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?
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.
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