The best radio promotion I ever heard for the Mets aired the morning after they won the 1986 World Series. It consisted of every station in New York dwelling long and lovingly on the championship achieved in Queens the night before. There was no all-sports radio then, so the conversation was wholly organic, of the moment and impossible to affix a price tag upon. The formats didn’t matter. The hosts didn’t matter. All that mattered was the Mets were the biggest story in town, they had accomplished the biggest thing they could and, because they were on everybody’s mind, there was no way they weren’t going to be on everybody’s air.
So when the Mets in 2013 put out a press release to make official not just that their games will be heard on WOR, 710 on your AM dial, but that they and WOR parent Clear Channel will reinvent the wheel in terms of a “five-year landmark multimedia marketing partnership,” excuse me if I turn down the volume.
Clear Channel is a behemoth that owns a zillion radio stations, including more outlets in New York than the Mets have barely plausible first basemen. Games aren’t going to be broadcast on Z100 or Q104.3 or these other frequencies, but I guess when you hear some non-automated DJ suddenly launch into spontaneous praise of Jonathon Niese’s breaking ball from last evening out at rockin’ Citi Field, we’ll know it was bought and paid for. If this process somehow serves to ultimately ratchet up the excitement over the Met product, Met brand or the Met lifestyle and thus sells some additional tickets or merchandise or whatever allows our team to compete more effectively, well, go for it.
Mostly, though, I get the feeling the Mets had to issue a hype-laden press release, and it wasn’t enough to say, “Adjust your radio a few notches, see you in late February.”
Nowhere in the Mets’ missive touting their “multifaceted strategic alliance” with Clear Channel are Mets announcers specified, which kind of designates the lede for assignment. Besides knowing where the games can be found, all the Mets’ core constituency cares about vis-à-vis radio at the moment is who will be speaking into those WOR mics. Adam Rubin and others have been reporting Howie Rose is a lock to return but Josh Lewin’s status is unresolved.
The first half of that is great news. Howie is as much a part of Mets baseball as the skyline logo. After more than a quarter-century as a near-daily presence in our lives, he’s the aural equivalent of the Woolworth Building, at the very least.
The second half is unnecessarily murky and, from the perspective of the plain old Mets fan, stupidly mystifying. Josh has spent two years working his way up to Williamsburg Savings Bank status, logowise, and he’s done a damn fine job of it. I had my reservations when he was brought on board primarily because I identified him with Fox’s handling of baseball. I now realize holding a Fox microphone during a televised baseball game tends to lower an announcer’s IQ as if by corporate decree (with occasional Burkhardtian exceptions factored in, of course). Josh stopped being a Fox guy the second he sat down next to Howie. By the same turn, Howie’s creeping crankiness —a condition we all contracted via prolonged exposure to Wayne Hagin — commenced to receding when he partnered with Josh.
The team whose losing ways Howie and Josh have communicated may not have been much to listen for across 2012 and 2013, but the team Howie and Josh have formed has been worth tuning into, no matter Met fortunes on a given day or night. They know their stuff, which is no small statement after four years of Hagin sounding as if he just arrived from nowhere in particular. They maintain a terrific pace, which is also not a perfunctory compliment considering there’s an inside-the-park homer from 2007 that Tom McCarthy hasn’t yet finished describing. Best of all, they are splendid company to keep. When you get right down to it, that’s what a baseball listener wants and needs: voices with whom you want to spend the season, pitch by pitch, inning by inning, game by game.
I want Howie and Josh on that call. I need Howie and Josh on that call. I also want and need various morning menageries, whether Clear Channel’s or some other conglomerate’s, playing “We Are The Champions” on behalf of the Mets some future autumn a.m. (AM or FM) not because they are contractually obligated to but because it will be as accurate as the time and temperature they issue every four minutes.
There’s no better multimedia marketing promotion than winning. You don’t need the 105th caller to tell you that.