All right, all right. So Warner Wolf left Washington in 1975 and now makes $ 400,000 a year in New York. And Glenn Brenner got himself a $ 1 million insurance policy -- not to mention a $ 3 million contract -- from WDVM-TV (Channel 9).
But what about all those poor souls who have come, and mostly gone, as Washington television sportscasters?
Remember Duane Dow, the guy who heard a high-school basketball coach complain about the press, then went into an on-air tirade about sportswriters? Turned out the coach was complaining about a full-court press. Oh, never mind.
How about Dan Lovett and his "sunshine to ya," or Mal Campbell, whose time was up and thanked you for yours; or Dave Sheehan, the so-called Mouth from Minnesota who was so low-key he was genuinely embarrassed by the WRC-TV (Channel 4) commercials ballyhooing his arrival; or Steve Gilmartin, the Redskins play-by-play man whose eyes were so bad he couldn't read the players' numbers out on the field.
Since 1970, more than 20 men -- and not a single woman -- have been through this town working as sportscasters for nightly news shows on Channels 4, 5, 7 and 9. It says something about the nature of their business that Frank Herzog, at age 36, is actually the dean of active Washington sportscasters, miraculously staying with the same station, Channel 9, since 1969.
Many of his former colleagues have one thing in common: They were fired. And most have scattered throughout the country, some still in the business, and some not. Five of the more intriguing stories follow. LEN HATHAWAY
Once, Len Hathaway had one of the most coveted broadcasting jobs in Washington as the radio play-by-play announcer for the Washington Redskins. He also worked regular shifts on the news at Channel 7 and for WMAL radio, the most successful station in the Washington market.
Once, he did a weekly show with George Allen during the football season. Trivia types will remember that Hathaway was the man Ken Beatrice replaced on WMAL radio's sports talk show.
Hathaway also was a man with a very large heart. Need a speaker for the Little League banquet? A celebrity for the walkathon? Hathaway always was available, usually for free.
Ask Chris Core, now WMAL's popular afternoon drive-time personality. Hathaway gave him his start at the station, as a part-time sports reporter. Ask Mike Manchel, a former Redskins publicity director who got that job on Hathaway's recommendation.
Still, these noble gestures meant very little when WMAL radio fired Hathaway after the 1976 season, ending what some Redskins fans used to describe as the "Huff and Puff team" in the broadcast booth.
The Huff was Sam Huff, the former Redskins linebacker who handled color commentary then and still does. The Puff was Len Hathaway, so named because, even he will tell you now, he was not at all ashamed to pull for the home team.
"I was known as a homer," he says, "and yeah, it was probably a justified criticism. But that was my style, always had been. And as the play-by-play man, to my way of thinking, you are the voice of the fan.
"But I don't think I completely ignored Redskins controversies or problems. If there was a salary dispute, or Allen and Billy Kilmer were battling, I didn't try to gloss it over. But I can also understand their attitude. I've always been a positive person, and I was always more of a performer than a reporter."
In fact, Hathaway began his career in 1948 as a disc jockey in Binghamton, N.Y. He went to a television station in Norfolk in 1963, then moved to WMAL in 1968.
He shared the television work with Steve Gilmartin, who now does a sports radio talk show in Houston, and Mal Campbell, still free-lancing in Washington. For one year, 1973, he was WMAL television's sports director before moving back to radio full time when the Redskins announcing job opened.
When the radio station fired him in 1976, Hathaway stayed in the area as a news reader between the movies on Channel 20. Then he made what he hopes will be the last move of his career: a job at WIS, a Columbia, S.C., radio station, where he is now the early morning host of a Harden and Weaver-style show.
It's not quite the kind of money he once earned in Washington, about $ 35,000 in his best year, but the job offers security, profit-sharing, an insurance policy, stock options and the chance to do a fun show at a station missing the frantic frenzy of a big-market operation.
Hathaway is 53 now, and says he's not at all bitter about his Washington experience.
"I just think the people at Channel 4 and Channel 7 made a real mistake trying to go up against Warner Wolf," he says. "Rather than looking at a guy and seeing 'what qualities does he have?' they would take a sportscaster and say, 'Because Warner Wolf is doing such and such, we want you to do it, too.' But this is an imitation business. When something is successful, you'll have seven just like it very quickly."
Hathaway doesn't do much sports anymore, just an occasional high-school game in the fall. His station also is a training ground for peach-fuzz kids fresh out of college, and Hathaway, still the good Samaritan, greatly enjoys talking to them about broadcasting.
"The one thing I always tell them is that the problems are always the same no matter where you go -- it's just a matter of degree. There's very little job security. Basically you are your own security." DAN DANIELS
When he arrived in Washington to work for WTOP radio and television in 1956, Dan Daniels got a word of warning from a union shop steward his first week on the job.
"Don't fall in love with this, kid," he was told. "As soon as you can, get yourself a hamburger stand."
There are no golden arches over Dan Daniels' current place of employment these days, but then again there also are no bright lights, no messy makeup and certainly no regrets from the man who spent almost 22 years on local television and radio, surely an all-time longevity record for Washington sportscasters. Daniels owns a printing business in Bethesda now, a copying center and a full print shop to handle envelopes, letterheads, newsletters and small newspapers.
Every once in a while, Daniels will get a call from Channel 9, asking him to fill in on the 6 or 11 o'clock sports shows while the station's main men are away. Last year he was on the air about 20 times.
And Daniels is the same as ever -- a quiet, mannerly man who provides results of the day's events, an interview or two, a few highlights and hardly ever any deep-thinking commentary. There is no happy talk, no act, no gimmick. Gentleman Dan Daniels is simply the consummate professional. Ever since he started in broadcasting as a radio news reporter in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1941, his approach never really has changed.
"In this business, sometimes the performance becomes bigger than the performer," Daniels says. "I come from the old Red Barber school of broadcasting -- describe it, but don't overpower it. I would have fallen flat on my face if I had tried to be different."
Still, Daniels survived most of the competition and was among the most versatile men in town in his prime. He did radio, television, commercials, play-by-play for the Redskins from 1958 to 1960 and the Washington Senators from 1960 to 1968.
"There were times," he says, "when I had to go out to a game without a crew because the station didn't take sports very seriously. But I always felt it was important to be there... How could you report on events if you weren't there to see them?"
In 1969 Daniels jumped from Channel 9 to Channel 4 where he stayed until he was let go in 1979. In the early '70s, the team of Daniels, Jim Simpson (now with the ESPN sports network) and Morris Siegel (a Washington Star sports columnist) more than held their own in the ratings, though Warner Wolf clearly was the dominant sportscaster in the market.
"We then had a succession of news directors at Channel 4 who decided they wanted to compete with Warner. I couldn't be another Warner Wolf, and I don't think anyone else could either. Those who tried weren't being fair or honest with themselves. But I don't blame the guys who came in here and tried to compete. For the performer himself, the style he followed was his own judgment to make... But when the station went for the gimmick, the station made the mistake.
"If they were going to be a news show, I felt they should have concentrated on covering the news of sports. My approach was solid reporting with scores and tape."
About eight years ago, Daniels turned 50 and realized it was time to think about life after television. It had always been a good life, lots of travel and fascinating people, and in his best year, he earned about $ 45,000. He took some money out of his savings and got into the printing business.
"At the time, I looked on it strictly as an investment for retirement," he says. "When I was still active in radio and TV my wife actually kept it all together. Now it's more than a full-time job for us. We have 24 people working for us."
And if television beckoned full time again, would he return?
"I won't say I'd turn it down," he says, "but they'd have to offer me something with a lot of money and security and you know that's not going to happen. But I have not actively sought it either. I get a taste of it every now and then. People still remember you, and that's flattering. But I've survived very nicely without it. And they can always find somebody else." BUD KAATZ
The telephone rang twice and suddenly the voice on the other end was booming long distance from Arizona. "And a very pleasant goooooood evening to you," Bud Kaatz, the old Buckeye and broadcasting buffoon, was bellowing.
Ahhh, the memories that voice brought back, memories of a wild and crazy sportscaster who liked to call the Redskins coach "old Georgie Allen," who once said on the air that a Maryland football team had just departed for a game "on that big birdie in the sky," who once left town for a two-week vacation and never came back, fired less than a year after he was hired at Channel 4.
But oh, what a year, Kaatz (it rhymes with grates) was everywhere it seemed: Redskin Park at noon, watching Rosie Grier needlepoint at 2, the Vienna Little League at 5, the Annandale Boys Club banquet at 7. And always, there was tape and film to follow at 6 and 11. The guy actually put cricket on the air, for heaven's sake.
Still, you knew Kaatz was in deep trouble when his news director, Tom Houghton, told an interviewer in February 1974 that "Bud gets a little too enthusiastic for me, sometimes." And sure enough, five months later, Kaatz was gone, fired from a job that paid him $ 28,000 a year.
It was not the first or last time Kaatz has been let go.
"That's right," he says. "I've been fired by just about everyone I've ever worked for. But that's the nature of the business."
Like Hathaway, Kaatz came to Washington from Norfolk, where he'd been fired after three years in television.He went from Washington to Columbus, Ohio, where he actually lasted three years as a sportscaster and the play-by-play man for Ohio State basketball games before the station decided to drop basketball and cut Kaatz's salary in half. He wasn't actually fired, but he did get the message that it was time to move on.
From there he moved to Phoenix and, you guessed it, was fired again in 1978 after a year on television.
And he has been out of the business ever since. "To tell ya the truth, even as early as 1975, I was getting kinda fed up reporting on sports," he says. "All this crap about law and politics and contracts. Holy Toledo, they only give ya three minutes, and you have to take half that time talking about guys breaking contracts.
"It was becoming too much negative stuff... I liked people like George Allen, Lefty Driesell, Woody Hayes, Frank Kush. They were very positive people. I admired their style."
Kaatz's style was mostly scattershot. He never worked with a scrip, ad-libbing almost everything.
"Of course, I thought I was very good," he says. "Some people didn't agree. I never thought Washington was too sophisticated to appreciate what I did. I got a lot of good feedback. Now, when I came to Phoenix, yes, I think I went a little above their heads here. But I never changed."
Not styles, anyway. Just professions.
Kaatz, now 44, lives in the fashionable Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, pushing life insurance with the same gusto he radiated for 24 years in the broadcast business. He is a deeply religious man who doesn't smoke, drink or curse. He has two teen-age sons, including a 16-year-old who wants to get into broadcasting.
And he says he will never go back into television. "To tell ya the truth, I wish somebody had rung my chimes earlier and gotten me into the insurance business," he says. "I always considered myself an interesting personality. I didn't just rip and read -- I wanted to give 'em a little pizzazz, you know what I mean?
"I'm in the right business for me. I'm my own boss. Nobody can fire me except me." MIKE WOLFE
The day Mike Wolfe was fired by Channel 9 in 1978, he left in style, taking a large chunk of the $ 25,000 bonus he says he received only a month before and splurging on a Lincoln Continental.
Wolfe forever will be remembered in Washington for his glib delivery, his opennecked shirts, his hairy chest and his jingle-jangle gold medallions. But he insists he made a far more significant contribution to Channel 9, the station that gave him his first television job in 1977, then fired him a year later.
"Warner Wolf had been the man there for years and years," Mike Wolfe says, "and when the next guy came in, it was going to be a real tough situation. I was the next guy, and you bet your sweet life it was tough. But one of the things I'm very proud about is that I allowed that station to make a transition without ever losing a point in the ratings. We never lost a step. And I bridged the gap."
He also says he learned a little about life in the big time. "I came to Washington to work radio at WWDC, and a month later, Channel 9 asks me if I'd be interested in television.... I was 37, and I'd never done TV before. When they hired me, it was done on the premise that they would spend a lot of money teaching me the business, which they never did.
"Now all of a sudden my name is in the papers constantly... and I got caught up in what I like to call the big-city fraud of television.
"Hell, I was no more a celebrity than you will win a Pulitzer Prize with this story. However, at that point in time, I thought I was, because everybody treated me that way. And I went along for the ride.
"The funny thing is, I'm doing the news, I'm doing the Bullets games, I'm doing the Monday night Redskins show with Sonny [Jurgensen] and about 30 days before I'm fired they give me this $ 25,000 bonus. They even increased my talent fees on the Bullets. I go away on an eight-day trip with the team and when I get back to the station, the news director says to me, 'It's not working out.'... I finished up the week, told them I thought they were making a terrible mistake. But what the hell, that's how it goes."
And so, Mike Wolfe went from $ 125,000 a year in 1978 all the way to Billings, Mont., to work in television for about six months.
He is now back in radio, where he says he always belonged. He helps run a station 60 miles south of Los Angeles and is "getting involved in ownership" at another station in Oregon with some friends. He plays rock 'n' roll music, reads the news and sports and is living happily ever after with his wife and their 3-year-old son.
"I loved Washington, loved the people, even the ones who knocked what I wore," he says. "I never thought that was malicious. I know I sure wouldn't do anything different. I wouldn't even change the wardrobe. If you have to be a stiff in a three-piece suit with four inches of makeup to go on the air, I want no part of that business. Television is a fraud anyway, a stark, raving fraud. Who needs it? Not me." STEVE BASSETT
His wife was three months pregnant with their first child. He had just invested thousands in a new home in Columbia, Md. He was 27 years old, and on Friday, Aug. 13, 1976, he was fired as sports director for WMAL television.
Most of all, Steve Bassett recalls now, "It flat tore me apart. I had a real difficult time handling it. Not only was it a great blow to the ego, it was even worse for the bank account."
Three years earlier, his life was on an upward curve. He was 24, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam war, a local boy from Bladensburg High School who went from the Army to a television station in Columbia, S.C., then all the way to WMAL in Washington, the eighth largest market in the country. He had a three-year contract at $ 35,000 a year, and he thought he was set for life.
Bassett hustled to keep what he had earned. He often arrived at his office at 8 a.m. and usually dragged back home by midnight, sometimes seven days a week. He was young, handsome, coolly confident. He also will tell you he was terribly naive.
"My last six months, there were subtle hints that something was happening, but I didn't understand it at the time," he says. "People don't talk to you very much. You'd ask for a crew and not get it.
"What I really didn't realize then were two facts of life in this business. Number one, every time somebody gets a job, they start looking for another one, trying to do better. Number two, always take a job assuming you'll get fired from it. That's why you are always looking for the next one. You get them before they get you.
"I also found out that it didn't really matter how much film you put on, how many stories you broke. It came down to whether you are the best hustler, or the best entertainer.
"I've had a long time to think about it, and I hold no grudges whatsoever against the people who made the decision. It was based on their belief that it would improve the station and the ratings. It was a business decision, and I can't argue with it."
Bassett went to Baltimore, where he took a cut in pay, working weekends for WBAL television and free-lancing as a college basketball announcer for the independent TVS network.
He stayed in Baltimore for two years, then moved to KTVI in St. Louis to handle sports on the evening news and play-by-play for University of Missouri football telecasts. And it happened again: a change in news directors, from the man who hired him to a fellow who did not like his style.
And so, Bassett decided this business of television was not for him. "I didn't like getting fired -- it was that simple," he says. "And year after year, it's the same old thing. You encounter the same problems. Not enough time to do it right, not enough money in the budget to get what you need for your show and they're always looking or you're always looking."
Bassett was looking in other directions. When he worked in Baltimore, he did a first-person piece on sky-diving. Talk about hustling: the man actually jumped out of an airplane at 10,000 feet. "What I found out was that I wasn't crazy about sky-diving, but I sure enjoyed being up there in that plane," he says.
So Bassett, who had moved back to Washington, began taking flying lessons. He is now a few months away from being fully licensed, and he is a public relations man for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), a service organization and lobbyist for more than 255,000 members.
He lives in Ellicott City, Md., works out of an office in Bethesda, right next door to Dan Daniels' print shop, and often travels around the country pushing for better conditions for the private pilots and plane owners his group represents. He is frequently on the other side of the camera as a spokesman for AOPA, which provides just enough ego gratification to keep him happy.
"The nicest thing is that I'm working in a field I truly love," he says. "There's absolutely no insecurity. There is no way in the world you can take the place of stability in your life. I think I had a lot of potential as a broadcaster, but I've also been able to walk away from it. And I have no desire to go back.
"When I talk to kids interested in getting into the business, I just remind them that you can be the greatest thing on television, but if they don't like the way you comb your hair, you can still get fired."