Sports Media Musings: The Mailbag, Chapter VI

Welcome to the 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.

Today: This weather sucks, but great news — Chapter VI is a Shank-free space. Instead, we primarily explore reaction to our Year-End Media Awards among other topics. First, we’d be remiss if we didn’t pass along Chris Kluwe’s piece on Deadspin where he claims he was removed from duty as the Vikings punter because of his activism in gay rights. The story, if true, could be the biggest of 2014. And yes, I realize it’s only January 3rd.  Mike Priefer, the Vikings coach, who Kluwe states said, “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows,” immediately denied the accusations.  More reaction here as more details come out.

For now, MAIL TIME.

Ryan, you wrote: “In the middle of a recent broadcast, Mike Gorman had to explain plus-minus (+/-) to Tommy Heinsohn.” And how did Tommy react to the explanation?

-       Homer Greenz

I’m paraphrasing, but he began by dismissively saying, “You know, I’m not a numbers guy.” Alarming on so many levels. First things first, it’s not like the plus-minus statistic is QBR or other, more complex advanced statistics. It’s simple math.  

That’s a different argument for a different day, though, because I’d like to commend the BSMW comment section for candidly talking about the sanctimonious shield that has developed around Tommy Heinsohn and Jerry Remy in recent years.

The former is a simple case of etiquette imposed from societal norms: We’re taught to respect our elders. Heinsohn, for his work as a player, coach, and color guy, certainly deserves that respect. But sports, inside and outside the lines of play, doesn’t stop for anyone. You can rest on your laurels for a quick minute – or in Heinsohn’s case, the better part of a decade – but eventually father time comes ringing, you lose your fastball, people notice, and someone greener is brought in.  

 John Madden held on for too long. Even with those great pipes, Keith Jackson probably could have stayed home those last few Rose Bowls. Heck, locally speaking, once Gil Santos started identifying Deion Branch as Wes Welker, I said time and time again it was time for him and Gino Cappelletti to call it a career. Look, I say this with the utmost respect; sadly, I think Tommy should be done. Honestly, he probably should’ve retired a few years ago.

And believe me, it’s not as if I take pleasure in writing those words. It sucks. I attach a great deal of special moments to the voices of each of those broadcasters, Tommy included. But I didn’t take pleasure in confirming to my niece that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, either. When it’s time, it’s time.

(*DUCKS A LIGHTNING BOLT*)

As far as Remy goes …

One big indictment with Remy is that Don Orsillo sounds so much looser and relaxed when he’s working with Eck. He actually sounds like an entirely different broadcaster — for the better. The problem with Eck is that he’d never do full-time for NESN — he’s got an MLB Network gig and, more over, doesn’t want to work every game in the first place. I think the best way for NESN to go forward — if Remy doesn’t return — is to find a revolving door of analysts much like Michael Kay works with on Yankee YES games. It might be trial-and-error process — and PLEASE NO NICK CAFARDO — but that might be the best way to go.

- Andy Dursin

First, on Don Orsillo: You know how this last offeseason, the narrative was that Tom Brady embraced the challenge of working with younger receivers? Almost as if the depleted arsenal made him better? First off, maybe this is true – but the irrefutable lack of chemistry probably didn’t improve the team’s chances over the course of the first few weeks of the season. Back to the media: I kind of feel like this is how Don Orsillo must have felt sans Remy this summer.

It was palpable that Orsillo, whose omission from my Year End Sports Media Awards was met with much distaste from readers, DID have a different way about him this season.

But while the slight change in tone and demeanor was there, I’m not sure if that was a Remy thing, inasmuch as it was an opportunity to try new things that wouldn’t have seemed natural with Remy because of the whole idea behind the axiom “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Think of it like a relationship: You get into ruts, the same routine, and oftentimes, feel trapped (even if things are going swell).

Now, Jerry Remy: I highly doubt Remy’s job is in jeopardy or anything of that magnitude. Despite everything that has transpired with his family and other color guys stepping up to the plate (SPORTZ PUN!), he’s still Remy, he has the charming droll, and the cache. He’s likable and knowledgeable.

Still, while Remy’s health issues in recent years has provided various respites in our exposure to his work, when personal problems arose this summer, it opened the door for a consistent taste of something new, something fresh, for a longer period of time. It would be inappropriate to suggest that Dennis Eckersley’s now-famous personal lexicon did not bolster the viewing experience. He was great; for my money, better than Remy.

The solution? Baseball is long and requires endurance from everyone involved, including fans – I wonder if NESN would be better served by going the suggested YES route. Again, that’s not an indictment on Remy; variety breeds different takes, fresh viewpoints, and a different perspective. Over the course of an elongated Red Sox season, who doesn’t want that? The downside, of course, is that a rotating cast of analysts detracts from coveted chemistry. Realistically, I see Remy back in the chair as long as he wants it.

What do you guys think?

If you need an update of how big most industry awards are these days: “Peter King 2013 NSSA National Sportswriter of the Year.” Question — do these people even read the columns?

-       bsmfan

Without question, yes. It’s why you see writers constantly trying to match wits on Twitter, all in an effort to one-up one another. The media cares about the story, sure, but they also care about themselves. By the way, Bryan Curtis was robbed. 

Looking forward to u writing more in 14…hope u can balance bruce endless pats stuff n pats PR Dir. position he takes on.

-       Bill

I’m far more cynical about the Patriots than Bruce. That said, if you read most national writers — the good ones, anyway — they’ll wax poetic about the Patriots and what they’ve managed to accomplish, as opposed to complaining. ALL. THE. TIME. Fans and teams of other cities would kill to be in the playoffs, much less have a bye; yet, locally, there’s certainly scattered adulation, but mostly in the tone of LOOK AT THIS TEAM’S SHORTCOMINGS, YET THEY KEEP WINNING. GOOD FOR THEM.

Fuck that attitude. Why does each win have to come with a stupid wink, a disclaimer, like everyone’s waiting to publish their NOTHING GOLD LASTS FOREVER column. It sucks to suck; apparently, it sucks to be good, too.

Most guys are nothing but cheerleaders, Zolak can break down a play and describe it to you. He also does a decent job with the Bellistrator segment on Patriots All Access. He knows the game, but should calm down a bit. Also, though, let’s not forget. This is his first year with Socci. Give them a chance, how long had Gil and Gino been together?

-       The_Other_Side

Lots of Scott Zolak love coming in after I rated him Worst Play-By-Play/Color Guy of 2013.

Two thoughts here:

  1. Zolak was really good as a third man on the field working with Gino and Gil. Speaking from a longterm viewpoint, he knows the game, I have no doubt he’ll improve, and that’s great. I look forward to the righting of the ship.
  2. Secondly, when reviewing that specific award (Worst Play-by-Play Or Color Analyst), I realized that Boston, as a whole, has a solid group of broadcasters. It’s true. Tommy is old and ridiculous and probably deserved to win this designation (*DUCKS*), but I stand by the Zolak choice. Because it’s those moments – you guys know what I’m talking about – where the game is on the line, you can hear the nervousness in the crowd, feel the importance intrinsically through the sound of the broadcast… They don’t come around often, and when they do, you cannot scream arbitrary things over the play-by-play guy while he’s painting the picture.

RELATED: Plenty of great Zolak clips in this video, which made the rounds this week.

 Ryan, if you are not watching Walking Dead, you should be.

Joe

Had a ton of good binge show suggestions: I watched the Walking Dead up through the end of last season. I have it on DVR and have heard this season is a nice rebound from The Governor debacle. The first season was fantastic, but my main problem with the show is that it feels like we’re going around in circles. I like that we see things solely through Rick & The Gang’s perspective – meaning, we only know what they know – but what’s our end game here?

Other candidates given were Orange Is the New Black (I’ve heard it’s much better than Netflix’s other show, House of Cards) and, rather shockingly, The Good Wife (lots of Emmys + the main character is a babe).

Count your blessings…….health, good family, good job, nice place….good friends and lots of family and friends who love you very much! Health, health and more health cannot be valued enough…..count your blessings of which you have many. Whatever you do stay safe. 2014 will bring lots of good things your way. I am convinced of it.

Love Mom

I LOVE YOU, MOM. HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Uniformed or Uninformed?

LocalSportStuff

Tough to really nail your punch lines when you misspell critical words. I need an editor.

A few GIF responses:

Enjoyed your piece at BSMW – especially the SPORTZ PUN! – make it a HOTSPORTZPUN and 98.5 will be lusting after you. -Walter

I honestly have no idea who Eric Wilbur is.

-       Oswee Larvey Hald

I fear for Eric Wilbur. In his bio, it says he writes from the unique perspective of a fan and journalist, but, for him, sports seems so unfulfilling. I don’t think he enjoyed this Patriots season. It truly makes me wonder what kind of writer he’ll become when the Patriots morph into this:

FOUR MORE YEARS! FOUR MORE YEARS! … Speaking of Gang Green

The reason why Tebow is so polarizing as a player is that even though he does not have sound fundamentals he has won at each level he has played at. Add in his devout faith and his willingness to discuss it and you have a unique athlete who developed a huge fan base. The fact that Rex Ryan would not put him on the field just inflated the reputation. He won a playoff game in Denver the year before yet he was not good enough to play for a sinking Jet’s team.

-       LateToDinner

TEBOW ALERT: Saved the worst for last, you guys. Let’s get the reaction to the Tim Tebow-ESPN marriage out of the way. The idea behind yesterday’s gratuitous “What We Think About When We Talk About Tim Tebow” section of Sports Media Musings was more about why the media, fans, and people in general are masochists when it comes to everything Tebow than how he came to fruition.

When sports stories crossover to the mainstream backlash typically follows, but it rarely sustains. Not like this, anyway. This a dude who hasn’t had a relevant football moment in two years.

But to your point, I wholeheartedly agree: Tebow’s rise and career arc is polarizing because he is the ultimate Little Engine That Could, which, over the years, has morphed into a negative characterization. He operates in a world where one (presumably) must be 99.9999999% better than anyone else at their craft. Clearly, he isn’t (even though he was, by the most important measure, successful). And in a world filled with analytics and reason and #HOTSPORTSTAKES, none of that makes sense. Which makes Tebow, as a subject, perfect … in the worst way.

Couple that with the second part — that he uses that platform to give shout outs, almost like a DJ on Jammin’ 94.5 would to a club promoter, to his faith – and WOOOLAHHH: we have a perfect cocktail of polarization, in a culture, mind you, that endorses polarization by proxy of behavior and over-the-top attitudes. So yeah, that’s why he’s polarizing.

As always, thanks for reading. @Hadfield__

  • LocalSportStuff

    Not an editorial critique as I thought either word worked effectively. Think about it. Send transcripts my way though…

  • bsmfan

    ‘sanctimonious shield that has developed around Tommy Heinsohn and Jerry Remy in recent years.’

    (Sounds like my comment)

    I used the ‘shield’ word because there are people who went nuts if you tried to postulate an argument as to the quality or ability to do their jobs. Tommy, just by what goes on during game broadcasts with the screaming at refs, is easier to hit at. I’ve always wondered why the league never said something because he’s–literally–a team employee by virtue of CSNNE ownership and the Celtics giving their ‘blessing’ to what’s on the broadcasts. Also, I have people who are out of market that watch the CSNNE stream, ask similar things.

    Remy? Not so much. The ‘chemistry’ is there but NESN now has a dilemma on its hands, regardless of what happens. If he comes back, while the trial is not until October, they won’t have to deal with the crowd who sees him/his family as culpable. If the opposite happens, where he announces some ‘retirement’, another group will perceive that he was ‘forced out’, for actions of his son. I can’t make a case for either of this. The problem also is that in his absence, not just from the things with his son, they wound up putting Pedro or Eck in who many reacted the same way with a “wow”.

  • OpinionNotFact

    I can’t remain at all objective about Remy. I’ve never liked the way he’s called games, even when I was a kid. The guy has made quite a pretty penny off his name and association with the Sox. Time to move forward.
    Tommy though? I never put any stock into what he says (how could you?) but it’s been pretty clear for a few years now that he was on his way out. I’m glad Scalabrine got his gig with the Warriors, but I was really hoping he was going to be the man to take over for Heinsohn when the time came. SCal had some great insights into players who are actually in the league.
    I think I finally gave up on Tawmy when he compared Steimer’s timing to that of Bill Russell.

  • bsmfan

    Our Boston Sports Radio Talking Points Memo for this week:

    - Will Adam Vinatieri get booed?
    - How much? Is it a good idea?
    - What % of people will boo/cheer?
    - Would you trade Luck for Brady, right now?
    - Is Luck already better than Brady?
    - Will Luck have a better career than Brady?
    - How will the Colts fare outside the dome?
    - Dome teams are frauds outside in the weather?
    - Mix in some “Bill Belichick the bad GM” talk in re: Woodhead/SD

    (h/t to twitter, and the recycling of existing topics used around here)