Sports Media Musings: Finn Podcast, Influx of Media, Former Athlete Media Grades, Links

Ryan Hadfield is a media columnist for SportsOfBoston.com. You can read his archive here. He also is a feature writer for GossipSports.com. You can yell at him on Twitter or harass him via email at [email protected]

An Informercial Before Our Regularly Scheduled Program

I don’t think I’m going out on a huge limb when I presume (most of) you come to this site for three reasons:

1.) You enjoy having every column relevant to Boston sports at your finger tips in one segregated place.

2.) You like to discuss the media figures, business side of each medium, and what could be done to improve both.

3.) You just want to wake up to Bruce’s mug every morning.

If either of the first two options appeal to you, I encourage you to head here and listen to my podcast with the guru of Boston sports media, Chad Finn.

In the podcast we discuss the recent troubles of WEEI, the coinciding rise of 98.5 The Sports Hub, NESN vs. CSNNE, and Grantland.com.

For the third option simply go to your favorites tab, and keep on living the dream.

Two for the Money?

Speaking of the local radio wars, I find the perceived “animosity” between hosts of each station more disingenuous with every viewing of Sports Tonight. Every day, I listen to each station make crass remarks about one another. And that’s fine, I get it, controversy creates publicity. It’s very essential to what these people do. “We’re number 1!”…”No! We’re number 1″…And so on and so forth.

(Though, after the last ratings book came out, The Sports Hub’s claim is true, while WEEI’s equivocal statements are somewhat delusional.)

My contention is – and I broached this topic with Finn – that these personalities have the relationship of cops and criminals throughout the day, and all of the sudden, turn into Franklin & Bash at night while on various CSNNE shows. The transformation shows, above everything else, the goal is strictly monetary-driven and the aforementioned venom is somewhat fabricated.

Except for John Dennis, Andy Gresh and Glenn Ordway. Everyone can all agree on hating them.

Hot Sports Takes!

With all the new media outlets launching in Boston, opinions often are consumed, regurgitated, and consumed again. It has to be expected with two radio stations, an abundance of websites, and CSNNE which converges all of the talent.

This week hilarity ensued as virtually every radio show on both The Sports Hub and WEEI gave listeners some form of, “No one wants to say it, but we’re straight shooters – the United States blew the women’s World Cup last Sunday. We know it’s weird to think of things in those terms – because they are women – but we’re the platform that tells it like it is. BOOM!”

Someone needs to sit both stations down, and advise personalities to refrain from presenting content like they’re shock jocks. Especially when their adversary is spewing the same crap. Simmer down.

Commenting on the, uh, Commentators!

Doc Emrick is leaving MSG Network to work full-time at Versus and NBC. I never thought I would take to a hockey play-by-play guy like Gary Thorne, but Emrick seems likable and his frantic pace is doting to the common viewer. It’s a good move for both the aging talent, and NBC (I don’t get to say that often). Eh, Enzo?

Additionally, I caught wind from Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch that old friend Sean McDonough is being assigned the lead college football afternoon game on ABC with color commentator, Matt Millen.

(Is it weird, even though McDonough called World Series games and also the Sox for over fifteen years, the moment that resonates most with me is this gem from a college football game? Fast forward to 25:30.)

On Twitter, Deitsch was lamenting about Millen’s presence in the broadcast, because of his failures as the winless Detroit Lion’s general manager.

Millen earned his bones as a player first and foremost, which provoked me to pontificate about former athlete’s in Boston and their role in the media.

Scott Zolak – Zo has been a presence in the market since his retirement from football, frequently appearing on Patriots 5th Quarter. The eccentric ex-signal caller has been a radio personality both in Providence, and now in Boston middays with Andy Gresh at 98.5 The Sports Hub. I think Zo’s football knowledge is worthwhile, but isn’t substantial enough to justify a radio show year round. Bottom Line: Although his enthusiasm for radio is endearing and borderline infectious, a guest host is a better suited role for Zolak.

(*Also worth noting: His rambunctious persona would fit in with, dare I say it, The Big Show).

Lou Merloni – While playing for the Red Sox “Utility Lou” was lauded for getting the most out of his abilities. He was never a stud prospect, which is ironic, because decision-makers in both television and radio fawned over Merloni. In fact, it’s been said The Sports Hub wined and dined Merloni trying to bring him on board to spar with Mike Felger in the afternoons. WEEI thwarted those attempts, giving Merloni a slot in the revamped midday show Mutt & Merloni. And while I think Merloni has tremendous upside as a host and analyst, he needs to add more insight and conviction in his work. Bottom line: Merloni belongs.

Brian ScalabrineI’ve written about his transient endeavours in media before. Bottom Line: As I wrote in the linked piece, Scal could be a rich man’s Merloni; conversely, his worse-case upshot is Merloni’s ceiling. Consequently, Scanilla Ice belongs.

Jermaine Wiggins – Maybe not as grating, but unfortunately Wiggins is the Mike Adams of 98.5′s afternoon drive show. He either struggles articulating his point, or doesn’t have one — I still am trying to figure out which it is. Bottom line: “Wiggy Wednesdays” are as entertaining as the pending NFL lockout.

Speaking of the lockout…

The NFL’s labor strife has turned into a will-they-won’t-they soap opera of epic proportions. It’s like an episode of Entourage. And I hate Entourage.

Look, I’m not going to sit here and pretend I love writing and reading about these negotiations. Frankly, the lock-out has joined the pantheon of topics that I refuse to talk about in even the most colloquial circumstances.

(Note this is a prestigious group: The lockout joins such subjects like Brett Farve’s penis, anything related to Tiger Woods, the economy, the Kedrick Perkins trade and Adrian Gonzalez playing right field as issues I wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole.)

The immediacy of Twitter, which is doubling as a news gathering entity, exacerbates the blurriness between news and rumors.

With all that being said, I think we – as consumers – have to give some adulation to Mr. Albert Breer for his persistence during this ordeal. Breer’s efforts to keep readers informed is unparalleled. And, granted, his access through his employer (NFL Network) certainly behooves his purpose -he still deserves credit. Breer has been crushing it on the beat, telling us about each and every meeting, any advance in discussions, prevalent issues, and the like.

Even former co-worker and peer, Chris Gasper, gave his support of Breer’s work on the lockout.

@AlbertBreer You are the hardest-working man in NFL journalism. Almost home, man. Hang in there.

In his time at the Boston Globe Breer wasn’t exactly beloved like Bob Ryan. I got the sense readers felt he was a bit smug in his tone. I never got that sentiment, though.

So I ask, what say you readers? Was Breer under-appreciated, or did he just need a new forum to thrive?

Things I’m Reading

The Big Lead’s take on ESPN trying to capitalize on Twitter. An acute look at the motivations, pitfalls, and benefits of the four-letter network’s new initiative.

Peter Abraham gives us an idiot’s guide to the trading deadline.

David Shoemaker, of Deadspin and Grantland (Funny, right?), helps explain the new era of professional wrestling. (I know, I know – not really sports related. Consider it alternative viewing.)

 

 

  • NorwoodZip

    "Breer’s efforts to keep readers informed is unparalleled."

    An Albert's always the 1st to tell you how hard and how many hours he has worked.

    Al thinks hanging out in a hotel lobby all day is the modern day equivalent of Ernie Pyle going ashore at Normandy.

  • EvilStaceyJames

    Smug doesn't even scratch the surface. Breer is a self entitled, pretentious windbag in training. He tells us a lot of things but at the same time he tells us nothing. There's a reason why he changes jobs every 18 months and it's not just about climbing the ladder.

  • Winning_

    Good job Rhino!

  • Lance_

    Nice column Ryan, thanks. Breer had his moments when he was at the Herald – he (but not his donut framed partner) provided a good compliment to Reiss. When he was at the Globe he turned into a different monster. Last year he would not stop writing about Brandon Spikes and marijuana. I think I'm like most people that felt that a college kid taking a few tokes was as normal as getting drunk. It wasn't the story he pounded.

    But Breer didn't stop there – it almost seemed like his editors were hounding him to not inform but inflame any topic regarding the Patriots he could. He came across as whiney bitch and I wasn't sad to see him go. He's doing well now and has done a good job on the lockout – maybe because his bosses are better than the Globe's but I don't miss him in this market.

  • Ryan Hadfield

    Thanks for the kind words. The Finn pod was really fun to do, and his chat is appointment reading. His LCD column feels soothsayer-esq, doesn’t it?

    Didn’t know WEEI basically blacklisted Russillo. Was that common knowledge?

    I agree on Tanguay’s off beat opinions. Like I said, he should be utilized as a pure host, and nothing more (a la Tony Reali in Around the Horn).

    I remember Gresh hammering the ratings and then his subsequent appearance with Merloni. Just seems off.

    I don’t know why NESN won’t rectify their programming. Huge opportunity lost in my eyes. We have two radio stations, the market is clearly large enough.

    • mandb97

      That's weird the stuff I agreed with you on is now missing. Damn Technology!

  • mandb97

    Here is where I disagree or didn't like some of the podcast with Chad Finn:

    1) Is Dale Arnold perfect? no. Was he significantly better than any other daily host on WEEI? You bet. I was surprised when Finn thought it was a good idea to get rid of Dale. He was very much in the minority then and has admitted to his mistake. Ryan, I would like to know what criticism you agreed with with regards to Arnold. I liked the way he was prepared on all topics. He was far more often cordial to callers then not. He and Holley did not prescribe to old and tired formula that if you disagree with each other you did not have to yell and talk over each other.

    2) Nothing was really added with regards to Ryen Russillo. It's well known that John Dennis is the reason why Russillo was blackballed from local radio. What I would have liked to know whether the accusation of Russillo by John Dennis was true. About one month ago D&C had Dave Portnoy of Barstool Sports on. Portnoy has become a weekly staple on the show. Portnoy asked about Russillo. Dennis' response was that Russillo had made some drunk and obnoxious statements to his daughter at a party. This led to Dennis' infamous answering machine message to Russillo. I would be very curious if Russillo had a response to this.

    3) I do agree with both of you on Mary Paoletti as a rising star on CSNNE. She has a great rapport with Curran on Quick Slants. I enjoy her work a lot. The one person who I think needs to get more credit is Jessica Moran. Moran has become very versatile at CSNNE. I liked her Down on the Farm series. She is very good on Sports Central and the Baseball Show. I think what hurt Moran for some time, believe it or not, was that one time ridiculous red mane on top of her head. It was actually distracting to the viewer and I would not listen to a lot that she was saying. It seems like she and CSNNE have gone out of their way to tone down the color of her hair. I listen to Moran and now find her delightful to listen to.

    4) I have truly tried to read Grantland. I want to like but I have found it completely unreadable. Kan Fang of Fang's Bites calls Simmons, "Captain Blowhard". I wholeheartedly agree. Also, nothing says you want more traffic to your site than having a known plagiarist write for you.

    • Ryan Hadfield

      Awww! So everything you agreed with (both in the podcast, and some previous comments, got deleted). That makes this look much more contentious than it really is..

      1) No one is perfect, and I said on the Pod that the Holley move was understadable (He's well liked in the market, afternoon drive ratings > midday ratings) but was unsure whether that justifies the Arnold move. In retrospect, mgmt would probably like to have that one back. And, as I said, maybe should have gave Dale a different sparring partner. My issue with Dale? I'm the same guy who wrote about Kobe's gay slur being tipping point (probably my best column) in sports, but while things like Arnold's staunch stance about KG's swearing may have creedence, he spent to much time playing the moral high ground on such issues. However, I was still chary about the way it went down with Arnold. I agree – he's well prepared and respectful. Can't argue with that. A true pro.
      http://sportsofboston.com/2011/04/21/kobe-bean-br… — column

      • mandb97

        What is bizarre is the the stuff I had disagreed with kept getting deleted. I now see it. I tried to separate what I agreed with with what I disagreed with in different posts. Now I only see what I disagreed with while I do not see what I agreed with. You have to believe me there was a lot I liked.

        • Ryan Hadfield

          Haha, no I know, I'm just joshing. I saw the intial post before it was removed.

          The point I think you may have swayed me on was Tanguay. I think my original idea for that column was appreciating his role as a host, I do see your point about his ill-informed opinions though. I track backed to your Gozo/AP comparision he made, and how he neither bats the same way. Good catch.

    • tl;dr

      tl;dr

  • mandb97

    Sorry for the extreme length of the post. I tried to break it down to two posts but kept getting, "Deleted by Administrator" response.

  • Ryan Hadfield

    2) Good to know about Russillo. His being blacklisted worked out. I think he's happy with where he's at.

    3) Paoletti is actually a good writer too. She told me that writing was her first passion, and she just sort of fell into TV.

    4) Intresting about Moran. Malcom Gladwell would call her hair an "outlier", and spend roughly 7,000 words explaining himself.

    4) I like Grantland. I see it's issues, but I like the idea of the site. I've been told more on why I SHOULDN'T like Grantland than Grantland itself.

    • mandb97

      I followed Chad Finn's chat on Boston.com. Dennis and Russillo was brought up. I can come to the conclusion that we will never know. The truth lies with Dennis' daughter. Russillo told Finn he asked Dennis' daughter something to the effect "Want to create a scandal?". It was supposedly pretty harmless sounding. The question is if Dennis' daughter made it sound that way. Maybe Dennis wanted to make it sound far worse than it sounded because he saw a threat. Who knows?

      • latetodinner

        mandb…I remember when that whole thing went down. No one in the market knew who Rusillo was. Dennis gave him more play than he was ever going to get at ESPN Radio and their lousy signal. People in this market hate Dennis and for some reason I don't understand (no I don't want to argue it again with you) love Rusillo. What we do know is Rusillo said something inappropriate to Dennis' daughter. We know Rusillo has admitted to saying something that could be taken as harmless. The problem, aside from his utter lack of professionalism or talent (I had to) I have with Rusillo in that whole exchange is he never once showed any remorse. He always seemed to revel in the attention that he got for being at the blunt end of Dennis' idiotic tirade. To the best of my knowledge Rusillo never apologized to Dennis' daughter. So no matter who is at fault, Dennis' over reaction is always remembered, mocked and ridiculed while the guy who made the initial "threatening" comment has seemed to come out of the event scot free.

        • mandb97

          Lol I know you could not help yourself. I do agree with you that it was not the wisest thing to say to a woman, especially to a relative of a potential competitor who at the time had a lot of power in the media. My guess is Dennis is not nearly as powerful as he used to be. I do not think that Russillo reveled in the Dennis tirade. My guess is probably had to worry about getting a job.

  • Winning_

    I've yet to truly make Grantland a stop shop. Although, I've noticed less and less podcasts from Bill, so I mightbe forced to migrate. From what I have seen, I feel like I'm at a sports perez hilton mixed with some barstool type material. I am going to attempt to get a better gauge on that site.

    • Ryan Hadfield

      For the most part I'm completely on board with what Finn said about the site (suprise, suprise.). There are issues:

      1. The editing. Unlike Finn, I don't cite that as a big detractor. The site is more about ideas than information. But I get why people are turned off by it. Facts are facts.

      2. The mission of giving you-and-up-and-comers a forum seems vague, if not just a fallacy.

      3. I hate to say it because it's completely subjective, but the site does seem pretentious. You feel like you're at a country club for blogs.

      BUT

      There's typically one GREAT piece a day. And it stands out because it's all long form writing, which was seemingly exctinct in the Internet age. (look at the success for such sites as The Big Lead to see how readers like to get in, and get out. Small blurbs)

    • Ryan Hadfield

      One more thing, I swear haha, I've always felt that Simmons wrote from the "fan's perspective" because he knows he's not an "anaylst" (whatever that means). He's always wanted to appeal to Joe SixPack; not Tom Jackson.

      That's why I have hope the "pretentious atmosphere" I referenced will eventually evaporate. One things for sure, the site is the LeBron James/Brett Farve of the Internet medium right now. And I'm saying that after only a little over a month of the site's existence.

      Did Simmons and Co. have a parade, a la the Heat, that we didn't know about?

  • Winning_

    When I wrote earlier that grantland had a perez hilton and barstool quality, I was actually thinking it is a more like a country club for blogs. It comes off with the intellectually superior feel and they don't hide this attitude. It's not subtle, but again I need to read before before judging. I've begun diving into Klosterman books as I'm only familiar with him on the podcast.

    With Simmons in particular, I feel he has lost credibility because he still claims (at least this is how I see it) to have a strong touch with the Boston scene. I've listened to a lot of his podcasts, during the midday shows because they are so poor, and he has an arrogance with Boston coverage. I think Simmons is very sensitive to criticism, as heard on the Big Show. He is combative when confronted, yet still thinks of himself as a Boston writer.

    I admit, his job requires a national perspective. But he shouldn't call the guards when mocked for silly opinions or statement made by those IN this market.

  • Classless

    Grantland kinda blows. Simmons so far has mailed in his writing performances. Klosterman writes about nothing. Everything else seems like background noise. And yes, it's pretentious. The regular joe is going to Barstool Sports, not Grantland.

  • Ryan Hadfield

    Read Sex, Drugs, and coco puffs by klosterman. His tour de force. Great book, I like him more in pop culture than in sports. He’s been good wth grantland though. This is where the idea of grantland actually works, and is the best piece I’ve read…

    http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/6626431/space

  • Angry Old Bastard

    "In his time at the Boston Globe Breer wasn’t exactly beloved like Bob Ryan"

    "beloved"?? if he really is I'd like to know why. Ryan is just as FOOLISH as the rest of them. Like this line from his latest column::: " Seems to me Mark Herzlich would make a great Patriots special teamer, if nothing else. C’mon, Coach Bill, do it for Myra.

    With all due respect to Mrs.Kraft, does Ryan really think Belichick would (or should) pick a player based on "doing it for Myra"??……a stupid thing to write on the day of Mrs.Kraft's funeral. Ryan is always trying to make a grandstand play.

  • Tom

    Breer is awful. I can’t stand to look at him, to listen to him and certainly to read him. He is such an arrogant d*ck, it’s astounding.

    Sure, he has info about the lockout, and as you point out- due mostly to access, but even then, he hedges everything and sends out the most defensive tweets.

    And don’t get me started on his obsession with Ohio state, his Alma mater… If I read one more tweet about the buckeyes, to quote Simmons… I’m going on a three-state killing spree.