- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2004

Sonny, Sam and Frank.

And so it was.

No last names were necessary.

The radio personalities came to transcend the parameters of their profession in 23 seasons with the Redskins.

They were neither good nor bad, nothing so elementary as that. They just were.

They were old friends of Washington, their voices especially soothing and reassuring in the tumultuous reign of Dan Snyder.

But now Frank Herzog has been kicked to the curb, ostensibly by WJFK-FM (106.7) in “a move to tie everything together,” and Sonny, Sam and Frank are no more.

Herzog deserved better, of course. He deserved to go out on his terms. He deserved to be in the booth as long as he felt the urge.

That is the way it usually is with old radio voices. They become an emblem of a team, the one constant around the game’s high turnover rate, and their longevity eventually cleanses their professional flaws.

Herzog might misidentify a player on occasion. He might allow too much time to lapse before reporting the score to those who just happened to flip to the game. He might not provide enough traction around the folksy banter of Sonny and Sam, ever programmed to discuss the good old days of professional football.

None of that came to matter, however. If anything, the quirkiness became part of the trio’s charm.

They came to be the old uncle in a bad toupee. You might roll your eyes in the beginning. In time, however, the bad toupee becomes a lovable reference point.

Sonny, Sam and Frank were like family who visited Washington each fall, providing permanence and calm in a cutthroat business driven by the bottom line on and off the field.

Herzog actually was the one true professional in the booth, a broadcaster with an expansive background in the Washington sports scene, unlike Sonny and Sam, forever ex-players.

Even Herzog’s first name fit his duties with Sonny and Sam. He had to be named Frank. It was perfect.

Sonny, Sam and Bill?

See the problem?

The Redskins, predictably enough, tried to distance themselves from the corporate blood.

Karl Swanson, a public relations guru in the tradition of Joseph Paul Goebbels, issued a touchy-feely dose of plausible deniability, as if the higher-ups of WJFK acted unilaterally, without regard to their most important business partner.

That contention is counter to a healthy business relationship.

It could lead one to assume the suits at WJFK alerted Snyder and his minions to the stunning decision by fax, unconcerned with the fallout.

In this scenario, Snyder, given his well-documented sense of reasonableness, read the fax and said, “Darn. Too bad. I really liked Frank.”

Larry Michael, Herzog’s replacement, is not really the point in a way. He just might be the truth and the light of radio. He certainly comes across as energetic and knowledgeable. He could end up reinventing the genre.

None of that justifies the wrong to Herzog.

There is the quaint notion of human decency. The best part of humanity aspires to be decent to one another, no matter how difficult it is at times.

Business, by necessity, sometimes must function with broader dictates, although that hardly was the case with Herzog. The Redskins are the Redskins, after all.

WJFK could draw good numbers with a play-by-play person describing the game in Latin.

Whatever Michael’s qualities, they pale next to Herzog’s principal essence.

He was forever. His was the voice of the team, indelibly linked to the action.

It was a good day in the neighborhood when Herzog delivered his signature call: “Touchdown, Washington Redskins.”

As mercenary and heartless as the franchise has been in recent seasons, Herzog, along with Sonny and Sam, almost made the dysfunction palatable. You almost could forget the imposters on the field and the closed-door maneuvering certain to blow up in the team’s face.

Herzog had risen to that rare status in sports radio. He had earned the right to stay to the end. He had made that connection with the public, which is no easy achievement, because it takes a lot of years and a seemingly zillion indefinable things.

WJFK, as well as the Redskins, just cast that precious connection aside.

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