Farewell To The Phoenix, And Bruins Rate High on NESN

The news came suddenly yesterday, the Boston Phoenix, in business since 1966, would be closing its doors, and today’s issue would be the final one.

There wasn’t a lot of focus on the Phoenix here at BSMW, but the paper certainly had its share of sports media stories over the years, a few of which they were kind enough to call and ask for a quote or opinion or two from me.

There are plenty of tributes out there today, and I’ll pass along three from former writers of the Phoenix.

The Ashes of the Phoenix: Saying Good-bye to a Boston Institution – Charles P Pierce remembers the paper, and gives a good anecdote of how the paper was certainly different from the mainstream press in town:

In 1982, when the 76ers beat the Celtics, and the Garden erupted into a chant of “Beat L.A.!,” the great Bob Ryan interviewed Darryl Dawkins and found Michael Gee, then covering the game for us. You have to have this quote, Ryan told him, because we can’t use it. Ryan had asked Dawkins what he felt like when he heard that chant from a Boston crowd.

“Man,” Dawkins said, “when I heard that, my dick got stiff.”

If I recall correctly, that was Gee’s lead.

Boston Phoenix 1966-2013 – Gee himself also weighs in, and he and Pierce both feature the late George Kimball in their tributes.

The Boston Phoenix comes to the end of the road – Dan Kennedy, former media reporter for the Phoenix, also has a few thoughts.

Elsewhere:

Mike Salk ready to team up with Michael Holley – Bill Doyle says that Salk will make his WEEI debut next Wednesday, and talks to him about the transition.

Bruins ratings up big for NESN – Chad Finn looks at the increased ratings for the Bruins, who are beating the Celtics handily this season in that department.

WEEI sent this over today as well:

ESPN Radio’s Ryen Russillo and Bob Ryan will fill in for Cedric Maxwell during WEEI 93.7 FM’s Celtics broadcast on Saturday evening with Sean Grande. Russillo is co-host of the SVP & Russillo show heard weekdays 1-4 p.m. on ESPN WEEI 850 AM in Boston. Ryan is a renowned sports columnist with the Boston Globe.

Charlie Pierce on Manny, Boston Media

Interesting column from Charles P. Pierce on Grantland today.

St. Patrick’s Day With Manny Ramirez

In the column, Pierce takes a few paragraphs to recall how things ended in Boston for Manny. (Emphasis mine)

His last great run was in Boston, where he helped the Red Sox win the only two world championships that the team has won since 1918. It ended ugly there. Ramirez was accused, in no particular order, of being disloyal (for meeting New York Yankee Enrique Wilson after a game), of being violent (for an altercation with a clubhouse man), for jaking it with injuries, and, literally, for being opposed to veterans and to children with cancer. His achievements at the plate, where he hit 274 home runs, were attributed to his uncanny “natural” ability to hit the baseball in the middle of all the drama he created around himself. His talent was infantilized. He was a child genius on the field, and he was the personification of mature menace off it. That was the identity that attended him in Boston.

He was shuffled out of town during the 2008 season in a three-way deal that landed him with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The deal was attended by some strategic leaking from the Red Sox front office — something of an administrative trademark under present ownership — whereby the local media could exercise their tender consciences over the departed blight that was Manny Ramirez. His name was among those that turned up in the strategic leaking of the allegedly “confidential” results of a 2003 drug testing survey. When he failed a drug test with the Dodgers in 2009, half the Boston media took victory laps on his head. When he retired from baseball last year rather than face a 100-game suspension for failing another test, much of the national media followed.

(Ridding the Red Sox of bad characters was considered one of the triumphs of current Red Sox ownership. This view held until last autumn’s complete collapse, when it was discovered that several of the gritty gamers that management had brought in spent their time downing beers and chowing down on fried chicken during games. This, it appears, will be the topic of media outrage until approximately 2016.)

Ah, the good old days.

Let’s see, it was Dennis and Callahan who often stated that Manny hated kids with cancer, the infantilization of Manny’s talent pure Shaughnessy. We’ve gotten used to the “strategic leaking” from the Red Sox front office, and 2016 seems a minimum possible lifespan of the phrase “beer and fried chicken” in connection to the Red Sox.

Globe Launches New Weekly Sports Publication – The “OT”

The Boston Globe announced today the launch of a new weekly 24-page tabloid style sports publication called the “OT” (for “Our Town/Our Teams”)

The OT will cost 50 cents at newsstands. It features content from Tony Massarotti, Charlie Pierce, Chad Finn and others. There is also an online edition of the publication. The stories are meant to be a little more substantial than what you will get in the regular sports section, with a longer shelf life as well.

In the announcement, the publishers acknowledge that newspaper revenues are sharply declining, and that this is an attempt to get some of it back:

The new publication arrives at a time when newspapers across the country are scaling back staffs and pages amid declining circulation and advertising. To counter those losses, some media outlets are searching for fresh sources of revenue by tailoring new products to niche audiences. OT is aimed at Boston’s voracious sports fans.

“The articles you are reading in this publication are timely but don’t expire after one day,” said Jay Fogarty, vice president of strategic planning for Boston Globe Media, a unit of The New York Times Co. and publisher of several other niche publications, including recent start-ups for fashion, home design, and young women. “It reads more like a Sports Illustrated than a daily newspaper.”

OT will include columns and analysis by boston.com sports bloggers Chad Finn and Eric Wilbur as well as previews of upcoming games involving the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins. The weekly will help readers predict the winners of games and report on fantasy sports. A feature called “Dirt” will chronicle the intersection of sports and gossip. The publication will also have an online component: a blog called “OT online” that will be highlighted on boston.com‘s sports section.

Color me a little skeptical about the chances of the long term success of something like this. Will readers pay 50 cents to pick this up? That’s our poll question for today. (see below) I also had a bit of a involuntary shudder at the mention of the “Dirt” feature. Who will be assigned to camp outside Tom and Gisele’s apartment in New York City? Comparing the publication to Sports Illustrated was a little ballsy as well.

I can see the content being better than you’ll get in the paper, Charlie Pierce’s presence assures that. But with so much sports information and content already out there, almost all of it available free of charge, will consumers go out of their way to purchase this? It’s an interesting experiment for the Globe, and the latest in a series of improvements and changes to their offerings.

With WEEI.com in the market, Boston.com and the Globe are locked in a battle with the new radio-backed startup for the attention of sports fans. It will be fun to see what’s next in this new rivalry.

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Will You pay 50 Cents to Read The OT?
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Charlie Pierce on Manny, Red Sox, Media

I’m pretty sure Charlie Pierce has a big fat BINGO with his Slate article on the Manny Ramiriez trade:

Who’s crazier, Manny Ramirez or the Bostonians who grew to despise him?

After taking on Peter Gammons’ contention that Manny has done more damage to the game than Mark McGwire, Pierce, without excusing Manny’s behaviour and actions calls the Boston media, the Red Sox organization and players to account:

For all the murmurings from the fainting couch by the local baseball romantics about how Manny Ramirez failed to respect The Game and did his teammates dirt, these same people seem more than willing to accept the proposition that the rest of your defending World Champions are made of candy glass. Is the poisonous presence of Manny Ramirez the reason catcher Jason Varitek is petrifying almost by the hour, or why Josh Beckett hasn’t thrown a changeup in six weeks, or why most of The Kids have been playing like people who got lost on the way to the AAA park? (Jacoby Ellsbury, the speedy young center fielder who was such a sensation in last year’s World Series, is hitting an abysmal .186 since the All-Star break and has stolen one base since June 17.) And has Epstein himself been so distracted by Ramirez’s performance that he’s failed to notice that his middle relief corps is a landfill?

And later:

In the final game, a grisly 9-2 loss, Beckett was an empty suit. He had nothing on the mound and compounded that by failing to back up home plate at a critical moment. Boston committed four errors, none of them by Manny Ramirez, and generally looked as dead-assed as the Romney campaign. Apparently, this was The Last Straw after which the veterans came to Epstein and delivered themselves of a burden that had grown intolerable. For this, it should be noted, they have been roundly cheered by a local media that generally hate the notion—but not the cliché, god knows—of “the inmates running the asylum” and which spent the past two weeks concocting a Manny-centric alibi for the most underachieving good team in baseball. The inmates are indeed running the asylum here, and they’ve run out one of the most entertaining inmates of all, and now they have no excuses left. I still wouldn’t be Jason Bay for all the money Manny Ramirez ever made.