The Devolution of Sports Talk Radio – Is It Permanent?

Before we get into this, let’s make one thing clear – sports talk radio was never the territory of Mensa candidates. Over the years though, it has somehow devolved into just grabbing onto the lowest hanging fruit.

There is in fact, very little sports talk on this genre. There is practically no analysis, no insight, just reactionary hot takes, which are only intended to stir people up.

Most of what you get on sports talk radio these days falls into one of these categories:

Contracts

Does player X deserve a new contract? Is the team disrespecting player Y by not giving him a huge extension right now? Why do the Patriots have to squeeze every single player down there? Why are the Red Sox giving out money hand over fist to players? Why are the Patriots disrespecting Vince in the final year of his contract??? Why is David Ortiz being so greedy and wanting an extension beyond this year???? The Patriots screwed up big time with Wes Welker! Why are the Bruins so tight with money spending so much money on their own players?? The Krafts are so cheap! Jon Lester – you’re going to pay HIM like an ace?

You get the idea. It’s an easy topic to put out there as there will be people on both sides of the argument. It’s also incredibly tedious.

Past Personnel Failures (Real or Perceived)

Let’s revisit the Patriots 2006-2009 drafts again! Peter Chiarelli traded away the 3rd and 6th leading scorers in the NHL!!! Danny Ainge cost the Celtics the 2011 championship when he traded Kendrick Perkins! Was Carl Crawford the biggest free agent bust of all time??? Belichick the GM is failing Belichick the coach! Ainge drafted Fab Melo – we’re supposed to feel good about him not screwing up these other first round picks??  The Bruins didn’t do anything at the trade deadline!

Fear-Mongering
No matter what success is happening right now, there is always the “Yeah but…” card to play. Mike, I’m worried that they’ve woken up the Yankees! Mike, I’m worried that Tampa is going to pass them in September – they always play well in September and the Red Sox always play LOUSY in September! Mike, I know we’re in the World Series, but I’m worried about next year – who is going to play centerfield?  THEY CAN’T REPEAT, MIKE!

Dumb, Stupid Arguments That Aren’t About Sports At All

Are you going to boo or cheer player X when they come back to town? It’s better to lose in the first round than get to the Super Bowl and lose. Whose legacy has more to lose/gain this week Peyton Manning or Tom Brady? John Lackey had a Bud Light in the clubhouse after the game! Tyler Seguin parties too much to be an NHL star! If Rajon Rondo is your leader, you’re in trouble. Is player X tough enough to play in Boston? They just need to get some damn players in here and win some damn games! Etc etc etc.

Mundane Stuff About Themselves/Promoting Their Own Deeds

Hey…did you know John Dennis is getting married? YOU could go to his bachelor party! (If Toucher and Rich don’t send a mole to this thing, I don’t know what they’re doing in life.)

Endless Celebrity Callers

These are the worst. The same callers every day, with the same script, same talking points. Most have a grating voice and annoying mannerisms. They bring nothing to the table but misery, yet the hosts eagerly punch up their call when they’re on the line.

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This formula apparently works, as sports talk radio continues to dominate the market. I find it intolerable. It’s just not enjoyable to listen to, from where I sit. We know why it is this way – it’s easy. To provide cogent analysis of games/transactions/drafts takes work. To give a #hotsportztake just requires your mouth. Also, there is only so much analysis you can really do before it becomes repetitive, so to fill time, you’ve got to get people stirred up, say something outlandish – and stick to it. It’s entertainment, I get it. But shouldn’t it be entertaining?

Mike Felger can pull it off. He’s intelligent and creative enough that he can play the game while remaining – most of the time – entertaining. His partner can’t do it. Just about everyone else in the market cannot do it. Everyone wants to be like Felger, but they can’t pull it off.

I’m encouraged that Dale and Holley seem determined to go another route. It could be an interesting contrast in the afternoons. Having Glenn Ordway and his cronies back and available to listen to also makes things interesting.

I’m hoping that perhaps we’ve hit bottom in terms of the devolution of the genre, and perhaps there can be some changes for the better coming down the line.

Dale and Holley – Reunited on WEEI Afternoon Drive

dale-and-holley

What was old continues to be made new again in the world of sports radio. Just weeks after Glenn Ordway brought his old gang back together on the Big Show Unfiltered, WEEI is reuniting their old mid-day combination of Dale Arnold and Michael Holley, this time in Ordway’s old afternoon drive slot.

Chad Finn had reported back on March 20th that this could be a permanent move, and Arnold confirmed that yesterday.

It seems clear that after the Mike Salk experience, WEEI was hesitant to bring in someone from the outside, and instead went for the comfort factor of a show with proven chemistry. No, it isn’t the creative or bold move, but it’s something that will at least keep things calm and will give a nice alternative to the afternoon programming of Felger and Massarotti on 98.5. They’re probably not going to challenge, let alone beat F&M in this timeslot, but they’re going to hold their own and have a built-in loyal audience that is glad to see them back together. This also gives WEEI a chance to sit back a bit and plan what they want to do in the future.

I’m OK with the move. We’re spared further invasion of the Felger Youth, at least for the moment, and while Dale has his detractors (I’m not among them.) he knows and understands all the major sports, and with the Bruins set for another extended run, having his voice on the station gives WEEI something it has been sorely lacking during the last few years of the Bruins success.

Arnold deserves credit for being a “good soldier” and remaining loyal to the station despite being replaced rather unceremoniously  three years ago. He’s been rewarded with a position better than what he had when he left. I’m happy for him.

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A few notes from NESN:

Red Sox White House Visit Today at 11:15 AM

This morning at 11:15 AM, NESN will deliver live coverage of the Red Sox visit to the White House.

NESN.com will provide a live stream of NESN’s coverage at www.NESN.com/WhiteHouse

Behind the B

Tonight at 8:00 PM, Episode #12 of Behind the B will debut on NESN.

Red Sox Opening Day Rating up 17%

NESN’s Opening Day game rating was up 17% over last season’s opener with a 10.1 average household rating (24 Share) for yesterday’s 2-1 loss in Baltimore. Last year’s opening day game garnered an 8.6 HH rating for a 8-2 win over the New York Yankees in New York.

That was  Gary Striewski serving  as the game-day reporter yesterday. He’ll be on for the entire opening road series in Baltimore. Elle Duncan will serve in the same role for the home opening series against Milwaukee (April 4-6).

Ordway Joining Sirius XM, Says January Return To Boston Radio Still Happening

Sirius XM radio announced yesterday that former WEEI host Glenn Ordway will be joining its Mad Dog Sports Radio channel for weekend shows beginning tomorrow. The Big Weekend Show with Glenn Ordway will air every Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 to 11:00 am ET.

Ordway is also the lede subject of Chad Finn’s media column this week – Glenn Ordway is serious about his future role on Boston radio – where the host insists that he will be back on the Boston airwaves in January at an unnamed outlet.

Finn also discusses the contract extensions for Toucher and Rich and mentions the Bob Costas interview with Bobby Orr, which will air next Tuesday on NBC Sports Network following the Rangers/Bruins game.

Ordway’s former employer, WEEI has been mixing things up a little bit, having hosts work different shifts, as John Dennis worked the afternoon show with Michael Holley yesterday, Mike Mutnansky working the morning show with Gerry Callahan and Kirk Minihane this morning, and Holley is also scheduled to work the morning show next for a day.

This may or may not mean changes are coming under new management, it could simply be that they want the various hosts to work with each other as a way of getting to know one another, and perhaps ease tensions that may exist. With Mike Salk off on vacation riding camels, it is as good a time as any to see what might work.

One combination that needs to be made is Salk with Minihane. Dennis with Salk would be interesting as well.

Some might equate this with rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, but I’m willing to give new management a shot here to see if they can actually turn this thing around. Boston sports radio would be a much better place if the stations were more competitive.

Five Boston Shows On 2013 Talkers Top 100

Talkers Magazine released it’s annual top 100 sports radio shows this week, and five shows from 98.5 and WEEI made the list.
Mike Francesa is listed as the top show in the country.

Here are the Boston entries:

felger-and-massarottitoucher-and-richdennis-and_callahansalk-and-holleymut-and-louMut and Lou are on here, but Gresh and Zo aren’t?

“Most Listened To” vs “Highest Rated”

The summer ratings are out, and once again, 98.5 defeated WEEI pretty soundly.

The morning show battle is interesting. Toucher and Rich (10.8) again came out on top, but Dennis and Callahan got a nice bump finishing second with a 7.2.

(Let’s get this out of the way – when I listen in the mornings, I find that I listen to D&C more often simply because, even though I find their personalities incredibly unlikable, their sports content is generally better than what is on Toucher and Rich. I do go back and forth though, as I suspect many do.)

John Dennis however, wants all to know that his program is the most listened to morning sports show in New England.

And on and on…

What Dennis is claiming here, of course, is that if you take all the WEEI affiliates across New England, plus their television audience on NESN, then more people in New England are listening/watching Dennis and Callahan than are Toucher and Rich.

I don’t have specific numbers on this claim, but I suspect that it is true. If you add them all up, they’re probably more than what Toucher and Rich get only in Boston.

The problem is, this is the argument that D&C used to bash Imus (or Stern) with back in the day. Imus had more outlets, and was thus getting a larger audience. D&C would attack that claim. Now, when it suits their argument, they’re using it for themselves.

The funny thing to me is, all those years when D&C were winning the morning ratings handily, we never heard about these other affiliates. They started to lose, and then all of a sudden there was an emphasis to include Providence in with the Boston numbers, and now, apparently they want to include Providence, NESN and all of their other affiliates across New England.

Seems like moving the goalposts to me. They can’t beat Toucher and Rich in Boston, so let’s make it all of New England, where we have stations, and they don’t. It becomes more about reach than about how they’re actually doing.

A few points on this argument:

  • If 98.5 were going against WEEI in all the areas that the latter has affiliates, does anyone think they’d lose there? 98.5 is not losing to WEEI anyplace they are competing.
  • It seems logical then, that since 98.5 is beating WEEI handily in places where they go head-to-head that they would beat them elsewhere, too.
  • Advertisers don’t care. Boston advertisers do not care that there is a WEEI affiliate in Keene NH, or Portland Me. They care about what the numbers are in Boston, and that is largely why the ratings numbers exist in the first place.

D&C were celebrating their new boss this morning, and that the handcuffs have been taken off, which presumably means a return to politics and current events (read: sex scandals) and less sports talk.

Whether it turns into ratings success remains to be seen. Otherwise, they will just have to remain happy with being the lower-rated-but-most-listened-to morning radio show in New England.

Entercom Boston Announces Phil Zachary As New VP/Market Manager

Just announced:

Boston – Today Entercom Boston announced that they had hired Phil Zachary as their new Vice President and Market Manager. The Entercom cluster in Boston includes WEEI-FM, ESPN on WEEI-AM, WAAF, WRKO and The Boston Red Sox Radio Network.

This represents a homecoming of sorts for Zachary, whose first paid radio job was as a part-time, on-air announcer at WAAF. Zachary, a 41-year radio veteran, is a Connecticut native and graduate of Holy Cross. He began his radio career in Worcester followed by stints in Providence and Boston. While in Boston, Zachary served as Operations Manager at the old WITS 1510. There his role included direct oversight of both Red Sox and Bruins play-by-play.

Zachary comes to Entercom from Curtis Media Group in Raleigh, N.C. There, he served as President and Chief Operating Officer, overseeing the company’s entire slate of radio stations, networks, digital and interactive divisions and print publications. Prior to joining Curtis Media in 2002, he was VP/Market Manager for CBS Radio in Washington, D.C. Zachary has held similar senior executive positions for HMW Communications and Voyager Communications in Raleigh and Clear Channel Media and Entertainment in New Orleans.

Entercom Station Group President Weezie Kramer said, “Phil is the right person at the right time for Entercom Boston. He is a leader and a listener. He understands the challenges we face but he also sees the tremendous opportunity we have. Phil believes in the strength of our brands, the dynamic nature of our content and the true potential of our team.”
“The only reason to leave a great job in radio is for one of the absolute best jobs in radio,” said new Entercom VP/Market Manager Phil Zachary. “Make no mistake—WAAF, WEEI and WRKO are not only some of the greatest call letters in Boston radio history, but some of the best brands in our industry. This amazing opportunity brings me back to my New England roots and the place I started my radio career. There are great challenges ahead, not to mention best of-class competition, but I look forward to it and can’t wait to get started.”

Zachary will begin at Entercom Boston on October 21st. In the meantime, the company announced they had retained the management consultant services of Joel Hollander to assist in the transition. Hollander is the former CEO of both Westwood One and CBS Radio. He will act as the Boston market manager until Zachary can start work full time.

Zachary is incredibly active in his community, volunteering his time and being part of organizations, including The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors, Wake Technical Community College Board of Trustees and the North Carolina Children’s Hospital Board of Visitors.

He has also been an advisor to the communication departments at Elon University, Appalachian State, High Point University and North Carolina State University. Zachary currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Radio Advertising Bureau, the radio industry’s national leadership and advocacy organization.

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WEEI, CSNNE Shaking Things Up

Things continue to be unsettled at WEEI, where Entercom Boston Vice President Jeff Brown departed yesterday for a similar position with Cumulus Media in Atlanta.

Brown and Entercom say that this decision to leave was Brown’s alone. I had heard last week that Brown was interviewing for a position in Atlanta. But sources inside WEEI and in the industry insist Brown’s exit was not of his own choosing.

Regardless, Brown’s exit has caused much joy within the halls of WEEI, where Brown was seemingly disliked intensely by many. Brown was the man behind the firing of Glenn Ordway in February, and of Jason Wolfe in August. He also brought in current afternoon host Mike Salk, a move that is still unpopular among some staffers there. The station has lost many of its top sales people

Chad Finn says that Entercom is expected to name a replacement today, a move that suggests they knew this was coming and had the replacement lined up.

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Comcast SportsNet New England announced their Celtics coverage plans for the upcoming season, and there are several major changes among the announcement.

Gary Tanguay will no longer be the studio host for the telecasts, Greg Dickerson is out as sideline reporter, and Donny Marshall will not return as studio analyst.

In their places will be Kyle Draper (studio host) Abby Chin (sideline reporter) and a rotating panel of studio analysts, not dissimilar to what NESN does on the Red Sox broadcasts.

Mike Gorman and Tom Heinsohn return on the game call for home games. On the road, Gorman will be joined by several different analysts over the course of the season, including Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge – an interesting arrangement, though not quite like having Red Auerbach in the broadcast booth. Others include Dave Cowens, Cedric Maxwell and Chris Herren.

Replacing Tanguay is a good move. His love for manufactured drama and outlandish statements just for attention are more suited for his Sports Tonight role. Donny Marshall had been viewed as a rising star with the network at one point, and perhaps may be on his way to a more national role somewhere. I feel worst for Dickerson, who battled health issues, but loved the game and his job and did it well.

Here is the full release:

COMCAST SPORTSNET TO TELEVISE EVERY CELTICS GAME

FOR FIRST TIME IN NETWORK HISTORY

Broadcast Duo Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn Return for 33rd Season;

Dave Cowens, Cedric Maxwell, Danny Ainge and Chris Herren to Provide Road Color;

Kyle Draper and Abby Chin Join Telecast Team

CSNNE.com to Provide Social Media Experience Tailored for Celtics Fan and

the Most Online Video and News Reporting

BURLINGTON, MA – For the first time in network history, Comcast SportsNet will televise every single Boston Celtics game during the 2013-14 season. The Celtics regular season tips off on Wednesday, October 30, in Toronto with the debut of new Coach Brad Stevens in his first regular season NBA matchup.

Comcast SportsNet’s schedule is highlighted by now Brooklyn Nets’ Paul Pierce’s and Kevin Garnett’s first game against the Celtics in Brooklyn on Tuesday, December 10, as well as the pair’s first visit to the TD Garden on Sunday, January 26. The schedule features 90 total telecasts – eight preseason and 82 regular season games.

In addition to the Stevens debut and Nets matchups, Comcast SportsNet also has games against former coach Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, December 11, and Wednesday, January 8, among other highly anticipated games.

As part of every Celtics telecast, Coach Stevens will talk exclusively with Comcast SportsNet before the start of every third quarter and immediately after the game.

Comcast SportsNet’s first Celtics telecast will start with the preseason opener on Monday, October 7, which will mark the beginning of Brad Stevens’ tenure as coach and his TD Garden debut with the Celtics.

In addition to a full game schedule, Comcast SportsNet will return this season with an experienced team that features new talent. For the 33rd consecutive season, broadcast duo Mike Gorman (@celticsvoice) and Tommy Heinsohn (@CSNTommy) return as Comcast SportsNet’s primary telecast team. The tandem, the longest running telecast team in American sports and multiple Emmy winners, will call every Boston Celtics home game. This season, Celtics legends Dave Cowens and Cedric Maxwell; Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge; and Fall River native and former Celtic Chris Herren will join Gorman for road games.

Kyle Draper (@kylerdraper) and Abby Chin (@TVAbby) will join the Comcast SportsNet telecasts in 2013-14 as studio host and courtside reporter, respectively. Draper, who joined the network in 2008 as a Chevrolet SportsNet Central anchor, will host Celtics Pre-game Live presented by Ace Ticket, Halftime Live presented by McDonald’s, and Celtics Post-game Live presented by New England Ford. Chin joined Comcast SportsNet in 2013 as a reporter and anchor after serving as Comcast SportsNet Northwest studio host for the Portland Trailblazers from 2011-13 and will be courtside for every game.

Joining Draper in-studio will be Heinsohn, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, Cowens, former Providence College coach Tim Welsh and others.

“Mike is widely respected as the best in the business and absolutely no one is more passionate about the Celtics than Tommy. It is an honor to have them return for another season. Kyle and Abby are familiar faces to Boston sports fans through their work on SportsNet Central. They are exciting additions to our team,” said Bill Bridgen, Comcast SportsNet president and general manager.

Social media will be a big part of CSNNE.com’s coverage of the Celtics. The online home to Comcast SportsNet will feature Celtics Pulse, which is the best way to track all the in-game social media chatter on the Celtics, including Tweets from CSNNE.com Celtics Insider A. Sherrod Blakely (@sherrodbcsn), reporter Jessica Camerato (@jcameratoNBA), @CSNTommy and all Comcast SportsNet talent. Celtics fans can share their comments on Celtics Pulse by using #CelticsTalk. In addition to Celtics Pulse, CSNNE.com will feature all of Blakely’s and Camerato’s reporting plus video news coverage from Chevrolet SportsNet Central and UNOs Sports Tonight.

Can Curt Schilling End The Curse (of WEEI)?

The Boston Herald reported last night that the struggling sports station had talked to former Red Sox ace Curt Schilling about a regular role on the afternoon drive show of Salk and Holley.

Could Curt Schilling pitch in at WEEI?

Entercom Boston boss Jeff Brown is quoted as saying that no offer has been made, and that no changes are expected to the show.

While that might be true, it could be that the station is looking to cover its bases so to speak, by gauging the interest of Schilling in taking the job should Michael Holley decide he’s had enough of working with Mike Salk.

It doesn’t seem to be a secret that Holley would love to get out and jump over to ESPN. He appeared last week on his buddy Michael Smith’s show Numbers Never Lie, and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind jumping into the spot opened by the recent firing of Hugh Douglas. Holley could slide in as the replacement. He’s got established chemistry with Smith.

If that were to happen, perhaps Schilling could be a good fit. It might work better for Salk, who worked with a former athlete very successfully in Seattle. Schilling could bring immediate credibility to the baseball talk on the show, and would put that show eons ahead of its competition on that subject in that timeslot.

Perhaps nothing will come of it, but it’s an intriguing idea.

The alternative, according to the Herald article is Joe Haggerty.

CSNNE, WEEI Unveil Patriots Coverage Plans

Both WEEI and CSNNE announced their plans for Patriots coverage this season. Both will have similar programming to years past, with a few minor changes.

Comcast SportsNet Announces 2013 Patriots Coverage

Some of the highlights of the CSNNE coverage are as follows:

  • Logan Mankins will appear in Postgame Live after every game (Wes Welker was the guest last season)
  • Troy Brown and Ty Law return to Patriots Wednesday Live (Brown only) and Pre/Postgame Live
  • Mike Flynn joins the rotation for Pre/Postgame Live

The same format of a two-hour pregame show along with a 90-minute postgame show will be used this season. New England Football Night returns on Thursdays with New England Tailgate at 7:00pm, Patriots Football Weekly at 7:30pm and Quick Slants in its new time at 8:00pm.

WEEI will once again offer Patriots Monday and Patriots Friday, along with NFL Sunday with Dale Arnold, Chris Price and Matt Chatham (and weekly call-ins from Tom E Curran.) and The Real Postgame Show with Butch Stearns, Steve DeOssie and Fred Smerlas.

Entercom Announces Hiring of Kevin Graham as WEEI “Brand Manager”

Here is the release from Entercom:

Entercom Announces Kevin Graham to Lead WEEI as New Brand Manager

Graham Will Direct Entire WEEI Ecosystem from On-air, Online, Mobile, Red Sox Play-by-Play, and the WEEI Regional Sports Network

BOSTON, MA – Entercom Boston announced today that it has hired Kevin Graham to lead WEEI as their new Brand Manager. Graham comes to WEEI from 1320 KFAN in Salt Lake City, where he served as Program Director and afternoon drive co-host. Graham will begin work at WEEI in early September.

One of the original architects of 1320 KFAN, Kevin Graham went on to a successful programming career assembling and building sports stations in Columbus, Pittsburgh, ESPN Radio New York City, Detroit and Salt Lake City. He returned to KFAN again in 2012 to re-launch the station serving as Program Director and host of the Gunther and Graham afternoon show. Graham also has extensive experience in the digital sports arena assisting in building ArizonaSports.com in Phoenix and as the Founder/Editor of SportsMashup.com.

“WEEI is more than a radio station; it is an entire sports ecosystem. From our on-air talent to Red Sox play-by-play to WEEI.com, where we had 1.4 million unique visitors just last month, WEEI is a more complete sports brand than ever before,” said Entercom General Manager Jeff Brown. “We are thrilled to announce today that Kevin Graham will lead WEEI as our new Brand Manager. His background both in front of and behind the mic, along with his years of digital sports experience made him the best choice to lead WEEI. Kevin will bring a fresh perspective to the entire WEEI team and our complete package of digital sports assets.”

“I am honored and excited to join the WEEI team. WEEI is one of the most recognizable and powerful sports radio brands in the country,” said WEEI Brand Manager Kevin Graham. “With great resources, amazing talent, and one of the best digital brands in sports, the sky is the limit. I can’t wait to get started, especially with the Red Sox in the midst of such a great season.”

OK then. We’ll see if Graham can save the WEEI “ecosystem.”