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Why Rob Dibble Refers to the Nats as "We"

I'm well aware that MASN's Rob Dibble isn't everyone's cup of Red Bull, but here's why I like him: because he makes me want to flip on the Nats game, even if it means fighting through occasional glimpses of C-SPAN.

And yeah, you can say the same thing about the radio duo of Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler, but for quite different reasons. Charlie and Dave have the melba-toast-dry humor, the self-deprecating asides, the meandering detours into the meaning of IHOP and rally caps and the better-than-BALCO chemistry. It's perfect radio. Dibble's appeal is different, more of the "wowwwww, where's the TiVo, let me rewind that" variety. There's a place for both.

Anyhow, most regional sports network announcers I've heard opt for a tone of slightly removed homerism. They'll side with the good guys on close calls and trivial controversies, present a mildly optimistic view of the future, wince at the losses and smile at the wins, but do so with a semi-detached veneer of sorta kinda objectivity.

But Dibble veers to both extremes. He's, at times, harshly critical of the Nats. But he also has aggressively claimed the Curly W as his own, even though he's hardly been around long enough to get a NatsTown license plate. It's impossible to watch a game and not notice his use of "we" and "our" while talking about the good guys.

"A chance for us to win the ballgame here," he said in extra innings Wednesday night. "We're not getting that pitch," he said a few minutes later.

Dibble said he's just doing what comes naturally, and that he's listened and spoken with other broadcasters to see how they handle the issue. The White Sox's Hawk Harrelson, he said, also uses the first-person plural. The Reds' Marty Brennaman does not. Dibble even took the issue to principal owner Mark Lerner, to ask his opinion.

Lerner "said he'd be offended if I DIDN'T use the word 'we,' " Dibble told me. "What am I supposed to say, 'Those guys on the field?...It's not really a conscious thought, whether or not I say 'we.' I think everyone that's in this stadium is a We, is a part of this whole thing."

(For the record, Ray Knight also relies on the first-person plural during the MASN post-game show.)

As for Dibble's occasional harsh words for the team's on-field performance, "I've asked Mark Lerner if I've offended them in any way, and they're happy with my work," he said. "So that's really all that matters to me. If the organization and the Lerners and Stan Kasten and [Mike] Rizzo are happy with my work, that's all that matters."

The rest of our conversation is below. This was conducted Tuesday afternoon, before the draft, so I've deleted a few parts that referred to the draft, and fixed the team's record in quotes.

You're kind of critical toward the team. Do you think that's part of your role?

Maybe it wouldn't sound as critical if they were [42-16]. People think it's critical because they might not know how much research I've done on the team, and where they finished last year, how their fielding was last year, the 102 losses, their pitching staff the last five years....So to me, I'm not being overly critical. I mean, statistically, if anyone went back and did their research, you'd know where I'm coming from with all that.

So being [16-42], yeah, it might sound like I'm being critical, but when they're doing well, I tell you why they're doing well and how they're doing well. And when they're not, I think it's my job to be honest and to be an honest observer. I'm not gonna go out there and lie. As long as the owners here with the Nationals and upper management like what I'm doing, and MASN likes what I'm doing, then I'm doing my job.

And you've talked to Mark about this?

Uh-huh. I asked him the other day, and he said 'No, you're being honest, it's a tough position to be in.' He understands where I'm coming from. It's tough, they're [16-42], and this is the major leagues. And everything that I've said from day one is just, 'Listen, you have a job to do. You don't need to be pampered, you don't need somebody to hold your hand. You can't blame Randy St. Claire for any of your failures. You didn't execute.'

And I've had conversations with a lot of the pitchers, and I've said 'Listen, you throw strikes and get people out, you're gonna stay in the big leagues.' It's that simple. I mean, if you hit .180 for three months, you're probably not gonna stay. So the stuff I'm talking about's pretty [simple].

But before the season, you seemed optimistic, that you thought this team could maybe surprise people.

That was before they got off to the start they did. I mean, maybe some of the pieces I didn't know were as bad as they were. You know, I'm always positive, I'm always a half-full kind of person. I thought there was some hope for Daniel Cabrera. I thought that the bullpen would be much better than it was, where you wouldn't need almost a complete overhaul, and I think that's unfortunate.

And those are all the things that got Randy fired. I mean, that's not his fault, that they didn't execute. But if you're not executing for a few years--the only thing I was critical about, was maybe you need to adjust your game-plan thinking. Maybe these guys aren't capable of pitching the way you think they're capable of pitching, and I think Steve McCatty now has put it back on the pitchers, [saying] 'Listen. You've got to attack the strike zone. You've got to attack the hitters. You've got to get some people out, or you're not gonna stay.'

And that's everything I told the kids, a couple of them that have been sent out....I said that to Garrett Mock's face. I said, 'Listen, you throw strikes, you get people out, you stay in the big leagues. But if you don't, they're gonna send you out.' Same thing with [Mike] Hinckley and [Steven] Shell. I had the same conversation with every one of them. And I'm sure Randy St. Claire said the same thing, or Manny. You know, 'Listen, you're getting paid to do your job.' Just like I'm getting paid to analyze and observe this stuff, they're getting paid to do their job.

Is it possible that they're just not talented enough to do the job?

No, they're talented. They're very talented. It's just now you've got to question, your guy with the most experience has 49 starts under his belt. Then you've got three guys that have less than 15 starts each under their belt....For some guys, like a Matt Cain, it took him four years. And I'm not saying this [about] the Nationals; is any team willing to wait around that long for three or four guys to get that good?

I wanted to ask about the We thing, because a lot of fans sort of wonder about that, where it comes from, I guess. So was it a conscious decision?

No, not at all. You know what, I feel like I'm a part of this organization. You know, the Nationals brought me here to do a job. I get paid by MASN, but I'm on the team plane, I'm on the team bus, and I have no problem saying we. For some of the people who might be offended, listen, this team came from Montreal. So unless they were following the Expos, you know, maybe they've got a four- or five-year jump on me, but nobody really holds the rights to whether or not I want to consider myself a part of the organization or not. That doesn't bother me.

And you talked to Mark about that too?

His response was they love it. They want me to say we. They feel I'm a part of the organization, so that's enough for me. If the people at the top say they're fine with what I'm doing, then I'm gonna continue to try to do the best job that I can.

And do you actually feel wins and losses as if....

Absolutely. It upsets me as much as when I was a player. And that's something I didn't know, that it would affect me that much, and it does. And that's probably the competitor in me. That's why I've said how much respect I have for Manny Acta. It's gotta be hell to have to watch that every night, and be [16-42], when you want that team to be [42-16] and turn it around.

I definitely would say it's probably the toughest job ever, to be a manager. At least I'm just calling the game. He's got to go out there and physically try to alter the outcome of those games. That's not an easy job.

I just heard you when you were talking [in the media lounge], you referenced one of the pitchers as "our young guy," or something like that. So even in your private conversations you refer to this team as We?

Absolutely. Absolutely.

That's kind of strange, though--and again, I'm not trying to question that you actually feel this--but that you've only been a part of the organization for such a short period of time.

Yeah, but I'm always a team guy, I've always been a team guy. If I was working at ESPN and somebody asked me about Disney, it would be we. You know, look at Johnny Damon. The minute he signed with the Yankees, he was We, right after a world championship. So I don't consider it a disrespectful term. It's a term of endearment, to me.

And you said you talked to [Marty] Brennaman about it?

I talked to Marty. Marty said he's never done it in his Hall of Fame career. He just doesn't feel like he has anything to do with the guys on the field. Now that's a little different for me, because I'm working with some of the pitchers, and I'm talking with some of the other guys, and if I see something that possibly I could help them with, that's a different story.

I'm not directly affecting what they do on the field, but it still affects me personally, because I work for the Nationals, I work for MASN. And my name's on this too.

So for media members, newspaper writers, we're always taught you don't root for any team, you're just kind of there, and I guess it's a different deal for you obviously. But do you consider yourself a media member, or something different from that?

Never. I'll never be a media member. My father was a member of the media, but not me. If I was writing news articles and things like that, maybe, but I'm more of just a former player that's an observer now. Kind of like George Kennedy in Kelly's Heroes, where he's observing.

Did you ever think about actually doing [media]?

No, because everybody still labels me as a sports guy. But yeah, I would have loved to have gone to war zones and stuff like that. I've already been over to Iraq to visit the troops, and gone to the front lines, but that's just not in the cards for me.

Ok. So you're an observer.

I'm an observer. You know, it's hard to be neutral when you're in the Nationals booth. If I was just working for ESPN or Fox, you can't root. But when you're traveling with the team and stuff like that, you ARE part of the team.

So do you actually give like a little fist pump or something when something good happens?

I wouldn't go that far. Because I don't want to disrespect the other team. Because I think I'm as respectful as you can be to the other team. I root for a good story and a good baseball game. But at the end of the day, my loyalties are with the Nationals when I'm working for the Nationals.

By Dan Steinberg  |  June 11, 2009; 9:06 PM ET
Categories:  Media , Nats  
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Comments

Hawk Harrelson is often cited as the most obnoxiously homerific local announcer in the business. People with Extra Innings HATE watching him.

Dibble should not be emulating the Hawk.

And I am not a fan of Dibble. Then again, I'm not a fan of the Nationals either. I only watch occasionally because I love baseball, and to remind myself that someone out there is even worse than the O's.

Posted by: pipkin42 | June 11, 2009 9:45 PM | Report abuse

*LOVE* Dibble. He's the best thing going in local sports coverage at the moment (present company excluded, of course). He's invested in the game without coming across as artifical, has insightful things to say, and does not pull his punches when the Nats do bone-headed stuff. What more do you want in an announcer? He'd best have a job with MASN for as long as he wants one, even if he does keep piling onto the team when they stink.

Posted by: wahoo2x | June 11, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Despite the "we," I like Rob Dibble -- his frankness reminds me a bit of Jimmy Piersall when he did White Sox games in the '70s. (If only Bob Carpenter had as much chutzpah as Harry Caray, who was Piersall's cohort on Sox broadcasts and complemented him beautifully.)

Posted by: VPaterno | June 11, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Why wouldn't you like Rob Dibble.... Do Nationals fans need any sugar coating at this point, at least he's not Larry Michaels acting like were gonna win the championship this year...getting force-fed stuff that the educated fan base knows isn't going to happen any time soon

Posted by: EsMyDee | June 11, 2009 11:27 PM | Report abuse

the nats are so f'n pathetic. even their commentator (who I've heard a couple times) admitted in this article that he had some hope for daniel cabrera. what is this guy smoking? as a lifelong orioles fan, I can say without a doubt that there is no place in the majors for that scrub. he's wildly inconsistent and has a temper, and beams batters left and right. even if you look at his career statistics he sucks.
Win-Loss 48-59
Earned run average 5.05

just another instance of poor nationals personnel decisions even having him on the team.

And manny acta sucks

Posted by: illicon | June 12, 2009 2:37 AM | Report abuse

I also like Dibble despite the "we." But I'm glad to hear him say he doesn't consider himself a part of the media, because that is my problem, as a former journalist, with announcers who use "we" "us" and "our" is my impression is that the guys in the booth are journalists first. I guess its just a different era and that's no longer the case. For the record, I'm 32 so I'm not romanticizing a time gone by, apparently I'm just romanticizing a profession that has precious few true professionals.

Posted by: ryaneades | June 12, 2009 7:32 AM | Report abuse

Great interivew - Dibble has been pure entertainment all season. Without him there, it's hard to imagine how moribund broadcasts would be with all the losses.

Posted by: jbakerman | June 12, 2009 8:06 AM | Report abuse

illicon you suck
and so do the O's
D.C>>>>>>>>>>>batimore

Posted by: jonthefisherman | June 12, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

The use of the terms "we" and "us" don't automatically smack of homerism, at least coming from Dibble. When I think of "homerism," I think of a guy who believes the team that he works for can do no wrong. Dibble has been far more critical of this team so far than even Manny, it seems. I like Dibble, I think he's better than what the Nats have had in the past, and he makes the broadcasts entertaining. He's one of the few guys who doesn't make me feel like turning the sound off on the television, or listening to Charlie and Dave instead of watching the game at all.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | June 12, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the interview, Dan. I like Dibble, and the "we" doesn't bother me at all. It's not like he's the beat reporter for the Post or the Times, and he certainly doesn't sugar coat his views.

Also, I recently read a piece about Bob Wolff former Senators broadcaster, where he spoke about how close he was to the players, and how relationships were different today. So I'm not sure that the "olden days" comparison always holds true.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 12, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

nice interview. I don't get to hear Dibble much being outside the MASN range but he certainly has acquired a devoted following rather quickly. You should let him know though, Dan, that George Kennedy was the observer in "The Dirty Dozen."

Posted by: lowcountry | June 12, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

I would also add that I love Charlie and Dave, and they don't sugar coat it either.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 12, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

All Hail the Dibbs. Been the one bright spot for the Nats this season. Yea he screws up sometimes but the Dude doesn't sugarcoat it.
Gotta love that.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 12, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I like Dibble because even though he's a homer he isn't a blind one. He's happy to criticize, and he wears his homerism on his sleeve. I have the MLB Extra Innings package and I'd have to say that the White Sox announcers are by far the worst. Completely one sided, complaining about balls and strikes, just terrible.

Maybe surprising, but on TV I like both the Yankees and Red Sox announcers. They are clearly employed by those teams, but they get excited for good plays by their opponents and they call it fairly.

Posted by: CharlieF | June 12, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I think there is a distinct difference between being invested in the team and being a homer. Dibble is a guy who spends an obscene amount of his time watching, interacting, and researching the Nationals, so he is personally invested in the team, but his proven impartiality about the teams play on the field and clubhouse/management decision surely shows he is no homer. I like a guy that is invested and doesn't seem detached completely from the outcomes of the game and the success of the team he is covering but please God don't bring in a puppet for management (cough*** Larry Micheals *** cough) to toe the party line. I think Dibble (who I didn't particularly like as a player) has been a pleasant surpirse here in Washington.

Posted by: iraultman | June 12, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

You have it right. Dibble = anti-Larry Michaels. I love his frankness. Any true, educated Nats and baseball fan should appreciate honest evaluation from a guy who actually laced it up. We know the team sucks, until people get called out for not doing their job we will continue to get the same BS excuses. It's refrshing to hear his evaluations versus all of the ridiculous feel good, "we're young", "we're not that far off" quotes that I read daily on the Nats Insider. Keep it up Dibble, hold them accountable!!

Posted by: jbfromfc | June 12, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

He should say "We". I think most fans say "we" when speaking about their teams. I want my announcers to be "homers". Dibble is a great announcer because he roots for the Nats, but also tells it the way it is. I grew up listening to Phil Rizzuto and I loved him. When the Yanks were down he was talking about cannolis and everything other than the game.

These guys in the booth ARE NOT journalists they are entertainers that provide good insights into the game.

Dibble is also great because of his respect for the games and the players that came before him.

I also would like to give a shout out to Dave and Charlie. Those 2 are one of the best radio teams in baseball.

Posted by: brothbart | June 12, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I agree with brothbart and others. Dibble is excellent, and I was skeptical when the team hired him. I have no problem with his use of "we." More often than not, announcers who studiously avoid terms like that come off as disingenuous. Saying "we" is completely in keeping with what seems to be Dibble's main focus, honesty. He works for the team, travles with the team, and spends time with the team. It would be difficult not to feel like he's part of it. Hence, "we."

Posted by: jcj5y | June 12, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I'll have to say that I didn't like him much at first, because I thought he talked more than he needed to, even when he didn't have anything to say. But I think he's either cut back on that or he has more to say, so it doesn't bother me now, or he's growing on me.

I think his attitude is a good one for this year's situation--he wants to see the team do well, but he points out bad performance & he's not one-sided. He's definitely not a cheerleader type homer. Having someone describe a 16-42 team in dry, analytical, non-emotional terms would be excruciating. Having someone try to convince us that these guys have played well & are just getting robbed would be laughable.

Dibble obviously loves baseball & that comes through.

Posted by: chiefwj | June 12, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

The has been exactly one pleasant surprise for the Nats all season. His name is Rob Dibble. I feared for the worst, but he's the only thing that has exceeded expectations. I suspect he will be here long after nearly everyone associated with this team has been shipped out of town.

Posted by: bryc3 | June 12, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

A Kelly's heroes reference?? Nice! Dibble is the man.

Posted by: dfh21 | June 12, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I hadn't thought about this until just now... but imagine what watching the Nats games would be like right now with Don Sutton in the booth...

Posted by: wigi | June 12, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

As a born-and-bred fan of the late, great Pirates broadcaster Bob Prince, I'm with Dibble allllll the way.

Posted by: Hendo1 | June 12, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

As long as he doesn't start referring to himself in the third person, I'm fine with it.
Dibble has been a refreshing surprise, and even brings out Carpenter's better side.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 12, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I second Sec3 - Dibble brings out Carpenter's human side. There's some natural banter and interaction there that was never possible with Sutton.

And he (respectfully and gently)warned Carpy early in the year about counting wins before they were in the books - cue bullpen meltdown - and Carp's been better about calling the game that's happening rather than what he thinks is going to happen.
Geezer

Posted by: utec | June 12, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Wow, look at Steinz with all the comments!

Dibble's great, but he's certainly no Ron Darling, who was one of the best parts about that first season. Besides the winning of course.

Posted by: FlyersSuck | June 12, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Ron Darling? Are you serious? He was soooooo boring. However, I couldn't get most of the games on tv that year so maybe he grew on you.

Posted by: brothbart | June 12, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Dibble's outlook that if one is doing a nationwide game, ya gotta be nuetral, but I like the local team to have a little bit of homerism in them. Who makes up the vast majority of viewers?...fans of the home town team. The only I didn't like listening to Harry Carey was when he was doing one of my Pirates games, not because of homerism, but I knew how full of s*@t he was about the other team.

Posted by: NatsMan21 | June 12, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Ok, I'll be the contrarian here. I don't mind the "we" part of Dibble's performance. It's actually kind of endearing. I particularly enjoy when he let's out a "yes!" or "all right!" when a Nats player gets a key hit. I don't blame him for getting caught up with the team he is spending so much time with. That's fine. And he is certainly unpredictable, which is fun.

What I don't like is that so much of his "analysis" is completely lacking in substance. How many times have we heard him say something like, "what these guys need to understand is that no one is going to do this for them, it's up to them to step up and perform, and if they don't they have no one to blame but themselves." It's like a string of cliches, with an occasional entertaining eruption. I respect the fact that he's willing to say that Nats are terrible, and to call out players who aren't producing, but is it really that hard to be critical of a 16-42 team?

His discussion a few nights ago of the upcoming negotiation with Strasburg was laughable. He thinks it's ridiculous to give millions of dollars in bonus money to someone who hasn't thrown a major league pitch. And he goes on at length about that position, which pretty much everyone rejects given the fact that teams need to lock up young talent, and the bonus money is spread over 4 years etc, etc.

So Carpenter asks him, a former major league pitcher, "so from seeing that video, what can you tell us about this kid's delivery and his potential?" Dibble's response: "Nothing, nothing at all. He's pitching against college kids." Ok Rob, we get it. You're jealous that this guy is going to be a millionaire right out of college, but come on! According to lots of knowledgeable baseball insiders he's the best pitching prospect in years. The Nats are staking their future on him. You really can't apply your knowledge of pitching to give us some insight on this guy?

At least with Sutton, for all his annoying self-absorption, I learned something about pitching. I don't feel like Dibble is a student of the game, he's all feelings, some of them very misguided. That's fine in the guy you sit next to at the park, but in the booth I'd like to have someone who knows something.

Posted by: Section222 | June 12, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

What's going to happen during the offseason, when Dibs isn't on the team plane or bus?

Is he going to be able to refrain from going over the top in his criticism of the team on his radio show?

It's a thin line.

Posted by: JohninMpls | June 12, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Wow, lot of comments on the Dibble dabble. Steinz is right, it is IMPOSSIBLE not to immediately notice Dibble's "we" comments. Personally, I think referring to the team as "we" is really unnecessary. You can be a homer announcer, which I approve of, without making it so obvious. Look at Buckhantz and Chenier.

Posted by: Barno1 | June 12, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Dibble's downright perfect compare to those idiots that call White Sox games. God, that's awful. Makes me wish I was deaf.

Posted by: RedBirdie | June 13, 2009 12:19 AM | Report abuse

Dibble's OK but he's way off base in the use of "we" and "us." Early in his 60-year career, Vin Scully was asked by Walter O'Malley why he didn't root for the Dodgers. "I'd rather play it down the middle," Scully said. "You're right," said O'Malley. End of discussion. Scully is by far the greatest baseball broadcaster ever...Dibble should heed his advice.

Posted by: martynchase | June 13, 2009 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Dibble's "we" is far cooler than Czaban's "we."

Posted by: StetSportsBlog | June 13, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

For the record, I 100% enjoy Dibble and I hope he sticks around.

We.

Posted by: Wittan | June 15, 2009 5:42 AM | Report abuse

Dan,

They gave u credit for my quote kinda, they should give you credit for the research of this entire thing. http://www.star-telegram.com/807/story/1432988.html

Posted by: alex35332 | June 15, 2009 8:34 AM | Report abuse

It took me a while to decide if I liked Dibble or not. I finally decided I did.

And the reason why is that Dibble sounds like he is still playing. It's like sitting next to someone sitting on the bench. For me, at least, it's a refreshing change.

Posted by: ahoenig1 | June 15, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

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