January has too much promise of the New Year. February is all about love. March, though? March is where we heat up the snark. Once a week, we’ll profile why we strongly dislike members of the local and national sports media, in what I’m calling the Mediots! Series.
I have been writing on BSMW sporadically for a few years now. And I’ve always maintained that if ESPN were to put on a special Pardon the Interruption: City vs. City edition, Michael Felger would be my pick to represent Boston. He’s acerbic, witty, and just enough of a dick to make an impression without undermining his point. Thus, it’s hard to say Felger sucks, because he doesn’t suck; he’s actually very good – one could argue the best – at what he does for a living … which is a problem.
Felger is the Don Draper of the Boston sports media, a professional bull shit artist. Fast forward to the 25 second mark, when Draper states, “The timbre of my voice is just as important as the content.” That’s everything you need to know about Michael Felger.
Which is to say there’s really no substance behind anything Felger says anymore. And like Draper, he’s pitching you, selling an idea (usually predicated on faux outrage), which has one sole purpose: To elicit a reaction. These days, he’s inching dangerously close to Skip Bayless. They don’t live in same neighborhood, but they’re certainly in the same zip code.
The problem here is two-fold:
1.) Felger makes it personal. Whether he’s berating other talking heads, beat reporters, or fans, Felger uses tone and cynicism to fuel a point, rather than knowledge or insight. The best example of this was the time he went after Mike Reiss last spring during the Wes Welker contract negotiations. Remember that “just enough of a dick without undermining his point” comment I wrote a few paragraphs ago? Yeah, scratch that. He’s the ombudsman that no one asked for.
Moreover, he’s a hypocrite and a propagandist. I remember covering the Celtics in 2011-12, and seeing a brigade of fans question whether Paul Pierce was faking an injury because Felger insinuated so (what a joke — Pierce was laboring. This really pissed me off, for whatever reason.). He asks for “consistency from Green Teamers about Rajon Rondo.” This is rich coming from Felger, a guy who openly hates the NBA. How can we take anything he says seriously?
Then there’s the agenda stuff. Felger constantly questions the ongoing employment of Claude Julien (comical), extols the Jets for “getting their guy” in the draft (Marc Sanchez! Shonn Greene! Wahhhhooooo!), or talks about the NFL as a quarterback’s league, and then picks Joe Flacco over Tom Brady in the AFC Championship a few years back, based on a “gut feeling.” In the latter example, he was right, of course, but that’s not the point … it’s not consistent.
He wasn’t always this way. Long ago, Felger was a beat reporter, covering the Bruins and Patriots for the Boston Herald. He was curious and a very solid journalist that, by most accounts, was plugged-in and relentless. Today, he’s an entertainer, a professional contrarian, who laughs whenever he’s called out for his ridiculous accusations. Again, the tone here is more important than the content. Fact, not opinion.
Why does he do this? For starters, because honesty and real analysis doesn’t pay for summer houses, as Tom E. Curran oft-quips about Felger. So, Felger plays a heel in the WWE, trying to get a rise out the audience, because YOU like that. Secondly, the dude is stretched out. He’s on television, or radio, or both for roughly 22 hours a day. HOT SPORTS TAKES can overheat a dude, you know?
2.) This is sports, man. Felger knows this. But that doesn’t preclude the sense of urgency he creates by holding everyone accountable (except himself, of course) for decisions made (or not made). Now, I don’t want to hamper too much on his tone, but its importance here is undeniable. With his platform, it’s safe to assume much of what Felger is selling is, you know, true. But that’s hardly the case. “The Cap Is Crap” sounds catchy, but so does “So easy a caveman could do it.” Neither is actually true. But people buy it, because Felger’s greatest strength is his conviction – it makes everything he says seem so authentic, even if it’s really an opinion.
Don’t believe me? An email from a reader put’s it best here:
Enjoyed the columns on BSMW when Bruce is gone. I know you’ve hit on various hosts on the radio in town but as we’re in a “NFL Period” right now, we have to be reminded how the ‘cap is crap’. I’m not sure if you’re still writing columns this week but this is one of the things that drives me nuts:
Yeah, internet forum. Yeah, it’s reddit. This is still the influence Felger and Mazz now have, spewing incorrect information about ‘the cap being crap’. I assume you could find more of this on various forums.
And this is why Michael Felger sucks. His influence is real, his opinion is not.
10 Quick Musings:
1.) Bruce didn’t include this piece earlier this week, but in the Boston Herald, Jessica Heslam had a story on the custody battle over Arianna Remy, the daughter of Jared Remy and the woman he’s accused of killing, Jennifer Martel. A member from the Martel family leaves this scathing quote:
“You’ve got to bring up a baby with love, not with cash. (Jerry Remy’s) not going to be there. He’s going to be away all the time,” said Richard Martel, who said it was tough to watch Remy’s return to TV.
Again, in my mind, Remy shouldn’t be publicly persecuted for his son’s alleged transgressions. That’s obvious, but worth reiterating. Then again, I don’t think he should be calling Red Sox games, as this case develops details will only become increasingly disturbing during the summer – ultimately hurting the telecast.
Here’s more from Heslam:
While the former Red Sox player-turned-broadcaster was unwilling to talk about all the issues that have arisen from the killing, he was willing to talk a little about his return to TV. “It feels good, feels like I’m doing my job, that’s all that’s important right now, among other things, it just feels good to be back at work,” Remy said.
Good for him. NESN should’ve taken the bat out of his hands, though.
2.) Bruce DID hit on this yesterday, but I disagreed with his take on Dan Shaughnessy’s column in Tuesday’s edition of the Boston Globe, which I thought was great. Yes, I said it.
Given that the Sloan Conference took place last weekend, he opens with a tirade about numbers. To his credit, it wasn’t a GET OFF MY LAWN diatribe. This was a measured viewpoint.
Must all the intangibles be sucked from our games until all that is left is spreadsheets and blinking computer screens? Sports trekkies have made significant strides and teams are better for having the information, but it’s still OK to admit that there always will be things in sports that cannot be measured. These are games played by humans. That’s why it’s fun.
Dan thinks sports are fun? Holy plot twist.
Also enjoyed his take on retiring Danny Ainge’s number; his quip about ESPN’s obsession with the NFL (although, LeBron’s 61 point outburst this week saw plenty of air time as well); his callback to the departures of Orlando Cabrera and Pedro Martinez leading to draft picks that eventually became Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Good stuff. But when juxtaposed with his Sunday offering, I get more confused with how I feel about our friend, the CHB. It was so naïve and sensationalistic I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The premise? Professional sports aside, coaches – even those SHAPING THE MINDS OF YOUNG MEN IN COLLEGE – should give every kid an opportunity to earn playing time. The idea that someone like Coach K should have this responsibility is beyond me. Not to go all El Presidente on the BSMW community, but this is part of the Pussification of America.
Some favorite excerpts:
This is for you, coach. You know who you are.
Do not abuse this power just because you can.
That’s the way it works in life. Not everybody gets to be MVP or a Globe All-Scholastic. Just as academic excellence is recognized, athletic excellence should be rewarded. But coaches need to be mindful of team members who aren’t good enough to play regularly. Find a spot, coach. Make those kids feel like part of the team. Do not demoralize them, break their spirit, and cause them to lose their love for the game. Try to work them into the game organically if possible. It’s good for morale and the talent gap might not be as great as you think.
Look, I can’t believe I’m even writing about this. You win, Dan. Alas, here it goes: by the time I was 18, I think I understood the value of, well, value. In any endeavor – a job, team sport, relationship, whatever – the pertinent question is: What do you bring? Life comes down to whether you’re as good – or better – than the guy next to you. Meanwhile, even though he clearly states otherwise, Shank’s column, entitled “Coaches should find a way for everyone to play,” reads like a desperate parent, looking for their college kid to get their ONE SHINNING MOMENT, even if that moment was in the midst of an 87-35 blowout in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
3.) Some thoughts on the news that Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci are set to replace Tim McCarver in the Fox booth:
Tim McCarver’s replacement(s) was always going to be a polarizing decision. That’s a given. And the upshot, the name(s) calling the mid-summer classic and World Series alongside Joe Buck, was always going to leave a contingent of fans feeling disappointed, wanting more, and alienated. Because anything changing in MLB – even the broadcast – is akin to a tectonic plate shifting. It’s agonizing.
I’ll say this: Neither personality is a particularly progressive choice. One would think network executives would adjust to the statistical revolution as more baseball teams embrace the movement to the point it affects their personnel choices. That didn’t happen here.
While Verducci is a great writer, one who’s plugged in, and knows the game, no one is mistaking him for Rob Neyer. For my money, Reynolds is fine. We know what we’re getting. A sound, smooth broadcaster, but one who is most definitely behind the times in terms of the sabermetrics. In his column about Fox’s choices, Will Leitch pointed to the oft-cited “debate” Reynolds had with Brian Kenny about the “value of wins as a statistic”, when Reynolds looked foolish in his analysis, as a cause for concern. I’m not sure if I wholeheartedly agree.
A color person – yes, they can be female (WHAT’S UP, DORIS BURKE?) – is supposed to point out things we, meaning the common fan, cannot see. Ideally, they view the action through a heightened lens of experience and deep understanding of the game. They educate us, make us smarter. That said – and this is something that, as a writer, I’ve always struggled with – in their analysis, they must speak to the common fan, not just the baseball feign that spends Saturday night scouring FanGraphs. Cris Collinsworth is the best at this. (This isn’t debatable.)
The Internet won’t like this, but the combination of Verducci and Reynolds will suffice. Their in-game analysis won’t get the die-hards all hot-and-bothered, but it’ll have universal appeal, and I think Fox made a sound decision here. (Besides, I’m not sure I want someone breaking down a player’s RngR or CPP during Game 2 of the ALCS.)
4.) “Dennis & Callahan” continue to mystify me. But I’ve been writing too much about these guys lately, so I’ll keep this brief: Gerry Callahan on gay parenting sounds like Harold Reynolds on Wins & Losses. Again, not a good look. Then again, I’m listening, so bravo. (I guess?)
5.) Page Six is saying Bob Costas’s eye infection – the first case of pink eye to EVER GO VIRAL (pun intended) – was due to a botched Botox. Why is Costas getting Botox? I’m convinced he perpetually looks 38-years-old.
6.) This columnist and I need to have a beer – or 12 – together. Love his take on the ongoing moralism of sports. Not every game needs to have meaning on par with the Miracle On Ice. Besides: “The Cardinal Way”? Are you kidding me? His other point about the “best fans of baseball” is just as awesome. I mean, good for Cardinal fans for being swell folk, I suppose, but sports are based on winning and losing, I much prefer the brashness of Boston fans.
Plus: An opposing fan saying “good game” with the same sincerity following a big win OR crushing defeat sucks. It removes the passion from the situation, like trying to hash out a fight with a significant other that wants no part of the discussion. You can’t win. (Also, I have a ton of family from St. Louis – they aren’t THAT NICE.)
7.) I’m thoroughly enjoying this side of Robert Kraft. The dude is on the back 9, just living. L-I-V-I-N, man. Anyone who says otherwise is just a H8er. Oh yeah, Bobby – either sign Aqib Talib or make THE trade. You know what I’m talking about THE TRADE — the one that, to this point, lacks any corroboration but is being discussed as if it’s imminent. DON’T BLOW IT. #JesusGiveMeRevis.
8.) Preach, Chaz. PREACH. Charles Barkley went on the “Dan Patrick Show” and wasn’t shy about his distaste for ESPN (transcript via Awful Announcing):
On his frustrations with ESPN…
“I call it the ESPN disease. All these guys get on TV every day, they’re experts on every sport, it drives me crazy.”
On whether ESPN has ever offered him a job…
“They call me every year, but I would never go there. Number one they work their guys too hard, but also I think they manufacture stories. They manufacture controversies.”
Thoughts: “They work their guys too hard” is a euphemism for “They overexpose their guys, thus making them insufferable.” The result of this overexposure aligns with Barkley’s second point, I guess. But still, I don’t believe it’s fair to claim the four-letter network manufactures controversies; it’s a sports network that discusses sports. Consumers caring is what fuels the “controversy machine.”
That aside, yes, there are guys like Bayless who say things like they “wouldn’t be shocked if Derek Jeter was on PEDs.” It’s fair to look at that type of crap with a jaundiced eye, but come on — you’re beyond saving if you buy that garbage as a fan. Be better. The flip side, meanwhile, is Ron Jaworski giving an opinion on Johnny Manziel becoming a thing that gets attention. While that’s hardly Jaws’ intent, it’s a byproduct of the way we consume HOT SPORTS TAKES because of dudes like Screaming A. Smith.
(It’s the Felger problem discussed above, only on steroids.)
On why Nolan thinks Internet loathes Rick Reilly:
… Also you have to sympathize with anyone who’s been doing it that long because you have to keep reinventing yourself to stay relevant. There are going to be people who can’t adapt as well as others. In the case of Rick Reilly, he’s trying to figure it out, but once there’s a misstep it’s easier to criticize them. Plus he’s a name people recognize, everybody talks about the people everybody knows because they can relate.