D.C.'s WTEM gets lukewarm reception

RADIO-TV

May 29, 1992|By RAY FRAGER

That all-sports radio station, Washington's WTEM (570 AM), is on the air, and I'm determined to listen. Unable to pick it up at home, I set out in my car in search of the lost signal.

After a strategic stop at Taco Bell, I hit the road. This was serious. When I began driving and flipping the dial, I was holding a burrito and a large Mountain Dew, but I soon put down the Mountain Dew. (Remember, folks, I'm a professional; don't try this at home.)

I kept a log of what I heard:

12:05 p.m.: "Welcome to Taco Bell, may I take your order?"

12:27 p.m.: " . . . I can't dance, I can't sing. I'm just standin' here, sellin' everything." (Apparently found "variety" music station.)

12:38 p.m.: " . . . And that was Reba McIntire singing 'Un Bel Di' from Puccini's 'Madama Butterfly.' Clint Black is up next with a selection from 'Pagliacci' . . . (Seemed to have tuned into country station.)

12:40 p.m.: "Welcome to McDonald's, may I take your order?"

12:47 p.m.: " . . . I can't dance, I can't sing. I'm just standin' here, sellin' everything." (That "variety" station again.)

12:59 p.m.: " . . . Stay tuned for a cut from the reissued Clash album 'Live at Emily Levitsky's Bat Mitzvah.' It's that classic, 'Hava Nagilah/Rock the Casbah.' " (Must be the progressive rock station.)

1:11 p.m.: " . . . Barbara Mikulski gets paid more per inch of height than any other senator. But you won't read that in the liberal press." (WBAL's "Ron Smith Show.")

1:15 p.m.: "Welcome to Burger King, may I take your order?"

1:26 p.m.: "O, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light . . . " (Sounds like an oldies station.)

1:28 p.m.: " . . . I can't dance, I can't sing. I'm just standin' here, sellin' everything." (Enough with the "variety.")

1:32 p.m.: " . . . bbbbbizzzzzz- zzzoooopRedskinszzzzizzz- zzzzMark Rypienbuzzip- popppJoe Gibbszzzzz." (I found it.)

1:43 p.m.: "Welcome to Hardee's, may I take your order?"

Static -- and indigestion -- aside, my overwhelming impression of WTEM during its first days was that I'd stumbled onto New York's WFAN with different announcers. Even the jingles are the same. And the afternoon team of Kevin Kiley and Rich "The Coach" Gilgallon is an undisguised attempt to duplicate WFAN's popular Mike Francesa and Chris "Mad Dog" Russo.

For Baltimore listeners, hearing WTEM is going to be problematic. (Yes, that's Ronco's Problematic, only $9.99 through this special TV offer.) If somebody is running a vacuum in Severna Park, WTEM might not come in as you cruise auto repair shops along Liberty Road. At night, it won't even help to have King Kong jiggle the antenna on your roof.

For Baltimore listeners who pick up the station and don't want to hear about the Redskins, it often might not be worth the effort. It seems I heard an awful lot of football talk for May. Stay tuned for trainer Bubba Tyer's do's and don't's around the Jacuzzi.

Still, some voices bear hearing, including CBS Sports' James Brown -- again proving his versatility -- at noon-3 p.m. weekdays.

So, WTEM is worth a listen. And here's a suggestion: Why not answer the phone by saying, "Welcome to WTEM, may I take your order?"

* I hear the voice of America calling on my wavelength: Personal to the guy who called the other night when I was on Jeff Rimer's talk show on WBAL (1090 AM) and said he envied me for having this job: Nyaah, nyaah, nyaah, nyaah. . . . By the way, among Rimer's guests next week will be Henry Kissinger, Margaret Thatcher and Archbishop Desmond Tutu to discuss the Orioles' continued inability to sign Cal Ripken to a new contract.

And now for the news: The NBA plays on NBC, but not tonight. the Orioles on Channel 2 instead of Game 6 of the Eastern finals. The NBA is on Channel 4 from D.C. NBC apparently couldn't get one of Baltimore's independent stations, channels 45 or 54, to pick up the telecast. When Tuesday's NBA game shut out by the Orioles here, Baltimore was the only NBC affiliate in the country not to show the game. Perhaps WMAR wants to protect us from slow-motion replays of highly paid athletes uttering four-letter words. . . . Longtime Afro-American columnist Sam Lacy will be a guest on "Budweiser Sports Report" on BET Saturday at 10:30 p.m.

* To be quite Frank: Washington's Channel 7 has fired sports anchor Frank Herzog. News director Gary Wordlaw, formerly of WMAR, decided not to renew Herzog's contract. Wordlaw said he wants Channel 7's reports to focus more on local, participatory sports. Weekend sports anchor Rene Knott will replace Herzog, whose last telecast will be tonight's late newscast. Herzog will continue as radio voice of the Redskins whenever Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff aren't talking.

*

Crab nebulous: "You were on the radio this week," the boss said.

"You are correct, sir," I said, still missing Ed McMahon.

L "Don't they give out gift certificates to guests?" he asked.

I nodded.

"What did you get?" he prodded, though, uncharacteristically, without a real cattle prod.

"A gift certificate to Zelda's House of Crabs and Beauty School," I said.

"A certificate for crabs? Did you see the front page? Do you know what that's worth?" he said.

"Yeah, boss," I said. "But I thought I'd hold onto it, sort of like an annuity, to pay for my kids' education."

"You'll do no such thing," he said. "You know we don't accept gifts. Give me the certificate."

So, I did. And, though he was right about the impropriety of taking such a gift, how come I heard him talking to some other bosses about bringing home extra papers to cover his picnic table? And why did he come back from a long lunch one day with a bag of wooden mallets?

* Things My Boss Wants To Know: Is it true that the guy who lost his job doing the ScubaCam during the America's Cup is now working Ty-D-Bowl commercials? . . . Do you think that if Mark Eaton paid a visit to Channel 2, the station might start televising more NBA playoff games? . . . Are we sure that NBC is planning to show any Olympic sports besides men's basketball?

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