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Can Redskin Warrior Riggins Powwow With Ravens Fans?

July 12, 2010

By Dave Hughes,

When John Riggins returned to the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network July 1, many wondered if the Redskins great would be able to balance his old team with the Ravens, since many MASN viewers bleed purple.

John Riggins is back on the air. (Courtesy of MASN)

From 2006-2008, Riggins' radio show from Washington, D.C. sports talker Triple X ESPN Radio was carried on MASN. That was before the radio station's owner, Redskins owner Dan Snyder, bought another D.C. sports-talk station, WTEM, ESPN 980, merging the two operations.

One casualty of that radio consolidation was Riggins, who lost his afternoon show and his afternoon MASN gig -- which eventually went to Scott Garceau, who hosts afternoons on Baltimore's 105.7 The Fan, WJZ-FM.

In April, Riggins launched a new radio show, heard via the digital HD Radio signal of Washington's WTOP and via the Internet at Now Baltimore-based MASN, looking to counter-program against Comcast SportsNet's popular "Washington Post Live" at 5 p.m., has Riggins on its TV team.

The "John Riggins Show" airs on MASN from 4-6 or 6:30 p.m., depending on the baseball schedule of that evening. Garceau moved to the earlier 2-4 p.m. slot.
While Riggins' show comes from WTOP's Washington studios, during its MASN July launch it's coming from the TV sports network's studios in Hunt Valley.

"I'm very happy to be back on MASN," Riggins told the Examiner. "They provide our show an audience that not only reaches the mid-Atlantic region but also a national audience. As for radio it is my favorite medium because I really feel I can be myself and connect with my audience."

D.C. sports radio veteran Tod Castleberry, an old friend of Riggins, is executive producer for the show and also serves as co-host. Also on the show's team are producer Kevin Standfield and Lou Holder, a veteran of D.C.'s Channel 5/WTTG.

Holder said Riggins' new MASN show will be pretty much the same as the radio version, which "exploded" via social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

Holder spent 2000-2007 on D.C.'s Channel 5/WTTG as a sports anchor and reporter. He was the Fox station's Redskins beat reporter, followed by work on Comcast's Philadelphia-based Comcast Network (not Comcast SportsNet) doing the sports show "Out Of Bounds." Holder was not involved in Riggins' first MASN stint from 2006-08.

"He is smart, knows his sports and is a great teammate," Riggins said of Holder. "I'm tremendously excited to return to MASN, the region's best source of live local sports," Riggins said. "It's going to be even better than old times. We have had a strong response to the new radio show, and I'm looking forward to being an independent Redskins voice on television in this market."

"We are very excited about teaming up with MASN," Castleberry said. "Riggo is a personality who always calls it like he sees it and MASN's regional and national audience will be excited to have Riggins back in their homes."

Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992, Riggins was the MVP of Super Bowl XVII and a franchise player for the Redskins. He set dozens of NFL and franchise records during his near-decade with the team.

"This is a blockbuster announcement that returns one of the region's most popular sports icons to MASN," said MASN spokesman Todd Webster. "John Riggins is a legendary figure whose larger-than-life personality continues to entertain and engage sports fans."

Since Riggins' show is now seen throughout Ravens territory via MASN, how will he balance his old team with the Ravens?

That might not be easy, said sports columnist Dan Steinberg, who writes the "DC Sports Blog" on Riggins taped a promo for his new MASN show at the Ravens ' M&T Bank Stadium -- something that didn't sit well with many Redskins fans.

"The official explanation was that MASN is a two-city network, and that this merges both cities together," Steinberg wrote. "The not-so-difficult-to-grasp unofficial explanation is that the Redskins have a partnership with Comcast SportsNet, so FedEx Field probably wasn't going to work. Either way, I saw it as a cute little quirk in a basically nice spot."
Glenn Clark, of Baltimore sports talker WNST, is a bit more critical of Riggins and the first to balance the Redskins and Ravens on his show.

"The fact is there's nothing okay about filming a John Riggins commercial at M&T Bank Stadium," Clark wrote in his WNST blog. "There's nothing okay with mixing purple colors and Washington Redskins highlights. There's certainly nothing okay with using an audio clip that is clearly designed to sound like ‘Hail To The Redskins' on top of a commercial that includes a stand-in that just so happens to be a dead ringer for Art Modell.

"The fact is, no one in the District of Columbia will care or be offended by this commercial one bit. Mostly because the handful of real sports fans in D.C. are indifferent to the Ravens. The handful of real sports fans in D.C. hate the Dallas Cowboys, but don't much care about other teams. The majority of sports fans in D.C. are transient -- and root for more than one team. It isn't particularly surprising to bump into a sports fan in the District that wears a Tigers hat and a Red Sox shirt."

Jim Williams, who pens a sports media column for the Examiner, said MASN, even though it carries the Washington Nationals, is still perceived by many in the D.C. area as more Baltimore-friendly, while the rival Bethesda-based Comcast SportsNet, with its alliance with the Washington Post, is viewed as being more D.C.-centric.

Putting Riggins on MASN is an attempt by the Baltimore-based sports network to tweak that balance just a bit, Williams said. If the balance isn't just right, all hell could break loose. Or MASN could have a big ratings winner on its hands.

Issue 151: July 2010