Sports Media Musings: On “Big Show: Unfiltered”, Baby Boomer’s C-Section Comment, & More

The Patriots bringing in Johnny Football for a pro day, then re-signing Patrick Chung was The Hoodie at his best. This has been the most interesting offseason since, um, the last offseason (the Brady paycut [Which somehow was criticized? God, I love the sports media!], Welkahpoloooozzzzah, Everything Gronk, and finally Aaron Hernandez, double murders, and Angel Dust … Unreal.).

Wait, Angel Dust was part of last year’s offseason discussion??? OK, OK: 2013 > 2014

Before some media takes, let me serve up a quick self-promotion alert: I wrote about the Bruins and Peak Talk for the Metro today. Read it.

OK – onto a few media notes. Feel free to say hello on the Twittersphere, @Hadfield__

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Early thoughts on the “Big Show Unfiltered”: It’s OK. And OK may be enough for Glenn Ordway & Co. – much to my surprise, I willingly listened to commercials, which truly distinguishes the program from, say, a podcast. I felt like I was listening to a radio. Only on the Internet.

INTERNET RADIO.

Anyway, about the commercials, which, before going any further, need to be discussed …  Because Connecticut School of Broadcasting is still a thing!! I’ll be completely honest, for the longest time I thought it was a joke, a scheme, or even the basis of the movie “Accepted.”

(Side Tangent: “Accepted” is a B- Comedy featuring Justin Long (Drew Barrymore’s old BF, also the guy in the Apple commercials), Blake Lively (before she was BLAKEEEEE Lively), and Lewis Black.

And, yes, even two-time Academy Award nominee, Jonah Hill.

Good stuff. Hollywood is the greatest. But, yeah – I 1000000% believed GO CSB was a fictional place where dreams go to die.)

OK, back to “Big Show: Unfiltered.” This iteration is basically a DIY, rough cut version of the original “Big Show.” Can they grab enough momentum to simulcast beyond Sirius? I’m not sure. I mean, clearly, there’s an audience for Pete Sheppard, Ordway and the guy that does the great Terry Francona impression, I’m just not it.

(I know, I know – this is despite Sheppard’s abrasive Tony Massarotti impressions; if nothing else Pete’s going for it … whatever “it” is.)

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“Sometimes it takes some time to remember where you were headed in the first place and the people you intended to go there with.”

For me, early questions about “Dale & Holley” Part Deux mostly revolved around whether bringing back what was never really broken as an admission of past failures …  or just WEEI’s acceptance that they are, for the time being, the alternative – as opposed to the FLAGSHIP STATION! …?

One thing’s for sure: It’s not the sexy move, or a game-changer. This play for WEEI is a means to survival through reliability. And, all things considered, with the revival of “Dale & Holley,”  the Boston sports fans are winning here.

(Yes, that’s right – I’m going positive, which almost feels borderline crazy to do in terms of media analysis.)

Look, upon conception, our hope for “The Sports Hub” did not necessarily circle around a precipitous demise for the men of Entercom (although, in some circles, seeing hubris wilt and decay was a nice byproduct). All told, reasonable sports fans just wanted WEEI to be better, and, typically, competition breeds excellence or, at the very least, improvement in quality.

Well, it took longer than expected, but, finally, mercifully this has happened.

Think about it: The morning at WEEI is better. I still can’t believe “Dennis & Callahan” made it through the storm unscathed, although who knows, maybe, at times, the two hosts were “hiding under their desks.” Either way, their improvement is palpable; heck, you could argue it’s undeniable. Kirk Minihane has proven himself a worthy foil to John Dennis and Gerry Callahan, and it’s kind of compelling radio.

(An aside: This will sound like I’m an ageist, but I could do without the obsession over Johnny Manziel’s girlfriend. Really, guys. You’re old, and it’s weird. But seriously, try harder.)

The afternoon, meanwhile, over on ‘EEI is a relic in the best possible way, and a sound option for audiences to check out instead of their counterpart, “Felger & Mazz,” which has evidently decided to become a different show than when it began its run. Dale Arnold, almost immediately, has rediscovered his rapport with Michael Holley.  Something Holley never could harness with Ordway, or what we can now the Misguided Mike Salk era.

(Another aside: Consistently adding a third man to the “Dale & Holley” rotation is a nice twist, too. But how about less Christian Fauria and more Matt Chatham, please. Thanks.)

Up on the dial, “Toucher & Rich” didn’t land the Torey Krug-80s hair metal voice over segment, at least not as much as the comparable “Rad Marchand” skit from a few years ago, but the fact they’re still churning out stuff like “Motley Krug” is a good sign. It’s what they do best.

And the duo poking fun at Johnny Gomes’ “Just PUSH PLAY, the story is already written” comments was perfect. To their credit, they absolutely nailed the Ultimate Warrior-Haxsaw Johnny Gomes comparison. The dialect is eerily similar.

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Speaking of “Toucher & Rich”, I thought Fred Toucher’s take on Richard Sherman’s column about DeSean Jackson’s release from the Eagles on Peter King’s Monday Morning QB site was not only thoughtful, but poignant.

In the piece, Sherman argued about, well, a few things: 1) That saying DJax is affliated with gang is irresponsible; 2) You don’t turn your back on people you grew up with; 3) Jackson’s teammate — Riley Cooper, earning an extension, a year after his racist remarks at a country concert went viral; 4) The Jim Irsay free pass.

Toucher’s main contention is that you do turn your back on friends at some point, basically, because if you hang out with shit for long enough, you’ll start to smell like it, too. It’s a fair counter; measured and realistic.

I didn’t agree, however, with Toucher’s co-host, John Wallach, when he said Sherman, who is no stranger to media relations, will have to learn to pick his battles. If we’re enabling the nonsense floated out there from time to time in sports media, then I have zero qualms dealing with Sherman going off the rails. Dude’s a top cornerback with a unique perspective to offer on the matter. I don’t have to agree, but I’ll certainly be interested.

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“Everyone is just waiting for their next Wikipedia Edit.”

“I’m much more offended by Gerry Callahan’s gay-bashing.”

Those were my initial thoughts about when reading reaction to Boomer Esiason’s comments regarding Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy’s paternity leave (which fell on opening day):

From CNN:

During a conversation on his radio show with co-host Craig Carton, Esiason, a father of two, said he would never have done what Murphy did.

“Quite frankly, I would have said C-section before the season starts,” said Esiason. “I need to be at Opening Day. I’m sorry. This is what makes our money. This is how we’re going to live our life. This is going to give my child every opportunity to be a success in life. I’ll be able to afford any college I want to send my kid to because I’m a baseball player.”

I don’t have children, I’m turning 28 years-old next week, which means I’m really only 23 years-old (Someone, I don’t know who, just decided it was totally acceptable for 20somethings to act like kids even as they broach their 30s. I won’t fight this. Thank you, mystery man.) But I have three sisters; I get the complications around reproduction, and can attest that Boomer is stating stupid words behind a stupid premise.

But you know what? PEOPLE ARE STOOOPID.

Rich people are stoopid. Everyone’s stoopid. Fuck, that ignorance – you know, being stoopid – is just as much a part of ‘Merica as saying ‘Merica!

We live in a world where athletes, not just college athletes, pro athletes, with a kajillion dollars, get Catfished! Yes, by Catfished, I mean keyboard romance gone awry, someone conned by an idiot imposter on an online dating site.

(Moreover, that “Catfish” is actually a television show – yes, a television show – is mind boggling. Knowing Nev Schulman has been out there, fighting to the good fight, trying to illuminate what is, in fact, real love, and what’s not, for over three seasons all because the South have yet to figure out how to do 12 seconds of Internet research through Google Images search, could be the most American thing ever.)

So, we’re all stupid, from time to time anyway. Then, let’s ask ourselves, why are talking heads, most of who are former athletes, the subject of this type of scrutiny? Even Callahan, a fantastic writer, whose views on the radio have become increasingly acerbic and forced, has a right to be stupid. Again, ‘Merica!

To that end, who cares what Boomer Esiason thinks about this topic? Like, really, this is what we’re going to get upset about.  If you’re an ardent listener to his show, that’s one thing; but it’s almost as if the Internet pushes OUTRAGE Button, and all chaos breaks loose.

And Boomer, predictably, issued a subsequent apology, because apologies are part of the news cycle in 2014.

I’m all for calling an idiot out for saying idiotic shit on the radio, but where do you guys stand?

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Memo to Danny Picard: Keep Going

Dig Radio Boston flounders; Danny Picard’s show, “I’m Just Sayin’”, keeps on keepin’ on. If nothing else, Picard hustles. In the past, his show has been simulcast on CSNNE.com, 1510 Boston, among other outlets. But now he’s back to hosting solely on his website and iTunes.

Earlier this week, Picard had an interesting rant about the move away from Dig, other subjects in the media (like the Jerry Remy-NESN story) earning too much attention, and even went on a tangent about his distaste for sharing a co-host during his weekend appearances on WEEI.

As a fellow writer, with much less success and longevity compared to Picard, I can sympathize with his frustration with breaking into sports media. There are very few Xander Bogaerts’ in the media. Youth is quelled by barriers. Hustle and passion are part of success – and, sometimes, the journey to prominence is better than the destination itself – but, at some point, you have to break through.

I still think Picard will. If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way. This is a town where Mike Adams has had a daily radio show for the better part of a decade.

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As always, thanks for reading. @Hadfield__.

Sports Media Musings: The Mailbag, Chapter VIII

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.

The Bruins are winning (BUT PERHAPPPPSS PEAKING TOOO SOOOON …. DISCUSS !! ). The Patriots just put the rest of the NFL on notice. The Red Sox are set to begin their World Series defense. The Celtics, mercifully, have tanked their way into an apparent high draft pick (maybe). Even the UMass basketball team is relevant.

Sports, you guys! Drink it in, because it doesn’t get much better tha –

… Wait a minute? What am I talking about? More than anything else, one thing became clear this last month: Charles Barkley’s recent comments about ESPN “manufacturing controversies” as well as the remarks he made to the Boston media during the NFL playoffs about how New Englanders “don’t appreciate the Patriots” are unintentionally connected.

Chaz doesn’t realize the ESPN problem – meaning the oversaturation of vapid content (e.g. LeBron James! LeBron James!!! & LeBron James!!!!!; “ELITE/MT. RUSHMORE!!” segments; Skip Bayless; almost the entire NFL Countdown crew; Skip Bayless again) is actually more widespread than thought.

This is the pulse of the Boston sports landscape from a fan’s perspective:

The media? Yeah, they’re more inclined to think otherwise, because instead of all good vibes developing, we hear and read and watch analysis breaking down the following: “Are the Bruins winning too much, too soon??” (Because STORYLINES!) “Did the Patriots give into the noise?” (OMIGOD, get over yourselves) “Is Rajon Rondo a centerpiece?” (Maybe, maybe not – but we should probably wait until he’s playing alongside pedigree above the level of Chris Johnson to decide) “Is David Ortiz a mercenary?” (Plenty of venom thrown Big Papi’s way these days.)

Of course, the same people that write garbage like the following:

“Being good and smarter than everybody else in the face of the NFL norm is great for the Krafts. I’m sure John Elway, Manning, and Talib will care about that when they’re fighting for the Lombardi Trophy next February.”

… Not only follow-up with a “Jets reaction” piece (because commending a move you begged for lacks the requisite amount of lighter fluid to spark a HOT SPORTS TAKE), they also accuse this site of publishing propaganda. Good times! We really are obnoxious sports fans, Chuck.

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Before we get to the emails, humor me and read my column for Metro Boston this week, on Dick Vitale – the last universally beloved blowhard (Yeah, I said it). To the emails …

For Salk’s replacement, I don’t think there is anyone to promote from within. They need to outside the building – Michael Smith, Danny Picard, Jen Royle, Marc Bertrand, Jermaine Wiggins.

StoJa

I’m pretty sure Jermaine Wiggins and Jen Royle are both readily available. And each would make sense to replace Mike Salk, if only because it’d be the most WEEI-move EVER, right? Wiggins promoting his clothing line. Royle blathering on about her fucking dog. Dear God, just a complete disaster

According to Chad Finn’s piece today, Dale Arnold will reunite with Michael Holley for the foreseeable future (maybe longer??) to fill the void left by Salk’s departure. The duo will also have a rotating guest on the show, presumably to help back up whatever the topic of the day is.

Long term plans for the afternoon drive program? Happy you asked? This exact topic was discussed yesterday here, but if I were running the shop – HEY PHIL ZACHARY, LISTEN UP – here would be my shortlist of (realistic) candidates:

Marc Bertrand: My personal favorite. This is absolutely the Belichickian move, just poaching from the proverbial Jets, like a ruthless tactician. A Beetle Coup accomplishes a few things:

1.) Instantly makes your station younger, thus more relatable (Gerry Callahan’s comments about the gay community participating in the St. Patrick’s Day parade isn’t doing you any favors, Phil)

2.) Weakens the competition (Beetle challenges Michael Felger on the regular which helps “Felger & Mazz because Tony Massarotti has been YARM-ing [‘You’re absolutely right, Mike!] for the better part of three years now. MEMO to Mazz: Look, I’m not one for #EmbraceDebate and I get Felger is your buddy, but palatable discourse with your counterpart doesn’t make for compelling radio, especially when your co-host – a champion of consistency – repeatedly contradicts his own seething analysis.)

Who isn’t at least interested in listening to “Holley & The Beetle”?

Chances of Happening: I’m sure WEEI would be on board. Beetle’s a regular on CSNNE, and a known personality. He’s level-headed, but hardly formulaic in a Salkified way. However, I have not reached out to Bertrand. I don’t know him aside from a few Twitter exchanges. And while it was made clear he has aspirations of headlining his own show when Damon Amendolara left for a national gig, does he want to roll the dice and leave a comfortable role at the highest-rated show in Boston for WEEI – a station seemingly in flux? He’s great with Chris Gasper on their Saturday show – maybe he’s still holding out hope the goodwill earned there will lead to something bigger at The Sports Hub. Who knows?

Kirk Minihane: I actually like this better than Bertrand because of familiarity; frankly, it’s the obvious move I’ve long-espoused. It would work, too. While filling in for Salk a few weeks ago, Minihane and Holley, with a shot of Tom E. Curran, predictably, was the best sports radio I’ve heard in a long, long time.

Chances of Happening: All things considered, as much as I want to yell PULL THE TRIGGER PHIL, DO IT … I get why “Minihane & Holley” will likely remain a pipe dream. In short, to his credit, Minihane has played a large part in revitalizing the “Dennis & Callahan” show. And last time management broke up a good thing – “Dale & Holley” – the worst case scenario unfolded. Which is all why it’s not exactly a shock to hear the word on the street is Entercom is happy with the current iteration of their morning drive program to the point where they wouldn’t want to jeopardize ratings in one place to bolster them in another.

Other Options

Greg Dickerson: He’s in the same vein as Arnold, and don’t see it happening. A good guy, who’s likable (likability, amazingly, is still an ongoing issue for WEEI). Dickerson is a familiar face, which probably induces some eye-rolling around these parts, but I remember him and Gary Tanguay as mainstays co-hosting “Sports Tonight” before it was the “Sports Tonight” it is today, and it was clear he’s not an alarmist or contrarian. Moreover, Dickerson’s still young enough that he’ll translate to a wide audience … and he’s likely available.

Danny Picard: I’d be floored if ‘EEI gave the Southie product this platform, but not because of lack of effort – they’re simply not in position to take such a risk. Either way, Picard is a workhorse, evidenced by his daily podcast, “I’m Just Sayin’”, which he’s done for several years now. He’s earned a fill-in gig on WEEI and his time as as a staff writer at CSNNE.com helped him finally make his way up the ladder to appear on “Sports Tonight.”

Michael Smith: Would love to see it. Smith and Holley, two longtime pals, would be great together, but that dude isn’t leaving Numbers Never Lie and the comfort of Bristol for WEEI.

I don’t have much sympathy for Wilfork. He’s already been the highest paid nose tackle in NFL history. He’s coming off an injury and seemed like he lost a step before he was hurt. He’s already been paid $32 million I believe…and yet the team made the AFC title game without him. He’s not Revis, he doesn’t hold the same value to the team…the emotional element is the only thing that will irk some fans

Andy Dursin

Yeah, I’ve written about this for Metro Boston before. He was the best player on New England’s defense. A workhorse and anchor. Below are his usage rates in terms of overall defensive snaps played, courtesy of Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com:

2009: 51.8 percent
2010: 69.8 percent
2011: 86.8 percent
2012: 81.3 percent

So, he was a beast. That’s a given. Buttttttt in the same time frame, in FootballOutsiders.com’s excellent defensive statistic, DVOA, the Patriots defense ranked 14th, 21st, 30th (YES! 30th out of 32 teams!!), then back to a respectable 15th in 2012.

That’s not all on Wilfork, of course; he consistently took on two offensive linemen and single-handily helped Mark Anderson tally 10 sacks in 2011, which led to the Bills comically overpaying Anderson the following offseason (THE WAGONS! OH, THOSE BEAUTIFUL WAGONS!!! THEY ARE A CIRCLIN’!!!)

… You can’t look at these things in a vacuum, but Andy’s right in terms of CB versus nose tackle and how each position can help a defense. I hope Wilfork comes back, because I’m sappy and care wayyyy too much about the pending employment of big, jolly, no B.S., locker room leaders like Big Vince. But both parties will be fine if they goes their separate ways. (#analysis)

WEEI needs a big move, but the options seem quite limited. They want to bring in someone that can entertainingly lead a program, but co-headline with Holley. One name that comes to my mind is Damon Amendolara. Not sure he would return locally, but with a little money, you can sway people’s minds.

Chris Boudreau

The human monologue and “big name”? Take a drink, sir.

Can you not blog with profanity? It’s childish and doesn’t really befit a self appointed critic of media that find ways to write without it. There’s simply not need for a word like **** on a site like this.

bosox3054

Wooaaaaaaah … first off, “self-appointed” media critic? Look, you can agree or disagree with what goes into these columns, but, if nothing else, I’d like to think I’m authentic – meaning, I don’t write for page views. However, calling me a media critic is stupid; it bestows authority that I’m not worthy of – like saying a reporter is an “expert” or an “insider” (the latter may be true, but just because a writer covers something doesn’t qualify them as an “expert”… they are just well versed in the topic). So, look, I’m delusional, but not that delusional. As far as swearing goes, I’m sorry about your virgin eyes. Everyone makes it to the back of the school bus at one point or another. I hope it was good for you, it was great for me.

 What is people’s obsession with Jen Royle? She is absolutely terrible, was never prepared for her Saturday shows on ‘EEI in the past and has very thin skin. She would be a horrific choice for PM drive.

Hambot

AMENDOLARAAAA & ROYLE.

(Don’t do it for us. Do it for the story, Phil. For the story.)

Yes, John Dennis is thin-skinned. To an Nth degree. Maybe when you stop deleting/editing comments that are critical of your work you ought write something about it.

James Allen

Comment moderation is handled by the Big Guy running this operation, Bruce Allen. Any readers will attest I’m very open to people ripping me; granted, I’m not a troll — I don’t get off on it or anything. What I do here is mostly subjective, thus I hardly expect EVERY reader to enjoy my stuff, much less agree.

But yeah, you’re probably right: I’m terrible and completely off-base with everything I write. Also I’m a hack. A fraud. Thanks for not only reading, but taking the time to comment, all despite these shortcomings!

I think the WEEI ‘brand’ and ‘nameplate’ have been destroyed, no matter the people behind the microphone. There apparently is no way to right a ship once it has listed too far to starboard.

Smack_Libs_Around

Disagree here. The downfall of WEEI certainly happened faster than anyone expected, but then again – while dominant, the station NEVER had the type of competition The Sports Hub presents. One thing we’ve all learned in the radio wars is that listeners are willing to change the dial if there’s better, more thoughtful (and less condescending) options available.

WEEI simply needs to find those options. So far, save for the addition of Kirk Minihane to the “Dennis & Callahan” show, every moved has been an unmitigated disaster. And more concerning, it wasn’t as if each move was met with great praise and then backfired – even at the time, the decisions were met with general trepidation, both inside the walls of Guest Street and out here, in the Blogosphere.

Re: Salk, Who knows, maybe the deal is that sports talk show hosts are a lot better if they have to actually show up in the locker rooms they talk about on air? 

Keep up the writing

Jon

It would be hard for me – someone who has been in the locker room, covering each of the Big Four sports, but mostly writes from HIS MOM’S BASEMENT nowadays (not really, but you know what I mean) – to back up this theory.

Yes, there is real value being in the locker room. Getting to know the players, atmosphere, and the like does provide insight, but I think someone is capable of talking about sports in an entertaining and intelligent way without having been in a locker room.

 “Of course, Belichick never is one to get caught up in the chatter or what the pundits are telling him to do. This time, however, he didn’t ignore the noise.” Karen Guregian, in the Herald today. There is not much more that is hateable about a journalist than when they starting take credit for things that happened outside of the world of journalism.

Homer Gomez

Going to give Karen Guregian a pass, mainly because it was a throwaway line, and she’s a pro. But agreed with your overall assessment, which is definitely a widespread problem.

Ryan, you do good work and I enjoy your columns. BUT, is there anything about Grantland you don’t like? I feel like at times you are a PR hack for them. Grantland has some good features, but really, in a blog post about “look at me” media members (Dino), doesn’t Grantland do the same thing with its pop culture stuff?

Ted Sarandis

Speaking of Grantland, Bill Simmons & Co. has been doing another live webcast from his living room during the first weekend of March Madness. It’s basically a live stream of him, a few friends, Jalen Rose, and – new addition – Michelle Beadle watching the games, bull-shitting with one another. It’s not my cup of tea; but it worked well last year.

To your larger point, Grantland’s pop culture coverage is hit or miss. Wesley Morris and Alex Pappademas are fantastic; some of their other writers should try less. Often times, when they discuss a topic, like Matthew McConaughey’s resurgence (who I never thought had the chops to pull off the role he played in True Detective), it’s almost as if they’re trying to shoehorn every little moment as a larger paradigm shift that we’ll remember in 20 years …When, in reality, more often than not, these things don’t truly matter. A moment can be just that – a moment – meaning everything doesn’t have to take on this grandiose theme, greater than what is actually is.

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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__.

Mediots! Series: Michael Felger As The Professional Propagandist

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.

felger

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:

Hey Ryan,

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:

http://www.reddit.com/r/nfl/comments/1zis8m/rnfl_i_need_clarification_on_the_cap/

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.

Ethan

And this is why Michael Felger sucks. His influence is real, his opinion is not.

To contribute or nominate a Mediot, shoot an email to [email protected] or, if you fancy yourself the progressive type, yell at me on Twitter, @Hadfield__.

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.)

9.) Here’s a good Q&A with Katie Nolan, Fox Sports 1 personality/Framingham native/love interest of yours truly, with the The Big Lead.

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.

10.) Talking to Glenn Ordway about possibly coming on the podcast next week. Send questions on Twitter to @Hadfield or through email [email protected].

 

Mediots! Series: John Dennis As The Last Professional Internet Tough Guy

John Dennis

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. 

Here’s the biggest indictment of John Dennis: I can’t tell if he’s Jack Nicholson playing Lt. Jessup, an ornery, morally corrupt HO-RAAHHH dude, shown below demanding respect; or if he’s Tom Cruise, who Jessup mocks, calling out his “Harvard mouth.”

Come to think of it, he’s probably both. And that’s why John Dennis is awful.

In terms of a national comparison, John Dennis is Bob Costas. Which, all told, is a massive insult to Bob Costas. In actuality, John Dennis is how a growing number of people perceive Bob Costas, meaning the version of Bob Costas that’s as insufferable and annoying and pompous as the rest of the world views him.

The comparison coalesces when we think about how each personality looks at the Internet. For instance, in 2008, Bob Costas had Will Leitch-Buzz Bissinger-Braylon Edwards(!!) on Costas Now to discuss the new media, and it immediately became clear Costas had a vague understanding of the sports blogosphere, which is to say he had NO CLUE about the blogosphere. (By the way, Bissinger is the real showstopper in the clip, holy shit — his reputation was forever tarnished. Acting like a lunatic will do that to you.)

Re-reading Leitch’s dissertation of the debacle on New York magazine’s website displays the true issue: For all he has accomplished, Bob cares too much about what other people think of him. That’s a recipe for loads of snark; the Internet tends to smell insecurity and, instead of relenting, it ATTACKS. I’m not particularly proud to be a part of this contingent — but, then again, I’d like to think I’m level-headed about the endeavor, and write with a conscious and tone that’s both enjoyable AND truthful. Regardless, for how brilliant and smooth Costas typically comes across, I get an unseemly amount of pleasure knowing that he failed to distinguish between a blog post and the comments section while reading Deadspin.

Anyway, John Dennis is all of that – to his credit, he can be eloquent in his delivery, yet annoyingly loquacious at the same time. More important is that Dennis is insecure, and that insecurity manifests itself on Twitter. Consequently, instead of severely misunderstanding the blogosphere like Costas, Denito acts like a 17-year-old backup nose tackle on a junior varsity high school football team in his social media exploits. (In other words, he’s Andy Gresh, which is almost an insult to Gresh.)

It’s not a good look, but again, insecurity only fuels venom.

In fact, you could argue Dino’s timeline should be a case study for what NOT to do if you’re a polarizing Mediot. Worse, and I’ve written this before, John Dennis TOTALLY thinks if you delete a salty tweet from your timeline no one will notice and it will be like it NEVER HAPPENED. (It’s the Internet, JD – NOBODY FORGETS.)

Anyway, on top of him being a generally terrible person to listeners (I’ve received multiple emails from readers complaining about this), some of my personal favorite John Dennis moments on Twitter include the following:

  • The time he berated Marc Betrand, or at least a Twitter account that he thought was Marc Betrand.  What a moment. So many strange angles here, but I can’t help but think about the poor guy who was on the receiving end of those tweets meant for Bertrand. Must have been a strange email to get from Twitter. “Honey, why is John Dennis verbally accosting you on Twitter?” Great times. I love divas of sports media. Never change, guys.

(The tweets have since been deleted)

(Dino’s tweets supporting Sileo have since been deleted)

(And yes, for those of you keeping score at home — those tweets, too, have since been deleted)

  • Also, as an aside: I can’t find the link, but I remember people being up in arms about the time he [allegedly] told someone to check his W-2 forms and get back to him. Yeah, he’s awful.

That’s all interactive stuff, though. The complaints about the actual show are even more egregious. And no, we’re not talking about the legendary voicemail he left Ryen Russillo or the METCO gorilla comment. That stuff will live on forever, but it’s almost too easy.

With Dennis, it’s the elongated questions. The persistent claim during their tailspin that “Dennis & Callahan” are victims of Chad Finn misrepresenting the ratings. The time he used what was supposed to be a private correspondence with Tom Brady about Brady’s contract negotiations to – I don’t know?? – gain listenership.  Finally, the crusade he went on about how management was silencing him and his cohort, Gerry Callahan, from doing the show the way they wanted to do it, as if the temporary removal of the “Headlines” segment was the reason for the ratings plummet.

(Because, God forbid, sports talk radio keeps the conversation to sports.)

And let’s not forget about his recent, kinda creepy penchant to YACK IT UP about his MACK-DADDY-SMOOTH days with the ladies. One reader put it best when he said, it was called the ’70s, John.

There is a good side to Dino, I’m sure of it. I’ve been listening to the WEEI show more frequently than “Toucher & Rich” of late. He’s shown professional growth by learning to interact with Minihane, as opposed to pretending he doesn’t exist, and the show is better for it. Truthfully, the start to this new series could have featured a number of media personalities, but given the recent resurgence of the “Dennis & Callahan” morning show, which has been praised in this space of late, it was just time to remember that John Dennis is still an abhorrent individual.

To contribute or nominate a Mediot, shoot an email to Hadfield.R[email protected] or, if you fancy yourself the progressive type, yell at me on Twitter, @Hadfield__.

***

10 quick musings (NOT INCLUDED: I don’t know what to think about the Big O’s new Internet venture, so I didn’t write about it. Maybe next week. If you care about such matters here are details):

1.) Ron Jaworski thinks that unless Johnny Manziel changes his playing style, he won’t last three games in THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE. Johnny Football, who recently changed his moniker to Mr. Football, is one of things I most look forward to in September. I love that he’s so polarizing that people like Barry Switzer (!!) come out of the woodwork to call him an “arrogant little prick.” And I love that there’s no in between with Mr. Football, he’ll either be great or awful — any intermediary take is unreasonable. Just the best.

2.) AJ McCarron’s lady friend, Katherine Webb, has been part of Internet folklore since Brett Musburger got all hot and bothered by her in the middle of the BCS Championship game two years ago. RELATED (BUT NOT REALLY; ACTUALLY, YEAH, THIS IS DEFINITELY RELATED): NFL quarterback prospect, Blake Bortles’, girlfriend is not ugly. There has to be a correlation between McCarron’s stock dropping and Bortles’ coming on strong.

3.) Speaking of correlations, the MIT Sports Analytics Conference is this weekend at the Hynes Convention Center. The attendee list gets more and more impressive every year, and 2014 is no different. Writers, thought leaders, and important sports figures – both national, and here in Boston – will be there. Here are a few names that stick out: new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Andrew Luck, Brad Stevens, John Henry, Jonathan Kraft, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Gladwell, Mike Reiss, Mike Zarreen, Phil Jackson, Richard Deitsch, Thomas Dimitroff, Zach Lowe, and Wyc Grousbeck.

4.) A laundry list, indeed. Still, there are people – even select decision makers – in the sports world who have little to no interest in advanced analytics. In a piece that’s well worth your time, Bill Barnwell, formerly of Football Outsiders and now the lead football writer at Grantland, does his best to offer insight into why this gap still exists.

5.) Rajon Rondo took a day off to celebrate his birthday without permission from the Celtics. It is a story that requires reaction. Most people agree it was the wrong move, especially for the team’s captain. And I think that’s reasonable.

I don’t know Rondo. I don’t know what’s said behind closed doors, or what his teammates think of his personality. I will say that when I covered the team in 2012-13, the year Rondo truly became Boston’s best player, he always appeared like an aloof individual. (Read: has ZERO use for the media)

But because of that, his “it’s none of your business” comments about the story make perfect sense. Look, he doesn’t seek the attention when things are great, thus he doesn’t feel he owes an explanation when times are tough. I’m OK with that rationale, I suppose. But still, it’s not a good look.

6.) I think Andrew Sharp, who I highly recommend reading over at Grantland, especially his Onion-esq weekly column #HOTSPORTSTAKES, went the wrong way with the Rondo thing, claiming that because his name always pops up in trade rumors and he finds himself stuck playing on a crappy, tankaliscious team, Rondo should be free from scrutiny.

I’m not sure if Rondo needs to be lambasted here, but that rationale is faulty at best. Players are on the trade market all the time. Rondo deserves criticism.

7.) Criticism, mind you, which the local media is happy to give, of course. Although, on WEEI.com, Ben Rohrbach is mostly pro-Rondo, citing the Captaincy thing as a misplaced narrative considering the title has been “reserved for such luminaries as Dee Brown, Rick Fox, Pervis Ellison and Antoine Walker.”  Chris Gasper, as is his MO, delivers a harsh, but fair viewpoint about Rondo’s frustrating personality on and off the court. Meanwhile, Chris Forsberg does well to describe how this is just another chapter, in a series of chapters, of the Rajon Rondo Experience.

8.) For those who emailed me this week, I’m in on True Detective, but out on Mixology. Yes, I watched the pilot because I live with girls and am exposed to such things. In short, Mixology portrays guys like they’re a bumbling mess or borderline creeps. It’s the equivalent of how people react to Johnny Football — meaning there’s no in between. Somehow, this makes Girls look like a reasonable show. (Hey, at least Girls tries.)

9.) Drunken college kids. Competitive “student-athletes” (whatever that term means). Lack of security. Surprised incidents like this don’t happen more often.

10.) SELF-PROMOTION: I wrote about Aaron Hernandez and guilt in fandom for the Metro this week. Check it out.

***

Sorry for getting this up so late. Go big or go home, ya know? Anyway, I’ll hold off publishing the first part of Monday morning, so it doesn’t get buried. Hope everyone has a great weekend and, as always, thanks for reading. Say hello on the Twittersphere. @Hadfield__.

Sports Media Musings: February Sports Coverage Is The Worst Kind Of Sports Coverage

Programming Note: With Bruce away, I’m captaining the ship this week. Always exciting, often disastrous. Shoot tips, comments, and other feedback to [email protected] or, if you consider yourself the progressive type, yell at me on Twitter, @Hadfield__.

WARNING: THIS IS A RANT

I don’t like to be the Everything Sucks Guy. I really don’t. The Internet is full of Everything Sucks Guy(s). You don’t need another one of those voices filling the space here. But today, dear readers, I deviate; because while hanging out with friends this weekend, we pondered a significant question: Is February the worst month of the calendar year to be a Boston sports fan?

It has to be. Ohhhh, it hassss to be. We’re stuck in quicksand consuming takes on takes on takes about the NFL Combine, Red Sox Spring Training, and the merits of tanking in the NBA. Really, the only thing we have to hold our hat on is the Bruins. And, keep in mind, the playoffs are months away. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for Jenny Dell, Will Middlebrooks and Everlasting Love; the over-saturation there helped me avoid an over-the-top, deep-dive into the meaning of Erin Andrews’s new role as host of “Dancing With The Starts.” (Or Erin Andrews doing anything, really.)

But, truthfully, I can’t stand February. This realization goes beyond the lack of relevant games, though — it’s everything else which has made consuming sports better and worse in 2014. What this all comes down to is speculation. Because if speculation is what you crave, February will tickle your fancy.

The main offender here is the NFL Combine, because the NFL Combine is terrible. Actually, let me rephrase — the combine itself isn’t horrible, but the way we digest the results definitely is. The problem is that the wall-to-wall coverage has not made us better, more knowledgeable fans. Nope. It’s made us informed juuuuuust enough that we’re annoying about the whole endeavor – like a college student trying to explain Occupy Wall Street to Will McAvoy.

Yeah, that’s fans and the media these days. A lot of people talking at once, without any real idea what’s going on in front of us.

For example, did you hear that draft pundit on “Toucher & Rich” this morning? I didn’t bother remembering his “premium” website, because he said things like “Jadeveon Clowney isn’t a winner.” He spoke in generalities and clichés, it was like listening to Danny Woodhead, circa 2011, tell the media he “just has to work on improving, day-in and day-out.”

What is happening here?

Well, 35 percent of fans, bloggers, “analysts”, radio hosts, and the like, take combine crap wayyyyy too seriously; as if someone’s 40-yard dash time tells you EVERYTHING you need to know about whether or not Player X will be an impact guy on Sundays.

(Because 40-yard Go -Routes are all the jazz in pro offenses these days. Seriously, I’d rather see how well DBs and WRs deal with pick plays; at least that would provide real context and maybe educate us with insight into what’s “dirty” or clean)

Then there’s 40 percent of the same crew, who have a little better handle on real life and understand that game film matters more than how awesome Player X is at working out. Of the remaining 25 percent, a decent chunk — let’s say 20 percent — then find themselves explaining the real value at the combine: the player interviews with team representatives behind closed doors: Are you in shape? What do team doctors think of you? Is your mom – or has she ever been – a prostitute?

Finally, the remaining five percent of people invested in this process, in one form or another, throw their hands up and say “I have no idea what is going on, and neither does anyone else.” As the coverage ramps up – and, in coming years, methinks it will – the blurriness between these groups will only distort. I can’t wait.

Spring Training isn’t much better. Let me sum it up for you: Xander Bogaerts is well on his way to being the next Mike Trout (Because you have to file the unreasonable column in Spring Training, so you can write the “WHAT’S WRONG WITH Xander??” column come July. Jackie Bradley Jr. is emphatically shaking his head in agreement). Jon Lester says he’ll take a home team discount, but that’s only left us to ask if he’ll take a real home team discount?

More story lines: Lots of Stephen Drew talk, the ongoing debate surrounding David Ortiz’s contract, and Ryan Dempster‘s shocking decision to walk away from $13 million. Plus, lots of stretching. That too. Like the combine, getting wrapped up in this discussion is fun, but generally pointless until the games start. (After all, remember, Bobby Valentine dazzled the cynical Boston sports media in Spring Training before the fourth estate gloriously turned on him.)

I won’t even get into tanking. At this point, the only thing worse than tanking is talking about the idea of tanking. Also, seedy stories like Rajon Rondo taking “unscheduled” off-days are always a good time; I’m sure people will have reasonable takes about that situation. This should be fun.

***

Now, as I understand it, the popular month’s people tend to point to as the nadir of the Boston sports calendar are July or August.

Not to be a jerk, but to that I say FOOLS. All of you.

(Alert: HOT LIFE TAKE coming your way – set your mind to blown)

As the wonky Internet writer, who fancies himself an intellectual luminary, one that is omniscient about these sorts of things (Read: life matters), allow me to explain. You see, there is life that takes place outside of sports. And July and August is when the other aspects in life supersede the enjoyment gained from sports. That’s not to say there is no room for sports, of course — but its place is auxiliary to all the other great events that make summer, well, summer.

Day drinking. Barbeques. Barbeques AND drinking. Beach days. Beach nights. Beach days AND beach nights. Summer concerts. Not to mention, people are in better shape and appear to be considerably happier – mainly because it doesn’t hurt to go outside. Sports is the cherry on top when I have all that going on in my life.

February? In February, it hurts to go outside. My lips are constantly chapped, face egregiously red because of wind burn, and people around me all gain weight because they can wear layers in the winter. And while there’s day drinking, it’s typically indoors in order to avoid the elements.

Case in point: my friends and I spent Saturday bowling, because there was alcohol and it was near my buddy’s condo. Then we watched Duke-Syracuse and speculated about NBA Draft prospects, because, as previously mentioned, in February there’s not much else to do but speculate.

Sports Media Musings: Bill Simmons Shines During Celtics-Lakers Telecast; Kirk Minihane Saves “Dennis & Callahan”

Programming Note: With Bruce away, I’m captaining the ship this week. Always exciting, often disastrous. Shoot tips, comments, and other feedback to [email protected] or, if you consider yourself the progressive type, yell at me on Twitter, @Hadfield__.

Today: In which we go Three & Out — yet again, because we lack a stretch wide receiver – while we discuss happenings in the media, as we brace for yet another Polar Vortex this week … BURRRRRR.

FIRST DOWN: It’s That Sports Guy On Celtics-Lakers

When it was announced Tommy Heinsohn would only provide color commentary for home games this year, my interest immediately piqued. Finally! Who would they bring in? Does this mean more Donny Marshall? God, I hope this doesn’t mean we’ll have more Donny in my life. Does he get any royalties from Ray Allen’s contract? He should definitely earn a little off the top.

Turns out, much like the admirable job NESN did back-filling the void created from Jerry Remy’s absence in the booth last summer, the brass over at Comcast has done a good job finding talent to insert on the road – Jackie MacMullan, Dave Cowens, and even the C’s General Manager, Danny Ainge, have all helped call games alongside the venerable Mike Gorman. Hey, if nothing else, the personalities have been interesting choices, in a somewhat uninteresting season of local basketball.

Enter ESPN’s Bill Simmons. As with all things (Boston) Sports Guy, his appearance on the broadcast of Friday night’s Celtics 101-92 loss to the Lakers was met with a wide range of reaction, because, these days, the Internet exists so we can dissect such things with purpose and vigor normally associated with political campaigns.

Here are scattered musings about The Sports Guy’s performance …

… Overall, listening to Simmons field questions during the pregame show was insightful and enjoyable. The guy is plugged in and has the perspective of someone whose knowledge extends well beyond the Celtics, because – you know – he watches the NBA, as opposed to aimlessly giving an opinion. For instance, Simmons spoke to why winning the lottery isn’t the end all be all of getting a good draft pick, because the lottery is full of dudes like Michael Carter Williams and Trey Burke who can be had with the seventh or eighth pick.

… I don’t think 85% of sports radio hosts in Boston know who MCW is or where he went to school last year. #FactNotOpinion. And stuff like that is a shame, because the NBA is great. It really is. But intelligent, league-wide conversation around these parts is lacking.

… Don’t think Sports Guy could pull this off as soon as a year ago. He’s improved considerably since joining ESPN’s NBA studio show.

… That said, I could have done without the obligatory “Wanna give a shout out to my friend Sully, Murph, Sully, Sully, et al” joke, but whatever.

… Could have also done without the weird interactions with courtside folk. Again, whatever — you win some, you lose a lot. This wasn’t a huge deal.

… I get that he’s polarizing — although, I’m not sure why — but hate him or love him, no matter how much his circumstances, access, and connections have evolved over the years, Simmons hasn’t changed the way he views sports – from the prism of a fan’s perspective — and there’s something incredibly endearing about that. He kept on rambling about how calling a game with Gorman was a bucket list item of his. Kind of cool.

… To that point, anyone berating Simmons for saying “we” or “us” in reference to the Celtics during the telecast misses the entire point. Plus, he’s filling in a role normally held for Heinsohn, a dude who doesn’t exactly scream objectivity.

… Within five minutes of opening tip, Simmons compared Jeff Green to an actor who doesn’t want to be the lead in a big budget film, but is instead content reprising the third or fourth role. When this happened, I’m quite certain Drew Magary’s head exploded.  SOMEONE CHECK ON DREW.

… Speaking of Magary, Deadspin took an opportunity to call out CSNNE for trying to fetch ratings with the addition of Simmons to the telecast. Because Lakers-Celtics used to mean something! (Or something.) It wasn’t that the assertion was particularly off – it was a Friday night and, on Twitter, I saw multiple people admit they were drawn to the telecast solely because of Simmons, as opposed to the two awful NBA teams that played subpar basketball. But, as Simmons told Chad Finn last week, this was planned in the offseason. The network had no way of knowing whether or not the Celtics or Lakers would be terrible. (To be fair, given the rosters, that certainly seemed likely)

Either way, does anyone else think Deadspin/Gawker’s infatuation with everything Simmons is beyond perverse at this point? Seriously. Transcribing the Lena Dunham podcast? (An interview where Simmons, ironically, announced that he likes Jezebel, Gawker’s website that boasts the tagline “Celebrity, Sex, Fashion For Women. Without airbrushing”) How about Tim Marchman’s well-written, but curiously agenda-driven breakdown of the controversial “Dr. V’s Magical Putter” feature on Grantland?

(I’ve already written extensively about this issue, but a quick refresher: Marchman does a fine job illuminating the journalistic failings of the piece, but ultimately tries to make this a marco issue about Grantland-Bill-Simmons. Frankly, it wasn’t. Any publication could have made the same mistakes. Do you know about trans-gender sensitivity issues? I sure don’t.  In fact, Deadspin, along with many other prominent journalists/publications, initially loved the piece.)

… And yes, this is interesting coming from me, someone who spends far too much of my own time thinking about media criticism.

… All that said, I don’t think I could watch Simmons call games on a regular basis, but I’m not sure he’d want to do that either.

SECOND DOWN: Kirk Minihane’s Jedi Mind Tricks

The morning show over on WEEI, “Dennis & Callahan,” have spent a considerable amount of time debating the impact of team chemistry on a team’s fortune, specifically how the intangible trait helped aid the Red Sox during their World Series run last season.

New guy – otherwise known to them as The Savior – Kirk Minihane, argued that stuff like team chemistry is overblown and simply another example of an overwrought narrative that morphs into (faulty) truth. (THEY LIKE EACH OTHER = WINNING!) John Dennis and Gerry Callahan could not wrap their head around this logic, but Minihane would only concede that chemistry merely helps matters and that it’s hardly important.

RELATED: “Dennis & Callahan” is listenable again, and it has nothing to do with chemistry. It’s funny: Minihane’s existence keeps Callahan and Dennis employed, as they disprove their own HOT SPORTS TAKE. This is a profession where chemistry matters — presumably more than something like baseball, anyway.

But on-air chemistry is much different than the type of crap Dennis and Callahan are espousing as ingredients for winning baseball games. Knowing your cues, when to let the other guy go on a tangent, or to put him in his place is comparable to a pitcher being in sync with a catcher. It’s occupational chemistry.

Whether or not, David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks double date with their respective WAGs is different. Sure, it may help matters, but overall, a relationship outside the game lacks any real bearing on the scoreboard. The same can be said for the resurgence of “Dennis & Callahan.” I get the feeling Minihane respects Callahan and tolerates Dennis. These guys don’t seem like best friends; they’re colleagues with similar aspirations. But it works. So much so that Minihane says if the duo doesn’t get the extensions they’re looking for that he’d walk. (I’m not sure if this is Minihane saying Minihane things, or if he’s serious – methinks it’s the former).

The funny part is that Dennis and Callahan definitely go into Phil Zachary’s office touting their banter and formula that is catching steam, but the truth is Minihane would’ve revived “The Big Show” the same way. Who isn’t listening to Michael Holley  and Minihane over “Felger & Mazz”? It was another long, overdue move – just like the switch to FM – that, for whatever reason, Entercom waited about a year too long to make.

(Side bonus: Minihane is writing more often at WEEI.com again. His stuff is usually worth your time.)

Third Down: Other Media Matters, Random Thoughts

… Question: How dumb am I for NOT watching True Detective? Is it good? How good?

… Congrats to Tony Gonzalez on his new role as part of the NFL Today studio show on CBS. Which also means happy trails to Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe, both of whom are being booted after yet another season that CBS trailed FOX’s coverage in ratings. I’ll miss nothing about Sharpe, except for his DAPPER suits. They were the best.

… As much as “Bill Belichick, The General Manager” supposedly sabotages“Bill Belichick, The Head Coach,” at least they’re cordial with one another (Sources say the strong relationship is due to the two being the same person. BSMW hasn’t confirmed these reports. Stay tuned…) That’s not the case in San Fransisco, however, where it appears Jim Harbaugh was in talks to be traded to Cleveland because he and the 49ers GM, Trent Baalke, don’t play nicely with one another. File this under: THANK GOD THIS STORY ISN’T HAPPENING IN BOSTON. (I think I would just ignore the Internet altogether if it was)

James Franco on seflies was better than James Franco on Shia LaBeouf, which was also really, really good. An auspicious start to a – possibly recurring??? – role contributing to the New York Times.

… The NFL is thinking about implementing a 15-yard penalty for using discriminatory language on the football field. I feel like Roger Goodell and the competition committee made a deal with talking heads in the media on ways it can fuel stupid, moralistic debates during the offseason. Is there an incentive metric for this in his $44.2 million annual compensation package? Has to be.

Alec Baldwin wrote at length about his “retirement” from public life. Is it me or is he totally one of those people in your life that announces on Facebook that they hate Facebook and are quitting, instead of – oh, I don’t know – simply deactivating their account? HOLY self-aggrandizement.

Reading Between the Lines Podcast: Episode 2 — Michael Pina

A lot of great reaction to last week’s podcast with Dan Kennedy and Adam Kaufman, which is greatly appreciated on my end. I’m still working out the kinks, and quickly fell behind this week while working on my Metro Boston column and a Sports Media Musings piece for you guys tomorrow. The hope is to have an iTunes feed up and running by next week’s episode.

In Episode 2, I talk to Michael Pina, who writes for various sites on ESPN’s True Hoop Network, including Celtics Hub, as well as Sports On Earth & The Classical. Basically, he has a problem: he is a certified basketball junkie. Which is a great thing for readers, because he’s part of the wave of young basketball scribes who really teach you about the game’s nuances through analytics, clips, and still-frames.

CLICK HERE for the direct link to the player on SoundCloud if the player is not showing up on your Smart Phone. If you want to skip around, below is a breakdown of our conversation. As always, thanks for reading listening! Say hello on Twitter: @Hadfield__.

0:00 – 8:40 We talk about writing styles & the Sloan Sports Conference.

8:40 – 16:55 The conversation shifts to Celtics talk: Jeff Green’s future, the Rajon Rondo narrative (CAN HE BE THE BEST PLAYER ON A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM?!), and other relevant topics are discussed.

16:15 – 25:00 (END) With the Celtics, for most part, being irrelevant come spring time, we pick our favorite teams to watch, who we think is coming out of Western Conference (either the Heat or Pacers are a lock for the Eastern Conference), & the idea of “clutchness.”

Sports Media Musings: NFL Prospect Michael Sam Announces He Is Gay; The Media Debates How The Media Will Treat The Story

Today: In which we discuss Michael Sam’s decision to step forth as the first openly gay NFL prospect. Before doing so, let’s pass along some prerequisite reads from much smarter writers than myself.

Cyd Zeigler, of Out Sports, has the exclusive behind-the-scenes story of how Sam’s PR team chose to come out to the public with the news, including the thought process behind which outlets to confide in, etc. The piece deep dives into the decision to give the television component to ESPN, but the written news to the New York Times, in order to maintain control of the message. A must-read for media junkies.

LZ Granderson, who is a columnist at ESPN (and gay as well), says Sam’s announcement maters, but it’s hardly groundbreaking.

Mike Tanier is one of my favorite football writers in the country right now. Although, he’s quickly on his way to becoming one of my favorite writers, period. His piece on Sam is excellent.

***

The media (predictably) spent the immediate aftermath of Sam’s announcement debating — what else? — HOW THE MEDIA will treat the story. That statement reads cannibalistic, but the conversation felt genuine. Still, contemporary media’s penchant to hedge the future importance of something — anything, really — as its happening, rather than what it means in the here and now, is fascinating. Let’s play along, if only to work this out in our head and on your computer screen by answering three peripheral questions:

1. Is this a story?

Block everything surrounding this announcement out, and simply look at the decision as to whether or not this is “news.” The answer, of course, is that yes — this is a story. We’re traversing uncharted territory and establishing precedence here. To that end, there is immense news value, and plenty of angles to explore. Saying otherwise is ignorant at best and borderline insulting at worst.

Now, when someone questions the magnitude of the announcement or says “so what?,” they aren’t really downplaying its importance or significance, they are scaling back the scope of media reaction to show progress. The implication of that reaction is that we’ve come so far as a society that an openly gay football player assimilating himself to the NFL culture, by and large, shouldn’t be a big deal anymore. And that, really, silence on the matter — seamlessly moving on with our lives without skipping a beat — displays true acceptance, the kind which doesn’t need acknowledgement because This Is Just The Way Things Are. In theory, this is fine, but we live in the real world, where Sam’s decision engenders attention, both positive and negative.

As an aside, it’s interesting: Sam’s advisors planned the timing in a way that helps NFL officials absorb the news as much as possible before the draft. And while that method could prove effective in terms of his draft position, the media, as its wont to do, could find layers to explore, which will only build anticipation — effectively prompting the exact opposite outcome Sam was looking for. Time will tell, just something to consider.

2. What kind of legs does this story have?

It depends on the inevitable moment when an athlete or media talking head (probably the latter) says something stooooopid. So far the media has spent more time discussing whether or not this is a story (again: it is, you imbeciles), than the story itself. Because that’s how we talk about about everything these days. (e.g. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?!)

By the way, Herman Edwards never stood a chance here. It’s not a good look, but I suspect, we’ll see worse down the road.

3. OK. That’s a given. Stop dancing around the question: Really, how long?

Fred Toucher compared this to the Manti T’eo scandal last year, which feels off. Toucher’s point is that the T’eo thing was THE story of 2013, but its attention died down shortly after the draft. His argument ultimately fails, however, because while both of these moments live in the era of the 24/7 news cycle, where we drop whatever has our attention for the next shiny object, they are rife with important differences.

Chief among them is that the “distraction” T’eo provided is his own humiliation; meanwhile, Sam’s pending employment (hopefully) fosters progress. This is a critical distinction. Sam is representing an entire demographic, one that this announcement profoundly affects not just today, but going forward. Forever, really. On the other hand, T’eo knowingly perpetuated a lie. It was salacious in every sense of the word, and the ubiquitous failings in the media to uncover the truth was certainly astonishing, but beyond that embarrassment, the story ultimately impacted T’eo and, I suppose, the fourth estate.

But, as with the previous question, the real implication goes beyond the surface of the question. What we’re really asking is “How long will this be THE topic that blogs, columnists, television panels, and radio shows are talking about?”

From an oversaturation standpoint, the period between now and the draft will see prolific overkill. That’s obvious. But it’s a special type of overkill: aimless overkill (my favorite kind!). Because no one, certainly not anyone in the media, is particularly adept at identifying draft value. (Think of how many impact guys come in undrafted every season, or how many third round draft picks outperform first rounders. Trying to reconcile his changed draft status — post-announcement — feels silly and pointless and empty, but simultaneously is an important question. Alas, #EmbraceDebate. Ewwwww.)

After Sam’s drafted – and, despite what one General Manager said in Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column today, we’d be floored if he wasn’t drafted – the story will garner attention in training camp, but no more than other typical preseason storylines “Will RGIII will bounce back?”, “Is Rob Gronkowski healthy?”, “TEBOWWWWWWWWWW!” (I feel like a SportsCenter anchor just needs to yell “Tebow” once every 90 minutes in August – can’t just quit cold turkey). In the end, who cares? We just want to watch football.

As far as outlets ranging from TMZ to CNN? They’ll keep their eye on matters, but direct their attention elsewhere as soon as Justin Bieber enters rehab. So, basically, by Valentine’s Day.

 ***

At the very least, we’ll be taking a break from Pete Carroll: Leader of Men talk this week. Speaking of which, in my Metro column this week, I examine the Carroll era and rank the top-five expatriates of Boston Sports who we wouldn’t want to see a championship. Because lists are always fun. Especially negative lists.

Anyway, as always, thanks for reading. Feel free to say hello in the Twittersphere: @Hadfield__.

Sports Media Musings: The Narrative Problem; Revisionist History of the Pete Carroll-Patriots Divorce; Sochi Games Unplugged

Today: In which we play a game of Three & Out while cleaning out the notebook as we head into the weekend. As always, thanks for reading. Feel free to say hello in the Twittersphere: @Hadfield__.

FIRST DOWN: The Narrative Problem

HOT SPORTS TAKES are all around Boston these days, and it’s killing my wardrobe. Yes, my wardrobe. This morning “Dennis & Callahan” teased whether Tony Gonzalez, who apparently left the door open to stave off retirement one more season to play for a Super Bowl contender, would even consider New England as a destination. The statement was so outrageous that I spit my coffee out. Now, I have a coffee stain on my shirt. Thanks a lot, Hot Sports Takes. JEEZ.

To clarify, I’m not blaming “Dennis & Callahan.” They are just following suit, I suppose. But this idea that the NFC is now impenetrable needs to stop. The Seahawks and 49ers probably beat whoever comes out of the AFC this season. I have no qualms with that assessment, but the problem here is obvious: Football happens once a week, and in between games, we develop these “irrefutable” ideas/takes about teams and players, then either whimsically flip the idea or doggedly stress its absolute truth based on the result the following week.

It’s a foolish exercise and lacks any perspective, but hey — sure, NO ONE IS BEATING SEATTLE, until the Seahawks lose, then the tide turns to IS THIS THE BLUEPRINT TO BEAT SEATTLE? Rinse and repeat, and so on and so forth. You know the drill. When the Super Bowl happens, we’re stuck on that same narrative until summer time, and forced to listen Steve Young talk about Pete Carroll like he’s a philosopher as opposed to a fucking football coach with a straight face. This is real life. This is happening.

Meanwhile: WHAT HAPPENED TO ANY GIVEN SUNDAY???

// AND PARITY??

The answer? Those things don’t exist in the offseason.

(As an aside: Yes, the Patriots are still Super Bowl favorites. There are 32 teams, and they consistently reach the conference championship game, year in and year out, 8 out of 13 seasons in the Brady-Belichick era.)

SECOND DOWN: That Mind Erasing Device From Men In Black Totally Exists

As previously mentioned, the talking heads are having a field day with Carroll, and some are questioning, or at least discussing, whether or not Bill Belichick should loosen his grip on his team. The problem is that those espousing such ideas blacked out the downside to Carroll’s approach and conveniently forget to mention that Seattle is the first true beneficiary of the CBA (Russell Wilson & Richard Sherman count for LESS THAN A MILLION dollars on Hawks’ cap). Although, I refuse to believe the talking heads would ignore facts to promulgate an idea or, GASP, agenda.

No. Never. The only explanation?

In case anyone was exposed to such a device, here’s a refresher. This is what happens when 10-6 turns into 9-7 which turns into 8-8.

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I’m happy for Carroll, I really am. But I think his success is mutually exclusive in terms of how the Patriots should conduct affairs going forward.

THIRD DOWN: The Sochi Games Are Everything Right Now

Goalies taking a trolley between rinks, toilets that don’t work, and the Russian deputy prime minister indirectly admitting that the government has surveillance cameras set up in hotel rooms. So much wrong happening here. It’s fantastic, actually.

As insane as this sounds, I want to welcome the Olympics to the way in which we discuss sports in 2014. You’re a little late to the party, but that’s OK, kegs in the back, LET’S PLAY FLIP CUP!

What am I talking about? The way we talk about sports in 2014 has very little to do with sports. Bullying, the idea of tanking, the stoooopid Hall of Fame debates, everything about the NCAA, even over-the-top postgame interviews (OMIGAWD, DID YOU HEAR WHAT RICHARD SHERMAN SAID!? THUG … ACTUALLY, IF YOU MUST KNOW, HE WENT TO STANFORD. SO THERE.). These topics are related to sports, but unrelated to watching sports. The Olympics, though, are supposed to be different – the purity of sports, which is supposedly pristine.

Instead, it turns out, the Winter Games are just the rest of the sports world. Except maybe worse, like on steroids or something, because Russia is what happens when keeping it real goes wrong. When the games start, maybe that will change, but so far, it’s emblematic of the way we consume the rest of sports.

 

Reading In Between The Lines Podcast: Episode 1 – Dan Kennedy, Adam Kaufman

We’ll come back tomorrow with Media Musings.

Today: In an effort to serve the growing BSMW readership, I’m going to host a weekly sports/media/culture podcast (because I’m original like that) every Thursday afternoon entitled, “Reading In Between The Lines” (Get it? Sports ANDDDD writing pun — yeah, you got it!).

Now, a few quick caveats about the podcast, before you guys advise me not to quit my day job. First off, from a technology perspective, it’s an extreme work in progress. I bought a fancy-schmancy microphone with my Super Bowl winnings (PUMPED & JACKED), which is why I sound great in the introduction, but the recording software I’m using leaves a lot to be desired (hence the crappy interview sound).

But worse, as a host, I LEAVE A LOT TO BE DESIRED. I’m my own worst critic. It took me a while to figure out how I wanted to do “Sports Media Musings” here, as well as find my voice for my column over at Metro Boston. Sometimes, I look back to pieces I’ve written and a feeling of shame runs through my body. I suspect that’s the same feeling this first few months of the podcast will engender.  In general, with podcasting, I’m currently going through what Ira Glass calls the “creative gap” (Seriously, I implore you to watch this video, it’s 100000% true). I know what works, what doesn’t — and I expect everything about the product to improve.

Anyway, in Episode 1, I talk to Dan Kennedy, the author of Wired Cityand a nationally known media commentator who writes for the Nieman Journalism LabThe Huffington Post and other publications. He is also a panelist on “Beat the Press,” an award-winning weekly media roundtable on WGBH-TV (Channel 2). We discuss the Jenny Dell-NESN situation and the ramifications of John Henry purchasing the Boston Globe.

Then, at the 18:20 mark, I check in with Adam Kaufman, columnist for Boston.com and 98.5 The Sports Hub personality, about Curt Schilling, angry reader comments, and the new Entourage movie.

I’ll come back in later today and provide time stamps so you can skip around. As always, thanks for reading listening! Say hello on Twitter: @Hadfield__.