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.
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.
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?
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.
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 Times. Jeff 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.