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__ 

NFL Regular Season Winds Down On Sunday

Weren’t we just in training camp, admiring the work of Zach Sudfeld and how he was going to fill in ably at tight end?

Now, the NFL regular season will be over on Sunday, and the Patriots, despite a myriad of injuries, are pretty much right where people expected them to be. With a win on Sunday against Buffalo, they can clinch a first-round bye. A loss likely puts them in the 3 or 4 seed.

Buffalo is likely to play the Patriots tough on Sunday, they’ve been better as of late, and Matt Chatham says that the Bills defensive line is the toughest for the Patriots to play in the AFC East.

Check all the coverage at PatriotsLinks.com.

This time of year means plenty of fill-in hosts on the sports radio airwaves. Some of the combinations are horrific, some are ones that I would actually listen to on a regular basis. It was great to hear Greg Dickerson on the air this week, and his pairing with PFW’s Andy Hart made for a good show.

DJ Bean is someone who I’ve really only been familiar with from his very good work covering the Bruins for WEEI.com. He’s taken some on-air shifts and has been impressive. Ryan Johnston and Mike Flynn work well together, as always.

The Globe’s Ben Volin has been on with Dale Arnold the last two mornings, and has been…OK. He seems nice enough, but doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table.

If I hear Butch Stearns take one more 10+ item list and read every single line off of it, I’m going to lose it.

Elsewhere:

NESN’s Jenny Dell in talks with Fox Sports 1 – Earlier this week, The Names Blog had this news, which is not surprising. There have been rumblings that Dell might want out, or that the new management types at NESN would like to make their own hire. If she’s going to continue to date Will Middlebrooks, it’s probably best she get out of the market anyway.

A superlative year in Boston sports media – Chad Finn looks at some of the breakout performances this year in the local media, and looks at both 98.5 and WEEI posting some strong ratings numbers.

And yes, this is happening today:

media-hockey-game

Patriots Back Into Playoff Spot As Miami Chokes in Buffalo

The Patriots backed into yet another division title as the Buffalo Bills helped them out by shutting out the Miami Dolphins yesterday, 19-0. The same Dolphins team that beat YOU last week.

Kidding aside, the Patriots played perhaps their best all around game of the season yesterday – or did Baltimore just play that poorly, as the storyline ran on the on 98.5 morning show today?

It was a rough afternoon for sports radio hosts and columnists who rely heavily on storylines to do their jobs for them. (catch up on all coverage at PatriotsLinks.com.)

Let’s review:

  • The Bills beating the Dolphins eliminated the lusted-after possibility that the Patriots could be playing for their playoff lives next Sunday, and could even miss the playoffs altogether.
  • Dont’a Hightower was visible and made several good plays yesterday, which actually isn’t new, but he has actually been labeled the worst first round pick of the Belichick era by more than one radio personality.
  • Tony Massarotti was heard screaming THIS DEFENSE BLOWS, MIKE! last week. The cornerbacks can’t cover, the safeties can’t cover, the linebackers can’t cover…they BLOW! They all looked pretty decent against a team with better personnel than the one they faced last week. The stops of the Ravens on 3rd and 4th down throughout the game were impressive as well.
  • Joe Flacco owns YOU! The story this morning has been that Flacco has been terrible this season. Which is true. However, this was not the storyline last week, it was all about how Flacco always outplays Brady and that he lights up the Patriots every single time.
  • We heard last week that the Patriots have not had a “quality” road win since 2006, or something like that. This game was pointed to as one that they would have trouble with. I’m 100% positive that this will now no longer be considered “quality” win. We had no idea Flacco was so hurt!
  • They can’t make plays in  the Red Zone without Gronk! Running back is perhaps now their deepest position, talent-wise, and as long as Vereen isn’t hurt too badly, look for a lot more calls to this group inside the 20. All offensive touchdowns were scored by running backs yesterday.
  • The Ravens aren’t afraid of YOU! The coach and QB matchup are not an advantage! They have your number!  41-7.
  • The Patriots are not a very good team right now. Too many injuries, not enough talent left to make any sort of run. 41-7.

It was, all in all, a glorious Sunday. Plenty of schadenfreude to be had all around.

Some of my favorite Tweets/Moments from yesterday:

Our (2nd) favorite Boston Globe troll. This was after the Patriots very first drive. Within 10 minutes they were up 14-0.

Peter King hates Cam Newton. It’s odd, really. in addition to the Tweets shown in that post, on TheMMQB today, he writes:

Time was drawing short for Cam Newton to justify why he’d been the first pick in the 2011 draft, and why the Carolina Panthers made him the franchise cornerstone 32 months ago. In the last 20 minutes of the NFC South title game Sunday in Charlotte, he’d gone three-and-out four straight times. Four series with the division on the line, 16 yards. Playing at home. Losing, 13-10, the only touchdown coming on a 43-yard run by DeAngelo Williams. Sitting there at NBC, I’d seen enough. I tweeted: “Has Cam Newton made a play today? One?” Then: “Carolina drafted Newton first overall for games like this, and he’s failing them miserably today.”

It’s not the first time King has gone off on Newton. He’s been pretty critical of the Panthers’ QB. Do you know why? Not because Cam stole his triple grande hazelnut latte or anything. It’s much simpler:

Yes, the cardinal sin for an athlete.

Tom E Curran has a terrific column today, it’s the anti-Boston sports radio version of the Patriots:

Patriots continue to make the most of who’s left

He also had a tremendous Tweet:

I don’t mind that people picked the Ravens in this game. I wasn’t feeling all that great myself going into it.

(An early graphic had everyone picking the Ravens, Ditka apparently changed his pick yesterday morning.)

I appreciate that Mike Reiss acknowledged and owned the pick that he made:

Some other links this morning:

Belichick’s best year? Don’t go there – Bill Burt (who guaranteed a Patriots win yesterday) doesn’t want to hear this talk that this is the best coaching job of the Belichick era.

What we learned: Complete game carries Patriots in rout of Ravens – Last week, a mailbagger to Mike Reiss wanted Belichick’s head for the massive failure that was the Issac Sopoaga trade. (yes, the one in which the Patriots swapped 5th and 6th round picks with the Eagles and Sopoaga thrown in.) Chris Price in this column, points a trade that has been a roaring success, but no mailbaggers mention – Jeff Demps for Legarrette Blount.

Pats push Ravens around in signature win – Reiss has noted talker Terrell Suggs silent after this one.

Ravens Present Huge Challenge To Patriots Hopes

This week has been a lovefest for the Baltimore Ravens, both from the Patriots themselves, and from the local media.

It’s understandable, the Ravens have become a thorn in the side of New England pretty much since John Harbaugh took over. Do you realize that the 2010 Wild Card playoff game was the first time that the Ravens had ever beaten the Patriots? Since then, every single game has been a battle, with the possible exception of last year’s AFC title game, which the Ravens were running away with at the end.

The Patriots speak in reverential tones about the Ravens, even Bill Belichick today was waxing poetic about his relationship with Harbaugh and about his respect for and relationship with Ozzie Newsome.

There is a lot of respect there, and there should be. This is going to be a very difficult game to win, and will pretty much tell us if this Patriots team can still harbor hopes of a Super Bowl run, or is more of a one-and-done playoff team.

There is another possibility, one that the WEEI morning show, along with he-who-shall-not-be-named were drooling about, that the Patriots lose and are fighting for their playoff lives the following week against Buffalo. Wait, in order for that to happen, wouldn’t they been rooting for the Patriots to lose on Sunday? I thought your columnist was there to write, not to root?

Catch up on all the coverage today and this weekend on PatriotsLinks.com.

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I did get a bit of a laugh yesterday from the Felger and Mazz show when Felger was launching into his YOU bit. “Joe Flacco plays great against YOU, the Ravens defense knows how to stop YOU, etc etc.

Marc Bertrand (and even Mazz) called him on it, and he confessed that he doesn’t always realize he’s doing it, but that he does know that it makes him even more annoying, it’s a way to “twist the knife” on fans a bit more. He admitted to using YOU only on the negatives. When there is a positive, he just says “the Patriots.”

I laughed because it was a rare admission that it is all an act, and he actually did it good-naturedly. That’s the thing about Felger. I just can’t dislike him, no matter how much trolling and faux storylines he creates. He has moments where he actually breaks character, and its amusing when he does. Massarotti on the other hand, I have no use for. He has no redeeming qualities, and exists simply to shout agreements to Felger and to worry about how the sky is going to fall this time.

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Chad Finn’s media column today – Formula ranks the NFL broadcast teams from bad to not-so-bad – looks at a study from SportsOnEarth of the national NFL broadcast teams.

He also has a few notes, and this morning he noted on Twitter:

I don’t know what changes are afoot, but we can all guess. The bit about D&C (and Minihane) getting a new deal is interesting. They’ve definitely made a nice comeback in the ratings area, and I know I listen to them a whole lot more than I do to Toucher and Rich. The latter are nicer human beings, but come up lacking in what I’m looking for in a morning sports show. I definitely do my share of flipping back and forth, if there is a worthy guest on Toucher and Rich (Mike Gorman, Danny Ainge, Rosevelt Colvin, etc) I’ll listen in, but the discussions among themselves about sports are low quality.

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If you see a Patriots Football Weekly on the newsstands near you, pick it up! My monthly media column is in there, and it is a three-parter. A look at the broadcast crews who have called the Patriots games this season, including Don Criqui making some history, a look at why this week’s game with the Ravens was flexed out of Sunday Night Football (Hint – it wasn’t because Eagles-Bears was a better game.) and debunking some conventional wisdom about the impact of playing in the AFC East for the Patriots.

One final link: How To Become The Next Great Sports Talker – Jason Wolfe gives his tips on how you can become the next Glenn Ordway.

Wolfe says he’s now considering becoming an agent for radio hosts.

Good News: Patriots Don’t Win On Gift Pass Interference Call

So, all those big Patriots “fanz” who felt that last week’s win was “cheapened” by a “gift” pass interference call have to be waking up pretty pleased this morning, right?

I mean, better to lose honorably than to get a cheap win, right? So, congratulations, Pats Fanz on the loss!

The Patriots had issues scoring touchdowns in the red zone yesterday, which led to a 24-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins. If New England was able to get into the end zone a couple of times instead of having to settle for field goals, we’re probably not talking (as much) about the “abomination” that is Dont’a Hightower, (CSNNE poll question before the game.) or in Stephen Gostkowski pulling a John Kasay to set the Dolphins up nicely. The defense was troubling, but again, two TD’s instead of FG’s, and the conversation is much different.

Obviously, the team missed having the big target that is Rob Gronkowski, and that is going to be an issue moving forward. Hopefully they get Aaron Dobson back soon, as he was showing glimpses of being someone who can go up and get a ball.

Check all the Patriots coverage at PatriotsLinks.com.

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Dan Shaughnessy had the Patriots winning the Super Bowl last week. This week, he says the idea that the Patriots could be the number one seed in the AFC was laughable. He of course, blames their troubles on “arrogance.”

As the heroes at Dan Shaughnessy Watch point out, here are Shaughnessy lines from the last couple weeks:

December 1st:

Less than a year later, the Patriots are flexing their muscles after last Sunday’s dramatic comeback over the Broncos. The 8-3 Patriots are favorites to run the table and return to the Super Bowl.

December 15th (yesterday):

This is where, on Sunday, the Patriots will assume their spot as the top-seeded team in the AFC.

Today:

but the notion that they were the AFC’s top seed is laughable.

It really must be nice to be able to write something on one day, and then the next act like it never happened.

Is there anyone lazier than Dan Shaughnessy? Seriously. Each of his columns reads as if it took 15 minutes to write. Just come up with the angle that is going to piss the most people off, and hit submit, and Joe Sullivan will call you the bravest columnists in the history of newspapers. It used to be that a columnist’s role was to make the reader think. To challenge some of their perhaps preconceived notions, and to perhaps stir things up by playing devil’s advocate. Now, it is simply to troll the fans.

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If you’ve suspected that Peter King writes much of the Monday Morning QB in advance, today’s edition probably seals that. In the Fine 15:

king-patsUpdate: Passage has been edited so that it now ends at “dominating no one.”

Clearly written after the loss to Miami, but before the Bengals laid down to the Steelers last night.  Most other sections are current, he’s got the Bengals losing, he notes that the top three in the AFC remained the same this week, but forgot to change the Patriots blurb.

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This morning on WEEI, the crew was bemoaning Brady’s lack of weapons, and their reliance on the tough scrappy guys like Welker, Edelman and Amendola. Gerry Callahan stated that he wished the Patriots had drafted Dez Bryant instead of Devin McCourty, who he says has been “fine, I guess”

Can you even imagine if Dez Bryant was here, how he would be treated by the Dennis and Callahan show? It would be Manny Ramirez, part II.

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Four things from the CBS broadcast yesterday:

Note to Simms and Nantz. It’s am-men-DOLE-uh, not AH-men-dole-uh. (It’s in the media guide and everything.) How annoying was that?

On the botched FG by Miami, they never picked up on the fact that the two ends flared out at the snap, indicating that the attempt was a fake. It was picked up in the press box though:

In Miami’s TD drive at the end of the first half, it was never mentioned that the clock did not run at all on the 2nd and 10 play to Marlon Moore. It was a pretty long play, as Tannehill left the pocket, and ran to fairly close to the sideline before throwing. The play took at good eight seconds or so to develop, which ultimately didn’t matter too much as the Dolphins scored pretty quickly, but it was never mentioned.

Finally, in the second half, when the camera was focused for an excessively long time on offensive coordinator Mike Sherman up in the coaches box, Jim Nantz casually mentioned “Jones is injured for the Patriots” but the camera and storyline remained fixed on Sherman. The Patriots have two Jones’ on defense but obviously one is much more critical than the other. Patriots fans were left to wonder if Chandler Jones was the next Patriot to suffer a season-ending injury or if he was going to be OK, or if it was Chris Jones. Kind of a difference there.

Globe 10.0 To Debate Whether Or Not To Boo Ellsbury Ad Today

On today’s Globe 10.0, Joe Sullivan and Chris Gasper will debate whether or not fans should boo the full-page ad that Jacoby Ellsbury took out in today’s Globe.

Would that surprise anyone?

This week has been a banner one for bang-your-head-on-the-desk sports talk radio storylines. Consider:

  • Patriots win cheapened by “gift” pass interference call.
  • Feigned outrage over Shawn Thornton’s beatdown of  Brooks Orpik.
  • Should fans boo or cheer Doc Rivers? (Can’t say that I’m upset that I missed this variation on the topic.)

I suppose there are those who enjoy these types of “debates” but none more than the hosts, who can just roll the topic out there and give the airtime to the loonies who call sports talk radio.

The Patriots now have the opportunity to control their own playoff destiny. Thanks to the San Diego upset of the Broncos last night, if the Patriots win their remaining three games, they will be the number one seed in the AFC.

They’ll have a challenge in Miami this Sunday, as the Dolphins appear to be trying to make this a statement game for themselves.

Here’s a few links that I enjoyed as we head into the weekend:

Northborough teen has been hot on trail at Winter Meetings – Chad Finn looks at an 18-year-old who has made a name for himself at the baseball winter meetings with several big scoops.

Curt Schilling plans to reinvent the way pitching is talked about in new Sunday Night Baseball role – Bob Raissman has the former Sox ace looking to bring a new style of TV analysis.

Inside the NHL’s process for player discipline – From Wednesday, Amalie Benjamin with a good look at how the NHL reviews and administers discipline for on-ice incidents.

Players have full belief in Brad Stevens – With the Doc Rivers return out of the way, Steve Bulpett looks at how the Celtics players have completely bought into their new leader.

Enjoyment Not An Option For Some When Following Patriots

In a way, it’s really a shame that the Patriots have set the bar so high on a year-to-year basis. Basically, if they don’t win the Super Bowl, the season is a failure, and anything they accomplished along the way is meaningless.

This mindset does not allow for appreciation of wins such as we’ve seen the last three weeks. Rather than looking at each game individually, the mindset instead looks at each game as an indicator of whether the team can be considered a true championship contender or not, and in doing so, focus is placed on the flaws, on the negative aspects of the game (“If they needed a comeback like that to beat the Cleveland Browns, they are in real trouble!”)

It is absolutely true that winning a championship is, of course, the stated goal of each season. In the early part of the last decade, the Patriots made it look easy, winning three Super Bowls in four seasons. Their failure to win one since then has been thrown back at them and their fans with increasing ferocity.

The focus on that big picture takes away the ability to appreciate what we see on a week to week basis. The wins against Denver and Cleveland, and to a lesser extent, Houston, if you just look at them from an entertainment and fan perspective were amazing. How many quarterbacks and teams in the NFL are even capable of pulling out wins like those? Each week as you watch other NFL games, do you see a team mismanaging the clock, or other game management scenarios and know that it likely would be different here? Are you capable of appreciating what you have, rather than howling about the play-calling, or engaging in this constant talk about how the draft has been bungled year after year?

After a win like that, do you say “Wow, I can’t believe they pulled that one out?” Or do you say, “Man, Josh Gordon ran all over them, and they needed a gift pass interference call from the refs to beat a lousy team?” or “I’d liked for them to have pulled off the comeback without a questionable call in their favor.” or “I don’t like winning this way.” I’m not saying doing the latter makes you less of a fan, but it does make me question how much you actually enjoy watching the team play. OK, strike that, if winning like that is not enjoyable to you, then why are you watching at all?

It doesn’t help that we have media members in town who actively troll fans on Twitter during the game, and then attack the fans in columns after the game. I don’t get it. Well, I do. Trolling is now an accepted form of getting attention, even if you look and sound like a complete moron. It’s sports radio, taken to 140 character chunks.

This media trolling takes a few forms: Mocking the expectations. Taking any credit away from the team for the end result. Insulting fans directly, accusing them of being overly sensitive, and then playing the innocent victim when any backlash comes their way.

It’s fair to question when things don’t go well. Being critical is OK when it is called for. But when the franchise has been the most successful in the league for a dozen years now, it’s also OK to sit back and appreciate what happens week-to-week without being angry and thinking only about how they’re probably not going to win the Super Bowl this year.

Speaking of that – when Rob Gronkowski went down on Sunday, I had the same thought many of you probably did – season over. The team’s Super Bowl hopes may have indeed been ended with that play, but if the last three weeks have taught us anything about this team, it is that they will fight to the very end, and will not quit playing even when the odds (and the scoreboard) are stacked against them.

That’s admirable. Try and enjoy what’s left of the season if you can. It may go against your nature, or against the tide of what gets shoved down your throat on the airwaves, print and web, but just sit back and appreciate what you have here.

While it is still here. Because it won’t always be.

The Pretzel Logic Continues…

YOU spent the last few years defending Ellsbury from the critics! YOU said he was a great player. So now that he’s signed with the Yankees, YOU should be pissed at YOUR team for not signing him! YOU are a hypocrite!

A variation of that has been the theme on Felger and Mazz since the news of Ellsbury signing with the Yankees came out. That, and a Tony Massarotti victory lap for being critical of Ellsbury all along.

Even the biggest Ellsbury fanboy would say that it would not have been a wise move to approach that offer that he ultimately got from the Yankees. Ellsbury was a productive, enjoyable player to watch while healthy during his time here, but there comes a point where even if the team wants the player back, it doesn’t make sense to over-extend, which is what would’ve happened.

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I admired the stand taken by Trenni Kusnierek (@trenni) of CSNNE this week, who initially took to Twitter to protest the repeated use of the word “ladies” to refer to dumb fans by the Felger and Mazz show.

Of course, her tweet also brought out a couple of  the neanderthals of Twitter.

Kusnierek also called into the show to make her point, and got Felger to see things her way.

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Meanwhile, I want to know who in the world said to themselves, Bob Halloran needs more sports radio airtime. The guy has been a semi-regular filling in on the Salk and Holley show, along with Andy Hart (Who I think has been good.) and while Bob is a good guy off the air, he’s incredibly annoying on sports radio. I thought his days in that genre were over, and now he’s back. Whether that is because of Salk, or the new WEEI management, I’m not sure, but wow. I’d rather listen to the insulting pretzel logic of Felger and Mazz than that.

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Your first-place Boston Celtics have gotten a little more attention as of late, but not all of it good. While they’re still only 8-12, there are people who are angry that they’re even that good. The Tankers are upset that the team is blowing their chances for a high enough pick to grab the next NBA superstar.

I don’t get that logic. When you have a team with young players like Sullinger, Bradley, Olynyk, even Jordan Crawford, to me, you need to get them into good habits, and if you believe even a couple of them are a big part of your future, you want to have them get as much competitive experience with the system you’re trying to put into place here, as they will soon be the veterans that the younger influx of players over the next few years are going to look to.

Baxter Holmes talked to former NBA coaches turned TV analysts George Karl and P.J. Carlesimo about the Celtics under Brad Stevens thus far. Both are impressed: Ex-NBA coaches impressed by Celtics’ fight

Get all Celtics coverage at CelticsLinks.com

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The Patriots take on the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium on Sunday at 1:00pm. CBS will send Bill Macatee (play-by-play) and Steve Tasker (analysis) – the network’s 6th team on the depth chart to cover the game.

It might’ve been brought up and I missed it, but Cleveland’s defensive coordinator is Ray Horton, who coached the Cardinals defense to a win in Gillette Stadium last season, and said afterward that he saw a “tell” in Pats’ offense which helped his club defend them.

Get all the coverage at PatriotsLinks.com.

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The baseball winter meetings kick off on Monday, and WEEI is sending two shows down to Florida to broadcast live during the meetings. Mut and Merloni will be there Tuesday through Thursday, while Salk and Holley will be on the air Monday through Wednesday.

We’ll end things for now with the Globe media column:

Analyst: Hard to see Auburn jumping Ohio State – Chad Finn has Brad Edwards feeling like OSU will get get a bump in the BCS, has a look at Nomar Garciaparra leaving ESPN, and a few other notes.