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It Doesn't Get Smaller Than This On KXGN-TV in Glendive, Mont., the sports department is a one-man band

March 19, 2001
March 19, 2001

Table of Contents
March 19, 2001

Inside Boxing

It Doesn't Get Smaller Than This On KXGN-TV in Glendive, Mont., the sports department is a one-man band

The Broaddus-at-Baker Class B football playoff game is not in
Baker tomorrow. It will be in Miles City. So be sure you've got
that down. The move was made because Baker received over two
inches of rain and had six inches of snow on their football field
this morning. Heh-heh." --ED AGRE, on Montana East

This is an article from the March 19, 2001 issue

Ed Agre cannot remember the last time he sought, or required, a
press credential to cover a sporting event. He has not been to a
major league baseball game in, he fathoms, 20 years. Ask him if
he's been to a pro football game and his response is, "Oh, sure,
sure. Up in Saskatchewan. The Roughriders, I think they call
them."

The 63-year-old Agre is the sports anchor (and newscaster and
weatherman) at KXGN-TV in Glendive, Mont. If ESPN is the
"worldwide leader in sports," as it proclaims, then KXGN, on the
western fringe of the Badlands, is its antipode. Of the 210
Nielsen markets in the U.S., KXGN is 210th. Its 15,000 watts
harness about one sixth the power of an average TV station. Its
4,880 potential viewing households are fewer than a third as many
as served by the nation's next smallest market, North Platte,
Neb. Glendive is not a market; it's a bodega.

KXGN covers any local event that can be considered sport, from
the games of the myriad teams of Dawson County High and Dawson
County Community College to American Legion and Little League
baseball games. As long as it's local, and that's a relative term
out there, nothing is below KXGN's radar. "We don't make any
money doing these games," says KXGN general manager Dan Frenzel.
"We carry every ball game that we can because it's important to a
community this size. Everybody cares. Those are our kids. Our kid
scored the winning run. Our kid got hurt."

In 1984 Frenzel, who had anchored KXGN's half-hour weeknight
newscasts for two decades, switched solely to radio. Nine years
later, by then the most recognizable voice in eastern Montana, he
tired of doing play-by-play. "I was looking for someone to come
to Glendive, which is pretty tough to do," says Frenzel. "People
who come don't stay long. They view us as a stepping-stone to a
bigger market."

Then, in December '93, Agre, a well-traveled Montana radio
veteran, popped in for a visit. "Listen, I could use you,"
Frenzel told him, "but I can't pay you much."

"I don't care about the money," replied Agre. "I like it here,
and I would like to spend my last years in eastern Montana."

Frenzel hired him on the spot.

For Agre, it is nothing to toss KXGN's handheld camera into the
backseat of his '84 Caprice Classic and motor all over the
eastern third of the country's third-largest state. North to
Scobey, 150 miles, for a girls' high school basketball game.
South to Ekalaka, 110 miles, for volleyball.

"People beckon Ed from all over, and he can't say no," says
Frenzel. "He says, 'I'll be there,' grabs his camera and goes."

For communities such as Wibaux (pop. 600), Agre's destination on
this crisp, clear Saturday morning in November, the sight of the
sexagenarian newsman is proof that they matter. "I tell anyone
who comes to work here," says Frenzel, "that it's more important
for us to show up at an event with a camera than it is for us to
put it on the air."

Agre will tote the camera and shoot footage of the game for
Monday's Montana East newscast, which airs at 10:35 p.m. Agre
doesn't watch it. Having taped the show at 3:30 in the afternoon,
he's fast asleep. For good reason: At 6 a.m. he's behind the mike
again as the host of a three-hour radio show that always
concludes with a polka.

Agre may shoot a few minutes of action that will air without
narration while he reads scores from various sports events that
took place statewide over the weekend. "I don't worry about
editing," he says. "If I shoot three minutes, I'll air three
minutes."

Fans have arrived early for the Class C state quarterfinal
football game between Wibaux and Park City. Some sit on
bleachers. Others, mindful of the arctic winds that sweep down
from Saskatchewan, park their vehicles facing the field, forming
a ring of mobile luxury boxes. When Wibaux scores, a cacophony of
automobile horns erupts.

"You've gotta get here early," says Agre, "because there probably
won't be a second half." This is eight-man football, and in
eight-man football, at least in Montana, a mercy rule exists. If
one team is leading by 45 points at halftime, the game is over.

On this afternoon Agre could use a little mercy. He is nursing a
painful flareup of gout, which rendered his boots too tight to
wear. He switched to sneakers, but standing in the snow, his feet
grow cold. Looking at him, you are reminded that this is a man of
retirement age who spends six days a week working two jobs.

Wibaux is unable to provide an early knockout punch. Late in the
third quarter, his footage shot, Agre calls it a day. "Let's head
over to the Rainbow," he suggests, naming Wibaux's most popular
watering hole. "Good people over there, mmm, yes, heh-heh." The
beer on tap is cheap, too, and a man of Ed Agre's thirst rarely
passes an opportunity to quench it. "There are 167 Stockman's
bars in Montana," says Agre, "and I've been in all but four of
them."

If no news is good news, then Glendive is as close to good news
as you're likely to find. The town is smack-dab in the heart of a
region where even minor league baseball's entry-level classes
fear to tread. "I mean, there are days when even Billings is
scrambling to find something to put on the air," says Agre,
referring to the nearest big city (pop. 95,000), 220 miles to the
southwest.

At KXGN, they have never waged the battle of having to merge
national and local sports highlights into a three-minute segment.
They have never bemoaned the rising tide of scandal and
miscreantism in big-time sports. They simply never cared. Maybe,
just maybe, KXGN has always been ahead of the curve.

So what if the sports-circus big top never pitches its tent here?
Sometimes the carnival offers as many delights--and surprises. "I
was doing a Dawson County High football game once," recalls
Frenzel. "All of a sudden a deer ran onto the field. Just stood
there, right at the 30-yard line. So I started doing play-by-play
on the deer: 'He's at the 30, he's at the 25, the 20. He must be
400 pounds.'"

Frenzel, who does not hunt, then provides the tale's kicker. "The
funny part of the story isn't so much that there was a deer on
the field," he says. "The funny part is how many people called in
after the game to tell me that there's no such thing as a
400-pound deer."

COLOR PHOTO: RICH FRISHMAN
"I don't worry about editing," says Agre. "If I shoot three
minutes, I'll air three."
With 4,880 potential viewing households, Glendive is not a
market. It's a bodega.