Fun Week Ahead For Sports Fans. Media, Not As Much

This week promises to be a lot of fun for sports fans, with NFL free agency starting up tomorrow, and the NBA trade deadline coming up Thursday.

For fans, there is the anticipation that a move or signing can be announced at any time. For the media, it means a lot of working the phones, and very little sleep, as many talks go deep into the night. Sleeping or doing other normal activities means you risk getting beat on the story.  Some thrive in this environment, others don’t enjoy the added intrusion into their  personal lives.

The Celtics lost a tough one to the Lakers yesterday afternoon, trailing big early, making a strong comeback, taking a lead into the final two minutes before letting it slip away in the end. Get all the coverage at CelticsLinks.com.

A big concern for the Celtics is the health of big man Chris Wilcox, who is having further tests done on his heart. Wilcox had started to become a strong contributor to the Celtics and his loss for the season would potentially be a big blow.

The end of a Celtics-Lakers era? – Paul Flannery wonders if this was the last meaningful game between the old rivals for some time.

Celtics missing something at end – Chris Forsberg has the Celtics still showing they can compete.

For Celtics fans on Twitter, a huge development this weekend was the news that Steve Bulpett @SteveBHoop has finally joined in. I look forward to updates from one of the best beat writers in any sport.

It was a rough weekend for the Bruins, who dropped a pair of matinée matchups.

It’s becoming clear B’s still paying Cup price – Joe Haggerty says that the Bruins are in the midst of another cup hangover.

For the Patriots, the start of free agency tomorrow will see some very interesting options available to them. They’ll likely target a receiver with some of their $16.2 million of cap room. You can keep up with all the Patriots news and moves at PatriotsLinks.com.

And guess who wrote this over the weekend:

 “[Adrian] Gonzalez is one sour dude. Almost Nomar-esque. Nobody likes a know-it-all”

And so it begins.

Let’s Do The Friday Megalinks Again

Linkage has been scarce around the Fang’s Bites site this week, but I should be able to get a good set of megalinks in today as we head into NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday. You deserve the links and I thank you for your patience as I’ve been working around some server problems on my main site this week and been busy which has prevented me from putting them on the Fang’s Bites BSMW site.

As usual, you can check the Weekend Viewing Picks for all weekend sports and entertainment recommendations.

Let’s get to the linkage.

National

Michael Hiestand of USA Today profiles ESPN’s bracketologist Joe Lunardi who got a big endorsement from Louisville’s Rick Pitino this week.

Erik Spanberg at Sports Business Journal looks at Major League Soccer hoping for big returns from its new contract with NBC Sports.

Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch explores NBC’s new approach to airing soccer and reviews ESPN’s new documentary on Magic Johnson.

Karen Hogan at Sports Video Group looks at ESPN’s innovative plans for MLS games this season.

Lindsay Flans of the Hollywood Reporter says A-List celebrities have caught Linsanity fever.

And the Reporter provides a seating chart of where celebrities sit at Madison Square Garden to get a glimpse of Jeremy Lin.

At the Indiana University National Sports Journalism Center, Michael Bradley feels the mid-major conferences sacrifice regular season integrity in exchange for TV exposure with their post-season tournaments.

CNBC’s Darren Rovell is recovering after his alma mater, Northwestern, played its way out of the NCAA Tournament this week.

Joe Favorito says even in this day and age, the little guy can make a splash in sports marketing.

Sports Media Watch has some ratings news and notes.

SMW notes that NBC Sports will replace the departed Wimbledon with the Tour de France this summer.

Ben Koo of Awful Announcing says ESPN Films is suffering from an identity crisis.

Steve Lepore at Puck The Media says NBC’s innovation in hockey production is now extending to the soccer pitch.

Dave Kohl at the Broadcast Booth isn’t a fan of speculation.

At Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie blog, Dan Devine says Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made a gay joke at Bill Simmons’ expense with him present.

Erik Malinowski of Deadspin says Cuban has apologized for making that remark.

East and Mid-Atlantic

The Boston Globe’s Chad Finn looks at CBS/Turner’s plans for the NCAA Tournament.

BSMW Fearless Leader Bruce Allen at SB Nation Boston says the Boston Herald will miss Patriots beat reporter Ian Rapoport as he departs for NFL Network.

George Cain at Sports of Boston compares and contrasts the two sports radio stations ratings.

Bill Doyle of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette says different generations watch sports differently.

Paul Devlin of the New Canaan (CT) Patch talks with ESPN High Grand Poobah of News Vince Doria.

Newsday’s Neil Best talks with Magic Johnson about ESPN’s documentary on his HIV announcement 20 years ago.

Neil notes the opening of a new Broadway play on the rivalry between Magic and former Boston Celtics star Larry Bird.

Neil says it’s time for our annual search to find truTV for the NCAA Tournament.

Phil Mushnick of the New York Post goes after the “gang mentality” in football.

The Post’s Justin Terranova has five questions for NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger.

Jerry Barmash at Fishbowl NY notes that MSG Network is about to unveil a new baseball-centric show.

Chris Boyle at the Merrick (NY) Patch says two alumna of a local high school, now ESPN personalities, made a visit to their old stomping grounds.

Pete Dougherty at the Albany Times Union notes that Buffalo Sabres games are back on MSG after a technical glitch prevented fans from seeing their games for two weeks.

Pete talks with Uncle Verne Lundquist of CBS who’s going into his 49th year of broadcasting.

Ken McMillan of the Middletown (NY) Times-Herald Record says a local man has been chosen to take part in this year’s MLB Fan Cave.

Keith Groller of the Allentown (PA) Morning Call talks with ESPN’s Mike Tirico who says he’ll miss working with Ron Jaworski every Monday Night.

Jim Williams of the Washington Examiner speaks with tennis Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst Chris Evert.

South

Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News & Observer says for the first time, viewers in the ACC footprint can see ESPN’s coverage of the ACC Tournament.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald likes watching the ESPN/ABC NBA studio show.

David Barron at the Houston Chronicle notes that Comcast SportsNet Houston is getting ready for its fall launch.

And David expands on his column on CSN Houston in his blog.

Mel Bracht of the Daily Oklahoman has a few Sooner State sports media news and notes.

Midwest

Jeff Moss at Detroit Sports Rag has a field of 64 to decide the Worst Detroit Sports Media Personality.

Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says CBS and Turner are enjoying their NCAA Tournament partnership.

Ed Sherman at Crain’s Chicago Business has his weekly winners and losers in sports business and media.

Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reviews the one week experiment of Joe Buck and Tim McKernan co-hosting a radio show that could turn into something bigger down the road.

Dan says don’t expect too many changes for this year’s NCAA Tournament coverage on CBS and Turner Sports.

West

John Maffei at the North County Times writes that if NCAA Tournament coverage ain’t broke, then CBS and Turner aren’t going to fix it.

John says Fox Sports San Diego is set to launch any day now, provided MLB approves the Padres’ deal to air games on the network.

Jim Carlisle of the Ventura County Star says the success of the CBS/Turner NCAA Tournament consortium surprised officials at both companies.

Jim says Peyton Manning’s former coach, Tony Dungy now of NBC, feels San Francisco would be a good fit for him.

Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News looks at Magic Johnson’s life-changing announcement, 20 years later.

Tom explores how Time Warner Cable will present LA Galaxy games while it’s still in the process of launching its new SoCal regional sports network.

Tom has a few items that didn’t make his weekly media column.

Percy Allen of the Seattle Times notes that ESPN will air next year’s Pac-12 Basketball Championship Game.

Canada

Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star says CBC’s Don Cherry and Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke are acting like a couple of spoiled divas in their public spat.

And that’s going to do it for today. Enjoy your sports weekend.

Bruins Finally Streaking – And Media Links

After 25 games, the Bruins finally won back-to-back contests with a 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres last night at TD Garden. Johnny Boychuk played a huge role in the win with a thunderous hit and the game-winning goal.  

B’s getting back on the right track - Joe Haggerty says that the Bruins are finally free of the muck and mire.

Bruins think they’re starting to roll - James Murphy says that the Bruins have been building on a consistent effort since the loss to the Rangers last Sunday.

When greatness comes in threes – Jackie MacMullan has a really tremendous column today in which Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish talk about their final days together, and the final days of the KG/Pierce/Allen Big Three. I especially love the account of Robert Parish’s showdown with Michael Jordan when the Chief joined the Bulls for his final season.

In one of his first practices with the Bulls, Parish botched one of the plays and was amused to find Jordan jawing at him just inches from his face.

“I told him, ‘I’m not as enamored with you as these other guys. I’ve got some rings too,’ ” Parish recalled. “At that point he told me, ‘I’m going to kick your ass.’ I took one step closer and said, ‘No, you really aren’t.’ After that he didn’t bother me.”

Middlebrooks on track, but how quickly? – Nick Cafardo looks at how soon the third-base prospect might find himself in the big leagues.

Lloyd ‘very interested’ in hearing Patriots’ pitch – Tom E Curran had an exclusive sitdown with free agent receiver Brandon Lloyd, who reaffirmed his love for Josh McDaniels and expressed his desire to come here, even for less money.

Very little left to fix in NCAA coverage - Chad Finn’s media column looks at the tournament coverage from CBS and Turner, and also says that if you enjoy the politics-free Dennis and Callahan show, you can thank Jeff Brown, Entercom’s vice president and market manager. He has a few other notes of interest as well.

Media Roundup: Ian Rapoport (A.K.A. Rapsheet) Will Be Missed – In my SB Nation Boston media column, I look at how the Boston Herald owes Ian Rapoport a debt of gratitude for rescuing the beat for the paper after the Spygate/Tomase fiasco.

Tuning In: Dad, son … different eras of fandom – Bill Doyle compares how he and his college-age son watch and consume sports differently.

Celtics Crushed In Philly, Sheppard on WEEI Return

The Celtics were absolutely demolished in Philadelphia by the 76ers last night, 103-71.

Peter May explains why Boston never had a chance in Philly. On the heels of this loss, Paul Flannery tells us to Get ready for the longest week of the season.

The Celtics might not be title contenders, but they are still a topic of conversation around town. They also beat the Bruins in the head-to-head national TV ratings on Sunday, when Celtics/Knicks (ABC – 6.4 rating, 15 share) beat Bruins/Rangers (NBC – 5.1 rating, 12 share) in the local market.

The level of ignorance/apathy from sport radio hosts on the Celtics is bothersome. The best option for Celtics talk is The Big Show, but Ordway spends most of his time laughing at fans suggestions about the team (though, to be fair, most of the suggestions ARE laughable.)

Michael Felger just flat out won’t talk about the Celtics, except to trash them. He’s an unabashed Celtics (and NBA) hater and takes every opportunity to remind you of that, and Tony Masserotti isn’t about to challenge him on anything. (An aside – Thanks to Toucher and Rich, we got this great 1990 cable-access video of Mazz, complete with Bill Cosby sweater.)

The worst though, are Dennis and Callahan, who, despite talking to Doc Rivers every week are completely clueless. They rail each week about how that since the Celtics are not contenders, Danny Ainge needs to “blow it up” and how he’s certain to trade away his veterans before next week’s deadline. Callahan restated it this morning.

What Callahan just doesn’t get is that Ainge has already blown it up. Making any sort of trade, unless it nets the Celtics a draft pick or a young building piece just makes no sense at all. Ainge has set it up so that next year’s team is likely to be unrecognizable. They’ve got four players under contract next year – Rondo, Piece, Bradley and JuJuan Johnson. Brandon Bass has a $4 million player option, which he’s likely to decline. The team is already “blown up.”

In order to trade away any of the veterans, the Celtics need to take back salary, which, if it carries over to next season, probably only hurts their rebuilding process, unless the salary coming back is in the form of young talent – which it won’t be. Not many teams can take on Ray Allen’s contract and give the Celtics back anything of value. Even less can take KG’s.

I don’t know what the offseason holds. The free agent options seem very limited, but the Celtics will have the ability to take on salary and make trades, even if they are straight salary dumps.

But for this season, unless the Celtics can steal someone from another team, I don’t see any big moves coming. They might make a move for a borderline big man who can rebound, but I don’t even know who that would be.

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Moving on to Pete Sheppard and his return to WEEI, he talked to Jessica Heslam a little bit yesterday, saying he’d like to work into a larger role.

If radio stations were NFL teams, WEEI would be the New York Jets right now. They’re in cap hell. Huge contracts given to John Dennis, Gerry Callahan and Glenn Ordway have handcuffed the station from making significant changes. You’ll notice that those three people are the only major personalities still in their same roles at the station.

They tried to low-budget the mid-day show, (the only timeslot they were winning at the time) and it backfired. Somehow they got Dale Arnold to sign a new deal, which still surprises me, and now they brought back Sheppard.

If the ratings continue to stay as they are, what further moves could come?

One might think this would be a win for the fan, seeing WEEI humbled in this manner. The problem is that 98.5 is the new WEEI. They’re every bit as cocky as WEEI ever was, and have started treating listeners in the same fashion. Some there seem to think, like WEEI did, that success is about the “talent” and not the content.

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Five quick links from this morning:

Ross-Sweeney combo could be a big upgrade for Red Sox in right – Tim Britton thinks that the duo could make a very successful platoon for the Red Sox this season.

Ready to Rott? The unconventional world of Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure – Alex Speier with a look at the Red Sox new pitching coach.

Jon Lester trying to set speed trap – Gordon Edes has Lester working on keeping baserunners under control.

AFC East with Peyton Manning a dream – Karen Guregian and the rest of the local media corps are drooling over the idea of Manning in the division.

Marty Turco arrives just in time – Joe McDonald looks at the Bruins new backup goaltender.

Pete Sheppard Returns To WEEI On Sunday

The Big Show had Pete Sheppard call in at 5:30 this afternoon to (rather clumsily) announce that he would be hosting a show from noon to 3:00 pm this Sunday, leading into the Celtics/Lakers pregame.

Further shows were not mentioned, though Sheppard in a Tweet afterwards says he is “back” with the station, so future gigs seem indicated.

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At the very least, his foot is back in the door with the station, so this could be the start of the road to a bigger role.

The station has missed Sheppard’s “voice of the fan” since his departure two years ago.

Pete Sheppard Returning To WEEI?

On the heels of this morning’s post, it looks like Pete Sheppard will be back with WEEI in some capacity.

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So the question is, what is the announcement?

Back on the Big Show as Flash Guy, taking out Adams?

Weekend shows?

Patriots-related programming? (Post game show, etc)

Overnights?

Something major – another show shakeup/shuffle?

What Is WEEI’s Next Move?

They went to shorter commercial breaks.

They became an ESPN Radio affiliate.

They simulcast Dennis and Callahan on NESN.

They cut down on the political talk in the morning.

They tried hooking up with El Presidente of Barstool Sports in an attempt to be “hipper.”

They replaced Dale and Holley with Mutt and Lou.

They retooled The Big Show to become Ordway and Holley.

They added Mike Adams to The Big Show.

They moved to an FM signal at 93.7 FM.

They’re still getting whipped in the ratings by 98.5 The SportsHub.

Chad Finn dropped several hints in his chat and column last week that if the mid-day show doesn’t improve, Dale Arnold could find himself back in that time slot. He could replace Mike Mutnansky, with Lou Merloni remaining, or he could be paired with someone like Kirk Minihane – who it appears he’ll be doing a lot of weekend shows with in the coming weeks. (A warm-up period for building rapport before taking over mid-days?)

Could an old face be coming to play a role in this?

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On Facebook, Sheppard said that this announcement would be about his new gig. Finn speculated this morning:

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While Sheppard won’t be leaping into the mid-day show, ( Mutt and Merloni are on the air as we speak, and I don’t think even Jason Wolfe would yank them off mid-show.) I could see Sheppard getting weekend shows, as it seems WEEI is looking to improve the quality of those offerings? Or could it be the long-rumored, even when Sheppard was still at WEEI, overnight show? Or something else entirely?98.5?

We’ll see.

On an entirely different note, has Michael Felger yet suggested that the Patriots, if they weren’t so cheap, should bring in Peyton Manning to light a fire under Tom Brady and give him a challenge, something that he has sorely lacked over his career? I’m just waiting for it.

The Herald’s @Rapsheet Is Heading To The NFL Network (Confirmed)

First posted from TheBigLead:

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I got a quick confirmation from Rapoport on this one, who said that while he “hates leaving the Herald,” he “couldn’t pass this opportunity up, and moving to Dallas will be awesome.”

Rapoport has made many appearances on the NFL Network, so they’ve had their eye on him for a while now.

This is the second Boston newspapers writer snatched up by the network. (Albert Breer being the other.) In the somewhat-interesting coincidence department, Rapoport will be based in Dallas, where Breer had worked after leaving the MetroWest Daily News and is a place that Breer often speaks of wistfully. I’m sure Breer will have plenty of Dallas advice to pass along.

It stinks for the Herald though.  Rapoport their best hire in a long time, and it will be tough for them to fill his shoes.

For Rapoport though, this is indeed an incredible opportunity, and one well-deserved.

Rapoport joined the Herald in July of 2009, and had covered the Alabama Crimson football team for three years for The Birmingham News before that. He is a 32-year-old graduate of Columbia University.

Bobby V. Continues To Dazzle Boston Media

While last week we did hear a few comparisons to Rex Ryan, for the most part, the Boston media’s reaction to the Bobby Valentine experience has been fawning.

They’re dazzled by his bunt drills in spring training. They love that he’s making David Ortiz play some first base. They love the alcohol in the clubhouse ban, and they love that every time they speak to him, he’s going to fill up their audio recorder with quotes.

In some ways, sure, I can see that his style is what this team needs after so many years of routine under Terry Francona. I get that. I get that new things are always going to be the center of attention, and I get that Valentine making himself the center of attention might be a good thing for a franchise under so much scrutiny for what happened last September.

However, the “Bobby Valentine is doing things HIS way” articles are getting a bit stale at this point.

Today the Boston Globe has a front page story from Peter Abraham on the topic: Red Sox whirlwind. It’s a well-done, informative article on how Valentine is running the camp. It’s also at least the second column in three days on the same premise. Dan Shaughnessy filed It couldn’t be more different on Saturday. Last Thursday we had a full column from Nick Cafardo wondering Why aren’t these fans in Valentine’s camp?  Just yesterday, Cafardo wrote This would set him apart referring to how Valentine’s preference not to use a set lineup would make him different.

This is just the Globe/Boston.com. Most of these columns somewhere contain the inference of, if not outright statement of “You gotta love this guy!

If he brings the Red Sox back to the playoffs, then perhaps he’ll be worthy of the praise that is being thrown at him two weeks into spring training. Judging him on his great quotes, energy and camp routine seems a bit premature.

Coverage from elsewhere this morning:

Vicente Padilla full of intrigue – Michael Silverman says that the Sox pitcher is a leading candidate for The Most Interesting Man in the World.

Mike Aviles welcomes change in plans – Gordon Edes has the former Royal eager to show he can be the starting shortstop.

Jose Iglesias tale: It’s Sox glove story – Ron Borges has Valentine talking about the abilities of the phenom shortstop.

Buchholz goes two scoreless innings in Sox spring debut – Sean McAdam has the Sox starter feeling good in his first outing.

Rask out 4-6 weeks with strain, Bruins sign Marty Turco – Joe Haggerty has the Bruins losing their backup goaltender and signing another.

On Kevin Garnett, playing center – Paul Flannery looks at the tradeoffs for the Celtics in having KG play center.

Don’t let Rondo become another team’s DJ – Chad Finn thinks Rajon Rondo has a lot in common with Dennis Johnson.

Celts react to evidence – Steve Bulpett with a look at the decisions facing Danny Ainge – including the possibility of a trip to the lottery this year.

Tag on Wes Welker, for now – Karen Guregian looks at the Patriots placing the franchise tag on Welker, and where things go from here.

Gregg Williams must pay for bounties – Gerry Callahan says that what the Saints did was much worse than spygate.

Celtics/Bruins Split With NY Rivals

The Bruins and Celtics played their rivals from New York at the same time yesterday, with the Bruins dropping a 4-3 decision to the Rangers down at Madison Square Garden and the Celtics defeating the Knicks 115-111 in OT at the TD Garden.

CSNNE had pre and post game coverage of both games. Not soon after the Celtics game ended, they put Mike Felger on screen to say “It’s the Knicks, they SUCK, why is anyone excited about this win” Needless to say, the channel was quickly changed after that.

Rajon Rondo – yeah, the guy I (stupidly) said I was “done” with last week, put up an otherworldly stat line with 18 points, 17 rebounds and 20 assists in the win.

Major points were earned for this one – Bob Ryan has those in attendance yesterday getting to see a real basketball game.

Can Rajon Rondo make Celtics dangerous again? – Paul Flannery looks at Rondo’s performance and whether he can make the Celtics a dangerous postseason team. Chris Forsberg looks at the team’s play and wonders if they have some of that old magic left in them.

Rajon Rondo turns it on for Celtics – Jackie MacMullan has Rondo coming up biggest when the lights are the brightest.

Behind Jeremy Lin phenomenon lies youngster with room to improve – Steve Bulpett has Jeremy Lin getting a lesson from Rondo.

Jeff Green gives lift as he sits – The Herald notebook has the forward, two month removed from heart surgery, sitting with the Celtics and cheering them on. The Globe notebook from Gary Washburn has Doc Rivers tightening up the rotation.

Bruins vexed again by Rangers  – Steve Conroy has the Bruins with a strong game, but not enough to beat the Rangers.

Thomas needs to be better for Bruins to thrive – Joe Haggerty says that the Bruins goaltender needs to be almost perfect.

Could Bobby Valentine’s batting order strategy actually work? – Rob Bradford says the Red Sox manager’s lineups might have some surprises this season.  Tim Britton has more on the lineups.

The Patriots are expected to use their franchise tag on Wes Welker sometime before the deadline this afternoon.

Greg Bedard had an excellent report on the Saints’ bounty scandal in yesterday’s Globe, a column that garnered national attention. Bedard (along with Jim Donaldson of the Providence Journal) also talked to former Patriots OC Bill O’Brien about the pass Wes Welker couldn’t handle late in the Super Bowl. ESPN picked up the story, but originally just said that O’Brien “told reporters,” a move which drew Bedard’s ire. ESPN updated the article to read that O’Brien “told reporters for The Boston Globe and Providence Journal on Saturday.”