Guest Column – The Local Boston Sports Scene in the Information Age

Bruce is on vacation -during his time off, a series of guest columns and posts will appear in this space.

The Local Boston Sports Scene in the Information Age

By George Cain

When I was a kid I spent many summers at a rental cottage in Hampton Beach, NH.  In the morning I would wake up, take fifty cents down to the corner store and purchase the Boston Globe and Boston Herald.   This was how I USED to get my daily sports fix.

SportsCenter existed at this time but it was on cable, which was not in everyone’s living room.  It definitely was not on a black and white television set with rabbit ears sitting in the cottage living room.  You had to rely on the newspapers in those days.  Most games weren’t on television, they were on the radio.   So it was common to read the game story the next day to help fill in the blanks from the radio cast the previous night.  Some of those game stories were written by Peter Gammons.   Do people even remember Peter Gammons writing, never mind writing the game stories?  There were also the all-important notebook columns.  This was the only way to find out about injuries, lineup changes or comments from the Manager/Coach.   And finally, there were the box scores.  I could read the baseball box scores for an hour back then.  These were the days way, way before fantasy baseball. You read the scores because you were a fan of the game and not because you were in first place in your $2000 fantasy baseball league.   The Sunday Boston Globe was a particular treat where you had the weekly columns written by Hall of Fame writers: Jackie MacMullan, Peter Gammons and Will McDonough.    Today’s its all changed.

Today we have the internet, 24 hour sports talk radio, 24 hours sports TV, ESPN, blogs, tweets and mailbags.  There are sportswriters , insiders, and personalities who jump from show to show to show to supplement their income and stay relevant in an industry that is completely focused on the NOW.

The newspaper industry is dying , if not dead.  For most people, especially men and women under the age of 35, the Boston Globe and Boston Herald are nothing more than websites that you visit for information.  These papers don’t break stories anymore, unless it’s through their own website.  Seldom do we ever see something on printed paper before we see it on our computer.  So if you live in Boston or are a Boston native where do you go to get the best information?

TWITTER,TWEETER, AND TWITS

I think everyone has a general knowledge of Twitter with the exception of my father and a few select tribal members deep within the South American rainforest.  But to refresh, all the sportswriters have an internet Twitter account they use to send out information. They will tweet a line and usually that line will link to a column or blog entry.  Those “tweets” are also published within websites like WEEI.com, ESPNBOSTON.com or CSNNE.com.  CSNNE.com does the best job of publishing contributing tweets within their website.  So if you want to find out quickly what happened to Josh Beckett when he fell of the mound, well CSNNE.com is a good place to start.   The problem is many of their “on air” personalities think it’s their personal Facebook and tweet completely useless information including what they are doing on their weekend.   I consider this totally unprofessional and tedious.  My advice is to follow a reliable source and go directly to their Twitter page.   Bill Simmons, the former “Boston Sports Guy” and now internet sports writing “King” is also worth checking out at least once a day, if for no other reason than to find out when his next column is appearing.  WEEI.com has “this just in” which is essentially bullet point headlines.    I like this format, the problem is that “this just in” becomes “guess what happened yesterday” so less is more when it comes to headlines.

BEST LOCAL TWEETER: Sean McAdam  

WORST LOCAL TWEETERS: MOST OF THE CSNNE.COM STAFF

BLOGS

I am much more of a blog reader than a Twitter reader.    So for me, Bruce Allen’s Bostonsportsmedia.com blog, is a must read everyday.  Bruce links all the local websites, newspapers sites, national articles pertaining to Boston sports and he’ll throw you some commentary as well.   He’s basically saving you at least 2 hours of time you could be wasting in other places.  Second locally would be WEEI.com with ESPNBOSTON.com a close third.  WEEI.com has the best daily blogs because they have the most range and cover 3 of the 4 sports well.  (hockey being the exception, check out Hags on CSNNE.com for hockey)   If its football season, Mike Reiss has the best information.   The Patriots clearly feel comfortable talking to Reiss, which is a rarity, since they tend to be close lipped on everything.  But, Reiss will bring you more than opinion.  Reiss provides stats, number of snaps players played in the previous game and formations used during the course of a game.   Reiss doesn’t just watch the game and give an opinion.    He breaks down the tape and informs the reader, something I myself enjoy as opposed to bloviating sports writers who like to gesture to cameras and read emails on air. (ahem..Tom Curran, Quick Slants is a mess)

BEST LOCAL BLOGGERS: Bruce Allen and Mike Reiss, 

BEST NATIONAL BLOG: Buster Olney’s on ESPN.com

COLUMNISTS

If you’re looking for QUALITY sports columns on a day to day basis its pretty slim pickings out there.  WEEI.com has Rob Bradford, Kurt Minihane and Alex Speier, three strong writers who seem to try to give you more than what you can simply watch on TV at night.   McAdam has always been a favorite of mine, but he’s become much more of a TV personality than a columnist.   And that pretty much goes for everyone at the Globe and Herald with two exceptions:  Ian Rapoport who actually seems more interested in journalism than television and Chris Gasper, who has tremendous upside as a writer and radio personality.   Jackie MacMullan, of ESPNBOSTON.com is always a superb read and is one of my favorite sports writers in the country.  Some people are much better suited for the TV, that’s right Michael Felger I’m talking about you.  But it makes you wonder if the journalist is dead?  Do words mean anything anymore, or do we all just want to listen while we multi-task.    I often think about what Thornton Mellon said in the movie “Back to School” when asked if he ever reads.  “Read?   Who has time?  I see the movie.  I’m in and out in 2 hours.”  I don’t know if that makes us lazy or a product of an information evolution.  But TV and now video podcasting are becoming the new printing presses.

BEST LOCAL COLUMNIST: Jackie MacMullan, ESPNBOSTON.com,

WORST LOCAL COLUMNIST: Ron Borges (which is a shame because at one time, one of the best)

CHATS, MAILBAGS, etc.

Lots of writers do on-line chats or mailbags.   Once again I recommend Mike Reiss on ESPNBOSTON.com for his weekly chats.  Felger used to have a pretty entertaining mailbag but with all his fame and multiple jobs it looks like he’s put the keyboard aside for good.  It’s now much easier for him to butcher the English language 4 hours a day on the radio and ½ hour at night without the stress of coming up with witty answers for his minions.   Bill Simmons to me is still the gold standard for which young writers today should strive to emulate.   He didn’t want to fetch coffee and wait his turn at the Boston Herald so he went out and started a website of this own, “The Boston Sports Guy.”  He’s parlayed that into ESPN.com.   And he’s parlayed ESPN.com into the most financially successful sports writing career in the history of the industry.  He has his detractors but the stats don’t lie.  Just check out his Twitter following, podcast downloads and visitors to Grantland.com where he is Editor-in-Chief.

BEST LOCAL ON-LINE CHAT: Mike Reiss ESPNBOSTON.com,

BEST MAILBAG: Kirk Minihane WEEI.com

So to sum it all up, there is more information than time to digest it all.  There is no clear #1 as far as I am concerned.  You have to be able to navigate through the useless stuff or you can waste a LOT of time.  There are definitely things today that work better than 25 years ago.  The media today can interact with the fans and vice-versa.   But there are some things that are worse.  Opinions are more plentiful but so is redundancy and mistakes.   By the time you get to the article about the Red Sox pursuing Matt Garza four other outlets have shot it down.  So, for me, while I do like the wealth of information available through all the different mediums, in some ways, I still miss the daily box scores all there in front of you in print.  I miss reading the game story which helped give context to the radio broadcast I listened to from the night before.  And finally I miss the breaking story that you got when you picked up the front page.  “Red Sox trade Eckersley for Buckner.”  Today that would have been tweeted, blogged, posted, discussed and Facebooked before the presses finished printing.  I still enjoy getting the Sunday paper delivered so I can read it on my porch and comb through the box scores.

That’s my opinion, what say you?

  • Nicky B

    you lost me at this point,

    BEST LOCAL COLUMNIST: Jackie MacMullan, ESPNBOSTON.com,

  • tl;dr

    BEST LOCAL BLOGGERS: Bruce Allen

    While I do agree…isn't it a bit shady to have the owner of this website voted in as "Best Blogger" on his own website?

    • Gwizz

      true, but he makes a good point. You can just come here and get all the info summarized. I know it saves me some time…

      • L3s

        Just to be nit-picky, however. This isn't a blog by the strict definition. This is more of an aggregation site. Links and summaries, while great and convenient, a blog do not make. RSS takes care of the same function for you.

  • NutCracker

    Like everything in life, who, what, where, when and how we like getting our daily sports information is subjective from fan to fan so I disagree with a few of your best and worst opinions that you have listed. However, I do agree that it's a much different world than it was in the past and I too have fond memories of walking to the store and picking up the newspaper (morning edition Boston Record-American or the Boston Traveler) and immediately turning to the box scores to see who did what the night before. Plus they'd list the homerun, batting average and RBI leaders of both leagues. That was fun to check out too. Yup, times were very different back then.

  • Classless

    I kinda get the longing for nostagia (reading the paper on the floor of your parents house, dissecting box scores, waiting for the Sox highlights on ESPN or the news), but today is a much better world. Any info you could possibly want is at your fingertips. If you don't like a writer, tv guy, or radio guy, you can filter them out at will. In the past, you would have been stuck with Eddie Andelman or whoever was on ESPN and have to deal with it.

    In a way, there is no reason to complain nowadays about crappy sports personalities. It's on you to find the good ones and stick with them.

  • wandering_bear

    jackie mcmullen and kirk M can tell you all about the 80's celtics and that's about it..

  • Joe

    Easy on the Simmons ball-washing. It's almost comical how much he's morphed into a millenial version of the CHB (Teenwolf, anyone?).

    Shouldn't there be a limit on the amount of teen-TV a 40 year old watches, too? Newsflash: Peter Pan wasn't really a kid who never grew up – he's a creepy old guy with a ponytail hanging around bars populated by co-eds.

    Who knew that spoon-feeding sanded down New England humor to midwesterners would make you millions………props for hoops knowledge, though.