The first three faces on the Mt. Rushmore of local television sportscasters are easy to pick: Warner Wolf, George Michael and Glenn Brenner. Period, amen, end of story. For my money, Warner is the inventor of the modern sportscast. His, hey this is sports, let's have fun, approach paved the way for what ESPN and everyone who follows their lead does. George, who once worked as Warner's weekend guy in New York, took Warner's style and incoporated it with the wave of new technology of the early 1980's to bring us the best highlights. And he did it at WRC for 29 years - nobody will ever have a run like that again. And Glenn was a unique talent. Nobody on television, before or since, has made you laugh like Glenn Brenner. Sadly he died of a brain tumor at the age of 44 and has been gone longer (20 years) than he was on the air (15 years). Who would be the fourth face on that mountain? The debate is wide open. And the latest to leave town might be a contender.
Our friend and Sports Reporters contributor, Dave Feldman, is leaving WTTG after 12 years. That's not as long a run as George or Glenn, but it beats Warner's two runs combined. You may recall Warner left town in 1976 and was replaced briefly by Mike Wolfe (no relation and known best for showing his hairy chest on television). Glenn replaced Wolfe after less than a year and was ironically replaced by Warner after his death in 1992. Twelve years is also longer than Frank Herzog's tenure as sports director at WJLA, although Frank may be better known for being the voice of the Redskins on radio for 25 years. Same deal for Steve Buckhantz, who actually went 13 years at WTTG, but probably is more closely associated with doing Wizards play-by-play on television for the last 15 years. Wally Bruckner went 16 years working for George and Tim Brandt has had a couple of runs at WJLA, but seems more visable doing ACC football and basketball games on Raycom. That's really about it for longtimers on local television.
Dave is leaving at time where the local sportscaster is no longer what he or she used to be. Back in the pre-cable days, the nightly sports guy was your pipeline to what was going on. There were four channels and you needed to watch one of them to find out what was going on, and more importantly, get the highlights. Now you can watch highlights on your phone. Television stations no longer can justify huge contracts to keep their guy or gal. There's only so much the person delivering the sports can add to your newscast. Lindsay Czarniak, Sara Walsh and Hakem Dermish have all left local television in the last couple of years for work at ESPN. And they did it because of the opposite directions that local TV and ESPN are heading.
Dave, who came here from ESPN, is going back home to San Francisco to be involved in something similiar to our Comcast Sportsnet. He'll not only be home, but will be working in a place where sports is what they do. Believe me, that makes a huge difference. They'll be no Sue Palka stealing his time for weather issues.
What Dave accomplished in his dozen years here is impressive. Not growing up here, it's difficult to have a feel for how the Redskins sit above everything else and where the rest of the local sports scene fits in. And doing what we do in the afternoons requires a sense of history. Dave fit in with Czabe and me seamlesly. And of all the guys who have done sports in this town over the years, I can't think of anybody who was as well liked outside of Glenn Brenner.
Great sports things happened in this city over the last 12 years. Baseball and Joe Gibbs returned, Maryland won the national title, George Mason made the Final Four, and the building of the MCI/Verizon Center and Nationals Park. It was great having Dave here to chronicle all of it. As I like to tell him, "You do a nice standup." We're all going to miss a standup guy.
A Memorial Day Tradition That Needs Changing
In the 20 years since I've been back in town, the sport of lacrosse has exploded. Final Fours draw close to sellout crowds in big football stadiums like M&T Bank in Baltimore and Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. Maryland, a lacrosse power for more than 40 years, is a regular participant. It's a rare year that Maryland isn't involved in the Final Four. However it's even more rare that the Terps win one of these - rare as in never in the last 37 years.
What's more frustrating, if you're a Terps fan, is the number of times they've made the final only to lose. Since winning that title in 1975, Maryland has lost seven times in the final game - 1976, 79, 95, 97, 98, 2011 and yesterday. That nearly makes them the Buffalo Bills times two!
True, this was a year that Maryland wasn't expected to get there. They upset Johns Hopkins and Duke to set up the final against Loyola. And Loyola was the number one seed, Maryland wasn't seeded at all. Losing to a school from the same state with a tenth of Maryland's enrollment just makes it sting a bit more. Especially since Loyola dominated, holding Maryland scoreless for most of the last three quarters.
One of these days, Maryland will make the final and win it. You can't win it if you're not in it. But as often as they're in it, you'd hope that sooner or later, they can win it.