City Desk

Cheap Seats Daily: George Michael Lives On?

"We're 4-13. I can hardly even say it." Jim Zorn during last night's post-game press conference, erroneously reflecting on the Redskins record heading into the 16th and last game of the season. The coach's misery won't end until a trip to San Diego to face the Chargers and Norv Turner, perhaps the only guy who Dan Snyder treated as bad as he's treated Zorn.

***

Bruce Allen continues to receive the greatest gifts any GM could want this holiday season: higher draft picks and lower expectations. After his new team's blowout loss to the Giants, the shutout to the Cowboys, the disappearance of the offense and the Albert Haynesworth/Greg Blache-instigated implosion of the defense, fans are begging for the sort of rebuild even Michelle Rhee would find excessive.

***

Saturday night's telecast of "Redskins Report," produced by WRC-4, was taped earlier in the week, before the show's founder, George Michael, died. And, probably because of the holiday, nobody bothered doing a retaping to fashion the program as a tribute to Michael, who started the weekly roundtable in 1980.

But even without any tweaking this episode was nevertheless a fine reminder of Michael's impact on the local broadcasting scene. Three of the four members of Redskins Report's latest panel — Dan Hellie, Doc Walker and David Aldridge – were on Dan Snyder's payroll. Aldridge was sitting in for Lindsay Czarniak. She's on Dan Snyder's payroll, too. (Mike Wise of the Washington Post and WJFK was the only guy on the show not on the take.)

Checkbook journalism is as big a part of Michael's legacy at WRC as his reliance on highlights.

Michael was the first sellout. Now there are sellouts all over the DC market.

He used his status as the only sportscaster that mattered — which he earned through sweat and futuristic vision and a level of on-air enthusiasm that can't be faked — to get more work. His popularity allowed him to do things that were unheard of in news departments until then.

Michael took a job with Dan Snyder's Redskins Broadcast Network shortly after Snyder bought the team, creating a blatant conflict of interest, since it meant he was now taking money from the Redskins, the most important subject on his WRC sports beat. And nobody at WRC blinked.

So landing Michael taught the young owner that pretty much all local journalists could indeed be bought. And soon enough Snyder had not only George Michael, but Michael Wilbon, the lead sports columnist in the Washington Post, taking Redskins money and carrying microphones with "Redskins Broadcast Network" logos on air.

Snyder also put several members of news departments from Fox-5 and WUSA on the Redskins payroll to host infomercials produced by the team. In 2001, Snyder hired Andy Pollin, the program director at WTEM, then the only sportsradio station in the market, to do a Redskins infomercial called "Redskins Game Day" — years before Snyder bought the whole station. Snyder added Washington Times writers, some of the last holdouts, to the payroll after acquiring WTEM.

And soon enough Snyder had so many financial relationships with local media that you could never know what to trust.

Michael tried to camouflage his relationship with the team. On the coaches shows produced by Snyder, for example, Michael always gave out an NBC email address for viewer comments, giving an air of credibility to the programs that they didn't deserve. I called Michael at work in the WRC studios years ago to ask him how he handled the conflict of interest caused by covering the Redskins for the news department of an NBC affiliate while also working for Snyder's Redskins Broadcast Network, and if he was uncomfortable carrying a microphone with the Redskins logo on-air.

Michael, who was as energetic off the air as on and always very fun to talk to, said he saw no conflict, and that he wouldn't use microphones with Redskins logos on camera. When a co-worker listening to our conversation in the WRC studio corrected him and told Michael, "Yeah, you carry Redskins microphones," Michael laughed and laughed and said, "Really? Well, it doesn't matter. I can say anything I want to say."

But, just as everybody long suspected, Michael didn't say everything.

Snyder confessed for Michael. Asked by WTEM host Tony Kornheiser for his recollections of Michael the day he died, Snyder said that Michael wouldn't give his WRC audience the whole story when Snyder didn't want it given.

"George knew a lot of things here that we were doing," Snyder said, "but he was somebody the franchise trusted."

***

Jason Reid and Dan Steinberg had a great story in Saturday's Washington Post. The time bomb that is Albert Haynesworth finally exploded. He's been sitting on the sidelines and taking a knee on crucial downs all season, while reports of his nightlife are all over the place. (Anybody out in Reston on Christmas Eve see Al pounding a Skinny Bitch on the Rag?)

Reid and Steinberg, the Woodward and Bernstein of SkinnyBitchontheRagGate, got Haynesworth to go all ground-and-pound on defensive coordinator Greg Blache, saying as a player he could not "survive another season in this system." ReidStein also also coaxed Haynesworth to whine about coaches treating him with harder kid gloves than unnamed teammates because "they're all against me or whatever."

"In the preseason, I fell asleep and was like a couple of minutes late for a meeting," Haynesworth said. "This is the second time I've ever been late for a meeting and I get sent home."

Reading the story, I thought about George Michael and the ties that blind. If Michael or any other Redskins employee knew that the highest paid player on the team was falling asleep during meetings, would he or she have reported it?

***

(Full disclosure: I freelance music reviews for the Washington Post.)

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Comments

  1. #1

    Dave,

    You know, once again a half-wit journalist such as yourself rips on one of the few legends of sportscasting purely out of envy. Your whole writeup here screams it. Even if he was on Snyder's payroll, he still asked the tough questions and still took it to the Skins every time they let us down.

    If nothing else, simply ask yourself what will be said about you when you're gone. I can't imagine much.

  2. #2

    KO: good stuff. i'll leave it to you to write my epitaph. something like: "He would have sold out quicker than George Michael, if only Dan Snyder had asked." Thanks for Playing the Feud!

  3. #3

    George Michael was widely known to be a pretty nasty, belligerent person to those who worked beneath him. He won't be missed.

  4. #4

    Wow. What a jerk. You wish you had 1/10th the talent GM did.

  5. #5

    I wouldn't wish cancer on George Michael, but I couldn't stand the guy. He was a loudmouth shill for the Redskins who was constantly making bold predictions with no basis in fact/reality. (Remember him saying the Bucs had no chance of beating the Raiders in the Super Bowl? How'd that turn out? Or obviously, his defense of Dan Snyder as a "good man" -- yeah, because you've raked it in off of him, George. His record as owner is about as distinguished as William Clay Ford, maybe less so.) I never really understood why he was so respected. To me, he always represented volume and puffery more than actual substance.

    And yes, I'd heard rumors of what Tim mentioned in an earlier post, too.

  6. #6

    yes, he was really great. He ripped off all the local photogs for years by selling highlights to the network and taking the money himself when it should have gone to the person shooting them.
    Great guy! A real legend there.

  7. GM WAS A LOUSY FATHER
    #7

    HOW COME GM ABANDONED HIS DAUGHTER? ALL THIS TALK ABOUT HOW GREAT HE WAS PISSES ME OFF. HE AND HIS 2ND WIFE DISOWNED A DAGHTER WHO WANTED TO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM. HE WAS A COLD AND CALLOUS SOB WHO REFUSED TO HAVE HER EVEN LISTED IN HIS OBITUARY. HIS DAUGHTER TURNED OUT TO BE A WONDERFUL PERSON WHICH IS SOMETHING GM WAS NOT.

  8. #8

    George Michael was by definition a megalomaniac.

    meg·a·lo·ma·ni·a (měg'ə-lō-mā'nē-ə, -mān'yə)
    n.

    1. A psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of wealth, power, or omnipotence.
    2. An obsession with grandiose or extravagant things or actions.

    To say that "it was all about George" would be accurate to those of us who knew him. George was Ruthless, narcissistic and without compassion.

    George's ego maniacal persona wouldn't be allowed in an NBC/CBS/ABC any longer. He closed out the era of the self worshipping/Prima Donna on-air shill. One glance at NewsBlues, confirms the exodus ,of George's generation of pompous on-air types. The last 5 years have seen them depart in droves. (voluntary or otherwise)

    But clearly George was a special case and only those that toiled in George's sweat shop could fill in the holes needed to do a full portrait of the George Michael phenom. That won't happen. For they were but obsequious sycophants.

    The gushing over George in Main Stream media is just not journalism. "Dancing on graves" is what real reporters do!"

    Thank You Dave McKenna for the barest peak at the vile essence of George Michael.

    Cheers,
    michael arrington
    NYC

  9. Comrade Al Gonzales
    #9

    A great American Communist who fought racism in sports & in the Army died recently.
    Lester Rodney was sports editor of the American Communist Party newspaper The Daily Worker and used that platform to wage an early battle against baseball’s color barrier, died Sunday in Walnut Creek, Calif. He was 98.

    Mr. Rodney, who was a card-carrying member, in the parlance of his day, of both the Communist Party USA and the Baseball Writers Association of America.

    In the 1930s and early ’40s, Mr. Rodney, a grandson of Jewish immigrants from Europe, became an outspoken voice among sportswriters, apart from the black press, in condemning racial discrimination in professional sports.

    Running a six-day-a-week Daily Worker sports section that he introduced in 1936 ... His columns cited the exploits of stars of the Negro leagues like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, and he quoted major league players and managers praising the talents of black players to buttress his argument that they offered a vast talent pool. He publicized Communist-led petition drives aimed at ending the majors’ exclusion of blacks.

    “Negro soldiers and sailors are among those beloved heroes of the American people who have already died for the preservation of this country and everything this country stands for — yes, including the great game of baseball,” Mr. Rodney wrote in an open letter to Landis published in The Daily Worker in May 1942. “You, the self-proclaimed ‘Czar’ of baseball, are the man responsible for keeping Jim Crow in our National Pastime. You are the one refusing to say the word which would do more to justify baseball’s existence in this year of war than any other single thing.”

    In recounting the mounting pressures baseball faced to end its color barrier, Arnold Rampersad wrote in his 1997 biography “Jackie Robinson” that “the most vigorous efforts came from the Communist press.”

    Mr. Rampersad told The San Francisco Chronicle in 2005 that Mr. Rodney “was forgotten because he was a Communist.”

    “But,” he added, “if Robinson was perceived by civil rights workers — and especially by Martin Luther King — as a historical turning point, anybody who facilitated the emergence of Jackie Robinson should be seen as one of the heroes of race integration.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/24/sports/24rodney.html

  10. Dave McKenna's Tact and Class
    #10

    Oh sorry, I don't actually exist. If I did, I would have written all of this while the guy was STILL ALIVE, instead of coming off like a petulant coward and pissing on the guy's grave.

    You're the worst kind of "journalist"- one who goes for shock rather than content

  11. #11

    Dude: isn't your "free lancing" for the Post exactly the type of conflict of interest that you are whining about here? You're a friggin' hypocrite............

  12. #12

    DM's Tact:yes, i should have written about George Michael's conflicts while he was alive. oh, wait!
    http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2007/09/26/the-george-michaeldan-snyder-charade/
    http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/display.php?id=35702
    http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/cheap/2005/cheap0930.html
    http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/display.php?id=30379
    http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/display.php?id=27704
    http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/cheap/2005/cheap1230.html

    there's way more where that came from too, DM'S Tact.does that make me tactful and classy?

    Joe: yes. good stuff.
    to both of you: thanks for playing the feud!

  13. Dave McKenna's Tact and Class
    #13

    Congrats on acting like an 11 year old girl looking for any kind of attention. Best part is that no one will ever write anything about you when you go

    Hahahahahahahahahahahaha

  14. To know GM was to tolerate him
    #14

    Right on the money, Dave. All the national adulation that George Michael got masks the fact that he was widely disliked by his peers and feared and reviled by those who worked for him. Sports is the sandbox of journalism, and nearly all those who work in it are nice guys and gals. After all, they get to see the games for free, get to talk to the players, get free food in the press lounge, free parking, and get paid for it.

    Michael's ego rubbed even the nicest people the wrong way, and the fact that he sold out to the Danny made it even worse.

    The Haynesworth story is just another case of Danny spending tens of millions in March to buy himself a headache and a wasted season in December. Why doesn't he build a team from the bottom up, instead of shooting his wad on overhyped mercenaries? Because he's a jackass. But we knew that, even though George Michael never told us.

  15. You still can't deny that man
    #15

    Really...who cares?? RIP GM

  16. #16

    Dead on piece, Dave. (No pun intended.) Michael did no actual reporting, never asked hard questions, didn't actually know a lot about sports like basketball and hockey (I remember him once being openly baffled that the Wizards had signed "some guy" named Darius Songaila -- "Ever heard of him? Me either." Michael said). And he was a fairly obvious shill for Dan Snyder. You had said it before and it needed to be said again. Well done.

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