Monday, April 18, 2011

Oakland A's Still .500, But Now in Stereo!

By Kibby Kleiman
Mon, Apr 18, 2011 at 3:54 PM

The Oakland A's have made a lot of noise about how they have improved. Now that noise is in crystal clear Frequency Modulated sound. KBWF 95.7 radio, until last week home of the worst Country music in this or any other country, dumped their losing format for a hopefully winning team. The A's are back at 8-8, which puts them on a pace to be 81-81, just like last year. The only difference is now we won't have to listen to it on the equivalent of two tin cans and a string.

Games broadcast on free TV have gone the way of the doubleheader (wait, we have one of those this year in Oakland—bad example!), so for the economically minded baseball fan, radio is the way to access the Athletics. And the past few years have seen fans paste over enough bumper stickers to have their car's rear ends extend half a car further than when they rolled it off the dealer's lot. A's games have been on Oldies stations, Christian stations, KALX, a weird Podcast station, a Michael Savage station and even for a year on an FM station. Last year's station, 860 AM briefly was knocked off the air when the station failed to fuel up their generator, and A's games were followed by radio oddities like Dr. Love, a guy who's advice every week was to tell guys to be more like bastards than usual if they hoped to pick up chicks. And there's your play of the game, sports fans!

This year's model started off on 860 during Spring training, detoured to 1550 AM the weekend of the Bay Bridge series, and then jumped to 95.7 FM on Opening Day, sharing the frequency with a fading country operation calling itself "The Wolf", punctuated subtly by a howling wolf sounder every ten minutes. By the end of last week, the Taylor Swift regime packed up its gear and left the Bay Area ridden hard and put away wet. In its place, a potential rival to the sports monster of the Bay, KNBR 680, a station that has monopolized sport dialogue with every host beating the same drum. Giants! Niners! 80's musical references, 80's movie references, and for variety 80's TV references.

A's fans fell hard last year for do-everything radio pregame and postgame host Chris Townsend, whose programs did have a spark of free format in a broadcast world of simililarity. When 860 essentially went bankrupt during the June swoon of the Athletics, whatever crackly static made up the radio station allowed the host to stay on the air however the hell long he wanted. A Saturday game starting at 1:00 p.m. last season stayed on the A's tip for over seven hours. How many times can you hear a fan suggest that manager Bob Geren needs to rest Kurt Suzuki more often? Apparently two or three times an hour, for hours on end.

With the A's going "big time", the fan base expressed fear that they were gaining watts but losing access. A petition to expand the team's hours resulted in complete victory. This morning, an all local series of broadcasters has been talking local baseball since 6:00 a.m. And there isn't even another game until tomorrow night.

The A's may not have much more to brag about than they did last year, but they'll be able to do it louder and longer than ever before. And as for the flaming hot fans of country music, bitter about their terrible station being shuttered and vamoosing out of town? They feel cheated, alone, and abandoned by one they trusted. Well the A's fans know that feeling too. We can sing it together, it'll sound like a country song.

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