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A's on the Radio

Over the last quarter century, the A's have had a lot of different radio flagship stations in the Bay Area. They've been heard on everything from oldies to country stations. The one place they weren't heard for most of those years was on a sports station. That changed (sort of) in 2009 when the A's landed at KTRB 860 AM, which re-branded itself as XTRA Sports 860. The problem was that it was a half-baked attempt at best to program and promote a sports talk station.

After two seasons on XTRA Sports 860, the station had problems even staying on the air, and the A's found themselves without a radio home leading up to Opening Day 2011. A last minute four-year deal with KBWF 95.7 (The Wolf) ensured the A's would be heard in the Bay Area, albeit on a country station again. To the surprise of most A's fans, early in the 2011 season, the station re-branded itself as SportsRadio 95.7 FM. This was a two-thirds-baked effort with mostly local programming weekdays between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

On August 1, 2011, SportsRadio 95.7 FM re-launched as 95.7 The Game. This time, the attempt was fully-baked, with Sacramento's popular "Rise Guys" brought in for morning drive, and experienced out-of-market talent John Lund and Brandon Tierney, as well as former 49er Eric Davis rounding out the weekday host lineup along with A's fans' favorite Chris Townsend. From the first day, 95.7 The Game has broadcast local programming weekdays from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m., when not preempted by A's baseball, Raiders football (which started airing on The Game in 2013), or other live sporting events.

Immediately, a lot of A's fans had gripes with the fact that 95.7 The Game covered all Bay Area MLB and NFL teams, while KNBR 680 AM--flagship of the San Francisco Giants and San Francisco 49ers--rarely lets A's or Raiders talk on their air. Afternoon drive host Brandon Tierney quickly alienated A's fans by responding to claims that he didn't talk A's baseball by ringing a bell every time the A's were mentioned on "The Drive with Brandon Tierney and Eric Davis," essentially making the A's nothing more than a novelty from 3 to 7 p.m.

Fast forward three years and 95.7 The Game has continued to evolve. Of the original seven full-time hosts, only Lund and Townsend remain. Greg Papa went from being a part-time co-host on Lund's "Wheelhouse" program to a full-timer. Former ESPN NBA analyst Ric Bucher (he of the 488,000 Twitter followers) was hired and, most recently, Damon Bruce was lured away from KNBR. Yes, they still talk Giants and 49ers, but that's to try to appeal to a broader audience.

Where the audience is seems to be the question. The Game's ratings for the last three periods that have been published by Nielsen Audio were 1.0, 1.2, and 0.9. If you don't know what those numbers mean, compare them to KNBR's ratings for the same periods: 3.4, 4.7, and 3.1. Simple math says that the A's flagship has less than one-third of the listeners that the Giants' flagship does--and that's during the baseball offseason.

With the A's contract with the station up after this season and the Raiders' deal presumably also up after 2013 (all of the publicity when they signed on referred to a "multi-year agreement"), signs point toward the possibility of the station changing formats a year from now if they can't start moving the ratings needle. This would leave the A's once again searching for the nearest lite rock or right wing talk station to air their games, with the hope that the people who do listen can find them.

For all of it's flaws, 95.7 The Game is the best radio home the A's have ever had and, as a storied franchise with nine World Series championships, the Athletics deserve to be on an all-sports radio station and to keep a dial position for more than a handful of years. Hopefully A's fans will choose to support their team's radio home, but time is running out.

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