Sports Media Musings: The Mailbag, Chapter III

Welcome to the Monthly Weekly?? Sports Media Mailbag! Here are comments and emails from you, the readers, with insight on your favorite sports media personalities. To contribute to the mailbag, either shoot me an email at [email protected], hit me up on Twitter @Hadfield__, or leave a response in the comments section of any one of my columns.

Thanks for stopping by, GUYS! Tried to send everyone off to the weekend the right way. I covered a lot of ground and hit on a plethora of topics including the recent feuds in the local media, how I approach my column (boring and perhaps self-serving, but this was asked), the lack of solid NBA coverage in Boston, my Jason Whitlock/Gregg Doyel take-down piece from earlier this week, and other matters.

Keep it classy in the comments section … (well, sorta)

Ryan Hadfield, pelting John Dennis with stones from the comfort of his glass house. -JonB

Don’t be silly, my glass house is hardly comfortable, JonB.

Even a staunch Dennis supporter has no ground to stand on here. I just don’t see it. He used Tom Brady‘s email — sent out of courtesy as an explanation for not wanting to talk about his contract on the radio —  for ratings and attention. And he’s mad why, exactly? Because Fred Toettcher misread the situation as Brady sending an email to the station unprovoked? Really? Dennis had no business leaking the correspondence to begin with. DISCRETION, pal. DISCRETION.

And yeah, Toettcher’s take was equally obtuse. As I wrote yesterday: Anyone in the media who actually believes that NFL teams are sitting down at the bargaining table and suggesting to agents that Tom Brady’s team-friendly extension should be a universal standard is out of their mind. Period.

On Ordway’s last show you wrote“Media criticism often becomes problematic. We purvey analysis of other people’s, uh, analysis”… Do you mean how you write a blog about what other media people say about sports? Expand. - Dan

I’ll answer Dan’s question by being introspective for a minute here. Good media criticism – the type Bruce Allen has churned out in this space for over a decade — is tough. Long story long: I’m objective with myself and write what I think — not what you want to read and certainly not in any attempt to fulfill a preemptive narrative. (I leave that stuff to the “insiders” and “experts.”)

That said, I do have immense respect for the radio and television personas I write about, just as they (most likely) have respect for the athletes they rip. As a columnist, I’m afforded the luxury of time and insurance against any spontaneous mishaps. Once I hit publish it’s Out There, but until then, I have a safeguard and the ability to craft. However, their exposure to the whims of internal thoughts — good and bad — never lets up.

Now, do I have authority to rule and judge on media matters? I don’t know. I have a Masters degree in journalism and I’ve covered the locker rooms of each of The Big Four sports teams in Boston. I get the dynamics, but does that make me an expert? Hardly. But here’s the kicker: The aspiration of objectivity in sports media, as a whole, is dead. I’ve posed the question numerous times to reporters in the city, and the best explanation given was, as a reporter, “You root for the story.” That rationale becomes problematic awfully fast.

It truly is pathetic to see so few people in the media here that can talk about basketball. -Ryan

Lou Merloni, Donny Marshall, and Gary Tanguay didn’t do themselves any favors during the NBA trade deadline. There is no way around this. The proposed Paul Pierce trade that would’ve hauled in Marshon Brooks (at this juncture, a borderline bench guy), Mr. Kardashian (a piece), and a draft pick (who knows) was blasted by basketball writers across the nation. An utter joke.

Yet local personalities supported the deal. Why? BECAUSE BLOW THAT SUCKER UP, THAT’S WHY!

(Another reason could be because the media needs to write columns, fill air time, and tape daily shows TELLING US HOW IT IS. So remember, dear readers, they root for the story.)

Seeing how this is a great case study on sports media, let’s dip our toes into the water. The “blow it up” notion is a perfectly reasonable take to have in regards to the Celtics. But the “why” isn’t nearly as important as the “how.” Give me an actionable plan, don’t just talk in generalities. When I asked Tanguay what the exact steps Danny Ainge should’ve taken were on Twitter, all he said was “One step at a time.”

He answered with a fucking cliché. Not shocking — check out this video of Gare-Bear assessing Jeff Green’s recent improvement. Tanguay, as usual, talks in tropes, “He had courage. He couldn’t do this two months ago.” That’s bullshit analysis. Green didn’t go to Iraq, he didn’t take a “Magic Clutch Pill,” his personality didn’t change. None of that. He simply is channeling skill (some of which partially eroded from the fact that he was OUT OF BASKETBALL FOR A YEAR; and other portions of  new skill that he’s developed.)

It’s telling that Tommy Heinsohn (who may or may not think it’s 1972 at times), Brian Scalabrine (a complete novice to broadcast media), and Cedric Maxwell (a great player in the ’80s, but I doubt he’s scouring Basketball Reference for trends on the regular) are the best NBA analysts in the city. On another note, the beat writers and select columnists in the city are good.

(Pro Tip: If you want real hardcore stuff, your best bet is to check out Zach Lowe over at Grantland or one of the million talented NBA bloggers … Perhaps someone like Michael Pina, who writes for like 18 different ESPN TrueHoop affiliates.  These guys — and others — are junkies; the type of writers who aren’t dedicated to one team, and thus can take the time to use tape and still-frames to explain how things transpire on the hardwood.)

One person I think WEEI should look into trying to hire is Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. He’s from here and would bring good NBA insight. -RG via Twitter

I like this. Mannix on the midday would be intriguing and would instantly give ‘EEI the advantage. He is likable, and , heck, my friends and I could crush a 30-rack of Natural Ice (because we’re classy) and still make more sense than “Gresh and Zo” talking NBA. Plus, Merloni could more than carry the MLB talk.

While I’d admit to not being a regular reader, I do find that every time I read one of these, my main takeaway is that Ryan Hadfield sure is impressed with what Ryan Hadfield has to say. What exactly is the point of injecting yourself in the first part of the story? Because you thought someone was going to talk about you, then didn’t? Oh, well that’s worth keeping in there. - JC

Come on, JC! You don’t have to be a regular reader to know that I’m just as egotistical as the mediots I write about. I incessantly wrestle with the idea that Sir Paul McCartney wrote “Maybe I’m Amazed” not about a woman, love or anything else, but ABOUT ME BECAUSE I’M AMAZING (even though I wasn’t born yet … he had to know I was coming, right?). AND GET THIS — sometimes, while brushing my teeth I stop, just for a second, look in the mirror and say, “HEY YOU! YOU’RE SO FUCKING AWESOME!”

Hey Ryan, I’m a big fan of Bruce Allen and BSMW and glad to see another regular column from you. I’m ready to flip the dial back to EEI at 2p. Felger and Mazz are awful and I look forward to the new Mike and Mike!! I don’t get what Felger is up to? I thought he was bucking for a national show but maybe he likes being omnipresent here locally. Tony is AWFUL. I thought TSH would be better off trying to woo Minihane to take Tonys spot and get someone to challenge Felger’s blatant contrived arguments from this pompous ass. What can we do? Next up the “Lets get Tanguay off the air” rant!! Thanks for your time, Mark

Thanks, Mark. I get lots of emails about Michael Felger and Kirk Minihane. Look, you have to like someone and I enjoy both on different levels. It’s not like either is Greggggg Doyel or Skip Bayless. For my money, each is compelling — meaning they have something to say, and it’s generally interesting.

Don’t get me wrong, I get the vitriol. It’s becoming clearer by the day that Felger is incredibly agenda-driven and reaches for the low hanging fruit far too often. When you’re on the radio and television for 20 hours a day, that will happen. Exposure, more than anything else, may burn him in the end, and he could flame out just like Rex Ryan in New York (OH HEY IRONY: Felgy spent the better part of 2009-10 extolling the Jets — not the Patriots — for being the “model organization” going forward. Hmph.).

On the other hand, Minihane is more acerbic than Felger (mind you, no easy feat), and that will probably get him into trouble in the future, but he’s a smart dude, who shows diplomacy when necessary (Felger’s contrition comes off too facetious. It’s tough to take him seriously.) To his credit, Minihane is refreshingly adept at using statistics to support his takes and less pompous than others in the media. 

Bottom line? Neither backs down. And that’s grating to many, but if I’m being honest with you, I do listen to both guys … that says something.

Will the NFL combine/Te’o situation end up being the downfall of D&C? If anything it’s shining a light on Callahan’s blatant unapologetic homophobia and you’d have to think he’s close to talking himself right off the air. – Jim

I admit I’m not totally sure, but I believe you’re referring to Gerry Callahan saying something to the effect of, “No NFL team wants a player who is going to be the trailblazer for the gay community and come out.” I remember Minihane steering the duo away from the conversation. But again, I’m not sure if he had a larger point that I missed (I started writing my column shortly after and had to turn the radio off), but that’s a fine line to walk.

Either way, the downfall of “Dennis and Callahan” happened the moment “Toucher and Rich” usurped them in the ratings. Leading up to the launch of “The Sports Hub,” Callahan had made incredibly arrogant remarks about how he hadn’t heard of his new competition, and went as far as to sarcastically say he was “hiding under his desk” because he was scared. No real coming back from that.

It looks like I’ll be in the minority here, but I thought Whitlock’s column was pretty good (and I usually do). I’ll admit his writing is at the least an acquired taste, because his bombastic humor (such as being the self-appointed arbiter of race in sports) can be a little obnoxious. But he covered football for years as a reporter, so I think he does have some knowledge about closeted gays in the league, and he certainly has knowledge of how homophobic an NFL locker room is. Jason’s comments on Teo’s performance in the championship game are pure speculation, but I agree with his main point: Goodell can use his position as Commissioner as a kind of a bully pulpit to hold the NFL to broader standards in society. He certainly has the power to start changing the culture in that league, particularly by working with the players’ association. – Jim

For whatever reason, Whitlock isn’t a must read for me. I’m not saying he sucks, or anything. Obviously, he is doing something right. It’s just, to me, he looks for the cross-section of sports and culture more than anyone else (probably to secure that Pulitzer he’ll never get). Sometimes it’s warranted, but the style can get preachy and formulaic.

In this case, the Te’o column felt forced. Conflating the girlfriend hoax/scandal with presumed homophobia in the NFL was irresponsible. Yes, the league should take proactive steps to figure out its (perceived) issues with homophobia, but using Te’o as a conduit to broach the issue feels unfair to the Catfishee.

Like I previously wrote, under this course of action the headline would read: “NEW NFL PRESS RELEASE — GOODELL TO PLAYERS: FAKE INTERNET GIRLFRIENDS CAN HAPPEN TO YOU!!!! ALSO, IF YOU’RE GAY WE’RE TOTALLY COOL WITH IT!” 

(Let’s not disregard Whitlock’s word choice in the column, either …”Free the gays” ????? What was that?)

I read Deadspin each day and enjoy what they provide, but, it seems that in light of the Te’o story that we’re holding them up as the “model” or “future”, while they are so far from it. – BSMFAN

Deadspin makes it abundantly clear that they classify themselves as a tabloid — the whole nine yards — replete with sophomoric (read: smut) content. Now, occasionally, Deadspin produces a Te’o-esq feature.  And that’s great. But the simple model is as follows: The garbage pays for the investigative stuff. That’s how it works. Subsequently, at its core, Deadspin will never be the “future” … just part of the future (as it’s currently part of the present). I suppose the scary takeaway is that, these days, Deadspin exposes the mainstream outlets for shooting for the moon and more often landing in the mud … as opposed to the stars.

(By the way: BSMFAN is referring to my remarks about the editor of Deadspin, Tommy Craggs’, Q&A with the National Sports Journalism Center.  It’s fantastic, and if you’re a media/journalism addict, like myself, I highly recommend taking 10 minutes to pick through it.)

*************

On that note, as always, thanks for reading! We’ll do it again sooner rather than later. If you’re bored Out There, give me a shout on Twitter @Hadfield__.

  • FreeKirk

    FREE KIRK MINIHANE
    I am not a fan of Minihane’s but someone has to free him. D&C are in a total tailspin. I know it is a slow time of the year but this media vs. media MMA thing is painful radio. I even tried Kuhner this morning on ‘RKO, but his voice kills me. WEEI has to get Minihane out of there, they are killing his crediblility, they run right over the guy. Ryan – keep up the good work, it is hard to establish a voice in any market let alone Boston.

    • http://www.jimmacleod.com JimMacLeod

      Don’t worry, this is garbage time for WEEI. Minihane is in there to get some reps during a blowout. He’ll be the “starter” before you know it.

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

      I like Minihane but have no clue why he’s there.

      One week in and I’ve yet to see where it will work. 10 years and a sudden change? won’t work. You either have to blow things up or don’t change it at all.

      The “lets act like it doesn’t work so things change” is palpably visible if you watch the simulcast but you can hear the awkwardness in the studio over the radio via the many pauses and topic changes.

      • latetodinner

        What amazes me is one week as third man in with D&C has made Kirk Minihane a person worthy of our sympathy. The flash boy/ Winter only lasted 5 weeks conversation this morning was painful. The MMA/bracket chat was a train wreck and I do not mean that in the good way. They have not even changed the name of the show to incorporate Minihane’s “equal” status. The powers that be have to see it is not working.

        As an aside…could someone explain to me how letting Pete Sheppard go last year was a “cost cutting move” but the station can afford a third “full time host” and a separate flash boy on their morning show (which does less revenue than the drive time show) and which show’s ratings are falling like a rock. I still would like to know the real story behind Pete’s exit last year because it clearly was not money.

  • NEPatsfan

    Two things: 1) I don’t get the vitriol for Felger. I don’t get the vitriol for anyone just because they have a different opinion on sports. Take it with a grain of salt, it’s supposed to be fun…to me Felger and Mazz are funny, entertaining radio. No one is a bigger Pats fan than me, and I do think Felger is way off the mark when talking about them sometimes…I just don’t get why that causes anger. It’s fun to see him proven wrong when the games are decided on the field. People that get angry at Felger are the same people who get mad when the Pats are too low in the ESPN power rankings. 2) Fred Toettcher’s point on the Brady contract is absolutely legit. As a Pats fan, I love what Brady did, but if the Ravens end up franchising Joe Flacco, Brady’s contract cost Flacco over $1 million by bringing the franchise number down. Granted, this only affects a select few QBs, but it’s real- not a made up stance by Fred.

    • Mike

      I’m with you, patsfan. What’s more entertaining than someone who’s intelligent, well-spoken andrepeatedly wrong, and actually owns up to it? (Beats anything you’ll ever hear or read from the right-wing political arena!) Felger even calls himself out now over the “Flacco is crappo” jibe he made so frequently this fall. And I don’t see the need, or the logic, for Mazz to constantly argue with his co-host, as if on-air dissension is the only valid means of discussion. Back in the day I loved listening to the fat guys (Glen, Fred & Steve) talk about football, but there were some days when Ordway was going to such tortuous effort to create a dispute, that it was hard to believe him. But I believe Felger when he says that he’s being honest: he’s not creating a character (as Ordway admitted he did). And I like the combative way he expresses himself. I think he needs a beta co-host to soften his habit of being so absolute, especially when Mazz and Beetle just let him ride off on some erroneous tangent. Because the flour’s in the cake.

    • latetodinner

      Fred Toettcher’s point was myopic bordering on inane. For each dollar Brady cost Flacco (I will be shocked if he plays under a franchise tag this year…and if he doesn’t then Brady cost Flacco $0)…he gains for Wes Welker, Aqib Talib, Sebastian Vollmer, and any other middle class free agent the Pats sign instead of giving someone vet minimum replacement money. I am amazed that after 11 years of watching Bill Belichick year in and year out build the deepest roster in the game because he does not top load contracts, balanced by vet minimum deals ala the Jets, that idiotic radio hosts with zero sports training or credibility still make absurd observations and people pretending to be Patriots fans listen and say “hey he makes a good point”. No Fred’s point is beyond dumb because he does not understand that as long as the Patriots spend to the Cap more NFL players at least on the Patriots roster (and by extension on other NFL rosters when similar players compare their accomplishments to Patriots players in terms of contract negotiations) will in turn be getting more money. It is only the selfish, self promoting, over compensated QB’s who may be looking at a slight devaluation…but I am sure the likes of Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and after this off season Joe Flacco will make sure that Brady’s team first attitude will not become a trend in the league. After all why should they emulate someone who has had 10 straight 10 win seasons, been to 5 Superbowls and 7 AFC championship games when they can follow the lead of great me first players like Peyton Manning (1SB and 6 1 and playoff dones).

      Fred made his point to be contrarian. He is the embodiment of moral relevancy. All sides deserve an equal hearing no matter how absurd the argument is. The problem is there are such things as right and wrong/ smart and stupid. Fred’s point was both wrong and stupid. For that he deserved to be bitch slapped. Had it been someone other than John Dennis doing it…I doubt you or anyone else would be sticking up for Fred.

      • NEPatsfan

        I’m glad you think you know me so well. Actually I don’t even mind John Dennis that much just can’t stand his partner. But I did find Dennis’ rant ridiculous. Whether Toettcher’s point is right or wrong, there was nothing Dennis should have taken as a personal affront. It’s a guy with a different opinion on a sports topic…get over it. It was a shameless, desperate attempt at getting attention.

        • latetodinner

          I am not sure where you got the idea that I thought I knew you… I thought your point was wrong and I made my case as to why. I did not comment on Dennis’ behavior other than to say that had it not been Dennis who ripped Fred T, then people might not be so defensive. My greater point was Toettcher should not have opened his mouth. His opinion was that stupid and ill informed. He offered nothing to the conversation, had no real insight, and was just trying to be reactionary. Dennis does not react if Toettcher says nothing. If you want to argue whether what Dennis did or said was right…that is a different story…he should have been fired on the spot for releasing the Brady email without Brady’s permission. However, my reaction was to your point that you thought Toettcher’s argument had merit. It didn’t and it deserved to be slammed as I did.

        • Mike

          Very astute observations as usual, ltd. You’ve touched on why I dislike Toucher and Rich so much: they’re provocateurs, solely. (Even their model Howard Stern is an accomplished interviewer and has some intelligent commentary sandwiched in amongst the parade of lesbian strippers.) And that’s another reason why I enjoy Felger so much: dislike his opinion as you might, it’s generally well-thought out and he’s sincere. He’s not just banging a gong for the sake of the noise. But as a few others have alluded to, I think Dennis sees his exit coming up pretty quickly and he’s showing the true ugliness of his colors and the pettiness he’s willing to use. I get the feeling that,like Bobby V from about late July on of last year, he’s daring his bosses to fire him.

  • KJ

    I’m just back from vacation and was eager to hear what WEEI’s three man morning show would be like. It was painful to listen to. Do listeners really care to hear about feuds radio hosts have with other hosts? The Minihane v. Haggerty garbage was a turn-off last summer. Some of these guys complain about Jack Edwards making his game calls about him, now they make their shows all about themselves. I’ll give it a little more time, but I suspect I’ll start listening to music in the morning again.

    • Guest

      One week in and I’ve yet to see where it will work or someone praising the move. I like Minihane but have no clue why he’s there. They clearly got “stuck” with him and it seems like “lets act like it doesn’t work so things change”. The number of times each hour there is an awkward pause or topic change…

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

    On Mannix:

    Absolutely. Instant NBA credibility, young, known already. Only issue? He’s gone quite a bit via the boxing/basketball coverage for SI. His employer is good about renting talent out (see his fill-ins for DP show, McLovin on DP show, etc) The only thing, besides his schedule, I could see stopping him is SI lending talent out to a full-time ESPN affilliate. Also, if you did not know, he does a national show on NBCSports Radio at 6pm on Sundays. I’m going to assume that the sale of SI to the new publisher might make him reconsider options because you know they’ll eventually downsize.

  • tiki

    you’d like to think that pissing off their #1 albeit paid guest and the biggest megastar in town would hasten Deno’s departure. The guy looked like a buffoon spinning his shame at going public with the results. -

  • Linda Austin

    “Thanks for stopping by, GUYS!”

    Hmmmm, why the shouting Ryan?? Very insightful…..ha ha ha ha ha

  • Luther

    My days of reading this site are over. Hadfield is unreadable. Readership is officially single digits. Over and out.

    • http://bostonsportsmedia.com/ Bruce Allen

      I’m sorry you feel that way. I can’t do it all myself anymore, and both Ryans have lended some fresh and younger perspective to things. For what it’s worth, February had some of the highest numbers in the history of the site, going back almost 11 years now.