An Interview With Jerry Coleman
As most of you already know, significant changes are afoot at our local sports talkers. My colleague Paul Farhi wrote about many of them in today's paper: the end of "The John Riggins Show," the end of Steve Czaban's "The First Team" on WTEM, the end of "The Dan Patrick Show" on WTEM, and the simulcasting of programming on several of the Red Zebra frequencies with WTEM the flagship. (Read fan reaction here.) Further personnel changes are rumored; among those cited by DCRTV, which I've also heard, would be the pairing of Doc Walker with a partner, possibly from the previous Redskins Radio staff.
All of these things will affect my life, especially during the long rides to and from Ashburn starting next week. But more than any of that, I'll be affected by the absence of Jerry Coleman, the station's all-purpose reporter who was recently let go. The sports media (co-ed) fraternity in D.C. is fairly small, and Coleman was one of its most distinctive and omnipresent members, covering literally every pro team in town. I'll remember his run-in with Joe Gibbs, his incessant talk of tropical vacations, his incessant talk, and especially the way he always let me listen to the sound of his amusing interviews that I missed due to technical mishaps and my manic inability to stay put in one place. I always asked him for help, because he was the most approachable guy in that room. Apparently, it's something JLC and I agree upon.
Anyhow, Jerry is currently in Florida on a pre-planned vacation, which would have allowed him to show up, refreshed, in Ashburn for the start of training camp. Now, obviously, his plans have changed. Our e-mail Q&A follows.
What brought you to 980 in the first place?
I had been at 980, before working in Baltimore for seven years at 98 Rock and WBAL doing their AM drive sports.
How exactly does one guy manage to cover the Redskins, Wizards, Caps, Nats and whatever else you've been covering for 980?
I was hired as Redskins beat reporter by Program Director Chris Johnson originally, and then in the offseason I would be assigned to cover the other locals' practices and games: Wiz, Caps, Nats, Maryland, G-Town, O's., Cap Hill steroid hearings, Tiger, etc...and always seemed to run into the BOG .
strong>How would you describe your reportial relationship with the Redskins?
My relationship with the Skins was very solid. Went through two years of ups and downs with the guys from Coach Gibbs on down, and they were always professional, personable and most importantly for my needs -- talkative!
A lot of D.C. fans seemed never to forgive you for having grown up in Baltimore. Do you root for the Ravens at all? Was it hard to cover D.C. teams while living in Baltimore?
It was extremely difficult at first trying to explain to my buddies, family and former co-workers that covering the Skins was not only a JOB - but one I actually enjoyed, despite the hatred a lot of Baltimore folks have for anything D.C. (I now see the other side, and perhaps I can apply to be a "Beltway Prime Minister" and bring the two cities together. We could certainly use Camp David.) I grew up in Baltimore County - covered the Ravens for seven years and rooted for the Colts. (So deep down inside, the Ravens are my team to root for.) But it has NEVER affected my objectivity. Making the 70-mile drive from Owings Mills to Ashburn only demonstrated my passion, and love, for the job! Sometimes odd to drive from one market into another....
What was the most memorable event you covered while with 980?
Joe Gibbs retirement announcement's a CLOSE second (as well as the day he called to apologize for yelling at me) to the Roger Clemens hearings. The Rocket lying and defying, with the world watching....You could cut the tension on Capitol Hill that day with a chainsaw!!
What was the worst assignment you had while with 980?
Worst assignment was waiting about seven hours for T.J. Duckett to pass his physical a couple of year ago. It seemed to take forever, and in the end...it was all for what?
Can you compare the passion levels you felt from the various D.C. sports fan bases; i.e., which was craziest?
The Redskins games and playoff run after Sean Taylor's death was pretty emotional, really almost unmatched. Next would be Zim's "walk-off" on Opening Night, and then when American University advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
Sports talk radio is famous for the opinions, but you were mostly in a "just the facts" role. Did you ever wish you could have been more of an opinion-slinger?
I was able to contribute an opinion or three when I joined 980's talk shows. I never ran from expressing myself, as anyone who worked regularly inside the Skins' media room will explain.
When you found out 980 was being acquired, were you worried that your own reporting about the Redskins would be compromised?
I wondered whether there was going to be enough room.
So when did you find out you were being let go, and how were you notified?
Learned in an amicable face-to-face meeting last Thursday with the Program Director and the Assistant Program Director.
How would you assess the future of sports talk radio in the D.C. market? Do you think Redskins Radio and friends will remain the only game in town? Is that worrisome?
Since I am not there any more, not fair to answer that one.
Do you think 980's treatment of the Redskins/Daniel Snyder will change?
D.C. sports fans are a wise group (without any help from Mike). They will want it reported objectively and fairly. The new bosses, I felt, before parting ways, understood that.
Do you think the local media treats the Redskins too gingerly?
D.C. media has been about 99 percent fair, from my perspective.
Fans of every team in D.C. believe that the Redskins get too much coverage and their own team doesn't get enough coverage. Are you sympathetic to such claims?
The Skins are the most popular, so that is why their coverage overshadows anything. I feel it's just a response to people's needs. D.C. is a Skins, and big event town. (From Beckham's first visit, to Opening Night of a ball park, to Game 7 of a playoff series.) There can be passion and noise at the "proper" time.
What changes/ would you make if you were running a sports talk shop in town?
I would dedicate more time to baseball. D.C. has a Major League team that deserves attention, no matter how bad. It's not Triple A.
What's the future hold for Jerry Coleman? Want to say in the sports radio business?
I absolutely want to stay in sports radio (in this area, is the preference). I had a dream job covering D.C.'s best teams! And I will miss the pros on, and off, the air at SportsTalk 980, despite losing my wrestling battles with B-Mitch. They were the BEST!
When and where can we find the Jerry Coleman blog?
My next blog is coming...stay tuned on that one. But one thing is for sure, it will be hard to miss my mic flag, or voice.
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