Tuesday Thoughts

In lieu of links this morning, lets go over a few things from the last couple of days on the local sports media scene…

The Mut and Merloni show debuted yesterday, and all things considered, I thought it was an encouraging beginning. I’ve probably listened to more Mike Mutnansky than most, having followed him on the NH stations over the years, and I’ve also found him to be knowledgable and hard-working. My concern would be if he was forced to buy into the daily contrived drama of WEEI, which too often has hosts trying to defend ludicrous “takes” on matters. (See Ordway and the Perkins trade.)

It’s been a roller-coaster with me on my thoughts on Lou Merloni. When he first started on the station, I enjoyed his fresh view and take on things. Then as he was on the station more and more, and asked to talk sports other than baseball, his thoughts and ideas at times seemed more like those of a casual (and sometimes uninformed) fan rather than a sports radio professional. With this gig, at first glance, he appears to be making the effort to be informed and knowledgeable. I’ll give them a chance.

I missed Dale Arnold’s Sunday debut, though I heard he had some comments at the start of the show along the lines of “remember me?” Having him on the last two mornings has been a nice change from the usual D&C fill-ins that have been trotted out there over the years. Having him  filling in all over the station will strengthen the station as a whole. While it isn’t great for Dale to be working different hours every week, the listeners will benefit.

Still not thrilled over the new “Big Show.” Glenn Ordway continues to pound on the Kendrick Perkins trade, stunningly overrating what Perkins brought to this basketball team. He’s not the only one. Dan Shaughnessy, writing for SI.com yesterday, compared trading Perkins to the 1980’s Celtics trading Dennis Johnson. Never mind that Dennis Johnson was a Hall of Fame player and Perkins, though beloved and hard working, is a one-dimensional, average NBA center, Shaughness went on to ask Danny Ainge why he “ripped the heart out of his team” with the trade of Perkins.

Ordway might not actually be comparing Kendrick Perkins to Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, but his reaction to the deal and the emphasis he is placing on what the Celtics are losing by trading the injured center make you feel like Ainge did trade away Bill Russell in his prime. Ordway was talking yesterday about how he is “scared as hell” about facing the teams in the Eastern conference without Perkins. How did they do the first half of the season without Perkins?

With Ordway and Shaughnessy lining up against the trade, it makes me feel a lot better about my position. Throw in the fact that Mike Felger also hates the trade, and cites the same reasons as Ordway, and I’m convinced this was a steal by Danny Ainge.

Speaking of Felger, everytime I’ve tuned into him this week, he’s been railing against fundamental religions and pounding the BYU topic. Great radio, it aint.

OK, I’ll say it. The media’s obsession with Tom Brady’s ponytail and their breakdown of his dancing in Brazil is downright creepy. I know it’s the offseason and they’re starved for news, but c’mon. This is pathetic.

Harvey Frommer is a prolific writer about both the Red Sox and Yankees. His latest work Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox came across my desk and is worth a look. It’s a gorgeous coffee-table-style book with many vintage photos of Fenway that I hadn’t seen before. Check it out if you get a chance.

What’s up with NESN? Ratings (post below this one) aside, I’ve heard from several people that they’ve lost a ton of sales people, who complain it is a tough place to work. I’ve heard (not confirmed) that longtime technical operations manager Nancy Rose, who has been with NESN from the beginning, recently left the company.

They’ve also been adding head-scratching programming like “The Strega Life with Nick Varano” to their lineup, while not showing a willingness to cut into programming for breaking stories, even ones involving teams they broadcast for. A recent example was when the Bruins traded for Chris Kelly from Ottawa on February 16th. Comcast SportsNet New England broke in with live coverage and analysis of the deal, while NESN did not. They’ve attempted to expand their national presence with NESN National and teaming up with FOX Sports on the web side, moves that are curious in light of their apparent reticience in covering things locally.

Why doesn’t NESN have shows devoted to the Celtics and Patriots? If they truly want to be the New England Sports Network, they need to expand beyond the Red Sox and Bruins. Dropping SportsDesk in favor of NESN Daily was a disaster, one they’ve attempted to rectify by making NESN Daily more in line with what SportsDesk used to be.

  • Siggy

    Ok, so we'll give Merloni a chance. When out of his comfort zone he does default to conventional fan wisdom and lapses into cheerleading, probably without realizing he's doing it. Of course that makes him no different from just about any talk host.

    Note to Lou: try to avoid referring to athletes as various wild animals. Repeated references this morning to Dwight Howard as 'a beast' was a little disconcerting.

  • Tom

    Well said Bruce, you hit the nail on the head with your analysis of the Big Show. Ordway continues to embarrass himself on a daily basis with his take on the Perkins trade and his contrarian, Felger-Lite approach is already a tired act. So far the Ordway & Holley pairing seems forced & uncomfortable. I do think Michael will eventually make the Big Show better & is an obvious upgrade compared to hacks like DeOssie, Butch Stearns, Bill Burt LJ, & Steve Burton.

    I also think you continue to overrate the talent & contributions of Dale Arnold . He may be a professional but he is boring, contrived and an unbearable suck up.

  • Joe

    Listening to Mut & Merloni sounds exactly how I thought it would: BASIC weekend show!

  • norwoodzip

    Great job Bruce.

    Felt the same way – if Ordway, Shaughnessy and Felger are against it – I'm all for it as well.

    Your take on Felger and the BYU thing is dead on.

    My feeling on that is you substitute any other religious group for the word "Mormon" and it would be considered hate speech.

    At some point, religion might become Felger's "Metco Gorilla" moment.

  • Michael Gee

    Dear Bruce: A radio experiment I conducted on my commute home yesterday afternoon found that at the same time Felger was ranting about BYU, a school whose only tenuous connection to Boston is Mitt Romney's religion, Felger and Holley were discussing the presidential candicacy of Donald Trump.
    I think Bostonians who want to hear and participate in talk about sports are going to have to go out and make real flesh-and-blood friends and acquaintances.

    • Siggy

      I think in addition to the Big Show trying to 'get younger' they are making a conscious effort to incorporate more pop culture references and discussion. This may be the coming wave in sports talk – see Bill Simmons new sports website venture with Chuck Klosterman and other Gen X writers that Simmons says will be 70% sports, 30% pop culture content. Don't know how good Big O is on pop culture though.

      • norwoodzip

        The Big O's great on pop culture – he used to make fun of the internet before anyone else did.

  • mike_b1

    If the CHB hates it, we can start prepping the trophy case for No. 18 right now.

  • Tony

    Did the CHB really say that trading Perkins is like the Celtics trading DJ in the 80s? Wow…just, wow. He can't possibly mean that, can he? I mean, he covered those Bird-era teams as a beat writer and he has to know that there's a huge, huge, HUGE difference between Kendrick Perkins and Dennis Johnson. Smells like a typical "let's generate some buzz today" tactic by the CHB, because if he's serious in making that statement, he needs to go on meds, immediately.

  • Rick

    Very well said Bruce. I whole-heartedly agree with this piece.

    The Ordway/Holley duo is not working for me so far. Definitely feels uncomfortably forced. I have high hopes but so far it's a step backwards.

    I haven't had a good chance to listen to Merloni/Mutnansky yet, just a few minutes in the car. It sounded too much like a weekend show from what I heard.

    NESN isn't even on my radar. The ONLY time I tune in is for Sox games and Bruins games. Everything else is insufferable.

  • Jack

    Two days of Mutt and Merloni…….plain vanilla. I just don't see it. We all know the backgrounds of Ordway, Holley, Dennis, Callahan, Arnold, Felger, Mazz, Zolak. They all have a lot of experience (even Felger) in sports. Merloni has the ex-player credential, but is really inexperienced and Mutt is a nobody from nowhere, who's only about 30. In other words we all know that, except for Merloni in baseball, that they have no real experience to draw on.

    As far as Felger's Metco-like gaffe goes, I'm surprised it hasn't happened yet. They must have somebody good on the button. He tries so hard to be outrageous, preposterous, and contrary that I doubt if he thinks before he speaks.

    • tl;dr

      "Mutt is a nobody from nowhere, who's only about 30."

      So you have to be old to have cred on the Boston sports scene? Hmm, interesting…and here I thought the old (and I do mean old) Fellowship of the Miserable was wearing thin.

      • Jack

        You don't have to be old, but he was 4 when the ball went through Buckner's legs. The original Big 3 were gone when he was about 12. He's starting pretty high on the ladder, considering his resume. Even Meter has better credentials.

        Quite frankly, I hear a lot of younger callers to sports radio who are more miserable than the old ones. They expect to win every year and have hissy fits when they don't And if the latest rage, Michael Felger, isn't a miserable being, I don't know who is.

        • tl;dr

          So? That's the distant past. Yes, the late-70's and 80's were an interesting time in Boston Sports but a lot of time has past since then. Heck, a lot of time has past since Aaron "F'ing" Boone's home run (think about it).

          The original Big Three, Bill Buckner's gaffe, the '85 Super Bowl and Bobby Orr have about as much relevance to today's Celts, Red Sox, Pats and B's as a bucket of water has on the ocean.

        • Ghost of Mark Acres

          wrong! You have less credibilty the lesser historical frame of reference you have, providing of course, you have a decent level of Sports IQ, which I admit doesn't just come with age, but it helps. Mutnansky brings NOTHING new to the table. He got the gig purely because of age (this myth that a youth movement is the only elixer), he's a good company puppet, and he comes VASTLY cheaper…

        • tl;dr

          What's wrong about my statement? How does Bill Buckner's gaffe effect the day-to-day operations of the post-2004 Championship winning Boston Red Son? How does getting blown out by the Bears in the 85 Super Bowl effect how BB and Kraft run the post-2001 Super Bowl winning Pats? How does the original Big Three effect the Ainge and the Celts in today's NBA? How does Bobby Orr's legacy effect the Bruins today in the NHL (other than the fact they haven't won since he played)?

          I'm interested to hear your answers.

  • XYZ

    NESN is a disaster. NESN Daily is a failure of epic proportions, perhaps the biggest fail in Boston sports media history. The way they hyped it as a talk/highlight hybrid show, then failed to deliver by hiring unintelligible and in over his head Uri Berenguer and bland as vanilla Jade McCarthy was a disaster. Now they're left with a show that is a million times worse than the old SportsDesk. How the higher ups at NESN still have a job after that debacle is mind boggling.

    NESN, by the way, is indeed a very tough place to work. They don't mind grinding the staffers for 70 hour work weeks during baseball season and pay zero overtime, but think they can make up for it by charging only 25 cents for candy in the vending machine.
    These days it's miserable for most people there.

    All that said, it's absurd that Felger is allowed to comment or rant on anything NESN does since he's employed by the other regional sports network and it's in his interest to rip his competitor. And Mazz was booted from being used on SportsDesk/Daily so it's not like he's objective on the matter, either.

    • Todd

      How do you know Mazz was booted?

  • latetodinner

    In the end…I think we New England Sports fans expect the best. We are spoiled, from Peter Gammons to Bob Ryan to Johnny Most to Gil and Gino we expect our local talent to be as good or better than national talent. Glenn Ordway had the highest rated local show in the country. WEEI was considered the best sports talk station in the country. Dale Arnold (love him or hate him) was considered a top notch professional. The real problems with the changes is that WEEI no longer feels "great". I seem to be on a one person crusade to point this out but what exactly does Michael Holley bring to any sports talk. Honestly. Patriots Reign was a decent 4 hour read. It was not in David Halbrastram's Class. He has never, to the best of my knowledge, talked about his inside knowledge or insights from being that close to the Belichick on the air…at least not in a way that made news or makes him must listen radio. After that his Sox knowledge is spotty, his Bruins knowledge non existent and his Celtics knowledge pales in comparison to Ordway. So other than a smooth delivery what does he really bring. As much as Ordway is exposed having to take a position and not getting to be peacemaker/fence rider Holley comes off in this show like a rank amateur.

    As for Mutt and Merloni, sorry Bruce I just do not see it. great mutansky does his homework. Great Merloni is trying to sound more informed. A show like this should be tried in Worcester or on the Cape or even Providence before it is rolled out to the big leagues. We, as Boston Sports Fans, expect more. Damon Amendollara has great buzz because he perfected his show somewhere else and does not come off as a fan boy or an amateur. Merloni is learning on the job. Even Toucher and Rich honed their skills before coming to 98.5. Get us professionals who are interesting, who get good interviews and who are not weekend fill-in hosts. I do not care how old Bob Ryan is…you are telling me a Dale Arnold/Bob Ryan show would not have been great for all ages? If the problem with the big Show was it did not skew young enough then change the mix. Make Glenn do more interviews (I still think the Vic Carucci spot is one of the best things Glenn does). Don't saddle him with Mike Holley. Give us greatness!!!!!

  • CBK

    Here's a shocker – everyone posting comments hates everything. In related news, the sky is blue.

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If you dislike the sports radio lineup on both stations so much, stop listening. It's like people here get off on listening for 12 hours a day and then telling everyone how much it sucks. "I hate Felger so much that I listened to him for 4 hours today!"

    FWIW, I think WEEI's attempt to get the "younger" demo couldn't be more transparent. New intro music, bringing Barstool Sports onto the show… and most importantly, Ordway has gone from the sh*t-stirrer to a guy who actually gives an opinion once or twice a show now. I still think he's an idiot. And yes, it's ironic that I'm commenting about how I dislike someone after I just railed against doing that in this post. I'm no better than any of you.

    Just my two cents.

    • Winning

      I agree completely. It seems every person that comments rips each show on each station from 6am-6pm. There are other options if you do not like Boston Sports Radio, try Sirius, or ESPN Radio. I learned that most people just like to complain about something.

      As far as the new shows, Mut and Merloni does have the Weekend Show feel. I have switched over to Gresh and Zo during middays. This is more out of protest due to the fact that my personal favorite show was dissolved.

      I agree with the assessment of the Big Show, it feels forced, awkward, and something isn't there. I'll stick with Felger and Mazz.

      T&R still are my favorites, D&C are miserable human beings, although it was nice to hear Dale on, making the show only 50% miserable due to Callahan.

      The overall message is this: look at how fired up people get about "how bad all shows suck" yet it continues to stir controversy, create dialogue, and maintain interest. Looks like each station is doing their job so far.

    • latetodinner

      The funny thing I liked the old big show and I really like Dale and whoever (less Holley than Neumy). I do not want to complain but this is a website about Media criticisms and more importantly the comment section is all about our opinions. Its why the site exists. FWIW I also like the DA show. The rest I can take or leave. The issue is getting the grand poobahs to listen to what we want…smart, entertaining and informative sportstalk. Getting seems to be impossible.

      • CBK

        Point taken. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. It just gets on my nerves when I want to read interesting and informative takes on the local stations and all I get is "this sucks and this sucks and this sucks too." This is such a great site but it's downright nasty sometimes.

        I think Mike Adams is a complete joke of a host and his show has the dumbest callers in Boston. But I don't think I've listened to 10 seconds of his show in years. It's not that hard.

  • Dunner

    Why would NESN ever cut into one of their precious infomercials just to break a sports story?NESN= Never Ending Sales Network.

  • Pierre

    Nesn is a terrible place to work. Rose was let go unceremoniously and other long-time employees are jumping ship. Management is a punchline and their “news dept” under Larry Lawson continues to get worse. Former anchor Cole Wright is now at ESPN where he shines. It reflects so poorly on Lawson and Joel Feld that Wright immediately succeeded at the worldwide leader after spending two years looking uncomfortable at nesn. It shows how seriously they take anything but game broadcasts there.

    • Jason_Coyote

      And you'd think with his TV pedigree that Werner would have put better management in place at NESN. Might as well have Kahn and Wolfe in charge of non-game productions.

  • TTFK

    My first impressions:

    Big Show: Is there anyone Ordway CAN'T drag down with him? No matter who is sitting across from him, it becomes a festival over talking over each other (when they aren't screaming over each other.) This relates to an earlier point I made that even Borges was listenable when Ordway was NOT there. I feel sorry for Holley… he deserves a lot better than this.

    I haven't gotten much of a chance to catch Merloni & Mutt yet, but I did get to listen to Dale Arnold fill in this morning for for John Dennis on my way to work. I found what I did listen to very enjoyable. Arnold and Callahan seemed to mesh pretty well, and I wouldn't mind hearing it on a more regular basis.

    WEEI really screwed the pooch on breaking up the midday show and sending each of them into a different circle of hell. What they SHOULD have done was left the basic guest structure of the Big Show intact, (yes, including Borges and Schmuckley,) but jettisoned Ordway to the curb. His talk-over yelling style does not and has not worked for me for some time now.

    • Winning

      I love your suggestion but unfortunately Ordway has major pull at WEEI. He would in your theory be firing himself. It's funny how his show sucks so they breakup the best show DH, and he picks at the scraps hoping to better himself. Ordway ruins careers, he'll sell everyone down the river but himself. See Pete Sheppard, Dale Arnold.

      WEEI wanted to make changes to improve show Quality. What improves show quality more than breaking up the most consistent performing show. Nope, they do it and send Holley to Hell so he can sit like Robin on Howard Stern and pipe in every couple minutes while Ordway rabbles on

      • Jason_Coyote

        Ordway's 'major pull at WEEI' = big $$$ contract not due to expire for three more years.

        If Entercom is hemorrhaging money, the last thing they want to do is pay Ordway a bundle to not be on the air while they have to pay someone else to take his place.

  • raidiogaga

    Mutt and Lou like them or not and I am sure they are good guys just don't have any credibility. For instance M&M will interview Milbury and they will try to debate him but Milbury will win in a funny KO. Dale could debate him, stalemate him and even out point him in a hockey debate. With all due respect are these two the best we had coming up? I really honestly feel they are in over there heads and they both are figuring this out each day. Not feeling your love about Mutt who in my opinion would be good in the Pete Shepard/Meter role news flash/commentator for drive home.
    I really have liked Holley but not a Bog O fan. I really want to hear Holley but Glenn is not doing it for me. Holley knows hoop and I loved his take but they teamed him with Johnny Most's partner and there is no way Big o is going to con-seed a point to Holley on Hoop. It's too bad that 2 of the best knowledgeable personalities on sports radio Dale and Holley had to end up this way.

  • McBird

    Shank is still beating the anti trade that it's becoming insanity. A career 6 pts and 6 rebounds a game and you would have thought we lost Moses Malone.
    Shank keeps saying center by committe doesn't work.I guess he never heard of the second greatest dynasty in basketball history …The Bulls had Cartwight,Longley,Wennington and Perdue for 6 rings !
    Shank and felgy say celts were the favs to win it before trade ,NOPE again shank.Spurs had much better record and celts were on the same level as spurs,fakers,mavs and Bulls.
    Shank complained about 80's celts getting old,Ainge wisely got something for an asset he was losing.Old celts never did that until it was too late

    • Tony

      Your last sentence sums up why I like the way Ainge does things. I screamed at the top of my lungs every year after 1988 (the last legit shot the Bird Celtics had to win another title) for Red, Volk or whomever was in charge to start trading off the aging assets, because it was clear that the championship era was over. The only one they traded was Ainge, who was the YOUNGEST guy left on the roster from the championship teams. That was insane. They had good offers on the table for McHale and Parish, and never moved on them. Trading Bird may have been considered sacrilege but you can bet that a guy like Ainge, if he were in charge, at least would have put out "feelers" to see if anyone knocked his socks off with an offer (hey, the Oilers traded Gretzky, right?). That's what creative GMs do. The problem with the late-80s Celtics is that Red got old (and I really think the death of Len Bias took a lot out of him, too) and Volk was a numbers cruncher, not a personnel evaluator. I like Ainge's approach. It's a business afterall, and while emotionalism has its place, it also doesn't help your team stay competitive over the long haul.

      • mcbird

        Will people get upset if AINGE trades Allen or KG ? I hope pierce is like Bird and always stays as a celt.Even though Indiana probably would have over paid to get Bird in a trade.
        Bias and Reggie were tragedies and certainly destroyed any chance of celts doing anything in the 90's.
        Wasnt gretzky alot like Carmelo where the wife had ( an alledged ) show biz career so the hubby told the teams to trade them to big media market ? lol

  • Jason_Coyote

    Good comments today.

    I have a request for Bruce and all who listen to sportsradio during the midday hours (unforunately my work does not allow): now that Zolak and Merloni both have their own shows going head-to-head, it might be a good time to compare the two ex-jocks to see which one is stronger discussing all sports other than the ones they played. Probably doesn't help Zolak these days that the only football to talk about is at the negotiation table, while Lou's fulltime radio debut coincides nicely with the start of the baseball season.

  • Jason_Coyote

    A couple of questions/observations I've had on my mind…

    1. Was Pete Sheppard's show on patriots.com only supposed to last through the football season? I didn't see anything on the Patriots website about him recently. I wonder if the Pats were put off by Pete's Facebook rant? Might be a long time (if ever) before Sheppard finds any full time radio work in the Boston market.

    2. With EEI's new midday show kicking off this week, I briefly thought about Jon Wallach's decision to move to 98.5 and going from midday flash guy to morning update man (with a little more co-host interaction). Had he stayed at EEI, I wonder if he would have gotten first dibs to co-host with Merloni? Interesting the way things played out.

    • http://twitter.com/awesomeneil @awesomeneil

      The situation supposedly is that Wallach was more or less told he was never going to get that seat. So when TSH offered more money, he jumped. Can't say I blame him. I often wonder if it was contentious when he left, since I don't recall a send-off or anything. One day he just wasn't on 'EEI anymore.

      Now would it have made for better weekday midday radio to pair Wallach with Merloni? No. Freaking. Way. Wallach – Squeaky Voice = Mutnansky. They're both good guys, decent radio people, but really more suited for the flash booth.

    • Jerry

      Sheppard will be back. No one else is more convincing in those diet cookie ads.

  • Classless

    Listening to Mutt and Merloni reminds me fondly of watching paint dry.

  • sum dood

    New midday show is pretty bad. Mutnansky has the personality of a house plant and Merloni just doesn't have what it takes to be a full-time host.

    Lou was good as a guest with a strong host like Ordway to direct the action. While the new Big Show hasn't been great, I definitely think it will improve over time. Mut & Lou seems destined for mediocrity unless Mutnansky is scrapped. You can't learn personality on the job. The guy's a bore.

  • Ghost of Mark Acres

    I totally agree, but I think neither of them has the personality of a doorknob….Lou, to his credit, took on the "hosting" duties as a fill-in a couple times earlier than he was ready for, because he wanted to get better,and the studio didn't get blown up, but that's no reason to give him his own gig. Quite frankly, I think Taylor Twellman has been far more energetic & knowledgeable about the other sports on Comcast than Utility Lou…

  • mcbird

    WEEI is keeping dale around incase new mid day show tanks so dale can take back
    muts job.
    Just like jay leno.Successfull show broken up to make more money and new product ( conan/mutt) sucks so they bring back jay/dale to save the day !

    lets see