Season Ending Patriots Media Thoughts

Much like the Patriots season, the performance of the media covering the team this season was marked by highs and lows.

For the most part, the day-to-day coverage from the beat reporters was solid. It’s a veteran group, who understand how things work down in Foxborough, and have learned to make the best of what can be a challenging situation for the media.

Beat reporters generally stay away from the hysteria that often accompanies good or bad performance or controversial transactions. I’m lumping the “NFL Reporters” (Such as Greg Bedard) in with the “beat” reporters, because both are generally down at Gillette everyday. Here are a few thumbnails on some of the reporters who covered the team this season, in no particular order:

Tom E Curran
In addition to his work on the CSNNE.com website, Curran also hosts the weekly show Quick Slants. He brings a unique sense of humor to his job, while still maintaining solid reporting and analysis. Curran is usually good for one or two headscratchers a season, where he seems to deviate from the script a little bit. This year was no exception, as a couple of times during appearances on WEEI’s Big Show, he took a harder line stance against the team on a matter. Overall though, Curran is thoroughly enjoyable to both read and watch/listen to.

Ian R Rapoport
It’s a testament to Rapoport’s prolific output of Tweets and blogging that if you type “Rapsheet” into Google, his stuff comes up first. Engage him, he’ll respond, at almost any time of day. Like Curran, humor is a big part of his coverage, but he also is a very good reporter. He started doing weekly appearances on WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan this season, and while it took half the year for John Dennis to say “Rapsheet” instead of “RapReport,” Rapoport did a good job defusing many of D&C’s conspiracy theories and attempts at controversy. He tends to go off-track on his Twitter account from time to time, but he’s an entertaining follow, and does break his share of news, especially when it comes to injury reporting.

Mike Reiss
While he created much of the blueprint for how the Patriots beat is covered in the Belichick era, Mike is still at the top of his game, bringing endless bits of information to his blog and keeping a level head in chats with so-called “fans” of the Patriots. He’s expressed frustration at the level of negativity around the team, and you also get the sense he doesn’t always love the stuff that ESPN sort of force-feeds into his blog. He still does things no one else is doing, such as the offensive and defensive snap counts, which are used by almost every other media outlet in town – whether they give Reiss credit or not.

Greg A Bedard
A very good hire from Joe Sullivan. And no, I’m not intentionally damning with faint praise there. Bedard is knowledgable about the game, well-connected around the league, and truly objective in his coverage of the team. His weekly breakdowns of the previous game are must-read features, and his radio and television appearances are mostly informative. Bedard is also responsive on Twitter, and has set up meetings with Twitter followers on the night before road games. He’ll occasionally gripe about the lack of access/communication or compare things unfavorably with how things were run in Green Bay, but he’s kept this to a minimum this season. From a pure football standpoint, Bedard is probably the most knowledgeable on the beat.

Christopher Price
Another solid year for Price, who still utilizes the “10 Things” model that he brought over from his days at the Metro. Price is very good at breaking things down into an easy-to-understand and digest format. His on-air appearances on WEEI are solid, and the affable Price is truly one of the nice guys in the business. He generally stays pretty positive in his approach to the team, while still telling it like it is when necessary.

Shalise Manza Young
From a straight reporting and writing standpoint, Young is solid. She has gotten several scoops this season, mostly relating to injuries and transactions. Her stories in the Globe are well written and usually look at the subject in a personal manner. It’s when she gets on Twitter, or does the online chats on Boston.com that Young seems to go off the reservation a bit, and takes a different view of the team – complaining about access, making up strawman arguments about Patriots fans preferring to finish 13-3 and lose in the first round of the playoffs instead of going 11-5 and going to the Super Bow. Turns out you can go 13-3 AND go to the Super Bowl. Who knew?

Karen Guregian
A solid pro, Guregian and Rapoport are a solid team at the Herald. They crank out daily content in quantities surpassing the competition, and most of it good. Guregian usually takes the “larger picture” view of things, looking at how things are trending, good or bad, and also focuses on the individual players and their perspective.

Others
A few thoughts on some others on the beat: Mark Farinella is the ultimate trick or treat. One day he’s writing a very good story, the next day he’s accusing Bob Kraft of forcing the power company to kowtow to his demands to restore power to Gillette Stadium before residences in Foxborough. One day he’s done a great profile on a player, and the next he’s angrily blogging about self-appointed NH-based media critics. Ron Borges is now an afterthought when it comes to the Patriots. Perhaps he’s seen that his schtick has run its course or been done better by others and is plotting his next move. Curran’s sidekick Mary Paoletti is much more than the email girl on Quick Slants. She does solid player features and is a good follow on Twitter. Glen Farley does a solid job for the Gatehouse crew. Jonathan Comey is always an interesting read down at the New Bedford Standard TimesJeff Howe probably deserves more than being lumped into this paragraph, as he is down there every day, and I like his analysis on NESN.com and on NESN Daily. Nick Underhill at MassLive.com might be an up and comer, while Paul Kenyon at the Providence Journal is a solid vet, who did some very nice work toward the end of this season. I can’t leave out Hector Longo. I think he actually knows the game a little bit, but he’d be better off served not trying to get noticed by bashing Jerod Mayo in every single column. Monique Walker did a very nice job at the Globe before departing to Baltimore. She got the notice of Bill Belichick who acknowledged her last day on the job. The Patriots Football Weekly crew of Paul Perillo, Andy Hart and Erik Scalavino are all pretty good, their value seems highest during training camp when the full practice reports come out and the PFW ones are usually the most detailed.

On-Air

This is where things get crazy. Sports radio and television in so many ways is completely out of control. Here, it’s all about opinion, and having an edgy take. We’ll take a look here at things outlet-by-outlet, rather than personality or show.

WEEI
Starting the day off, Dennis and Callahan have some good guests during the season, led by quarterback Tom Brady. As the Globe is sure to tell you, this is a contractually obligated paid weekly appearance by Brady. The QB is unfailingly polite to the pair, and sometimes you wonder why, given the length and substance of some of the questions put forth. Some of the other guests – Mike Lombardi, Boomer Esiason, are also usually worth a listen. What happened to Adam Schefter? When not talking to guests, the show can get brutal, especially when the Patriots have dared to win a game by too many points. The mid-day show is just a disaster when it comes to the Patriots. This time slot used to be my favorite on the station. Now it’s the one I’d like to avoid at all costs if I could. Whether it is Lou Merloni screaming about the Patriots defense or the weekly appearances from Peter King, this show just doesn’t isn’t capable of talking about the Patriots in any intelligent fashion. Then we have the Big Show, which I’ve come back to somewhat, especially when the other station is simply screaming every five seconds about how something SUCKS. Glenn Ordway is still a good interviewer, though his opinions are still pretty awful. Michael Holley is an enigma. I like the guy – how can you not? His books are extremely readable. Yet, I feel like something is lacking. He doesn’t seem to provide the “inside access” that I, and I’m sure everyone else, really wants. Whether this is from wanting to not tell tales out or school or what, I wish he gave us more insight. I generally like when he feels strongly enough about something to challenge Ordway. Have we ever found out what happened to Tedy Bruschi on Patriots Monday? They promoted him big-time, and then all of sudden he wasn’t there any more. I can’t get comment on it, but the feeling seems to be that it was ESPN-related. In the evenings, Mike Adams can be OK sometimes. That’s about the best I can say.

98.5 The SportsHub
To their credit, Toucher and Rich acknowledge all the time that they are not the most keen sports commentators out there, though of the two, Rich is the superior in that regard. When it comes to the Patriots, they rely on guests, whether it is Albert Breer, Greg Bedard or Chris Gasper. It’s hard to really judge them too much on Patriots coverage as they don’t try to do much with it. They don’t sit there and try to analyze the games. Fred will come out from time to time and insult Bill Belichick, but that’s coming from a bitter Jets fan, so you take it for what it is. On the mid-days, the biggest surprise I’ve found this season was that I was listening to Gresh and Zo almost every day. I like Scott Zolak as a football commentator and analyst. Andy Gresh, when he keeps it reined in, is pretty solid too. The pair of them were very good in talking Patriots this season without going berserk on the same topics everyone else was pounding. Albert Breer was a weekly guest on the show, usually spending an hour or two with them, and they would challenge him on some of his blanket statements about things. I don’t need to say too much about Felger and Mazz which hasn’t been said already. Yes, we know the Patriots SUCK. The drafting SUCKS. The defense SUCKS, and the CAP is CRAP. You’re absolutely right, Mike. Rinse, repeat. You see Damon Amendolara on some of those NFL Films shows, and that tells you the guy has some NFL knowledge, too often though, I hear him falling into “storylines” and going with those rather than real analysis. Which, I know, is asking too much of any radio host these days, as the game is all about having a great take.

As far as actual game broadcasts – Chad Finn noted last week that Gino Cappelletti has likely done his last game in the booth, while Gil Santos may get another year. Finn says Zolak will be moved from the sideline to the booth for next season. I think Santos might capable of doing more than one more year, if he is given the proper support – better spotters, etc. He’s still got the voice, and paints the picture beautifully.

CSNNE
When it comes to the Patriots Sports Sunday and Sports Tonight are simply continuations of the Felger and Mazz show. Whatever storylines were being followed there will be brought up here, with added guests. Tom Curran can occasionally interject some realism into things, and Troy Brown and Ty Law are terrific, especially together. SportsNet Central is a nice highlights show with minimal commentary. The Thursday night football lineup of New England Tailgate, Quick Slants and Patriots Football Weekly is a nice way to transition into the weekend.

NESN
I actually found myself watching more NESN Daily as the season went on. Matt Chatham and Mike Flynn make a good duo for analysis from the former player perspective, and Shalise Manza Young, Greg Bedard and Jeff Howe keep their reports pretty business-like, with some good-natured ribbing amongst them. Max Lane, well, he tries.

WBZ-TV
I’ll admit. I enjoy Patriots All Access. Yeah, I fast-forward through quite a bit of it, but the segment leading off, with the sights and sounds of the previous game, and especially the locker room footage, is always a must-see. The Beli-strator segments are interesting and informative, and Lyndsay Petruny is a guilty pleasure on the show. I’m always intrigued by that little diamond she makes with her hands when she’s speaking on camera. The pre and post game reports – Game Day and Fifth Quarter are pretty generic, Steve Burton always brings unintentional comedy to whatever he is on, but Fifth Quarter is always a must-view for the post game interviews with Belichick, Brady and other key players. The preseason games draw outrage from columnists offended by Patriots golf shirts, but they are what they are. Don Criqui isn’t what he used to be on play-by-play and you hold your breath every time Randy Cross breaks out the telestrator, but we don’t really watch these games for the announcers.

Who did I miss? I know there are the TV anchors and reporters like of Mike Dowling, Joe Amorosino, Dan Roche, and Levan Reid, as well as columnists like Shaughnessy, Buckley, Ryan, etc, but I tried to focus more on Patriots-oriented types. There is Pete Sheppard and his Patriots.com radio show, which can be a nice alternative during the season as well.

  • Quantum Mechanic

    You're absolutely right, Bruce! :)

    But seriously, you describe my opinions on all these guys and shows frighteningly well.

  • Siggy

    One thing that bugged me from most of these people as the year wore on was the constant 'legacy' talk. Let's let the era play out. You spoil it if you are always analyzing the current level of greatness and laying out the steps necessary to attain 'Greatest.' It takes some of the enjoyment out of it. History will be kind to this dynasty some day, don't worry Pats fans.

    • bsmfan

      Lets talk about right now….. They're already anointing Jeremy Lin the greatest PG and Knicks about to win the East and the NBA Finals this year..

      Thank ESPN for this one.

  • latetodinner

    Bruce,

    Excellent overview. Not sure I agree with everything but that is what makes blogs. :-)

    - On SMY. I find her useless. I don't care that she occasionally breaks a story. The blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut. More often than not she is lazy, repetitive, uninformed and bitter/angry. I have said this before but it bears repeating…she is a perfect fit for the Globe's agenda driven football coverage. If she were actually any good she would be doing everything she could to distance herself from the perceived bias of the Globe (as Reiss did when he was there and as Bedard has tried to do in his tenure).

    - PK (Paul Kenyon) does not get enough "props" in the boston Media market. He has done an excellent job on the Pats beat for years at the Projo. His stuff is always good.

    - You are too kind to Farinella. The guy is a tool. The embodiment of out of touch, aloof "newspaperman". Never mind the thin skin, its his lack of work to find better stories that amazes me.

    - Gresh and Zo sucked you in also. They do that during football season…but wait…they will start talking hockey and baseball and I promise you will want to drive your head through a brick wall to make the pain stop.

    - Lastly, I am happy to hear Gino C is retiring. He was great for so many years but he lost it this past year. I think Zo will make an excellent addition to Gil. Also the longer Gil stays on the less Tanguay might be inflicted on us.

  • Rich

    The coverage highlight of the year was the Borges and Curren clip where Borges went straight to the "pats suck" script even though the game was won in a convincing fasion. Curren beat him silly.

  • guntfather

    The roundtable show with Zo, Wiggy, and Chatham is decent. Will be interesting to see if 985 adds a 3rd man permanently into their pre and post game show or just leave it with TangGresh.

  • Thom

    Bruce, I think you mixed up Toucher & Rich when you said Rich knows more about sports. Toucher is the lead and Rich does the bits. Toucher played some sports, follows hockey pretty closely (he got half-season tickets to the Bruins when he moved here), and is a football and baseball fan. Rich is a basketball fan, but that is it (and he seems to have lost interest in the sport in the last few years)..

  • Paulo

    As usual I agree with most of your thoughts regarding programming I can get here in Maine at least.
    Tom Curran rubs me wrong in that he tries to be too cool. Probably an age thing on my part since the last radio programming I looked forward to was when Sean McDonough tried to ‘ raise the bar’ and was laughed off the air.
    I listened to some football games on radio this year and thought Zolak was an asset to the coverage.

  • bsmfan

    Blueprint for every fan or someone who follows the team out there. Great write-up and good analysis on each personality/media.

    "Lyndsay Petruny is a guilty pleasure on the show" — made me laugh there. When I've pasted clips online, and non-Pats fans see her, they ask who she is and where they can find more.
    —-

    It was speculated by Felger and others that NESN is the one last property to be built-up in the whole NESV portfolio. I only bring this up because I've wondered the same. Outside of Bruins and Red Sox, the network is bone dry compared to CSNNE and they continue to go lockstep in matching NESN's coverage of what they can, if not expanding beyond them. Is this something in the future?

    I always wondered if simulcasting, while the radio still needs the demo #'s to remain profitable, is worth more than running paid advertisements. Every sports network now seems to have simulcasts but the advertisements run during them are not big brands.

    I've read that Holley has been on First Take this week with Skip Bayless out for the week (Mike Smith is replacing him). Is it just part time or is ESPN maybe giving him some sort of try-out?

    One link this post. Don Banks speculates on the Randy Moss news: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com//2012/writers/do

  • Winning_

    Random thoughts from today:

    Felger and his pet parrot echo Mayweathers sentiments that Lin's recent fame is only because he is Asian. Only took about 22 years to bring back Isiah Thomas-like racism that "if Larry Bird was black, he'd be just another good player." I do admit it might play a part, but when a undrafted unknown goes off for 20+ points, 7+ assists in 5 straight games since startingm, with two of the top 10 NBA Players out, and for 37+ against the Lakers, race does not have as much to play. If Avery Bradley did this, he would be all over the news in new York as well.

    • Winning_

      Second, this is an overall observation and theory on the Media landscape in particular to the mid-day shows which often get little attention.

      I think G&Z own this slot, not only based on ratings, but by sport "knowledge." During football season G&Z dominate over M&M. Gresh can get annoying on certain topics, but Zo is a great analyst while not going the Fred and Steve route. I feel G&Z also have a huge advantage in the hockey department. Surprisingly Gresh does fairly well when discussing hockey and Zo holds his own. I don't listen to M&M enough to know if Hockey is ever mentioned. Basketball goes to G&Z slightly, again neither are very good, but I feel G&Z is a better option overall. Baseball is the only sport where M&M have an edge. So they will benefit with the long baseball season, however with overlap from playoff basketball/hockey, and preseason/training camps football in august, I see M&M with two months to shine and that simply is not enough. I wonder how long before the bell tolls??

    • Jackson

      Just for the record, I believe it was Dennis Rodman who made that comment about Bird first and when asked about, Thomas concurred. They're still both idiots.

      • Winning

        From the New York Times:
        "Isiah Thomas, who has been caught up in a furor over comments he made about Larry Bird last week, made a public plea for understanding today in the company of the Celtic forward.

        Shortly after Thomas arrived in Los Angeles, where the Celtics were preparing to meet the Lakers in tonight's second game of the National Basketball Association Finals, the two players appeared at a crowded news conference at the Celtics' hotel. It was an effort to end the controversy that has grown since the Detroit Piston guard told reporters last Saturday that if Bird were black he ''would be just another good guy'' instead of being portrayed as the league's best player. The remarks came after an emotional seventh-game loss to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals."

        http://www.nytimes.com/1987/06/05/sports/thomas-e

    • latetodinner

      Winning…I think Felger made two arguments. 1) It was race based and they discussed that ad nausea (mistake made on purpose) with Jermaine Wiggins. 2) That there are never ever rags to riches stories in the NBA. I think the second point nails it. Because basketball is such a simple game, no "good" player is ever missed. These kids are scouted/groomed from 8th grade on to the pros. Their games are refined/ analyzed, dissected and rebuilt by a system that produces square pegs that fit into square holes every day and always. Lin comes along and he is over looked. Probably because he is Chinese, and probably because the modern game has no "team" element to it. Never do players appear in the NBA who have "intangibles"…smarts, quickness what have you… that have not been measured and accounted for. Lin seems to have fallen through the cracks and is proving every talent evaluator in the country fallible. It helps that he gets to play in Dantoni's offense which really accents his pluses. Lin is a great story…it sucks he plays for the Knicks because they are so unlikeable.

      here is a thought. Maybe Doc Rivers should give Avery Bradley some time with the starters so we can see what he can do. Maybe he is a diamond in the rough as well.

  • Zip

    Great job Bruce.

  • NutCracker

    Sometimes I think Felger is being over-exposed on CSNNE especially since he's always the contrarian and spouting his proverbial whine. Patriots win by 30 but (like Borges) he'll harp all day on the negatives. He's becoming too predictable. I find him palatable in small doses but not morning, noon and night and no-need to have him breaking down the Celtic games. He's better than most but his shtick is wearing thin on me.

    • bsmfan

      I wondered myself if CSNNE was concerned about Felger's "exposure".

      Lets take just the afternoon-evening, excluding the morning because it is all reruns:

      2-6: F+M Simulcast +4
      6:30: usually on Sports Tonight for at least half the show +0.25
      7:30: repeat of Sports Tonight (normally) +0.25
      10:00: Sports Tonight he co-hosts +0.5
      11:00: Repeat of Sports Tonight +0.5
      12:00: Hour of best of F+M +1

      On an average night, you'll have anywhere from 5-6.5 hours of Felger, give or take because of the schedule and reruns.

  • Tom

    T&R are terrible on sports. Just awful. D&C have major issues, but so much better on sports, it's incomparable.
    That said, most any other topic T&R do a better, more entertaining job.

    I wanted to like Mut & Merloni, but it isn't happening. They sound like such amatuers on football. Mut seems like a good kid, but way over his head. Merloni could still do well with the right co-host, in my opinion.

    You nailed it on the writers. Wouldn't change a word.

    • bsmfan

      On your first point, I get the impression that's why many stick with D+C, as I do, even though I'm not really a fan. In the morning, im more interested in hearing a serious or semi-serious discussion and not feeling like Opie and Anthony are trying to do sports. And, you have the vanilla of vanilla sportstalk with Mike+Mike on ESPNRadio once they start screaming or going at callers.

  • dan

    They should just politely tell Santos to step aside too. I noticed a slide in his skills 5 years ago and it only gets worse. He called the careers of two of my favorite hall of fame players, Bird and Brady. That's pretty damn good for a career. There's no shame in leaving now with Gino.
    Shawn McDonough is waiting in the wings for this gig.
    He's a local guy with excellent pipes with major league skills in his craft.
    Perfect fit.

  • Angry Old Bastard

    Agree with you on Zo and Gresh, during football season it's the place to go. EXCEPT when I hear them utter these HORRIBLE words,…. " Dan Shaughnessy will be with us until one o'clock" That, would do it for me CLICK off went the radio. Guess I don't pay that much attention cause I listened to Zo and Gresh alot this year but could never figure out exactly what day Shank appeared with them. It was always a disappointing surprise to me when I heard those words. "" Dan Shaughnessy will be with us…..UGH!

    • Jackson

      Tuesdays and my reaction was always the same as yours.

  • Bob

    Mike Rodak of ESPN Boston is the future. But I wish he did more of the "tale of the tape" breakdowns that he was doing when he first starting working with Reiss. I miss those.

    • Siggy

      I wouldn't waste too much time worrying about it…

  • Andrew

    Not to dwell any further on Gresh's shortcomings than has been done in the past, but I simply find him unlistenable. I don't know what the attraction is or how he could be employed in a job where he is paid to have an audience listen to him.

    I know I am not alone in this assessment. The fact that G&Z are winning the midday ratings is more a testament to how weak M&M are performing. It is obvious in this sports-obsessed market that many listeners are more than willing to accept the "least sucky" option.

    You would think that either station would have be embarrassed to have their brand represented by the likes of an Andy Gresh. It's hard to be good, but it ain't hard to be better than that. I just don't understand it.

  • Classless

    Since I live in W.Mass and read MassLive regularly, I can tell you Nick Underhill is terrible. He's no better than any of the commenters on this site and doesn't offer any football knowledge or access that we don't have. He's even worse on the Red Sox beat.

  • Guest

    If I'm WEEI, I think you need to start thinking about rearranging the deck chairs again pretty soon. The mid-day show has been on for a year and hasn't gotten any better – it's a failure. Move Mutt back to weekends with Minihane, Perrault, et al. Or even better, get rid of Mikey Adams and pair Mutt with John Ryder for the night shift. At least that way it doesn't seem like as big of demotion for Mutt.

    Keep Merloni where he is and move Ordway down to mid-days. His star has fallen more rapidly than anyone's at the station, and judging by the huge pay cut he's already taken, I wouldn't be surprised to see him demoted further. Merloni was far better on the Big Show when he had Glenn to guide the discussion.

    Keep D&C where they are. They may no longer be #1 in the ratings across the board, but they still maintain a fairly sizable and loyal listener base. Plus I don't really think they should be categorized as being in direct competition with Toucher & Rich. They're two very different shows geared toward different demos.

    Finally, find a new guy from outside the current WEEI roster to pair with Holley in the afternoons. That's if Holley even has plans to stay at the station long term, which I'm starting to have my doubts about. He's done an awful lot of national television and radio appearances over the last few weeks and months. Now it may simply be to promote his book, but you can't blame him for looking at greener pastures after EEI bottomed out over the past year.

    My personal choice for an Ordway replacement would be Chris Mannix. Young, local guy that I've enjoyed hearing on the station when he's been a guest or a fill-in host. Think he'd have much better chemistry with Holley than Ordway. Also don't think he'd be nearly as difficult to lure away as an ESPN personality (e.g. Michael Smith). He probably could still maintain some presence at SI as a columnist, a la Callahan or Massarotti.

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