In a simply bizarre story that hits close to home for me as a Harrisburg resident, Harrisburg-based 96.5 FM has bumped the Philadelphia Phillies from their schedule for the 2015 season…in favor of the Washington Nationals. Regional VP of Cumulus Radio Pennsylvania Ron Giovanniello cited on-field success as the main reason for the switch, according to PennLive.

“Our agreement was up and we made the decision last week to part ways with the Phillies and flip to the Nationals,” Giovanniello said. “Nothing against the Phillies, but clearly the Nationals are a team on the rise. They won the NL East last year and are picked to win it again this year.

“Obviously [a winning team] helps in all ways, and they certainly will be a postseason contender that makes a deeper run in the playoffs this year. Unfortunately, I don’t see that in the Phillies’ immediate future.”

Pointing your finger at on-field results is silly, considering that despite all of their offseason hype each winter, the Nationals have won a grand total of zero playoff series.

DC sports teams have been attempting to make Harrisburg an outpost, as strange as it may seem. The local Eastern League team, the Harrisburg Senators, is a long-time AA affiliate of the Nationals (and Expos before them). The local AHL team, the Hershey Bears, has been an affiliate of the Washington Capitals since 2005. Yet, Philly and Pittsburgh sports still dominate the city, with Baltimore sports clocking in a distant third – I never see any Caps gear throughout the city (only Flyers or Penguins), and the only popular Nationals gear is Senators shirts bought at Metro Bank Park featuring former Nationals players.

96.5 FM only signed a one-year deal with the Nationals, which would seemingly open the door for the station to go back to the Phillies next year if the Nationals radio broadcasts flop. However, Lancaster-based 92.7 FM (an ESPN affiliate) may have something to say about that – they added the Phillies to their broadcast schedule soon after the announcement that 96.5 jumped ship. Station manager Billy Baldwin seemingly took a shot at Giovanniello and his emphasis on on-field performance when discussing his station’s new addition.

“The true Phillies fan has stuck with his or her team for the first 60 years of their life and they’re not about to jump ship now,” Baldwin said.

What do I think will happen with this situation in 2015? Well, the Nationals will obviously outperform the Phillies on the field this season, but I’m reasonably confident that their local radio numbers in Harrisburg will be way down compared to the Phillies in 2014. Harrisburg residents simply don’t care about DC sports. Hell, once you consider the national fandom of the Yankees and Red Sox, I don’t even think the Nationals would crack the top five in local popularity of MLB clubs. That’s why this whole decision from 96.5 strikes me as ridiculous – you’re trying to tell the fans what they like and what they should listen to. When you try to go down that road, it generally doesn’t work out too well for you.


About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.

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