BSMW Awards Recap – Best/Worst Independent Sports Web Site

For today’s recap, we’re taking a look at the best and worst independent sports websites in the region. This was another hotly contested poll.

It was somewhat difficult defining the criteria for what sites to include in this poll. Some of the sites on this list are not local, but seem to have a lot of content focuses towards our local sports scene. Others were started by local people but are more nationally focused, and others are totally national, but seem to be used and referenced often by people here in the Boston area. I’ll try to do a better job of narrowing down the scope next year.

So to begin, here are the results among the 1460 votes gathered for the best of in this category:

2005_best_indy_site.png

Cold Hard Football Facts is one of the sites that perhaps may not belong in this category. The site is locally owned and operated, but they are trying to establish themselves as a national site. They do focus a lot of attention on the New England Patriots, but that is also because the Patriots have been the dominant team in the NFL over the past five seasons. Because of their Patriots focus, as well as their glee in taking on football media people head-to-head, the site has garnered a lot of fans. They claimed the top spot in this poll with 229 votes for 16% of the total. Close behind them were a pair of worthy contenders. While Mike Reiss could be the best blogging reporter on the scene in Boston, Chad Finn, who works at the Globe Sports Desk is probably the best single blogging columnist-style writer on the scene. He usually hits the nail on the head and makes the point that you wanted to make, but couldn’t articulate properly. His blog, Touching All The Bases, tied for second with 14% of the vote. Finn got 203 votes to narrowly edge out the Sons Of Sam Horn message board which had 200 votes. SoSH has gotten national attention the last few years and continues to be the top on-line destination for Red Sox fans and stat-heads.

Reader Comments:

Football Outsiders gets my vote. Terrific website that has done a ton of interesting and innovative statistical analysis for the NFL. Aaron and his folks also write very well….Chad Finn gets my vote for best. He's an entertaining writer and a sensible one, too….Soxaholix is a great, underrated website. Very creative. On the other hand, the understanding that Miguel puts into the salary cap page puts many reporters to shame.

Now for the worst:

2005_worst_indy_site.png

Once again the kind hearted voters prevailed as 596 of the 1334 votes cast (45%) felt that none of these sites deserved the label of worst.

Among the sites receiving votes, SoSH got 205 votes for 15%. I think that total comes from the view that some have that the site is somewhat elitist. I don’t personally hold that view of the site, but among some users, that is the view they take of the community. BSMW’s own Scott’s Shots got 137 votes here for third. The blog is not popular among members of the the BSMW messageboard community, (which I suspect made up the majority of these votes) who do not like the scattershot, rambling style of the author.

Reader Comments:

Worst goes to CHFF—Kerry makes Patriot fans sound like Yankee fans. I think he's a bully and he has not earned my respect. How awful is Dave Scott? Start with his readability. He has adopted a variation of the Kevin Paul Dupont style of "cutie pie" prose that makes entire paragraphs virtually incomprehensible gibberish. His ax-grinding (Shepherd, Gee) and ***-kissing (Dennis, Callahan) are legendary. His blatant campaigning for employment somewhere—anywhere—is cringe-inducing. It is embarrassing to have him associated with [BSMW].

Note:Needless to say, I don’t agree with that assessment of Scott’s Shots. I’m not sure what it is…the only people who have ever complained to me about Scott’s Shots are members of the BSMW message board.

Tomorrow: TV Sports Shows

BSMW Awards Recap – Best/Worst Basketball/Hockey Beat Writers

We’re knocking off two categories today, the basketball and hockey beat writers.

First, we’ll look at the writers who cover the beat of the Boston Celtics. It’s been a mostly rough 20 year stretch for the Celtics, yet they still have a couple writers on the beat who were around for the glory days of Larry Bird. Steve Bulpett and Mike Fine are among the few writers still working in Boston who witnessed the Legend in person. We did have a omission from the list as Bill Doyle of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette was overlooked when the lists were put together.

We had 1327 votes cast for the “best” category and 1304 in the “worst” category.

Here’s how it broke out:

2005_basketball_beat_writers.png

This was one of the tighter races in the balloting. Veteran scribe Steve Bulpett came out ahead of the industrious Shira Springer with the former getting 437 votes for 33% of the total and Springer bringing in 27% with 353 votes. The infamous came in third with 26%. I was a little disappointed in that total, as I feel some of the other writers are very good as well. Mike Fine, who was mentioned earlier is the only media member to appear on the ballot as a beat writer for two different sports. He turns in solid, consistent work. Michael Muldoon of the Eagle Tribune and Tim Weisberg of the Standard-Times may not be with the team day in and day out as many of the others, but provide some pretty solid analysis of the club when they’re covering the team.

In the “worst” category “no one” received 842 votes for 65% of the total. Springer, who had finished second in the best category, got 17% of the worst vote as well, which I think can be attributed to voters recalling some of her early work, which was jeered in some corners. I think she’s done a really good job the last few seasons as a reporter.

Reader Comments:

Went with Bulpett [best]. Shira's gotten a lot better, but he's still tops, and not everyone that's listed can win…There is no worst, although I think in general that the writers as a group can be too easy on this team…

Now to the hockey beat writers:

2005_hockey_beat_writers.png

It seems the disgust for the Bruins around these parts and the terrible season they had translated to the coverage as well. 509 out of 1266 voters believed that no one deserved the label of best hockey beat writer. That came to 40% of the vote. I don’t necessarily think that the hockey writers are bad, but instead this is a reflection of the team that they cover.

That point seems punctuated by the fact that 932 out of 1254 voters (74%) felt that no one should be called the “worst” either. I believe this category comes down to apathy for the product. Some of these writers are very good and have been on the beat for a long time, but because the team and organization is an object of scorn among fans, it’s hard to anoint a “best” hockey beat writer, or “worst” for that matter.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell was the high vote getter for both best and worst once you got past the “no one” vote in each category.

BSMW Award Recap – Best/Worst Radio Personality

Today’s voting recap is the category of Best/Worst Sports Radio Personality. These are guests, not full time hosts. We’ll have a recap on that category later in the month.

It was hard to include everyone, with so many media people making regular appearances on sports radio these days.

Here’s how the voting came out in this category:

2005_best_radio_personality.png

Sean McAdam of the Providence Journal took home top honors with 465 votes for 32% of the 1471 total. McAdam is oftentimes a voice of reason on the soap opera known as WEEI’s Big Show. While others are in hysterics or trying to fan the flames of panic among the fandom McAdam usually steps in with levelheaded analysis and good information on whatever topic is currently being obsessed over. McAdam made several appearances on various shows, doing a weekly segment on Dale & Holley, Segments on Sports Radio the Score in Providence, doing the Sunday morning baseball show on WEEI and taking the occasional turn as co-host on the Big Show.

Bob Ryan is a favorite guest because of his passion, knowledge and experience in the industry. He did shows on the ESPN 900 in Nashua, as well as on the new ESPN Radio Boston. Despite the limited coverage area, he came in second in this category with 18% of the vote.

Reader Comments: I went with Tony Mazz as the best. I like how he regularly stands up to Ordway's moronfest (I also recognize he's knee-deep in it as well). I'd feel more confident about voting ten folks “worst” than I do about this one. This category is loaded.... Mike Reiss, Josh Miller, and Bob Ryan make Felger's show a must-listen….For “best” it has to be Ryan. No one brings a combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to the air like Bob.

Now, onto the worst category:

2005_worst_radio_personality.png

Ron Borges barely squeaked by Jon Meterparel to take the top spot in this area, getting 257 votes and a 17% share to the morning flashguy’s 210 votes and 14% share. These are out of 1472 total votes cast.

Borges spent the first part of the year on the old 1510 as a guest of the Eddie Andelman program. Because of the small audience, Borges felt confident to make wild accusations and statements that he would not be challenged on, nor would he ever make in his newspaper column. When the station folded operations, Borges moved over to ESPN Boston to a slightly larger audience on Mike Felger’s program. He continued making the outlandish statements, but at least now had someone to semi-challenge him in Felger. Borges also appeared on the Patriots pregame shows on WBCN. All of these snide, I know something you don’t references to Bill Belichick’s character were tiresome. His constant claims that the Patriots were nothing more than a lucky club ready to fall apart annoyed enough people to place in atop this category.

Jon Meterparel delights in playing the contrarian role to a degree on the Dennis & Callahan program. He likes to make unpopular picks and trash popular players as part of his shtick.

Reader Comments: Lots of great choices for the worst, but I had to go with Meterparel over Larry Johnson in the top spot purely because he's slightly more evil. It's like a choice of getting hit by a bus or a train… ...the most deserving candidate...Butch Stearns... Hector Longo also could have been a contenda. Halloran, helped nicely by his nails-on-a-chalkboard, smarmy whine, gets the nod…. Bob Halloran makes Felger's show a must-avoid.….I think Stearns, with his unique blend of know-it-all smarm and utter cluelessness doused with "Hey, I'm on television ... are you?" super sauce, is the single biggest reason to switch to Braille….Another "strong" field in the worst category. Since I gave Calistaparel the nod elsewhere I'm pleased about the chance to give Fred "Dead from the Neck Up" Smerlas a vote here.

BSMW Awards Recap: Best/Worst Studio Analyst

Get your Red Sox information from the weekend on the Red Sox Daily Links page, and you can also get series coverage from the Baltimore Sun.

With the surging popularity of the local sports teams, we have a plethora of experts brought into the studios on a regular basis to comment on the games as soon as they’re over, and even at halftime and between periods. Who does the best job out of all of these analysts? Who gives us the best analysis of what is going on in the game, and provides insight into the action? Who falls short in these areas?

Remember, these are the guys back in the studio, not the in-game analysts. We’ll get to them later.

Here’s a look at the voting for best studio analyst of 2005.

2005_best_studio_analyst.png

Not too much of a surprise here. When Dennis Eckersley is in studio, the Red Sox post game shows on NESN are pretty much “must see” television. “The Eck” is candid as well as insightful as he breaks down the action for you. He is especially good at looking at the performance of pitchers. We’re fortunate to have him in this market, why ESPN hasn’t snapped him up for Baseball Tonight is beyond me.

Eckersley garnered 517 votes for 40% of the total. Tied for second were Bob Neumeier for his work on the Patriots pre and post game shows on CBS4 and Gary Disarcina for his work on Red Sox games on NESN.

Reader comment: Jim Rice got my “best” vote; technically I'm sure he doesn't deserve it but I just like the guy. Marshall is off to a really good start. Eck is OK-to-good; I actually like him better doing color in games.

Now, let’s look at the other end of the category:

2005_worst_studio_analyst.png

A certain Internet site is bound to be disappointed with the results of this poll. Sam Horn of the NESN Red Sox broadcasts took 359 votes for 28% of this category. Horn seems like a nice enough guy, but doesn’t bring a whole lot of insight to the telecasts. He relies on certain catchphrases during his delivery and isn’t as smooth as an analyst should be in that role.

The “no one deserves this award” category came in second, affirming that Horn is the only one that people feel is really below par in the field.

Reader Comment: Horn was an easy choice as worst. Unsettling is not a good adjective for a studio guy, but he earns it.

BSMW Awards Recap – Sports Media Story/Scandal

The Red Sox and Blue Jays wrapped up their quick series at Fenway park last night. You can get the local coverage on the Red Sox Daily Links page.

Get the Toronto stories from the Toronto Star and the Globe & Mail.

Today we’re looking at the top stories and scandals for 2005 in the Boston Sports Media.

1470 votes were cast in this category. 2005 was another wild and crazy year in the Boston sports media. One sports radio station folded, while another came on line. Both the Globe and Herald had staff reductions which impacted their sports departments. The local media outlets also went through their own “blog” craze, with many newspapers and even television stations adding blogs to their websites on a variety of topics.

Despite new competition in the market, WEEI continued to crush the competition in 2005. Their unprecedented ratings dominance coincided with the huge interest in the Red Sox and Patriots championship teams of recent years. WEEI did lose their longtime evening host, Ted Sarandis, who resigned from the station.

Here’s how the voting broke down:

sports_media_story.png

The launch of ESPN Boston got 454 votes for 31% of the vote. The station, which has as it’s flagship show “The Drive” hosted by Michael Felger, achieved a bit of success by registering in the ratings book almost right away. The ESPN backing of the station perhaps gives the station a bit of legitimacy in the eyes of viewers, as well as the football talk and knowledge of Felger and such guests as Mike Reiss. Ron Borges and Nick Cafardo have also been frequent guests on the program. Perhaps as a sign of continued future growth, the station recently replaced their original program director Doug Tribou with Len Weiner, who had led an ESPN radio station in Chicago to ratings success.

Reader Comments: I went with the Herald and Globe staff reductions. The newspaper industry is definitely in big trouble around here, especially with so many people hooked into the internet. I went with 890 starting up. The emergence of a true alternative to EEI is a godsend to sports fans in this market….1510 stops local programming: If a station that no one listens to stops local programming, does anything really change? At least they still have the Larry Lee Lewis Sports Comedy Hour.

Now, let’s look at the voting for the scandal of the year:

sports_media_scandal.png

John Dennis’ sneering, threatening, just plain creepy voicemail left for Ryen Russillo is the winner. The funny thing is, according to people who have worked with Dennis in the past, this sort of thing is a regular occurrence for the WEEI morning co-host.

Dennis’ voicemail got 468 votes out of 1468 total for 32%. The Red Sox media “cartel” – a phrase which was coined by former Herald columnist Howard Bryant – received 338 votes for 23% of the total vote. Bryant was roundly mocked by media members and outlets portrayed as being part of the “cartel” such as the Globe, NESN and WEEI. The premise of the cartel is that the Red Sox use media outlets which they have power over either through an ownership stake or through broadcast rights to disseminate information which is spun to their liking and advantage and to crush and humiliate the reputations of those who may end up on their bad side.

Reader Comments: I don't know what the long-term impact will be, but nothing was more fun than the incoherent, threatening voicemail John Dennis left on Ryen Russillo's answering machine….I couldn't care less about [John Dennis's] drunken tirade. Much more concerning is that 'BCN would take an intelligent and informative pre- and post- game Patriots show and turn it into "Big Show Lite"….I went with the "cartel" for the simple fact that all of the others will be largely forgotten in a few months (I had already forgotten about the Gee/sloe-eyed sabra issue). The effects of the (real or imagined) cartel will impact Sox coverage going forward for the foreseeable future.

Monday: Best/Worst Local Studio Analyst.

BSMW Awards Recap – Best/Worst Red Sox Beat Writer

The Red Sox and Blue Jays played the first game of a two game series at Fenway park last night. You can get the local coverage from newspapers and blogs on the Red Sox Daily Links page.

You can browse coverage from North of the border from the Toronto Star and the Globe & Mail.

Today, we’re going to look at a group of very talented, hard working writers – the Red Sox beat writers for the various New England newspapers. This job can be a grind. Day in and day out you’re going to be around the clubhouse, traveling with the team, seeing them after terrific wins and demoralizing defeats, but your job remains the same. Report on the team, get reaction after the game, get scoops and break news ahead of your competitors.

On top of it all, you probably don’t take home a huge salary, either.

Here’s a look at the voting for the “best of”:

2005_best_baseball.png

1443 votes were cast in this category, and in something of a minor upset, a rookie – Chris Snow of the Boston Globe – came away with the award from the voters. Snow, a former intern with the paper, came over prior to the 2005 season after covering the Minnesota Wild of the NHL the previous year. He got 544 votes for 38% of the total. In his first year on the job, Snow proved himself to be capable of meeting the challenge of covering the most popular team in a sports crazy region on a daily basis for the area’s largest newspaper. He avoided the petty agendas and sniping that often goes along with covering the same team day after day. He showed that he was open to new ideas such as statistical analysis and formulas. All in all, it was an impressive debut season on the scene for the Melrose native and Syracuse graduate.

Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald came in second in the voting with 16%. Silverman is another solid performer, often splitting the beat duties with Jeff Horrigan. He got a number of scoops during the offseason and was one of the few reporters to be able to talk to Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez in recent years. Rob Bradford, who split the year between the Lowell Sun and the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune came in third, thanks to a spectacular offseason, after moving the Eagle Tribune, where he seemed to be breaking news and getting angles no one else was getting on a daily basis.

Reader Comments: Went with Silverman as I like his writing style. Snow and Horrigan both do good work here as well. No one meets worst status. I actually think the daily papers do a good to exceptional job with Red Sox news - I read a tidbit or two that is new and interesting pretty much every day in their notebooks.

2005_worst_baseball.png

I’m actually very proud of the participants of this poll for how they voted in this, and other sections of the balloting.

I believe that all of the beat writers covering the Red Sox are very good. None of them would be deserving of a “worst” label, and the voters overwhelmingly felt the same way. 950 out of 1357 votes cast were for the “No one deserves this award” category, which I believe really shows the sincerity and seriousness with which voters approached this poll.

Interestingly, Snow, who won the best award above, was the leading vote getting among actual writers in this category, but the 81 votes and 6% he got were just a drop in the bucket compared to the total votes cast.

The Red Sox beat writers have a grinding, high pressure job, and all seem to being doing a good job in the eyes of the poll participants.

Reader Comments:

Love your poll, but I wish you'd have included the Brockton writers. Their baseball writer is a freaking boob who doesn't have a clue. I'd love to see how your readers feel about him...

Tomorrow: Sports Media Story/Scandal of 2005

BSMW Awards Recap – Best/Worst Print Columnist

Starting today, I’m going to be away from the site for pretty much the rest of the month. I leave this morning for California to get ready for my wedding which is this Saturday. Then my wife and I will be headed to Australia for three weeks, and will not back back until the end of the month.

I’ve arranged for something to be posted on the site every weekday that I am gone. Most days will feature a recap from one of the categories in the BSMW poll voting which was conducted in the last two weeks of March. On Tuesdays I’ve prepared a series of columns to run regarding the past, present and future of BSMW.

If big news breaks I’ve given a couple of people access to the front page here so that they can post any relevant links. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ve revamped the Red Sox and Patriots Daily Links page so that they include more news sites and blogs so that you’re going to find pretty complete coverage of those teams while I’m away.

Be sure to also check in at the New York Sports News page, especially when the Red Sox and Yankees are going head-to-head as they will several times this month. They were rained out last night, but there should still be article pertaining to the Red Sox in the New York papers.

I don’t anticipate checking my email while I’m gone, so just remember if you send me something, you’re probably not going to hear back from me until next month…

Thanks to everyone for your support, and I look forward to talking to you in the near future…

On most days this month, we’re going to be going over the results of the BSMW media poll, which was conducted during the last two weeks in March.

What’s interesting about this poll is that we had a sample size of over 1500 voters in some categories, and many of those voters were actually media members themselves. In addition, I’ve heard stories of media people I’ve never had contact with lobbying followers to go to the poll and vote for them in a specific category. It’s been an interesting process with equally interesting results.

Today we look at the results for the voting on the best and worst local columnist. First, the best:

2005_best_columnist.png

I’m not surprised that Bob Ryan won this category, though I am a bit surprised at his margin of victory and by how few votes many of the other candidates (especially Gerry Callahan – who I like as a columnist) received. Out of the 1454 votes cast in this category, Ryan came home with over half the total amount with 758.

While Ryan isn’t perfect (as shown in that column published the day of the NCAA Final Four) he consistently puts out columns that are thoughtful, passionate and smooth, regardless of the sport. He covers it all for the Globe, though curiously management at the paper promotes Dan Shaughnessy above him, and gives the latter the prime columns for big events which are put in the front section of the paper. That tells you all you need to know about the state of the Globe these days.

Another of Ryan’s Globe colleagues, Jackie MacMullan came in a distant second, with 191 votes for 13% of the vote. Her work is also almost always solid and readable. Tony Massarotti of the Herald…who just moved to the columnist role recently, came in third with 152 votes for 10% of the total – a solid showing for a guy who will be on the scene for decades to come.

Three people voted for Buddy Thomas as Best Columnist? Those have to be people either clicking in the wrong button, or blood relatives.

Reader Comments: I went with Jackie here; Bryant would have been considered but he’s gone. I'm not a big Bob Ryan fan…...You usually can't go wrong by reading a Bob Ryan column.

Now, onto the worst local columnist. We kept the candidates the same in all “Best” and “Worst” categories, to ensure that there was no appearance of bias in this poll.

Here are the results:

2005_worst_columnist.png

687 out of 1439 people surveyed voted Dan Shaughnessy of the Globe as the worst local columnist. As noted above however, the Globe still considers Shaughnessy to be their “star” and the voice of the sports department. Shaughnessy’s columns have become so repetitive, agenda filled and factually inaccurate that there is a blog devoted to critiquing each of his columns, and as their tagline says “we read him so you don’t have to”. It’s to the point that Shaughnessy rarely surprises you any more. You know exactly what he’s going to say before you read the column. If it is a column to start a Red Sox/Yankees series, you know what he’s going to write, if it’s opening day, If the Patriots are about to open the playoffs, if it is Labor Day weekend, you know what he’s going to write about each and every time.

Yet they love him at the Globe, as quoted earlier this year in Boston Sports Review, Sports editor Joe Sullivan praised Shaughnessy by saying that “He is the bravest columnist I’ve ever seen and is not afraid to take a stand.”

Gerry Callahan finished second in this category, and I believe that is clearly the case because of his radio show and his politics instead of his writing. His columns are usually very good, and usually not at all like his radio personna.

Reader Comments: Shank runs away with it. Whatever you think of Callahan's politics and on-air persona, he's a good columnist…Whatever you think of the Shankmeister you have to admit he can turn a phrase every once in a while. If by "worst" you mean worst writing, may I direct your attention to one Steven Buckley….Shank has hackneyed phrases, a columnist has original thoughts; Shank has seasonal 'mail it in' columns, a columnist doesn't rehash the same topics; Shank is beholden to the Red Sox ownership, a columnist is independent; Shank has the curse, a columnist curses tools like Shank…. The USPS only makes money off Shank's mail-ins; in fact the most recent postage increase was due to the loss of the almost daily mail-in column of “The Curse”—hence, they needed to make more money off the rest of his mail-in columns….Has Buckley ever written anything memorable, besides shivving Nomar a few years back? Reading Buck's column is more of a time waster than playing Minesweeper….My 10-year-old still laughs when she recalls the deathless "If Tom Brady was a tree..." column, where Shank channeled his inner Barbara Walters. The sad part is that Shank would probably think that's a compliment ("She's famous... has a lot of money...")

Tomorrow: Best/Worst local baseball beat writer.