Sports Media Musings: The Sports Lodge Is On Fire!

There are days when covering the local media is rather tedious. After all, there are only so many CHB columns, ESPN slip-ups, Grantland opinions, ‘radio war’ coverage, among other incidents to write about. Then there are days like October 12th, 2011.

Before we get to yesterday’s sh!show, I need to say how much I wish I was a fly on the wall in the Globe’s sports editor, Joe Sullivan, office the night before Bob Hohler’s in-depth, mostly off-the-record, evisceration of the 2011 BoSox was published. I can picture Sullivan with his staff much like the Commodore informing Jimmy, “We’re going to take back Atlantic City,” in “Boardwalk Empire.” (Don’t get the reference? Watch the show, and thank me later.)

What ensued the following day was high comedy. It began at the start of the mid-day shows on both WEEI and 98.5 The Sports Hub. WEEI’s “Mut & Merloni” program predictably started their 4 hours off by attacking the players; meanwhile, “The Sports Hub’s” show, “Gresh & Zo”, went after Red Sox ownership. Tensions reached an apex while Scott Zolak tended to an interview with Coach Bill Belichick, leaving Andy Gresh to accost the Sox ownership group in a LONG rant.

Gresh’s rant reminded me of a WWFE  heel doing a dragged out shoot. There were pauses, there was over-reaction, and there was Gresh – apparently so irate – standing in an empty CBS Scene. Gresh alluded to the “Non-Pink Hat” fans getting screwed. Then a texter messaged, “Where is Zolak? I can’t take this..” to which Gresh replied that said-messenger was “buying into” the propaganda.

(That, Or — he was just tired of Gresh’s soliloquy. One or the other.)

Even with Mike Giardi’s piece – released later in the day – the overall ire seemed to turn to a flippant aura. The subject matter changed to mostly how crappy you feel after you eat fried chicken. Then Michael Felger happened.

Felger believes the source for Hohler’s story came from the top. Consequently, in an attempt to prove why Red Sox ownership was out of line in leaking Terry Francona’s marriage and alleged pill addiction for reasons in the Sox demise, Felger tried calling out other people in the organization and their personal issues. Co-host Tony Massarotti demanded to know how John Henry’s three divorces have collectively impacted the team. Felger, as usual, took it one step further — calling into question Jason Varitek’s failed marriage and the rumor NESN sideline reporter, Heidi Watney, and the Red Sox captain had an affair.

I’m a Felger guy, as many of you know, and I generally like his acerbic tone. But, both journalistically speaking and from a general personal values belief system, it is fair to say Felger’s comments were not appropriate. One could argue Felger was saying what many believe: Watney is a more of a puppet, a la Greg Dickerson, than a team sideline reporter and rumors percolating about possible transgressions between her and Tek were definitely prevalent at one point. The former I have no problem with. Watney does have to maintain relationships, but the transparent conflict of interest between the NESN employee and the Red Sox hampers her ability to be a hardened journalist.

Hell, the relationship between the Red Sox and The Boston Globe hindered any of their reporters from disseminating information until after ESPNBoston and The Boston Herald broke the beer drinking story.

Watney could have pulled an Abraham/Cafardo and got a different byline to write the story while ‘contributing’ to the investigative piece, but even that isn’t likely. Instead all of these reporters are at the mercy of talk radio hosts….

Felger has a massive platform and should not have brought up the Watney/Varitek rumors. He isn’t Deadspin. This was media on media crime that wasn’t really necessary.

Watney, to her credit, fired back via Twitter..

@HeidiWatney Felger is completely off base on just about everything he is saying. Ridiculous and irresponsible

Watney also went on to note Felger isn’t in the clubhouse and only reports on rumors. I thought that would be it, but then fellow CSNNE employee, Joe Haggerty, came in with a flying elbow in Felger’s defense.

Looking forward to the first lesson in journalistic integrity from @HeidiWatney. She did write the definitive book on it, right?

It was on. Watney didn’t back down from a three-way dance..

@HackswithHaggs I don’t report gossip/rumors Joe… how’s that for integrity.

Haggerty came back for seconds, noting her lack of reporting during the collapse..

@HeidiWatney Given what was going inside clubhouse at Fenway while NESN cranked out happy calliope music, not sure exactly what U report on

And that was that. A bloodbath. Watney made an appearance on the “Toucher & Rich” show basically telling the hosts how disappointed she was over all of the ‘mudslinging’ going around both inside the Red Sox organization and also between media personalities. Haggerty’s defense of Felger seemed a bit off. I think it is fair to question her reporting, and that is all Haggerty did. But there are two separate issues here, and Watney has a right to be perturbed over the affair insinuation.

Either way, I’m sure CSNNE will be talking to both personalities about the incident. As far as Watney goes, I wouldn’t be shocked to hear rumors of her going national (maybe to the MLB Network) start to fire up.

Through all of this, I think the Globe’s Eric Wilbur (who had a great column yesterday)  put it best:

@GlobeEricWilbur:Players vs. coaches and management, now media vs. media. Welcome to your Red Sox offseason.

  • bostonsportsmediafan

    Looks like it spilled over into today. F+M just started their segment around ~3:40 with this story. And, I mentioned that D+C continued the WEEI talking points this morning. (Not sure about their other programs)

  • Brian

    Chris Russo took a twitter shot at Pete Abe and vice versa as well last night. Entertaining day all around.

  • APimpNamedDaveR

    Agree fully. Heidi isn't the problem, and attacking her was dirty pool.

    • guest

      It's not dirty pool when the situation is causing fistfights in the clubhouse. Tek has never "acted" as a captain. His involvement in the Whatney drama just serves to illustrate that point.

  • ghostofharoldkaese

    One man's opinion…Of all those associated with the Red Sox in any capacity, Heidi Watney carried out her duties, such as they are, as well as anyone.

  • p77

    Haggs is just jealous. If he looked like Heidi, he'd be trying to get into Horton's Bruin jersey.

  • JSR

    I don't think Felger was attacking her, he was trying to make a point of how stupid it was for Francona's marital problems to be brought up. He didn't' say her name at first, just alluded to the rumor that everybody has already heard. Then, when discussing Carl Crawford's "go ask the capain." comment, which was directed towards her, he mentioned her and again mentioned the rumor. It didn't seem that bad when I initially heard it.

    • etak

      Oh, thanks, ever since someone said it was a message to a specific person, I was vaguely wondering who originally asked Crawford that. Should've guessed.

  • John

    Felger disgusts me.

    • tl;dr

      But he is entertaining…as in he's fun to laugh at when he makes crazy statements like "Tom Brady had to get on his knees and beg for a contract".

      • Frank

        Don't confuse annoying with entertaining. Felger sucks.

  • etak

    My basic attitude at the moment is, bring up equivalencies, sure, but don't go further than that.

    So yes, Mazz bringing up Henry's divorces is relevant, since the Globe article brought them up first. Of course, I have major issues with the Globe article bringing them up in the first place, since in general, I do think private lives should stay private, and if Felger was arguing that, then good for him.)

    On another tack, it's also true that various allegiances, financial and otherwise, make for reporting which isn't completely neutral. But that's endemic, and targeting one specific person over it doesn't seem very kosher.

  • Will

    Michael Felger's so called "tell it like it is style" will be his downfall. I know he's what's hot on the radio front right now but he will go too far one day, you can almost predict it. Glen Ordway like him or not, some might think he's old news but talks sports, does not takes shot at people. As much as this websites continue to kill the guy, he continues to just talk sports. I know it's not the popular thing in this town right now but I'll listen to Ordway over Felger any day. I like sports talk not cheap shots.

    • Winning_

      Ordway takes plenty of shots, you must just have earmuffs during those portions. He does take much less now seeing as his job is at stake and he can't risk pissing anyone else off.

      And you're right, he does talk sports. He talks sports OVER everyone else.

  • Tony

    Very, very wrong of Felger to insinuate what he was insinuating about Watney. Who cares if the "rumor" has been out there for awhile? It's always been just that: a rumor. There's never been a shred of evidence offered to prove that it's nothing more than just a rumor started by God knows who for God knows what reason. I understand that a lot of what Felger says is just an act—contrarian and ascerbic for the sake of it—but this time he crossed a line. And Haggerty comes off like a complete tool for chiming in and defending his CSNNE co-worker, too.

  • Will

    Felger's downfall will be his so called "tell it like it is style". I'm not sure why Boston is falling in love with this guy. He's unprofessional, he lacks true talent to talk about sports. If he's not ripping someone or taking personal shots at people he can't hold an audience. I know this is not the popular view right now but when it comes to just talking sports, FELGER CAN'T HOLD A CANDLE TO GLEN ORDWAY. FACT.. NOT OPINION.

    • mandb97

      Will, you had me until the very last sentence. The reason for Felger and Maz's high ratings is because of Glenn Ordway. Ordway has found a way to be less listenable than Felger. Everything else you say about Felger is dead accurate.

    • etak

      Just curious why you had to post basically the same thing an hour apart? (Well, the same thing only more bombastic. Maybe you just wanted to edit the original comment and couldn't figure it out?)

      • Will

        Sorry about the double post, made a mistake posting twice.

  • Winning_

    I think all of this is very controversy is very strange. The RedSox ownership is so concerned with their image. They likely have PR people paid to advise them on how to best maintain positive PR. Now their advice appears to smear people who leave. I don't know what PR school gives that kind of advice. Are they that stupid to think the public will just soak up what they say? Do they not know the Boston sports fan landscape? I feel think were reactionary. They didn't take this approach and think about the 2nd level of fan psychology. They clearly think we will eat whatever is fed to us. When reality is that we know their trend is to unfairly smear those for the organizations failings. We are not stupid enough to buy their trash. First I hope this drives pink hats out of Fenway. Second I hope this drives the ownership group out to London. Let someone else come in.

  • mandb97

    Felger's point made no sense at all. The issue is between ownership and Francona. Etak is completely right. The media has every right to question John Henry and his marriages since they opened the can of worms and brought up Francona's marital issues. Felger mentioning Watney and Varitek was not within the context of the conversation. It just seemed like he was taking a shot a Varitek, who he has said on numerous occasions he has a personal dislike and Watney, someone he has no respect for. You would think Felger would think twice about taking a shot at a female reporter for something other than job performance. After all, he is married to a reporter.

    Ryan, one more thing on Felger, I have said this before and I will say it again. When Glenn Ordway is finally removed from his show, which I predict will be right after the football season, and is replaced with, in my opinion by Tom E. Curran or someone similar, you will see a significant change in the ratings. Felger is truly one of the least intelligent personalities out there, but he is consistent. He did say the Red Sox would collapse, but is it because he some kind of clairvoyant who did some hard studying of what is going on? No, Felger's MO has always been to not just take the contrarian view but the negative view. If you throw enough darts you may finally hit the bulls-eye.

    • patrick

      Half of these posts seem to know exactly what’s wrong with Felger and what his so called demise will be. Can we just stop with that? He isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I agree Ordway will be gone in the next few years, but so what? I love Tom E Curran, but he isn’t taking big ratings away from anyone. As long as the Bruins are relevant, and until someone young and fresh comes up the ranks, Felger will be just fine. We all know he can be annoying, but let’s stop trying to predict a demise that is nowhere near close to happening…

      • mandb97

        I could not disagree with you more Patrick. Do you honestly think Felger and Maz is good radio? It is not. It is still brutally bad radio. The problem is that Ordway is even worse. He still has not changed how his show works. Yelling and interrupting over guests, callers and his supposed co-host is still good radio in his opinion. His ratings prove otherwise. It will not be years before Ordway is let go. Chad Finn already reported that Ordway has a ratings clause in his contract. WEEI has used this clause once in cutting his salary in half. My guess is after the fall book he will be relieved of his duties. I believe that if WEEI actually tries to not cater to the LCD, which most every show on sports radio does, they will have great ratings.

        • patrick

          I’m hot and cold with Felger and Mazz..a lot of times they are annoying, but yes, I do enjoy the show as well. My bigger point though is that Felger isn’t going anywhere. Do you honestly disagree with that? What has EEI done the past few years that gives you confidence they have an answer to Felger? You said it yourself, Big O is worse than Felger and he’s still on the air. If their next move is Curran, that’s a great step, but that’s not sending Felger anywhere imo….

        • mandb97

          Patrick, I believe there are people at WEEI who had the same beliefs that you do. The hosts did not take the competition seriously and felt there was no need to change how they do their shows. Glenn Ordway, in less than two years, went from being number one by a wide margin to being on the cusp of losing his job. He felt he was untouchable and continued the same dreadful format. Felger and Maz are minimally better and can easily be knocked off their perch if WEEI management actually consider what the listeners want. Of course, if WEEI does not make management changes then F&M have nothing to worry about.

        • patrick

          This interview with John Henry is another reason Felger isn’t going anywhere….great questions being asked

  • mandb97

    With regards to Joe Haggarty in this media skirmish, it looks like he may not have understood the context of Watney's tweet. He may have been better off to have lost the send button.

  • tonyfossas

    ordway is no eddie andelman but he is starting to become the eddie of the wtkk era 2006 to 2010.eddie was on only once a week and he did not have the "fastball' he once had.ordway is already there.

  • Jim Ed

    October 27, 2004 seems SOOOOO long ago…

  • napatree

    Felger is a ticking clock… He is rapidly becoming seriously over exposed. I don't begrudge anyone trying to grab as much dough as possible in these times, but he is a "one trick pony"… It will become( if it hasn't already) more difficult to tune into any of his programs because he offers nothing new. He has so many masters to serve, between his radio gig and multiple shows on CSNNE, people will tune out once they realize he is merely recycling the same take on every topic. He's becoming alot like your crazy relative who you have to listen to at a holiday party….

  • John

    It’s extremely hypocritical for Haggerty to rip Watney for not reporting the negatives of the Red Sox while continuing to work on the same show as Dickerson, who undoubetdly has chosen not to report some of the unfavorable things out of the Celtics locker room that he probably knows. It’s clear that not many people in the media respect Watney because of the rumors, but to take it to Twitter is lame. Haggerty is probably just jealous because he knows he can’t sleep with Watney. He should put this much effort into finding a treadmill and less effort on being the self-appointed grand poobah of responsible journalism.

  • Doc Michaels

    This is reason #1 why I dont like Haggerty. When he just reports, he does a good job. Unfortunately his ego seems to get in the way of his principal job — does anyone care what he thinks about this issue? Is there some reason he had to insert himself in it? He looks like a tool from the "CSNNE clique" and, frankly, who is he to give an analysis of her reporting technique? She sure looks as hell looks a lot better on-camera and has more of a personality than he does!

    As far as Felger goes, he crossed a line and showed again why I can't see him keeping up a long-term level of success in this town. If he dialed it down, he could be an energetic but even-keeled host, but instead he self-indulges himself into these insane contrartian rants that right now are working because of EEI's weaknesses and the Bruins' championship run. It won't last. Whether it's next year or thereafter, he's going to need someone to balance off his act because once we stop having championship-level teams in this town and/or we go through a downturn, people aren't going to want to hear his "the sky is falling" rants every day.

    The big surprise for me this week was Merloni, who IMO had the best overall commentary on this whole situation. I give him credit, I hated the Mutt & Merloni pairing and I still could live without Mutt — but Merloni's candor this week was forceful, calling
    out the players, criticizing management and giving an informed perspective. He didn't pull back the way some ex-players do (hello Nomar, who didn't read the Globe story and "had no interest in it" — good luck there working in the media!). For pure baseball talk his analysis was the best in town of the two stations, certainly far more listenable than Gresh & Zo who are basically useless unless they're talking Patriots.

  • latetodinner

    Oy vey…I can't believe I am about to do this but Ryan you are all wet on Watney. Felger was correct in making his point…which was…Sox ownership believes off field issues effect on field performance. As such Sox ownership believes that it is okay for a source to discuss these off field issues publicly when explaining on field failure. All Felger and Mazz were doing when they brought up John Henry's failed marriages was asking for the same treatment of the owners as they treated their underling. What Felger was saying when he brought up Varitek and Watney's affair (or alleged affair) was ownership believes that off field issues effect on field performance, therefore ownership should be publicly discussing Variteks off field issues because of his slumping on field performance. I thought the point was brilliantly simple at illustrating how absurd the Sox owners were in leaking Francona's marital and drug issues.

    Watney on the other hand proved once again why serious news professionals have no respect for her. She should have not gotten involved at all. She had nothing to gain. Until she is willing to go on the air and categorically deny the rumors (something she won't or can't do) we are stuck with this doublespeak. All she did by getting involved in this was shine a bigger light on a situation I am sure she wants forgotten. Then to go on Mike Adams show tonight and repeat the mantra that she was not in the club house during games so she did not see anything…insults our intelligence. She lost her reputation when the Tek rumors first started circulating. Over time she has lost her credibility because of them. Soon she will just be lost.

    Lastly…Winning…yes the Sox brass thinks we are all that stupid. And you know what…until fans stop going to games…they will be proven right.

    • Tony

      Just to follow up on this, boston.com had an article last night stating that Felger "sort of " apologized for the Watney comments and that Watney did, in fact, go on the T&R show in response to what Felger said. On that show, she stated that the rumor is untrue. So for what it's worth, she has now categorically denied the rumor. I suspect she never did so before because a highly-rated talk radio show host had never brought it up on his show before–up until then it had merely been Internet trolls repeating it over and over, and I don't blame her for not responding to them, quite frankly. And really, Heidi's never pretended to be anything other than what she is: a paid employee of the Red Sox TV network who does the job she's paid to do, which is to promote the team, essentially. If "serious news professionals" don't respect her, that's fine, but it's also petty of them, because I have never heard Watney claim to be anything more than what her job description calls for her to be.

    • Ryan Hadfield

      I make it clear Watney isn't exactly Woodward or Bernstein – and her career arc resembles that of Greg Dickerson. I'm just saying, Felger has a huge forum and could have stated Tek's marital issues w/o mentioned Watney's name. That is all. His point, albeit valid, didn't need to be bolstered by complicating her in the matter. Especially, in a rumor that existed a couple years ago.

      • latetodinner

        Ryan:Felger's point is Watney is an employee of John Henry's. If unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo regarding Terry Francona are fair game for the owners then surely unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo about other front of the camera employees are fair game. Again all Felger was doing was illustrating the absurdity of the situation. I think it was the perfect example. If Watney is offended…how about next time she not get herself into such a situation where she can be used as a prop. As an aside I find it fascinating that the two places Watney foes to “defend” herself are Toucher & Rich and then the Mike Adams show…neither known for its serious journalism. Why does she do this…because she can make her point without have to answer the unasked question head on.I need to go take a shower… I have now defended Felger twice in two days. I feel dirty.

        • Ryan Hadfield

          Fair enough. I understood his point, just thought it was made by going to a low place…and he even relented as much — see today's column.

          Shower up! Usually I'm the one defending Felgy haha.

  • BIG DOG

    She is a blonde bimbo–Felger simply states the truth…too bad some of you can't see past her blonde hair and boobs—she is a beauty contest runner up trying to cash in on her looks–PERIOD!—oh and yes she did shack up with Varitek–not rumor–TRUTH.
    The worst part is she tries to use the sexist card–well listen Heidi–take lessons from Jackie MacMullan—a true sports reporter—who no one cares what sex she is–because she is competent and a true reporter –NOT A BIMBO!—Hop on a plane and go back to Cali where you belong!

  • blackstonevalleykettlebells

    Thanks Felger for driving Heidi Watney out of Boston. You have achieved your goal of your wife being the hottest pseudo journalist in town. it's bad enough I have to watch NESN with the sound off, now there's no reason to watch the games.

    Can you blame her for having an affair with one of the players. Pretty girl has to find her sugar daddy somewhere

    • bostonsportsmediafan

      I think the seeds of her being hired by MLB/ESPN were laid long before this one, conflate that with NESN dropping in ratings.

      Remember Kathryn Tappen?

  • Doc Michaels

    The one thing being missed in all this — what if Francona DID have an issue with painkillers? What if his personal issues DID get in the way of his daily routine? Sure maybe it shouldn't have been leaked…but everyone seems to be just completely brushing off the report saying it's just gossip that all of us "didn't need to know."

    Maybe he was distracted and it was a problem, both the pills and his martial issues, and he was increasingly unwilling/disinterested in dealing with the fat, drunken pitching staff and other clubhouse issues because of them.

    Sure, it could be gossip — but maybe it isn't. None of us were there to actually know. I just find it a bit odd that nobody in the media seems to want to discuss the possibility that these WERE issues, and added to the overall collapse of the team. Instead it's "we don't need to know this, how dare the ownership for leaking this out"…maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle.

    Boston writers (some anyway) have as much as an agenda as the owners, they're not all out to necessarily expose the truth in this town.

  • Classless

    I think it's pretty obvious why Heidi Whatney is employed by the Red Sox…

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