Monday, January 03, 2011

Last Time For The First Team

My Saturday morning started off with a groan, as I stumbled onto the computer after my late night New Year's fun... only to discover that one of my favorite radio shows was coming to a sudden and unexpected end.

Thanks to the internet this Canadian political junkie has spent the last decade tuned in to radio stations from around the world, freed at last from having to settle for only my local provincial fare.

I particularly liked to spend my Saturday morning waking up and working at my desk while listening to 1580 AM The Patriot, out of Minnesota. Every Saturday since 2004 The Patriot had featured a lively line-up of several programs hosted by Minnesota bloggers; the format evolved over the years, but lately had cemented into two sequential two-hour programs: "The Headliners", with Ed Morrissey and Mitch Berg, and "The First Team", consisting of Powerline blogger John Hinderaker and Fraters Libertas' Brian Ward.

This Saturday, as it turned out, was to be The First Team's final appearance. To our horror, faithful listeners were told that the boys would be unceremoniously replaced... by infomercials! Apparently the station can make more money running infomercials in their broadcasting time slot, over the money they were making from the commercial sponsors buying time during that two-hour block. Yet, I wonder: what regular listener will forgive and forget this loss long enough to buy whatever product or service is stepping into that time slot??

When political blogging emerged as a media phenomenon in the wake of the 9-11 attacks, new media maven Hugh Hewitt quickly headlined several of the more effective conservative bloggers in blue-state Minnesota, and jokingly began referring to them as "The Northern Alliance". National exposure from both Hugh's radio show and high-profile blog led to these Minnesota bloggers to adapt the name into the Northern Alliance Radio Network, as they made a successful bridgehead into local Minnesota radio.

Now the NARN, as they have taken to calling themselves, are to be one team short.

It's been my pleasure to have been a listener from the beginning, and Saturday's finale, with its solid wall of callers expressing their gratitude for so many hours of insightful commentary and thought-provoking interviews, brought six years of memories crashing out of my brain like an avalanche.

The First Team introduced me to many worthy authors, and in turn to their books:

Each hour would end with either the Loon Of The Week, spotlighting some crackpot comment from the cracked left, or, my favorite, This Week In Gatekeeping, as the familiar musical theme of "This Week In Baseball" would accompany an increasingly unbelievable degree of shoddy journalism and reporting that the boys had spotted that week in the mainstream press. (Many of their choices were inevitably featured at Regret The Error, an online collector of such stories.)

Radio reaches us in ways that reading can't, and certainly television never will. John, and especially Brian, with his quick wit and sense of humor, feel like friends I've never met, to borrow a phrase I recently heard over another show on the Patriot.

Sorting out my recollections of all the First Team's political coverage, I'm hard-pressed to settle on my favorite guests (probably Father Neuhaus), or funniest wisecracks (maybe Brian's dissing John over his age)... I find myself drifting instead to memories of the annoucement of Brian's wedding, former co-host Chad's becoming a father for the first time, and many other personal stories the First Team hosts shared with their listeners.

Each week it felt like catching up with what some friends had been up to... and that's a feeling that reading their individual blogs can't match.

Thanks, guys, for some wonderful radio memories.

[Now it's a race against the clock to download and stockpile my favorite episodes from the online First Team archive, currently still available here, back to 2006...!]


truepeers said...


Maybe you can provide a link to the Neuhaus interview; i can't find it at the Townhall website. Thanks.

Charles Henry said...

I've updated the post so that it links now to Father Neuhaus' appearance on the show back in March 2007.