Daniel Snyder-owned ESPN 980 isn't pulling any punches on the Redskins

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By Leonard Shapiro
Tuesday, December 7, 2010; 10:32 AM

It's always wildly entertaining to tune to ESPN980 the morning after yet another dismal loss by the Washington Redskins. The angst and venom from talk-show hosts and their angry callers are way off the charts, and Monday morning's reaction to the Redskins' debacle against the New York Giants was no exception.

And yet it also must be said that a station owned by Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, the man many still consider the major villain of this piece, seems to pull very few punches in what it allows its broadcasters to say on the air about anyone even remotely associated with the team, particularly Snyder himself.

We've taken plenty of shots at Snyder in this space over the years, mostly for his continued reluctance to show up behind a microphone at his own station to answer tough questions from both the show hosts and agitated fans on the phones. But at least Snyder, so far in his radio stewardship, has not interfered much with the people he pays to yakkety-yak about the Redskins. Good for him.

Driving here and there Monday morning, I heard Andy Pollin talk about Snyder's major fault in so many years past: Thinking the Redskins were "close" to getting into the upper echelon of the league's best teams, and then spending outrageous sums on all the wrong stiffs trying to put them over the top. The problem now, Pollin said, is that the current Redskins are closer to the cellar-dwelling Carolina Panthers than they are the Giants.

The most passionate Monday-morning rant-master was former Redskins tight end Rick "Doc" Walker, who also co-hosts "The John Thompson Show" later in the afternoon. He was particularly outraged at the decision not to play the biggest stiff of all - defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth - against the Giants on Sunday, but was highly critical of the player, as well.

"Who do you hate more, the Giants or us?" Walker said of Coach Mike Shanahan's decision to bench Haynesworth, ostensibly because he had a lousy practice on Thursday and didn't practice at all Friday because he was sick. "You've got to get your playmakers on the field. . . . I believe in winning at all costs. Fine him on Monday. . . . I'm not going to sacrifice 53 men and the fan base. I don't give a damn [about Haynesworth]. I'm trying to beat you. . . . It burns my [rear end] that people can earn a profit and not perform. It's [Haynesworth's] fault as well."

While we're on the subject of ESPN980, it's also appropriate to give a shout-out to a couple of other station broadcasters for some very good work. A few weeks ago, in the aftermath of Donovan McNabb's benching late in a loss to the Detroit Lions, early-afternoon hosts Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro had McNabb on the air for his weekly segment. They asked all the right questions, with exactly the proper pitch and tone.

McNabb, as always, gave all the politically correct, maddeningly statesmanlike responses, but Sheehan and Loverro definitely distinguished themselves that day. Sheehan also has the responsibility for hosting the seemingly never-ending pregame show every Sunday and does a truly masterful job juggling a wide variety of moving parts.

Postgame host Al Galdi deserves credit, as well. Galdi, among other roles at the station, fills the air between the end of the game and Shanahan's postgame news conference, usually a span of 25 to 30 minutes. His summation and analysis of what just happened on the field is almost always direct and to the point, and occasionally he talks about facets of the game-within-the-game hardly ever mentioned by the television talking heads.

His give-and-take with callers is almost always respectful and occasionally illuminating. Galdi also hosts his own informative show on Saturday mornings, and the station could do listeners a large favor by giving him even more exposure during the week.

Here's another suggestion for the station's Redskins beat reporter, Chris Russell, who went on the air Monday morning and said a team source had told him there was a "75 percent chance" Haynesworth would be released by the end of the week. Oh please, that's such an easy way out. Whether he stays or goes, you're sort of right. In the future, if your source can't say it's one way or the other, why bother?

Later in the day, the station was saying that ESPN's Adam Schefter was reporting that Haynesworth would definitely finish out the season. Russell then dropped the 75 percent hedge and said the team was "seriously considering" Haynesworth's future. You think?


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