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Jeff Solari Jeff Solari
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The Sports Edge - They are throwing us a change-up

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Things change in sports all the time. Some changes are sudden, but most often they're very subtle and gradual. You don't notice anything different, but then one day you look up and say, "When the heck did that happen?" One such change is happening right now, right here.

Eastern Maine is very engaged with the local sports scene. Sure, we love our regional professional teams. But since they're all more than 200 miles to the south, high school, UMaine and Husson rightfully garner the bulk of the fandom around these parts. Yet coverage of local sports is changing, and we're not far from waking up and saying, "What the heck happened to local sports reporting?"

Let's start with sports talk radio. WZON AM 620 had been one for the premier local sports stations in the country for much of the past two decades. But due to owner Stephen King's passion for left-wing politics and what I maintain is general mismanagement of Zonecorp, WZON's sports talk flame is slowly but surely being snuffed out. I hear from people every day who tell me how much they miss local sports talk on the radio.

It was only a couple of years ago when WDME 103.1 FM, King's station out of Dover Foxcroft, featured Toby Nelson broadcasting more than 100 games a year. That was then; this is now. The newly-born Pulse 103.1 prefers to broadcast poorly-rated syndicated talk shows and local pet shows instead of high school games featuring local youth proudly representing their hometowns on the athletic fields.

On to TV, where in most cases the time given in local newscasts to sports coverage continues to diminish. WABI TV still seems to be committed to Tim Throckmorton's efforts. However, WABI broadcasts far fewer UMaine games on TV than they did five years ago. Across the industrial parks, WVII's Brian Sullivan works hard and is assisted by Aaron Jackson.

However, it is safe to say that the local sports commitment is fairly minimal over at WLBZ TV. It wasn't too many moons ago when Bill Green anchored the Channel 2 sports, followed by Dale Duff and then Lee Goldberg. Those three guys held down the fort for nearly 30 years combined. But since Goldberg moved to Portland, there has been little longevity in that anchor chair.

WLBZ was a local sports leader with live call-in shows during the Duff era. Heck, the whole concept of extended coverage of local football and basketball on Friday nights was pioneered by Goldberg and a very young Jeff Solari, as we introduced a show called "The Fifth Quarter."  Now, the Channel 2 coverage on Friday nights is out of Portland, which means fewer local games covered for us here in the other Maine.

Print media is not immune from the changes either. The Bangor Daily News has always had a very solid team of seasoned reporters covering local sports. But that team is shrinking in size quicker than a certain part of George Costanza coming out of a chilly pool. With two more sports reporters being moved to cover news, the BDN will mainly use just three primary reporters to cover our sports. That has to be the lowest number in many decades. To take it one step further, those writers will no longer write local weekly columns. With the passing of Ron Brown, and Gary Thorne deciding not to contribute any longer, the paper's sports pages will have a different feel very soon.

Perhaps we have just been spoiled for the past 20-plus years with superior coverage. Sheryl Crow says, "A change will do you good."  But I say when it comes to local sports coverage, this change isn't for the best.

Last modified on Wednesday, 14 December 2011 15:25

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