These days “Sports Huddle” is a Sunday night (7-10 PM) program on WTTK 96.9 FM hosted by Eddie Andelman with sidekicks former ESPN producer Billy Fairweather and Boston comedian Mike Donovan.
The current show is less about sports than it is a weekly public airing of grievances by the aged Andelman and his cronies.
Back 30 years ago however, and “Sports Huddle” was cutting edge radio. Sports talk radio didn’t really exist yet, and while there were some shows devoted to talking sports, none were quite like Sports Huddle.
The following is a short article published on Jan. 29, 1973, which is available on the website of Time magazine.
The Boston Badmouths
Club owners have the money and power. Players have their unions and the right to strike. Referees have the last word. But what does the forgotten sports fan have? Sports Huddle, that’s what.
Originating in Boston, Sports Huddle is a raucous weekly radio show dedicated to “looking out for the fans.” The proprietors-Mark Witkin, Jim McCarthy and Eddie Andelman-are an unholy trio of amateur broadcasters and professional fans. Every Sunday night from 7 to 11, they rail against everything from overpriced tickets and cold hot dogs to sportswriters (“Sock sniffers in the locker room”) and the sports establishment (“They’ve been abusing the public for years”). Their format is like the New England Patriots’ offense: haphazard. Their delivery sounds like three guys gassing in a ginmill-that is. loose and loudmouth.
It all comes naturally to Attorney Witkin, 33, Insurance Executive McCarthy, 44, and Real Estate Broker Andelman, 36. They were “discovered” four years ago when an executive from station WUNR overheard their loud banter in a Boston bar and invited them to sound off at a microphone. Sports Huddle was such an instant hit that six months later it was transferred to WBZ, a 50,000-watt station heard in 32 states and Canada. Before long, the station, which also broadcasts the Boston Bruins’ games, had some grievances of its own: McCarthy dismissed Bruin President Weston Adams Jr. as “the biggest jerk I ever met,” while Andelman described Boston Garden, the Bruins’ home rink, as “a pig pen, a garbage pit. Even Vincent Price wouldn’t shoot a horror movie there.” When WBZ, reportedly under pressure from the Bruins, dropped the show in May 1971, 2,000 Sports Huddle loyalists staged a demonstration in the station’s parking lot.
The show was quickly picked up by WEEK, a CBS affiliate, and a syndicated version is now heard on more than 50 stations across the U.S. Deluged with up to 20,000 calls a night, the three superfans attack what they call the “hidden injuries of class” by blasting everyone from politicians who hog tickets to the “phony, bigoted yachtsmen of the New York Yacht Club.” Though they have broadened their attack to suit their national audience, they still hit home the hardest. Among their favorite targets are Boston Red Sox Manager Eddie Kasko (“A mealymouthed marshmal-low”) and Bruin Star Bobby Orr (“He’s not the humble, gracious, Bible-touting kid everyone says he is”). While some of their high jinks are sophomoric or just plain silly (they once telephoned the commandant of the Buckingham Palace Guards to ask if he would trade two of Her Majesty’s finest for a pair of Patriot guards), WEEI’S triple threats are convinced that “the majority of our opinions are what the fans believe.”
Too Cheap. Their crusades can pay off. When Sports Huddle lambasted Richard Nixon for not congratulating the Bruins for winning the 1970 Stanley Cup, 30,000 listeners sent protest letters to the White House. The President responded with a congratulatory telegram and later, while driving in a convertible in Dublin, held up a sign saying BOSTON BRUINS ARE NO. 1. Claiming that the Patriots were “too cheap” to find a decent field-goal kicker, Sports Huddle launched a “Search for Superfoot” among 1,600 English soccer players; the winner, Mike Walker, a Lancashire bricklayer, was not only signed by the Patriots last season but appeared in eight games. In March the three superfans are going to Australia to scout some rugby players who can reportedly punt a football 70 yds. Andelman confidently says that when the “Kangaroo Kid” makes his debut in pro football next season, “he’ll be so good they’ll have to change the rule book.”
Sports Huddle fans do not take such predictions lightly. On the eve of the Miami Dolphins’ 14-7 Super Bowl victory over the Washington Redskins, the Boston badmouths consulted a psychic, a bookie, two Chinese abacus experts and assorted astrologers, then correctly predicted the winner of the championship game for the fourth season in a row.
Some of these antics will sound familiar to longtime Andelman listeners, as he took some of this style onto his later gigs on WHDH, WEEI and WWZN.
The bashing of the Bruins is nothing new these days, but also remember that the Bruins were coming off their second Stanley Cup championship in three years when this article was written. It’s hard to imagine Bobby Orr being attacked on sports radio in Boston, but apparently, that’s exactly what happened.
Railing against sportswriters? Things have changed a bit there, as now, it is mainly sportswriters who appear on the programs.
I’d like to occasionally take a look back at the Boston sports media scene, looking at articles from the past and comparing them with how things are now. Stay tuned.