Sports Media Musings: Jon Anik Pod, WEEI to 93.7, Deadspin Invasion, Curran Going Rogue

Infomercial!

Here is my weekly NFL column, and picks. 

I conducted another podcast with Jon Anik of the ESPN show, “MMA Live”. Anik, a boston native, talks about the sports rise and also the new movie coming out, Warrior.

WEEI Moving to 93.7 FM

A quick thought: This won’t have any SIGNIFICANT bearing on the next rating book which is released October 4th. Those numbers predominantly will take a look at the summer ratings.

Personally, I believe this is a move Entercom should have made a long time ago. WEEI is being reactive rather than proactive (I wrote a while ago they did the same thing with the Dale Arnold move). Of course, this will put the onus on actual programming and not the signal. Let the games begin. Rule #76 – Play like champion.

NESN Continues To Straddle

I’ve written about it. Bruce has written about it. Chad Finn has written about it. So what is it?

It is NESN’s curious decision to go away from sports programming and rely heavily on lifestyle entertainment. Cue their new venture, “Schooled”. From what I can tell this show is the field trip around Boston you weren’t looking forward to in 4th grade combined with trivia. Awesome.

I’m confounded for two reasons.

1.) I’m disappointed NESN has ran away from the first sight of competition (CSNNE) by lowering their presence in sports programming (outside of Red Sox coverage, of course). I don’t get it, was “Globe 10.0″ really that much of a mar NESN heads felt like they needed to abandon the genre? Why are they laying down like Fat Al?

2.) Even more frustrating is the network’s lack of awareness: THERE IS ENOUGH ROOM FOR TWO VIABLE BOSTON SPORTS STATIONS. We have two radio stations that do well in the market. And even with the regurgiation of opinions and ideas – and believe me THERE is a lot of REGURGITATION – we still pine for the content. At least much more than we pine for something like “Sox Appeal.”

One can point to the network’s ACC basketball coverage and college football coverage to rebut that point — but we’re in Boston, and college athletics are as relevant as the New England Revolution.

(I should know this since I was killed for dedicating last Friday’s column to a college football writer.)

NESN’s commerical for this season’s Bruins coverage was encouraging, if not over-the-top. But they’ve always had good commercials. And remember – this is the same network that’s coverage of the game 7 victory to win the Stanley Cup barely topped CSNNE. This is supposed to be the Bruins network, but auidences aren’t equating the Bruins with NESN anymore.

To re-emphasize — the micro view suggests lineup tweaks, but the macro outlook continues to show NESN as a stepping-stone for personalities.

The Deadspin Invasion Disappointment

A few readers asked me what I thought about the Tommy Craggs invasion of the ESPN talent seminar. I wrote my preliminary thoughts on the matter before the actual column came out on Deadspin.

In short, my view hasn’t changed. Deadspin is relegating itself to Star Magazine with these antics. But since we’re here, let me give some takeaways from the ordeal…

Things I liked: Two parts of the column made me chuckle. I enjoyed John Skipper making fun of their new competition, NBC Sports Network (which includes all the Comcast Sports Net locals along with Versus). I also got a kick out of Craggs’ exchange with Norby Williamson, and his subsequent cover-up attempt. It felt like a bad scene in one of the Naked Gun films.

“Hi, I’m Norby.”

OK. He’s just gladhanding. Meeting the help. Keep cool.

“Tommy,” I said, shaking his hand.

“Tommy who?”

Panic.

“Tommy from the magazine.”

Idiot.

“What’s your last name?”

“Craggs. Tommy Craggs. I was invited through the magazine.”

Did he recognize the name?

“Oh, so you’re a writer?”

“Writer. Factchecker. Mostly factchecking.”

He nodded. I watched the stage. I have no idea who was talking at this point, but I watched whoever it was intently, as if it were Cicero up there, as if there were nothing in the world more important than hearing this open dialogue about priorities and strategies and all the latest initiatives.

Things I didn’t like: Craggs making fun of a speaker for over-using the term ‘brand.’ Look, I come from an investment bank, and EVEN I know at meetings like this the BRAND is shoved down your throat. I don’t begrudge or think it warrants making a joke out of this. Its business 101. Brand protection, and enhancement, should be behind whatever goes on in a business — even ESPN. I also thought the build-up in the aforementioned Naked-Gun-esq scene was going to lead something sexier than “Lets get these clowns out of here.” Felt like Craggs was hoping for his “Don’t TAZZZZEEE me bro!?” moment, and it never came.

Things I’m Reading..

I saw Chris Gasper had a sub-par approval rating at BSMW. I also noticed commentators were drilling Gasper for his performance in the Pats beat since Mike Reiss left the Boston Globe. I personally enjoy Gasper on the radio and also in print the web.

That said his Freudian anaylsis that Chad Ochocinco’s struggles on the field and his ‘personality’ restrictions are connected is a bit of a reach. In the same light, I enjoyed his piece taking a stab at 7 predictions/points going into next week’s MNF opener much better.

(Disclaimer: Do I like the piece because he mentions Aaron Hernandez is poised for a breakout season? Yes, yes I do. Am I excited because I handcuffed him with The Gronk in fantasy football? Yes, yes I am. In the same token, do you care about my fantasy team? No, no you don’t.)

Speaking of reaching, Jemele Hill playing the race card? Noooo, she never plays that card…

I especially enjoyed the second paragraph..

When Tim Tebow bowls over a couple of defensive players for a touchdown in a meaningless preseason game, it’s considered a display of his toughness and leadership. But when Vick launches himself at Troy Polamalu after throwing a costly interception, it’s considered risky and stupid.

Yes. We would say that. ‘Meaningless’ is in the eye of the beholder and has to be contextualized. Tim Tebow is fighting for a starting job.  Meanwhile, the injury-prone Vick has already secured that position.

Tom E. Curran’s shot at Shank in his Pats/Lions preview is solid (and also over a week old). He links the Shank column on Fat Al under ‘Smarmageddon’. Curran is like Sarah Palin. Dude is going rogue against his peers in the media for chasing the ‘low fruit.’ It wasn’t just a one shot-deal either, he’s been saying this on The Big Show as well.

Two preseason games in and we haven’t seen whether Albert Haynesworth poses a bigger threat to the opposition or the team he joined. This has led to Smarmageddon.

Haynesworth represents low-hanging fruit to columnists like the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy and radio shriek shows like Tony Massarotti. Shaughnessy burped out a 950-word column – 250 of which came in the form of quotes – that concluded Haynesworth in a Patriots uniform represents the greatest threat to New England since the Pilgrims landed nearly 400 years ago.

  • latetodinner

    Ryan:

    A couple thoughts on this weeks column.

    1) Who in their right mind would take you out behind the woodshed for commenting on the media that follow college football? I can't imagine that happening because as the Boston College gate receipts, radio broadcasts and tv broadcasts clearly show…Boston is a huge college football town. As a matter of fact I am thinking of going to the BU – Northeastern game this week…oh wait…

    2) I think you NAILED it with your critique of NESN. For the life of me I do not understand how a network owned by one of the more successful TV producers of all time is utterly rudderless. Its not so bad that they have lifestyle programming…its that it is horrible lifestyle programming. Couple that with their concession that sports is not something they cover, its just something they broadcast and you have a monumental mess.

    3) The problem I have the Deadspin Invasion is that as you correctly pointed out ESPN is a business. If you want to mock their on air finished product or personnel hiring decisions…great…but to go and actively look to disrupt their day to day business operations seems more than a bit childish to me.

    4) Gasper is another in a long line of snarky Globeites who make no attempt at non partisan coverage of the Pats. Might he occasionally write a non sucky column…sure…I think Shaleise Manza Young wrote something decent last year…it can happen. For the most part he is painstakingly difficult to listen to on the radio and generally late or wrong on the Web.

    5) Lastly, Tom E Curran has never been shy to go after media members who he thinks are wrong. Before he left for NBCSports.com he went after Borges for some of things he was writing about Belichick. I think Curran has a pretty well developed sense of right and wrong and he is not afraid to call someone on it. its one of things that makes him so good on the Radio and TV. Its not just his honesty but the sophistication in the way he delivers it.

    • Ryan Hadfield

      Thought you would enjoy the CFB reference! That was for you, LTD

      • latetodinner

        I smiled.

  • APimpNamedDaveR

    I, too, do not quite understand NESN these days. If it were a case of "we're going to fill our non-live-sports hours with the cheapest possible programming we can", I'd sort of understand — but there's NO WAY that "Schooled" is cheaper to produce than "Globe 10.0" or some hypothetical NESN version of The Sports Reporters or PTI. What are they trying to do here? Do they really expect to have some sort of breakout non-sports-related "hit"? There's no reason they couldn't…. but it would require spending a lot more money on production and marketing than they've been doing with "Sox Appeal" etc.

    Here's a good, fairly cheap idea that I bet they'd have reasonable success with: now that Liverpool is in the FSG family, how about a half-hour or hour-long weekly Premier League news/results show targeted at those who don't know a great deal about football strategy and tactics. All you'd need is two or three guys and a telestrator, plus the rights to air highlights (which, admittedly, could be a decidedly non-trivial cost — but probably would still wind up being less than the cost of a full original on-location production like "Schooled"). You achieve two goals (pun intended) from that sort of show: first, you have the ability to build the Liverpool / PL brands (there's that word again!), plus you potentially increase your ratings on your Game of the Week PL telecasts (and open the door to airing more games weekly, Bruins permitting) by potentially drawing in and educating new fans. And if it doesn't work, you're not out a lot of money. Why wouldn't something like this work?

    NESN viewers are sports fans, period. It would seem blatantly logical to develop and air programming that panders to their sports fandom. But for some reason, NESN isn't doing this. Hell, if you want cheap, why don't you just go back to the Amiga graphics slideshow from the mid-80s?

    • tl;dr

      "how about a half-hour or hour-long weekly Premier League news/results show targeted at those who don't know a great deal about football strategy and tactics."

      I'd switch over to the watching paint dry show.

      "drawing in and educating new fans…Why wouldn't something like this work? "

      The thing is about soccer is that the American public is aware of it's existence, have considered it and rejected it as a major spectator sport in this country several times (Pele in the 70's and 80's. The World Cup in the 90's. MLS in the Aughts).

      It's not like it's some obscure sport like say Handball where you could introduce, educate and draw in fans.

      • APimpNamedDaveR

        MLS is actually doing pretty well. And the NASL failed in the 70s because they were stupid and overexpanded while spending like drunken sailors. (Sort of like what Trump did to the USFL….)

        But that's beside the point, which you seem to be missing. I don't care if Premier League soccer has a fan base slightly less than that of Whitman-Hanson high school football. I'd watch that PL show, and I bet there's at least one more person who reads this site who'd also watch it. And that's two more viewers than NESN's going to get with "Schooled", for less money. THAT'S the point.

    • Lance_

      As a longtime supporter of Wolverhampton I your idea about a weekly program on the EPL is a great idea. And if they could somehow capture the energy/atmosphere of the game and the fans (similar but magnified to SEC football) then it would at least draw curiosity seekers and help the US public understand the reason it is, by far, the most popular sport in the world.

      Good stuff Pimp.

      • APimpNamedDaveR

        So that's two people who'd watch such a show.

        Already, we're getting more viewers than "Schooled" will…..

  • http://www.facebook.com/anthrocoon Bob Nelson

    Mon night, 98.5 has exclusive call of Pats game; EEI can't run Westwood One b-cast due to blackout. 2nd game, Oak-Den. may well air on WRKO as both the AM and FMs of WEEI will do Pats talk. Last night RKO had NFL as EEI had Sox. In future, poss. of one game on FM (Sox?) and another on AM (Mon Night Football, Celts) when conflicts arise.

  • BMcGill

    NESN always has good commercials? Maybe recently, but I'll never forgive whoever was responsible for that "Did you SEE that catch Coco made!?" spot. HORRIBLE. Globe 10.0 was wrecked by a lack of key sponsor and the ego of a coordinating producer from out of town who felt he should control the topics instead of Ryan and local sports TV pro Alan Miller.

  • Classless

    Tom Curran is a BOSS.

  • bostonsportsfan

    On Jemele Hill, I've been opining that her and Rob Parker, every time they write _ANYTHING_ now or appear on First and Ten, it's all about race–and more than once. If they're this concerned with race, they seriously need to change their employer and move over to MSNBC.

    Remember the whole MVP discussion with Tom Brady? Bring up some of their writings before the W12-W14 span of the 2010 season where Vick melted down. You were accused of virtual racism for supporting Brady over MVP by them.

  • NutCracker

    "Curran is like Sarah Palin".
    .
    Say what?

  • elbert dubenion

    "Look, I work for an investment bank…"
    Certainly ample credentials to discuss media etiquette. Isn't there a fraudulent financial instrument you should be tending somewhere?

  • NutCracker

    There is a good reason why Tom E Curran got high approval ratings on this blog. This example of his work is why he's so respected.

  • Pingback: Sports Media Musings: NESN Forgot To Cover Theo Epstein’s Departure | Sports of Boston()

  • Pingback: Sports Media Musings: Former ESPN VP Allegedly Exposes Himself In Front of Erin Andrews, Quick Musings | Sports of Boston()