Nats Radio: Loud and Clear (channels)?

Note: this started off as a response to a comment on my earlier post about the Flagship’s lousy job at promoting the Nats. The proposition debated: Shouldn’t the Nationals be carried on a clear-channel AM station?

The short answer: It would be nice, but it’s not possible. There are no clear-channel transmitters in the DC metro area whose antennas radiate over what you’d expect the Nationals’ “home” broadcast territory to be.

Here’s the problem: There are only so many clear-channel night-time AM transmitters out there. Here’s the FCC’s list (naturally, Wikipedia’s version is more user-friendly.

In the D.C. Metro area, there is one AM clear-channel station: WFED 1500, which uses the old WTOP 50 kW blowtorch transmitter. But WFED’s antenna is highly directional: it radiates mostly to the east, presumably so as not to interfere with KSTP 1500-AM in St. Paul.

Notice how the communities that can receive WFED 1500-AM over the air are all in Orioles Country (that is, WBAL’s broadcast area).

The bulk of the Nats radio hinterland is to the south and west, and the FCC’s clear channel broadcaster list doesn’t show those cities much love. WWVA 1170-AM out of Wheeling, WV radiates east, but won’t reach over the mountains to get the western suburbs. The Nats’ current West Virginia affiliate, WRNR-AM 740’s paltry 21 night-time watts wont’ reach beyond Shepherdstown.

The ideal pattern of Nationals Radio affiliates (not counting WJFK-FM and WFED-AM) would need to include WINC-FM, whose mountaintop antenna yields a ground wave that propagates far and wide across most counties where we might expect Nats fans to live.

Instead, we’ve got to make do with trying to find WFJK-FM over the air. The HD Radio options are nonsense. Nobody actually has an HD radio tuner, anyway–it’s almost as much to buy MLB.TV or Gameday Audio and listen in that way.

First in War, First in Peace, Last in the Hearts of Flagship Radio Station Programming Directors

Your Washington Nationals are the best team in baseball. They have the best record in the major leagues. They are playing thrilling baseball to ever-growing crowds. They have brought a pennant race to DC for the first time since Franklin Roosevelt was President.

So, how does their Flagship radio station promote them? Well…

Which prompted Charlie Slowes, the voice of the Nationals, to remind the Flagship:

It’s enough to make Jim Vance furious. In fact, this sort of thing did make Jim Vance furious a few weeks back, but apparently, nobody at WJFK was listening.

The Nationals are playing playoff-quality baseball, while the Flagship is talkin’ ’bout practice. Not a game. Practice.

Now, I’m a huge Redskins fan, and I’ll probably have a television tuned in to see what the Redskins are working on. But you better believe I’m going to have the radio turned on and turned up so I can hear Charlie and Dave call a real, live Nats game.

Heck, if anything this sort of phenomenon is a huge opportunity for WJFK. They should be reminding DC sports fans that, while their eyes may be on the Redskins, WJFK can keep their minds and their ears on the Nationals’ phenomenal 2012 season.

But instead, they’re talkin’ ’bout practice. Not a Nats game. Practice.

Jim Vance: Telling Truth to Power

WRC-TV evening news anchor and Washington DC legend Jim Vance delivered a scathing editorial on-air recently, lambasting the local sports media–including his own WRC-TV!–for overhyping Redskins training camp and ignoring the first-place Nationals.

This is a significant moment in Nats fandom. When a local media legend like Jim Vance says it’s time to get behind the Nats, you know it’s serious.

Here’s his editorial, transcribed in full:

Okay. So. Did you notice the lead story in our sports segment a couple of minutes ago? Did you see the front page of the Post today? Are you wondering, like I am, what the hell is wrong with you people?

RGIII and the Redskins have been dominating local sports coverage for weeks now, way out of proportion, in my view, to the place they deserve–to the place that they’ve earned–on the current DC sports landscape.

Did I just now commit heresy? Did I just even suggest that there might be another professional sports franchise in this ‘Skins-crazed town? Yeah, I did. And I have a feeling that I’m not alone.

Allow me to make something clear before I go any further. I am lovin’ me some RGIII. I think his might be the most refreshing and exciting athletic presence in this town in years. I love the way that he’s been handling himself and the media, and I am especially thrilled that that maturity and articulation are so obviously the result of a mother and a father who would expect nothing else from their boy.

That being said, the kid has yet to play a down in the NFL, for goodness’ sake! While back in the city–where a sports franchise that carries the city’s name ought to be, by the way–the Nationals are on fire. There is not one team in Major League Baseball with a better record. The Nationals–our team–they are 20 games above .500.

You’ve heard, haven’t you, that the last time that happened was in 1945, when Doreen [Gentzler] was looking at her driver’s license? You want some front-page material? There it is. And this is with a team that’s been banged-up and injured all season long! You want a headline? Davey Johnson ought to be Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” for masterful stewardship of that team. Our team.

Listen, I am not even a baseball fan. And I am jacked up over this team.

Here’s my problem with the ‘Skins training camp overkill hype: That’s what it is–hype! I was at all four of our Super Bowl appearances, and for twenty years since then, that team has set me up in August and cut my heart out in November.

I was also at RFK for the last Senators game back in ’71. Truth is, I didn’t really care if they left. I didn’t know anything about ’em. But now, forty-one years later, I have never been more excited and filled with hope for a baseball team.

The ‘skins promise. The Nats deliver. And, until that changes, that’s my sports headline.

Correcting the Record

And now, a correction.

Earlier today, I wrote a number of extremely grumpy comments on this Sports Bog piece about the demise Flagship’s Sports Junkies’ “Cised for Bryce” shirts.” I got some facts wrong, I was corrected, and I want to correct the record.

If you know me, or if you follow me on twitter, you’ll know I have no great affection for the Nats “Flagship” station. I love the Nationals Radio Network, which is carried on WJFK–I hate pretty much everything else on that station. I stand by all of my opinions about the Flagship’s “bandwagon” editorial policy.

I did, however, get one thing wrong. I said that 106.7 has not carried Nats day games:

Sure. But a number of weekday Nats day games have been consigned to the 200-watt dim-bulb transmitter of AM-1580. I appreciate AM DX’ing as much as any radio enthusiast, but…. If the much-ballyhooed “Flagship” isn’t broadcasting all the games, well…it’s not much of a flagship.

Well, that got Chris Kinard, program director over at the Flagship, pretty riled. He tweeted at me:

Sorry to let facts get in the way of your opinions, but we do carry all Nats day games and have all season.

I stand corrected. The Nats games not covered by 106.7 conflicted with late-season Wizards games–and the station is contractually obliged to carry the Wizards games.

I let my well-known contempt for the Flagship’s editorial decisions get to me. That’s not OK, certainly not for this blog. I owe (both of) my readers, as well as Chris Kinard, an apology. We’ll try to stick to the facts from here on out–or at least separate the facts from what I think about the facts.

Tuning In

Over the off-season, ;Fangraphs polled their readership about the MLB TV broadcast teams. Readers were asked to rank broadcasters on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being best) for their charisma, the quality of their analysis, and their impression of the broadcast overall. They’ve been releasing the results this week, and the Nats’ MASN TV crew of Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo ranked 23rd out of 31 broadcast teams. Frankly, that’s a lot better than I thought they would rank.

I would be a bad Nats fan if I did not also point out with glee that Bob & F.P. rank above both the Braves (27) and Phillies (26) broadcast teams. Atlanta and Philadelphia fans may have watched their teams win more ballgames than Nats fans did–but their broadcasters sure didn’t make it any more enjoyable for them.

F.P., in particular, is singled out for praise in the comments as a thoughtful color commentator. Speaking for myself, I’ve actually grown to like F.P. It’s tough for me not to like a guy who is still–still–so obviously excited to be paid to watch baseball games. Sure, he may sound a bit Scrappy-doo at times. But watching a few MASN Classics “assisted” by the grunting and grumbling of Rob Dibble made me realize just how bad the Carpenter/Dibble team was.

Of course, Fangraphs didn’t rate the radio broadcast teams. I can’t wait until Charlie Slowes and Dave Jaegler get back from the Great Silence and fill the airwaves around Washington with the sounds of Nats baseball again. As the D.C. Sports Bog put it recently:

Slowes, if you think about it, is one of the very few public figures associated with the Nationals remaining from their first season in Washington. The team has changed its ownership, front office and manager, hired new television broadcasters, introduced new mascots, and turned over its roster entirely, but Slowes has remained.

Dave Jaegler, of course, joined Charlie in the booth in 2006–Ryan Zimmerman’s first full season with the ballclub. Given that the Nats just signed Zimmerman to a long-term contract extension, isn’t it time the Nationals gave Charlie & Dave the same contract extension, too? It would seem strange to me to hear of the Z-man’s latest exploits from any other voices.

The return of regular broadcast baseball will finally will mean that their so-called Flagship radio broadcaster (to whom I will not link) will be compelled to broadcast some baseball-related coverage, instead of endless discussions of the NFL Draft Scouting Combine.