In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on July 20, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Channel 4 said a heartfelt goodbye to sportscaster Lindsay Czarniak last week, with a 4-minute tribute that ended with long-time anchor Jim Vance telling her that she’d become a star at the station in the six years since she arrived and will be a star sooner than later when she moves to ESPN.

Czarniak’s move to the so-called “Worldwide Leader” raised some eyebrows around town, if only because she seems to be going from a being a great big beautiful fish in a big-time pond to being something of a minnow in a humongous great lake at ESPN, where countless anchors abound on a wide variety of channels morning, noon and night.

At least in Washington, Czarniak had carved out a significant identity, sharing anchoring duties with Dan Hellie at a station that always has made more room for sports at 5, 6 and 11 than any of its local competitors, even after the late, great George Michael left the station three years ago.

Michael once described Czarniak as the best hire he ever made and it would be difficult to argue that premise. Not only was she perfectly telegenic, she worked heavy-duty hours off camera and developed many important relationships with key figures on all of Washington’s college and pro sports operations.

Truth be told, I was never a huge fan of “Lunch With Lindsay,” her signature feature on the station when she interviewed a wide variety of sports people while also breaking bread with them on camera. I thought it was a tad contrived and a little too sappy for my taste, but at least she had tried something a little different, and it definitely had some appeal to many casual sports fans who tuned in.

Why did she leave? Only Lindsay knows for sure, but I suspect the merger of Comcast Sports and NBC Sports had something to do with it. One of her biggest boosters was Dick Ebersol, the long time major domo of all things NBC Sports. When he left in what was described as a contractual dispute a few months ago, one of Czarniak’s biggest fans at the network level was not around to offer her more and more plum assignments—more Olympics, more NASCAR–that she clearly craved.

The chance to do SportsCenter for a national audience, as well as the promise of covering some big-time events, including more NASCAR, surely had to be appealing. Here’s hoping that a promising young talent, the hardest-working woman in local sports television, can find her niche in Bristol, CT, and fulfill Jim Vance’s prediction of future stardom on a larger stage.

Sad News: It’s been a tragic month in Washington sports broadcasting what with the death of Nick Charles and Nat “The Cat” Albright.

Charles spent four good years working at Channel 4 before being enticed away by a fledgling news operation based in Atlanta known as CNN at the dawn of the cable age. He would go on to anchor a highly popular and entertaining national sportscast on the network with Fred Hickman, giving the ESPN boys a run for their money and their audience for many years. Charles then became the long-time voice of Showtime Boxing, covering a sport that always was his true passion.

Albright, who died last week, was a long-time radio personality in the Washington market working at several stations. He also was well known in the early days of sports radio for doing “recreations” of major league baseball games, including the Brooklyn Dodgers and old Washington Senators.

Back in the day, Albright and others around the country would sit in a studio at the station (not the ball park) and recreate the games from a pitch-by-pitch, play-by-play wire that came across the teletype machine from every press box in the country. They used sound effects to simulate fan reaction or the crack of the bat. The very best re-creators made you believe they were actually in the ball park.

In his later years, Albright also made himself available – for a small fee of course – to do a game-like, personalized voice-over on a client’s telephone answering machine or voice-mail message. Nat “The Cat” was quite the character and will be missed.

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