BSMW Awards Recap – Best/Worst Sports Radio Show

Today’s recap is a biggie…the best and worst sports radio shows in Boston.

WEEI is the 800 lb gorilla in this category, but has slipped ever so slightly in the overall ratings over the last six months or so. Their ratings dominance this decade has been extraordinary. To what should their success be attributed to? Their signal strength? The success and popularity of the Red Sox and Patriots? Or the sparkling wit and personality, not to mention matchless sports knowledge of the hosts and callers?

Here are the results for this year’s poll:

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In probably the biggest upset of the balloting, 333 people out of 1488 felt that ESPN Boston’s The Drive with Michael Felger was the best radio show in the region. That’s 22%, quite a percentage for a show that didn’t start until the second half of the year. It beat out two WEEI contenders, The Big Show and Dale & Holley, which each picked up 15% of the vote.

Felger’s show was undoubtedly helped by WEEI’s sometimes 24/7 focus on the Red Sox…even in December and January. ESPN Boston was able to get good football guests to provide an alternative to the Theo talk and the Manny talk and the Johnny Damon talk which was beaten into the ground day after day by the competition. While the Big Show got much higher ratings, (The Drive barely registered on the ratings charts) there’s a segment of their audience who listens because they don’t have other options. ESPN’s signal isn’t strong to begin with, and fades badly after dark. With a stronger signal, I’m confident they would do even better.

The two WEEI programs are stalwarts, and contrast each other quite starkly. Dale &: Holley attempt to do a more intelligent version of sports talk with guests and a more rounded discussion, while the cast of the Big Show go for the storylines, drama and whatever soap opera they can drum up that particular day.

Reader Comments: I couldn't bring myself to vote for a “best” in this category—I would've voted for Felger's show, but it inflicts Bob Halloran on us on a regular basis….I went with Felger for best show. When he's talking Patriots, there’s really never been any better New England Patriots radio coverage. Josh Miller is a lot of fun and he also gets technical, which I enjoy. I'm not sure how the spring is going to go for him, but I'll be listening occasionally in the fall….Went with Felger's show for the best. Good football talk and a nice mix of input from phone-in guests, regular hosts, and the callers. A great alternative to the predictability of the Big Show….I had to go with Felger as the best because at least he's still working on it. They still go to the trouble of getting call-in guests to talk about issues of the day and rely less on nitwit “callahs” (though I noticed an alarming increase in the latter last week).

Now, onto the worst of the category:

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WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan received 427 votes as the worst sports radio show in Boston, 29% of the total. To be fair D&C will admit that their show is not technically a sports show. They’re “guy radio”. They talk news, current events, entertainment such as 24, The Sopranos and The Shield, and mix in sports around that. When sticking to sports, they can be very good. They have some great Patriots discussion on the mornings following Patriots games with Tom Brady and Boomer Esiason being weekly guests during the season. Callahan can be a great interviewer with the guests and Dennis is good at keeping the show moving in and out of breaks. However, listeners wanting more sports talk likely are disappointed in the show and it is reflected in the vote. I’m sure politics has something to do with it as well, though likely not as much as some would think.

Eddie Andelman’s old show on 1510 came in second (243, 17%) and The Big Show came in third (197 13%). Andelman’s show ended in the middle of the year, and he only recently resurfaced on the airwaves at 96.9 FM on Sunday nights. His 1510 show was incredibly bad radio, with weekly appearances by Ron Borges being the only attraction, and that of the car-accident variety.

Reader Comments: I think the D&C show is the worst sports show as they hardly ever talk about sports…Planet Mikey gets the worst vote—insufferable. The Big Show is awful but I admit I like the Whiner Line. Adams has nothing redeeming going for him and has actually subtracted my favorite aspect of Sarandis' show (it was the only local outlet for college hoops talk). He also seems to attract an especially low IQ caller level …. A good sports talk show should be informative, intelligent, and—by definition—about sports. While many of the choices fail on the first two counts, no show comes up short on all three more consistently than Dennis & Callahan. More often than not, the discussion is about their favorite TV shows or current events instead of sports. Throw in generous helpings of anger and intolerance and you've got one crappy "sports" talk show…. Ordway and his cast of social deviants and misfits make my ears bleed….It’s not even a close 2nd for me—D&C are hideous, but the forced screaming and cackling from the big show is cringe-inducing. Ordway= pontificate on the easiest, hot-button issue of the day without actually having a logical understanding of it; allow the worst & the dimmest callers on the air; if you get challenged by common sense, hem and haw and bombard the caller with irrelevant questions/factoids until they slip up—and then, dismiss their whole argument. Wave your hand and have the crew guffaw and ridicule the caller. Wash, rinse, repeat every day. I like the Whiner Line, though….This is the only category I have chosen to comment on, such is my venom for my vote for worst local radio show: The Mustard and Johnson Show. Nowhere else on radio is one subjected to the triple threat of the sports talk horror of dumb hosts, even dumber callers, and boring topics.

Tomorrow: Best/Worst Football Beat Writer

Column: What I’ve Learned Since Starting BSMW

In a previous post, I outlined how BSMW came to be. It’s been four years since that time and I’ve learned so much since those early days. Here are just a few of the things that have become clear to me.

1) I never want to be a sports writer. ( But I knew that already)

I knew that being a beat writer or even a columnist for a paper was not something I wanted to do. The hours are horrible, the pay isn’t great and you’re away from your family much of the time. Believe it not, I have a ton of respect for the guys who go out there day in an day out and do a solid job covering the game or team to which they are assigned. If you’re someone who likes routine and steadiness, this is not the profession for you. Having a chance to chat with to many of the local representatives of the Boston sports media certainly confirmed my feelings on the job that they have. For many, it’s little wonder that they scramble to increase their income by doing as many radio and TV gigs as they can get. Their articles are among the most-read in the paper, and yet even within their own offices they’re treated as the “toy department” of the paper. It’s not a life of glamor, that’s for sure.

So for anyone who thinks I’m just a frustrated sportswriter who desperately wants to be one of “them”, think again. I have no desire for that life.

2) Sports media people are the thinnest skinned people on the face of the planet.

The site couldn’t have been more than a few months old and still only attracting mere 500 visitors or so a day when I got my first indignant email from someone in the Boston sports media. Sadly, it’s so long again, and so many computer/email accounts ago that that historic email is now just a cyber memory. I can’t even remember who it was from, though I believe it was from someone at a smaller media outlet. It wasn’t Shaughnessy or Borges or any of those big time guys. I remember thinking at the time “What I wrote was not really all that harsh”.

It was just a foregleam of things to come. The site grew, and I heard from more and more media people. Sometimes it was positive, thanking me for helping their work reach an increased audience. Much of it was negative. Shaughnessy contacted me within that first year. Since that time, I’ve come to realize that he does this all the time. He, the master of the cheap shot, is perhaps the thinnest skinnest (?) person alive. I’ve heard tales from readers who tell me of the time they emailed him to complain about his column, and then received a confrontational phone call within an hour. The thing is, they hadn’t left their phone number. They emailed from their company email address and he tracked down the phone number of their company and asked to be put through to them. He emailed me, demanding that I call him, so, not knowing any better at the time, I called. His first words to me were “Did I sleep with your wife or something?” the conversation went downhill from there, and I believe it ended up with him insulting me and hanging up the phone. Since then, I vowed never to talk on the phone with the guy again. He’s tried. He’s demanded that I call him, he’s mocked me, telling me that I’m afraid to speak with him. Not true. I simply know that it would be an unproductive conversation where he would shout me down, insult me, and hang up. I explained to him that I am perfectly willing to have a dialogue with him via email, and that the content of our conversations would be kept private. He didn’t like this, knowing that this way, a record would be kept of everything he said. We went back and forth for a bit, and each email opened by saying that I was too chicken to talk to him. After we went around for a while in this manner, I haven’t heard from him since.

Sadly Shaughnessy is by no means alone in this behavior. He is the most egregious in this area, but many of his colleagues in the media and at the Globe are very similar to him. I’ve always wondered if the media people who have no qualms about taking personal shots and getting on athletes who complain about the media grasp the irony of coming to me complaining that I am treating them unfairly. The next person is an exception to these ones:

3) Bob Ryan has just as much passion in an email or private conversation as he does on a radio or TV show.

In sharp contrast to Shaughnessy, there is is Ryan. The guy genuinely loves sports. He loves talking sports. If you disagree with him, he’ll talk to you about it, passionately, but without the insults. Most of the time, I get the impression that Shaughnessy and others just dislike sports and someone feel demeaned with their lot in life of covering, writing and talking about sports. You’ll never feel that way talking to Ryan. The guy loves his job, and that is what makes him the best, in my opinion. People tell stories about running int Ryan at a restaurant, or on a plane and then finding themselves involved in a deep and animated discussion about the 1984 Celtics or about the Pete Carroll Patriots or any number of topics.

There are others in the market who have passion for what they do and are civil in conversation. I’ve had some great experiences with some media types. I’ll always remember the guy who got a promotion, and a week or so later, he sent me a hand-written thank you card stating that he thought that my linking to his work on the site really helped him get the exposure that led to his new job. Those are the best moments for me in this business.

4) Sports Radio in Boston is faked as much as pro wrestling.

Sure, we knew for years that The Big Show and other WEEI programming was done with an entertainment slant. They admitted as much. But since the Patriots first Super Bowl win, they’ve taken things to a whole new level. The reason? Glenn Ordway, Jason Wolfe and Julie Kahn believe that sports radio thrives on conflict and negativity, they believe that without something for people to complain and whine about, that the programming will be stale and boring. They’ve made references to pure sports talk as simply “reading box scores”. After the Patriots first Championship, there was less negativity around. They needed to create the conflict, and so “roles” were handed out. The daily “script” was tightened and each day a new drama appeared. Sometimes it could come out of a positive incident, one of the few things Edgar Renteria did right in his lone season in Boston was bunt for a basehit to get on base in front of David Ortiz, who then hit a game winning home run. Somehow this move by Renteria was turned into a negative and talked about for about three weeks on the station. Hosts and co-hosts play their roles on a daily basis on the station, sometimes being a “hero”, other times being a “villain”. Ordway is a big fan of WWE’s Vince McMahon (so much that he was convinced that the XFL was going to be a rousing success) and his influence can be seen in how the station operates. Everything is done for drama, it’s all about the show.

5) Boston does have a lot of intelligent fans, but none of them call radio stations.

If you want to get a good feel for what the average Boston sports fan feels on a certain topic, then don’t listen to the radio. The average fan is not going to get fired up on a topic that they will sit on hold for 45 minutes to be able to scream and rant for a maximum of three minutes on the air. The people who make it onto WEEI for the most part are ones who have an extreme view that the average fan does not. Where do you go to find intelligent Boston fans? They’re probably among your friends. Your closest friends that have been through years of following the teams together. You can find some great, intelligent fans on certain messageboards. I happen to think the group at the BSMW board is top rate for the most part. They can discuss almost any aspect of sports at a higher level than anything you’re going to hear from a talk show caller.

6) I love the Red Sox, but the on-air coverage of this club absolutely sucks out there right now.

The newspaper coverage of the team is solid, (except for Dan Shaughnessy) I’m not talking about them. The on-air broadcasting is at times annoying, but is overall pretty good. But the radio and television talk shows about the club suck all the joy out of following this team. I cannot stand it. Every game must be scrutinized and analyzed as an individual entity, with no regard to the big picture or context. Every day it’s “This guy sucks” or “Francona’s an idiot, he should’ve done this…”, or “Will Johnny Damon get booed in his first time back to Fenway?” The need to create a daily soap opera around the team is just terrible. Some will try to justify it by saying “THAT’S WHAT WE DO HERE!!!” But I don’t buy it. Sure, fans like to second-guess decisions and players. But certainly not in the edgy, mean-spirited way that it is done on the air. Every year there is a whipping boy, a villain who can do nothing right and is castigated daily on the airwaves. Last year was Edgar Renteria. This year it is Wily Mo Pena. Some weeks it is Manny Ramirez. True Red Sox fans need to tune out and not allow these mouthbreathers to ruin just a great period in Boston sports. Forget the storylines…just play the games. I may need to take a month off during every Red Sox season, as I write this I am looking forward to getting away from the nastiness, vitriol and idiocy that is Red Sox talk on radio and television in Boston.

7) There is a future in this for me.

What that future is exactly, I’m not sure. I have something of an idea of what things would be like if BSMW was a full time venture for me, and that will be the topic of a column for next week.

Tomorrow: Best/Worst Sports Radio Show

BSMW Awards Recap – Best/Worst TV Sports Show

We’re starting off the new week with a look at the best and worst sports television shows in the Boston area.

Once again, there were just so many candidates that we forgot one. Somehow, the Globe SportsPlus program which runs on NESN was omitted. Honestly, that was not a bit of backlash against the Globe and the writers who appear on the show…I just forgot to put it on the list.

We had just over 1300 people vote in this category, and the results were pretty spread out, which is to be expected given the amount of competition in this region. The winning show only took home 18% of the total vote.

Here are the results:

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FSN’s New England Sports Tonight (Now Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight) came out on top here with 234 votes for that 18%. This show hosted by Greg Dickerson and Gary Tanguay is a staple for many sports fans who are unsatisfied after getting 2 minutes of sports on their 6:00 news broadcasts. The 6:30 show often picks up on talk radio topics from the afternoon and previews the night’s action for the local teams. The 10:00 show is usually an alternative post-game show for whatever local team in in action that night. The guest list is stocked with WEEI and Boston Herald personalities, who always have something to say, or some pot to stir on the air.

Coming in second was the Pre and Post game shows on NESN. These shows picked up 201 votes for 15% of the total. They were followed closely by Patriots All Access on WCVB which garnered 181 votes or 14%.

Reader Comments: I went with Patriots All-Access for best show, solely because it features insight from Belichick; the show itself isn't all that interesting….Patriots All-Access for “best”¬—the Belichick film breakdowns are great, as are the sideline/locker room camera and microphones. Overall, the show is very professionally done…I went with Patriots All-Access just for the Belistrator— his segment is the only thing on any of these shows that is actually informative.

Now a look at the flip side of the category:

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New England Tailgate on FSN, which often follows Sports Tonight on Thursdays during football season got the most votes as the ‘worst’ of the category. They pulled in 241 votes for 19% of the total. The show features Glenn Ordway, Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie and is oftentimes a continuation of what that trio has talked about on WEEI’s Big Show during the course of the week. Ordway, oftentimes decked out in his mock turtleneck and perched on a stool, provides an amusing contrast with the two ex-NFL players. They do picks each week, which is something of a joke, as I don’t believe Smerlas has picked against the Patriots in 5 years. For the casual fan who doesn’t listen to WEEI during the week, the show is appealing in its simplicity and “guy” humor.

Coming in second was the “no one” vote. (175, 14%)

Reader Comments: I went with that Tanguay nightly trainwreck as worst—sometimes I get stomach pains while watching it. Gary Tanguay is abominable….New England Tailgate for worst. There's very little "value added" on this show. They show the same highlights that have been playing for days, and regurgitate the same talking points the Big Show has been using all week….You really need to be hooked up to a machine if you enjoy this half-hour infomercial for the Ripoff Tailgate Party scam. A tape of this thing will be Exhibit A at Ordway's RICO statute trial.

Tomorrow: Things I’ve learned since starting BSMW.

BSMW Awards Recap – Best/Worst Independent Sports Web Site

For today’s recap, we’re taking a look at the best and worst independent sports websites in the region. This was another hotly contested poll.

It was somewhat difficult defining the criteria for what sites to include in this poll. Some of the sites on this list are not local, but seem to have a lot of content focuses towards our local sports scene. Others were started by local people but are more nationally focused, and others are totally national, but seem to be used and referenced often by people here in the Boston area. I’ll try to do a better job of narrowing down the scope next year.

So to begin, here are the results among the 1460 votes gathered for the best of in this category:

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Cold Hard Football Facts is one of the sites that perhaps may not belong in this category. The site is locally owned and operated, but they are trying to establish themselves as a national site. They do focus a lot of attention on the New England Patriots, but that is also because the Patriots have been the dominant team in the NFL over the past five seasons. Because of their Patriots focus, as well as their glee in taking on football media people head-to-head, the site has garnered a lot of fans. They claimed the top spot in this poll with 229 votes for 16% of the total. Close behind them were a pair of worthy contenders. While Mike Reiss could be the best blogging reporter on the scene in Boston, Chad Finn, who works at the Globe Sports Desk is probably the best single blogging columnist-style writer on the scene. He usually hits the nail on the head and makes the point that you wanted to make, but couldn’t articulate properly. His blog, Touching All The Bases, tied for second with 14% of the vote. Finn got 203 votes to narrowly edge out the Sons Of Sam Horn message board which had 200 votes. SoSH has gotten national attention the last few years and continues to be the top on-line destination for Red Sox fans and stat-heads.

Reader Comments:

Football Outsiders gets my vote. Terrific website that has done a ton of interesting and innovative statistical analysis for the NFL. Aaron and his folks also write very well….Chad Finn gets my vote for best. He's an entertaining writer and a sensible one, too….Soxaholix is a great, underrated website. Very creative. On the other hand, the understanding that Miguel puts into the salary cap page puts many reporters to shame.

Now for the worst:

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Once again the kind hearted voters prevailed as 596 of the 1334 votes cast (45%) felt that none of these sites deserved the label of worst.

Among the sites receiving votes, SoSH got 205 votes for 15%. I think that total comes from the view that some have that the site is somewhat elitist. I don’t personally hold that view of the site, but among some users, that is the view they take of the community. BSMW’s own Scott’s Shots got 137 votes here for third. The blog is not popular among members of the the BSMW messageboard community, (which I suspect made up the majority of these votes) who do not like the scattershot, rambling style of the author.

Reader Comments:

Worst goes to CHFF—Kerry makes Patriot fans sound like Yankee fans. I think he's a bully and he has not earned my respect. How awful is Dave Scott? Start with his readability. He has adopted a variation of the Kevin Paul Dupont style of "cutie pie" prose that makes entire paragraphs virtually incomprehensible gibberish. His ax-grinding (Shepherd, Gee) and ***-kissing (Dennis, Callahan) are legendary. His blatant campaigning for employment somewhere—anywhere—is cringe-inducing. It is embarrassing to have him associated with [BSMW].

Note:Needless to say, I don’t agree with that assessment of Scott’s Shots. I’m not sure what it is…the only people who have ever complained to me about Scott’s Shots are members of the BSMW message board.

Tomorrow: TV Sports Shows

BSMW Awards Recap – Best/Worst Basketball/Hockey Beat Writers

We’re knocking off two categories today, the basketball and hockey beat writers.

First, we’ll look at the writers who cover the beat of the Boston Celtics. It’s been a mostly rough 20 year stretch for the Celtics, yet they still have a couple writers on the beat who were around for the glory days of Larry Bird. Steve Bulpett and Mike Fine are among the few writers still working in Boston who witnessed the Legend in person. We did have a omission from the list as Bill Doyle of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette was overlooked when the lists were put together.

We had 1327 votes cast for the “best” category and 1304 in the “worst” category.

Here’s how it broke out:

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This was one of the tighter races in the balloting. Veteran scribe Steve Bulpett came out ahead of the industrious Shira Springer with the former getting 437 votes for 33% of the total and Springer bringing in 27% with 353 votes. The infamous came in third with 26%. I was a little disappointed in that total, as I feel some of the other writers are very good as well. Mike Fine, who was mentioned earlier is the only media member to appear on the ballot as a beat writer for two different sports. He turns in solid, consistent work. Michael Muldoon of the Eagle Tribune and Tim Weisberg of the Standard-Times may not be with the team day in and day out as many of the others, but provide some pretty solid analysis of the club when they’re covering the team.

In the “worst” category “no one” received 842 votes for 65% of the total. Springer, who had finished second in the best category, got 17% of the worst vote as well, which I think can be attributed to voters recalling some of her early work, which was jeered in some corners. I think she’s done a really good job the last few seasons as a reporter.

Reader Comments:

Went with Bulpett [best]. Shira's gotten a lot better, but he's still tops, and not everyone that's listed can win…There is no worst, although I think in general that the writers as a group can be too easy on this team…

Now to the hockey beat writers:

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It seems the disgust for the Bruins around these parts and the terrible season they had translated to the coverage as well. 509 out of 1266 voters believed that no one deserved the label of best hockey beat writer. That came to 40% of the vote. I don’t necessarily think that the hockey writers are bad, but instead this is a reflection of the team that they cover.

That point seems punctuated by the fact that 932 out of 1254 voters (74%) felt that no one should be called the “worst” either. I believe this category comes down to apathy for the product. Some of these writers are very good and have been on the beat for a long time, but because the team and organization is an object of scorn among fans, it’s hard to anoint a “best” hockey beat writer, or “worst” for that matter.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell was the high vote getter for both best and worst once you got past the “no one” vote in each category.

Afternoon Update

Couple of blogs and recent missives from some media critics to check out on a rainy Wednesday afternoon.

Dave Scott checks in on witih Scott’s Shots while John Molori’s Media Blitz column features Andrea Kremer.

Over the past few months I’ve found Chadd Finn’s Touching All the Bases to be a must read. Another blogger from Vacationland, Steve Mistler on his Outsde the Hub blog tosses his four cents in on Johnny Damon’s return. Sheriff Sully offers up his five most painful losses as a Boston sports fan. Lastly, the grandaddy of ‘em all, Bill Simmons, attempts to explain fantasy baseball to his wife in his latest column for The Magazine.

For those who haven’t read Bruce’s latest on the “Best and Worst of the Boston Sports Media”, check out below.

BSMW Award Recap – Best/Worst Radio Personality

Today’s voting recap is the category of Best/Worst Sports Radio Personality. These are guests, not full time hosts. We’ll have a recap on that category later in the month.

It was hard to include everyone, with so many media people making regular appearances on sports radio these days.

Here’s how the voting came out in this category:

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Sean McAdam of the Providence Journal took home top honors with 465 votes for 32% of the 1471 total. McAdam is oftentimes a voice of reason on the soap opera known as WEEI’s Big Show. While others are in hysterics or trying to fan the flames of panic among the fandom McAdam usually steps in with levelheaded analysis and good information on whatever topic is currently being obsessed over. McAdam made several appearances on various shows, doing a weekly segment on Dale & Holley, Segments on Sports Radio the Score in Providence, doing the Sunday morning baseball show on WEEI and taking the occasional turn as co-host on the Big Show.

Bob Ryan is a favorite guest because of his passion, knowledge and experience in the industry. He did shows on the ESPN 900 in Nashua, as well as on the new ESPN Radio Boston. Despite the limited coverage area, he came in second in this category with 18% of the vote.

Reader Comments: I went with Tony Mazz as the best. I like how he regularly stands up to Ordway's moronfest (I also recognize he's knee-deep in it as well). I'd feel more confident about voting ten folks “worst” than I do about this one. This category is loaded.... Mike Reiss, Josh Miller, and Bob Ryan make Felger's show a must-listen….For “best” it has to be Ryan. No one brings a combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to the air like Bob.

Now, onto the worst category:

2005_worst_radio_personality.png

Ron Borges barely squeaked by Jon Meterparel to take the top spot in this area, getting 257 votes and a 17% share to the morning flashguy’s 210 votes and 14% share. These are out of 1472 total votes cast.

Borges spent the first part of the year on the old 1510 as a guest of the Eddie Andelman program. Because of the small audience, Borges felt confident to make wild accusations and statements that he would not be challenged on, nor would he ever make in his newspaper column. When the station folded operations, Borges moved over to ESPN Boston to a slightly larger audience on Mike Felger’s program. He continued making the outlandish statements, but at least now had someone to semi-challenge him in Felger. Borges also appeared on the Patriots pregame shows on WBCN. All of these snide, I know something you don’t references to Bill Belichick’s character were tiresome. His constant claims that the Patriots were nothing more than a lucky club ready to fall apart annoyed enough people to place in atop this category.

Jon Meterparel delights in playing the contrarian role to a degree on the Dennis & Callahan program. He likes to make unpopular picks and trash popular players as part of his shtick.

Reader Comments: Lots of great choices for the worst, but I had to go with Meterparel over Larry Johnson in the top spot purely because he's slightly more evil. It's like a choice of getting hit by a bus or a train… ...the most deserving candidate...Butch Stearns... Hector Longo also could have been a contenda. Halloran, helped nicely by his nails-on-a-chalkboard, smarmy whine, gets the nod…. Bob Halloran makes Felger's show a must-avoid.….I think Stearns, with his unique blend of know-it-all smarm and utter cluelessness doused with "Hey, I'm on television ... are you?" super sauce, is the single biggest reason to switch to Braille….Another "strong" field in the worst category. Since I gave Calistaparel the nod elsewhere I'm pleased about the chance to give Fred "Dead from the Neck Up" Smerlas a vote here.

Column: The Story Behind BSMW

I’ve given bits and pieces before, but I don’t think I ever gone into detail as to why Boston Sports Media Watch exists today.

I’ve always been a huge consumer of anything Boston sports. I would buy all the newspapers, listen to WEEI all day, watch the Sunday night sports shows, and read USENET postings on the internet. When I discovered Bill Simmons’ Boston Sports Guy site on Digital City Boston back in 1998, I was in heaven. I had my own opinions on guys like Dan Shaughnessy, Peter May, etc, but reading Simmons tear them apart, I realized that probably a lot of people felt the same way. He also updated the site every day late morning with links to stories from newspapers across New England, and also odd stories from around the country.

I spent a lot of time in the old USENET groups, especially in those on the Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots. There were a lot of knowledgeable, intelligent posters in those groups, but even more idiots and trolls.

Some of those posters would point out errors, agendas and hypocrisy in the various media reports and stories. I found that stuff very interesting. For a short time, there was even a small website out there that was meant to point out these errors and inconsistencies in Red Sox coverage. I can’t remember the name of it, or really anything about it. When I found it, I immediately liked it, and fired off a long email about some inconsistencies and agendas on the part of Peter May. The website emailed back that while the information was very good, they only wanted to focus on the Red Sox coverage. That planted a seed in my mind.

In time a couple of thing started to steer me in the direction of creating a site. I enjoyed my day job in the IT department of New Hampshire Public Television, but at the same time, I wanted something more. Helping people change their passwords and find files they deleted by accident gets old after a while. I couldn’t see myself doing tech support stuff for the next 40 years. I wanted something on the side to challenge me. But what could I do? I had no illusions about my abilities to write, even though I enjoyed writing. I actually considered signing on with the Connecticut School of Broadcasting…I even sent away for their brochures. Before they even came, I knew that wasn’t something I really wanted to do.

For years I had enjoyed the sports media columns of Howard Manley, Bill Griffith and Jim Baker. To me, they seemed to have the ideal jobs. They wrote about what they saw on TV, heard on the radio and read in the newspapers. They also talked to people in the industry and got information on upcoming events. That seemed like a pretty good gig. How in the world did they get it? How would someone else get a position like that? I started looking around the internet for other sports media columns, and found that most cities had a couple.

I knew it would be just about impossible to get a column like that, but I figured I’d try. I wrote a few sample columns, which now when I look back on them, they’re just horrible. But I showed these to Bill Griffith at the Globe, and asked for his input. He was incredibly helpful. He offered suggestions on writing style, and what types of things that the reader is going to be looking for. I then took my samples and tried shopping them around to a few small papers in the area. The Portsmouth Herald, and Fosters Daily Democrat were the two that I targeted. I actually heard back from the Portsmouth Herald, and the publisher was very polite, yet explained that he just didn’t have the column space to dedicate to such a venture. We went back and forth a little bit, and he offered a few suggestions and ideas to try out.

Basically, I had gotten nowhere. I felt a little foolish, but still wanted to do something different. I had thought of a webpage, but even though I was in a technical job, I knew nothing about how to create or maintain a site. Then, reading a trade magazine in the first months of 2002, I learned about this new rage that was sweeping the internet: blogs. It seemed everyone was creating a blog. It made it easy to get online and have your voice out there. I found Blogger, the free service that allows you to create your own blog, and I signed up. I wasn’t really planning on the blog being something that would attract readers, or really go anywhere. What I figured was that it could give me a place to practice writing, as well as to keep some notes on what things were happening in the Boston sports media so that I could refer back to them at a later time. I thought it might also give me a chance to build up a “body of work” so that if I had a chance to try a column at a local paper, I could show them what I had been doing.

The early days of BSMW show a lot of choppy, uneven posts. I had no idea how I should go about it. Fittingly, the very first post on the old site took a shot at Dan Shaughnessy. When I started doing the daily links early in the morning, the site really took off. The weeks and months went by, and I tried to watch and listen to as much as a could without impacting the rest of my life negatively. I posted updates on sports radio shows, on TV shows, I did recaps of the Sunday Night Sports shows, which always left me burned on Monday morning. In June of that year, I got my first break as Bill Griffith mentioned the site in the Sunday Globe. I didn’t see a huge spike in traffic just yet, but it was a start, people were finding the website, and encouraging me to continue. I added a “tag board” to the site which allowed people to post running conversations in the sidebar. This grew so popular that eventually the company that provided the service (I was paying for it, but it wasn’t much per month) eventually told me that my board was using too much of their processing ability and that I would need to move it. Around the same time, an incident on the board made me realize that I needed to be able to keep a tighter lid on the things that were being said there, so the board was removed. It was replaced with a message board, which then had to be replaced with another board a few months later.

It took me some time to find my “voice” and I don’t think I’m all the way there yet. (More in a future column) I’ve tried adding things here and there to the site, and it will probably always be a work-in-progress, but the heart and soul of the site seem to be the daily links, which have their clear roots in the old Bill Simmons Boston Sports Guy website. I still interject commentary where I feel appropriate and have added a Friday column with news and items picked up from the week as well as weekend television listings. In any event, I’m pretty proud of what I’ve been able to do over the last four years and what I’ve achieved from my original intent and goals. It’s actually been more than I could’ve hoped for.

Next week, I’m going to take a look at some of the things that I’ve learned since starting up BSMW.

BSMW Awards Recap: Best/Worst Studio Analyst

Get your Red Sox information from the weekend on the Red Sox Daily Links page, and you can also get series coverage from the Baltimore Sun.

With the surging popularity of the local sports teams, we have a plethora of experts brought into the studios on a regular basis to comment on the games as soon as they’re over, and even at halftime and between periods. Who does the best job out of all of these analysts? Who gives us the best analysis of what is going on in the game, and provides insight into the action? Who falls short in these areas?

Remember, these are the guys back in the studio, not the in-game analysts. We’ll get to them later.

Here’s a look at the voting for best studio analyst of 2005.

2005_best_studio_analyst.png

Not too much of a surprise here. When Dennis Eckersley is in studio, the Red Sox post game shows on NESN are pretty much “must see” television. “The Eck” is candid as well as insightful as he breaks down the action for you. He is especially good at looking at the performance of pitchers. We’re fortunate to have him in this market, why ESPN hasn’t snapped him up for Baseball Tonight is beyond me.

Eckersley garnered 517 votes for 40% of the total. Tied for second were Bob Neumeier for his work on the Patriots pre and post game shows on CBS4 and Gary Disarcina for his work on Red Sox games on NESN.

Reader comment: Jim Rice got my “best” vote; technically I'm sure he doesn't deserve it but I just like the guy. Marshall is off to a really good start. Eck is OK-to-good; I actually like him better doing color in games.

Now, let’s look at the other end of the category:

2005_worst_studio_analyst.png

A certain Internet site is bound to be disappointed with the results of this poll. Sam Horn of the NESN Red Sox broadcasts took 359 votes for 28% of this category. Horn seems like a nice enough guy, but doesn’t bring a whole lot of insight to the telecasts. He relies on certain catchphrases during his delivery and isn’t as smooth as an analyst should be in that role.

The “no one deserves this award” category came in second, affirming that Horn is the only one that people feel is really below par in the field.

Reader Comment: Horn was an easy choice as worst. Unsettling is not a good adjective for a studio guy, but he earns it.

Entercom Wins Out

There’s a new leader in the clubhouse for 2006 Sports Media Story of the Year (see 2005 results below). Contrary to earlier reports, it appears Entercom (owners of WEEI and WRKO) has retained the rights to the Red Sox broadcasts with the broadcasts likely to move to ‘RKO (680) on the AM dial. Jesse Noyes of the Herald and Ken Tucker of Billboard Radio Monitor have the initial reports.