It’s Time For WEEI to Say Goodbye To Dennis and Callahan

Disclaimer: I fully realize the difficulties of contracts and moving people around, especially in this economy for bottom-line companies. I realize the actions below are highly unlikely to happen. But if talk show hosts can proclaim that it’s time to get player X out of town, why can’t we have the same exercise with media folks?

It’s time.

If WEEI wants to ever have a chance to climb out of the hole they’ve dug themselves into against The SportsHub, they need to make some major changes. It starts in the morning.

For years, John Dennis and Gerry Callahan has represented the very worst in institutional arrogance. They trumpeted their numbers when they were doing well, mocked the competition, said and did what they wanted, and were generally untouchable no matter what they did.

Because there was no real competition against them, they won easily. They faced the ultimate lineup of tomato cans over the years.

Even as recently as last spring, they were stubbornly and arrogantly clinging to the notion that they were number one, even if the facts said otherwise.

But now, they are eons behind Toucher and Rich in the latest ratings book,  (T&R finished first at 9.1, D&C sixth at 5.7) and I cannot foresee a scenario in which they ever overtake T&R again.

They remain a solid show with dedicated, loyal listeners, but winning their timeslot, or even being competitive, doesn’t appear to be in their future. If that’s OK with WEEI, then fine, but I don’t think it is.

The problem WEEI faces, and they face it in both of their drivetime shows, is big contracts. Dennis and Callahan received contract extensions when the simulcast deal with NESN came through. According to Chad Finn’s chat on Friday, these contracts are fairly airtight, at least compared to Glenn Ordway, who reportedly had to take a paycut when his own ratings were impacted by the wildly popular Felger and Mazz.

WEEI has tried a few things to mix things up, such as limiting the political talk on the show, using Jon Meterparel’s departure as an opportunity to give auditions to fill the spot, but they continue to fall.

The hosts are openly resentful at the management edict to not talk politics. While they are polarizing when they do venture into that area, they are passionate, stir debate and have intensely loyal followers.

In the absence of political talk, it seems much of their discussions in the past year have centered around day after day of the Sandusky case, or telling us just how evil the latest criminal is or was. They don’t have passion for sports, they don’t appear to even enjoy them all that much. If they do talk sports, they’re attempting to be contrarians and anger anyone who is a “homer.” Talking sports is something they simply do not enjoy.

If WEEI wants to ever have a chance to compete with T&R, they need to get rid of Dennis and Callahan. As noted several times already, this is easier said than done.

So what can they do? A creative solution, one that makes way too much sense to actually happen, is for Entercom to move The Dennis and Callahan Morning Show over to WRKO.

Yes, it’s a step down. The AM signal is not what they have now, and that station has been floundering even worse than WEEI in recent years. But they would have free rein to discuss the topics they want to talk about, and will have a built-in audience that will transition over with them, and give WRKO an instant shot in the arm.

WEEI can then start from scratch and build a morning show in an attempt to compete with Toucher and Rich.

It’s an incredibly risky move, and they’d probably get worse before they got better, which is not the way you do things in the radio world. But they’re not going to get back on top with how things are right now. The question is, how important is being on top? There’s a difference between its importance business-wise as opposed to ego-wise. Is there that much of a difference to the bottom line?

It won’t happen, but I’d love to see WEEI really shake things up and start over in the mornings. As Finn notes, a shakeup is more likely to happen in the afternoon with Ordway, even though I now listen to that show more than Felger and Mazz.

Based on last week however, one thing is clear. Dan Sileo is not the answer. Hopefully they’re not even thinking that.

  • http://twitter.com/jmc51577 Jason Campos

    Spot. On. Nice job Bruce.

  • http://www.bostonsportsmediawatch.com/ bsmfan

    I’ve said it on a few posts before to move D+C over to RKO because they can’t stop talking about non-sports stuff that surely can’t move a FM dial. Even as of this morning, they spent the segments before and after Bedard’s 8AM segment talking about ‘new laws’ enacted and the Sandusky stuff. Even with the contracts, do you think that RKO’s now lack of competition with WTKK going Urban might influence the decision to try them there?

  • http://twitter.com/IToldYouMonsoon Cory M

    Excellent idea, Bruce. I personally would actually listen to their show more at RKO if it was the old mix of politics and sports that they used to dish out.

    In fact, right now with 1200 gonzo and 96.9 shutting down its talk radio format, there is a HUGE opportunity in the morning drive for right wing news/political talk. D&C could easily fill that gap. The new Feinberg and McPhee show is AWFUL and could be moved to late evenings or something. Howie is still entrenched in afternoon drivetime slot.

    I know I am in the minority of most people sports talk radio listeners who don’t care about politics or have the same leanings as me, but I enjoyed D&C’s political talk and thought they were solid at it. (Wasn’t headlines their most highly rated segment or something?) That being said, I understand the decision to stop the political talk on EEI. They just don’t fit in there right now. You might as well try and make the best of an awful situation and see if you can utilize their talents elsewhere. Then, like you said, bring in some new blood in EEI for the am sports talk slot.

    • http://twitter.com/IToldYouMonsoon Cory M

      Heh–just saw that Feinberg and McPhee has already been replaced! By Jeff Kuhner apparently who is now on from 6-9 and then weirdly again 11-12 while some business show fills in from 9-11. Simple solution: move Kuhner to 9-12 and D&C to 6-9. Can the business show.

      • http://www.facebook.com/anthrocoon Bob Nelson

        They get paid to run the biz show. Be glad they’re not more brokered.

        • http://twitter.com/IToldYouMonsoon Cory M

          Thanks. Interesting–did not know that.

    • http://www.bostonsportsmediawatch.com/ bsmfan

      A few of us had the discussion before if you can have an amicable mix of politics and sports. I’d argue against it on principle that sports talk is for sports, even on morning shows where it is not uncommon to cover a menagerie of material. Moreover, would you trust most sports hosts to cover things fairly with how bad the climate is and polarized things are? Exhibit #1 would be what went on with Curt Schilling. Depending on the bias of each host/station, they each covered the issue completely different.

      • http://twitter.com/IToldYouMonsoon Cory M

        No I agree. And actually if they moved to RKO and some type of quasi mix of politics/sports show, I think it would be about 75-25 politics if anything. it’s clearly what they prefer to talk about at this point.

  • http://twitter.com/saundep PS

    Props to T&R for keeping things fresh. While they don’t talk sports as much as I would like, given their limited knowledge, they do things like the upcoming promo with Scal. They are edgy and while I hated them at BCN I actually enjoy them now. I think Gresh and Zo have really matured and Gresh doesn’t grate on me as much as he used to. I can not stand Felger and Mazz so that will show you I am not a 98.5 honk. I think the afternoon slot is the biggest opportunity for WEEI to make a dent. I think if you had a show that didn’t abuse or make fun of fans up again Felger and Mazz you could take that time slot.

    • Steve from Stoneham

      Gresh is unlistenable his voice wears on you ,Zo is a back up QB and a 2nd string broadcaster . every time i tune in i tune out , Retard show , most times talking about ridiculous things or talking about music .

      Felger repeats himself or subjects over and over has become boring . i think he’s weak in sports knowledge. Bag of Wind

  • Ben

    Great post.

  • mallen

    I like both sports and political talk radio, but I don’t much like them mixed. Likewise, I like a good steak and clean ears, but I don’t want to buy a beef Q-tip.
    I think D & C have “evolved” themselves into a corner. Or to quote Joyce from the old Hill Street Blues show “some people change, some people mutate.”

  • LaurenceGlavin

    “Free freign”? I think you mean “free rein” like on a horse. Kings and Emperors “reign”.

    • http://bostonsportsmedia.com/ Bruce Allen

      Right. But apparently so many people use “reign” it has become acceptable. http://www.dailywritingtips.com/free-rein-or-free-reign/

      • Bob Walton

        I never was a fan of Dennis and Callahan because of the way they would beat us over the head with their intolerant political views. I have been listening to Toucher and Rich pretty much since they came onto mornings in 2008 on WBCN. That said however I was shocked when it was written how D and C are not allowed to talk politics on WEEI anymore. That is shocking to me because I believe in freedom of speech and the old saying “I don’t agree with what you say but I defend you right to say it”.

        • Winning_Again

          It’s not an issue of freedom of speech in this case. They are employees of a sports talk station. They have pre and post show meetings where they outline what sports news stories and games they should discuss/debate. I think it’s pretty fair that station management direct their employees in a certain direction. If they are not sticking to the plan, then listeners may not tune in, which in this case has happened. Thus affecting advertising dollars and the shows effectiveness.

          If Toucher and Rich started talking every show about arts and crafts, no-one would listen because they are advertising the show as Sports Talk.

        • Bob Walton

          The brilliance of T and R is that they bring as much humor out of sports as they can and make it fun. I was in stitches this morning when they were playing all of these crazy soundbites from Ray Lewis and making fun of him. Fred has a way of just going off on people and Rich and Wallach play off of him. I just can’t listen to stats and breakdowns all day anymore.

        • http://www.bostonsportsmediawatch.com/ bsmfan

          I think most of us agree on this. It’s their show and up to the hosts, producers and management to chose the content of their show. If they want to incorporate politics, they face two outcomes: bolster their base with people who enjoy or like this, but then also run the risk of alienation.

          As mentioned above, it’s not that they sprinkle in politics once a month. It’s almost daily, and, Bruce makes the point above that its part of the reason they’re getting killed in the ratings. A case could also be made that their brand of politics is not the best, considering where they are, but this board is the absolute wrong forum and I won’t go there. (On counter to this “bias”, quite a few of us, including me, did go after F+M when they were going nuts on the Curt Schilling/Tim Thomas stuff because it got political.)

          I found a great read on why it’s best to just avoid politics on sports talk:

          http://www.talkers.com/2012/11/13/the-risk-of-talking-politics-on-sports-stations/

  • Nite

    Great idea, with one addendum: Put Dale Arnold in the morning drive slot. Pair him with a guest co-host each day.

    • JonFrum

      I just puked in my mouth.

  • Sports radio listener

    d and c is the worst – i flip it on if the other stations are on commercial and it is as bad as ever. the best am show is actually mike and mike on eei

  • latetodinner

    Bruce….on the service I like your solution. Moving them to RKO helps RKO and it opens up WEEI to a new and ideally better morning show. Several thoughts on your post:
    – as bad as the Boston ratings seem they are still solid. Add in Providence, Springfield, Portland, the Cape, NESN and NH and the morning show…heck all of the WEEI shows…are printing money. So unless management knows they will get the same returns with a new show I cannot see them making this move.
    – I wonder if a simpler solution is finding a different cohost for Callahan. When Dale Arnold or Bob Ryan fills in for Dennis…it is a great show. That might mitigate some of the cost issues as well.
    – 96.9 failing as a talker points more to bad management than format. Sad to see it go…will have to stream John Bachelor on WABC out of New York now.
    – The Big Show is still unlistenable. I have no idea how you can be listening to that over F&M. They do not say anything.

  • Winning_Again

    Today, while driving between 12-1 for work, I tuned into 103.7 for my weekly “Give M&M A Chance because Gresh and Zo are on commercial” opportunity and heard RedSox hot stove. YAY!!! NFL Playoffs and Celtics are crumbling, yet Josh Hamilton’s contract occupies most of their airtime. Not surprised their numbers stink!

    • JonFrum

      We can only assume that they’re told to do Red Sox talk year round, no matter what. The thing is, there is a segment of the audience that really wants Red Sox talk, 24/7/365. The problem for WEEI is that it’s a loyal but limited segment of the audience. They call in, but they make other listeners tune out.

      • Winning_Again

        I don’t mind RedSox talk during shows on the off-season. It’s hard for me to truly gauge how much M&M talk Redsox, only because I refuse to listen to that show. So what usually happens is I flip over during commercials and hear off-season LukeWarm Stove talk, and then tune out. I honestly have no idea if they spend their whole show on this topic. Can anyone confirm of deny that my assumption is accurate? Though I doubt there is any tortured soul subjecting themselves to 4 hours of Mut and Lou.

        Bruce, I know you posted the link to Chad Finn’s article last week, but you guys forgot to COUNT PROVIDENCE!!!!!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/michael.sutherland.90410 Michael Sutherland

      It’s painful listening to Muttnansky. His ignorance is staggering. He’s like ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, having no discernible talent for radio. Utility Lou is Utility Lou–decent enough, a likable guy, but not good enough to carry the operation. I frequently think bringing Dale back to replace Mutt would make a good pairing. It’d be better than Gresh and Zo. Aside from football, I’m not interested in anything those two have to say about anything. Gresh is bombastic but Zolak strikes me as oblivious and from time to time mean-spirited. I don’t find him entertaining at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.henry.9250 Robert Henry

    Meter was the sacrificial lamb for D&C. Now they are on thin ice

    • http://twitter.com/IToldYouMonsoon Cory M

      Finn seems to insinuate the same thing. Was he for all intents and purposes “fired” or “let go”?

  • Fiscal_Cliff_Failure

    Ratings are very important , but the question becomes … what can replace the show …. we shall see

  • http://twitter.com/iamjoonlee Joon Lee

    I think EEI is really grooming up Minihane to get his own show. If they were to get rid of D&C, I think he would be the first person they would turn to.

    • Winning_Again

      I tend to agree. He seems to appear all throughout the day when a host is out. Plus, his takes are very similar to Felger when he returned to WEEI from ESPN, and prior to departing to TSH for his own role. “It’s like deja-vu all over again.”

      • nutcracker

        Maybe they’ll pair Minihane and Jack Edwards. Ka-Boom!

      • http://twitter.com/iamjoonlee Joon Lee

        I think Minihane is the closest thing that EEI has to Felger. Then again, I’m probably biased in that I have interviewed him and he’s been very nice to me, but I whole-heartedly believe that he should have his own show.

  • Shamarko

    Good Breer post in the previous comment section on the Bird stuff.

  • Tree

    I find T&R childish. I find D&C predictable. The worst, however, it Felger and Mazz. How on God’s green Earth are these two “wildly popular?” I thought Boston Sports fans were smarter than that.

    • Steve from Sioneham

      I agree Felger and Mazz BORING! their ratings might be good for only one reason , who wants to listen to smarty pants Michael Holly He has got two hosts fired now , he survives only cause he comes dirt cheap .

  • GRBSPR

    The beautiful thing about columns like these is that media hacks themselves cannot stay away from anything that shines a mirror on their work. Like moths to a flame or vain girls to a mirror, you know these media cretins have been bludgeoned by this column. That’s a marvelous feeling, knowing that rotund Dennis and sickly Calahan read and absorbed every word above.

  • Rick

    I agree with Bruce. The political/social issues are not covered very well anyway, and mainly seem like discussions from high schoolers on the bus. Put them on WRKO and let them read their TMZ and NYPost excerpts and come across as outraged. But really, they are disingenuous and uninformed. The almost week long coverage of the Newtown tragedy was a recent example of poorly done commentary. While certainly a tragic story, it was better covered on regular talk radio, not a sports talk show. D&C don’t even have the facts right. I also am not sure why the simulcast on NESN is a big deal and reason for contract extensions. They have faces made for radio and the video does not add anything to the show.

  • Ryan O

    Tocher and Rich is the worst sports show ever created. They are Opie and Anthony rip offs with no talent. They are a couple of skateboard punks trying to talk sports. They stink!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000016399341 R.j. Gib

    I suppose there was some gee-whiz marketing study done several years back that mandated that am “sports” radio programs must be sports/political/culture-talk hybrids.
    Doesn’t mean they still all suck, whether it’s D&C or T&R. Would all-sports really be that bad?

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.sutherland.90410 Michael Sutherland

    It’s been years since I spent even five minutes at a time listening to those old hens in the morning on EEI. Other than golf, and Callahan’s genuine liking for basketball, Bruce is absolutely right: D&C don’t like sports, and don’t enjoy discussing them. Dennis can be a decent interviewer but his infatuation with is own voice and opinions leads to way too many two- and three-part questions. He’s tedious at best. The day he said on air that “baseball sucks”–an exact quote–I dismissed them for good.

    That said, Toucher & Rich isn’t a sports show either–it’s a gag show for teenagers with an overtone of sports.

  • Chuck

    Bruce, you are way off on D & C . If you add in the radio number plus TV number D& C blow T&R away. T&R is a snoozefest along with Greish &Zo. I only show worth listening to F&M on the sportshub. Please get your facts straight and open up your ears. D&C is the best show on WEEI!!!

    • Rick Mc

      How do you know? What are the ratings for the show on NESN? How come nobody either in the media or related to the show have said that?

  • Corbin

    I can’t believe I missed this discussion while under-the-weather with the flu.

    There was a time when Dennis & Callahan WERE Toucher & Rich. Granted it was nearly twenty years ago, but back in the early days of their pairing, D&C headed-up a morning drive program that was the definition of “guy-talk” radio. In fact, I can remember the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine doing a cover-story on D&C and “guy-talk” radio. Something like “Talk Radio Goes Blue” or “Radio Talks a Blue Streak”. This would have been around ’95 or ’96. The gist of the piece was that politics and serious issues-oriented talk were a thing of the past, with the winning formula for a successful drive-time show being comprised of a combination of sports talk, entertainment and lifestyle chat, and ribald comedy bits.

    There’s a reason that D&C climbed to the perch that they once enjoyed in this town. Namely, they used to have that winning formula down cold. They’d talk sports and actually seemed to enjoy it. It seemed like they interviewed “celebs” – comedians, actors (Lenny Clarke, Michael Chiklis, the Farrelly Brothers, etc.) – more. They had more comedy bits with characters (Bobby from Chelmsford, Nigel the Hooligan, Bryce Ferry, etc.). It was a truly entertaining show back then and the ratings reflected that. For some reason, they moved away from that tack into more politically-driven talk and the slide began.

    • Rick Mc

      The show wasn’t on the air in 1996. It went to morning drive in late 1999 when Imus was dropped.

      • Corbin

        Thanks for the correction, Rick. Admittedly, I was working off of my memory – which, at my age, is a dicey proposition. I knew that D&C had initially gone on the air in the 10:00 AM to Noon slot, but it was in 1997 as opposed to 1995. They then moved to the 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM morning drive slot in Fall of 1999.

        Anyway, I did a Google search and the article in question – “Talk Radio’s Blue Streak” – ran in the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine on February 13, 2000.

        And my point still stands: D&C climbed to a place of prominence in Boston radio with a show that embraced the “guy-talk” radio staples of sports talk, entertainment/lifestyle talk, and ribald comedy. In other words, what Toucher & Rich are doing now. When D&C moved away from that & more and more of the show shifted to political pontificating, their slide began.

        Now, the question is, who made the decision to alter D&C’s format? Was it management, the hosts, or a combination thereof who decided to amp up the political bloviating at the expense of sports talk that actually sounded as if D&C enjoyed talking about it, engaging guests from the world of entertainment, and clever comedic bits? Was the decision made as a matter of personal preference, or did personnel leave/get fired that had been responsible for steering the shows overall direction, booking guests, producing comedy, etc.?

        Whatever the case, the D&C show today is not the D&C show that went on the air – and enjoyed such success – back in the show’s heyday.

  • whitey b

    Time for “The Clipper” to set sail! Sink that ass-clown!

  • cj

    I agree…the show is lame time for new blood

  • rojoreno

    dont buy your argument–T and R a just too sophomoric. as much as you might dislike their non-mainstream politics (which i find refreshing–whereas the 98.5 crews generally go-along with the crowd) d and c do have way better sports connections and understanding than the morning 98.5 crew. you’d be better served if you took a shot at Mut–very annoying–although Merloni has improved markedly and deserves a mature partner.