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Sports Media

It’s a good time to play catch-up

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / February 25, 2011

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Well, it looks as though this week will pass without another bombshell personnel shuffle by WEEI. Which means it’s a good time to catch up on some news and notes that were lost in the radio static . . .

■Danny Ainge’s deadline-day sequence of surprising trades may have made the Celtics even more fascinating than they already were. But make no mistake: The buzz generated by this charismatic, star-studded roster long ago registered with Boston sports fans.

The Celtics are on track for their highest-rated season on Comcast SportsNet New England in the 30 years their games have aired on the network (in its various incarnations).

Through 46 games on CSNNE, the Celtics averaged a 4.7 rating, a 42 percent increase over last year. The record for a full season is 3.5 set during 2008-09.

The numbers have remained strong even when the Celtics are out West. The last two games to tip off at 10 p.m. or later — a Feb. 1 matchup at Sacramento and Tuesday’s win at Golden State — averaged a 3.4.

“It’s numbers that you dream about,’’ said Len Mead, CSNNE’s vice president of programming and production. “You dare to dream that you can set a record any season that you go into, and we’re at such a strong pace right now that it’s certainly within our sights.’’

The Celtics aren’t the only winter team drawing plenty of eyes to the television. The Bruins’ 3-1 victory over the Flames Tuesday earned a 3.6 rating on NESN in the Boston market, a very solid number for a midseason game against a non-ival. The Bruins’ season average is 2.9, up 42 percent over last season.

■It looks as though the Patriots’ long-running broadcast team will remain intact next season, going left to right (or right to left) on your radio dial.

Play-by-play voice Gil Santos and analyst Gino Cappelletti, partners for 27 seasons overall and the last 20 in a row, both indicated recently that they plan on returning.

Typically, the two meet sometime in the spring with executives from 98.5 The Sports Hub and CBS Radio to discuss their plans. Mark Hannon, senior vice president/marketing manager for The Sports Hub, said his approach is that if Santos and Cappelletti want to return, they will. “I just tell them to let me know when they want to retire,’’ he said.

Of the two, Cappelletti was less adamant about his immediate future, particularly if there is an NFL lockout. “I know we’re getting a little late in the marathon here,’’ he said yesterday with a chuckle. “But it’s still quite enjoyable for us.’’

Although Santos and Cappelletti aren’t as sharp or incisive as they once were — prompt and accurate player identification was a particular issue last season — it would be challenging to come up with superior replacements, particularly for Santos, who still has his voice-of-autumn pipes.

■Personnel Moves, Non-WEEI Dept.: Chris Collins, who arrived in the market in 1998 as a weekend anchor at New England Cable News, hosted “Sports LateNight’’ for several years, and moved over to CSNNE during its November 2009 overhaul, is no longer on the CSNNE roster. His final day was Jan. 31. He will contribute to NECN’s new morning show in some capacity, however.

■In a burst of bluster that reminded us why Pete Sheppard was a popular if cartoonish figure on “The Big Show’’ before his January 2010 dismissal, the former Glenn Ordway fill-in took to Facebook Monday to rant about The Sports Hub program director Mike Thomas’s apparent refusal to take his phone calls. (The all-caps type was a shrewd touch; it actually read the way Sheppard sounds.) Asked for comment, Thomas responded via e-mail, “We appreciate Pete’s interest in 98.5 The Sports Hub, but our lineup is set and we are very happy with the performance of the station.’’

■All right, we can’t resist a couple of words on WEEI, particularly with the revamped “Big Show’’ pairing Ordway and Michael Holley set to debut Monday. Station personnel have been coy about specifics on the subtler changes to the format — how about you listen and find out, Boston sports fans! — but Ordway acknowledged that his approach will change because the format has changed.

“I know I’ve been called a fence-sitter, that I hedge on my opinion and don’t take a side, and that’s certainly accurate on some days,’’ said Ordway. “But a lot of that was based on my role in the show.

“When we had a couple of cohosts, my job was to generate debate between them, almost serving as the moderator in a way, to keep the dialogue moving. Now that I will be paired with Michael, there’s going to be a lot more back and forth, with me having one side of a topic and Michael taking the other.

“I don’t think I’ll be called a fence-sitter once listeners are familiar with what we are doing.’’

■Dale Arnold’s signoff/sendoff Wednesday during the final hour of “The Dale and Holley Show’’ had a This-Is-Your-Life vibe to it. Play-by-play and sports radio highlights of Arnold’s career were interspersed with recorded and live tributes from show regulars and friends such as Terry Francona, Raymond Bourque, and Doc Emrick.

It was a nice gesture from WEEI management to let the show end on such a note, but it was also difficult to ignore the cold truth: Arnold wasn’t leaving. He was being pushed into a diminished role after 20 years at the station, a decision by his bosses that, by all accounts, blindsided him.

With the reality of the situation in mind, the comments of the final guest, affable former Patriots linebacker Rosevelt Colvin, struck the appropriate tone accidentally, as he said, “It would not be Boston radio without you guys together. I’m still trying to figure out what is going on.’’ Judging by the overwhelmingly pro-Arnold reaction in the feedback here, he’s not the only one.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globechadfinn.

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