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Archive for December 18, 2006

Dec. 18, 2006 — Radio wars

As one who travels a lot in the car, I listen to a lot of radio. And if you’ve been listening to our podcasts and how they are composed and mixed, you can hear the narrative style inherent in public radio.

There’s been an interesting marketing battle going on between two public radio stations near the apartment. One station used to broadcast classical music all day except for a period between 3 and 7 p.m. when it would broadcast news and talk. The other would broadcast news and talk for most weekdays except between 3 and 6 p.m. when it would have bluegrass music.

The second station dropped its weekday bluegrass format after Sept. 11, 2001 and switched to news and talk on the weekdays. Meanwhile, the classical station began broadcasting morning news between 6 and 10 a.m., which broke the usual rules of collegiality between public radio stations which dictated that two neighboring stations shouldn’t compete with each other for the same listeners by scheduling programming to deliberately poach listeners by either counterprogramming or duplicating programming.

In March 2005, the classical station dropped its musical format almost completely in favor of a world news and talk format which brought a horde of new voices to the station. There was a wonderful daily talk program called “Odyssey,” which unfortunately was dropped by its Chicago host. Another daily program from the BBC is an hour-long call-in show which is more than just the usual “Bob from Baltimore” commenting on a particular subject, but having three or four people from around the globe in a conference call.

The bluegrass station pushed back in early December 2006, answering the classical station with some pretty deliberate poaching moves. It scheduled two programs to be on an hour earlier or later than its competitor — a very popular daily arts and politics talk show, and one weekend documentary program — and shuffled the broadcast of a two-hour weekend news program so that the listener wouldn’t be listening to the same hour of that broadcast if tuning into either station.

Meanwhile, a commercial radio conglomerate was still broadcasting classical music on one of its six stations until it partnered with The Washington Post to create a news/talk format radio station which was promised to be “public radio on caffeine.” The classical station previously on that frequency was shifted to two less powerful transmitters, and the “public radio on caffeine” station’s ratings slipped to about an 0.8 share in the ratings.

Now, one of the largest private businesses in the region, a professional football team, has been looking to purchase a more powerful transmitter to broadcast its games on the FM dial. A deal is being closed to purchase the transmitters of the classical commercial radio station.

At the same time, last week, the former classical public radio station outflanked station management and voted to reinstate the classical format the moment that commercial deal goes through.

A lot of folks have complained that new technologies such as satellite radio and the iPod have created a very fickle radio audience. But there’s no substitute for good radio. I’ll be interested to see what happens with the new format of the classical public station. I just hope that some of the voices I have come to enjoy will remain.

Dec. 17, 2006 — A lesson in player development

Earlier today, Sporting Club Internacional of Porto Alegre, Brazil defeated the Football Club of Barcelona, Spain 1-0 in a game played in Japan. The game was the final of the FIFA World Club Championship.

This tournament used to be known as the Toyota Cup, in which the South American Cup champions would play the UEFA Champions’ Cup winners in what came to be somewhat of an unofficial world title match amongst club soccer teams.

If you look at the champions of the Toyota Cup held between 1960 and 2005, all of the great world teams are represented such as Boca Juniors and Real Madrid.

But in the multi-continental format of the World Club Championship, first held in 2000 and permanently after 2005, there is only one nation represented on the top step of the medal stand: Brazil. Corinthians won in 2000, Sao Paolo FC won in 2005, and SC Internacional took the 2006 title.

What’s the lesson here? Understand that Internacional has a much smaller payroll than FC Barcelona; Barca is able to lure transfer players such as Ronaldinho, Deko, Lionel Messi, and Rafael Marquez from all around the globe.

But Internacional has a roster full of Brazilians from the city streets and rural pastures who have developed their skills without coaches and with a lot of improvisational ability.

It’s something that you don’t see in the American culture, despite the “Go Tell The World” soccer commercial of a few years ago. Most American kids who play soccer have overstructured practices and games rather than going out to a field and playing with a few neighbors. It’s why the United States has not turned out players with world-class ball skills outside of our women. And even then, today’s generation have much less technical skills than the likes of Hamm, Akers, Overbeck, Fawcett, Higgins, and Heinrichs.

It’s the same thing in baseball, where a labyrinth of leagues from tee-ball to summer college wooden-bat leagues exist in the place of going out to a lot and playing a game of “one old cat” or “two old cat.” And, if you think about it, despite all of those leagues, professional scouts go to the Dominican Republic or other Caribbean islands to find shortstops or other infielders instead of our domestic system. And it’s no wonder: the United States didn’t make the 2004 Olympic baseball tournament and didn’t make it out of pool play of last year’s World Baseball Classic.

Overcoaching has even made its way to basketball, where all of these shoe-sponsored camps and year-round AAU commitments have developed superstar players. But if you look at recent NBA drafts, teams are taking foreign players who can shoot the basketball. That’s reflected in the United States’ lackluster international basketball performances in the 2006 men’s and women’s world championships.

I can but hope that overcoaching isn’t making its way into the game of field hockey. When you think about it, the reason that our women’s national team has been improving is not the web of playing opportunities over the summer. Look at our elite pool and you see several players who had two or more older sisters playing the game such as Katie O’Donnell, Katelyn Falgowski, and Rachel Dawson.

In other words, with older sisters in the household, there were some unstructured playing opportunities away from technicians, nutritionists, and kinesiologists.

It’s something that our sports’ national governing bodies would do well to bear in mind.