Forethoughts On The Playoffs: Fifth Quarter 2013

On the cusp of 2014, time to take a look back at another year of double-digit wins for New England, another first-round bye, and another year as AFC East Champs. Considering all that happened in 2013, 12-4’s not too shabby.

To review the fourth quarter of the regular season, the Patriots had a near-impossible 27-26 comeback win vs. Cleveland (including their first recovered on-sides kick since the Clinton administration), a disappointing (and, in retrospect, hard-to-understand) 24-20 loss down at Miami, a thorough 41-7 dismantling of the Super Bowl champs in Baltimore, and a wet-dog-ugly 34-20 win vs. Buffalo in the season-ender to secure their first-round bye.

Here are a few of the things we’re thinking of during a much-deserved – and much-needed – week off. [Read more…]

Sports Media Musings: The Best & Worst of 2013

My New Year’s resolution includes a re -commitment to write here more consistently, as in multiple times a week. In order to do so, I’ll need help from you guys, the BSMW community — so send along tips, jokes, articles, or angry missives either to my email – [email protected] – or, if you fancy yourself the progressive type, Out There in the Twitterverse (@Hadfield__). Either way, I’ll be back here with more media chatter and the like on Thursday.

THE BEST & WORST OF SPORTS MEDIA IN 2013

Today: A simple exercise, in which we review the good, the bad, and the Shaughnessy; taking you into a fragmented holiday work week (seriously, Christmas and New Year’s Day on a Wednesday is the worst, right? Right.).

A valuable disclaimer: I did not include the beat reporters in this list; news is news, and while it’s nice to consistently have your name in first place on the imaginary scoreboard of who broke what story, ultimately, the news – not the person – is what matters. (Unless, of course, you’re wrong. Then, you matter. Pretty thankless value proposition.)

BEST PLAY-BY-PLAY AND/OR COLOR ANALYST

Mike Gorman, CSNNE: In the middle of a recent broadcast, Gorman had to explain plus-minus (+/-) to Tommy Heinsohn. Related: Mike Gorman works with Tommy Heinsohn on a regular basis. That alone gives Gorman this award while running away from the pack. The NBA game has changed drastically over the years, but Gorman has been able to keep up every step of the way.

Honorable Mention: Jack Edwards, NESN

BREAKOUT ANALYST

Alex Speier, WEEI.com: For the informed, Speier’s prolific work is anything but new – he’s been doing this since WEEI.com revamped their website in 2008. His profile, however, was rightfully raised this last season, evidenced by his all-too-seldom appearances on CSNNE’s “Sports Tonight.”

To his credit, even as the line between reporter and analyst is increasingly blurred, Speier tells us what he knows, not what he thinks. To that end, the former Harvard debate team member is anything but caustic in his analysis, instead relying on hard data for his insights and a friendly demeanor to cultivate sources, particularly at the minor league level, where his work is undeniably the best in the city, if not all of MLB.

Overall, it was a great year for Speier. While his talent still isn’t used nearly enough on the airwaves of 93.7 FM, the Senior Writer of the dot-com side of WEEI’s operation still cranks out his “Down on the Farm” show and manages to work well alongside Rob Bradford and other personalities for podcasts. Speier also appeared on a memorable podcast with Jonah Keri that ran on Grantland during the Sox’ postseason run, in which the two champions of sabermetrics and advanced statistics discussed the importance of team chemistry. While now dated, it’s still worth your time.

Honorable Mention: Erik Frenz, Boston.com; Matt Chatham, Boston Herald

BEST PERSONALITY

Tom E. Curran, CSNNE.com: Personalities need to write. Like it or not, this comes down to branding. (Did I just Darren Rovell all over myself? Great, I need to shower.) Writing helps reinforce a stance in a clear way that’s not confined to a 15 second spot on a television show, or diluted in a four hour radio program.

Case in point: If you’re not enjoying Tom E. Curran’s work on CSNNE.com, his WEEI appearances, and across other CSNNE’s programming, I don’t know what to tell you. He’s likable and funny — and not in a forced or awkward way. More importantly, he’s honest. He’ll go after those in the media who go after him (*FELGER*), and he’ll applaud those whose work should be praised. He’s not a homer or a contrarian; he’s what Shank pretends to aspire to, without being an elitist about the whole thing: an observer.

Mind you, Curran isn’t Bill Barnwell or Aaron Schatz . He won’t use advanced statistics or run Monte Carlo Simulations, but he manages to impress sound logic to the conventional audience, while covering the most polarizing team in the city, through a balanced perspective aided by basic statistics that are easy to comprehend. Believe me, it’s an invaluable skill.

Honorable Mention: Kirk Minihane, WEEI (Kirk, start writing again). While we’re here, WEEI may have had their struggles, but how about the attempted takedown pieces levied at them, and other in the local sports media, this year … Minihane undressed Alan Siegel on a podcast in the aftermath of his uneven piece about the dire state of local sports media personalities in Boston magazine this year. Then, the third wheel on the “Dennis and Callahan” morning show, helped do the same, both in print and on the air, to Callum Borchers for his poorly conceived hatchet job of the radio station in the Boston Globe.

Now, I’m not bringing up either to laud Minihane – or defend WEEI, for that matter – but, rather, to raise the question as to why neither Borchers or Seigel could defend their reporting or analysis? Oddly, both had holes in their stories, but the process should have been cake; either way, these two came off as rather pathetic in both instances.

WORST PLAY-BY-PLAY AND/OR COLOR ANALYST

Scott Zolak, 98.5 The Sports Hub: Say what you will about Edwards’ strange post-game monologues – and there is plenty to say – but they rarely take away from the broadcast. Zolak’s “WHERE’S THE BEEF CALL?!” did exactly that. And no, “Toucher and Rich,” it’s not that I’m “taking sports too seriously,” I just think that there is a way to call a game that appropriately captures the excitement of the moment without sounding like a bad Saturday Night Live sketch circa 1994.

Honorable Mention: Tommy Heinsohn, CSNNE

WORST PERSONALITY

Before giving my pick, I need to work this out in my head. On one hand, you have a dude like Eric Wilbur, who has taken trollin’ to Baylessian Levels. This is a guy who wrote the following statements this year …

Following the Browns win:

It’s OK, Pats fans. It’s OK to laugh at yourself, get frustrated when things don’t go the right way, particularly against the likes of the Cleveland Browns. It’s OK to have a sense of humor about things, and even more apropos, a sense of humility.

It’s OK to show emotion other than when reciting the Kraft Pledge of Allegiance. It’s OK to question the status of a quarterback and head coach who both haven’t won a Super Bowl in almost a decade. It’s OK to wonder just why in the hell you’re running the ball with a minute left, down by 12.

Because of drivel like this, I won’t remember the Patriots’ run as an unprecedented decade-plus of consistency, but rather a period where we actually diminished the value of regular season wins based on – I don’t know? Style points, I guess? Still, it’s worth nothing that Wilbur isn’t the only person guilty of throwing this type of garbage against the wall.

Here’s another gem:

Was it interference or not? Who cares? It was a bad pass. End of discussion.

I imagine Wilbur’s had a car accident at one point in his lifetime, and I picture the discussion developing like so: “Who cares that I ran a red light?!? You were going 10 miles above the speed limit!”

Wilbur also recently hypothesized that Rob Gronkowski’s venture into film in his upcoming role in the “Entourage” movie could be a tipping point as far as distractions go. Last spring, he ripped the David Ortiz contract, because the slugger got two years from the Sox, and insisted that the only reason Papi was still around was to sell tickets.

Here’s the thing, though: I think Wilbur is a really good writer who can put together an entertaining piece … he just tries too hard to identify what will get him clicks and attention and – ultimately – relevance. That, coupled with his relative obscure visibility, detracts from his candidacy atop this list.

Michael Felger and Tony Massarrotti’s strange crusade against the media this year makes them likely candidates, particularly when they questioned Mike Reiss’ reporting for reasons that remain unclear, but I don’t think listeners take the duo seriously enough anymore. They’re entertaining radio, full of salacious discourse but that’s about it.

Gary Tanguay flipped out a few times. That was fun. But he is too goofy to care about. Plus, the hair is a feat of itself.

Let’s be real, you knew how this game was ending before it began. If nothing else, Dan Shaughnessy made waves this year, and that’s why he’s your winner (and I mean that in the worst possible way). Look, we don’t need to rehash the issues with his much-discussed column about the staples of solid commentary: TELLING IT LIKE IT IS. In the end, we should be grateful that Dan took the time to share with us his mission, his plight; and that he addressed something that really needed to be brought to the forefront.

Writers should be objective and care only about the story at hand, not the subjects. Journalism 101, everyone.Shank did well with the Terry Francona book, but his cohorts, who rallied around him after his TRUTH TELLER COLUMN, need to remember why Shank is terrible and he sucks.

To properly understand why we say this requires one to peer back to the beginning of the year and recall the unnecessary, self-serving insertion into the Texans-Patriots Divisional playoff game. This, readers and media members, is why Shank sucks. Because Dan claims to be a neutral observer WHO CARES ONLY ABOUT THE STORY! … oh, right – and also someone who occasionally interjects himself into the storyline itself. What a joke.

Not to mention, he was a jellyfish during his self-defense of that debacle, quipping “I don’t know football” to a Houston radio station. Well, that’s great — good thing we established your incompetence as a sports columnist who doesn’t “know sports.”

Congrats, buddy. 2013 was your year, a swan song of sorts; shine on, you crazy little diamond.

As always, thanks for reading. @Hadfield__ 

NFL Regular Season Winds Down On Sunday

Weren’t we just in training camp, admiring the work of Zach Sudfeld and how he was going to fill in ably at tight end?

Now, the NFL regular season will be over on Sunday, and the Patriots, despite a myriad of injuries, are pretty much right where people expected them to be. With a win on Sunday against Buffalo, they can clinch a first-round bye. A loss likely puts them in the 3 or 4 seed.

Buffalo is likely to play the Patriots tough on Sunday, they’ve been better as of late, and Matt Chatham says that the Bills defensive line is the toughest for the Patriots to play in the AFC East.

Check all the coverage at PatriotsLinks.com.

This time of year means plenty of fill-in hosts on the sports radio airwaves. Some of the combinations are horrific, some are ones that I would actually listen to on a regular basis. It was great to hear Greg Dickerson on the air this week, and his pairing with PFW’s Andy Hart made for a good show.

DJ Bean is someone who I’ve really only been familiar with from his very good work covering the Bruins for WEEI.com. He’s taken some on-air shifts and has been impressive. Ryan Johnston and Mike Flynn work well together, as always.

The Globe’s Ben Volin has been on with Dale Arnold the last two mornings, and has been…OK. He seems nice enough, but doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table.

If I hear Butch Stearns take one more 10+ item list and read every single line off of it, I’m going to lose it.

Elsewhere:

NESN’s Jenny Dell in talks with Fox Sports 1 – Earlier this week, The Names Blog had this news, which is not surprising. There have been rumblings that Dell might want out, or that the new management types at NESN would like to make their own hire. If she’s going to continue to date Will Middlebrooks, it’s probably best she get out of the market anyway.

A superlative year in Boston sports media – Chad Finn looks at some of the breakout performances this year in the local media, and looks at both 98.5 and WEEI posting some strong ratings numbers.

And yes, this is happening today:

media-hockey-game