What’s Next For WEEI? What Would You Do?

Now that the Mike Salk shoe has dropped, the WEEI reshuffling really can’t be far behind.

Besides Dennis and Callahan, nothing really remains from the glory days of the station when they were a ratings powerhouse. D&C (and Minihane) still trail Toucher and Rich in the ratings, but have posted strong numbers and continue with their claim of being “the most listened to morning show” locally. There probably don’t need to be any changes here, unless you’d consider moving Minihane out to another role on the station.

We’re left with the midday show and the afternoon show to try and improve. (Mikey Adams at night does well competitively with 98.5 – with help from the Red Sox broadcasts – and he has his own unique audience that is going to tune in to him.)

On midday, the Mut and Lou show has been dismal, ratings wise. Prior to their taking over this slot, this had been the only daytime period that WEEI was winning, when Dale Arnold and Michael Holley had the show. Since then, Gresh and Zo on 98.5 have wiped the floor with them in the ratings.

The afternoon show has seen a similar decline since the changes a year ago. During February 2013, Glenn Ordway’s last month with the station, they posted a 5.8. This February the Salk and Holley show only rated a 3.7.

So what, if anything, can WEEI do to not just stop the bleeding, but to begin to reverse fortunes? They’ve certainly cleaned house in the last year, with Ordway, Jason Wolfe, Jeff Brown and Julie Kahn all exiting. In their places are Entercom VP/Market Manager Phil Zachary and WEEI Brand Manager Kevin Graham. They’ve had some time now to evaluate the station and it seems that some moves need to be made soon. But what?

Some have suggested putting the own team of Arnold and Holley back together on middays. That teaming would likely be successful ratings-wise, but Holley now makes too much to be a midday host.

I like Michael Holley, I really do, but what a track record he is building up. Think of the places/shows he’s worked on in the last decade. Boston Globe – sinking. 1510 the Zone – gone, I, Max – cancelled, Dale and Holley – Dale gets demoted, Big Show – Ordway gets fired, Salk and Holley, Salk leaves before he’s fired.

Yes, bringing Dale back would be recycling a host, not exactly a fresh voice, but they tried to bring in a young, fresh voice with Mike Mutnansky. It hasn’t worked. I feel bad for Mutnansky, I really do. He’s worked his way up in the business, paid his dues at small stations, and got this break. Now he’s trying to hang on and doing what he thinks he needs to go to stay in the business with the “worried” storylines, and the other tactics common today. He’s also a new dad, and he likely doesn’t have the resources to fall back on if he loses his job as someone like Merloni would have.

Can they find another young voice around? Matt Perrault has the same job that Mutnansky used to have up here in NH. Do you try him? How about trying to get someone like Marc Bertrand for this show – I don’t think he’s fulltime drive-time host material, but middays could work for him.

It’s been rumored more than once that they could remove the local show altogether from that time slot and just go with ESPN Radio there. That would be raising a serious white flag. They might as well just change the format of 93.7 FM and go back to 850 AM.

How about trying out the crew from Playaction Sports Boston? They know their sports. They’re passionate. They’re entertaining. They currently do shows on Tuesday and Friday evenings. It would definitely be something fresh and something the market hasn’t seen on either one of these sports radio stations. It probably won’t happen, but I’d be in favor of giving it a try. Give them some weekend shows or something, at least.

So we’re back putting Dale Arnold back on the midday show. It might work. He’ll need a co-host. Do you keep Lou Merloni on there? Merloni has tried very hard on his Felger impression. He works in the YOU as often as possible, he still has his DAMN storylines. OK. WEEI won a bidding war with 98.5 for him, so he’s probably making enough money to keep his job safe for now.  I’m also not sure Merloni is long for the station. He might leave or take another job on his own. Then what? Brand Manager Kevin Graham hosted his own show at his last job. Does the Jets fan try himself out in the midday role? Maybe? I’ve never heard him, so I have no idea what his show would be like.

I’m not thrilled with it, but an Arnold/Merloni midday show might be the best WEEI can hope for at this point.

What about the afternoons? I think Holley still stays. He needs the right partner though. I don’t think Michael Smith is walking through that door. They’d be interesting. So does Minihane come over? Would his removal from the now-stable morning show be detrimental there? What other options are there? Tom E Curran would be great, but I don’t want to take him off the Patriots beat, and I suspect he would not want to do radio full-time either.

Does Arnold join Holley in drive time with a rotating third guest, as we’ve had this week? Again, we’re recycling, and while that could stem the tide, I don’t see it reversing things. They need to to go big.

But then again, maybe they’re not interested in competing with 98.5, just putting together a solid show that gets decent, not record, ratings.

Which ever way they want to go, Entercom has some  major decisions coming up.

What do YOU think they should do?

Note: I’ve gotten some comments, tweets, etc accusing me of now saying I love Glenn Ordway and the Big Show after years of HATING them. That would be inaccurate. I always admired and respected Ordway. Their old show did drive me nuts at times, and was getting old with some of the same personalities showing up all the time. I never hated, never quit listening altogether. I was excited at the launch of 98.5 to see if some competition would force WEEI to improve their product. It really didn’t. They went in the tank. Over time, 98.5 became what WEEI used to be, both in ratings and in the attitude of the hosts. In fact, they exceeded what WEEI had ever done, especially in terms of finding the negative storylines to pound, day after day.  In retrospect, I can look back and appreciate the Big Show more now than when it was on, and can be glad that there is a new form of it available for when the other stations start driving me nuts.

Big Show Unfiltered – Just Like Your Father’s Big Show. But Unfiltered.

Glenn Ordway’s much-ballyhooed internet radio project the Big Show Unfiltered launched yesterday, and sounded much like what we heard for so many years on the WEEI airwaves.

Given the current afternoon drive radio environment, that’s not such a bad thing from this corner.

There were some things you didn’t hear on WEEI. Curse words, for one, though Ordway made sure to say that they weren’t going to force it on that issue. Pete Sheppard was the one getting in his curses, mainly directed at former WEEI GM Jeff Brown. They also went after Felger and Mazz by name, and an impression of Massarotti’s negative panic was in the offering.

Technically, things went pretty smooth for the first time out, they had some issues with callers, but for the most part, it was OK on that end. There seemed to be an issue with Steve Buckley’s microphone – he could barely be heard for much of the show, and as we all know, Buck likes to talk, so it was a bit of a struggle at times to hear.

They broke the news that the show will be aired on SiriusXM radio starting next week on channel 108.

They also had no issue making mention of Buckley’s sexual orientation, which was something of a change. The “Just for Men” hair coloring joke in the Whiner Line for one, and Buckley himself making lighthearted reference to “the gay guy.”

The advertisers were familiar as well – Miltons, Ace Ticket, Jon Meterparel did an ad, but I can’t remember what it was for. Ordway was able to bring along these advertisers to his new venture which speaks to his remaining influence in the market.

All in all, it was a familiar-sounding product, and I was glad to have it back. I had no issues getting the show to run on my PC, and later, even on my Blackberry (!) phone which I had hooked up to a Bluetooth connection over my car stereo.

I’ll be interested to monitor this going forward. It could be a great alternative to the incessant Patriots-bashing that goes on over at 98.5 in that timeslot, and we still don’t know what WEEI has planned in terms of a Mike Salk replacement. (Please not Christian Fauria full-time.)

******

I’m surprised the irony meter has not broken after hearing John “spring water” Dennis talk about Jim Irsay this morning.

We’ve heard a lot about the Red Sox offering dynamic ticket prices. How does that impact them? – Green Monster Dynamic Pricing Could Add $2- $3 Million Of Revenue From Red Sox Tickets

Our favorite storyline is happening for the Boston Bruins right now. Are they peaking too soon???? Are these the same people who were screaming that they didn’t do enough at the trade deadline, and that they let the Canadiens get the player they should’ve gone harder for?

There sure are a whole lot of media and fans drinking the John Elway kool-aid around here.

Dan Shaughnessy has taken “playing stupid on the radio” to levels Tony Massarotti could only dream of. So apparently, other NFL teams are just handing over their best players to Bill Belichick. I thought Belichick was hated around the NFL? Why would they just hand their best players to him. Tampa handed the Patriots Darrelle Revis. Never mind that any team could’ve signed him. This must somehow be related to how the NFL hands the Patriots a tomato can schedule every year (even though the schedule is largely determined years in advance).

Someone on the station (Roche?) also thinks that if Belichick or Kraft can just get Vince Wilfork down in front of a nice dinner all will be well. Sure. Give the fat man some food and he’ll do whatever you say.

Finally:

God knows I love Bob Ryan, but this paragraph in his Sunday column just blew me away:

I’m serious when I say that a year ago today you and I knew more about the NBA than Brad Stevens did. I’m not talking about actually coaching basketball at something other than a youth level. And I know Stevens says he used to watch more NBA than anyone ever realized. I’m talking about living through years and decades of the actual NBA experience, which has nothing to do with high school, college, or anything else.

What in the world?

Wrapping The Week

As we wind down just another week in Boston sports, here are a couple of links and some thoughts:

What went wrong for Mike Salk at WEEI?

Chad Finn examines why the Massachusetts native just never seemed to fit in after coming back home. He also looks at Brent Musburger being replaced on Saturday Night Football (Moved to the SEC broadcasts.) and the curious experiment by the Red Sox to have the PA Announcer call the strike count after every pitch in a game this week.

Tuning In: Could Carmelo Anthony end up with Boston Celtics?

Bill Doyle talks to Celtics voice Sean Grande, who has his own plan for rebuilding the Celtics, which includes luring Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love.

This week’s NFL free agent frenzy has brought out the best and worst of reporting. As usual, Adam Schefter has been out in front of most major developments, and it seems at times that many reporters are just waiting to take their cue from him.

I’ve seen it a few times now, and I’m a little uncomfortable with media members congratulating players on signing new deals, or encouraging them to “go get theirs” on the market. After the number of lectures we get from the media about how they’re objective, and have no rooting interests in what they cover, just the best story, it seems really odd to me to be out there openly celebrating a player getting big money.

Equally disconcerting to me is how many media members are purely pawns of player agents. I understand that in many cases, agents are about the only source of information as the teams (especially the local one) are not usually that forthcoming with information, but sometimes, it’s just painfully obvious where information is coming from and it has to be viewed accordingly. Last night’s spat over the status of free agent cornerback Brandon Browner was a perfect example. After Ian Rapoport came out with the report that Browner had agreed to a two-year deal with the Patriots, the report was denied with such a vengeance that it was very clear where the denial was coming from – an agent who still wanted leverage in negotiations. That was confirmed later when the same verbiage came directly from the agent.

I realize it’s a tough business with everyone trying to get the scoop and being willing to use whatever sources at their disposal to get information, but when it becomes so clear what sources are being used, it can taint your perception of that reporter and have you wondering what the angle is with each subsequent report.

Our favorite sports editor is sick and tired of this Patriots talk.

Salk Out. Revis In.

Quite the turnaround, eh?

We’ll get to Revis in a sec, but yesterday afternoon, Mike Salk announced what many had believed for some time was a fait accompli – he was leaving WEEI.

Thus ended a year at the station, where he had replaced legendary afternoon host Glenn Ordway (who begins his new radio/internet venture Big Show Unfiltered next week) and never quite fit in or got a hold of his role with the station.

Salk had been hired by the wildly unpopular (internally) Jeff Brown, and given free reign on the show. Brown however, left in September and Salk  likely saw the writing on the wall.

Chad Finn says it seems likely Salk returns to Seattle. I’ve also heard Charlotte as a possibility. Salk says he’ll announce today where he is going.

Update:

It will be interesting to see where WEEI goes from here. They’ve got a long way to go to challenge Felger and Massarotti, and although Ordway’s new show likely isn’t going to take large numbers, it’s going to take some.

********

I’m not sure we’ve seen a bigger turnaround in tone on sports radio than what we’ve seen this week. Yesterday, the Patriots were dead and buried, Belichick was a washed-up clown who should have the GM responsibilities taken from him, and today, after reaching a deal with Darrelle Revis it’s back to “in Bill we Trust.”

Speaking of that. Shaughnessy has his Latin mixed up, apparently. In his dreadful column today (oxymoron, I know.) he inserts E Pluribus Bill.

He apparently thinks E pluribus unum means “In God We Trust.”

No so. It actually means “Out of many, one.” So he’s saying Out of many, Bill?”

Way to go, Shaughnessy.

Reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, though some like Lou Merloni wondered why it was only a damn one-year deal – though it has since been reported that the team holds a $20 million option for 2015 it is a two-year deal.  A few callers wonder if the team has blown all its cap space and now will not be able to fill the other glaring holes on the roster.

One thing at a time, people.

BREAKING: Patriots Forfeit 2014 Season

After not signing anyone in the first day of NFL free agency and losing Aqib Talib to the rival Denver Broncos (who beat YOU in the AFCCG) the Patriots officially surrendered the 2014 season.

There is no hope. They’re done. Season over. Thanks for coming.

Hopefully that frees up your Sundays this fall. Plenty of time for raking leaves and shopping. Have fun with that.

Honestly. That contract that Talib got is mind-blowing. I loved having the guy here, injuries and all. But if the Patriots had given him that contract, they would be getting criticized even more than they are now.

It will be interesting to see the guys who have had “concerns” about Talib all along, and what they say now.

Check out all the coverage at PatriotsLinks.com.

Amongst all the hyperbole and the bellyaching yesterday, it was tough to hear Mike Felger again insinuate that the reporting of Mike Reiss was slanted.

Felger wanted to know where Reiss got his “independent numbers” for yesterday’s column. He somewhat snarkily asked if Reiss had hired Deloitte and Touche to examine the books for him. He then suggested that despite the claims that the numbers did not come from Patriots ownership that in fact they did, and that the entire premise of the article was the Krafts using Reiss and attempting to put the blame on Bill Belichick for the Patriots free agent failures. He even suggested that the choice of photo used with the column (Kraft looking disapprovingly at Belichick) was also chosen for Reiss.

On the lines of the tinfoil hat theories, anyone catch Mike Florio writing this:

Third, perhaps the decision of New England coach Bill Belichick to publicly cry foul about Welker’s hit on Talib was aimed at souring Talib on the possibility of signing with the Broncos.

Whew.

Enjoy the afternoon. It can only get worse, right?

Free Agency Primer: Avoid Sports Radio

That is all.

NFL free agency starts up this afternoon, but if you heard any of the afternoon show on the Patriots flagship station, you know that FA is already a failure. The owner is cheap, the team would rather sign has-been or injured players on bargain deals, and they are content just making the playoffs instead of “going for it all.”

So what else do you need to know? They seem to have it covered.

Here’s a better idea. Get your information and analysis from people who actually cover the team.

Patriots 2014 free-agent wish list – Tom E Curran addresses the howlers before getting into what the team might actually do.

Patriots have had internal discussions about Revis – Mike Giardi is pretty plugged in down in Foxborough.

Patriots aren’t getting bang for bucks – Mike Reiss says that spending money has NOT been the Patriots problem in FA. It’s spending it wisely.

Proceed with caution: When it comes to free agency, patience key part of process – Christopher Price sagely notes that “winning” free agency doesn’t often translate to in-season success.

Of course, when news comes out, it’s more than likely to be broken nationally first, via either Adam Schefter or Ian Rapoport. Follow them on Twitter, and you’ll probably be ahead of the game.

A fantastic all-in-one option is the Patsfans.com Rumor Mill

Mediots! Series: Michael Felger As The Professional Propagandist

January has too much promise of the New Year. February is all about love. March, though? March is where we heat up the snark. Once a week, we’ll profile why we strongly dislike members of the local and national sports media, in what I’m calling the Mediots! Series.

felger

I have been writing on BSMW sporadically for a few years now. And I’ve always maintained that if ESPN were to put on a special Pardon the Interruption: City vs. City edition, Michael Felger would be my pick to represent Boston. He’s acerbic, witty, and just enough of a dick to make an impression without undermining his point. Thus, it’s hard to say Felger sucks, because he doesn’t suck; he’s actually very good – one could argue the best – at what he does for a living … which is a problem.

Felger is the Don Draper of the Boston sports media, a professional bull shit artist. Fast forward to the 25 second mark, when Draper states, “The timbre of my voice is just as important as the content.” That’s everything you need to know about Michael Felger.

Which is to say there’s really no substance behind anything Felger says anymore. And like Draper, he’s pitching you, selling an idea (usually predicated on faux outrage), which has one sole purpose: To elicit a reaction. These days, he’s inching dangerously close to Skip Bayless. They don’t live in same neighborhood, but they’re certainly in the same zip code.

The problem here is two-fold:

1.) Felger makes it personal. Whether he’s berating other talking heads, beat reporters, or fans, Felger uses tone and cynicism to fuel a point, rather than knowledge or insight. The best example of this was the time he went after Mike Reiss last spring during the Wes Welker contract negotiations. Remember that “just enough of a dick without undermining his point” comment I wrote a few paragraphs ago? Yeah, scratch that. He’s the ombudsman that no one asked for.

Moreover, he’s a hypocrite and a propagandist. I remember covering the Celtics in 2011-12, and seeing a brigade of fans question whether Paul Pierce was faking an injury because Felger insinuated so (what a joke — Pierce was laboring. This really pissed me off, for whatever reason.). He asks for “consistency from Green Teamers about Rajon Rondo.” This is rich coming from Felger, a guy who openly hates the NBA. How can we take anything he says seriously?

Then there’s the agenda stuff. Felger constantly questions the ongoing employment of Claude Julien (comical), extols the Jets for “getting their guy” in the draft (Marc Sanchez! Shonn Greene! Wahhhhooooo!), or talks about the NFL as a quarterback’s league, and then picks Joe Flacco over Tom Brady in the AFC Championship a few years back, based on a “gut feeling.” In the latter example, he was right, of course, but that’s not the point … it’s not consistent.

He wasn’t always this way. Long ago, Felger was a beat reporter, covering the Bruins and Patriots for the Boston Herald. He was curious and a very solid journalist that, by most accounts, was plugged-in and relentless. Today, he’s an entertainer, a professional contrarian, who laughs whenever he’s called out for his ridiculous accusations. Again, the tone here is more important than the content. Fact, not opinion.

Why does he do this? For starters, because honesty and real analysis doesn’t pay for summer houses, as Tom E. Curran oft-quips about Felger. So, Felger plays a heel in the WWE, trying to get a rise out the audience, because YOU like that. Secondly, the dude is stretched out. He’s on television, or radio, or both for roughly 22 hours a day. HOT SPORTS TAKES can overheat a dude, you know?

2.) This is sports, man. Felger knows this. But that doesn’t preclude the sense of urgency he creates by holding everyone accountable (except himself, of course) for decisions made (or not made). Now, I don’t want to hamper too much on his tone, but its importance here is undeniable. With his platform, it’s safe to assume much of what Felger is selling is, you know, true. But that’s hardly the case. “The Cap Is Crap” sounds catchy, but so does “So easy a caveman could do it.” Neither is actually true. But people buy it, because Felger’s greatest strength is his conviction – it makes everything he says seem so authentic, even if it’s really an opinion.

Don’t believe me? An email from a reader put’s it best here:

Hey Ryan,

Enjoyed the columns on BSMW when Bruce is gone. I know you’ve hit on various hosts on the radio in town but as we’re in a “NFL Period” right now, we have to be reminded how the ‘cap is crap’. I’m not sure if you’re still writing columns this week but this is one of the things that drives me nuts:

http://www.reddit.com/r/nfl/comments/1zis8m/rnfl_i_need_clarification_on_the_cap/

Yeah, internet forum. Yeah, it’s reddit. This is still the influence Felger and Mazz now have, spewing incorrect information about ‘the cap being crap’. I assume you could find more of this on various forums.

Ethan

And this is why Michael Felger sucks. His influence is real, his opinion is not.

To contribute or nominate a Mediot, shoot an email to [email protected] or, if you fancy yourself the progressive type, yell at me on Twitter, @Hadfield__.

10 Quick Musings:

1.) Bruce didn’t include this piece earlier this week, but in the Boston Herald, Jessica Heslam had a story on the custody battle over Arianna Remy, the daughter of Jared Remy and the woman he’s accused of killing, Jennifer Martel. A member from the Martel family leaves this scathing quote:

“You’ve got to bring up a baby with love, not with cash. (Jerry Remy’s) not going to be there. He’s going to be away all the time,” said Richard Martel, who said it was tough to watch Remy’s return to TV.

Again, in my mind, Remy shouldn’t be publicly persecuted for his son’s alleged transgressions. That’s obvious, but worth reiterating. Then again, I don’t think he should be calling Red Sox games, as this case develops details will only become increasingly disturbing during the summer – ultimately hurting the telecast.

Here’s more from Heslam:

While the former Red Sox player-turned-broadcaster was unwilling to talk about all the issues that have arisen from the killing, he was willing to talk a little about his return to TV. “It feels good, feels like I’m doing my job, that’s all that’s important right now, among other things, it just feels good to be back at work,” Remy said.

Good for him. NESN should’ve taken the bat out of his hands, though.

2.) Bruce DID hit on this yesterday, but I disagreed with his take on Dan Shaughnessy’s column in Tuesday’s edition of the Boston Globe, which I thought was great. Yes, I said it.

Given that the Sloan Conference took place last weekend, he opens with a tirade about numbers. To his credit, it wasn’t a GET OFF MY LAWN diatribe. This was a measured viewpoint.

Must all the intangibles be sucked from our games until all that is left is spreadsheets and blinking computer screens? Sports trekkies have made significant strides and teams are better for having the information, but it’s still OK to admit that there always will be things in sports that cannot be measured. These are games played by humans. That’s why it’s fun.

Dan thinks sports are fun? Holy plot twist.

Also enjoyed his take on retiring Danny Ainge’s number; his quip about ESPN’s obsession with the NFL (although, LeBron’s 61 point outburst this week saw plenty of air time as well); his callback to the departures of Orlando Cabrera and Pedro Martinez leading to draft picks that eventually became Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Good stuff. But when juxtaposed with his Sunday offering, I get more confused with how I feel about our friend, the CHB. It was so naïve and sensationalistic I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The premise? Professional sports aside, coaches – even those SHAPING THE MINDS OF YOUNG MEN IN COLLEGE – should give every kid an opportunity to earn playing time. The idea that someone like Coach K should have this responsibility is beyond me. Not to go all El Presidente on the BSMW community, but this is part of the Pussification of America.

Some favorite excerpts:

This is for you, coach. You know who you are.

Do not abuse this power just because you can.

That’s the way it works in life. Not everybody gets to be MVP or a Globe All-Scholastic. Just as academic excellence is recognized, athletic excellence should be rewarded. But coaches need to be mindful of team members who aren’t good enough to play regularly. Find a spot, coach. Make those kids feel like part of the team. Do not demoralize them, break their spirit, and cause them to lose their love for the game. Try to work them into the game organically if possible. It’s good for morale and the talent gap might not be as great as you think.

Look, I can’t believe I’m even writing about this. You win, Dan. Alas, here it goes: by the time I was 18, I think I understood the value of, well, value. In any endeavor – a job, team sport, relationship, whatever – the pertinent question is: What do you bring? Life comes down to whether you’re as good – or better – than the guy next to you. Meanwhile, even though he clearly states otherwise, Shank’s column, entitled “Coaches should find a way for everyone to play,” reads like a desperate parent, looking for their college kid to get their ONE SHINNING MOMENT, even if that moment was in the midst of an 87-35 blowout in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

3.) Some thoughts on the news that Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci are set to replace Tim McCarver in the Fox booth:

Tim McCarver’s replacement(s) was always going to be a polarizing decision. That’s a given. And the upshot, the name(s) calling the mid-summer classic and World Series alongside Joe Buck, was always going to leave a contingent of fans feeling disappointed, wanting more, and alienated. Because anything changing in MLB – even the broadcast – is akin to a tectonic plate shifting. It’s agonizing.

I’ll say this: Neither personality is a particularly progressive choice. One would think network executives would adjust to the statistical revolution as more baseball teams embrace the movement to the point it affects their personnel choices. That didn’t happen here.

While Verducci is a great writer, one who’s plugged in, and knows the game, no one is mistaking him for Rob Neyer. For my money, Reynolds is fine. We know what we’re getting. A sound, smooth broadcaster, but one who is most definitely behind the times in terms of the sabermetrics. In his column about Fox’s choices, Will Leitch pointed to the oft-cited “debate” Reynolds had with Brian Kenny about the “value of wins as a statistic”, when Reynolds looked foolish in his analysis, as a cause for concern. I’m not sure if I wholeheartedly agree.

A color person – yes, they can be female (WHAT’S UP, DORIS BURKE?) – is supposed to point out things we, meaning the common fan, cannot see. Ideally, they view the action through a heightened lens of experience and deep understanding of the game. They educate us, make us smarter. That said – and this is something that, as a writer, I’ve always struggled with – in their analysis, they must speak to the common fan, not just the baseball feign that spends Saturday night scouring FanGraphs. Cris Collinsworth is the best at this. (This isn’t debatable.)

The Internet won’t like this, but the combination of Verducci and Reynolds will suffice. Their in-game analysis won’t get the die-hards all hot-and-bothered, but it’ll have universal appeal, and I think Fox made a sound decision here. (Besides, I’m not sure I want someone breaking down a player’s RngR or CPP during Game 2 of the ALCS.)

4.) “Dennis & Callahan” continue to mystify me. But I’ve been writing too much about these guys lately, so I’ll keep this brief: Gerry Callahan on gay parenting sounds like Harold Reynolds on Wins & Losses. Again, not a good look. Then again, I’m listening, so bravo. (I guess?)

5.) Page Six is saying Bob Costas’s eye infection – the first case of pink eye to EVER GO VIRAL (pun intended) – was due to a botched Botox. Why is Costas getting Botox? I’m convinced he perpetually looks 38-years-old.

6.) This columnist and I need to have a beer – or 12 – together. Love his take on the ongoing moralism of sports. Not every game needs to have meaning on par with the Miracle On Ice. Besides: “The Cardinal Way”? Are you kidding me? His other point about the “best fans of baseball” is just as awesome. I mean, good for Cardinal fans for being swell folk, I suppose, but sports are based on winning and losing, I much prefer the brashness of Boston fans.

Plus: An opposing fan saying “good game” with the same sincerity following a big win OR crushing defeat sucks. It removes the passion from the situation, like trying to hash out a fight with a significant other that wants no part of the discussion. You can’t win. (Also, I have a ton of family from St. Louis – they aren’t THAT NICE.)

7.) I’m thoroughly enjoying this side of Robert Kraft. The dude is on the back 9, just living. L-I-V-I-N, man. Anyone who says otherwise is just a H8er. Oh yeah, Bobby – either sign Aqib Talib or make THE trade. You know what I’m talking about THE TRADE — the one that, to this point, lacks any corroboration but is being discussed as if it’s imminent. DON’T BLOW IT. #JesusGiveMeRevis.

8.) Preach, Chaz. PREACH. Charles Barkley went on the “Dan Patrick Show” and wasn’t shy about his distaste for ESPN (transcript via Awful Announcing):

On his frustrations with ESPN…

“I call it the ESPN disease.  All these guys get on TV every day, they’re experts on every sport, it drives me crazy.”

On whether ESPN has ever offered him a job…

“They call me every year, but I would never go there.  Number one they work their guys too hard, but also I think they manufacture stories.  They manufacture controversies.”

Thoughts: “They work their guys too hard” is a euphemism for “They overexpose their guys, thus making them insufferable.” The result of this overexposure aligns with Barkley’s second point, I guess. But still, I don’t believe it’s fair to claim the four-letter network manufactures controversies; it’s a sports network that discusses sports. Consumers caring is what fuels the “controversy machine.”

That aside, yes, there are guys like Bayless who say things like they “wouldn’t be shocked if Derek Jeter was on PEDs.” It’s fair to look at that type of crap with a jaundiced eye, but come on — you’re beyond saving if you buy that garbage as a fan. Be better. The flip side, meanwhile, is Ron Jaworski giving an opinion on Johnny Manziel becoming a thing that gets attention. While that’s hardly Jaws’ intent, it’s a byproduct of the way we consume HOT SPORTS TAKES because of dudes like Screaming A. Smith.

(It’s the Felger problem discussed above, only on steroids.)

9.) Here’s a good Q&A with Katie Nolan, Fox Sports 1 personality/Framingham native/love interest of yours truly, with the The Big Lead.

On why Nolan thinks Internet loathes Rick Reilly:

… Also you have to sympathize with anyone who’s been doing it that long because you have to keep reinventing yourself to stay relevant. There are going to be people who can’t adapt as well as others. In the case of Rick Reilly, he’s trying to figure it out, but once there’s a misstep it’s easier to criticize them. Plus he’s a name people recognize, everybody talks about the people everybody knows because they can relate.

10.) Talking to Glenn Ordway about possibly coming on the podcast next week. Send questions on Twitter to @Hadfield or through email [email protected].

 

Mid-Week Notes

The news last week that Glenn Ordway will launch his internet radio program “Big Show Unfiltered” on March 17th was of interest in this corner.

The show website, which can be found at BigShowUnfiltered.com or SportsTalkBoston.com currently has the press release announcing the new program. There are many familiar names attached to this project. In addition to Ordway, former WEEI program manager Jason Wolfe is involved, and on the Regan Communications PR side, Steve Ciaccio – former producer of the Dennis and Callahan morning show is on the account, and yesterday Pete Sheppard announced that he also (as expected) will be joining the show.

The show will also feature the “Whiner Line” and likely many of Ordway’s old cronies from the WEEI days.

I’m intrigued. There is absolutely an opportunity in the afternoon market, especially among those working in offices and who access streaming audio. I’m a little skeptical about the 3-6pm timeslot. While the show will be accessible via smartphone, I think a large segment of the potential audience will drop off at 5:00pm when they leave for the day.

But overall, I think this venture has a better chance of succeeding than other recent internet radio attempts (Boston Herald radio, I’m looking at you.) simply because of the experience of those putting it together. Ordway has the relationship with many sponsors already, and with Julie Kahn also said to be a part of the project, her sales experience and contacts will benefit them as well.

There is also the name recognition of Ordway, and his ability to bring in high profile guests and to lead a show. His absence in the market has been felt, as the Salk and Holley pairing in the afternoons has not been well-received by audiences, and there is a segment out there who are tiring of the “everything sucks” and “the sky is falling” theme of the Felger and Massarotti show. I hesitate a tiny bit at the promotion of the show as “unfiltered” – I just hope they don’t go too far in that direction.

Ordway’s show will not take significant numbers away from either sports radio station,(Ordway himself admits that in the Chad Finn column linked at the top of this post.) but I believe they will get enough listeners to keep the show going and give it opportunity for growth. If Ordway is successful in getting traditional radio stations in the region to pick up the show, then we’re talking opportunity for real numbers.

I’m looking forward to checking it out and giving it a chance.

*********************

Quick Hits

Dan Shaughnessy hates analytics? In other developments, water is wet. Columnists like Shaughnessy hate stats and numbers because it lessens the impact of their own opinions. Their vaunted “eye test” can now be debunked in many cases.

I agree with the column from Ron Borges today. It’s interesting to me that Borges in this case isn’t aiming his venom at Patriots fans, but rather those (or, more to the point, one person) on the sports radio and TV airwaves who believes it’s an easy decision for the Patriots to cut Vince Wilfork. There are plenty of other ways to save cap room besides cutting Vince.

On the other hand, ol Ron was a bit off this morning during a call-in to the Dennis and Callahan and Minihane show when he accused Robert Kraft of not being willing to go all-out to win and that the Patriots have changed the conversation about them from winning Super Bowls to to being competitive. He claimed that in the early 00′s, the Patriots would talk about about how winning Super Bowls was more important than how the Colts would just be aiming for the best record. Now having the best record in better since they’re not winning Super Bowls.

Of course, in their Super Bowl winning seasons the Patriots went 11-5, 14-2 and 14-2 while the Colts went 6-10, 12-4, 12-4 those same seasons. So what was he talking about again?

On the plus side, we also now know that Borges and Steve from Fall River are actually the same person. “Ron” brought up Ty Law and how the Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl without him. (Except that one they won when he didn’t play and was injured for the playoffs)

I like Kirk Minihane. He’s willing to go against the conventional media stance and produce an original thought. That said, I was scratching my head Monday morning when he somehow decided that attacking the character of John Wooden was the way to go. Calling him boring, preaching, pious and suggesting that he probably cheated on his wife. That he cheated by allowing boosters to bring him Kareem and Walton. Odd.

BostonGlobe.com introduces metered paywall, allowing in casual and new readers – If you’ve been really dying for your Dan Shaughnessy fix, but haven’t wanted to pay for it, you’re in luck. The Globe announced a new paywall system where now you can read 10 articles a month for free.

Russell Wilson isn’t alone: Why NFL linebacker Brandon Magee is in Red Sox camp – Spring Training articles can get tedious after awhile. I liked this one from Alex Speier about the Browns linebacker who is in camp with the Sox.

Mediots! Series: John Dennis As The Last Professional Internet Tough Guy

John Dennis

January has too much promise of the New Year. February is all about love. March, though? March is where we heat up the snark. Once a week, we’ll profile why we strongly dislike members of the local and national sports media, in what I’m calling the Mediots! Series. 

Here’s the biggest indictment of John Dennis: I can’t tell if he’s Jack Nicholson playing Lt. Jessup, an ornery, morally corrupt HO-RAAHHH dude, shown below demanding respect; or if he’s Tom Cruise, who Jessup mocks, calling out his “Harvard mouth.”

Come to think of it, he’s probably both. And that’s why John Dennis is awful.

In terms of a national comparison, John Dennis is Bob Costas. Which, all told, is a massive insult to Bob Costas. In actuality, John Dennis is how a growing number of people perceive Bob Costas, meaning the version of Bob Costas that’s as insufferable and annoying and pompous as the rest of the world views him.

The comparison coalesces when we think about how each personality looks at the Internet. For instance, in 2008, Bob Costas had Will Leitch-Buzz Bissinger-Braylon Edwards(!!) on Costas Now to discuss the new media, and it immediately became clear Costas had a vague understanding of the sports blogosphere, which is to say he had NO CLUE about the blogosphere. (By the way, Bissinger is the real showstopper in the clip, holy shit — his reputation was forever tarnished. Acting like a lunatic will do that to you.)

Re-reading Leitch’s dissertation of the debacle on New York magazine’s website displays the true issue: For all he has accomplished, Bob cares too much about what other people think of him. That’s a recipe for loads of snark; the Internet tends to smell insecurity and, instead of relenting, it ATTACKS. I’m not particularly proud to be a part of this contingent — but, then again, I’d like to think I’m level-headed about the endeavor, and write with a conscious and tone that’s both enjoyable AND truthful. Regardless, for how brilliant and smooth Costas typically comes across, I get an unseemly amount of pleasure knowing that he failed to distinguish between a blog post and the comments section while reading Deadspin.

Anyway, John Dennis is all of that – to his credit, he can be eloquent in his delivery, yet annoyingly loquacious at the same time. More important is that Dennis is insecure, and that insecurity manifests itself on Twitter. Consequently, instead of severely misunderstanding the blogosphere like Costas, Denito acts like a 17-year-old backup nose tackle on a junior varsity high school football team in his social media exploits. (In other words, he’s Andy Gresh, which is almost an insult to Gresh.)

It’s not a good look, but again, insecurity only fuels venom.

In fact, you could argue Dino’s timeline should be a case study for what NOT to do if you’re a polarizing Mediot. Worse, and I’ve written this before, John Dennis TOTALLY thinks if you delete a salty tweet from your timeline no one will notice and it will be like it NEVER HAPPENED. (It’s the Internet, JD – NOBODY FORGETS.)

Anyway, on top of him being a generally terrible person to listeners (I’ve received multiple emails from readers complaining about this), some of my personal favorite John Dennis moments on Twitter include the following:

  • The time he berated Marc Betrand, or at least a Twitter account that he thought was Marc Betrand.  What a moment. So many strange angles here, but I can’t help but think about the poor guy who was on the receiving end of those tweets meant for Bertrand. Must have been a strange email to get from Twitter. “Honey, why is John Dennis verbally accosting you on Twitter?” Great times. I love divas of sports media. Never change, guys.

(The tweets have since been deleted)

(Dino’s tweets supporting Sileo have since been deleted)

(And yes, for those of you keeping score at home — those tweets, too, have since been deleted)

  • Also, as an aside: I can’t find the link, but I remember people being up in arms about the time he [allegedly] told someone to check his W-2 forms and get back to him. Yeah, he’s awful.

That’s all interactive stuff, though. The complaints about the actual show are even more egregious. And no, we’re not talking about the legendary voicemail he left Ryen Russillo or the METCO gorilla comment. That stuff will live on forever, but it’s almost too easy.

With Dennis, it’s the elongated questions. The persistent claim during their tailspin that “Dennis & Callahan” are victims of Chad Finn misrepresenting the ratings. The time he used what was supposed to be a private correspondence with Tom Brady about Brady’s contract negotiations to – I don’t know?? – gain listenership.  Finally, the crusade he went on about how management was silencing him and his cohort, Gerry Callahan, from doing the show the way they wanted to do it, as if the temporary removal of the “Headlines” segment was the reason for the ratings plummet.

(Because, God forbid, sports talk radio keeps the conversation to sports.)

And let’s not forget about his recent, kinda creepy penchant to YACK IT UP about his MACK-DADDY-SMOOTH days with the ladies. One reader put it best when he said, it was called the ’70s, John.

There is a good side to Dino, I’m sure of it. I’ve been listening to the WEEI show more frequently than “Toucher & Rich” of late. He’s shown professional growth by learning to interact with Minihane, as opposed to pretending he doesn’t exist, and the show is better for it. Truthfully, the start to this new series could have featured a number of media personalities, but given the recent resurgence of the “Dennis & Callahan” morning show, which has been praised in this space of late, it was just time to remember that John Dennis is still an abhorrent individual.

To contribute or nominate a Mediot, shoot an email to [email protected] or, if you fancy yourself the progressive type, yell at me on Twitter, @Hadfield__.

***

10 quick musings (NOT INCLUDED: I don’t know what to think about the Big O’s new Internet venture, so I didn’t write about it. Maybe next week. If you care about such matters here are details):

1.) Ron Jaworski thinks that unless Johnny Manziel changes his playing style, he won’t last three games in THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE. Johnny Football, who recently changed his moniker to Mr. Football, is one of things I most look forward to in September. I love that he’s so polarizing that people like Barry Switzer (!!) come out of the woodwork to call him an “arrogant little prick.” And I love that there’s no in between with Mr. Football, he’ll either be great or awful — any intermediary take is unreasonable. Just the best.

2.) AJ McCarron’s lady friend, Katherine Webb, has been part of Internet folklore since Brett Musburger got all hot and bothered by her in the middle of the BCS Championship game two years ago. RELATED (BUT NOT REALLY; ACTUALLY, YEAH, THIS IS DEFINITELY RELATED): NFL quarterback prospect, Blake Bortles’, girlfriend is not ugly. There has to be a correlation between McCarron’s stock dropping and Bortles’ coming on strong.

3.) Speaking of correlations, the MIT Sports Analytics Conference is this weekend at the Hynes Convention Center. The attendee list gets more and more impressive every year, and 2014 is no different. Writers, thought leaders, and important sports figures – both national, and here in Boston – will be there. Here are a few names that stick out: new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Andrew Luck, Brad Stevens, John Henry, Jonathan Kraft, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Gladwell, Mike Reiss, Mike Zarreen, Phil Jackson, Richard Deitsch, Thomas Dimitroff, Zach Lowe, and Wyc Grousbeck.

4.) A laundry list, indeed. Still, there are people – even select decision makers – in the sports world who have little to no interest in advanced analytics. In a piece that’s well worth your time, Bill Barnwell, formerly of Football Outsiders and now the lead football writer at Grantland, does his best to offer insight into why this gap still exists.

5.) Rajon Rondo took a day off to celebrate his birthday without permission from the Celtics. It is a story that requires reaction. Most people agree it was the wrong move, especially for the team’s captain. And I think that’s reasonable.

I don’t know Rondo. I don’t know what’s said behind closed doors, or what his teammates think of his personality. I will say that when I covered the team in 2012-13, the year Rondo truly became Boston’s best player, he always appeared like an aloof individual. (Read: has ZERO use for the media)

But because of that, his “it’s none of your business” comments about the story make perfect sense. Look, he doesn’t seek the attention when things are great, thus he doesn’t feel he owes an explanation when times are tough. I’m OK with that rationale, I suppose. But still, it’s not a good look.

6.) I think Andrew Sharp, who I highly recommend reading over at Grantland, especially his Onion-esq weekly column #HOTSPORTSTAKES, went the wrong way with the Rondo thing, claiming that because his name always pops up in trade rumors and he finds himself stuck playing on a crappy, tankaliscious team, Rondo should be free from scrutiny.

I’m not sure if Rondo needs to be lambasted here, but that rationale is faulty at best. Players are on the trade market all the time. Rondo deserves criticism.

7.) Criticism, mind you, which the local media is happy to give, of course. Although, on WEEI.com, Ben Rohrbach is mostly pro-Rondo, citing the Captaincy thing as a misplaced narrative considering the title has been “reserved for such luminaries as Dee Brown, Rick Fox, Pervis Ellison and Antoine Walker.”  Chris Gasper, as is his MO, delivers a harsh, but fair viewpoint about Rondo’s frustrating personality on and off the court. Meanwhile, Chris Forsberg does well to describe how this is just another chapter, in a series of chapters, of the Rajon Rondo Experience.

8.) For those who emailed me this week, I’m in on True Detective, but out on Mixology. Yes, I watched the pilot because I live with girls and am exposed to such things. In short, Mixology portrays guys like they’re a bumbling mess or borderline creeps. It’s the equivalent of how people react to Johnny Football — meaning there’s no in between. Somehow, this makes Girls look like a reasonable show. (Hey, at least Girls tries.)

9.) Drunken college kids. Competitive “student-athletes” (whatever that term means). Lack of security. Surprised incidents like this don’t happen more often.

10.) SELF-PROMOTION: I wrote about Aaron Hernandez and guilt in fandom for the Metro this week. Check it out.

***

Sorry for getting this up so late. Go big or go home, ya know? Anyway, I’ll hold off publishing the first part of Monday morning, so it doesn’t get buried. Hope everyone has a great weekend and, as always, thanks for reading. Say hello on the Twittersphere. @Hadfield__.

Sports Media Musings: February Sports Coverage Is The Worst Kind Of Sports Coverage

Programming Note: With Bruce away, I’m captaining the ship this week. Always exciting, often disastrous. Shoot tips, comments, and other feedback to [email protected] or, if you consider yourself the progressive type, yell at me on Twitter, @Hadfield__.

WARNING: THIS IS A RANT

I don’t like to be the Everything Sucks Guy. I really don’t. The Internet is full of Everything Sucks Guy(s). You don’t need another one of those voices filling the space here. But today, dear readers, I deviate; because while hanging out with friends this weekend, we pondered a significant question: Is February the worst month of the calendar year to be a Boston sports fan?

It has to be. Ohhhh, it hassss to be. We’re stuck in quicksand consuming takes on takes on takes about the NFL Combine, Red Sox Spring Training, and the merits of tanking in the NBA. Really, the only thing we have to hold our hat on is the Bruins. And, keep in mind, the playoffs are months away. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for Jenny Dell, Will Middlebrooks and Everlasting Love; the over-saturation there helped me avoid an over-the-top, deep-dive into the meaning of Erin Andrews’s new role as host of “Dancing With The Starts.” (Or Erin Andrews doing anything, really.)

But, truthfully, I can’t stand February. This realization goes beyond the lack of relevant games, though — it’s everything else which has made consuming sports better and worse in 2014. What this all comes down to is speculation. Because if speculation is what you crave, February will tickle your fancy.

The main offender here is the NFL Combine, because the NFL Combine is terrible. Actually, let me rephrase — the combine itself isn’t horrible, but the way we digest the results definitely is. The problem is that the wall-to-wall coverage has not made us better, more knowledgeable fans. Nope. It’s made us informed juuuuuust enough that we’re annoying about the whole endeavor – like a college student trying to explain Occupy Wall Street to Will McAvoy.

Yeah, that’s fans and the media these days. A lot of people talking at once, without any real idea what’s going on in front of us.

For example, did you hear that draft pundit on “Toucher & Rich” this morning? I didn’t bother remembering his “premium” website, because he said things like “Jadeveon Clowney isn’t a winner.” He spoke in generalities and clichés, it was like listening to Danny Woodhead, circa 2011, tell the media he “just has to work on improving, day-in and day-out.”

What is happening here?

Well, 35 percent of fans, bloggers, “analysts”, radio hosts, and the like, take combine crap wayyyyy too seriously; as if someone’s 40-yard dash time tells you EVERYTHING you need to know about whether or not Player X will be an impact guy on Sundays.

(Because 40-yard Go -Routes are all the jazz in pro offenses these days. Seriously, I’d rather see how well DBs and WRs deal with pick plays; at least that would provide real context and maybe educate us with insight into what’s “dirty” or clean)

Then there’s 40 percent of the same crew, who have a little better handle on real life and understand that game film matters more than how awesome Player X is at working out. Of the remaining 25 percent, a decent chunk — let’s say 20 percent — then find themselves explaining the real value at the combine: the player interviews with team representatives behind closed doors: Are you in shape? What do team doctors think of you? Is your mom – or has she ever been – a prostitute?

Finally, the remaining five percent of people invested in this process, in one form or another, throw their hands up and say “I have no idea what is going on, and neither does anyone else.” As the coverage ramps up – and, in coming years, methinks it will – the blurriness between these groups will only distort. I can’t wait.

Spring Training isn’t much better. Let me sum it up for you: Xander Bogaerts is well on his way to being the next Mike Trout (Because you have to file the unreasonable column in Spring Training, so you can write the “WHAT’S WRONG WITH Xander??” column come July. Jackie Bradley Jr. is emphatically shaking his head in agreement). Jon Lester says he’ll take a home team discount, but that’s only left us to ask if he’ll take a real home team discount?

More story lines: Lots of Stephen Drew talk, the ongoing debate surrounding David Ortiz’s contract, and Ryan Dempster‘s shocking decision to walk away from $13 million. Plus, lots of stretching. That too. Like the combine, getting wrapped up in this discussion is fun, but generally pointless until the games start. (After all, remember, Bobby Valentine dazzled the cynical Boston sports media in Spring Training before the fourth estate gloriously turned on him.)

I won’t even get into tanking. At this point, the only thing worse than tanking is talking about the idea of tanking. Also, seedy stories like Rajon Rondo taking “unscheduled” off-days are always a good time; I’m sure people will have reasonable takes about that situation. This should be fun.

***

Now, as I understand it, the popular month’s people tend to point to as the nadir of the Boston sports calendar are July or August.

Not to be a jerk, but to that I say FOOLS. All of you.

(Alert: HOT LIFE TAKE coming your way – set your mind to blown)

As the wonky Internet writer, who fancies himself an intellectual luminary, one that is omniscient about these sorts of things (Read: life matters), allow me to explain. You see, there is life that takes place outside of sports. And July and August is when the other aspects in life supersede the enjoyment gained from sports. That’s not to say there is no room for sports, of course — but its place is auxiliary to all the other great events that make summer, well, summer.

Day drinking. Barbeques. Barbeques AND drinking. Beach days. Beach nights. Beach days AND beach nights. Summer concerts. Not to mention, people are in better shape and appear to be considerably happier – mainly because it doesn’t hurt to go outside. Sports is the cherry on top when I have all that going on in my life.

February? In February, it hurts to go outside. My lips are constantly chapped, face egregiously red because of wind burn, and people around me all gain weight because they can wear layers in the winter. And while there’s day drinking, it’s typically indoors in order to avoid the elements.

Case in point: my friends and I spent Saturday bowling, because there was alcohol and it was near my buddy’s condo. Then we watched Duke-Syracuse and speculated about NBA Draft prospects, because, as previously mentioned, in February there’s not much else to do but speculate.