Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 2 vs. the Rockets

Celtics (1-0) vs. Houston (0-1)
April 11, 1980
Boston Garden

The Celtics held serve and defeated the Rockets, 95-75, to claim a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference semi-final match-up.  Only leading by three points at intermission, the Celtics hit Houston with an offensive barrage in the second half, featuring a total of six scorers in double-figures.

Pete Maravich and Larry Bird from INSIDE SPORTS
[Read more...]

Sports Media Musings: The Sports Hub soars in the Winter, WEEI Hibernates

[Update]: Chad Finn has the official numbers from Arbitron posted on Touching All The Bases. 

From the piece:

The Arbitron winter ratings period was a rout for 98.5 The Sports Hub.

The Sports Hub finished first overall in the men 25-54 demographic for the period of Jan. 3-March 27, earning a 9.0 share. Each of its four daily programs finished tied or alone in the top spot in their respective time slots.

WEEI (93.7) finished tied for sixth place with WMJX with a 5.2 share. That’s slightly up from its seventh-place tie and 4.9 share in the fall.

[End Update]

Because fledgling columnists (like myself) love lame gimmicks, let’s just play nine innings with this, shall we?

1. The Story

“The Sports Hub” winning the winter ratings book isn’t shocking. My thoughts on the daily crusade against ownership and (I don’t know?!) fellow media members taking place in the afternoon is well documented. We don’t need to rehash the winning side’s pros and cons. Just know that Michael Felger reminds me of the political pundit in “V For Vendetta” shrewdly saying, “You want my opinion? You’re watching my show, I imagine you do,” then, minutes later, callously reciting his credo: “ENGLAND PREVAILS!”

Bizarre, but very effective.

2. The Real Story

Guest Street is in shambles. Pete Sheppard wasn’t the first radio host in the history of the medium to quit on the air, and he won’t be the last. It’s indicative of the volatile feeling that lives in the New Balance building. Morale, most likely, has reached a new nadir.

Let’s review quickly: The “Dennis and Callahan” show jumped the shark long ago, and their attempt to bring crude, if not inappropriate, discussion to the table (something totally out of their lane), feels misplaced. That failure is not particularly tough to imagine when you got banter like this on your side:

Yikes.

The other money maker, the afternoon drive program, “Salk and Holley,” has the advantage of a fresh start to work with — mind you, something we’ve been sure to afford them in this space. Judging their show at the starting line is a fool’s errand. But there have been rumors that Mike Salk isn’t the most popular personality at the station, and that he is too ESPN Radio (and not in the good way). Is this resistance to change? I don’t know. Either way, what a complete, utter meltdown.

The precipitous fall of the former MONOPOLIZER  leader of sports talk radio in Boston is quite remarkable. 2009 feels like 1999. In his “Sports Talk Radioactive” column in Feb. of 2009, published then for the short-lived, but underrated OT Magazine (produced by the Boston Globe), Chad Finn wrote the following:

[WEEI} think the station’s success somehow reflects on them, that we tune in for their shrill banter, contrived characters, and prefabricated opinions. We don’t — never have, never will. We listen because we love sports, our beloved teams are enjoying a remarkable run of success, and WEEI happens to have both access and broadcast rights. Most of all, we listen because there is no other decent local alternative with a signal stronger than that of a ham radio.

Prescient is the word I would use. The scary thing was everyone knew this much (well besides certain WEEI personalities and Jason Wolfe, evidently). But no one, not even Finn, could have foreseen the alacrity at which Entercom’s hold on the market dissipated.  It’s startling, really.  Since the spring books of 2011 were released, the same period the Bruins made their Stanley Cup run, “The Sports Hub” (for the most part) has controlled the key 25-54 men demographic. The following summer period “The Sports Hub” was victorious again and WEEI finally got on the FM dial.

No longer would signal issues or debate of whether to count the Providence numbers in WEEI’s market share be part of the discussion pertaining to the radio wars. The playing field was level, compelling discourse would win out.

3. Common Formula

Here’s the thing, though: Compelling sports talk didn’t really win out. I’m not learning anything about advanced statistics, insights into the locker room, or, really much of anything besides aimless conjecture, polarizing contrianism, and baseless predictions. But what “The Sports Hub” have accomplished is simple: From the top of its roster to the bottom, 98.5 has out-gooned the Goons of Guest Street.

You remember that Outside the Lines piece about WEEI that ran in its heyday, which showed Michael Holley proclaiming something to the notion of, “It’s not what you know, it’s what you’re willing to say!”  98.5 took that idea to new places.

“Toucher and Rich” have made a living testing what athletes will say in their skits, drunken fans will say after games, and whoever else may cross their path will say. “Felger and Mazz” will say just about anything, even if it’s not true or contradictory to previous declarations, and especially if it’s salacious — just ask Heidi Watney or Mike Reiss and Tom E. Curran.

Remember, it was 98.5 who reported and then blew the Clay Buchholz pool party story out of proportion (even for the Boston media, this was over-the-top). Lou Merloni was the first to call it what it really was – a non-story. It’s just too bad for Gary Tanguay that he didn’t get the memo, leading to this hilariously rewatchable segment.

(Yes, Gary. The trainer. He went to the trainer. Oh, by the way. Per Tanguay, Buchholz is never going to take advantage of his potential, guys! It’s a bad look when Shank is the voice of reason. Never mind that, less than a year later, Buchholz almost became the 30th pitcher in MLB history to pitch multiple no-hitters.)

 4. All The Right Wrong Moves

In the last four years, WEEI has made the wrong move at every turn. They never should have moved Dale Arnold, waited too long to get on the FM signal, curiously brought back Pete Sheppard (yeesh!), drastically overvalued Glenn Ordway, oddly waited (still waiting?!) to properly use Kirk Minihane (the only media member, sadly, capable of challenging Felger), and failed to recognize and execute any “Moneyball” moves. (For example: I know that Marc Bertrand pined for the night shift at “The Sports Hub” when Damon Amendolara went national. I’m not sure if Beetle is still part-time, I know he wasn’t a full-time employee up until last summer, but he’s young, entertaining, and seems well-versed in the takes he can bring to a show. He goes at Felger. And did I mention he’s YOUNG? Wouldn’t hurt to inject some youth into your lineup, Jeff Brown.)

It has been an astonishing lesson on mismanagement from The Suits at Entercom. More alarming, is that these weren’t bad mishaps in retrospect. No, no, no. None of these personnel decisions — not one — were met with great adulation. Not from me, not from listeners.

So here we are.

5. Pat Summerall, the anti-Jack Edwards, passed away.

(For the record, that’s not a shot at Jack Edwards. Hockey requires a frantic and voluminous narrative.)

I was always infatuated with how Pat Summerall said so much by saying so little. Thought this was a clever orbit by Chuck Klosterman

As always, the natural questions turn to legacy: Were he and John Madden the best play-by-play booth in NFL history? Historians will point to Howard Cosell, Don Meredith, and Frank Gifford because it’s Howard freakin’ Cosell (Side Note: How many years does it take Cosell get fired these days? Poor Brent Musburger was chastised for pointing out a hot WAG was a hot WAG. Granted, everyone is a product of the times, but is Cosell’s bravado viewed the same way if it happens in 2013? Who knows.).

I’m not a huge fan of any contemporary teams. (I get annoyed when Jim Nantz says “Hello friends!” at the beginning of broadcasts. Not exactly a tone setter for a big game. And while I’m on the Joe Buck bandwagon — yeah, yeah .. I know — I’m perplexed by Troy Aikman.) And Madden and Summerall were a big part of football’s ascent passed MLB. Even the small stuff, like the duo voicing the Madden video game franchise (a big deal to my generation), played a large role. The rapport the two had with one another was infectious and effortless. Never felt forced. They told us what we needed to know and let the game handle the nuance of the broadcast. As simple as it is, staying out of the way is no easy feat.

6. Still? Really?

I get the “Sweet Caroline” venom around these parts. But trust me when I say this: If this Red Sox team continues to compete, maintain likability, and stay in the sports section and out of the gossip section, much of the media will miss these ancillary story lines. Whether it’s filling radio time or writing a column, remember, they root for the story.

7. Thank you, guys

I am enjoying binge-watching “Breaking Bad.” Happy you all helped me choose it over “Game of Thrones.” Although, I’d be lying if I didn’t concede Don Draper and Co. have my undivided attention. The two-hour premiere was taxing, but Sunday’s episode was fantastic. Pete Campbell‘s salty ways, which caught up to him by the end of the episode, produced the best exchange of the nascent season.

Pete and his pleasure pal were wrapping up relations at his new apartment in the city. While said-Pleasure Pal was getting dressed, the following conversation takes place.

Pete’s Mistress (AKA Pete’s Neighbor): “I’ll park in front of the hotel lobby, that way you know I’m thinking of you.”

Pete Campbell: “That’s nice. Now, move along now. I’m in a hurry.”

I love this show.

8. Twitter Thoughts

In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, Twitter proved to be extremely worthwhile. While I bemoan its existence for producing inane observations during games or useless rumors as a trade deadline approaches, the social media site broke all sorts of imagery and updates on the situation. That said, beware of the lowlife humans who create Twitter accounts to “raise” money for victims. These people aren’t people, they’re opportunists.

9. Thanks for reading

We probably don’t have enough hug it out moments here at BSMW. So let’s take a second, if just for a moment, for some Real Talk. After Monday afternoon, getting back to business was never going to feel normal. Not today, anyway. It’s too soon. But last night I told myself, “I’m going to write about sports media because that’s what I do.” Presumably, that’s why you’re here, looking at this page. To get away, to find normal again. It’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint.

If this helped distract you, even for 10 minutes, then it was worth writing. Thanks for reading. I’ll talk to you guys out there, @Hadfield__.

This Week’s Sports Illustrated On The Marathon

SI-marathon

Two stories from the issue:

Chaos, fear filled the Boston air after the explosions – S.L. Price

Teary thoughts on a special day in Boston with my daughter – Steve Rushin

Chris Stone, SI Managing Editor, discusses the process of putting together this week’s SI.

With Monday being the weekly deadline for the magazine, how did the process go yesterday?

Stone: With the deadline rapidly approaching soon after the tragedy occurred, our team of editors and writers quickly worked together to provide our readers with coverage that is highly personal and emotional. And we had to change this week’s SI Cover at the last minute with a photo from the many that were coming in from the scene.

Why did you go with this cover?

Stone: After meeting with senior editors late Monday afternoon, we chose to run the cover photo because we felt it truly captured the horrific moment at the end of the race—there’s a fallen runner, police with their guns drawn and loose debris from the explosion. Inside SI, we wanted to help tell the story through photos and words (as written on the cover). We dedicated the entire Leading Off section to photos from Boston. They are extremely emotional and do a great job of chronicling the chaos that ensued.

With little time to spare, how did you decide on what content to run?

Stone: One of our best writers—S.L. Price—was in Boston on another assignment, staying in a hotel frequented my many runners just three miles from the finish line. After interviewing runners and witnesses, he wrote brilliantly in our Scorecard on the state of shock felt by those there in Boston and how the great city sadly joins a growing list of suffering cities that have been struck by tragedy. We felt strongly about putting this article up immediately on SI.com as well.

In addition, we ran a highly personal essay from Steve Rushin in the Point After section. Rushin recalls experiencing Boston and its beloved marathon in happier times with his eight-year-old daughter last summer. We felt this essay was a very suitable way to end our coverage.

How will SI continue to cover this story?

Stone: I am extremely proud of the great work done by our team to close an issue focusing on such a horrific tragedy at the 11th hour of our weekly deadline. As details continue to emerge, SI.com and the SI iPad app will have on-the-scene coverage from Boston.

You Messed With The Wrong City

Historically, Bostonians have never taken to being pushed around very well.

This doesn’t bode well for whomever is responsible for the atrocities committed at the finish line of yesterday’s Boston Marathon.

I’m mortified at the idea that some lunatic(s) felt that Patriots’ Day – a day to remember the first battles of the American Revolution – was the day to make some sort of statement about government and rebellion, and to attack and kill and maim innocent people in the process.

Patriots’ Day was about the people of Boston taking a stand against a cruel and unjust regime. If whomever did this tries to make a connection to those events 238 years ago to justify what they did yesterday, then they are even more messed up than we can possibly imagine. It goes against everything the revolution was fought for.

This will not end well for the terrorists, whoever they are. Bostonians will continue to hold the marathon, to remember Patriots’ Day, and this event will only serve to bring more people together and make this annual day even more significant. Bostonians do not shrink back from adversity. Never have.

While yesterday showed the worst in people, it also showed the best. This photo is a shoo-in for a Pulitzer. Someone like Steve Silva, who was filming the finish line, and instead of running from the explosions, ran to them, capturing footage shown all over the world.  All the people at the scene who immediately ceased thinking of themselves and their own safety and instead, focused on who and how they could help around them. We can go on and on.

I’m just going to link three pieces by sportswriters today.

Heartbreak Hill – Leigh Montville.

The Marathon – Charles P. Pierce.

Letter from Boston – Paul Flannery.

Sports Media Musings: Sorrow and Tragedy Strike 117th Boston Marathon

boston

I was putting the finishing touches on a Red Sox column for Metro Boston when I took a quick second to touch up a piece I’ve been working on for BSMW about WEEI’s precipitous fall. These days, I’ve become very good at multi-tasking, a skill I would unknowingly summon all afternoon and into the night. Like others, once I heard news of an explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, I became glued to my Twitter timeline — learning news of the terror which had reared its head in our city, on our holiday, Patriots Day, 140 characters at a time. For all the inane observations and rumors it produces during games and trade deadlines, the social media platform was particularly valuable in the immediate aftermath of the events.

At 27 years-old, I’m not going to pretend to know what to write in this space. Frankly speaking, I’m not sure if I would know what to write even at 50-years-old.

I don’t know what Pear Harbor was like, and can only surface a few cursory memories of the Oklahoma City bombing.  9/11 resonated in its own horrid way. For whatever reason, Columbine seemed like it happened in a different world. Meanwhile Newtown and Aurora hit close to home. Now this. With each of the last three events separated by less than 200 days, it’s becoming harder and harder to conclude that the world we live in isn’t inhabited by evil. I don’t want to believe that, but part of me does. I feel guilty, honestly, but can’t help it. As I wrote for the Metro today,  I found out Monday that it’s different when these events occur in your city. It’s a car accident that you don’t get to drive by and forget about. Instead, it lives with you.

Patriots Day, despite its new infamous association, will happen next year. A cathartic event where we’re forever reminded to never forget what happened on April 15th, 2013. And we won’t. I don’t doubt that justice will prevail, and, ultimately, normalcy will be restored. And I don’t doubt that Boston, as its wont to do, will pull together in the face of tragedy. But reading the endless accounts, walking through the city, and processing the events that transpired makes any notion of healing seem far away.

In light of that, there will be no media column today. Even with so much going on in Brighton, just a few blocks away from my apartment, and a 10 minute car ride away from Copley Place, the visits from The Suits, Pete Sheppard, Mike Salk, and other items will have to wait. In the interim, we can hope, while searching for answers, that those in the media will shepherd us through this difficult time, providing accurate information. From a media consumption standpoint, Greg Bedard put it best, in times like these it’s important to “be right, not first.”

As Bruce linked earlier, Charlie Pierce has an excellent, must-read piece over at Grantland on the startling eventsand Steve Silva’s raw video was shrilling.

I hope everyone in the BSMW community is safe and sound.  I’m not sure why, but I just wanted to write this.

@Hadfield__.

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 1 vs. the Rockets

Celtics (0-0) vs. Houston (0-0)
April 9, 1980
Boston Garden

**After yesterday’s tragedy at the Boston Marathon, I send my prayers to all those affected.

With the NBA playoffs set to begin and the Celtics traveling to New York, it’s a good opportunity to look back at the Celtics playoff run from the 1980 season.  After finishing a 61-win season, the Celtics healed up during their first round bye and awaited the winner of the Houston-San Antonio best-of-three series. As soon as Houston discarded the Spurs (Moses Malone dominated with 37 points and 20 rebounds in the series finale, while Calvin Murphy added 33 points),the Celtics took the series opener against the Rockets, 119-101. [Read more...]

All In The Patriots Family

With New England currently owning a mere five picks in the 2013 draft, that means they’ll have to fill spring camp with rookie free agents.  Let’s preview some potential undrafted newbies who could get a second look from the Foxboro front office.

These fresh-faced free agent decisions often come down to connections. Last year, for example, New England brought in Markus Zusevics from Iowa and Justin Francis from Rutgers. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz coached with Bill Belichick back in the Iron Age, while the coach’s son Stephen Belichick befriended Francis on the banks of the old Raritan.

Coincidences? Nope. Connections? Yup. [Read more...]

BREAKING – Pete Sheppard Quits WEEI – On The Air

There is certainly no shortage of news coming out of WEEI these days.

At about 5:45 this afternoon, Pete Sheppard posted the following Tweet:

At the end of his shift, Sheppard then announced he was quitting the station, saying that he couldn’t do it anymore, he couldn’t stand working for the company anymore. He said that he was upset at how things had been going at the station over the last 18 months, and that it wasn’t Jason Wolfe’s fault, but those above him. (Jeff Brown in particular) He said they would not even take his calls, and that he is going out on his own terms – unlike the last time he left the station.

Sheppard assured listeners they would be hearing him again elsewhere in the near future.

Unlike past WEEI incidents (Mike Adams “locking” himself in the studio to get the job) this one was quite real.

I suspect Sheppard will not be the only person departing (of their own volition or not ) the station in the near future.

Source: Entercom President/CEO David Field Coming To Boston Friday

According to an industry source, in response to continued toxic atmosphere at Entercom Boston, including and especially at WEEI, Entercom Communications Corp President and CEO David Field will be in Boston on Friday to conduct a “town hall” style meeting with employees, presumably in an attempt to assuage hard feelings and improve morale. The source says the meeting is to tell employees that “everything is fine, and to enjoy the brand.”

Field is said to be taking questions from employees, but that such questions need to be submitted in advance.

With salaries being slashed everywhere in the radio business and notably at WEEI with the recent departures of Jon Meterparel, Glenn Ordway and Jon Rish, one wonders if the topic of Field’s own salary and compensation will come up.

According to documents filed to the SEC, Field’s salary in 2012 was $827,707 and on December 18th of 2012, he received a bonus of $1,008,000. In 2011, his salary was $803,599 and his bonus was $720,000.

His actual salary may be less of an issue than the fact it has gone up each year and that he also receives that annual cash performance-based bonus of up to 150% of his annual base salary. These types of compensation agreements are by no means unusual in the corporate world, but they do make things awkward when the CEO tries to motivate a disgruntled staff which has faced budget and salary cuts routinely over the last few years.

The meeting, should it take place, (EDITit IS happening)will be interesting, given Field’s somewhat odd history of attempts at motivating his staff. In January of 2012, after returning from an African safari, Field recounted the experience in a very odd and clueless email to employees, ending by urging them to bring their “A” games to work each day, just as the animals of the Serengeti do.

His father, Joseph M. Field founded Entercom in 1968.

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

Elsewhere in the Boston sports media world today – Jerry Remy reveals he was recently treated for recurrence of cancer

Jon Rish Resigns From #RedSox Broadcasts, WEEI

**BREAKING**

BSMW has learned and confirmed that Jon Rish has given his notice and will be leaving the Red Sox broadcasts, and the radio business altogether. This is just the latest in a series of personnel changes at Entercom Boston under VP/GM Jeff Brown.

Rish had served as the pre and post-game host on the Red Sox Radio Network starting in 2006. Rish joined WEEI Radio in July 2005 after six years with ESPN Radio in Bristol, CT.

Since 2008 Rish has also filled in during games in the broadcast booth doing play-by-play when Dave O’Brien had ESPN scheduling conflicts. He was in the booth alongside Joe Castiglione this past week as O’Brien did the Red Sox-Yankees game on ESPN last Wednesday and then went on to call the Women’s NCAA Final Four for the network.

Rish is said to have been asked to take a significant paycut, something which is becoming commonplace at WEEI. It says something that a person would give up a position as a radio play-by-play voice for the Boston Red Sox in order to get out of the business altogether.

Instead, Rish has given his notice, and will be available to the station/network until 4/24, but it is not yet clear how things will proceed over the next two weeks.

It won’t be the last exit from WEEI, as sources say that at least three of the top sales executives for the station will be leaving, and long-time sponsor Giant Glass will be pulling out as well.