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It Doesn't Get Smaller than This
John Walters
March 19, 2001
On KXGN-TV in Glendive, Mont., the sports department is a one-man band
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March 19, 2001

It Doesn't Get Smaller Than This

On KXGN-TV in Glendive, Mont., the sports department is a one-man band

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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 frame between Wibaux and Part 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.' "

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