I still remember a phone call I took in the newsroom years ago, during an 11 P.M. newscast in late December, at a time when the local sports scene is loaded with holiday basketball tournament and college bowl games.
It was from someone who was upset we didn't say a thing about the upcoming NFL playoffs, and, specifically, about his favorite team: the Miami Dolphins.
I tried to explain that it was a busy sports time, and Jim Wharton didn't have time during his four to five-minute sports broadcast to mention everything.
"Don't you know everyone is a Dolphins fan", asked the caller, adamant that the NFL playoffs be mentioned along with local basketball and whoever West Virginia and Ohio State University were playing in the bowls that year.
Keep in mind: Don Shula was still the Dolphins coach at the time, and Dan Marino was still their quarterback. But I still doubted Miami had the local fan base he claimed it had.
I thought of that long-ago call the other day when I saw a just-released Public Policy Poll which asked West Virginians their preferences on sports teams.
The majority...and it was overwhelming...43%...chose the Pittsburgh Steelers. No other team mentioned, including the other teams in proximity to our area, the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, got as much as 10%. And no, there was no mention of the Dolphins.
This admittedly is West Virginia, not the Parkersburg area, and I know there's a significant fan base for the Washington Redskins in the Eastern Panhandle (they got 7% statewide). In Major League Baseball, it's a bit more divided. The Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates, in spite of their less-than-stellar records of recent years (the exception being Cincinnati's division title of 2010), are tied at 27% for the support of Mountain State residents.
But if you look beyond the big numbers, there is a diversity of interest in pro football and baseball teams, since the most popular teams get less than half of the state's support.
When WTAP was televising the American Football Conference Sunday afternoon games from NBC, we generally stated our preference for Pittsburgh, but could opt to broadcast other teams if they had games with big matchups. Although we rarely have a chance to do so, we usually opt for Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati games in the National Football Conference schedule on FOX Parkersburg, when they're available. We even successfully fought FOX a few years ago when it wanted us to carry a game other than the Cleveland Browns game we had requested.
When it comes to televising sports on our stations, whether it's games or coverage in our nightly sportscasts, we try to be "all things to all people".
But that's not always the same as "everybody".
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