Sports Media Musings: The Mailbag, Chapter VIII

Welcome to the Monthly 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.

The Bruins are winning (BUT PERHAPPPPSS PEAKING TOOO SOOOON …. DISCUSS !! ). The Patriots just put the rest of the NFL on notice. The Red Sox are set to begin their World Series defense. The Celtics, mercifully, have tanked their way into an apparent high draft pick (maybe). Even the UMass basketball team is relevant.

Sports, you guys! Drink it in, because it doesn’t get much better tha –

… Wait a minute? What am I talking about? More than anything else, one thing became clear this last month: Charles Barkley’s recent comments about ESPN “manufacturing controversies” as well as the remarks he made to the Boston media during the NFL playoffs about how New Englanders “don’t appreciate the Patriots” are unintentionally connected.

Chaz doesn’t realize the ESPN problem – meaning the oversaturation of vapid content (e.g. LeBron James! LeBron James!!! & LeBron James!!!!!; “ELITE/MT. RUSHMORE!!” segments; Skip Bayless; almost the entire NFL Countdown crew; Skip Bayless again) is actually more widespread than thought.

This is the pulse of the Boston sports landscape from a fan’s perspective:

The media? Yeah, they’re more inclined to think otherwise, because instead of all good vibes developing, we hear and read and watch analysis breaking down the following: “Are the Bruins winning too much, too soon??” (Because STORYLINES!) “Did the Patriots give into the noise?” (OMIGOD, get over yourselves) “Is Rajon Rondo a centerpiece?” (Maybe, maybe not – but we should probably wait until he’s playing alongside pedigree above the level of Chris Johnson to decide) “Is David Ortiz a mercenary?” (Plenty of venom thrown Big Papi’s way these days.)

Of course, the same people that write garbage like the following:

“Being good and smarter than everybody else in the face of the NFL norm is great for the Krafts. I’m sure John Elway, Manning, and Talib will care about that when they’re fighting for the Lombardi Trophy next February.”

… Not only follow-up with a “Jets reaction” piece (because commending a move you begged for lacks the requisite amount of lighter fluid to spark a HOT SPORTS TAKE), they also accuse this site of publishing propaganda. Good times! We really are obnoxious sports fans, Chuck.

***

Before we get to the emails, humor me and read my column for Metro Boston this week, on Dick Vitale – the last universally beloved blowhard (Yeah, I said it). To the emails …

For Salk’s replacement, I don’t think there is anyone to promote from within. They need to outside the building – Michael Smith, Danny Picard, Jen Royle, Marc Bertrand, Jermaine Wiggins.

StoJa

I’m pretty sure Jermaine Wiggins and Jen Royle are both readily available. And each would make sense to replace Mike Salk, if only because it’d be the most WEEI-move EVER, right? Wiggins promoting his clothing line. Royle blathering on about her fucking dog. Dear God, just a complete disaster

According to Chad Finn’s piece today, Dale Arnold will reunite with Michael Holley for the foreseeable future (maybe longer??) to fill the void left by Salk’s departure. The duo will also have a rotating guest on the show, presumably to help back up whatever the topic of the day is.

Long term plans for the afternoon drive program? Happy you asked? This exact topic was discussed yesterday here, but if I were running the shop – HEY PHIL ZACHARY, LISTEN UP – here would be my shortlist of (realistic) candidates:

Marc Bertrand: My personal favorite. This is absolutely the Belichickian move, just poaching from the proverbial Jets, like a ruthless tactician. A Beetle Coup accomplishes a few things:

1.) Instantly makes your station younger, thus more relatable (Gerry Callahan’s comments about the gay community participating in the St. Patrick’s Day parade isn’t doing you any favors, Phil)

2.) Weakens the competition (Beetle challenges Michael Felger on the regular which helps “Felger & Mazz because Tony Massarotti has been YARM-ing [‘You’re absolutely right, Mike!] for the better part of three years now. MEMO to Mazz: Look, I’m not one for #EmbraceDebate and I get Felger is your buddy, but palatable discourse with your counterpart doesn’t make for compelling radio, especially when your co-host – a champion of consistency – repeatedly contradicts his own seething analysis.)

Who isn’t at least interested in listening to “Holley & The Beetle”?

Chances of Happening: I’m sure WEEI would be on board. Beetle’s a regular on CSNNE, and a known personality. He’s level-headed, but hardly formulaic in a Salkified way. However, I have not reached out to Bertrand. I don’t know him aside from a few Twitter exchanges. And while it was made clear he has aspirations of headlining his own show when Damon Amendolara left for a national gig, does he want to roll the dice and leave a comfortable role at the highest-rated show in Boston for WEEI – a station seemingly in flux? He’s great with Chris Gasper on their Saturday show – maybe he’s still holding out hope the goodwill earned there will lead to something bigger at The Sports Hub. Who knows?

Kirk Minihane: I actually like this better than Bertrand because of familiarity; frankly, it’s the obvious move I’ve long-espoused. It would work, too. While filling in for Salk a few weeks ago, Minihane and Holley, with a shot of Tom E. Curran, predictably, was the best sports radio I’ve heard in a long, long time.

Chances of Happening: All things considered, as much as I want to yell PULL THE TRIGGER PHIL, DO IT … I get why “Minihane & Holley” will likely remain a pipe dream. In short, to his credit, Minihane has played a large part in revitalizing the “Dennis & Callahan” show. And last time management broke up a good thing – “Dale & Holley” – the worst case scenario unfolded. Which is all why it’s not exactly a shock to hear the word on the street is Entercom is happy with the current iteration of their morning drive program to the point where they wouldn’t want to jeopardize ratings in one place to bolster them in another.

Other Options

Greg Dickerson: He’s in the same vein as Arnold, and don’t see it happening. A good guy, who’s likable (likability, amazingly, is still an ongoing issue for WEEI). Dickerson is a familiar face, which probably induces some eye-rolling around these parts, but I remember him and Gary Tanguay as mainstays co-hosting “Sports Tonight” before it was the “Sports Tonight” it is today, and it was clear he’s not an alarmist or contrarian. Moreover, Dickerson’s still young enough that he’ll translate to a wide audience … and he’s likely available.

Danny Picard: I’d be floored if ‘EEI gave the Southie product this platform, but not because of lack of effort – they’re simply not in position to take such a risk. Either way, Picard is a workhorse, evidenced by his daily podcast, “I’m Just Sayin’”, which he’s done for several years now. He’s earned a fill-in gig on WEEI and his time as as a staff writer at CSNNE.com helped him finally make his way up the ladder to appear on “Sports Tonight.”

Michael Smith: Would love to see it. Smith and Holley, two longtime pals, would be great together, but that dude isn’t leaving Numbers Never Lie and the comfort of Bristol for WEEI.

I don’t have much sympathy for Wilfork. He’s already been the highest paid nose tackle in NFL history. He’s coming off an injury and seemed like he lost a step before he was hurt. He’s already been paid $32 million I believe…and yet the team made the AFC title game without him. He’s not Revis, he doesn’t hold the same value to the team…the emotional element is the only thing that will irk some fans

Andy Dursin

Yeah, I’ve written about this for Metro Boston before. He was the best player on New England’s defense. A workhorse and anchor. Below are his usage rates in terms of overall defensive snaps played, courtesy of Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com:

2009: 51.8 percent
2010: 69.8 percent
2011: 86.8 percent
2012: 81.3 percent

So, he was a beast. That’s a given. Buttttttt in the same time frame, in FootballOutsiders.com’s excellent defensive statistic, DVOA, the Patriots defense ranked 14th, 21st, 30th (YES! 30th out of 32 teams!!), then back to a respectable 15th in 2012.

That’s not all on Wilfork, of course; he consistently took on two offensive linemen and single-handily helped Mark Anderson tally 10 sacks in 2011, which led to the Bills comically overpaying Anderson the following offseason (THE WAGONS! OH, THOSE BEAUTIFUL WAGONS!!! THEY ARE A CIRCLIN’!!!)

… You can’t look at these things in a vacuum, but Andy’s right in terms of CB versus nose tackle and how each position can help a defense. I hope Wilfork comes back, because I’m sappy and care wayyyy too much about the pending employment of big, jolly, no B.S., locker room leaders like Big Vince. But both parties will be fine if they goes their separate ways. (#analysis)

WEEI needs a big move, but the options seem quite limited. They want to bring in someone that can entertainingly lead a program, but co-headline with Holley. One name that comes to my mind is Damon Amendolara. Not sure he would return locally, but with a little money, you can sway people’s minds.

Chris Boudreau

The human monologue and “big name”? Take a drink, sir.

Can you not blog with profanity? It’s childish and doesn’t really befit a self appointed critic of media that find ways to write without it. There’s simply not need for a word like **** on a site like this.

bosox3054

Wooaaaaaaah … first off, “self-appointed” media critic? Look, you can agree or disagree with what goes into these columns, but, if nothing else, I’d like to think I’m authentic – meaning, I don’t write for page views. However, calling me a media critic is stupid; it bestows authority that I’m not worthy of – like saying a reporter is an “expert” or an “insider” (the latter may be true, but just because a writer covers something doesn’t qualify them as an “expert”… they are just well versed in the topic). So, look, I’m delusional, but not that delusional. As far as swearing goes, I’m sorry about your virgin eyes. Everyone makes it to the back of the school bus at one point or another. I hope it was good for you, it was great for me.

 What is people’s obsession with Jen Royle? She is absolutely terrible, was never prepared for her Saturday shows on ‘EEI in the past and has very thin skin. She would be a horrific choice for PM drive.

Hambot

AMENDOLARAAAA & ROYLE.

(Don’t do it for us. Do it for the story, Phil. For the story.)

Yes, John Dennis is thin-skinned. To an Nth degree. Maybe when you stop deleting/editing comments that are critical of your work you ought write something about it.

James Allen

Comment moderation is handled by the Big Guy running this operation, Bruce Allen. Any readers will attest I’m very open to people ripping me; granted, I’m not a troll — I don’t get off on it or anything. What I do here is mostly subjective, thus I hardly expect EVERY reader to enjoy my stuff, much less agree.

But yeah, you’re probably right: I’m terrible and completely off-base with everything I write. Also I’m a hack. A fraud. Thanks for not only reading, but taking the time to comment, all despite these shortcomings!

I think the WEEI ‘brand’ and ‘nameplate’ have been destroyed, no matter the people behind the microphone. There apparently is no way to right a ship once it has listed too far to starboard.

Smack_Libs_Around

Disagree here. The downfall of WEEI certainly happened faster than anyone expected, but then again – while dominant, the station NEVER had the type of competition The Sports Hub presents. One thing we’ve all learned in the radio wars is that listeners are willing to change the dial if there’s better, more thoughtful (and less condescending) options available.

WEEI simply needs to find those options. So far, save for the addition of Kirk Minihane to the “Dennis & Callahan” show, every moved has been an unmitigated disaster. And more concerning, it wasn’t as if each move was met with great praise and then backfired – even at the time, the decisions were met with general trepidation, both inside the walls of Guest Street and out here, in the Blogosphere.

Re: Salk, Who knows, maybe the deal is that sports talk show hosts are a lot better if they have to actually show up in the locker rooms they talk about on air? 

Keep up the writing

Jon

It would be hard for me – someone who has been in the locker room, covering each of the Big Four sports, but mostly writes from HIS MOM’S BASEMENT nowadays (not really, but you know what I mean) – to back up this theory.

Yes, there is real value being in the locker room. Getting to know the players, atmosphere, and the like does provide insight, but I think someone is capable of talking about sports in an entertaining and intelligent way without having been in a locker room.

 “Of course, Belichick never is one to get caught up in the chatter or what the pundits are telling him to do. This time, however, he didn’t ignore the noise.” Karen Guregian, in the Herald today. There is not much more that is hateable about a journalist than when they starting take credit for things that happened outside of the world of journalism.

Homer Gomez

Going to give Karen Guregian a pass, mainly because it was a throwaway line, and she’s a pro. But agreed with your overall assessment, which is definitely a widespread problem.

Ryan, you do good work and I enjoy your columns. BUT, is there anything about Grantland you don’t like? I feel like at times you are a PR hack for them. Grantland has some good features, but really, in a blog post about “look at me” media members (Dino), doesn’t Grantland do the same thing with its pop culture stuff?

Ted Sarandis

Speaking of Grantland, Bill Simmons & Co. has been doing another live webcast from his living room during the first weekend of March Madness. It’s basically a live stream of him, a few friends, Jalen Rose, and – new addition – Michelle Beadle watching the games, bull-shitting with one another. It’s not my cup of tea; but it worked well last year.

To your larger point, Grantland’s pop culture coverage is hit or miss. Wesley Morris and Alex Pappademas are fantastic; some of their other writers should try less. Often times, when they discuss a topic, like Matthew McConaughey’s resurgence (who I never thought had the chops to pull off the role he played in True Detective), it’s almost as if they’re trying to shoehorn every little moment as a larger paradigm shift that we’ll remember in 20 years …When, in reality, more often than not, these things don’t truly matter. A moment can be just that – a moment – meaning everything doesn’t have to take on this grandiose theme, greater than what is actually is.

***

As always, thanks for reading! We’ll do it again sooner rather than later. If you’re bored Out There, give me a shout on Twitter @Hadfield__.

Sports Media Musings: The Mailbag, Chapter VII

Welcome to the Monthly 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.

Happppppy Friday, you guys. More importantly, happy Super Bowl weekend. Wes Welker, Pete Carroll, and Peyton Manning. Drink it in — tastes delicious, doesn’t it? So many weird feelings arise when thinking about each of them. Whenever I try to reconcile a rooting interest, it feels like I’m eight years-old all over again, and my best friend will appear out of nowhere to accuse me of having “girl cooties” or something.

This is the world we live in.

Hey, look on the bright side, at least we weren’t subjected to 63 combined hours of Spygate talk this week. (Fuck.)

Before we get to emails, I need to get something off my chest. I was on Twitter last night, and came across Ian Rapoport, former Patriots beat guy at the Boston Herald and current NFL Network reporter. I went down the “Rap Sheet” rabbit hole (because I lead a very desolate life and do such things on a Thursday night), and discovered that Rapoport and his wife made a Twitter account for their infant child, Max.

Is this happening now? Like that’s a thing people do, or are going to do in the future? Rapoport has a storied history of pissing people off on social media, like the time he live-tweeted Myra Kraft’s funeral, so maybe (Read: Dear God, hopefully), this is a case of Rapoport being a weirdo. I comforted myself with that rationalization until I realized Boston Herald radio personality, Jen Royle, has a fucking Twitter account for her bulldog, Truman, which I refuse to link to here based on personal values. (For the record I presume it was Royle who made the account. If it was someone else, I apologize. Also: Whoever it was, you’re a huge tool.)

If this is the (d)evolution of social media, I think it’s time I make the leap. Have to be progressive, you know? Comes down to who (or what) I can use to extend my brand Out There. After thinking long and hard about the situation, you may see a @Hadfield_Stapler account pop up on Twitter for my trusty stapler at work. It’s the logical choice: we’ve had a good run together, it never lets me down, and – best of all — I could really play up some fun sexual innuendos with the account. Just something to think about.

OK. Enough nonsense, on to your emails:

Is this Shaughnessy column real? TROLLING!!!!

–         Joe (via Twitter)

Banner week for Dan. Started things off with the David Ortiz piece, and finished strong, wondering (aloud) why Bill Bellichick hates Wes Welker. Because THEORIES.

Writes Shankeroo:

“Wes, why does Bill hate you?,’’ I asked Wes Welker.

Does anyone else try to imagine Dan asking this question in a Zoolander-esq tone? You really should, it makes reading his column a million times funnier. Trust me. Oh, and you’re welcome.

He caught a Super Bowl-record-tying 11 passes in Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz. But Belichick didn’t like him.

So now The Hoodie hated Welker after the 18-1 season? Really?

The Patriots franchised Welker and Belichick froze Welker out of the game plan at the start of the 2012 season. The coach was intent on proving that the system was bigger than the player. The Patriots could do without Welker. When Welker finally got a chance to again show us what he could do, he said, “It’s nice to stick it in Bill’s face.’’

“HE’S ON FIRE!” (said in the NBA Jam video game voice). Who doesn’t love the FREEZING WELKER OUT OF THE OFFENSE STORYLINE? Old reliable. Hey Dan, I was at training camp in 2012 – and guess what, Julian Edelman simply usurped Welker in the offseason. I wouldn’t expect you to know this, because you weren’t there.

Then he signed with the Broncos. What an ingrate.

On the word “ingrate,” can we all agree it’s a weird word choice here? You’re dating yourself, Dan. Don’t use it.

But perhaps the worst part of this mess is that Shank actually wrote a pretty solid piece about the media overreaction toward Marshawn Lynch’s silence the same day. SIGH.

Speaking of which, this happened …

A HOT SPORTS TAKE turned #Humblebrag? YES, WE CAN! YES, WE CAN!

You wrote: “Meanwhile, Katie Nolan going after Reilly is pragmatic. It makes you wonder why FS1 doesn’t take advantage of the endless opportunities to land punches on the four-letter network more often.”

This was really a topic on First Take on Monday:

– bsmfan

“Could Charlie Whitehurst lead this Seahawks team to the Super Bowl?? Matt Flynn???”

Sounds like NESN did the right thing. You wrote:

” the relationship between Dell and Middlebrooks hampers objectivity, and, furthermore, hurts other female sports reporters who are trying to be taken seriously. NESN’s decision is more than fair to Dell.”

I forget the source but there were quotes from other females around here about the issue. If the quotes you pasted from the SI column don’t convince you, I’m not sure what will.

–         Guest

I’m not saying anyone who tells you otherwise is an idiot. But they’re not smart, at least in terms of media relations, anyway. And man, if I see one more person read or write that Jenny Dell isn’t covering the White House or some other outlandish beat as grounds to keeping her on the Red Sox telecast, then I’m going to throw up in my mouth. I cannot stand when people use extreme opinions to back a premise that makes no sense; the exercise doesn’t prove you’re clever, and serves no purpose – well, besides derailing the conversation around the issue.

On the Dr. V-Grantland fiasco: I, too, thought Tim Marchman’s piece [on Deadspin] was very good but agree that it slip into the default anti-Simmons mode a bit (Simmons did appropriately apologize and take ultimate responsibility as editor in chief, so it’s kinda intellectually dishonest to call that “self-obsessed;” would he rather Simmons blame others?)

But I don’t get your T’eo parallel. That Deadspin story refuted the lie, started and perpetuated by T’eo. Meanwhile, Grantland went after the transgender angle in part because it made the story more salacious.

So if Dr. V had committed suicide because of the public shame of being a fraud, Grantland would be the recipient of much less public scorn. But since they followed the transgender angle, they are being blamed, in part, for her taking her own life. That may be unfair, but we have no way of really knowing in the truth. And had T’eo committed suicide after the Deadspin article, it would have been tragic but Deadspin wouldn’t have been blasted in the same manner.

Where’s the tl:dr guy when we need him?

– HighWireNickEsasky

In both cases, we’re dealing with subjects who perpetuated a lie. Let’s start there and make one thing clear: In many circles Dr. V is being made a martyr, and I think that’s kind of absurd. She was a con artist. Of course that doesn’t exculpate Grantland. The fact that Grantland, and the author of the story, Caleb Hannan, were way off-base in their lack of understanding of the ramifications of outing Dr. V to her business partner is mind boggling.

But beyond that mistake, I refuse to kill Grantland, especially after the publication admitted their faults. It’s not as if they were malicious in their reporting, and I’ll be perfectly honest, I would make the same mistakes as a reporter. I think 99.99999% of media outlets would. Keep in mind, the backlash never came until after the transgender community illuminated the problems with the story.

And the Manti T’eo thing is just an example. What if, after A.J. Daulerio paid for and then published photos of his Green Bay Packer that he sent to Jenn Sterger, Brett Favre committed suicide? Or what if his wife took her life? Or one of his kids?

Again, Deadspin espoused the story just like everyone else. They loved it. Then, when they saw an opportunity, they attacked Grantland because that’s what Deadspin does. Fuck, when Grantland launched, Deadspin would post “corrections” blogs for copy editing mistakes. And that’s OK. Little guy takes shots at big guy. I get it. To a lesser extent, it’s what Katie Nolan (justifiably) did to Rick Reilly, and what “Toucher & Rich” regularly do to “Dennis & Callahan,” and what I do here.

I’m even OK with Deadspin being super critical after initially promoting the piece – but, shit, don’t then make this a macro-indictment of Grantland and Bill Simmons. Slow down, breathe, and be honest with yourself as a “media critic.”

Speaking of T’eo …

I hear Jerry Remy’s been schtupping Wally for a year and a half. Can we fire him now?

–         Dave R.

We’ll always remember the Catfish story, because it was glorious and weird and all-encompassing. It was THE sports story of 2014, which seems goofy, but truthfully is kind of a nice change of pace, considering the Penn State scandal was THE story of 2013.

But let’s say T’eo has a great season in 2014-15. His career arc will change because he’s young and has plenty of life left to live. We’ll care less and less about his fake online girlfriend (still feels weird typing). The point is this: when discussing Jerry Remy’s return to the broadcast booth, you have to think in terms of the news cycle we live in nowadays. We have to weigh whether or not this will matter come summertime, because there will always be a bigger, otherworldly story that will capture our attention next. You know it, I know it.

With all that said, the answer is “Yes, the Remy situation will still be on our minds.”

Now, I refuse to call Remy selfish. He wants to call Red Sox games, which makes sense — it’s a pretty sweet gig. I blame NESN here. If the trial had happened already, maybe – just maybe – we could move on, and enjoy baseball games to a soundtrack filled with banter between Don Orsillo and Remy.

That’s not the case, though; the trial is in front of us, not behind us. Remy is a public figure, more recognizable in Boston than Phil Pressey, or Avery Bradley, or Stephen Drew, or Steve Gregory. To me, this all goes back to something I’ve written about in other places before. I’m a big believe in what I call the Bill Clinton Corollary.

The parameters are simple: As far as public figures go, whether it be athletes, actors, musicians, or, to a lesser extent, politicians, I only care about their behavior as it pertains to me. These guys aren’t coming over for Sunday dinner. I’m not catching a movie with them. They aren’t dating my sister. We aren’t friends.

As a broadcaster, Remy is an exception to this rule because his personality is thrust into his role. It matters. In the end, it’s tough to predict a story’s staying power in 2014, but while the legal system untangles the Jared Remy murder trial, we’ll be reminded of the horrific ordeal, and that will hurt the NESN broadcast. NESN should have taken the bat out of the Rem-Dawgs hands.

A few years into F&M’s reign of terror and I’m ready for a new drive time show. I haven’t listened to those clowns in well over a month because of their complete and utter disdain for the Celtics. I’m not asking them to like basketball but it’d be great it they wouldn’t openly defecate all over those who do like the game.

I hope Glen does come back, and he gets paired with someone good so I can try to listen to local sports talk in the afternoons again.

– OpinionNotFact

A few readers seem to be rallying behind the idea of a Glenn Ordway redux at WEEI. Have to say, I cannot support it. Mike Salk is not the answer, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have been asking the question. I know select readers — like LateToDinner — think removing The Big O was ill-conceived, but he was losing the ratings war. It’s like having Ryan Fitzpatrick as your quarterback. Yeah, you may win some games — maybe even make a run to the playoffs — but what are we really doing here? You want to win the whole thing. To matter you have to be the best.

Does Ordway have the backing of a few big sponsors? Sure. But if WEEI figures out a better alternative and that alternative resonates, brings listenership up, and helps dethrone “Felger & Mazz,” I’m pretty sure advertisers will come around to whoever that personality is, too.

Reminds me of “Mad Men” when Don Draper says something like, “Happiness is simply the moment before you want more happiness. You’re hungry even though you just ate.”

***

OK, that’s all I have for this week. Before I let you go, I need to deliver some SHAMELESS Self-Promotion:

I’m a realist. This Super Bowl situation sucks, I totally get it. But as an eternal optimist, I offered up three reasons why football will be better than ever next season in my column for Metro Boston last week. And in the meantime, since we have to endure the wrath of Sunday, I wrote a guide detailing the 10 types of people who attend Super Bowl parties that you’ll want to avoid while watching the game this weekend. Both are light reads, because sports are supposed to be fun, ya know?

Anyways, as always, thanks for reading. Feel free to say hello in the Twittersphere: @Hadfield__.

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__