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Boston Magazine takes on The Lodge

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  January 30, 2013 05:54 AM

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Boston Magazine, 1. The Lodge, 0.

Both justified and unfair, the local sports media took a viscous uppercut to the chin, courtesy of author Alan Siegel, who in this month’s issue of the glossy mag, took on Boston’s sports writers and yakkers by raking the coals over particular individuals, not waiting any longer to allow the embers time to simmer.

But at the same time, Siegel fails to offer any answers or conclusions as to how to remedy the situation, leaving the article in a “Lost”-style limbo of frustration.

“To put it bluntly, ‘The Lodge’—as Fred Toucher, cohost of the 98.5 The Sports Hub morning radio show, mockingly refers to the city’s clubby, self-important media establishment—is clogged with stale reporters, crotchety columnists, and shameless blowhards,” Siegel writes. “Their canned ‘hot sports takes’ have found a home on local television and talk radio, but do little but suck the fun out of a topic that’s supposed to be just that.”

Ask any local media member who hasn’t been part of a primo interning program with a path to a job, or a mere fringe reporter, and they will tell you that Toucher’s assessment is dead on. The Boston sports media is like high school, a clique in which you need to kiss up to the cool kids in order to eat at the right lunch table. And the food sucks.

But what does Siegel offer besides little more than cliches about how Bill Simmons was mistreated at the Herald (boo-hoo), aggravation over Dan Shaughnessy, or the complaint that sports journalism isn’t more analytical? Nothing. The well-intentioned article rings hollow without a solution. It’s a good read, but in the end, it comes off like a Boston Sports Media Watch rant, the true source of the “fellowship of the miserable.”

In other words, if you have to tell us the pipes are broken, at least suggest a plumber.

As you can imagine, the reaction from the Grand Poo-Bahs has been swift, in particular, from Red Sox beat reporters, seeing as they are more sensitive than a open wound exposed to Tabasco. I found it hysterical how quickly certain media members attempted to distance themselves from “talk radio” and “TV” at the same time as they collect paychecks to appear on each from both. Get over yourselves.

The high horse in the media has never been more potent, thanks to an influx of social media and online content that the industry both embraces and disdains. It is a tension felt throughout all reporters, bloggers, producers, editors, photographers...you name it. But The Lodge only has so many memberships, you know.

“Were the Globe to stop publishing sports tomorrow, how much loss would readers feel?” Siegel asks. “Certainly some, but much less than even a decade ago. That’s because Boston fans have gotten increasingly used to following the ups and downs of their favorite teams in national outlets rather than local ones.”

I can’t imagine that’s true.

Siegel, by the way, lives in Washington, D.C., and doesn’t swallow the Boston sports environment day-to-day like we do, so he obviously has a different following perspective. As he describes in the the lead of the story, the excellent Jeff Passan breaking the Red Sox story of ineptitude last summer made the local media look foolish (because, who would have guessed there was ineptitude?!?!?), but most times you need that outside voice to tell you the real story. Sad but true.

There is just so much watchdog security in today’s sports landscape that local reporters are pressured to feed the fans schlock. There is far too much looking ahead, asking what can you do for me down the road, when the real question should be one of some semblance of objectivity, a term that seems laughable in most cases of today’s sports coverage. There is always a pat on the back, a wink and a nod, and the overwhelming fear of not getting that next scoop.

When you spend that much time together, you become a dysfunctional family of sorts, which is why certain media corps come off as whiny, petulant children. The fact that some baseball writers felt the need to separate themselves from other, I assume, “lower members of the media” is as far as you need to go to understand just how bizarre a place it is. What makes you better?

And we dared to make fun of the Texans’ letterman jackets? What a playground.

There is plenty of truth to Siegel’s story, but it hardly takes into account why Boston is the problem. He could be spoiled by D.C., the most innovative media spot in the country, but Boston’s reputation of this stodgy, has-been media won’t go away despite an influx of new talent. Unfortunately, many of the new guard have an aspiration for The Lodge, anxious to perform lap dog moves to gain acceptance.

It is that hierarchy and attitude why we ultimately fail.

Or not. Whatever. It's just sports.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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