results and the local anchors (Jack Dawson, Nick Charles and Vince Bagli were the Big Three when I was indoctrinated) were the local heroes and most significant voices because of their community reach. Remember, the nightly TV local news didn’t even exist until the time when the Colts began their late 1950s run. It was a new world, really. They all we’re good-looking chaps who made big six-figure contracts, read ads for sponsors, hosted local chicken dinners for civic groups and stood on the field/court/rink during the 6 o’clock news and helped sell tickets and enthusiasm. For the most part, they were cheerleaders, really for local sports.
Just rent “Anchorman” if you care to know more…
In the 1980s and 1990s (when I came along) sports columnists at the newspaper and radio hosts were the only ones with a voice, the ability to “commentate” on the issues, strategy, etc. While Bagli could barely throw a mere one-liner zinger during his newscast, a guy like Charley Eckman could opine for hours on the radio about a subject and John Steadman could write a nice, meaty opinion piece in the paper with more punch and effectiveness.
The “journalists” at the newspapers and the guys covering the beats were taught to have the highest morale ground so as to stay “neutral” – as though having any emotions toward the games they were covering would be evil. Any opinion in a game story in The Sun would be sheer blasphemy in the world I was raised on Calvert Street in the 1980s.
“No cheering in the press box” was the way I was taught and the way it still is across America in the uptight media world. But of course, underneath their breath, every sportswriter I’ve ever met is cheering for SOMEONE during a game. For most of the lazy ones (and that encompasses a large percentage) it means whatever is easiest that allows them to keep their job in some town that they’re renting or using to pad their resume, eat free meals in the press box and turn in an expense account when it’s all over. Of course, in the new economy of 2010 those days of Marriott points and frequent flyer cards are gone forever for the rank-and-file sportswriter.
The most significant discovery I had working from 1984 through 1992 at the three local newspapers was the realization that none of these sportswriters really liked or even knew a lot about sports. I was always astonished at how beat writers of teams didn’t know the most basic history and background of the franchises they were covering. Some didn’t even know the rules of the games let alone where to put a quote or a fact. But most them did have one thing in common: they loved to bitch more than they liked to work.
It always boggled my mind that a TV station would recruit someone from Albuquerque or a local newspaper would recruit a writer from Seattle or a radio station would look for a naked girl from Miami to fulfill job openings in a passionate, hometown city like Baltimore.
I’ve said this for 18 years as I’ve built this iconic Baltimore sports media brand called WNST.net – I never, ever intended on having a career in radio. My whole background and passion was built in writing and editing and news judgment. It’s purely accidental – blame it on Kenny Albert, Paul Kopelke or Jim Ward — that I wound up building a personal brand in radio.
But, in 1992, radio was the greatest place in the world for a guy like me and the only one available that allowed me to do what I do best – research a story, tell you the facts, then give my very well-informed opinion. After all, I thought, I really DID know more about Baltimore sports than any of these other buffoons and I could prove it every afternoon. I had forgotten more about the Orioles, Colts and Terps than any of the other local media members and I could converse with people 50 years older than me and learn from them.
It gave me the ability to be long-winded (which I enjoy) and thorough and investigative and conversational. And it was fun! I loved learning the business of marketing, selling, advertising and the pursuit of dreams in being an entrpreneur. Being around sports and building my radio show and WNST in the 1990s was so much fun that I honestly long for those days in many ways when it simpler!
But being the only “independent” in the radio world, I didn’t have to “hide” my joy that the Orioles were winning or my disgust when the Terps were losing. And once the Ravens came to town, there was no way for me to hide my joy about having an NFL team here again, which still strikes me a true miracle