Sports Media Musings: The Hater’s Guide to the NFL Playoffs, Week 1

For links and the usual happenings, please, do yourself a favor, and make sure to read over Bruce Allen’s post earlier this morning. Because, frankly, even though he has been placed on injured reserve, we plan on booing that trader – oh, you know who we’re talking about – former Patriots offensive lineman, Donald Thomas. While we bleed red, white, and blue, that mercenary only claps his hands together for one color, GREEN. 

Today: The Hater’s Guide to the NFL Playoffs, Week 1; in which we review all the wonderful from Wild Card Weekend.

“A Curse Worth Believing”

… Embrace him, for he is your frenemy, New England.

… In reflection of what we wrote Friday, we want to clarify the proposed conclusion to Tommy Heinsohn’s broadcast career was not just for us, the viewers, but for him, and his enduring legacy. His continued presence – on a full-time basis, anyway – will only worsen the situation.

You want evidence? Enter Mike Ditka. The 74-year-old is living proof that producers can dress someone up and trade in their once-hallmark aviator shades for a trendy set of HIPSTER GLASSES, but that doesn’t mean the guy won’t preview the wrong game and rock a face of general bewilderment as the gaffe is pointed out to them, because, again, the subject at hand was born in fucking 1939.

Shocking, we know, because it’s not like no one at ESPN could have seen this coming. He didn’t recently fall asleep on-set during a live telecast or anything.

“Coach, HEY COACH!” –

Oh that happened, too? Well, then, shit.

Andrew Luck puns are terrible. Most reasonable people understand this. Unfortunately, Twitter, as a platform, is an enabler. Here’s a rule of thumb that all talking heads should consider: If you wouldn’t say the line in front of friends at a bar or house party then, please, do not post the awfulness to Twitter. More often than not, you’ll sound like Rick Reilly. That’s embarrassing. We’re embarrassed for you. There were hundreds of examples to choose from this weekend, but as always, Darren Rovell is a safe resource to represent these sorts of terrible things.

… Also on Twitter: Skip Bayless went all Baylessian. High comedy:

Drew Brees, boy among men. (Except for when he’s winning.)

… Immediately following the Saints victory in Philly, Trent Dilfer said the Saints offense morphed into a “portable” unit on SportsCenter. 48 hours later, we are still amused by that choice of adjective.

… The Most Shannon Sharpe Image of All Things Shannon Sharpe happened Sunday:

SOMEONE CALL AN AMBULANCE, OR THE FASHION POLICE. GET THIS MAN TO KIRK HERBSTREIT PRONTO.

Phil Simms and Mike Mayock. Mike Mayock and Phil Simms.

… Mayock’s involvement in the Chiefs-Colts showdown meant we were reminded of Alex Smith’s 40-yard dash time because, in 2014, combine statistics from 2005 still matter.

… As brutal as the Mike Mayock Experience was, Phil Simms offered plenty of after-the-fact “I’LL TELL YA JIM, THIS IS WHAT WE TALKED ABOUT ALL WEEK” comments, which is as Simmsy as it gets.

… Producers must have got to him, however, because Simms, an infamous wishy-washy color guy whose HOT SPORTS TAKES are as hot as an under-cooked Lean Cuisine meal, went into Sunday’s Chargers-Bengals match-up with one, decided opinion: the world has unfairly crucified Andy Dalton because of two lackluster playoff performances.

“OK, Phillip” we thought to ourselves. This could work. All told, this wasn’t much different than Twitter deciding that nearly a decade of empirical evidence was worthless and Alex Smith had magically morphed into a Brett Favre type, with the poise of Tom Brady, after a strong first half against the Colts only 24 hours earlier.

Do it for people with bad hair, Phil.

Simms embarked on his journey, a man of conviction; presumably, he had “TALKED TO PEOPLE ABOUT IT ALL WEEK, JIM.” So, with a little help from Jim Nantz, we noticed the delight in his voice when Dalton stood in the pocket and delivered his first career playoff touchdown pass to give the Bengals an early lead.

Do it for the (un)believers, Phil.

Together, Dalton and Simms were going to show the Internet what’s what — through guts, determination, untimely interceptions, and a 40-yard bomb on 4th & 3 with a season on the line! Oy. It didn’t end well for either party. So, here we are, through one week of playoff action, and the JOE FLACCO AWARD for Hey, that guy! He GETS IT NOW! is still up in the air. Your move, Cam Newton.

Cris Collinsworth, on the other hand, was insightful and, at times, even prescient during the Saints-Eagles game. On one drive alone, Collinsworth noted that Philly would throw deep if the Saints didn’t provide safety help over the top on DeSean Jackson. On cue, the Saints left their defensive back exposed on an island, which led to a PI call on the very next play. Then, on the same drive, Collinsworth said to watch out for Zach Ertz in the end zone. Like clockwork, Ertz popped open to temporarily give the Igggggles the lead. It’s not that he played, or that he’s witty, or anything like that, we just feel like Collinsworth is smarter than every other color guy and thus better at his job.

… A few hours after the action was over, we ran a search into the Google machine and found a fun Packers blog. They write from a fan’s perspective, and I found the work (somewhat) entertaining. Here is how the blog describes itself in the “About” section:

The Wisconsin media ranges from bland to hilarious in their coverage of the Green Bay Packers. Total Packers doesn’t pull any punches. We are outspoken. We are entertaining. Sometimes, we are crass. But most of all, we are passionate about the Green Bay Packers because we bleed Green and Gold.

Sound familiar? The site’s recap of Green Bay’s loss to the 49ers was OK. Truthfully speaking, I’m sure I could have found a better site, with more in-depth statistics and thoughtful writing, but that’s neither here nor there. The point the likes of Dan Shaughnessy fail to comprehend is that bloggers – yes, even fans of the team – can produce analysis on par with the mainstream media experts.

As previously stated, we, the readers, do not need our embattled scribes to root for the team, so long as the overall mission of coverage is not hindered: ENTERTAINMENT & NEWS. The latter is no longer in Shank’s purview, the former is an ongoing quest for the CHB.

… Lastly, we didn’t have a problem with Leigh Montville’s column in the Boston Globe on Sunday about Aaron Hernandez (still) being THE STORY of Patriots’ season.  What say you, BSMW community?

As always, thanks for reading. @Hadfield__

Sports Media Musings: The Mailbag, Chapter VI

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

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

For now, MAIL TIME.

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

–       Homer Greenz

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

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

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

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

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

(*DUCKS A LIGHTNING BOLT*)

As far as Remy goes …

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

– Andy Dursin

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you guys think?

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

–       bsmfan

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

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

–       Bill

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

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

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

–       The_Other_Side

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

Two thoughts here:

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

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

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

Joe

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

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

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

Love Mom

I LOVE YOU, MOM. HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Uniformed or Uninformed?

LocalSportStuff

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

A few GIF responses:

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

I honestly have no idea who Eric Wilbur is.

–       Oswee Larvey Hald

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

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

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

–       LateToDinner

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

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

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

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

As always, thanks for reading. @Hadfield__

Sports Media Musings: Don’t Look Back In Anger

Note: Should have plenty of juice for tomorrow’s mailbag, but if you have something on your mind, don’t be shy. Fire off an email to [email protected] or, if you fancy yourself the progressive type, shout at me on twitter @Hadfield__.

Today: Four Downs (SPORTZ PUN!) of Media Musings – and other stuff – for you to rifle through during your annual malaise, otherwise known as the first work day of the New Year.

First & 10 

Our opening topic of discussion is Tim Tebow. As a general service to the BSMW community, we’re giving you an out. If you don’t want to read about him, or his new position at ESPN, please skip the next 500+ words. Cool? Cool.

Tebow signed a multi-year deal to join ESPN as an analyst for the four-letter network’s new SEC Network, set to launch later this year.

Here’s part of Tebow’s released statement:

“When I was 6 years old, I fell in love with the game of football, and while I continue to pursue my dream of playing quarterback in the NFL, this is an amazing opportunity to be part of the unparalleled passion of college football and the SEC.”

There was uproar about these innocuous words, because the Internet exists and faux outrage is a byproduct of that sheer existence. In summation, the snide reaction was two-fold. Part I went something like “TELL ME, HOW DOES WORKING AT A NETWORK IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF BECOMING A PROFESSIONAL QB????” Before getting into Part II, let me just clarify that there are people (myself included) who work multiple jobs in pursuit of their dreams. This happens, everywhere. Can’t knock the hustle here. Just can’t.

But if you’re in the business of poking holes into a media hire, Part II of the reaction is a much sounder viewpoint – that Tebow has never come across as particularly articulate. On the veneer, this is a fair assessment; well, until we come to terms with ESPN’s history. Look, for every Jalen Rose there is a Ray Lewis, an Emmitt Smith and a Lou freaking Holtz (who’s like 102 years-old). Suffice to say, networks hire names, not talent.

That’s not a knock, either; there’s credibility associated with hiring athletes, even if they have trouble putting together any resemblance of a cogent argument.  For instance, right in our own backyard, Jermaine Wiggins is still a thing that can be consumed on a part-time basis …Which is great! You know, if you’re into self-flagellation.

TEBOWWWW! Watch out for the football!

With all that said, do you want to know what we, here at BSMW, really think about this Tim Tebow situation? No, you don’t. And that’s the point, isn’t it? He is the insatiable itch, the scratch that won’t heal. You’re not upset that you’re reading this part of Sports Media Musings. Nope. You’re upset – or happy? – at me, the writer, for producing it.

Therein lies the Tim Tebow conundrum: he cannot win, but he cannot lose, either. He is a perfect amalgam of ingredients for this fucked up world we live in. He will always be a polemic figure trapped – or aided? – by the irascible way in which people talk about popular culture. His values and skill set and demeanor and, um, looks are all part of the package.

(Here’s the most Tebow story ever: I once wrote a column for Metro Boston about the real-time emotional roller coaster that took place immediately after he signed with the Patriots this offseason. Looking back, that exercise feels silly, but it wasn’t as if I was unaware the idea was silly at the time. I knew it then, I know it now; and the known oversaturation of commentary is what makes Tebow so compelling. Or infuriating. We’re all part of the problem, except for Tebow himself (I think, maybe?). I need a drink.)

Regardless, this leaves the general public with one burning concern: What in God’s name (INTENTIONAL PUN) will be the lead story on SportsCenter in August?

Second & 40

(Because we were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, then we complained, and Ed Hochuli promptly flexed his pecks at us, while issuing a second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty).

This is the last time we’ll discuss this issue because I cannot handle any more analysis over something so off-base. Today, though, I can’t help myself. During an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show, Dan

See: Slinger of Sports Takes; purveyor of truth.

Shaughnessy talked about his role as an objective/subjective/provocateur of Boston Sports. It was 15 minutes of fun, and for all the reasons you’d expect. Listen to the segment here, in case you missed it.

In no specific order, we offer scattered musings about what you just listened to.

 In a piece for WEEI.com last year, Kirk Minihane killed Shank for his misguided column which echoed similar sentiments about the “Wild, Wild West” … the Internet. (Oh, look – a tumbleweed!) Yet Minihane was eerily quiet here; meanwhile, John Dennis and Gerry Callahan spent the better part of the segment massaging the CHB’s already-inflated ego for being a Gunslinger of Truth. It felt like a sit down between Chris Berman-Brett Favre circa 2005. They just LOVED the piece, soooooo refreshing.

… Shank spoke about his qualms with “fan boy bloggers,” ultimately determining that he could talk to his neighbor if he wanted to hear an “uninformed” opinion and that he wants to be “enlightened” by analysis. That’s rich coming from him, because you know what’s enlightening to the masses? Caustic opinion that changes over the course of a week.

… I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I laughed at the Callum Borchers jab. “You’re not missing much.” (Playing catch up? For background, click here.)

… Shank sly quipping, “I just cannot listen to another 20 year-old telling me he thinks so-and-so sucks” on a sports radio program absolutely killed me. If you don’t see the absurdity of that statement, in that medium, you’re part of the problem. Go away. (Just kidding. Email me. We’ll talk it out.)

… Newsflash to everyone on earth who called this topic “a fresh issue that everyone is talking about!” … This isn’t fucking Inception or the newly released Drake b-sides; there is nothing fresh about this discussion, it’s far from a new issue. You’re dating yourselves if you say otherwise. Stop.

… And for the love of Tim Tebow: NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND THINKS WRITERS HAVE TO BE A FAN OF THE TEAMS THEY COVER. You all sound like Shank’s aforementioned uninformed neighbor. And d-bags, too. Wars over – Buzz Bissinger already fought the good fight, and lost. Rather miserably, I might add. It wasn’t pretty.

… Also: Hey guys, while we all think it’s cute, you don’t have to be so coy about the whole thing. So please, instead of saying “blogs,” it’s OK to just call us out.

Third & 5 (BIG PLAY)

A few links to pass along …

Will Leitch made an interesting point worth considering about the future of the media in his column predicting what the sports universe will look like in 2014:

“More non-athletes will have more prevalent television analyst roles. We’ve all watched Emmitt Smith and other former athletes struggle with both basic diction and any coherent perspective on the games they played. We’re starting to see the answer to that: People like us. ESPN’s Bill Simmons, who might have helped push out Magic freaking Johnson and is now essentially the centerpiece of ESPN’s NBA coverage, is the zenith of this, but you’re seeing the trend everywhere, from Tom Verducci working the booth during playoff games to the Basketball Jones guys with their own show on NBA.tv. (They’re “The Starters” now, a name I’m still not used to.) Viewers are tired of ancient anecdotes from the locker room; expect to see more non-players like Simmons featured, not less.’’

In the biz, that’s called going full circle. As you can glean from my Tebow analysis, I tend to hope he’s right.

***

In his year-end awards, Rich Levine had a funny section that, I think, we can all relate to.

THE TOM BRADY SHOULDER AWARD (Biggest Non-Story)

Runners-Up

Should Boston fans Boo Wes Welker?: Well, should they?

Should Boston fans boo Doc Rivers?: Should they?!

Should Boston fans boo Terry Francona?: For the love of all that’s holy, we need an answer! We need the media to tell us what to feel and how to act. Please! Somebody. Anybody?

And the winner is . . .

Every debate over whether a former player/coach deserves to be booed upon his return to Boston: Across the board. Every one. Please. Please. No more booing debates!

Can that be our collective New Year’s resolution for 2014?

Notice Rich said “us,” meaning – DUN, DUN, DUNNN!!!! – he’s a fan! ONE OF US! Dear God, does CSNNE know about this? BURN HIS HOT, HOT SPORTZ TAKES! EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM! Wait, they’re on the Internet?? Of course they are; after all, that’s where the fans write!

Should there be an execution? Let’s be rational and talk this out first. OK, fine. Rich, for your last meal, we have a steak on the menu – yes, straight from the Gillette Stadium media buffet – how would you like that cooked?

Could Rich Levine be taking a trip to Lake Tahoe soon? We hope not.

FOURTH & 1 (Obviously, going for it) 

It’s great to be back. The site is doing better than ever (1.4 million views last year, what’s up?). And I feel like it’s going to be a great year. Yada, Yada, Yada. Because of all that awesomeness, we’re going to depart today’s musings with randomness that may – or may not – relate to Boston Sports Media. Why? Because I just wrote 1,300+ words about Tim Tebow and Shank. I need to breathe.

… Saw a dude at the gym wearing a Pats hoodie that had the sleeves all cut up like Bill Bellichick’s infamous look. I asked him about it, and he told me he bought it custom made that way. Luckily, I had just listened to the D&C interview.

So I shrugged, smugly told him he was uninformed, and walked away.

… Speaking of the gym, what’s with old guys and their willingness to walk around naked in the locker room? I certainly change in the locker room, but it’s not like I sit there, naked, and play a few rounds of Candy Crush. I ask because the steam room at the local YMCA has a policy requiring members to cover up their genitals with a towel while using the room.

All things considered, this seems like a reasonable request. And yet, the other day an old dude had to be told to cover up when he walked in naked. He stood there – naked, in all his glory, angrily perplexed – and (eventually) departed, but not before checking the listed rules of the locker room. With the scowl he gave the person at the front desk, you would have thought we were questioning his freedom of speech. Moments later, I saw him in the lobby and asked him if he liked sports, he confusingly replied “Yeah, I’m a fan.” OF COURSE, I thought to myself.

So I shrugged, smugly told him he was uninformed, and walked away.

… Is it a weird move to still drink ice coffee in January? Because I definitely still am ordering up an icer from ‘Dunks every morning. I don’t know, maybe I should consult Peter King on this, since he both loves coffee and isn’t a measly fan. He’s mainstream media, he knows things.

… Openly looking for television show recommendations. Preferably a series still running that I can binge watch to catch up on. Make me proud, everyone.

Lastly, here’s a true story: I walked into the office this morning and saw my team by the coffee machine, looking fiercely hungover. I decided to offer up motivation, because I’m totally that guy. “Hey, you guys – come on, fist bumps all around [I fisted, they reluctantly bumped]. Let’s be great – together, as a team – for these next 48 hours before heading into the weekend.” Think it’s a sign I have to stop listening to TED Talks on my morning commute.

As always, thanks for reading. @Hadfield__

Sports Media Musings: The Best & Worst of 2013

My New Year’s resolution includes a re -commitment to write here more consistently, as in multiple times a week. In order to do so, I’ll need help from you guys, the BSMW community — so send along tips, jokes, articles, or angry missives either to my email – [email protected] – or, if you fancy yourself the progressive type, Out There in the Twitterverse (@Hadfield__). Either way, I’ll be back here with more media chatter and the like on Thursday.

THE BEST & WORST OF SPORTS MEDIA IN 2013

Today: A simple exercise, in which we review the good, the bad, and the Shaughnessy; taking you into a fragmented holiday work week (seriously, Christmas and New Year’s Day on a Wednesday is the worst, right? Right.).

A valuable disclaimer: I did not include the beat reporters in this list; news is news, and while it’s nice to consistently have your name in first place on the imaginary scoreboard of who broke what story, ultimately, the news – not the person – is what matters. (Unless, of course, you’re wrong. Then, you matter. Pretty thankless value proposition.)

BEST PLAY-BY-PLAY AND/OR COLOR ANALYST

Mike Gorman, CSNNE: In the middle of a recent broadcast, Gorman had to explain plus-minus (+/-) to Tommy Heinsohn. Related: Mike Gorman works with Tommy Heinsohn on a regular basis. That alone gives Gorman this award while running away from the pack. The NBA game has changed drastically over the years, but Gorman has been able to keep up every step of the way.

Honorable Mention: Jack Edwards, NESN

BREAKOUT ANALYST

Alex Speier, WEEI.com: For the informed, Speier’s prolific work is anything but new – he’s been doing this since WEEI.com revamped their website in 2008. His profile, however, was rightfully raised this last season, evidenced by his all-too-seldom appearances on CSNNE’s “Sports Tonight.”

To his credit, even as the line between reporter and analyst is increasingly blurred, Speier tells us what he knows, not what he thinks. To that end, the former Harvard debate team member is anything but caustic in his analysis, instead relying on hard data for his insights and a friendly demeanor to cultivate sources, particularly at the minor league level, where his work is undeniably the best in the city, if not all of MLB.

Overall, it was a great year for Speier. While his talent still isn’t used nearly enough on the airwaves of 93.7 FM, the Senior Writer of the dot-com side of WEEI’s operation still cranks out his “Down on the Farm” show and manages to work well alongside Rob Bradford and other personalities for podcasts. Speier also appeared on a memorable podcast with Jonah Keri that ran on Grantland during the Sox’ postseason run, in which the two champions of sabermetrics and advanced statistics discussed the importance of team chemistry. While now dated, it’s still worth your time.

Honorable Mention: Erik Frenz, Boston.com; Matt Chatham, Boston Herald

BEST PERSONALITY

Tom E. Curran, CSNNE.com: Personalities need to write. Like it or not, this comes down to branding. (Did I just Darren Rovell all over myself? Great, I need to shower.) Writing helps reinforce a stance in a clear way that’s not confined to a 15 second spot on a television show, or diluted in a four hour radio program.

Case in point: If you’re not enjoying Tom E. Curran’s work on CSNNE.com, his WEEI appearances, and across other CSNNE’s programming, I don’t know what to tell you. He’s likable and funny — and not in a forced or awkward way. More importantly, he’s honest. He’ll go after those in the media who go after him (*FELGER*), and he’ll applaud those whose work should be praised. He’s not a homer or a contrarian; he’s what Shank pretends to aspire to, without being an elitist about the whole thing: an observer.

Mind you, Curran isn’t Bill Barnwell or Aaron Schatz . He won’t use advanced statistics or run Monte Carlo Simulations, but he manages to impress sound logic to the conventional audience, while covering the most polarizing team in the city, through a balanced perspective aided by basic statistics that are easy to comprehend. Believe me, it’s an invaluable skill.

Honorable Mention: Kirk Minihane, WEEI (Kirk, start writing again). While we’re here, WEEI may have had their struggles, but how about the attempted takedown pieces levied at them, and other in the local sports media, this year … Minihane undressed Alan Siegel on a podcast in the aftermath of his uneven piece about the dire state of local sports media personalities in Boston magazine this year. Then, the third wheel on the “Dennis and Callahan” morning show, helped do the same, both in print and on the air, to Callum Borchers for his poorly conceived hatchet job of the radio station in the Boston Globe.

Now, I’m not bringing up either to laud Minihane – or defend WEEI, for that matter – but, rather, to raise the question as to why neither Borchers or Seigel could defend their reporting or analysis? Oddly, both had holes in their stories, but the process should have been cake; either way, these two came off as rather pathetic in both instances.

WORST PLAY-BY-PLAY AND/OR COLOR ANALYST

Scott Zolak, 98.5 The Sports Hub: Say what you will about Edwards’ strange post-game monologues – and there is plenty to say – but they rarely take away from the broadcast. Zolak’s “WHERE’S THE BEEF CALL?!” did exactly that. And no, “Toucher and Rich,” it’s not that I’m “taking sports too seriously,” I just think that there is a way to call a game that appropriately captures the excitement of the moment without sounding like a bad Saturday Night Live sketch circa 1994.

Honorable Mention: Tommy Heinsohn, CSNNE

WORST PERSONALITY

Before giving my pick, I need to work this out in my head. On one hand, you have a dude like Eric Wilbur, who has taken trollin’ to Baylessian Levels. This is a guy who wrote the following statements this year …

Following the Browns win:

It’s OK, Pats fans. It’s OK to laugh at yourself, get frustrated when things don’t go the right way, particularly against the likes of the Cleveland Browns. It’s OK to have a sense of humor about things, and even more apropos, a sense of humility.

It’s OK to show emotion other than when reciting the Kraft Pledge of Allegiance. It’s OK to question the status of a quarterback and head coach who both haven’t won a Super Bowl in almost a decade. It’s OK to wonder just why in the hell you’re running the ball with a minute left, down by 12.

Because of drivel like this, I won’t remember the Patriots’ run as an unprecedented decade-plus of consistency, but rather a period where we actually diminished the value of regular season wins based on – I don’t know? Style points, I guess? Still, it’s worth nothing that Wilbur isn’t the only person guilty of throwing this type of garbage against the wall.

Here’s another gem:

Was it interference or not? Who cares? It was a bad pass. End of discussion.

I imagine Wilbur’s had a car accident at one point in his lifetime, and I picture the discussion developing like so: “Who cares that I ran a red light?!? You were going 10 miles above the speed limit!”

Wilbur also recently hypothesized that Rob Gronkowski’s venture into film in his upcoming role in the “Entourage” movie could be a tipping point as far as distractions go. Last spring, he ripped the David Ortiz contract, because the slugger got two years from the Sox, and insisted that the only reason Papi was still around was to sell tickets.

Here’s the thing, though: I think Wilbur is a really good writer who can put together an entertaining piece … he just tries too hard to identify what will get him clicks and attention and – ultimately – relevance. That, coupled with his relative obscure visibility, detracts from his candidacy atop this list.

Michael Felger and Tony Massarrotti’s strange crusade against the media this year makes them likely candidates, particularly when they questioned Mike Reiss’ reporting for reasons that remain unclear, but I don’t think listeners take the duo seriously enough anymore. They’re entertaining radio, full of salacious discourse but that’s about it.

Gary Tanguay flipped out a few times. That was fun. But he is too goofy to care about. Plus, the hair is a feat of itself.

Let’s be real, you knew how this game was ending before it began. If nothing else, Dan Shaughnessy made waves this year, and that’s why he’s your winner (and I mean that in the worst possible way). Look, we don’t need to rehash the issues with his much-discussed column about the staples of solid commentary: TELLING IT LIKE IT IS. In the end, we should be grateful that Dan took the time to share with us his mission, his plight; and that he addressed something that really needed to be brought to the forefront.

Writers should be objective and care only about the story at hand, not the subjects. Journalism 101, everyone.Shank did well with the Terry Francona book, but his cohorts, who rallied around him after his TRUTH TELLER COLUMN, need to remember why Shank is terrible and he sucks.

To properly understand why we say this requires one to peer back to the beginning of the year and recall the unnecessary, self-serving insertion into the Texans-Patriots Divisional playoff game. This, readers and media members, is why Shank sucks. Because Dan claims to be a neutral observer WHO CARES ONLY ABOUT THE STORY! … oh, right – and also someone who occasionally interjects himself into the storyline itself. What a joke.

Not to mention, he was a jellyfish during his self-defense of that debacle, quipping “I don’t know football” to a Houston radio station. Well, that’s great — good thing we established your incompetence as a sports columnist who doesn’t “know sports.”

Congrats, buddy. 2013 was your year, a swan song of sorts; shine on, you crazy little diamond.

As always, thanks for reading. @Hadfield__ 

Sports Media Musings: Mike Francesa Still Hates Twitter, Bob Lobel Tries His Hand In Blogging

Quick Note: Shooting for another mailbag this week.  To contribute, 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.

*****

“AGAIN, WITH THE TWEETS! IT’S ALWAYS THE TWEETS!”

Mike Francesa (still) hates Twitter. The rant above came after the AP’s Twitter account was hacked. Twitter is far from perfect and this certainly was a bad incident from a security standpoint, but focusing on one mishap fails to take proper context into its benefits and shows severe lack of perspective. Coincidentally, I actually wrote about athletes and Twitter this week in my column for Metro Boston.

This isn’t the first time the mike-francesa-sleeping-gifWFAN host has lashed out against the social media website. A year ago he infamously quipped “Do you know how inane some of this stuff is?”  

The irony of a sports talk radio host reprimanding the inanity of Twitter doesn’t escape me.

I’d make a joke about Francesa asking me to get off his lawn, but he seems like the type who’d ask me to mow it before leaving.

*****

Bob Lobel, meanwhile, is more progressive. He thinks that blogging thing is gaining steam and will be contributing to SuiteSports.com. The press release may or may not be riddled with hyperbole. The word “giant” was used to describe Lobel’s reach. So there’s that. I’ll let you decide, here is an excerpt:

Legendary Sports Broadcaster Bob Lobel Will Begin a Weekly Blog and Podcast with SuiteSports.com

BOSTON, MA- APRIL 22, 2013 – SuiteSports.com, a new hybrid site that will feature both local Massachusetts high school sports coverage, as well as national sports opinion pieces from bloggers and reporters across the country, today announced the addition of legendary sports broadcaster Bob Lobel to its team.

For nearly 30 years, Lobel was a New England sports institution as the lead sports anchor for WBZ-TV in Boston. With his signature catchphrase “Why can’t we get players like that?”– Uttered whenever a former Boston player made a big play for his new team– and memorable humorous personality, Lobel quickly became one of the most recognized sports broadcasters in the country.

Now, Lobel joins SuiteSports to take a shot at the blogging world, a format he believes is tailor made for his writing style.



”I think blogging will play right into the way I thought for TV,” Lobel said. “It’s just going to be a collection of my thoughts. Perfect for my ADD when it comes to sports.”



Lobel will write a weekly blog running on Tuesdays. In his blog, Lobel says he will cover it all – The four major Boston teams, national stories, scandals – with a sense of institutional knowledge, but also with humor.



”You can’t have enough humor,” Lobel chuckled.



Lobel will also appear on a weekly podcast for SuiteSports every Thursday where he will discuss the greatest events he has covered in his illustrious career. SuiteSports co-founder Joe Parello will host the segment, and can’t think of a better person to join the SuiteSports team.

“The idea that Bob Lobel is joining our team, it’s almost surreal,” Parello said. “I feel like sometimes we get stuck in the Boston bubble, but I mentioned Bob to a friend of mine in Texas and he immediately shot back ‘Why can’t we get players like that!’ That was a reminder that Bob is a giant, not just here in New England, but across the country. I honestly can’t think of a better guy to join our site, and he’s got some opinions that will get people talking, trust me.”

 

Sports Media Musings: Pete Sheppard to Join NBC Sports Radio Boston 1510

We’ll call it “Return of the Meat,” a sequel that took, oh, six days to produce.

On Saturday, a disgruntled Pete Sheppard was airing out Entercom’s dirty laundry on WEEI’s airwaves, offering a poignant resignation to his audience. The following Thursday, Sheppard took to Twitter to announce he is set to join NBC Sports Radio Boston 1510 AM, hosting an afternoon drive show from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. on weekdays.

Sheppard’s debut at his new home talking sports earlier today included veiled shots at his former employer:

“You walk into [1510’s studio] and it is a complete antithesis of what I had to go through very recently. It’s too bad. It’s sad to see what happened over there. I feel bad for my friends, who are still over there, that have to go through this.”

Sheppard’s exodus Saturday continued a trend of startling roster changes to WEEI’s lineup in recent months including the departures of Jon Rish, Glenn Ordway, Kevin Winter, and Jon Meterparel. Save for Ordway, who was fired in February, four out of the five moves were “resignations.” At least that’s what The Suits on Guest Street would have you think.

Meanwhile, NBC Sports Radio 1510, who added Danny Picard‘s popular webcast, “I’m Just Sayin'”, to its lineup just a few months ago, will give a WEEI refugee a chance at his own afternoon drive show.

Thoughts on the move for Sheppard? For NBC 1510? Leave it in the comments section.

@Hadfield__.

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

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

From the piece:

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

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

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

[End Update]

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

1. The Story

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

Bizarre, but very effective.

2. The Real Story

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

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

Yikes.

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

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

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

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

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

3. Common Formula

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

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

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

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

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

 4. All The Right Wrong Moves

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

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

So here we are.

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

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

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

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

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

6. Still? Really?

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

7. Thank you, guys

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

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

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

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

I love this show.

8. Twitter Thoughts

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

9. Thanks for reading

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

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

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

boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

@Hadfield__.

Sports Media Musings: The Mailbag, Chapter V

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.

Took a vacation from my vacation in Key West to finish writing this (fifth!) edition of the Sports Media Mailbag. In addition to this, if you have time to kill at your desk, check out my recent columns for Metro Boston on the Nike Tiger Woods ad and my ranking of the current best home(field/ice/court) advantage in Boston. I hope you guys enjoy. As always, thanks for reading.

***

Does anyone really know what is going on with the morning show? I know you wrote: “I’m told the Kirk Minihane seclusion is a very real thing.” It is painful. It’s bad. It’s extremely odd. I almost get the impression that John Dennis is now Peter from Office Space but the Bob’s have not come yet. They’re now doing a Sweet 16 of “Female Boston News Personalities”. 60 year-old guys gawking at women in their 20s on the radio?

The Kirk Minihane thing is fantastic because he is so candid about it. From my conversations with him in the past, I’m not shocked. That’s how he is. It’s how he’s always been. On Twitter, he’s openly mocking the happenings on the show he is purportedly involved in, but in reality, not actually part of. It’s subversive and it’s very real.

mini

As far as the other part to the question, I’m writing something on this for next week, but here is a quick summary of the morning radio wars: For my money, good sports radio comes down to two things — compelling discourse and likability. The former has never really been a problem for Gerry Callahan and John Dennis, but the latter is burning them right now (kind of the same way it’s burning “Felger & Mazz”, except “Dennis & Callahan”‘s plight has been slow and painful. “Felger & Mazz” are seemingly racing towards self-sabotage). Meanwhile the competition, “Toucher and Rich”, have had the likability aspect locked down since they hit the airwaves, and producers have done a nice job working in call-ins from experts to mask any perceived defenciency talking sports. It’s night and day, really.

Ryan,

Do you have anything original to bring to this column, honestly? Everything you write is a regurgitation of Bill Simmons, Drew Magary, or Mike Tunison style of writing. From the Gregggg to the rip down of local columnists (ala Peter King or Gregg Easterbrook), to the mailbag. Its just so old. Are you really trying to copy writers that are already getting tiresome. Pop-media sports has found its niche. You are not a part of that, find your own style style.

-jmu

True story: My family sees these mailbags and far too often I’m left explaining to my mom that the internet, by nature, is a negative sphere. People aren’t going to go on Yelp and write a good review (unless it’s fantastic and life changing), but they’ll be quick to bash the restaurant that is slow with service. I read Drew Magary but never really check out his takedowns of Gregg Easterbook. Which, in retrospect, looks like a complete ripoff joke. Bad job by me. Won’t happen again.

That aside — and I think readers will attest to this — this media column, now running on its third year, has its own voice and style. The takedown pieces are meant to be brash and boisterous. This probably because I freelance for Metro Boston (which I love doing), but am devoid of a full-time gig. And that’s transparent bitterness on my part. But I take pride in the actual media columns and these mailbags. I try to write with a critical eye (while hopefully holding some entertainment value). Is it an amalgam of some of my favorite writers? Probably. But isn’t that expected to some degree?

And hey, if you want to take one column and use that to judge my body of work, then go for it. Kind of short-sighted, but go for it. Either way, thanks for reading.

You do know that people who spell their name “Gregg” spell it that way because their parents named them that way. People who spell their name “Greg” are really named “Gregory”. -DrakeW

I love everything about this. Thanks for that.

So you are still on the Mike Holley bandwagon. Please explain to me what he does or says that let’s you believe that even if you could have gone back in your DeLorean and moved Dale and Holley to the afternoon that would have worked. Your idea still contains Mike Holley. Other than he is a nice guy, articulate and can write reasonably okay…I don’t see why he has not been banished from the radio. – latetodinner

Underrated subplot of the radio wars has been Michael Holley. He is clearly beloved by the suits over on Guest Street. Holley has been given the keys to the car. There has to be a part of him, though, that is nervous. It’s what I call “good nerves,” meaning butterflies, not jitters. Like if I was given a column at the Boston Globe or New York Times. For me, again, it comes back to likability and compelling discourse. Holley has plenty of the former, and the latter is lacking, but I respect the hell out of him for not going Media Troll on us after abandoning his journalism gig.

This is a guy whose covered the Celtics and Patriots beat (and possibly more, can’t recall), and was once a columnist for the Globe. You know who had a similar career arc? Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti. Notice a difference in how the two handle their business? I do. And it’s refreshing. Of course, ratings don’t take any of that into account, so the question, obviously, becomes whether or not he can he carry a show? The answer, even after all these years, is I don’t know.

I loved, loved, LOVED the few times he was paired with Tom E. Curran or Minihane. Maybe that’s because I know the parties involved. Mike Salk, thus far, hasn’t resonated quite like I wished he would going in, but it’s still a feeling out process. Regardless, it’s a big year for Holley professionally. And yeah, I guess his style gels with what I’m looking for — measured takes that are less LOOK AT ME! and more “Here’s the reasoning why I think __.”

Plus, “banished from the radio” is a little harsh. Don’t you think, LateToDinner?

Two things that I am just baffled by at 98.5, which I have been an avid listener of since it debuted.

1. With such great up and coming talent (Bertrand and Hardy for example) how on earth does a guy like Andy Gresh keep his job?  He is AWFUL!!  Seriously, he has pictures of a big wig over there, right?  The only explanation.  Even if he was reasonably intelligent, his voice alone gives me post concussion syndrome.  He brings out the worst in Zolak, it really reminds me of listening to the dark days of the Big Show with Smerlas and Deossie. 

2.  When the ratings are looked at, do they look at individual days?  Love them or hate them Felger and Mazz ( I am of the former, they are head and shoulders better than every other program) make great radio, EXCEPT Tuesdays.  Jermaine Wiggins on air equals this guy tuning into the other station. 

Am I the only one out there that thinks this????

Dave in Gardner

Speaking of measured takes, how about Marc Bertand and Chris Gasper in the midday? Bertrand is funny and knowledgeable. Gasper is smart and does well articulating his points. The duo developed a nice rapport doing a morning show on Saturdays for The Sports Hub that I wish I heard more of.

I have written extensively about Andy Gresh in this space before. I’ll admit he will grow on me at times, but his monologues are tough to listen to, and he comes across as pompous. There is an authoritative tone, then there is “I’m right, you’re wrong.” Gresh falls on the wrong side of that fence for me. Also, I can’t help but notice him berating listeners on Twitter. Reminds me of the same hubris that took down WEEI.

Re Jermaine Wiggins: This is what I wrote from the first “Sports Media Musings” Bruce Allen published back in the summer of 2011 (yeesh!). It still holds true:

Maybe not as grating, but unfortunately Wiggins is the Mike Adams of 98.5′s afternoon drive show. He either struggles articulating his point, or doesn’t have one — I still am trying to figure out which it is. Bottom line: “Wiggy Wednesdays” are as entertaining as the pending NFL lockout.

Who says there is any “intel” to extract from Lou Merloni? – wdriii

Guys like Scott Zolak and Lou Merloni could — and should — use their experience in the locker room playing at the highest level (albeit in a backup role) and provide audiences with the nuances the common fan can’t see. Surely, from their experiences, they must see the game in a different light than the rest of us. Right? I don’t see why they don’t channel that unique perspective more often is all.

Ryan, 
I generally love your insights, but for the love of god, please get off of Simmons’ stick. I agree that Grantland is great, but notwithstanding that he the most powerful man in sports business, Simmons has become way to proud of himself and his writing has suffered for it. – Ted Sarandis

Agreed. I probably write about Bill Simmons too often for this space. And yeah, the writing has gone down hill, but his presence on TV has vastly improved (and increased); not to mention, the live stream during March Madness could catch on. Just look at this snippet from Richard Deitsch’s “Media Circus” column over at SI.com (special thanks to reader BSMFAN.)

As Sports Business Daily media writer John Ourand observed: “What’s to stop Turner’s Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley from putting on their own online halftime show around the NBA Finals, even though the games are on ABC? Or how about NBC firing up its 30 Rock studio to have Dan Patrick, Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison analyze ESPN’s Monday Night Football games online, starting with a couple of minutes left in the first half?”

This is fine, what is everyone complaining about? Isn’t this the guy everyone crowned the new king of sports talk radio in this city? You all (Felger fans) complained about Ordway and his opinions, you ran him out of town by giving Felger your ears, You’re already complaining about Mike Salk and it’s not even a month. You’re okay with personal bashing and stepping over the line, you’ve traded that for real sports talk and you’ve all allowed Felger to brain wash you into believing his “Tell it like it is style” is the way to go. So enjoy it, don’t complain. As For me, I’m fine with EEI, as far as local goes, anything but Felger and Mazz. – Will

I guess I should just come out and say that I don’t have a problem with Felger’s Jeff Green heart surgery remark from last week. When you’re on air for 27 hours a day, you’re subject to capricious miscues. I don’t think Felger would put that in print. Comedy is meant to be (somewhat) offensive, Green is still alive, and so on and so forth. Sounds matter of fact, but it’s just how I feel. Sticks and stones.

Still, would I have made the remark? Do I think it was in bad taste?

Absolutely not. And yes, it was crass. But all I’m saying is that it happens, and when it does, it’s usually worse than what Felger said (e.g. Doug Gottlieb’s “white man perspective” comment during CBS Sports coverage of the NCAA tournament).

As far as giving him the platform: I’d like to think the two are mutually exclusive, Will. Glenn Ordway’s success proved to have as much to do with the lack of competition as his actual show. That doesn’t mean whatever siege “Felger & Mazz” are on in recent weeks should go unnoticed.

The thing that gets me about their show is how there’s seldom any actual INSIGHT into the games being played on the field — something, once upon a time, Felger used to be good at. Now they usually bypass an actual dissection of the game itself for long-winded rants about how Belichick is clueless, Kraft is a liar, Chiarelli sucks, the Celtics suck, the Red Sox suck, the Red Sox ownership sucks…taking shots at reporters covering the Pats…taking shots at players….basically, everyone sucks except for Cam Neely. Got it!” – Andre Dursin

Bingo! This! Just everything about this. I had a bigger issue with Felger saying Green sucks. Because he doesn’t. And if Felger watched basketball, he’d see that. Parading ideas about ownership or coaches is fine, too, but the show has become four hours of hypothetical ulterior motives. It’s exhausting at times.

When Tim McCarver initially started out as a baseball analyst — initially locally in Philly and subsequently on nationally broadcast games — following his playing days (including the proverbial cup of coffee with the Red Sox in the mid-’70s), he was quite enjoyable and very good. Somewhere along the line he became an insufferable, drooling tool which, I believe, started shortly after he was paired with that smug, quintessential DB, Joe Buck.

Want a good Tim McCarver career obit? The best I found, by far, was from Brian Curtis. Great juxtaposition with John Madden‘s old style. Really great read. 

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

 

Sports Media Musings: Gregg Doyel Is Just My Favorite

Quick Programming Note: Running a massive mailbag Thursday morning covering a wide range of local/national media topics. Get involved: Feel free to send along comments, questions, or other funny anecdotes to [email protected] or on Twitter (@Hadfield__)

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Since returning to BSMW, I’ve written a few column breakdowns takedowns, featuring different writers, but Gregg Doyel from CBS Sports is our first scribe to appear twice here. Because he’s the best, guys. You see, Gregggg Doyel doesn’t fall into the usual tropes while writing about sports. No, no, no. He looks at things with a critical, extreme eye. It’s all black and white with Greggggg — there is no middle ground, which is fantastically stupid, and extremely short-sighted. Frankly, I love it.

Case in point: Instead of praising Tom Brady in the aftermath of his team-friendly contract extension, Gregggg questioned just how much of a team player Brady is — stating that if Brady was really a team player, he’d play for the veteran’s minimum (Which, as an aside, isn’t possible for Brady to do under current CBA rules. NO MATTER, SEMANTICS). I’d take it one step further, Brady should be paying the Patriots to play. Why not? Let’s get real crazy! Greggg got a chance to defend his take on WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan,” and miraculously made John Dennis and Gerry Callahan appear likable, no easy feat.

The key here is to always remember everything is black and white and there is no middle ground. But before we dive in to today’s column, let’s review Greggg’s bio. It’s phenomenal:

Hi. Hello. Congratulations, you found me. And I know why you’re here — it’s because of that column you just read. It angered you. So here you are, trying to decipher my motives.

Good luck.

Authors? Tried to get into David Sedaris and failed. Tried to get into Jonathan Franzen and succeeded. But my favorites are Chuck Palahniuk at his best, and Matt Taibbi at his worst. And me. I’m underrated.

As for your original question … maybe I just don’t like your favorite team. Ever think of that?

So yeah, that’s where we stand. That’s Gregg Doyel.

Anyway, methinks Greggggg liked that moment in the incubator that is Boston sports, because he came back, with a vengeance, to offer another gem: IS THAT BILL BELICHICK GUY REALLY ALL THAT GOOD AT COACHING FOOTBALL OR IS IT JUST BRADY? GO!

This should be fun. Take it away, Gregggggggggg.

Wes Welker is gone, and Bill Belichick is right. Time will tell it. History will show it. Belichick let another superstar go, and his New England Patriots will go about their merry way, winning 10 or more games in 2013 and getting into the playoffs and making a run toward the AFC title game. Maybe the Super Bowl.

Because Bill Belichick is right. He’s always right.

BELICHICK FOR PREZ IN 2016? WHO’S WITH ME!!! No? OK, well I’m going to have The Hoodie do my taxes and pick out a few stocks to invest in. Dude is always right, guys. Always.

But does he know why he’s right? Do you think he understands that he’s right, that the Patriot Way will continue without Welker as it continued without Deion Branch and Ty Law andAsante Samuel and Richard Seymour and Randy Moss — but not because he’s Bill Belichick? But because his quarterback is Tom Brady?

… Don’t forget Russ Hochstein, he was a pivotal member of the offensive line as a versatile player. Plus, he was great in those Visa commercials.

Because I think Belichick really thinks he’s the key to the whole thing. That it starts with him. That he’s the tree producing the fruit, and that Wes Welker can fall off the branch and land in someone else’s orchard and everything in New England will be fine because Belichick will just grow another one.

Bill Belichick thinks he could win with Curry College’s defense. That’s my takeaway here. Is that far off?

… the Patriots will have more than enough offense to win 10 or more games, go to the playoffs, aim for the AFC title game, maybe even get into the Super Bowl. And when it happens, Belichick will think he did that … The Patriots win because the players aren’t the thing. The system is the thing, which means the coach is the thing. That’s how Belichick thinks, if you ask me. His confidence in himself is unshakeable. And misinformed.

Bill Belichick’s conscious viewpoint of HOW IT ALL WENT DOWN (according to Gregg Doyel): The Helmet Catch? All Belichick. Ty Law‘s pick-six in the Super Bowl? Please. All Belichick. John Kasay kicking the ball out of bounds with just over a minute left, giving the Patriots great field position to win their second Super Bowl? Well, you already know, that was BB. All BB.

Guys like Chad Ochocinco have openly begged to play for the Patriots by buttering up Bill Belichick, because that’s how the game is played. Kiss Belichick’s ass, and Belichick will consider you. Kiss Brady’s ass, and you’re pressing your luck.

Greggggggg is dropping a lot of knowledge, guys. He must know the inner workings over at Foxboro. Funny, though, I don’t think I’ve seen any reporting or sources listed at all in this piece. Could this be *gasp* aimless conjecture? Hmm.

Belichick isn’t the magnet in New England — Brady is. Belichick isn’t the certifiable genius at his job; Brady is. Belichick has made plenty of good decisions over the years, sure, but he has also made some of the worst player personnel calls in recent years. Albert Haynesworth? Chad Ochocinco? Belichick wanted those losers. Asante Samuel and Richard Seymour? Belichick let them go.

Brady dated Tara Reid once. I thought that was a terrible personnel decision.

Belichick is good, too. I’m sure of that. Above average? Yeah, probably. He went 11-5 with Matt Cassel at quarterback in 2008 when Brady got hurt, staying focused and using overwhelming talent — talent that was attracted to New England because of Brady — to have another good season. Belichick is above average as a head coach, but great? I’m not sure he’s great.

I don’t have much to add to this text. Just know that Greggg called Belichick a “probably above average” coach after spending the previous 200 words talking about how the NFL is a QB’s league, then tossed aside a season in which Matt Cassel led the Patriots to an 11-5 record. None of this makes sense, yet everything about this makes sense.  And my God, given the premise of this missive, the Cassel season “probably” feels worth mentioning before the 13th paragraph. Just a thought.

Then again, I just hope, someday, like Belichick (according to Doyel), I’m always right. Or at least think I’m right. Or at least think I’m right when really I have the greatest editor working on my stuff, and I’m just “above average.” Yeah, that would be nice.