Station Break with Paul Farhi: Pop Culture

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Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 25, 2009; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Paul Farhi was online Tuesday, Aug. 25, at 1 p.m. ET to talk about the latest news and topical issues in the pop culture world of TV, radio, movies and trends.

Today: The Redskins pre-season TV games have been transformed into Snyderland, a place where everything down to the line-up announcements are sponsored, branded and squeezed for every last drop of promotional juice. It's stunning, it's amazing, and it might be the state of the art of sports marketing. Plus, reality TV turns (even more) lurid....

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Paul Farhi: Greetings, all, and welcome 'round...So I watched the Redskins-Steelers preseason game on TV Saturday night. Or rather (to tweak the old cliche) I watched an infomercial and a football game broke out. The producer of the telecast was "the Redskins Broadcast Network," but really, I think I was in a place called Snyderland. The game itself (and yes, it WAS just a meaningless preseason game) seemed almost an afterthought to the main event, which was the endless salesmanship. Hardly a second passed that wasn't sold, sponsored, branded, or (as the trendy people like to say these days) monetized in some way.

There were plain old commercials, of course. But there were commercials within the game, too. The on-screen score box carried a Papa John's Pizza logo. The GEICO logo was briefly superimposed on the playing field. A taped package, highlighting the history of (real) Skins-Steelers games, was sponsored, too. Even the line-up graphics had a sponsor. Plus, there were constant reminders to check out the team's official website (though oddly, no plugs for Snyder's string of local radio stations; maybe I missed those).

Even the announcers and sideline reporters were in on the act. Everyone was decked out in Redskins-logo shirts (shame on Channel 4 sports anchor Lindsay Czarniak and Comcast Sportsnet reporter Kelli Johnson, who apparently are now employed part-time by the Redskins as sideline reporters; isn't that a conflict of interest?).

I'm not naive. I know pro sports (and college, too) went all "Rollerball" a long time ago. And, yes, Snyder is for squeezing every last dollar out of his team (we've talked a bit on this chat about his mandatory $10 parking fees for concerts at FedEx). But this was struck me as kind state of the art. I can't imagine any trick was missed. Fortunately, the NFL doesn't allow corporate logos on players' uniforms, or we'd be watching the Papa John's Washington Redskins.

What grabs me, ultimately, is not the relentless huckersterism, but the almost authoritarian control over the "message." Just as Snyder's purchase of sports radio stations raised concerns about the independence of those stations, the team-controlled broadcasts suggest we've entered a kind of North Korean-style control in pro sports, with nothing off-message permitted to enter the picture. It's not what's said that's a problem; it's what's NOT said that's problematic. You'll never know what's wrong or bad or crummy (about the team, the coaches, the stadium, and most assuredly, the owner) when the team is in charge of everything you see and hear.

Let's hope there are still some independent voices out there, willing to report without fear or favor on one of Washington's biggest cultural institutions.

Okay, sermon over. Let's go to the phones...

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WRC = Washington Redskins Commercial TV: In recent years, Channel 4's Sunday "Redskins Game Plan" and the Saturday coach's show at least gave the appearance of being semi-news programs, but after watching last weekend, I wouldn't even give them that much credit anymore. Channel 4 might as well move their entire sports operation out to Redskins Park.

Paul Farhi: All of those local Redskins TV shows are done with the cooperation of the team, and are, in fact, "licensed" by the team in some way. I don't know the extent of the team's control over the content, but you won't see a lot of hard-hitting journalism on any of those shows. Okay, you won't see any.

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Ashburn, Va.: The stadium may be full for games, the merchandise may be selling, and the Redskins may actually be turning a profit, but it is still worth noting that now, more than ever -- especially with this season's stupid, Draconian parking restrictions -- more and more and more people are simply fed up, sick and tired, disgusted and angry at the continually horrible, poor and patently offensive management of this organization by Snyder. Everyone hates him, everyone hates his terrible radio stations, everyone hates the horrendous prices for tickets, parking, concessions and merchandise, everyone hates the personnel choices that the team has made, and everyone is just simply tired of all of the bad management. It's that simple. Simply put: It's time for Dan Snyder to sell this team to someone else, and to restore The Washington Redskins organization to the level of quality that existed under Jack Kent Cooke. Snyder never should have bought the team in the first place. And the same goes for a certain Mr. Angelos up the road in neighboring Baltimore in regards to the once-great Baltimore Orioles.

Paul Farhi: Well, cool your jets, Ashburn. Not everyone hates him. From the looks of things, a lot of people don't seem to have a problem (or at least aren't complaining about) the things you mention. Snyder and his organization aren't leaving any money on the table, that's for sure. But people keep paying and paying. Until the rubber band breaks and there's mass defections to the Nationals (dream on), we have to assume people are making a rational, if perhaps even grudging, choice to spend their money this way.

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Rockville. Md.: It's eerie -- and strange -- that everything that Snyder seems to be involved with decreases in terms of quality: the Redskins, local radio stations, Six Flags, Johnny Rocket diners, and everything else. Why does this guy continue to be involved with these companies? Have you been to a Six Flags lately, or the one in P.G. County? They're dirty, disorganized, over-priced, badly-managed, filled with poor service, food stands are shut down, water rides don't work, roller coasters are constantly shut down, and there doesn't seem to be any security. They're horribly run, also! And Six Flags used to be pretty good amusement parks. Not any longer!

Paul Farhi: Wow. Some real strong feelings out there about this, eh? Well, I haven't been to Six Flags in years, so I can't comment there. From the outside, however, given the stock price, the company seems to have been beaten down by the recession, gas prices, high debt, and other factors beyond its control. There MAY have been some factors within its control, too. I just don't know...

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Bowie, Md.: I thought I noticed last season, but wasn't sure...

Is Giant Food a sponsor of Redskins' radio broadcasts, except when they play New York?

Paul Farhi: That doesn't make a lot of sense. The Redskins' radio broadcasts are heard throughout the Washington area, not in NYC. Why would Giant cut out when the Redskins are playing the Giants?

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The Airless Cubicle: Paul,

As a young man, I spent much of my time listening to the ponderous, canting tones of Radio Moscow on my shortwave radios. There were other communist countries I listened to as well, but stations from North Korea or Albania were laughable because they were out of touch with American thinking. They could not persuade us. There was something about Moscow's voice that was not funny at all. They knew us well enough to frighten us. Perhaps it was the implied threat behind the speaker of divisions of armored soldiers and nuclear missiles aimed at myself and my loved ones. I developed a healthy distaste for systems in which all outlets spoke with one voice.

A Swedish critic, Sam Lundwall, remarked about Nineteen Eighty-Four something to the effect it doesn't matter if Big Brother's boot has a hammer or sickle or a Coca-Cola symbol on it. I don't agree with Lundwall completely: Corporations don't intend to run all your life; they want to maximize profits, which is a proper thing to do. It's the means by which they do this which are distasteful at times. You have master manipulators such as Enron; you have polluters such as Union Carbide in Bhopal; and you have the B.S. artists.

B.S. artists are the most annoying. Dan Snyder is a B.S. artist. He intends to control the Redskins brand in all things, including limiting opposing voices. Sometimes he bans them (like Washington Times reporters). Sometimes he buys them out, such as buying WTEM after establishing the feeble Red Zebra network.

Worse -- then Snyder and his people produce a product that is mediocre at best.

Dan Snyder is not Leonid Brezhnev. He can't throw me into the Redskins Gulag. However, I am tired of the Redskins marketing juggernaut. I don't want to go to Six Flags, eat at Johnny Rockets, or even buy a car from Eastern Motors. I don't want to hear every Redskins player on every station with their own five-minute show. I hate listening to Redskins broadcasts, because I feel what I hear is not wholly truthful. If I end up listening to WTEM, it's because the alternatives for programming are worse. (Note: The Cubicle is not in WJFK's effective signal range.)

What am I to do? If I love the Redskins as a football team, must I end up tuning into Westwood One's coverage or even (gasp) the Giants and Eagles stations to follow the team?

The best thing Dan Snyder could do is to turn down the marketing knob from 11. If he can't do that without losing money, then take the loss and sell the team!

Paul Farhi: Early Airless! We're honored...And thanks for classing up the joint. We don't get many quotes from Swedish critics on this channel!

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Savage: I realize Mr. Modell a lot less popular in Ohio than Mr. Snyder is here, but living in southern Howard County, it's nice to have a choice of teams. Last year, I switched halfway through the season and watched a Super Bowl contender.

Paul Farhi: I don't know a thing about the Ravens marketing operation. But they were a very good team last year...

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Ex-D.C.: You still have the option of ignoring them, right? Landover isn't North Korea, other than the bad food, forbidding terrain, and (slightly) demilitarized zone.

Paul Farhi: Of course you do. But as I noted, the Redskins are a major cultural institution around these parts, and a cherished one. You have the option of ignoring lots of things. But why would anyone ignore one of things they love?

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Montgomery Village, Md.: Paul -- Is it true that the crazy looking bald guy dancing in the Six Flags commercials is really Fred Grandy? Sure looks like him. Maybe he learned to dance like that on the Love Boat or in Congress.

Paul Farhi: If so, Fred's got some dandy moves. Pretty good for a guy who sits behind a microphone for a living.

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we have to assume people are making a rational, if perhaps even grudging, choice to spend their money this way.: Well, it's almost like a drug. Once you get really hooked on a team, they've got you in their clutches.

Paul Farhi: Sure. And the Redskins (any sports team, really) are an emotional thing. People love them. It's irrational, but they do.

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Verklempt Pittsburgher: "I watched an infomercial and a football game broke out."

Well, at least YOUR team won!

Paul Farhi: C'mon, it's preseason, which is a joke and sort of a scam. It gets covered like it's almost the real deal, and it isn't even close. Would you go see a movie where the stars show up for the first 20 minutes and then sit down, replaced by no names and wannabes? Of course not.

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Springfield, Va.: Paul -- Have you seen the YouTube video making fun of Dan Snyder? It's a hilariously offensive look at Red Zebra and WJFK going all sports. The same Hitler movie footage was used last year to spoof Hillary Clinton as well.

washingtonpost.com: Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder Is Quite Upset (YouTube)

Paul Farhi: After all the "town hall meetings" on health care with the whackos comparing Obama to Hitler, I'm having trouble with ANY Hitler comparison. Kind of offensive....

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Laurel, Md.: Paul, in the last 13 years, two new major sports teams moved into the Baltimore/Washington area.

Do you know if it was Frank Herzog's preference to be on WTOP and not doing sports any more, or did the Ravens and Nationals not want him to be their voice?

Paul Farhi: Not sure he was even considered. Frank was not a baseball guy, and I doubt that he had any name recognition in Baltimore, considering that he's spent almost all of his career in Washington. And how well would Ravens fans respond to having the Redskins' ex-announcer as their guy? Wouldn't fly...

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Well, at least YOUR team won!: The way I look at it, you don't want your team to win during pre-season. Especially if they're the Redskins. If they end up beating the Patriots the Skins are going to be so overconfident when the real season begins, I'll be afraid to watch.

Paul Farhi: Yes, and it would raise expectations far beyond what the team may be able to support during the regular season. I think everyone--coaches, players, broadcasters, sportswriters--should downplay the preseason games more. Of course, that might kill the ticket sales, so I guess that won't happen.

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"But why would anyone ignore one of things they love?": I dunno; ask my wife.

Paul Farhi: Hahaha! I feel bad for your wife...

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Is "Mr." Snyder still involved with Tom Cruise's production company? Cruise's acting career has been on a downslide too ... Perhaps the Snyder people are involved in choosing movie scripts?

Paul Farhi: I just saw "Valkyrie" a few weeks ago. Not bad, really. And Cruise was more restrained than in anything I've seen him in in decades. It was as if he, or the director, were consciously trying to play down his movie star-ness. Very cold--and interesting--performance by him.

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Washington, D.C.;: Dear Redskins fans,

I'm a Detroit Lions fan. It could be so much worse. Count your blessings. Thanks.

Paul Farhi: 'Nuff said.

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Oakton, Va.: Oh, the Redskins aren't so bad. I saw an episode of "Eureka" where the plot had to stop for 30 seconds so a character could describe in great detail all the fine features of her new Subaru. And Channel 7 just has to plunk down McDonald's coffee cups in front of their morning news anchors.

Paul Farhi: Yes, this is the way of the world, generally speaking. And by the way: "The Washington Post--If you don't get it, you..." etc.

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Re: "Ravens": "Mr. Modell a lot less popular in Ohio" is an understatement of huge proportion. Art Modell is hanged in effigy when they Browns play the Ravens. In a survey taken during the brief Browns-less Cleveland interval, Mr. Modell came in second (after Hitler) as the most evil person in history. "Not popular" doesn't even begin to describe it.

Paul Farhi: Hitler again, eh? Does anyone think we could save Hitler for real comparisons of evil? Like, who was worse, Hitler or Stalin or Mao? Or, was Hitler worse than any of the Roman emperors? I think we need to up our game a bit...

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Pre-Season Champs: Best thing to come out of Detroit in a while: last year's "2008 Pre-Season Champions" t-shirt.

Paul Farhi: Excellent!

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Haterade: Just my 5 cents, I loathe and despise Dan Snyder with the strength of a thousand suns. I won't spite the team because of him, but perhaps that day will come.

He has made a once proud franchise an absolute laughingstock.

Paul Farhi: Well, that's going a bit far. 8-8 last season. Not exactly "laughingstock" territory...

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Reality: Dan Snyder, Bill Gates: Same business model. Make every effort to stifle competition so your mediocre product will make as much money as possible.

Paul Farhi: Every business person wants an advantage, an edge. This is why there are corporate lawyers.

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Arlington, Va.: I agree with you about pre-season games -- they are a scam, pure and simple, where the goal is to separate fans from their hard-earned cash and deliver a substandard product. I've never understood the appeal. Wake me when the real season starts.

Paul Farhi: Roger that...

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Modest Proposal: What would happen if everybody simply stopped going?

One of the benefits of watching the games at home is that you control your experience (plus, the parking's usually free).

Let's start the movement now: a one-week boycott of every Skins-related expenditure. Doesn't matter which game, but you know it would get The Danny's attention.

Paul Farhi: Gosh, that's a tough one. There are thousands and thousands of kids out there who know nothing of our adult complaints and grumping who just love the Redskins. Want to deny them a jersey or a Redskins lunchbox? I didn't think so...

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Laurel, Md.: BTW, since Vick's an Eagle, which opponent should we hate most this season?

Paul Farhi: I hate to say this, because I know I'm supposed to compare Vick to Hitler, but I can't wait to see Vick play. He was such a fascinating athlete before he got himself in so much trouble. I doubt he's the same guy he was two or three years ago, but, man, what an athlete, and what a comeback story.

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Anonymous: "From the outside, however, given the stock price, the company seems to have been beaten down by the recession, gas prices, high debt, and other factors beyond its control"

High debt is not beyond a company's control. Who do you think borrowed the money?

You hear this all the time when companies file for bankruptcy -- "It's a good company, our balance sheet just got out of whack." Translation, we borrowed too much when we bought this thing.

Paul Farhi: True. Fair comment.

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Washington, D.C.: What has been the reaction to your article suggesting that newspapers abandon their Web sites?

washingtonpost.com: Build That Pay Wall High (American Journalism Review, June, July 2009)

Paul Farhi: Thanks for asking...That's been interesting. Lots of supportive comments from people here. But lots more pushback from bloggers and such. Makes sense, doesn't it? The people here are my friends and colleagues. The people out there aren't. And, of course, if you're a blogger or online commentator, you are deeply, deeply invested in the future of the web, not print.

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Is it sports or business?: Sports or business, just as easy to cheer for AT and T over Sprint, don't you think?

Paul Farhi: Funny idea. We have no emotional connection to companies like we do to teams, though we do have a much more real and direct connection to companies. We invest in them, we use and pay for their services every day. But root for them? Wouldn't it be strange and cool if we did?

Go, Pepsi! Kick Coke's [bleep]! Etc.

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Love it or Hate it: As a NASCAR fan, KING of product placement, so I'm not phased by extreme marketing. I think we have this conversation every year when we start hearing about the Pets.com bowl and the Pizza Hut pregame show.

Paul Farhi: Yeah, true sports fans can compartmentalize this. Part of the scenery to them and not a distraction at all. I guess I'm not a true sports fan. It tends to bug me.

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On the Other Hand: "pre-season games -- they are a scam, pure and simple, where the goal is to separate fans from their hard-earned cash"

Regular season NFL games are to .... promote world peace?

Paul Farhi: At least regular season games are a semi-honest product. You're paying to see the best play. And the best do play. You're paying because the outcome counts in the standings. And it does. You're probably better off watching training camp than watching a preseason pro football game...

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"I'm supposed to compare Vick to Hitler": An old episode of Hill Street Blues featured a failed standup comedian by the name of...Vic Hitler.

Paul Farhi: Mel Brooks has certainly gotten a lot of mileage out of his Hitler/Nazi parodies. I'm just sayin'...

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Spoiled kids: "The kids want..." isn't a great argument against a 1-week boycott, which is what the previous poster proposed. (Not that boycotts are as effective as people think.) Parents would be smart to apply a 1-week -- at least -- cooling-off period to most requests their children make. Save a lot of money that way.

Paul Farhi: Parents would be wise to apply an entire childhood cooling off period for the junk their kids want. I'm not that churlish--I was a kid once (I think)--but kids will be fine if they don't get all the junk they want. In my experience, it's only marginally related to overall childhood happiness.

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RE: Modest Proposal: If everyone stopped going, Redskins fans that is, the opposing team's fans would buy up the tickets on Stub Hub, which is the official ticket resale outlet of the Redskins and who get a share of the profits from the resales. Snyder wins again.

Paul Farhi: But that would create the additional embarrassment (if making more money can be said to be an "embarrassment") of having FedEx Field filled with opposing fans. Remember the Redskins-Steelers regular season game in which the stadium was filled by Terrible Towel-waving fans from Pittsburgh? That looked awful on TV, and was a true black-eye for civic pride...

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Re: Bloggers: Why aren't bloggers more interested in helping newspapers make a go of it on-line? If we lose the big newspapers, what will they aggregate and/or comment on? I mean, CakeWrecks will probably still be in business, but anyone whose subject is current events will suffer greatly with no original material to work with.

Paul Farhi: I generally agree with you, although sadly, newspapers have cut back so much that they are providing less and less original material all the time. I can't imagine a world (or an internet) without the raw factual material that newspapers provide every day, but I guess the bloggers don't really care about any of that. They're mostly about themselves and their opinions, with little thought given to where they're getting their basic facts.

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pre-season anything: All preseasons are meaningless -- to fans. To the people who are attempting to make the final cut -- it means something.

Owners, as good capitalists, saw an opportunity and the fans bought it.

Paul Farhi: Yes. Entirely true. The marketing of preseason NFL games is a pretty good basis for a Harvard Business Review piece. They were never much until a few years ago...

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Six Flags: To be fair, Six Flags' incursion of debt dates back to when it was owned by Time Warner and Boston Ventures, an investment fund.

Paul Farhi: Why is that "fair"? It's like saying, "I bought the house knowing it had a termite problem. Now the house is a shambles. But to be fair, the termites were there before I bought it."

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Falls Church, Va.: I've been a Redskins fan since the 1960s. Enjoyed the George Allen years and their ride to the top with Gibbs. Enjoyed the class act brought back by Gibbs II. Zorn seems like a decent guy. Snyder hasn't won me over though. I've only been to Fedex field once, for a Giants game during regular season a few years back. It was not a friendly environment for fans in general or families in particular. Stadium was filled with what Brits call lager louts -- rowdy or aggressive young drunk males. Parking expensive and inconvenient. I'll continue to watch them on TV, especially if they start winning. But the brand has suffered under Snyder. I find it hard to believe the operation remains so profitable?

Paul Farhi: I've experienced the same things and just figured it came with the territory (football is an aggressive game, and young guys live vicariously through it). Question is, what would you do about it? Tell people to be nice? Stop serving beer? Seriously, what...?

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Re: The Airless Cubicle: "You don't even realize that there is no world anymore! It's only corporations!" - Number 2 in Austin Powers may have been more right that he realized. The next step from extreme marketing may be the withering away of formal government in the polar opposite of Marxism. In a carryover from major league sports, individuals will have to sign on as "citizens" of corporations, ceding complete control over their lives.

Paul Farhi: I feel a sci-fi novel coming on. Oh, wait. I think I've read (or seen) that one before...

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Rockville, Md.: There are a lot of Steeler fans in the Washington area, because a lot of kids who grew up there had to come here for jobs.

Paul Farhi: Seriously? Was there a great Pittsburgh exodus? Was it any greater than the exodus from other cities?

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Anonymous: "Funny idea. We have no emotional connection to companies like we do to teams, though we do have a much more real and direct connection to companies. We invest in them, we use and pay for their services every day. But root for them? Wouldn't it be strange and cool if we did?"

Maybe if there was a really cool computer company that would take on Microsoft we could cheer for it. Or a supermarket that sold healthy food and did things the right way. We could cheer for them too.

Don't kid yourself. People cheer for Apple and Whole Foods -- and a lot of other companies -- all the time. If their company "wins" their choices are validated.

Paul Farhi: Perhaps you're right. Those consumers just don't gather in stadiums and arenas to cheer (well, except for that Apple expo in S.F. every year). But there is a very obvious behavioral yardstick: Sales. People vote with their wallets all the time.

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Preseason Idea: Why not hold training camps at college stadia in cool summertime climes? We Floridians are invaded every March by spring training fans, so why couldn't the Skins train in, say, Vermont?

Paul Farhi: I guess the idea is two-fold: 1) Hold camp near where the fans are (in order to charge admission); 2) Hold camp in a hot place to prepare the players for the first (hot) month of the season.

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Pay wall: I've been reading the Post exclusively on-line since it became available. Prior to that, although I read the copy available at work, I'd dropped my daily subscription (too much paper to dispose of, too many hassles with delivery).

I'd be willing to pay for Web access, even during periods when I don't have much time to spend on the site. But if it went dark, I'd just depend on TV. You couldn't pay me to start taking a daily paper again.

Paul Farhi: Well, 620,000 people pay US to get the paper every day. But I recognize that other people feel differently. The thing about a pay wall, though: It will drive away lots and lots of traffic. Which means we will deliver fewer readers to advertisers. Which means they will pay less for the ads that they place. I doubt that the additional subscription revenue will make up for the lost advertising revenue (which isn't all that great to begin with). A lose-lose proposition...

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Spons, OR: John Sterling: This Yankee Home Run brought to you courtesy of Bank of America. Now let's go to the Pizza Hut out of town scoreboard.

Or something like that, haven't listened lately. Although I do remember Mel Allen's Ballantine Blast.

Paul Farhi: Sure. But it's worse now.

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Re: Citizen FedEx: There's a book by Max Berry called "Jennifer Government" where everyone's last name is determined by who they work for (the title character works for the feds, but was formerly Jennifer Mattel and was responsible for the greatest Malibu Barbie roll-out ever)

Paul Farhi: Yes. Also, "The Space Merchants," which I dimly recall reading many years ago...

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To be fair: If you (knowingly) buy a termite-infested house, you can't whine about termite infestation. But you also don't slap on new paint and install replacement windows -- you have to spend money eradicating the termites and repairing the damage. I think that's the point: It's unfair to blame Snyder for any decline in the Six Flags experience, since his business model has to be bringing it back to profitability before anything else.

Paul Farhi: No, but he and his investors knowingly bought their shares understanding the risks they were taking on. It's a little silly for anyone to complain about debt; that was a well-known risk factor...

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Herndon, Va.: I don't think pre-season games are meaningless to fans as they come at a time when most fans are starved for football. A lot of fans think, "It may be pre-season, but at least it is football."

Paul Farhi: Yes. But it's the Diet Coke of football, as Dr. Evil might have said...

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"It's a good company, our balance sheet just got out of whack." Translation, we borrowed too much when we bought this thing.: Also they never ask themselves if their execs are too highly paid. Does anyone really need to own 10 houses?

Paul Farhi: I hate to start a thread on that one. Yeah, no one needs 10 houses, but if you create wealth for everyone you're entitled to a piece of that action, too, blah blah blah. I will say that high executive pay usually LOOKS bad. It's terrible P.R. to have guys making so much when things are going south. But as a factor in the decline and fall of a company? Probably not really a big deal, overall.

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Pittsburgh Exodus: Paul,

You do realize that they no longer make steel in the Steelers home town?

Though Buffalo probably gives Pittsburghers a run for their money on size of the exodus.

Paul Farhi: Yeah, the Bills have a pretty large following here, don't they. And Tim Russert was practically a one-man chamber of commerce for Buffalo. Must be a fair number of 'em in the Washington area...

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Was there a great Pittsburgh exodus?: You'd better believe it! Big steel closed down in the early '80s, other corporations moved their HQs out of town, so young 'uns left in droves -- whether blue- or white-collar -- and D.C. back then had tons of jobs while being only a half-day's drive away, handy for visits home. One of the nation's largest proportions of senior citizens live in Pittsburgh, outside of certain retirement communities in the Sun Belt.

Paul Farhi: Makes sense. And same reason for Buffalo, I would surmise. Very interesting....

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Olney, Md.: Yes the Pittsburgh exodus to the D.C. area has been an ongoing thing for 30 years. I am a product of the exodus. I left the burgh 30 years ago for career opportunities here. But you can never really leave the burgh, so that's why there are many Steeler, Pens and even diehard Pirate fans in the area. About the only thing we left behind was that nasty Iron city beer.

Paul Farhi: A fair number of West Virginia transplants here, too, it seems, although that's closer. And frankly, they're probably Pittsburgh-loyal, too...

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Edgewater, Md.: My question is why does Washington continue to use the most offensive nickname of any sports team? And please spare me the mindless comparisons to the Eagles and Falcons and other animals or names like the Vikings and Celtics and the "Oh we're insulting them." It's especially offensive when I see that idiot dress up like a Native American running around with war-paint on. He deserved to get his butt kicked in Philly years ago. A lot of Colleges and High Schools are getting it and have changed their names, but not the Professional Team in our nation's Capitol. As far as marketing pre-season games and charging full price for them I've got no problem with it since I would never go to one. You have a choice unless you're a Snyder-sucker season ticket holder -- but then again you've still got a choice.

Paul Farhi: This is a very tiresome debate. And what I find particularly tiresome about it is that it is a debate at all. I'll grant that there may be a few historical references to Redskins that were not intended as slights or racist insults. But the vast majority of them certainly were. It will take some courage to mess with all the people who love the tradition of the Redskins and don't want the name changed, but someone should get a spine and do it, regardless.

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I feel a sci-fi novel coming on. Oh, wait. I think I've read (or seen) that one before...: Snow Crash, by Neil Stephenson.

Paul Farhi: Thank you.

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Corporate Teams: How about the New York Red Bulls (formerly Metrostars)? It's named after a certain caffeinated drink.

Paul Farhi: Yes. And in Europe, it's hard to tell what the actual names of the soccer teams are because of all the corporate advertising on the jerseys. One popular team appears to be called the "Fly Emirates."

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Washington, D.C.: Every team does the same thing in the preseason. IF they are smart, they have their own broadcast operation which produces the games and sells them to the local affiliates. I'm not a Snyder fan, but he's not doing anything unique here.

I'm wondering who does sell the ad spots though. Do the Redskins buy the time from the TV stations and sell their own advertising or do the TV stations pay for the rights and sell their own ad time?

Paul Farhi: I wondered about that, too. I've been trying to get an answer from Comcast Sportsnet, which is the official "originator" of the game. Will let you know if I ever find out.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: What up, P-Far? As a former Pittsburgher, I can attest to the exodus, though it has to be said that the Steelers travel extremely well. There are Steeler bars all over the country, and when you have a great team coming from an area that has only recently been on the upswing, it means there are a lot of fans and emigres trying to connect back to it.

As for the atmosphere at FedEx, Heinz Field (and the old Three Rivers) is unfortunately the same way. I feel fine because I'm wearing black and gold, but I worry for the out-of-towners entering the not-so-friendly confines. This sounds like it's straight out of "The Warriors," only not as cool.

Paul Farhi: Thanks for the enlightenment on the Pittsburgh Exodus, everyone!...As for abusing visiting fans, that may be the dumbest thing about sports, ever. So a guy is wearing a jersey of an opposing team? Yeah, so? That's a reason to heap scorn on him, and possibly beat him up? Sports fans can be such morons...

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Rockville, Md.: I heard that 'old man' in the Six Flags commercials is actually a female dancer (with Oscar-worthy makeup, apparently).

And step off Iron City! They are going through bankruptcy AGAIN -- it's a shame.

Paul Farhi: This warrants investigation, too. I'm on it...

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Lions fan again:: Give up the "what if people stop going" thing. People will never stop going. There will always be a draw to watch a pro-team, even if it's to see the visiting team. The people who have been on waitlists for years will still go. The worst is what my family does. They still buy tickets though they don't attend games. It's when season ticket packages fail to sell (and that takes a lot) will the culture change. We've been waiting for that culture change for about 50 years in the D.

Paul Farhi: Agreed. There's something generational about local-team worship. It's passed down from parent to child. It connects us to each other in a way that other institutions do not. It's important to our identity, and in our history. Which is why you hate to see that abused, in any way...

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The Fresca of Football: What's even more galling is that tickets/parking/concessions cost the same for a preseason as a regular season game. This is something that can't be laid at the feet of Danny -- every owner agreed to this scam. And fans will take it. For some, like Giants, Steelers, and Pats fans, this might be the only way to see a game in the stadium, since season tickets are tied up in astronomically-long waits. Still stinks, though.

Paul Farhi: Seemed like a whole lot of empty seats on Saturday. Maybe it was the rain, or maybe a lot of those tickets didn't actually sell. There's hope, I guess...

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Random Thought: All this stuff I'm reading in the Post lately about CIA interrogations just sounds like a slow day in the office for Jack Bauer.

Paul Farhi: Yes, the story about the interrogators (sp.?) using a gun and a drill to intimidate some suspect gave me a bit of a chill. Shades of J. Bauer....

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Albany, N.Y.: Re Redskins: I like the idea which would do the right thing AND honor tradition: Keep the name but change the logo to a redskin potato.

Paul Farhi: Hahahaha!....You hippies make me sick.

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Stop me if you've heard this before: Yer football team can keep it's name, just change the logo and mascot to a potato. Yep, it's in the bag.

Paul Farhi: Oh, there's two of you out there? Why, I oughta...

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Franklin Square, Washington, D.C.: Afraid to address this simple topic, I sent it earlier...

I know you don't have any direct contact, but what do you hear about Mr. Tony being back on the radio next month. Seemed like a sure thing a few weeks ago but now, two weeks out, no promos, no indications of contracts, nada. Just wondering.....

Paul Farhi: It sounds like a done deal to me. No reason to doubt Mr. T's statements about coming back and working for Red Zebra/Snyder...

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Metro D.C.: I used to work for a company that recruited aggressively in central and western PA. Of course the folks would get here and find that what they thought was a comparatively high salary came with an even higher cost of living.

Paul Farhi: That's gotta be shock, for everyone who comes here from just about anywhere. Me, I came here from San Francisco, where the cost of living was and is ridiculous, so I was one of the few who was pleasantly surprised the other way.

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LA, CA: You may be a bit premature with Vick and "comeback." Yes, he is/was a great athlete and I hope his involvement with the Humane Society, sincere or not, reaches out to people who otherwise wouldn't pay attention. But it takes a seriously sick sociopathic personality to torture, beat, electrocute and drown dogs to death. Prison doesn't fix that. I don't think I'll ever be able to watch him play again.

Paul Farhi: Yes, it wasn't a very pretty picture. And there's a reasonable argument about whether the NFL should have taken him back. But: He's paid his proverbial debt to society, and has committed himself to reform. Not sure what else he can do at this point.

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RE: Lions fan again: Every time I think of a complaint about the Skins I'm going pause and feel sorry for this Lions fan.

Paul Farhi: It's so great to condescend to the less fortunate, isn't it?

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Laurel, Md.: "Paul Farhi: But that would create the additional embarrassment (if making more money can be said to be an "embarrassment") of having FedEx Field filled with opposing fans."

You been to an intra-division game at Camden Yards?

Paul Farhi: Yeah, but there are only a few intra-division baseball home games, out of an 81-game home season. When one-eighth of your regular season home schedule is taken over by the opposing fans, it don't look so good....

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Paul Farhi: Folks, many thanks for the wide-ranging discussion, as always. You are all nothing but eclectic, which I think (though not sure) is a compliment. Let's try doing this again next week, when (as Mr. Rogers used to say), we'll have many things to talk about. Until then, my best to you and your respective teams of choice. And as always...regards to all! --Paul.

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