Before we get to everything WEEI and Glenn Ordway, I would like to take a moment to send my thoughts and prayers to Rich Shertenlieb and his wife, Mary, who was diagnosed with leukemia. As his co-host on the morning drive show, “Toucher and Rich,” Fred Toettcher, pointed out several times, Rich is truly a great person. Most know of his work developing the Miracle League in Massachusetts; but, in my opinion, his involvement isn’t extolled as much as it should be.
On a personal note, next to Rob Bradford, I owe much of my own success to Shertenlieb. Two years ago, shortly after I started writing at BSMW, I reached out to Rich to come on my podcast. There was no benefit to him — no exposure bucks and certainly no financial compensation — yet, without hesitation, he came on and spent an hour talking to me about work ethic, failures, triumphs and how he always tries to raise the bar in sports radio. Since then, even while working with WEEI, I’ve exchanged occasional emails and caught up with him at Celtics games. Rich, as he’s wont to do, is always gregarious toward me, and seems genuinely interested in me “making it.” A good dude in a cynical world. That’s all. And as Toettcher alluded to this morning, he feeds off his listeners; if you have a moment, shoot him an email or a tweet. It will mean a lot to him.
As Bruce Allen posted yesterday, Chad Finn reported on Boston.com (and Ordway confirmed on air) WEEI is replacing Glenn Ordway with Mike Salk. “Seismic” is the (appropriate) word Finn used in his report, and, as always, a move of such magnitude creates more questions than answers in the immediacy. Are you shocked at the news? But are you really surprised? How do others in the media feel about the news? How did Ordway handle the news? What was The Sports Hub’s role?
The answers to those questions are as follows: no; somewhat; mixed to lukewarm; well, but we’ll never truthfully know; bigger than Ordway gave credit for on the air.
Good? Wait, why are you shaking your head — OK fine, I’ll expound.
Are we shocked at the news?
The writing was on the wall that WEEI was going to make a move in their lineup. We can all agree conducting focus group studies after ratings continued to sag was as ominous as the word “ominous” can be. Besides Michael Holley and Lou Merloni, I wouldn’t be shocked if anyone is let go from the station (Yes, I’m using present tense. More moves are in play here.). Ordway’s salary cut a year and a half ago set the stage for something like this. A move had to be made in either the morning or afternoon time slots to create a sea of change. Frankly, WEEI waited far too long. I’ve said this numerous times, but I literally don’t know anyone under the age of 45 that listens to its programming. That’s a problem that goes beyond a crappy AM signal.
But are you really surprised?
Not buying that cursory explanation? Fair enough, let’s look further: Ordway, whether you like it or not, was a fixture in this market for 20+ years. So yes, despite all the inkling and rumblings and rightful justification, I’m shocked WEEI is parting ways with him. I guess part of this is because of Kevin Winter‘s recent
shady resignation firing from the “Dennis & Callahan” show.
(On Winter: based off correspondences I’ve had, I feel pretty confidently that this was a terribly botched spin job by WEEI; probably to save face. From what I gather, Winter wanted it to work out on Guest Street. Case in point, what other personality was doing a separate podcast on the dot com side to market himself? All the sudden it got too much? Please. But hey, hiring someone then firing him in a few months bleeds transparent volatility. So, I get the chicanery … as ill conceived as it was.)
In the end, the timing of Ordway’s exodus was never going to feel right; because such matters, by nature, never feel right. He’s here, talking four hours a day; suddenly, he’s not — now what? All that said, there is typically a calm before the storm; it appears Winter’s release, meanwhile, was a friendly appetizer, like three inches of snow dropping the day before Nemo.
How do others in the media feel about the news?
The rumors of Mike Salk‘s expected insertion has spawned a ESPN 890 collective high five. The defunct station has seen its former personalities, most notably Michael Felger and Adam Jones and now Salk, commandeer the sports radio landscape in Boston. All that aside, the general take from writers and personalities on Twitter was morbid. You would have thought Ordway was on his death bed. This makes sense, of course. Ordway’s legacy to some (Steve Burton, Steve Buckley, Fred & Steve’s Taco Shack) is forged on being a king maker. He gave them exposure, an outlet, to ultimately talk over them, but that’s semantics.
While covering the Celtics game last night, I got the sense from a few younger writers that Ordway was neither caustic (e.g. he didn’t yell, “HE SUCKSSSSS, MIKE”) nor compelling enough. I fall on the latter side of the fence. We all have access to statistics, post-game quotes, and the like. These days, more than anything else, it’s about formulating and presenting an opinion in an entertaining manner. I can’t remember a time when Ordway espoused a take that made me say, “Hmm, I never thought of it that way.” And that he made so much money didn’t help matters, either.
How did Ordway handle the news?
Pretty well, all things considered. I don’t think he gave enough credit to The Sports Hub (see next question), but then again, I wouldn’t expect him to. He was (understandably) irate that news of his exile was released to Finn. To me, this is curious. Sure, not being able to announce the news himself stinks, especially to a dude who helped WEEI become what it
is was. And yeah, it’s crappy whenever someone loses their job. Ordway, like you and me, has a family; for it to get out in that manner, for lack of a better term … sucks.
On the other hand, look at it this way: Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch once told me that the blogosphere exposing an ESPN personality like Chris Berman for any nefarious transgressions is fair game because, at this point, most people recognize Berman’s face more than the right guard for the Washington Redskins. In other words, in some respects, he is bigger than the game he covers (I know, ewww, right?).
Ordway was overpaid and enjoyed the gift of (relative) provincial fame in the hub for over 20 years. He’s not Berman, but I’m willing to bet enough people know Ordway’s likeness over, say, the 11th man on the Celtics bench. (That could be because the Celtics only have 10 players on their active roster, but you get the point) His employment is fixated on human interaction, and his removal from that equation is news. A mole in the organization is an institutional failing, I guess, but not exactly unlikely given his profile.
What was The Sports Hub’s role?
Everything. Weird to think about, but indulge me as we go “Donnie Darko” for a second: In an alternate universe, if CBS never pursues an all sports radio station, Ordway is still making a cool million a year, Jason Wolfe isn’t freaking out, Dale Arnold is complaining about Kevin Garnett‘s on-court language, and Pete Sheppard is still insufferable. Make no mistake about it, WEEI didn’t lose its audience, The Sports Hub took it.
In addition to my media notes, I’ll be swinging by Wednesday afternoons to write a weekly column dealing with How We Think About Sports (or something), entitled “The Obstructed View.” Think of it as an unfortunate tariff to my other work here. Feel free to yell at me on Twitter about it (@Hadfield__) or email me at [email protected]
Like most of America, I will watch Super Bowl XLVII. And, like most of America, a smirk will take shape on my face as I watch Ray Lewis do his pregame ritual dance. I picture most of America having this reaction, smirking in unison as Lewis performs his cathartic rain dance like a lunatic.
Meanwhile, residents of Maryland experience The Big Game Jitters. You know what I’m talking about – numbness transforms into tingly excitement which, eventually, transforms into a pit in your stomach. “It’s the Super Bowl! And we’re here, we’re really here!!!” (Even though, in reality, they are watching from their couch. You get the point.) Oh, and they’ll smirk too, of course, but out of nervousness, like meeting your girlfriend’s dad for the first time.
Shortly after, the national anthem will happen. Ray Lewis will cry or, at the very least, ooze emotion. This will undoubtedly upset the virtual world – Twitter and Facebook – and prompt reaction at whatever Super Bowl party you’re attending. This dude can’t be serious. America will collectively utter to itself.
And, together, as one nation, we stand, laughing at Lewis; while Maryland, alone, proudly stands, their faces resplendent and nervously grinning, as they struggle to put the corsage on their girlfriend’s dress in front of pops before prom.
There is a common theme here that is completely exclusive, but mutually shared among fans of every successful team, in every sport. Our Guys. We relent, in circumstances, that Our Guys are bad people, or Our Guys are definitely just misunderstood. Either way, we make excuses for them because, well, they’re Our Guys.
Sometimes transgressions are so innocuous that we don’t really have to make excuses at all. For instance, Our Guys sponsor Male Uggs and dress feminine; flex while a player they concussed is being helped off the field; flip off a crowd; are sore losers; have children with 13 different women; swear on the basketball court (Relax, Dale. Every kid makes it to the back of the bus to hear the “bad words” at some point or another.); and have pregame routines eerily similar to Lewis’ (except we don’t notice, because they’re Our Guys.)
Other times, the actions taken – or not taken – reflect such poor character that we can’t make excuses. It’s quite possible, for example, Our Guys may or may not have taken PEDs (but hey, so did Your Guys … we rationalize.); harbor (and fail to disclose) knowledge of sexual assault on multiple children; and can inspire hundreds of thousands of people and raise millions of dollars for cancer research – all while lying about the means they took to acquire that inspiration and platform to do so.
Strangely, in the rarest of occasions, we just don’t know what to think about Our Guys. That’s because, these days, they can be tricked into having an out-of-this-world tragedy attached to an imaginary girlfriend; which, who knows, may have not been a trick after all.
The sailient point is that these guys – Our Guys – are a means to an end to memories of championship euphoria. Years later, when it’s over, we recant our opinion to the rest of America about their shortcomings as a human. We never invited them over for dinner, to our daughter’s wedding, or to watch a movie.
But in the here and now, provincial bias and glory trumps moral high ground, leaving good people to root for bad things, I guess. That’s why, when listening to fans and media folks alike discredit Ravens fans for rooting for a murder suspect, I shake my head. And maybe – just maybe — as Ravens fans hum along to “Seven Nation Army,” in awe of their fearless leader, I’ll take a moment to smirk with them instead of at them, not because I agree, but because I understand their burden, their relationship, to Their Guy.
[UPDATE: I didn't adequately highlight this initially, but if a team's success wanes, then, naturally, a player's personal issues -- like, say, Mike Vick or Will Cordero (kudos to commentator, Winning), come to the forefront. You think The Hoodie gets treated unjustly now? See what happens if the Patriots on-field dominance ever falters.]
None of the subsequent text you’re about to read matters; just as none of the endless hours of conversation breaking down the Patriots 28-13 defeat at the hands of the Ravens matters. You want storylines? There are plenty. You want culprits? There are plenty. But remember – and I can’t stress this enough – none of these narrative arcs really matter.
In the aftermath of the Patriots regular season loss to Baltimore back in September, here is what I wrote for WEEI.com.
We hear these platitudes all the time yet take them for granted. It’s a game of inches, a league of parity, and anything can happen on any given Sunday. More or less, it seems every year, the Super Bowl is decided by a handful of 50/50 plays. Realistically, about five to seven teams can potentially win it all depending on the outcome of these moments. Maybe four of these teams reside in the AFC. The Patriots, once again, proved they are one of the select teams in The Conversation. (Seriously, did you watch the Jets and Dolphins throw up on one another for over four hours yesterday?)
This theory still holds up. The score didn’t indicate this, but the AFC Championship game was rife with 50/50 moments. And the Ravens, by a long shot, came out the victor in each of those situations. Each team had four red zone trips. One came away with four touchdowns; the other, only one. Michael Felger, who will be doing a victory lap this week (and forever), picked the Ravens based on his “gut.” The guy who got it right went off intuition? If that doesn’t show you the fickle and arbitrary nature of the NFL, then I don’t know what does.
So, sure, take solace in the loss and lick the wounds. If you’re the media, blame Tom Brady for not producing points in the second half, heck, even throw words like “legacy” around (which is insanely shortsighted since legacies, by nature, take time to unfold and require perspective, but if you’re feeling frisky, need page views or ratings, then by all means, go for it!); ramble about the mismanagement at the end of the first half which
took away the opportunity “cost” New England four points (I get the anger, but rather presumptuous to assume the Pats would have punched the ball into the end zone there, given how much they struggled in that area all night); forget Aqib Talib was playing lights out and his exit due to injury signified the return of Kyle Arrington and insertion of Marquice Cole into the fold; or make baseless claims about what The Drop Part Deux means to Wes Welker’s contract uncertainty. You will hear all of it. Just don’t forget about The Conversation – it’s everything in the NFL.
Touchbacks: Media Notes From Sunday’s Action
I subjected myself to ESPN’s NFL Countdown show. Maybe it was because of Ray Lewis and all the religion talk this week that made me feel the need for repentance, or something. I don’t know. Either way, I’m 95% convinced Cris Cater was either drunk or acting out a C+ Stephen A. Smith impression during a segment called, “Where You At?”
There was a segment where T.I., a rapper from Atlanta, interviewed Roddy White of the Falcons. This was a real thing; very reminiscent of Lil’ Wayne‘s blog on ESPN.com. Normally, I would be all over ESPN for doing this, but T.I.’s piece was much better than Chris Berman’s segment with Justin Smith and Aldon Smith, where Boomer joked, “I swear, you guys must be brothers?” Ohhh Boomerrrrr, so youuuu. The highlight came at one point when Justin Smith awkwardly said, “You’re trying to butter me up.” I would have loved to get into Berman’s conscious at that exact moment, “Psh. I don’t need to butter YOU up. I AM AN INSTITUTION. I AM FOOTBALL.”
Speaking of Berman, you wouldn’t believe it, but they showed his sideline report following The Catch in the 1984 NFC Championship game. I see this clip far too often; another example of ESPN making itself part of the story, “Look at us, in our infancy, not knowing what we know today – THAT WE ARE THE WORLDWIDE LEADEERRRRRRR IN SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT!!!!!”
Speaking of worthless sideline reports (I’m on fire with my seagueways right now, just go with it), evidently Fox skipped their sound check with sideline reporter Pam Oliver. Twitter was up in arms about her inaudible report (due to the deafening Georgia Dome crowd) right before kickoff. Here’s the thing: If we (rightfully) mock sideline reports for being useless and adding little insight – then, why, are we raising our fists at the information being missed. I thought we decided it’s all so pointless?
Joe Buck has been justifiably criticized for tempering his tone and excitement in big moments. The most egregious example of this mundane style of broadcasting is the Helmet Catch. However, he had a great call on Julio Jones’ opening drive touchdown in Atlanta. Perfect cadence and pitch as the play unfolded. I get he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like Buck.
Much is being made of Shannon Sharpe’s diatribe directed towards Bill Belichick for skipping out on his one-on-one interview with CBS’ Steve Tasker. I’m actually with Sharpe here, but I don’t get why he is so shocked. On the peripheral, Belichick is a sore loser. It’s weird. But it’s also not new. The Hoodie has no use for the noise; he never asks for the adulation he gets, and certainly doesn’t soak in the hate, either. Remember, though, that’s on the peripheral. Internally, all you need to know about Belichick is this tidbit from Peter King this morning.
The postgame conversation on the field with Bill Belichick … Harbaugh: “I’ll treasure that conversation forever. Before the game, we talked, and he said maybe we should just skip the postgame handshake because it’s such a circus. I said I didn’t know; I thought we should do it, it’s just the right thing to do. And we did. He was so classy, so gracious. Complimentary about how we played, about our game plan, about how tough it is to play us. I told him how much we pattern our organization around theirs, how much we study them.”
At various times, I covered the Patriots this past year. I interviewed guys who didn’t make it to opening day like Robert Gallery and Joseph Addai; attended OTAs, minicamp, parts of training camp, the preseason games, and even the home opener as a member of the media.
Sunday night, I found myself in a bar near my Boston apartment, with a buddy, Johnny (a Patriots fan, though, I don’t think he knew who Marquice Cole was until Anquan Boldin abused him last night). It has been an interesting transition back to watching the game away from the press box. While there is no buffet line, egos are checked at the door; a girl who gradually grew uninterested in the game played that shooter arcade game and entered her name as “STD-UTI” (which was hilarious); Johnny and I debated whether our waitress had breast implants (ultimately determining the affirmative, yet we never confirmed); listened to hammered guys claim, “I can’t put this game on Brady, I just can’t,” and after it was all over, had a random guy seriously proposition us with the following choice, “Are we going after girls tonight or looking to find a fight?”
Quirky, fun, memorable, and refreshing — sports is sports again. Even when it sucks.
In addition to my media notes, I’ll be swinging by Wednesday afternoons to write a weekly column dealing with How We Think About Sports (or something), entitled “The Obstructed View.” Think of it as an unfortunate tariff; and feel free to yell at me on Twitter about it (@Hadfield__) or email me at [email protected]
The transitory sphere of sports
commentary entertainment is alarming; probably because, alarmists are running the show.
This last weekend, for instance, saw miracles and epiphanies of the Other Kind unfold. On Saturday, The Book on Ravens quarterback, Joe Flacco, 28, changed from him being “inconsistent and frustrating” to “big when it matters most” and “dangerous;” and the signal caller in Atlanta, Matt Ryan, 27, once designated as a “fine regular season quarterback,” was reborn into a “winner” Sunday.
“It’s all happening!!!” Kate Hudson and her fellow “Band-aids” bellowed on the television screen Sunday night during my 187th viewing of “Almost Famous.”
Yes, it was. (Except it wasn’t.)
The problem with the much-talked about column written by Dan Shaughnessy (which the attention gained, as much as he denies, was exactly how he drew it up), is that he leaves no room for growth. Players are typecast, and crazy ideas like “learning about your craft” fall by the wayside (or somewhere else). Thus every player, it seems, is JaMarcus Russell or Tom Brady (unless you’re Brett Favre, in which case RIDE THE WAVE). And I think we can all agree, speaking and writing in vague, highly circumstantial terms that can’t possibly be quantitative – like adjudicating whether or not an athlete is “clutch” or a “winner” – is just obtuse. These concepts have been specious from the outset of their existence. And, mind you, their sheer existence is due to selfish fandom, writers yearning page views, and radio hosts trying to fill air time.
I can’t figure out why, however, we enable this to keep happening time and time again. Maybe it’s because, these days, we want things like ChuckStrong – the moniker placed behind the Colts’ improbable run, purportedly credited to the inspirational story of head coach Chuck Pagano, who recovered from cancer this season – to matter; instead of Andrew Luck being really good at football.
Because sports has to take a bigger form – It All Has To Mean Something, or else we start asking more pressing questions like, “What the hell are we really doing here, man?”
So, in turn, we constantly hear and read emphatic declarations of whether athletes pass or fail subjective “eye tests” based on intuition. Perception gradually coalesces into reality; only those ruling on such matters are manufacturing this perception, instead of observing what actually exists, leading to one sad fallacy: You are who you are, until, of course, you aren’t.
I was fat, then, I lost weight, and now I’m skinny – today am I a different person?
Woah, I just blacked out. Somewhere, Lance Armstrong is nodding. Suffice to say, existentialism and sports shouldn’t mix.
Still, the Shaughnessy and Michael Felger’s of the world sly wink and feign ignorance to this truth (even though they totally get it. It is, after all, staring them right in the face). Shank wrote a book about a mythical curse, which later was broken. It seems like Felger exclusively talks in generalities. For example, like most, he killed LeBron James after Paul Pierce drained a 3-pointer in Miami to give the Celtics an “insurmountable” 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
James, everyone agreed, didn’t have stones. Months later, we all staggeringly recant, he does.
An interesting case study, really. At 18, LeBron James is a great basketball player. LeBron James, now slightly older, flees Cleveland, and thus, lacks self-awareness and is selfish. LeBron James fails to win a title in his first year on the Heat, and it’s decided he can’t will a basketball team to a championship (yes, this was a real question in 2011). Last summer, The King is crowned, after winning the NBA Championship and leading Team USA to Olympic Gold; magically, he’s transformed and (you guessed it) figured out how to be clutch!! Most recently, though, LeBron James showed regression by berating an official — consequently, he’s back to being a dick.
Everything is about this is true; yet, everything about this is false.
Contrary to popular beliefs, LeBron’s accomplishments last spring and summer didn’t alter the reality that he is a great basketball player; just like raising the Larry O’Brien trophy didn’t mark his personality traversing from puerile and nonsensical to reformed and modest. This isn’t a Hero’s Journey, just someone’s journey.
And, despite recent events, Matt Schaub still could have beaten New England last Sunday night, he just didn’t. Because … uh … because … ahhh screw it – NOTHING IS PROMISED, ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, AND THE OTHER GUYS GET PAID TO PLAY, TOO.
Happy Endings Are Stories That Haven’t Ended Yet
(Programming note: For ACTUAL media commentary, please feel free to skip the next 450 words. I won’t be offended. In fact, I encourage it. I apologize for this voluminous explanation about my respite from writing these past few months; there are just so many big things happening in my head, man. Alas, this practice in self-indulgence and self-aggrandizement is co-sponsored by Adrian Foster’s Twitter avatar … and Dan Shaughnessy’s
Great news, guys: I am back, and there will be blood (maybe … well no, not really). Longtime readers of Boston Sports Media Watch – which, I suppose, is a great deal of you reading this very text – know who I am, appreciate (or mock) my gimmick, and will welcome back the 2011-UNDISPUTED-CHAMPION-In-Arbitrary-Media-Musings-Related-To-Sports-Personalities-Produced-By-A-Fledgling-Writer-In-His-Parents-House, with overwhelming joy. I think.
The bunch I’m referring to may recall my departure from this very space, just a short year ago, to try my hand with the gentlemen occupying Guest Street, with great sadness and sheer despondence. But fear not, dear readers, in the year since, I have covered everything from the Celtics and Patriots to Bonnaroo Music Festival in TN (for Boston.com) to music for TIME. It was, from what I imagine, the feeling Billy Joe Armstrong wishes upon his subject in the song “Good Riddance,” mixed with a shot of the Showtime series, “House of Lies.” Sports, everyone. And writing, too. SPORTS WRITING.
And while it may not seem this way in future columns, the truth is, the gentlemen Over There were gracious, accommodating, and gave me every chance to succeed at my endeavors. You’ll scoff because, sure, my dalliance with The Mainstream Media resembled Gerald Green’s combustible NBA career more than the steadiness of Julio Franco for my liking, but in the interim, I would like to think I learned a lot about life, barriers of entry in competitive industries, and most importantly, proper etiquette while in a buffet line. And hey, as much as I would have loved to keep the Out of Bounds blog going Over There, life, sadly, has countered with rules and obligations, mostly revolving around superficial yet paramount concepts like, “bills,” “net income,” and a relationship with my new girlfriend, named Sallie Mae.
In all earnest, writing about the media, in general, is difficult. However, I can’t complain. Like I said, I was given a great opportunity. I enjoyed the people I worked with and had an incredible experience. The writers and editors I had the pleasure of working for are, for my money, the best at what they do in this town.
“But look,” I negotiated with myself (we’re getting very, very meta now), “Going forward, if I’m going to write for a reward equivalent to your iPhone bill, I feel, it’s only fair, I should be able to write about who I want, when I want … Because PRINCIPLES, people.”
Please know, dear readers, I have returned to you now living back in Boston (breaking the blogger stereotype) as a “wiser” (Read: Jaded) writer, offering two columns a week – the aforementioned “Media Musings” notes, and a more focused column entitled, “The Obstructed View.”
They Said It, Not Me
(This is the part where I deride statements made by Those Who Make Statements)
… Dan Shaughnessy admits that he doesn’t know football. Very tongue and cheek, because he’s ABOVE IT ALL. Don’t think for a second, after he whipped out that gem of a zinger, he didn’t strut into good ‘ole Morrissey Blvd., sporting a BIG WINK shot in the direction of Joe Sullivan; leaving the rest of staff gushing, “That’s so Dan, guys!”
But hey, way to hold and develop that authoritative voice, bud. No need to actually defend your stance with statistics and rationale. I mean, that’s OK – you’re just paid to write about it, is all. Play the Blind Squirrel because, guess what, THE NEWSPAPER INDUSTRY, EVERYONE!
… After the Celtics “upset” the Knicks Tuesday, Gary Tanguay alluded to trade rumors swirling around the team before their current winning streak took form; many of which, Alan Thick assuredly informed us, are incorrect.
Are we to believe Tanguay, who, if you recall, is the same person who confidently told us Paul Pierce was to be traded last season? Keep in mind, as of this morning, Pierce is still listed on Doc Rivers’ roster. Still, to his credit, Andy Bernard desperately – and justifiably – wanted to be believed that his sources were correct about Ray Allen’s departure being related to his salty relationship with Rajon Rondo.
Let the record show, none of this aimless conjecture supersedes Tanguay’s remarks due to an unconfirmed heat stroke he suffered this summer. The highlights, or lowlights, included his indefensible (and maniacal) castigation of Clay Buchholz for going to a pool party at Foxwoods after being released from Intensive Care, and curious proclamation that Aly Raisman was more “clutch” than Tom Brady. Yes, that really happened. Oh, and there was the time he said LeBron James wasn’t a top-5 player in the NBA before the playoffs began, because SPORTS TAKES.
But the line, it seems, between host (ostensibly Tanguay’s role) and commentator/reporter (what sets Ron Burgundy’s calves on fire) is further blurred. JOURNALISM.
… ESPN told Rob Parker, the dude who infamously questioned Robert Griffin III’s blackness (or something, rather) on “First Take,” thanks but no thanks, releasing him from his duties at the network.
Rob Parker’s contract expired at year end. Evaluating our needs and his work, including his recent RGIII comments, we decided not to renew.
So long as “First Take” – the embodiment of a Shank column – exists, extolling the four-letter network for the decision to remove Parker from the equation is like giving a standing O at a DUI hearing because the driver wore his seatbelt.
… The WorldWide Leader also apologized for Brent Musburger incessantly pointing out the obvious during the college football National Championship Game: Katherine Webb, girlfriend of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, and former Miss Alabama, is a professional smokeshow. MISOGYNISTIC ATTITUDES CURED.
This Week In Felger &
This week, Senator McCarthy took his hatred toward the BBWAA (namely Tom Verducci) to new levels, probably to avoid putting any real focus on his other enemy, the streaking Celtics. Earlier in the week, he frothed about reports of Chip Kelly coming to New England to succeed Bill Belichick, because no “Belichick Guys” ever workout. (Somewhere, Thomas Dimitroff and his hapless, top-seeded Falcons somehow feel more disrespected.)
Meanwhile, The Squeaky One Who Agrees gave insight based off a time when he, you know, gave insights; ranking PWIFS (Player’s Wives I’d Like To … well, you know). Who feels out of place on this list: Canseco, Clemens, and Hatteberg. The Squeaky One Who Agrees giggled, mostly.
Finally, when asked about his thoughts in the upcoming New England-Houston playoff game, The One We Shower With Adulation For His Seven-Yard Catch In Super Bowl XXXVI decided that if the Patriots “just do what they did last time against [the Texans], it will be a blowout.” Glad he’s here.
It was, what He & His Cohorts would call, “A Productive Day.”
A guest column from Mike Passanisi.
Larry Whiteside passed away five years ago last month. Younger Sox fans probably don’t remember his name, but he was one of the most admired and respected writers of his era. He was also the first African-American journalist to cover the Red Sox on a daily basis.
Whiteside came to Boston from Milwaukee in 1973, at a time when pressboxes like those at Fenway were ‘”old boys” clubs where racial epithets among the writers were common. Larry must have heard a lot that offended him, but according to Joe Giuliotti, a longtime Herald writer and close friend of Whiteside, he fit in easily. “There were no problems- he covered the sport very well” says Giuliotti, now retired.
Other journalists saw issues, however. Howard Bryant’s famous book Shut Out: A History of Race and Baseball in Boston, speaks of a prominent Globe sportswriter who “had a general reputation as a racist….He was incorrect in his speech, frequently dropping racial slurs as a matter of habit…The arrival of black reporters changed that.” Once, during a discussion commenting on the inferiority of African-Americans, Whiteside told Bryant “he was over there talking about n_____s. I calmly went over and said ‘if I ever hear that word out of your mouth again, I am going to beat the shit out of you.’ The writer backed off. Whiteside could be tough when he had to.
According to Tom Mulvoy, one of Larry’s superiors, Whiteside “was often in an impossible situation. There would be times when Whiteside and a black athlete would share a drink and compare tales of their similar, lonely roads. Journalistically, the details with which Whiteside would emerge made a great copy, but he knew he ran the risk of breaking a confidence with player…many stories would not appear in the newspaper.” Another editor, Dave Smith, saw Larry in “a remarkably difficult position….If he wrote hard stories on racism in the game, he would be accused of making excuses for black athletes. If he criticized blacks in print, they would recoil at the only black in the press box attacking them. That made him an ‘Uncle Tom’.” According to Giuliotti, possible problems of this type never affected his writing.
Larry would cover the Sox through the heartbreaks of 1975, 1978, and 1986. He was still a feature writer in ’75 (Peter Gammons was the beat man and a rising star). After the seventh game loss to the Reds, Whiteside interviewed the controversial and unpredictable Bill Lee. The Sox had led 3-0 in the sixth when the Spaceman threw an “ephus pitch” to Tony Perez that resulted in a two-run homer and the beginning of the Cincinnati comeback. Never one to mince words, Lee refused to apologize for the pitch and blamed his teammates for not turning a double play earlier in the inning. Some journalists might have questioned Lee’s attitude, but Whiteside started the piece with “It’s the way you have come to expect Bill Lee to go down. Kicking and screaming, fussing and fuming with the Reds or just about anyone else who got in his way.” Larry also did a low-key and effective piece on rookie Jim Burton, the Sox pitcher who surrendered the winning run.
As beat writer in ’86, Whiteside had the unenviable task of reporting the collapse in game 6 and sad loss in game 7. About Saturday night’s contest, he began “The Miracle Mets have returned to Shea Stadium. And the demons of 68 years worth of failure will haunt the Red Sox for at least another day. On that gloomy Tuesday morning after the final game, he began “Pitching carried the Red Sox to the threshold of their first World Championship in 68 years. Pitching has extended the wait through the 69th year. Perhaps that is the most deflating irony of a grand Boston chariot ride that ended in heartbreak. No angry recriminations, just the reality of the Sox’ seemingly eternal pitching problems.”
A few days later, Whiteside conducted a lengthy interview with Sox manager John McNamara. “Johnny Mac” was not known as a friendly or talkative man, even in good times. Despite what must have been a terrible disappointment, Mac was very cooperative. Unlike some writers, Whiteside met McNamara half way, in spite of some bizarre remarks from the manager. Regarding fan target Bob Stanley, he answered “Overall, I think Stanley did a very good job for us, especially in the postseason, when he threw the ball very well.” Given what happened in game 6, a very strange statement. Yet Whiteside would seldom if ever criticize, and that must have helped in interviews such as this one. Unlike some beat people who regularly inject their opinions, Whiteside stayed a reporter. A beat man recently called a Sox loss “a dispirited effort“. Larry would seldom if ever make such a remark
As the 80′s wound into the 90′s, Whiteside’s career seemed to wane a bit. Perhaps because of ill health and perhaps because there were some new, more aggressive writers at the Globe, Larry’s stories began to go off the front sport page. Nick Cafardo and Gordon Edes were the new beat men, and Larry’s work was sometimes limited to feature stories or less important material. With the paper now only printing one daily edition, there was less space for men like Whiteside. For example, in 1998, as the Sox were losing to Cleveland in the ALDS, Larry was covering the National League playoffs.
According to a fine obituary written by Christopher Gasper, Whiteside retired from the Globe in 2004. No stories about the team finally “breaking the curse” that fall appeared under his byline- too bad, because he surely would have enjoyed covering the ultimate victory. Only three years later he was gone, victim of a long illness at age 69.
Whiteside never seemed to “cater” to his readers. “We were not there to win popularity contests”, says Giuliotti. But he definitely had the respect of the players- it was not all about him.” RIP Larry. You are missed.
Wilson Pick Triggers Uproar; Fans Question Belichick’s Aim
by Dan Snapp
Matt Light will retire on Monday. He had a tremendous career, sliding in as the starting left tackle almost immediately, and offering solid play on the field and solid character off it for more than a decade. But Light’s career should also serve as reminder for us all to stop thinking we know better than Bill Belichick what he should do with his football team.
I’m glad to once again welcome back former Boston Herald columnist Michael Gee, who presents another guest column.
Why Write? Why Not?
By Michael Gee
Almost 400 years ago Dr. Samuel Johnson said that no man but a blockhead wrote except for money. I’ve been writing for nothing for going on six years, so what does that make me?
A happy blockhead. It’s not as exciting writing about sports from a distance rather than from the excellent seat I had at the Herald, but it has its own satisfactions. Much to my surprise, I have found I enjoy quiet satisfactions as much or more than noisy ones. I still experience wistful longing when a big game comes on TV and I realize I’m not in the press box, but the longing has faded to a momentary twinge. I think about having to catch the 7 a.m. flight out of town the day after the game, and the twinge passes.
As a business, even a nonprofit one, my blog is a bust. I lack the entrepreneurial gene. The amount of work I know Bruce does every day for this site fills me with awe. Every expert says that to draw an audience, a blogger must post daily – at least. But doing that would defeat the purpose of my blog, and in fact, remove the primary satisfaction I get from writing it.
The first principle and joy of my nonjournalism noncareer in sports commentary is to only write when I feel I have something to say, when a topic either amuses, enrages or fascinates me enough that I believe I can contribute to the sum of knowledge and opinion on the subject. You’d be surprised, or maybe not, to learn what a low percentage of sports columns, and radio and TV opinion blather stems from that principle. As a rule, in fact, the louder the opinion (and print can be as loud as any medium), the less likely the person expressing the opinion is to actually give a damn about what they’re saying.
Media space and time allotted to sports must be filled. Filling it is a job, and like any job, there are days when getting the job done is the only thing the worker cares about. There are many more games or other types of sports news that don’t lend themselves to engaged commentary than those that do. To take an example that still gives me night sweats, I was often one of three Herald columnists assigned to preseason Patriots games. There’s as close as nothing to say in that situation as can be, and I had to and did say it anyway.
I don’t have to do that anymore. I have the enormous luxury of picking my spots. That improves a person’s performance in any field. I also find writing something that hasn’t been said (or not said as I feel it should be) in the paid sports media is a bracing intellectual challenge. And, of course, I have the freedom to talk about what I read and hear in said media. When I was a member of that club, it wouldn’t have been proper. Loyalty matters.
It’s a new year, and I intend to write more. But not too much more. No more than I feel I should say. No more than I feel I want to say. No more than I feel have to say.
Back in the Terry Francona mess, a commenter on the message board here asked why my blog writing was so different than my Herald writing. It was a good question, and this piece is my answer. I honestly don’t believe my writing is that different. It’s just that the writing that was my job has been erased, and what’s left is the writing that was and is my pleasure.
Today’s guest colum is from former CSNNE anchor and reporter Jackie Pepper.
L.A. To Boston And Everything In Between: A Sports Reporter’s Tale
By Jackie Pepper
Nearly every television broadcaster travels the same course:
You start in a small market, living and working in a tiny town nobody has ever heard of. While you dreamed of a luxurious life on camera, you soon realize that being on air is often the last thing you think of in your first job as a “one-man-band.” Shooting, editing, producing, and writing all of your own stories comes first while powdering your face and stepping in front of the camera as “the talent” is a mere afterthought.
After a few years of life as a big fish in a small pond, you get a new job in a mid-size market and repeat the aforementioned steps. You travel the country going from job to job as you work your way up the career ladder until you reach the top; “The top” being the perfect combination of status, location, money and overall happiness; an occupational unicorn of sorts.
Born and raised in Santa Monica, California, I moved back home after graduating from the University of Arizona and continued to work as a freelance production runner for ABC Sports and ESPN, a gig that I landed by chance in the fall of my senior year of college. I traveled the country working on location at various sporting events from college football to NBA games to the X Games and sports awards shows. I went on Starbucks runs, picked up lunch for the crew, made copies, drove on air talent and executives to and from the airport, wrote thousands of shipping labels, mopped floors, stapled papers, packed equipment, took out the trash, cleaned TV trucks, and performed every other random task you can imagine. Being immersed in a business I craved made it all worth it.
At the same time, I was taking classes at a local junior college to give me any possible edge once I decided to pursue my dream of being an on air sports reporter. I took Sports Broadcasting, Football Coaching and Sports Marketing, just to name a few. After two years of classes and working freelance for the holy grail of sports television, I landed a staff position at NFL Network as a production assistant at the Culver City studio. For nearly two years, I learned the ins and outs of television production, working with editors inside dark edit bays, cutting game highlights and writing scripts (aka shot sheets), sitting alongside producers in the newsroom, building graphics in the control room, typing the ticker content that scrolls on the bottom of your screen and watching professional on air talent doing my dream job every single day.
Although I loved my coworkers and the perks that came along with working for the NFL (like watching a good looking man’s eyes light up after telling him the name of my employer, which never got old), I finally got my act together and made a demo tape of myself doing fake sports reports, an anchor segment, highlights, etc. After a few months of sending my DVD to small towns across the country, one news director took the bait and hired me.
My first on air job was as the weekday sports reporter and weekend anchor at KIDK, the CBS affiliate in Pocatello, Idaho. And to think while in college, I considered Tucson a small town! Tucson was like Vegas compared to Southeastern Idaho. I could write a book about the 14 months I spent in Pocatello (I actually plan on doing so eventually), but to get to the point, it was an utter culture shock. I had never spent time in a true small town where everybody really does know everybody. Each person I met seemed to be connected to my job. The mailman served as an assistant coach of a high school team, or a local business owner was a former Idaho State player, etc.
To give you an idea of where I lived, one of the schools I covered was Preston High School, where the movie Napoleon Dynamite was filmed. One school I covered in a farming community moved its daily afternoon football practices to 10p.m. for an entire month each winter so its players could assist their families in harvesting potatoes in the daylight hours after school. Southeastern Idaho borders Utah and is primarily Mormon, which is vastly different from multi-cultural life in Los Angeles.
Going from good weather year-round and the glitz and glam of L.A. to driving long distances in blizzards, scraping ice off my car and seeing snow in June, all for the first time, felt like an impossible adjustment at times. Tears were shed and home was sorely missed, but it was all part of the journey. A journey which, thankfully, I wasn’t alone in taking.
Almost all of the other reporters and anchors in my area were also in their early to mid 20′s, many of whom were California natives. It was like a do-over of college, moving to a strange place, knowing not a soul. The social destitution of the situation bonded all of us transplants, forming a TV news fraternity of sorts. Members were not only co-workers at my station, but those at the two other local affiliates as well. We were one big team and while we competed against each other in the ratings books, we were friends who often times helped each other professionally.
If one person’s camera malfunctioned (which happened all the time since most of us used ancient equipment) you could always count on a reporter from another station to secretly share their footage with you. In fact, even managers and executives of competing stations would call each other for favors once in a while. There was an unspoken, yet palpable camaraderie between us all.
That was small town life. Hard working, friendly and simple.
The only professional sports team I covered in person was the Utah Jazz. Once a month or so, I would make the three hour drive (each way) to Salt Lake City in the news car, work the game, get back in the car and arrive home in Pocatello around 2 a.m. Sometimes I would carpool with the sports reporters from the other stations which always made the trip more fun, and walking into an NBA locker room less intimidating.
Once I got to know the players and staff, working the Jazz locker room before and after games felt natural, and me and my fellow small market pals were often the only television cameras around. Yes, I was that girl holding my camera with one hand, the microphone in the other, and praying that the mic was close enough to get the sound while the camera was far enough away to get all of the player’s head in the shot, all while looking him in the eye as he answered my questions instead of looking through the lens. Many times, I would return to media work room, roll the tape back, and see I had cut off the top of Carlos Boozer’s head. Apparently, that’s an occupational hazard that comes along with being a “one-man-band.”
The lack of sports media in Salt Lake City gave me a chance to get to know guys with the cameras turned off. There was never a fight for 1-on-1 interviews, or the pushing and shoving you experience in bigger markets, so after I asked my questions on camera, I could take the time to know the man behind the basketball player.
I learned that the best way to get your job done was to be trusted, and a stranger only trusts you when you are no longer a stranger in his eyes. Harvesting a relationship based on genuine interest in the person and knowledge of their craft yields the best interviews, quotes, sources, etc. It would have been hard to learn that lesson in a place like L.A. or Boston.
Just when I felt like I had finally figured out my job, I got a new one! I went from Pocatello, market 168 to Boston, market 7.
Aside from then-head coach Jerry Sloan, the most high profile sports figure I interviewed regularly was a high school football player named Taysom Hill, a man-child of an athlete who played quarterback (as well as defensive end, kicker, power forward, long jump and relay) and won the state championship for Highland High School. Hill had accepted a deferred athletic scholarship to Stanford, but while on a religious mission, he bolted for BYU once Jim Harbaugh left Stanford for the 49ers. Keep an eye out for Hill as he will be a super star, believe me. Okay, I digress…
I went from high school sports, rodeo and the monster truck show to Bill Belichick, 17 NBA championships, the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry and No. 4 Bobby Orr.
I was in the midst of yet another culture shock. One day I was a small-town television reporter, the next, I was beamed into four million households. I went from rookie ball to the big leagues in one fell swoop. Within weeks of arriving in Boston, I met Dan Shaughnessy, Jackie MacMullan, Steve Buckley and Bob Ryan, all living legends in the field of sports journalism whom I had long since admired. The journey took me from Hollywood, to potatoes to the Ivy League. Three different parts of the country, three different lifestyles and three different work environments.
I was prepared for the worst as the Boston media is notoriously tough, its intimidating reputation perhaps second only to New York City.
Yes, the Boston media is hypercritical when it comes to sports, and I sure as hell didn’t envy any of the players I interviewed after a loss. But I was surprised to find that much like in L.A. and Idaho, there is a fierce connection between competitors, even in a town as feisty and scrappy as Boston.
The press corps in L.A. is very laid back, warm and welcoming. In Boston, smiles, conversation and recognition must be earned, but once you’re in, you’re in for good. Perhaps the contrast in dispositions is correlated to the weather, who knows. Fans might not want to hear it, but members of each city’s sports media even like each other. Blasphemous, I know.
Even though we started in different places, we all took the same road that got us to where we are today. Despite diverse accents and attitudes, the goal is uniform; do the work, make the deadline and tell your story the best damn way you know how.