The assassination of President John F. Kennedy is such a cultural touchstone that it remains, at the very least, on the fringes of Americans' collective consciousness.
Those who witnessed it never forget where they were and how they felt. Those born later, who learned about it in school or from relative who always teared up while remembering the day, can't imagine enduring it in real time ... or couldn't, at least until September 11, 2001, when their own where-were-you-that-day generational horror occurred.
Because Kennedy's death on November 22, 1963 in Dallas was and, for many, still is the American tragedy by which all others are measured, it is a story told and retold from countless angles of varying logic in books, television and film, even in years in which a significant anniversary isn't being acknowledged.
The challenge must have been overwhelming this year, the 50th anniversary of his murder, to come up with an insightful angle on that history-altering day in Dealey Plaza.
But the NBC Sports Network has done just that with an hour-long documentary that airs at 11 p.m. Wednesday night.
Titled "No Day For Games: The Cowboys and JFK," it's hosted by Bob Costas for his Costas Tonight program, and it provides a truly fascinating look at that day and the aftermath through the eyes of 10 former Dallas Cowboys players and executives who were there that season.
Among them were Hall of Famers Lee Roy Jordan and Bob Lilly, and there is also a lengthy postscript interview with Roger Staubach, who was starring at the Naval Academy at the time and had been honored in person by Kennedy the year before.
"I think what we've found here is some of these Kennedy programs, some of which I've seen already, are very, very good,'' said Costas in a phone interview last week. "But some of them ... they just try to find their own way in. There's one about how Walter Cronkite and the media covered it, there's another with the recollections of people who were bystanders, they just happened to be in Dealey Plaza that day or near Air Force One or orderlies in the hospital when the president was brought in.
"People have tried to get into this story without telling people what they already know. I think in this case we found a legitimate way to come at the story that isn't just, 'yeah, yeah, yeah, we've heard all that before.' "
The Cowboys played at Cleveland two days after the assassination, the game overlapping with the memorial service at one point. It was then that the players came to the chilling realization that they were anything but America's Team at that moment. The association with Dallas made them a public enemy. "The nation's anger,'' Costas says in the film, "was being held against them."
Lee Roy Jordan was more blunt.
“We were the team from Dallas, Texas. We were connected with killing the President of the United States,'' he said.
Said Browns lineman John Wooten in the film: "The City of Dallas killed our president. That was the feeling – we wanted to get after Dallas.:
Cowboys players were told to wear their helmets on the sideline, and there were no pregame player introductions out of fear of what might happen.
"I had a general idea of it, but I just didn't realize the extent,'' said Costas. "It's one thing for me to say it in narration. It's another thing entirely for them to back it up with their personal experiences, and they do. For instance, I had no idea that Art Modell told the PA announcer to call them the Cowboys, to never say Dallas. And the extra security at the game – you would have thought they might need it in Dallas, but not in Cleveland. But they did. Or at least they felt they did."
In retrospect, its unfathomable that the game was even played. "We could have quit our season then,'' says Lilly. "It would have been fine with me."
"[Former commissioner Pete] Rozelle told many people this," said Costas, " I was not the only one, but I remember him telling me it was not only a regret, but the single biggest regret during his entire tenure as commissioner. He had been influenced by Kennedy's press secretary, Pierre Salinger, who told him that Kennedy would have wanted the games to go on. I don't think it took long for Rozelle to recognize that it wasn't the right decision."
Glenn Ordway has hinted that he had projects and possibilities in the works ever since he was fired by WEEI in February after a 27-year run at the station.
Thursday, one of those possibilities became a reality when Sirius XM Radio announced that Ordway will host on Mad Dog Sports Radio.
His program, titled The Big Weekend Show with Glenn Ordway, will air every Saturday and Sunday from 8-11 a.m. He will debut on November 16.
Mad Dog Sports Radio, which is Channel 86 on Sirius XM, is built around Chris "Mad Dog" Russo's afternoon drive program. The Dan Patrick Show, on which Ordway has filled in as the host, also airs on the channel.
Ordway has remained in the sports media consciousness since his departure from WEEI, filling in on Comcast SportsNet New England programming as well as hosting its New England Tailgate football show. But the Sirius XM role is his most prominent foray back into sports radio.
The Toucher & Rich morning program, which has delivered high ratings, hot sports takes, and plenty of laughs since 98.5 The Sports Hub's launch in August 2009, will remain on the CBS Radio-owned station for the foreseeable future.
The station announced that hosts Fred Toucher and Rich Shertenlieb, whose program has been the top-rated morning show in the men 25-54 demographic for the last 14 consecutive months, have agreed to a multi-year contract extension. Terms were not disclosed.
“Toucher & Rich have connected with Boston sports radio listeners over the last four-plus years with their innovative, clever and funny content,” said Mark Hannon, CBS Radio Boston's senior VP and market manager, in a statement.
“They are two great guys who have done an amazing job of anchoring 98.5 The Sports Hub, and we are thrilled that they will continue to wake up Boston for years to come.”
Toucher and Rich have been a tandem on the Boston airwaves since 2006, when they were on now-defuct WBCN, first as an afternoon drive show before switching to mornings in December 2008. Their last contract extension came in April 2010 after the move to the Sports Hubs.
"I'm very excited to be staying with the station,” said Toucher in a statement. “The Sports Hub has been a great success and it has been a thrill to be a part of it. Everyone at the station likes and respects each other from management on down, and I think our listeners can tell…and we thank them for tuning in."
Added Shertenlieb: "I couldn't be happier to continue working at 98.5 The Sports Hub and be able to be surrounded by some of the best people in the business,” said Shertenlieb. “Sports Hub’s management has believed in us from the start, and our team is among the best at what they do. But most of all, our listeners have proven that they are the most loyal I have ever seen in radio, and I raise a glass in their honor. Cheers!”
Curt Schilling has made regular appearances on WEEI since he was acquired by the Red Sox in 2004, his talent for talking rivaling the potential future Hall of Famer's talent for pitching.
It's hard to come up with a name of another high-profile athlete who would randomly call into a sports-radio station to opine on the topic of the moment, something Schilling did often during his playing days and after his retirement following the 2008 season.
Now an excellent baseball analyst on ESPN, it's reasonable to wonder whether he soon may have a more official role with WEEI.
The Herald's "Inside Track'' column reported Thursday that WEEI has met with Schilling about becoming a co-host on the station's afternoon drive program.
The show currently features Mike Salk and Michael Holley since the former took over for longtime personality Glenn Ordway in March.
WEEI management has spoken to Schilling, but it's uncertain whether he would replace Holley or be added as a third host should he join the station.
It's possible he could end up with a role in a different time slot. The belief here is that he will end up at the station in a significant role if he decides he wants to do it.
"We're always talking to people, but we have full support behind Salk and Holley,'' said Entercom Boston vice president/general manager Jeff Brown this morning.
Holley, whose recent appearances on ESPN spurred rumors that he's looking to move on from WEEI, said that is not the case.
"I haven't heard anything. I haven't been informed that they're looking to move on or change the show,'' Holley said.
"I think when we started in March, I think the acknowledgment was, it takes awhile. It takes awhile for the new show to get its identity and for the co-hosts to develop chemistry. I had never met Mike Salk before March. We're getting to know each other on the air and off. I'd be surprised [if Entercom made a change] based on what I've been told, but you never know.''
The Herald report also cited potential WEEI interest in CSNNE's Joe Haggerty. This is nothing new – the station had shown interest in bringing him on for the better part of year.
Haggerty, whose role as frequent guest on 98.5 The Sports Hub was expanded after WEEI showed interest, is a longtime friend of Salk's.
NESN has named Jamie Erdahl as its new rink-side reporter for Bruins telecasts in the 2013-14 season.
She replaces Naoko Funayama, whose contract at NESN recently expired. The network announced in June that the respected Funayama, who had held the position since 2008, would not return.
Erdahl, a Minnesota native who joined NESN last November, is a fine choice as Funayama's successor. She has excelled as a fill-in sideline reporter on Red Sox telecasts this season, often showing a quick sense of humor during live in-game segments.
She will also continue in her role as an anchor/reporter on NESN Sports Today, as well as her Red Sox fill-in duties.
Other announcements from NESN regarding its Bruins coverage in the upcoming season (the network will broadcast 71 regular-season games):
- Analyst Billy Jaffe will have an expanded role, joining studio host Dale Arnold on pregame, intermission, and postgame programming for at least 50 games.
- Play-by-play voice Jack Edwards and color analyst Andy Brickley will return for their ninth year together.
- Gord Kluzak and Barry Pederson will continue to be part of NESN's pregame, intermission, and postgame coverage.
- Edwards, Brickley and Erdahl will take a 4-day, 5-city tour of New England beginning next Monday. The tour will be highlighted by free public events in Providence, Hartford, Portland, and Portsmouth, N.H.
Pete Sheppard's afternoon program on WUFC 1510 with cohost Darwin Zook has been curiously absent the past two days, with NBC Sports Radio national programming filling the void.
Now we know why.
Sheppard said he has had a mutual parting of the ways with 1510, the station he joined not long after abruptly quitting his WEEI weekend program while on the air in April.
He said he has a better opportunity coming along that he plans to announce later in the week.
Zook's status is uncertain, as is whether WUFC 1510 will continue to air local programming in the afternoon time slot.
General manager Anthony Pepe did not respond to a request for comment.
Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy will miss the remainder of the season. He has been absent from NESN's telecasts since his son Jared was arrested and charged with murdering his girlfriend Jennifer Martel on August 15.
“I am full of grief for the Martel family,” Remy said in a statement provided by NESN and the Red Sox after their loss to the Orioles Thursday night.
"My thoughts and prayers continue to go out to them. My wife and I are sick about this senseless tragedy. It’s clear this isn’t the time for me to return to broadcasting Red Sox games. It’s my hope that I can do so in the spring. I thank NESN and the Red Sox for their support through this nightmare.”
Remy was at the ballpark earlier Thursday to meet with NESN and Red Sox management about his status.
It's uncertain who made the ultimate decision to have him sit out the remainder of the season, but NESN indicated it was Remy's call and he will be welcomed back next season.
“We met with Jerry and conveyed our support,” said NESN president and CEO Sean McGrail, “and when Jerry feels the time is right, we will welcome him back. All of us at NESN and the Red Sox once again express our deepest sympathies to the Martel family for their terrible and tragic loss.”
Dennis Eckersley has filled in alongside Don Orsillo in Remy's absence. Jon Rish and Peter Gammons will join Orsillo, the play-by-play voice, Friday. Rish, who left WEEI in April after being asked to take a pay cut, will also work the Saturday-Monday games.
Kevin Graham has been hired by Entercom Boston as the new brand manager for WEEI.
While the title is different, he in essence replaces Jason Wolfe, the longtime programming director who was let go by the station last week after nearly 22 years.
“I am honored and excited to join the WEEI team," Graham said in a statement. "WEEI is one of the most recognizable and powerful sports radio brands in the country.
“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.”
Graham will begin his new job in early September.
Graham comes to WEEI from KFAN (1320) in Salt Lake City, where he was program director and afternoon drive cohost.
Graham has also worked at and/or helped build sports stations in Columbus, Pittsburgh, ESPN Radio in New York City, and Detroit.
He also has significant experience in on-line media, an area of increased emphasis at WEEI.
“WEEI is a more complete sports brand than ever before,” said Entercom general manager Jeff Brown. “Kevin will bring a fresh perspective to the entire WEEI team and our complete package of digital sports assets.”
ESPN will have the finale of the Red Sox' three-game set with the Yankees Sunday night, with Dan Shulman, John Kruk, and Curt Schilling (making a spot-start for Orel Hershiser) on the call.
Shulman is a superb play-by-play voice and, in my opinion, among the best if not the best at setting up his analysts within the flow of the game. I spoke with him Thursday about the traffic cop role, working with Terry Francona last season, and a few other baseball matters.
1. The Red Sox are in a battle for the AL East title with the Rays, while the Orioles hover around and the Yankees are on the fringes of the wild-card race. Odds are against it, but two of these teams could play in the wild card game. Curious what your thoughts are on that one-game wild card format:
Shulman: "I like the second wild card. I think I would rather see it two out of three, but I understand there are scheduling logistics and so forth. On one hand, it seems unfair to play 162 games and make the playoffs and then maybe have it all end with game. On the other hand, the second wild-card wouldn't have been in the playoffs in the first place, so it's better for that team. The new system penalizes the first wild-card, because in the old system the first wild-card went right into a best of 5 series. You could make the case there there were no disadvantages. I like the fact that there are disadvantages to being a wild-card team, I like the fact that you're rewarded for winning your division. But I think I'd prefer to see a 2-out-of-3 in the wild card."
2. The one-game wild-card seems to benefit a team that has a legitimate ace. That in mind, would you say it's more important for the Red Sox to win the division than it is for most contenders?
Shulman: "I think so. I mean, you never know what can happen in a one-game situation. But for argument's sake, let's say the Red Sox end up playing Texas in a one-game playoffs, and they've got a rested Yu Darvish. That could be light's-out. You never know how it's going to play out, but for team's that don't have, for lack of a better term, a so-called ace, I think you want to win your division more than anything. But I think everybody does now. Even if you had Greg Maddux or Randy Johnson in his prime going in a one-game playoff, you don't want to be there, because anything can happen, and you probably can't use that guy again until Game 3 of the next round. So I think no matter what your pitching looks like, you want to do everything you can to avoid that one-game playoff."
3a. The Yankees are nobody's underdog with that payroll, but they've been crushed by injuries to mainstay players, and there's never any lack of drama around them. Surprised that they're still in the range of the postseason with the weird season they've had?
Shulman: "I think they actually deserve a lot of credit for being where they are, with some of the injuries that they had and some of the lineups they've put out there. (Alfonso) Soriano has been carrying them recently, but I keep waiting for the big slump and the massive drop-off and the end of any realistic playoff hopes, and here they are on the fringes of the wild-card race. I would never try to characterize them as the Little Engine That Could. They're still the New York Yankees. But given their age and giving their injuries, I think they've actually overachieved this year with the guys they've had out. This is not your typical Yankees storyline, and I think that freshens it up a bit.''
3b. The Red Sox' success is a bit of an unexpected storyline as well. They're coming off a 69-win disaster, entered the season with fairly low expectations, and yet they've been in first place more or less the whole season. Did you have any sense such a turnaround was coming?
Shulman: "I thought they'd be much better than last year. Last year, they were disfunctional, and they had more injuries than any team in baseball. Before they even broke camp this year, you said, 'It's going to be a happier clubhouse, and they've got to be healthier. They're not winning just 69 again.' I thought before the season every team in the AL East could wind up between 81 and 89 wins. I didn't have any idea who was going to finish first and any idea who was going to finish last. But did I think Boston was kind of being underrated heading into the season. A healthy Pedroia, a healthy Ortiz, a healthy Ellsbury. That's huge. They're All-Star players. I thought the Red Sox also desperately needed a change of culture. We all know what went down at the end of 2011. They had some guys in that clubhouse, in my opinion, that subtracted from clubhouse chemistry. They had to make a change. I looked at guys like Napoli, Gomes, Victorino, and Dempster -- really good teammates, guys who care about winning -- as change-of-culture players. And they signed them at stop-gap money."
4. You've worked with a lot of different analysts over the last couple of years -- Kruk this season, Hershiser for a few years, Terry Francona last year, Bobby Valentine the year before that. You're someone who gets a lot of deserved praise for being an effective traffic-cop in a three-man booth. But I have to imagine the degree of difficulty has grown with the turnover each of the last few seasons.
Shulman: "It's a feel thing. Between basketball and baseball, I bet you I've worked with 40 or 50 different analysts. Some more than others, obviously. But I use the basketball analogy all the time. I'm the point guard. It's my job to get the ball to the guy in the right spot for him to knock down the shot. When you work with someone a few times, you get a good feeling for who's comfortable with what. If I'm breaking down Ryan Dempster, I'm probably going to Schilling. If I'm breaking down Daniel Nava, I'm probably going to Krukie. Some of it is obvious, and some of it is just a feeling that a certain topic will be more interesting to one guy or another. Sometimes I'll say their name as I'm throwing it to them so they're not stepping on each other. A lot of it just trying things and seeing how it goes. After a while, it becomes comfortable and then second nature.''
5. You seemed to have that rapport with Francona right away. Did it come as easily as it seemed?
Shulman: "Yes. Terry and I just knew each other professionally before we worked together last year. But as you know, if you know Terry for 10 minutes, you feel like you've known Terry for 10 years. We did three games in spring training together, then we had a funny incident one night down near Fort Myers when he ran out of gas on I-75, so the two of us were stuck pushing his SUV together, which is the kind of thing that brings you together quickly. We hit it off right away. We are friends and we will continue to remain friends, and that's a credit to him, not me. He has that impact on people. I enjoy the year we worked together tremendously, but I think he's back where he should be, managing. The Indians got a good one. As much as I loved working with him, he's where he belongs. I'm glad he got another opportunity as quickly as he did."
Jason Wolfe, who as WEEI's program director oversaw the sports station's rise to enormous success, has been fired by parent company Entercom after a prolonged stretch of subpar ratings.
Wolfe, who had been at the station for nearly 22 years and most recently held the title of vice president of programming and operations for Entercom Boston, tweeted the news of his departure this morning.
22 years ago this month I joined WEEI when it launched as a sports radio station. Today is my last day. What a ride.. pic.twitter.com/IVVWLhlGKX— Jason Wolfe (@jasonlwolfe) August 15, 2013
He also attached a letter that focused on highlights of his career -- including four Marconi Awards for the station during his tenure -- and how much he enjoyed his time at WEEI.
"I'm so blessed to have played a role in the station's success, and that success can never be taken away, nor should it ever be forgotten,'' Wolfe wrote.
"But this is a business, and in business companies are always looking ahead in order to decide what's best for their future. In this case, Entercom has decided to replace me because they feel it's time for a change with my position. They have an obligation to do what they feel is in the best interests of the station and the company, and I respect that, and accept it. I'm thankful for all that Entercom has done to support me, and I wish the company all the best in the future.''
Jeff Brown, the vice president and market manager for Entercom Boston, said this morning that Wolfe's replacement would be announced in the next couple of days. He also said that other changes at the station are not imminent.
"In the next few days, we’re going to announce new programming leadership," Brown said. "I’m not prepared to make that announcement right now, but it will be in short order. We have a lot of respect for the success Jason has had, but we’re moving into new ideas and new leadership."
During Wolfe's tenure, WEEI had enormous success in the late '90s and through the 2000s, fending off upstart challengers such as WWZN 1510 and ESPN 890. But the launch of 98.5 The Sports Hub in August 2009 -- a station with CBS Radio's support, broadcast rights deals with the Patriots and Bruins, and a strong FM signal -- provided the first real challenge to WEEI's sports radio supremacy.
It was not long before the Sports Hub was neck-and-neck with WEEI in the Arbitron ratings. WEEI, which never lacked for hubris during its time alone at the top, was slow to react to the challenge, finally moving from AM to FM (at 93.7) in September 2011.
That was three months after Brown was moved by Entercom from Portland, Oregon to Boston. As WEEI's ratings failed to meet previous high standards, he implemented changes, most notably replacing longtime host Glenn Ordway in afternoon drive with Mike Salk (who is paired with holdover Michael Holley) in February.
The ratings now tilt heavily in 98.5 The Sports Hub's favor. The station has finished first in the last three (fall, winter, spring) three-month ratings periods, and the gap is most significant in morning and afternoon drive.
Randy Moss was compelling personality during his record-setting NFL career, not just for what he said but what he didn't.
While Moss had his share of comments that turned into catchphrases -- His "straight-cash, homey" is the NFL-cool equivalent of Rasheed Wallace's "ball don't lie" in the NBA -- and fascinating rants, few would have projected a media career for the receiver who played for the Patriots from 2007-2010.
He was fascinating when he talked. But it wasn't often.
Now, he's apparently about to get paid -- probably not in straight cash -- to do just that. As first reported by ProFootballTalk.com, Moss is close to a deal with Fox Sports to become an NFL analyst for the network.
According to the report, Moss, who played for the NFC champions 49ers last season, is expected to be a part of the NFL programming on Fox Sports 1, the presumed challenger to ESPN that launches Aug. 17.
Hiring Moss, who had 50 touchdowns in 52 games with the Patriots, including a record 23 receiving TDs in 2007, is a bold move for Fox. He's always been a good talker on the rare occasions when the mood struck. Now that he's getting paid to do it, he could be a star if he commits to succeeding.
Its already high ratings bolstered by a Bruins run to the Stanley Cup Finals, 98.5 the Sports Hub posted some staggering numbers in the spring to finish first overall in the three-month radio ratings period for the third straight book.
The CBS Radio-owned station was tops in the men 25-54 demographic during the spring with a 10.2 share. That accounts for the period from March 28 to June 19.
WEEI 93.7 was tied for fifth overall with WKLB (5.5).
The Sports Hub, the flagship station of the Bruins, finished first overall by a significant margin. WZLX – also owned by CBS Radio – tied WBOS for second at 6.6.
In morning drive (6-10 a.m), The Sports Hub's Toucher and Rich' program ran away with the top spot with a 13.4 share. WEEI's Dennis and Callahan was fifth with a 6.0, though it did see an uptick to 7.0 in June.
During midday (10 a.m.-2 p.m.), The Sports Hub's Gresh and Zo program was third (7.8), trailing WZLX and WBOS programming. WEEI's Mut and Merloni program was seventh (4.2.)
In afternoon drive (2 p.m.-6 p.m.), Felger and Massarotti of the Sports Hub was tops with a 12.3, beating runner-up WZLX's programming (7.0) by a significant margin. WEEI's Salk and Holley Show was fifth (5.4).
In the evenings (7-p.m-midnight), The Sports Hub, featuring the Baseball Reporters, the Adam Jones Show and Bruins game broadcasts, was first with a 13.4 share, including a massive 16.2 in June. WEEI's nighttime programming, including the Planet Mikey Show and Red Sox and Celtics broadcasts, was second (9.7, including a 10.2 in June).
Last spring, when the Celtics made a deep postseason run before falling to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, WEEI, which carries their games, was second. The Sports Hub was fourth then.
WEEI (850-AM), which is now ESPN Radio, was tied for 23d with a 0.7 share. WUFC (1510-AM), which carries NBC Sports Radio programming and Pete Sheppard's afternoon program among other shows, was not listed on the Arbitron ratings overview sheets.
It's not just a couple of popular players such as Andrew Ference who won't return to the Bruins next season.
NESN announced in a press release at 8:02 p.m. Thursday night that Naoko Funayama, the respected sideline reporter, will not have her contract renewed when it expires this summer.
Funayama worked at NESN since 2007. She was hired after covering Daisuke Matsuzaka's introductory press conference as a reporter for New Hampshire's WMUR during which she aided the Japanese pitcher's struggling translator.
Funayama joined the network full-time in August 2008 as the Bruins reporter.
In the release, NESN said it had "elected to go in a different direction'' and the search for her replacement is underway.
“I want to thank everyone at NESN for five fantastic years and to also thank all the wonderful people I met along the way.” she said, according to the release.
“To have witnessed and covered the Bruins' resurgence during this time has been a thrilling and unforgettable experience, and now I'm very much looking forward to the next chapter in my career."
Funayama was widely respected by players and media alike for her good nature, work ethic, and professionalism, and news of her departure was greeted with remarkable backlash on Twitter.
Naoko is pro at rink and better person. Type to keep, not let go. Genius move, NESN.— Fluto Shinzawa (@GlobeFluto) June 28, 2013
Over the last several seasons, no one worked harder and was more under-used than @NaokoFunayama. Better things ahead for her, I'm certain.— Matt Kalman (@TheBruinsBlog) June 28, 2013
Sad to hear about @NaokoFunayama. Showed up every day, worked as hard as anyone, and did it all with a smile. A rarity in the business.— Dave Goucher (@DavidCGoucher) June 28, 2013
(3/343747) I can't imagine the last three years without her. NESN will not upgrade her position because there is no one better.— DJ Bean (@DJ_Bean) June 28, 2013
I leave you #BringBackNaoko zealots with this: Fighting the good fight is not only the right thing to do, it can be a heck of a lot of fun.— Jack Edwards (@RealJackEdwards) June 28, 2013
@NaokoFunayama naoko .....:(— Tyler Seguin (@tylerseguin92) June 28, 2013
And then there's the irony of Funayama's most recent tweet, regarding Ference's departure:
Sports can be cruel- give everything to the team, so much to the community, and still you're out. We'll all miss @Ferknuckle. One of a kind.— Naoko Funayama (@NaokoFunayama) June 26, 2013
Other items include Bill Simmons's misstep trying to connect a city's mindset to basketball, some NHL ratings and broadcast notes, and more talk about lineup changes at WEEI.
I've enjoyed Bradford's commentary the last two nights. He talks a lot, maybe a little too much, something he acknowledges. And he's disobeyed the tenet that no one ever cares about anyone else's fantasy baseball team. But he works well with Don Orsillo and offers anecdotes and insight you'd expect from someone who is around the team every day. He's not a bad broadcaster for a sportswriter.
It's actually not the first time Bradford has worked for NESN. He called one game last year, and roughly 20 years ago, he worked as an intern for the network. The job was somewhat more tedious than that of a color analyst.
"It was during the Butch Hobson years,'' Bradford said. "The job was to count pitches in the bowels of Fenway Park. I remember thinking at some point I'd love to go up to the booth and see what it's really all about. And I never even got a chance to do that. Literally my job was to count pitches, then I could go sit in the stands when the starter came out.
"So to think at that time that I'd ever be doing what I did last night was a pipe dream."
"I'm even wearing the hat,'' he laughed.
Chat right here at 2:30. Will arrive early today. Honest.
Today's media column, in which I talk Bruins with Jack Edwards, rabid Bruins fans with Michael Felger, and include a few other newsy tidbits, can be found here.
Just for the sake of fun outtakes if nothing else, here is a thought from Edwards and another from Felger that didn't make today's column. And yes, I know we're already a game into the Rangers series. Still can't stop thinking about that Game 7. Imagine most of you understand ...
Edwards, on his mind-set when the Bruins fell behind, 4-1, in the third period of Game 7 to the Leafs: "The roller coaster went from having a little hope to, honestly, really having dismissed the team. As I said when the Leafs went up by three, they're taking it to the Bruins in their own barn.
"I was actually relieved when I heard Peter Chiarelli say on WEEI [Wednesday] he was already starting to think about exit interviews and his mind was starting to drift to free agents with the Bruins and the possibility of players on the other teams before the game was over. That's the direction my mind was starting to go, and I was just trying to concentrate on the game.
"But I started thinking about things like, 'Are they going to keep [Nathan] Horton?' 'Are they going to make Andrew Ference an offer?' And, 'What are they going to do?'
"And then Lucic scores with a buck and a half to go, and it was still really doubtful. My emotional state at that point was, years from now, people will look at the score and think it was a close game throughout when it wasn't. Crazy how it all turned out, isn't it?"
* * *
Felger, on the Comcast SportsNet New England cameras catching him getting fired up after Patrice Bergeron's tying and winning goals in Game 7: "A moment of weakness. What can you do? If that sort of thing doesn't get you excited, then you should go sell insurance. I can't help it.
"At least it wasn't in the press box. It was in the privacy of my own little studio.''It's pointed out to Felger that analyst Tony Amonte, sitting next to him at the desk, barely twitched.
"Nope," said Felger. "He played what, 17 years? So not a big deal to him. Big deal for the rest of us."
The Bruins' 5-4 victory over the Maple Leafs in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series ranks on a very short list of the most exciting games ever televised on NESN.
(Should you require further confirmation, the above clip should suffice.)
Not surprisingly, it also ranks among the highest-rated.
The game earned a 16.8 rating and a 26 share in the Boston DMA Monday night. It is the third-highest-rated Bruins game on the network since NESN's inception in 1984.
The highest-rated game remains Game 7 of last year's first-round series with the Capitals, which earned a 19.6 on April 25, 2012. Second is Game 7 of the Bruins' first-round series with the Canadiens on April 27, 2011, which had a 17.7 rating.
NESN’s game coverage during the seven-game series averaged a 11.7 household rating.
The quarter-hour breakdowns of viewership as the Bruins fell behind, 4-1, then rallied to victory are fascinating.
NESN did not lose much audience in the third period as the game seemed to be out of reach for the Bruins, but it gained significant audience late in the third period and overtime.
From approximately 8:30 p.m. to 8:45, which covered the end of the second period, the game had a 19.2 rating. That dipped to the high 14s during the approximately 17-minute intermission.
As the third period began at 9 p.m., the rating rose to 17.4. At 9:15, in the range in which the Leafs took a 4-1 lead, the rating dipped to 16.8.
Then, the comeback ...
At 9:30-9:45, the rating rose to 19.4. From 9:45-10, which included the final moments of the third period and part of intermission, it climbed again to 20.2.
The period from 10-10:15, which included overtime and Patrice Bergeron's winning goal, was the high-water mark, with a 23.3 rating and a 36 share.
Today's media column, on Sean Grande's upcoming gig as a fill-in voice on Red Sox radio broadcasts, can be found here. Of course, there's also another team he's associated with -- he's been the excellent radio voice of the Celtics for 12 years. So of course we asked him for his thoughts on the Celtics-Knicks series in advance of Friday's much-anticipated Game 6.
1. The Knicks won the first three. The Celtics won the last two, and the New York tabloids smell blood. Overall thoughts on the series heading into Game 6 and the status of the particular teams?
Grande: "I really think the series, from the beginning to now, has always been about the Knicks. The time over the past few years when the Celtics were the primary story has sort of come and gone like a lot of things. We're learning about the Knicks. We know the Celtics are playoff-tested. You know, Game 5 wasn't flawless. Compare it to Game 5 at Miami last year. That was one of the great performances of the era. The Celtics turned the ball over in the second half too much [Wednesday] night. You had some guys play well, but they hardest thing to do in professional sports is to close out another team. Even harder is when you have to close out a team that has guys like the Celtics have on it. That's why this continues to be a test. From a storytelling standpoint, last year in Game 6 we had a game for the ages, a league-changing, legacy-changing performance. Now, this weekend, it's guess what, Carmelo, you're up."
2. LeBron evolved into someone who dominates the game almost at will, and in various different ways. Carmelo is a scorer, and when he's off, the Knicks suffer. But he's an extraordinary talent. Is he capable of rising to the occasion in Game 6 the way LeBron did last year? Or is that too much to ask of him?
Grande: "It's not dissimilar, the series that he's having, to the series that LeBron had in '08. If you look at the numbers, everyone remembers Game 7 from LeBron. He was shooting in the 30s in the first six games of that series. I think we've seen that when Melo moves the ball, he's an MVP candidate and the Knicks are a really, really dangerous team. When he stops trusting his teammates, it's different. It's interesting, because in the games over the weekend in Boston, he was trusting his teammates, and they weren't making shots and it wasn't working. And what happens in that situation is two things: You stop trusting. And I think people confuse selfishness with, I am my team's best player. I have to do this. Selfish is the wrong word. It's, 'I've got to take this burden on myself.' You know, everyone is expecting me to do this. Great players are stubborn. Rondo is the best example of that. You stop Carmelo a couple of times, and he thinks, ''ve got to work harder. I've got to try harder to make this happen.' To him, It doesn't matter how many you miss. The next one is going in. I think it's been a really fascinating year for Carmelo. His moment is at hand now. I can'tt even imagine what MSG would be like on Sunday if they have to come back. The stress is going to be unbelievable. And there's a great irony. The greatest pressure game in this era, I'll ask you. What's the greatest pressure game the Celtics have played in the last six years?
3. I tend to think of the more recent stuff first, but it's probably either Game 6 of the Finals in 2007-08, Game 7 against the Lakers two years later, or are you thinking of something more subtle. The Hawks series?
Grande: "That's it. II go back to Game 7 in '08 against Atlanta. Because if the Celtics lose, Doc's fired, Kevin Garnett's legacy is forever tarnished, so much changes if they lose that seventh game. Even though they ended up winning easily and were the far better team, the consequences of losing were extraordinary."
Grande: "Absolutely. Everyone was laughing at me because I bring up Phil Jackson to the Knicks. 'Mike Woodson is a coach of the year candidate, how can you say that?' In this scenario, if Mike Woodson doesn't win this series, you'd better believe there's going to be conversation about it. Losing to an inferior team, talent-wise, after being up 3-0. You don't think there will be stories in the New York post on Monday about Phil Jackson if the Knicks lose the next two games?"
5. Not at all. I'm surprised it's not in the New York tabs already. But here's my question: Is the why-not-us stuff legit? Is it possible for the Celtics to actually make this happen? What did you expect in Game 5, and how do you see Game 6 unfolding?
Grande: "I thought it would be the same closing thing we've seen the last few years. The Celtics would have that 8-. 10-, 12-point lead and not have the energy to hold it. That's something we've seen the last three seasons. I think the Knicks probably go up [tonight], but can they withstand the run? It's interesting, because last year in Game 6, you had one of the great crowd moments in Celtics history in the sixth game in getting hammered. Now you have a chance to repay the crowd for that night and their loyalty during this crazy season by giving them that Game 6 win you couldn't get last year. It's just going to be crazy, go-nuts atmosphere in there [Friday] night."
John Ryder has been named host of WEEI's pregame and postgame Red Sox coverage. The station also announced Wednesday that Lou Merloni and Sean Grande will periodically fill in for play-by-play announcer Dave O'Brien.
They replace Jon Rish, who resigned as host and fill-in broadcaster April 8 after choosing not to accept a pay cut.
Ryder, a Lakeville native who has been with WEEI since 1998, is a regular contributor to the evening "Planet Mikey" show. He also hosts "Red Sox Review" and "Celtics Rewind" after the teams' game broadcasts.
“John has done a stellar job in every role we’ve had for him and has absolutely earned this promotion,” said Jason Wolfe, vice president of programming for Entercom Boston. “He’s hosted the pre- and postgame shows for the Sox many times before and was a natural choice for us to fill this important job."
Grande, the radio voice of the Celtics since 2001, and Merloni, a former Red Sox infielder and current midday cohost on WEEI, will take turns stepping in for O'Brien on Monday nights. O'Brien is the play-by-play voice of ESPN's "Monday Night Baseball'' television broadcasts.
"Sean’s play-by-play experience speaks for itself,'' said Wolfe. "He’s one of the greats in the industry right now, and Lou’s expertise is second to none. There’s no baseball man in Boston who knows the Sox better than Lou."
Bob Socci is the choice as the new play-by-play voice for Patriots broadcasts on 98.5 The Sports Hub, the team's CBS Radio-owned flagship station.
A Milton resident, Socci (pronounced So-SEE) has called Navy football games on the radio for the past 16 years.
He also is the lead voice for Patriot League college basketball broadcasts on the CBS Sports Network.
Socci, 45, replaces Gil Santos, who retired following the 2012 season after 36 years as the Patriots' radio voice.
“This is the thrill of a lifetime to get the opportunity from 98.5 The Sports Hub and the Patriots organization to continue the tradition established by the legendary Gil Santos to be the play-by-play announcer for the New England Patriots,” said Socci.
Socci will be paired with analyst Scott Zolak, who will be entering his third season as part of the broadcast team.
“We were impressed with his extensive work and expertise calling various football and baseball games, and he’s a local guy with great knowledge of the Patriots,'' said Mike Thomas, CBS Radio Boston's vice president of programming. "No doubt, Bob has big shoes to fill, but we are excited about this new era of play-by-play with Bob and Scott.”
Socci will appear on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s "Felger & Massarotti" show Thursday afternoon, and will join the "Gresh & Zolak" midday program for their NFL draft special Saturday.
Socci is currently in his first season as one of the two radio voices of the Pawtucket Red Sox. He will be leaving that position July 1.
Pete Sheppard, last heard quitting WEEI on the air Saturday, has joined NBC Sports Radio affiliate 1510-AM as its afternoon drive host
The station announced the move at a few minutes past noon Thursday, with Sheppard in studio.
Sheppard will host weekdays from 3-6 p.m.
Sheppard, whose everyman persona connected with fans as a "sports flash'' anchor and weekend and fill-in host at WEEI, quit the station Saturday at the end of his shift, saying he could no longer work for parent company Entercom.
The Arbitron winter ratings period was a rout for 98.5 The Sports Hub.
The Sports Hub finished first overall in the men 25-54 demographic for the period of Jan. 3-March 27, earning a 9.0 share. Each of its four daily programs finished tied or alone in the top spot in their respective time slots.
WEEI (93.7) finished tied for sixth place with WMJX with a 5.2 share. That's slightly up from its seventh-place tie and 4.9 share in the fall.
WZLX, which like the Sports Hub is a CBS Radio property, was second overall with a 6.7.
Overall, The Sports Hub finished first in each of the three months of the winter ratings period. WEEI was third in January, sixth in February, and tied for ninth in March. The Sports Hub was also first in the fall ratings with an 8.5.
In morning drive (6-10 a.m), The Sports Hub's "Toucher and Rich'' program was first with an 11.4 (including a huge 12.1 share in March). WEEI's "Dennis and Callahan" was tied for fourth with WBZ (1030) at 6.2.
For midday (10 a.m.-2 p.m.), the Sports Hub's "Gresh and Zo" program was tied for the top spot with WZLX (8.2), while WEEI's "Mut and Merloni" was tied for sixth with WBOS (5.4).
In afternoon drive (2-6 p.m.), "Felger and Massarotti" was first (10.1). WEEI's programming finished in a three-way tie for fourth (5.3) with WMJX and WBOS. Longtime WEEI host Glenn Ordway was fired Feb. 13 and replaced by Mike Salk, who debuted as holdover Michael Holley's cohost March 20.
In evenings (6-11 p.m.), "The Adam Jones Show" was first (9.6). That's also the time period in which the Sports Hub airs Bruins games. WEEI's "Planet Mikey Show" -- as well as Celtics broadcasts -- took fifth (5.8). The book was Jones's first since taking over for Damon Amendolara, who moved to CBS Sports Radio Jan. 2.
WEEI (850), which carries ESPN Radio programming, was 20th with a 1.0 share.
Weekend and fill-in host Pete Sheppard quit WEEI on the air Saturday, saying he could no longer stand working for the company.
"I'm going out on my own terms this time,'' said Sheppard, whose blustery but genuine, everyman style won him a loyal following during his two stints at the station.
Sheppard built his greatest notoriety as the "Sports Flash'' anchor on "The Big Show'' hosted by Glenn Ordway during the program's heyday in the early 2000s.
He was fired by WEEI in January 2010 for what both sides said were financial reasons, then was rehired in March 2012.
Sheppard teased his announcement on Twitter at a little before 6 p.m., sending this message: "Hey all, got something special for you at 6:15 on WEEI ..."
When the time came around, Sheppard revealed he was quitting on the spot, explaining that he was frustrated with the way WEEI's parent company Entercom had been running the station over the past several months.
Among several changes at the station recently was the February firing of Ordway, a close friend of Sheppard.
Sheppard said his issue is with Entercom management and not program director Jason Wolfe.
Jerry Remy, the popular longtime Red Sox television analyst and former second baseman, announced during a recorded interview on NESN Wednesday night that he recently had been treated for a relapse of lung cancer.
"A little thing bubbled up and they thought it was time to do a biopsy on it, and the biopsy came out positive,'' said Remy during a sit-down interview with studio host Tom Caron. "So I was diagnosed again with cancer."
Remy, 61, first had surgery in November 2008 to remove a cancerous area from a lung.
He said this cancer is in a different spot in his lung than before. It was discovered during his six-month CAT scan in January. Remy said the spot had been biopsied previously. The first time came out negative about a year ago. This time it was positive.
"It's a spot that they've been closely watching since the original operation,'' said Remy, a longtime smoker. "I always had that kind of feeling like there might have been something else there and it finally showed up on a CAT scan."
Remy traveled back to Boston from spring training in Fort Myers in March to receive radiation treatment at Mass General Hospital. There were no side effects, he said, and he returned to work within a matter of days.
"And right now I'm fine,'' he said. "I always told the fans of New England I would be honest with them if things health-wise with me were not great. I know the last couple of years I've missed some games not because of this, but because of regular colds, bronchitis, whatever it may be, and I always told the fans that I'd be honest with them and what I'd gone through. Last time I had cancer and depression. This time I've been diagnosed with cancer, but it's under control.''
Following his first surgery four years ago, there were complications during his recovery, including an infection and a prolonged bout with pneumonia. He still didn't feel right when the 2009 Red Sox season began, leading to a leave of absence on April 30 that year. He did not return to the Red Sox booth until mid-August, revealing then that he had also been coping with depression.
He told Caron that he is in a better frame of mind this time.
"I'm very upbeat and positive about it,'' he said. "I don't have the same reaction to it I had last time. It was all very new to me last time. Being in close contact with my doctors is very important, very reassuring to me.
"Before, the depression was harder than the cancer was. The timing was a lot of it because I was missing games and that bothered me to a point that I couldn't go to work to the job that I loved. And I became so depressed that it took me months to get back to work. That's not the case this time. I feel very positive about things, very upbeat about things. I've been down this road before."
Remy said his further treatment wouldn't be anything different from the norm for a cancer survivor, noting that his next CAT scan isn't for three months.
"I feel fine,'' Remy said. "I really do. [But] if I can help anybody, that's great,'' Remy said. "Last time this happened to me, I got so many letters from people who have gone through cancer, who are fighting it at that particular point and time, and I felt like I did them some good. I don't know, but hopefully I did. For those who have had relapses, now I have too, and hopefully we can get through it together."
Jon Rish, the fill-in play-by-play voice and host for WEEI's Red Sox broadcasts, resigned Monday after being asked to take a pay cut by parent company Entercom.
Rish, who had been working without a contract since the end of the year, informed WEEI program director Jason Wolfe of his decision three hours before the first pitch of the Red Sox home opener.
"I didn't want to tell Jason by phone. I wanted to tell him in person," said Rish, whose relationship with Wolfe goes back to 1993, when Rish was an intern on Dale Arnold's program, which Wolfe produced. "He was speechless."
Rish, who has been the pregame and postgame host on the network since 2006, did not want to comment on the specifics of his compensation.
But industry sources said he was asked to take a 30 percent reduction in salary, the latest of several instances of cost-cutting by Entercom, the most notable of which was the firing of afternoon drive host Glenn Ordway in mid-February.
"I will say I could no longer justify working for Entercom,'' Rish said. "It wasn't fair to me and it wasn't workable for my family. It's a very difficult decision to explain to other people because calling Red Sox games is viewed as a dream job. But it was not as difficult a decision for me as you might think. It was not a difficult decision to explain to my wife."
While the decision to leave a prominent broadcasting gig during the season may seem an emotional choice, Rish is convincing when he says it was actually a practical one.
"I'm 40. I've been doing this for a long time,'' he said. "More than 20 years if you include student radio. It's been great. I don't regret a single second of it.
"But I have four kids [a son, who turns 12 in May, and three daughters, ages 8, 7, and 2]. The first one is going to be going to college in six years and then the parade continues after that. And the state of the radio industry isn't what it used to be."
Rish, who has been called upon to team with Joe Castiglione for a few broadcasts this season already with Dave O'Brien calling the women's Final Four for ESPN, has been the fill-in voice on the game broadcasts since 2008.
He often has filled in on Wednesdays in recent years when O'Brien has been away calling "Wednesday Night Baseball" for ESPN.
This season, he was scheduled to do the same on Mondays with O'Brien's ESPN duties having been switched to that day. He will remain on the job until April 24. His remaining play-by-play duties will include Monday's Patriots Day game.
While Rish's decision, which was first reported by Boston Sports Media Watch, may have surprised his WEEI colleagues, he said he had prepared for his departure for several months.
"I wasn't blindsided at all,'' he said. "It was completely foreseeable. I could see it coming from a mile away. Which is why I think I'm at peace with the decision. I've had so long to see it coming, process it, and come to a good place with it."
Rish has decided to leave the business altogether. He has been accepted into a training program to become a software developer and will begin that career path May 1.
"I'm looking forward to something different,'' he said. "It's the right time for me and my family.''
Castiglione, whom Rish referred to as a mentor, said he will miss working with Rish.
"I'm sorry to lose Jon,'' Castiglione said. "He did a great job with us. Such a professional. He did a very solid job on play-by-play and has so many things going for him. He's a very bright guy. He had his own computer program for keeping score at a ballgame, and I'm sure he'll be very good at what he's pursuing. He'll be missed a lot."
It's uncertain who will replace Rish, though Celtics pregame and postgame host John Ryder is a logical choice.
Dale Arnold has handled the fill-in play-by-play duties in the past, but his responsibilities as NESN's Bruins studio host would seem to preclude him from doing so again, especially in the condensed NHL season. As of Tuesday afternoon, he had not been asked to step in by WEEI.
Today's media column, leading with a look at CBS's coverage of the NCAA Tournament so far (particularly the network's pitch-perfect handling of the Kevin Ware injury) is here.
Chat at 2:30 p.m. And while we know a 2:30 p.m. start would be an upset of 16-seed-over-1-seed proportions, I'm aiming for an on-time arrival today. Right -- see you at 2:37.
* * *
A couple of media footnotes and opinions to follow. But first, a long-overdue recommendation for you baseball-loving moms and dads who eagerly anticipate the day when your young kids will fall for the game the way you did ...
Read 'em Matt Tavares's baseball books. I promise they will expedite the process.
Tavares, a legit Red Sox fan (and, full disclosure, the dad of a classmate of my son's), has authored and illustrated three books about baseball legends -- There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived, Henry Aaron's Dream, and his latest, Becoming Babe Ruth, which recently got an affirming write-up in the Times.
They're warm and funny and accurate, geared toward children 5 to 8 and clearly labors of love for the author. My two kids have enjoyed many of his other books that aren't about baseball icons. But the Ruth one has proven their favorite, probably because I had no rebuttal when I read my kids the line "He eats enormous amounts of food/He does whatever he wants,'' and they said in unison, "Sounds like you, Daddy."
Hey, I'll take a Babe Ruth comparison any day.
* * *
NESN spokesman Gary Roy confirmed Thursday that the network has no intention of using a combined broadcast booth during regular-season game. That's good news. NESN shared a production truck and rotated or shared broadcast teams with other regional sports networks during five spring training broadcasts. The approach wasn’t well received by many involved in the broadcast. There had been industry buzz that NESN was considering attempting it during the regular season, perhaps in Minnesota or Seattle.
Sean McDonough's switch from calling Monday Night Baseball each week on ESPN to a Wednesday Night Baseball schedule in which he'll work somewhere between 8-12 games this season would seem to free him up to call Patriots games on 98.5 The Sports Hub if that is the path CBS Radio and McDonough choose to go. But he told me Thursday that while the Patriots radio gig isn't entirely out of the question, his primary reason for the switch is to reduce his schedule so he's not working 52 weeks a year between his college basketball and football duties as well as baseball.
Dave O'Brien is now ESPN's Monday Night Baseball voice, which means he'll be absent from Red Sox radio broadcasts on WEEI 93.7 this season on that night rather than Wednesdays, as had been the situation in the past. Jon Rish will continue to be a more than capable pinch-hitter for O'Brien alongside Joe Castiglione.
Appreciate WEEI's seemingly redoubled efforts to talk about the Bruins these days. Mike Salk has quickly proven legit on the topic in the afternoon (something that was emphasized by the station when he was hired). Not sure about the Lyndon Byers invasion in the midday, though. He's funny and obviously informed -- heck, he played against Jaromir Jagr when the latter was a rookie -- but his habit of talking over midday hosts Mike Mutnansky and Lou Merloni gives me a flashback to "The Big Show: Worst of Smerlas" days.
Mentioned a week or two ago that the ideal for 98.5 The Sports Hub in its search to find a replacement for Gil Santos is to come up with the football version of Dave Goucher. Should have thought to suggest they should just go with the original -- Goucher did audition for the gig, and I suspect he'd be as adept calling Patriots games as he is at broadcasting the Bruins.
Greatly enjoyed Jon Wertheim's recent piece in Sports Illustrated on Benny Anders , the mysterious, more-charismatic-than-Clyde dunking machine for the University of Houston's early '80s "Phi Slamma Jamma'' force of nature whose whereabouts have long been unknown. That his search ended without a face-to-face resolution is fine -- Wertheim writes beautifully at the end of the piece about whether he should pursue Anders further -- though it did remind me of other excellent pieces that may have been ever-so-slightly diminished by the writer's decision to avoid confrontation in the end.
Here's nice compilation of Roger Ebert's reviews of baseball films from Wezen-Ball's Larry Granillo. This was written in 2009. If you just know Ebert, who died of cancer Thursday at age 70, for thumbs-up, thumbs-down and his banter with Gene Siskel on the syndicated "At The Movies" during the '80s, you missed out on some truly wonderful writing.
Glenn Ordway, fired in mid-February after an 18-year run as host or co-host of WEEI's "The Big Show," has kept a relatively low profile the past couple of weeks, save for a seemingly increased presence on Twitter.
It was via that medium that Ordway teased an impending return Thursday:
Enough is Enough. HIATUS IS OVER! Time to talk Sports again with you guys. Talk to you in just a few days. #missyou— Glenn Ordway (@GlennDOrdway) March 7, 2013
So exactly where will Ordway be talking sports?
Turns out it's on Comcast SportsNet New England's "Sports Tonight," where he will serve as a co-host next Tuesday through Friday.
The interesting twist is that he'll be paired with Michael Felger, the co-host of 98.5 The Sports Hub's afternoon drive program, "Felger and Massarotti."
Felger and co-host Tony Massarotti's program consistently trumped its WEEI counterpart in the Arbitron ratings over the past couple of years, which was ultimately a factor in Ordway's dismissal.
Before departing for 98.5 in 2009, Felger was a frequent co-host and fill-in for Ordway during two stints at WEEI.
Their reunion should make for pretty interesting television.
Realized the other day that it's been about three years since I last pulled together a mailbag. Not sure why I got away from it -- they're always fun to do, and I'm inexcusably awful at staying on top of email these days, so I figure this is a good way to catch up on some of it. Other questions arrived via Twitter as well as outtakes from the Friday chat. We'll do another one before 2016, I promise. In the meantime, let's get to it, and keep the questions coming ...
Beyond the fact that it is creepy do you have a problem with sportswriters jumping all over themselves to document the increase in body mass of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout? I get that it is a "story" in the sense that these are two of the biggest stars in baseball, but at the same time if these writers were reading stories written in this manner that were published back in 1998 there would be a chorus of "we should have known betters". Are "BEST SHAPE OF THEIR CAREER" stories really that enticing? Or just that easy? -- Neil (DC)
"Best shape of their career" is of course one of the great recurring cliches of spring training, at least unless you're talking about Felix Doubront, aka Southpaw Guapo. The guys at "Hardball Talk'' especially have a great bit of fun with that particular spring-training narrative, and it's understandable, but in the case of Trout in particular, it's actually a worthwhile storyline. He came in at 241 pounds, which is huge given that he's a rangy center fielder and one of the most electric and efficient basestealers we've ever seen. For someone coming off a historically brilliant rookie season, it's a bit jarring to see him make such a drastic change to his physique. His first year was so incredible that it's a reasonable to ask whether he will ever have a better one. If he slips a bit this year -- and as Baseball Prospectus's Ben Lindbergh writes today, it's reasonable to expect that he will -- there will be questions about his offseason workout regimen, whether that's fair or not.
Chad, the likelihood of all the things you say in your Unconventional Preview column today that need to happen for the Red Sox to be a winning team actually happening is remote. Like winning the lottery remote.
-- Your Name
Sure. But I don't think all of those things -- everyone staying healthy, the Victorino/Napoli/Drew newbies bouncing back, Buchholz and Lester thriving -- will happen. But I think it's reasonable to expect that, oh, half of it does. And if Lester finds his old form but Buchholz can't stay healthy, Victorino hits like he did in '11 while Napoli needs a walker by midseason, Ellsbury is an MVP candidate while Papi gets hurt, that sort of split -- they still have a chance to be pretty good.Everything went wrong last year. They won 18 of their final 60 games. They lacked more than talent. They lacked competence. They will be much better in both regards this season.
Hope you're right with your prediction of 87 wins [for the Red Sox]. Maybe it's the pre-2004 in me popping up, but I'm not so optimistic. I'm old and old-school when it comes to baseball, and a shortstop who can save 50 runs a year really appeals to me. I should not judge Stephen by J.D., but I drew my conclusions by watching the former No. 7 and having him on a few Rotisserie teams. Except for the grand slam [in the 2007 ALCS against the Indians], of course, almost as big a hit as David Ortiz's homer in the first inning of Game 7 vs. the Yankees.
-- Peter S.
If Iglesias saves 50 runs over the course of a season, he will be the greatest defensive shortstop in the history of baseball, bar none. Brendan Ryan -- a decent comp for what Iglesias might ultimately become -- led the majors in Defensive Runs Saved by a shortstop last year ... with 27. Iglesias's sensational defense simply will not compensate for his wet noodle bat at this point. Give Drew a chance. If his ankle is right, he'll be capable at shortstop and an asset in the lineup.
I agree with your feelings on a trade involving either Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett for guys with questionable attitudes. It's just incredibly frustrating as a Celtics fan to see this team continue to fail to get a decent true center. Garnett doesn't count. He's told you he's really a 4; and at age 36 I think he might collapse from exhaustion banging around at the 5, basically by himself. I like Danny Ainge, but am I crazy to say he has completely failed in this regard? The best center we've had since Perk has been a 39-year-old Shaq. Is it really that hard?
-- Bob P.
You know ... it kind of is that hard. The results haven't been great, but given how challenging it is to fill in a roster already dotted with highly-compensated stars, I have no problem with the process. Trying to wring a little more high-quality play out of Shaq, Rasheed Wallace, and even Jermaine O'Neal as complementary players to the Garnett-Pierce-Allen-Rondo core made a lot of sense. It was something Red would have done, and did, with players like Pete Maravich, Bill Walton, Scott Wedman, or the Lakers with a guy like Bob McAdoo. It just didn't happen to work, but because it's so difficult to find a decent big man -- I mean, Michael Olowakandi was a No. 1 overall pick, Todd Fuller went ahead of Kobe Bryant, and on and on -- that it seems the best way to go is to take that risk on a player who actually has accomplished some things.
No longer sold that Jose Iglesias is the shorttop of the future. He is more likely the next Rey Ordonez. I say let Drew man the job until Xander Bogaerts is ready, because he is the SS of the future. Or until they convert Will Middlebrooks to 1B and Bogaerts to 3B, when Deven Marerro is ready at SS. Either way, Iglesias is not the answer. If he can't hit AAA pitching after 2 years, he's a lost cause.
-- Peter G.
I don't know that he's a lost cause. While comparing him to Ozzie Smith or Alan Trammell at the same age, as his defenders have done, simply does not work (Ozzie was in the majors after one minor league season, and Trammell hit .300 at age 22 in his third full season). And anyone who thinks being the next Rey Ordonez is a compliment was familiar with him only from Web Gems. He had a .600 OPS in the majors -- miserable, and yet better than Iglesias's in Triple A after two years. I suppose there's a glimmer of hope in the Omar Vizquel comps -- he had just a .598 OPS in Triple A. But the hunch here is he gets passed by Bogaerts, and with Deven Marrero getting a chance to advance quickly, it's now or never for Iglesias with the Red Sox.
Given the media's recent (last two seasons) predictions of grandeur, why exactly should The Nation listen now that they predict A Bridge To Nowhere?
Depends who you're listening to in the media. Lot of reasonable voices out there who explain their thinking -- PeteAbe, Gordon Edes, Alex Speier, and many others. I try to be among them. The "Best Team Ever'' stuff is the work of headline writers trying to get you to buy the paper. Be discerning in who you read and who you believe. Also, read and believe me, always.
I enjoy your coverage of the radio wars. While I listen to both stations the question I have is why is Jason Wolfe not taking a huge hit for WEEI?s troubles? A lot of this is on him and his decisions.
-- Howard F.
Been getting this question a lot lately, for obvious reasons. Jason played a huge role in WEEI's success, and also contributed to the institutional arrogance that put them into their current position. But I think he is taking a huge hit -- he had to fire Glenn Ordway, someone with whom he had a long, successful, lucrative run, and presumably someone who is a good friend. That couldn't have been easy, and it won't be his last difficult task. If he does survive this, and I actually believe he should, some of the burden should be off him. These recent decisions are on Jeff Brown, Entercom Boston's VP market manager and Jason's boss, and if they don't work beyond saving a few bucks, he deserves as much heat as Jason is receiving.
When I look back on Celts after 1st Big 3, I see Len Bias, Reggie Lewis and a bum lottery ping-pong ball. Can't the Celts hope for better draft luck next time around?
It's certainly overdue -- perhaps sending someone other than M.L. Carr and his lousy just-tanked-for-this-chance karma would be a better idea this time. (Who was the lottery rep in the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant year? It was Wyc, right?) Sheesh, the first time around they weren't even lucky enough to get Keith Van-Bleepin' Horn. But the history of the post-Big Three Celtics is often retold without enough of an emphasis on Reggie Lewis's death. Len Bias was incredible, but given how many players in that '86 draft washed out because of drugs, who's to say that wouldn't have been his fate had he survived past the night after the draft? Reggie, though ... we already knew what we had and what he could be. It didn't go straight from Larry Bird to Dominique Wilkins, you know? Also: Ainge would have totally taken Durant.
Gun to your head, which game 7 are you taking back; Lakers in 2010 or Miami last year? Banner 18 or the chance to say you beat the team nobody said you could beat and that pill LeBron doesnt have a ring. I think I'm taking Miami. Thoughts?
Lakers. No doubt. None. If Perk had been healthy ... if Doc had given Nate Robinson a few extra minutes ... If Artest's cheap-shot on Ray Allen earlier in the series hadn't mess up his quad ... If Sheed didn't run out of gas ... If Artest's heave doesn't drop ...If KG didn't get out-rebounded by 15 by Pau Gasol, and yes, I feel horrible for bringing it up ... those are the ifs you've got to live with. LeBron? I have the utmost respect for the way he plays the game. Game 6 was the pivotal performance of his career, and in retrospect, it's starting to feel inevitable. Plus, that Celtics team overachieved.
RANDOM LaSCHELLE TARVER INTERLUDE
END OF RANDOM LaSCHELLE TARVER INTERLUDE
Are you still convinced the Sox are going to trade Andrew Bailey? I never understood your logic. He was hurt most of last year, and had 7.04 ERA. Talk about selling low.
Not so much, in part because there will probably be attrition, and also because I haven't heard a peep about him wanting to close elsewhere. (Doesn't hurt that Bruce Rondon is hitting 100 miles per hour in Tigers camp, either.) But it still wouldn't completely surprise me -- there were rumors he was headed to Toronto as compensation for John Farrell before it ended up being Mike Aviles.
The Aaron Hernandez deal seemed smart at the time. It was the exact thing they didn't do with other guys (Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins) that eventually got them into trouble. Doing Rob Gronkowski deal early certainly seemed smart too.
But did they swing too much to the other guardrail with Hernandez? Especially after they already locked up Gronkowski? Should they have waited for it to play out with Hernandez?
If they didn't do Hernandez deal early, he would be going into the last year of his rookie deal this year, at chump change.
What they gave him is more total dollars than it would take to keep Welker at this point, and the $16 million guaranteed dollars Hernandez got is probably in spitting distance of the guaranteed dollars Welker would want at this point. Same for the $8 million a year Hernandez is getting.
Anyway if you had to have one guy next year, Welker or Hernandez who would it be? in my opinion, hands down, Welker.
Interesting take. Hernandez is so talented and versatile, but he's lost some luster because of his struggles to stay on the field and his inconsistency in big games. (Is that fair? I think that's fair.) But given the choice right now, I take Hernandez without a second thought. He's just 23, and his best days should be ahead. No matter where Welker signs or the amount he signs for, at 32, there's no denying he'll be getting paid for past performance rather than what he is likely to be. Welker should have a couple more highly productive seasons ahead. I hope the Pats keep him. But forced to make a choice between one or the other, there's not really a choice at all.
Ever wonder what your demographic is for the chat? Might be interesting to put that up as a question (ie, are you 18-34, 34-50, etc.) Might be risky for you though. :)
Tend to think my demo is roughly my age group or younger, extraordinarily handsome, and generally much smarter than me. I suspect there's pretty decent demographic appeal there than, say, what you'd find in the comments section of a Bleacher Report slideshow.
I can't be the only one who thinks that Big Papi plays in less than 81 games this year.
Beginning to think the same way, Jackie. He's 37, admitted recently that there was a partial tear in the Achilles' has played one game since last July 16, and doesn't exactly look like he was addicted to cardio (for understandable reasons) this offseason. He was great when healthy last year, but it's hard to fathom right now that he has 150 games or so ahead of him this year.
Meh. He did hit 32 homers last year, but he's redundant with Gomes. Maybe if he hit lefthanded. Actually wonder if he ends up with the Yankees since Curtis Granderson is out for a couple of months. Brian Cashman has denied it, which sometimes foreshadows it actually happening. By the way, I refuse to believe Soriano is 37. I still think of him as the young fella in the Yankees lineup who couldn't hit Pedro's breaking ball even if he had one of those giant red plastic bats.
How do you see Jeff Demps fitting into the Patriots offense next year?
-- Eric M.
Honestly, no clue. He obviously has electric speed and should be what they desperately need in the kicking game, but he's coming off a redshirt season and needed to put on some weight after making the transition from Olympic sprinter. Seems like overall expectations are higher than they should be. He was productive at Florida, but let's not anoint him the second coming of Percy Harvin until he, you know, actually plays some football. What did he have, three catches last preseason?
Every time I see a writer take a shot at Bobby Valentine, I'm reminded of a quote from "Married with Children"--"If you give a gun to a chimp, and the chimp shoots someone, don't blame the chimp." Thanks for 2012, Larry Lucchino!
-- Studio 00
Obviously. What you should do is name the chimp athletic director. Standard procedure.
WEEI has tweaked the format of its morning drive program, adding Kirk Minihane as a third full-time host, joining holdovers John Dennis and Gerry Callahan.
Minihane, whose informed, unfiltered opinions have helped him earn a following as a weekend host (most often paired with Dale Arnold) and fill-in on various WEEI programs, will be an equal voice on the program.
He has also emerged as a popular columnist for WEEI.com, a role he began in 2009, and hosted the Hot Stove Baseball Show along with Rob Bradford and Alex Speier during the Red Sox' offseason.
Minihane will not handle the "Sports Flash'' updates that were the domain of past, less prominent third voices such as Jon Meterparel, who left in October after more than a decade on the program, and Kevin Winter, who was fired February 12, just six weeks after replacing Meterparel.
It's uncertain whether or when the name will change from the "Dennis and Callahan'' program, which debuted with that name in 1997. Minihane was part of Thursday's program but a formal announcement was not made.
No further changes are imminent on the program, according to industry sources.
WEEI officially announced Tuesday that Mike Salk will join Michael Holley on the station's afternoon drive program.
The Globe and Boston.com reported last Wednesday that Salk, a Sudbury native who co-hosted a successful program on ESPN 710 in Seattle since April 2009, would replace longtime host Glenn Ordway on the program. Ordway's final day after 27 years at the station was Friday.
“For a kid who grew up rooting for Boston’s sports teams, I can’t wait to get behind that microphone and connect with the most avid sports fans in the country,” said Salk in a statement. “From the best play-by-play in radio to their breakthrough work with the Jimmy Fund, WEEI is still the gold standard in sports talk radio.
“I’m especially excited to talk Bruins hockey. I grew up a rabid Bruins fan and have great memories from the old Boston Garden. My wife might not know it yet, but our 1-year old daughter will be wearing a lot of black and gold in the future.”
Salk worked at ESPN 890 in Boston from 2005-09, co-hosting a midday program with Bob Halloran and serving as the station's Red Sox beat reporter.
Salk will debut on WEEI in mid-March. He will also contribute to the WEEI.com website.
Rich Shertenlieb, co-host of 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher and Rich'' morning program, announced Thursday that he will be absent from the program in the immediate future after learning Wednesday that his wife has a form of leukemia:
Sorry for not being on the air the last few days. Early yesterday morning, my amazing wife Mary was diagnosed with AML, a form of leukemia.— Toucher and Rich (@Toucherandrich) February 14, 2013
I will be spending time with her for the near future. I appreciate any thoughts and prayers you guys could send her way. -Rich— Toucher and Rich (@Toucherandrich) February 14, 2013
His friend and co-host, Fred Toettcher, discussed the situation during this morning's program, at times becoming overwhelmed with emotion.
The Sports Hub has set up a link for listeners to offer support to the Shertenlieb family. Our sincerest wishes go out to Rich and Mary.
Before signing on to co-host WEEI's "The Big Show" Wednesday, Glenn Ordway wrote on Twitter, "Ready for the most #honest radio show I've ever done."
Ordway spent the opening minutes of the show confirming a Globe report that he was being fired by the station. Mike Salk, a Boston native who has co-hosted a program on 710 ESPN in Seattle since 2009, is being hired as Ordway's replacement.
"They made a decision that they feel is in the best interest of the company, and they're entitled to that," said Ordway "It's their decision, it's not mine ... It's obvious that we are not getting the ratings that we need to get on this program."
Ordway expressed disappointment with how the news broke and said he was hurt that word of his firing left the building in which he has worked since 1987. He said station director Jason Wolfe broke the news to him Tuesday night.
"You're going to hear nothing negative about anybody here," said Ordway. "If you're looking for that, you're not going to find it here."
On why he wasn't expressing more of his disappointment publicly, Ordway said, "I was there on Day One. I was a big part of starting all this, so I'm really fond of it."
A seismic shakeup at sports radio station WEEI Tuesday brought to an end the tenure of longtime host Glenn Ordway, who was fired by parent company Entercom after a decline in ratings brought on in part by the ascent of a legitimate competitor.
Ordway, who spent 27 years at WEEI, will be replaced on its afternoon drive program by Mike Salk, a Boston native who has co-hosted a program on 710 ESPN in Seattle since 2009. Ordway's final show will be Friday.
"They made a decision that they feel is in the best interest of the company, and they're entitled to that," said Ordway, confirming a Globe report of his departure during the first introductory moments of his program Wednesday. "It's their decision, it's not mine ... It's obvious that we are not getting the ratings that we need to get on this program."
Ordway, a prominent radio voice in Boston for more than 30 years as a host and former Celtics radio announcer, said station director Jason Wolfe -- whom Ordway once hired at the station -- broke the news to him Tuesday night.
"You're going to hear nothing negative about anybody here," said Ordway, who told listeners he has other media projects in the works and isn't retiring. "If you're looking for that, you're not going to find it here ... I was a big part of starting all this, so I'm really fond of it."
Wolfe did not respond to request for comment, but in a statement he praised Ordway's professionalism and accomplishments.
"I am so thankful to have been able to work alongside Glenn for the past 20-plus years and I hope that all Boston sports fans realize how important his contributions have been to this station, to the market and to this industry,'' Wolfe said.
The fall is a stunning one for Ordway even by the volatile standards of the radio business. He was the ringleader of the "The Big Show,'' which featured him moderating a rotating cast of co-hosts, and the show was a tremendous ratings success through the late '90s and well into the last decade.
Ordway signed a five-year contract worth a reported $1 million per year in January 2009, but there were out-clauses if certain ratings benchmarks weren't met.
The launch of the CBS Radio-owned 98.5 The Sports Hub in August 2009 almost immediately revealed that there was room for two potent, strong-signaled sports radio stations in the market. It's afternoon drive program, hosted by Michael Felger and Tony Massorotti, has consistently had stellar ratings the past couple of years.
The competition cut into Ordway's audience -- and in a sense, his salary. In September 2011, Entercom, WEEI's parent company, cut his salary in half after the program failed to finish among the top three stations in the Boston market for a particular demographic in a specific number of consecutive Arbitron books.
Salk is a Buckingham Browne and Nichols graduate with previous Boston radio experience at 1510 and the now-defunct ESPN 890. He did not respond to a request for comment about his pending homecoming and it is uncertain when he will make his debut.
Salk will be paired with Ordway's current co-host, Michael Holley, in the 2-6 p.m. time slot. WEEI said in a statement that Holley will host solo during the immediate future.
During his time in Boston, Salk hosted a program on 890 with Bob Halloran, among other duties. His Seattle program, a weekday morning show which he co-hosts with former NFL quarterback Brock Huard, has been a ratings success.
Salk's salary is expected to be in the vicinity of $100,000 according to industry sources.
The pairing of Salk and Holley, who was moved from middays to partner with Ordway afternoon drive in February 2011 when he signed a new multi-year contract, would give WEEI a program that would logically trend younger.
WEEI has typically been overwhelmed in the younger Arbitron demographics by rival 98.5 The Sports Hub.
As recently as this past spring, Ordway and Holley's program had solid ratings, finishing second in the important men 25-54 demographic, a spot ahead of The Sports Hub's "Felger and Massarotti'' program.
But in the fall, “Felger and Massarotti” was first (9.1) while WEEI’s “Ordway and Holley’’ show was fifth (5.2), and the early numbers during the winter period strongly favor the Sports Hub program.
The irony is that Felger and Massarotti both got a big break as rotating co-hosts on "The Big Show" during its heyday.
Now, it appears they have helped bring down Ordway, with Salk, who worked with Felger at 890, now coming back to challenge them.
According to industry sources, Winter was called into program director Jason Wolfe's office following Monday's program and told that the chemistry between him and hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan wasn't working.
Winter's energetic style seemed an odd fit with the more cynical Dennis and Callahan from the beginning. But he was hired after a prolonged search to replace Meterparel, who held the job for more than a decade before leaving in mid-October when his contract expired to pursue a career in play-by-play.
Meterparel is not a candidate to return to the position.
Winter, a Norfolk native, has also worked at ESPN Radio since 2004, including "Mike and Mike in the Morning." He has also been the pregame and postgame host for ESPN's coverage of college football and basketball.
Here is what Wolfe said upon Winter's hiring:
"I'm thrilled to be adding Kevin's outstanding talent to WEEI. He's got tremendous passion, energy and wit, and will provide the perfect blend of personality and knowledge that will add a ton to D&C's show."
WEEI issued a statement Monday afternoon in which Winter was quoted as saying, "“I appreciated the opportunity to join WEEI, but my time commitments at ESPN Radio were just too consuming for me to continue in both roles."
Winter has never been and is not full-time at ESPN.
The full text of WEEI's statement is below:
WEEI today announced that effective immediately, Kevin Winter has stepped down from his position on the Dennis and Callahan Morning Show. Winter, who was working exclusively for ESPN Radio before being hired in early December, said “I appreciated the opportunity to join WEEI, but my time commitments at ESPN Radio were just too consuming for me to continue in both roles. I wish John and Gerry and the entire team the best going forward.”
Jason Wolfe, Vice-President of Programming and Operations for Entercom Boston, said, “I respect Kevin’s decision and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
There will be no further comment or follow up as it relates to a replacement at this time.
Yep, I know that headline is a lot to wrap your head around. Wakefield? Quarterbacks? Say what? If we wanted to watch quarterbacks throwing knuckleballs, wouldn't we just become Jets fans?
I know, too easy. But back to the concept here, which I think makes for a pretty cool concept one once you've got the details. Here they are:
The MLB Network will debut a new reality program titled "The Next Knuckler" on Feb. 13 at 9 p.m. Produced by MLB Productions, it features Wakefield, the respected knuckleballer who won 186 games in 17 seasons with the Red Sox, attempting to teach the mysterious pitch to five former quarterbacks, including Doug Flutie.
Contestants will face challenges to test the effectiveness of his knuckleball, and each episode, one will be eliminated from the competition based on performance and input from Wakefield and co-host and former teammate Kevin Millar.
"I've dedicated my entire baseball life to the challenging art of throwing the knuckleball," says Wakefield in the premiere. "Now, I've embarked on this mission to continue the knuckleball legacy. These guys were great athletes on the gridiron so I wanted to try this experiment out. You don't have to grip the baseball the way I threw it, but if you want to win, you have to lose the spin."
Flutie, who I refuse to believe is actually 50 years old, is the biggest name among the contestants, and he's the presumed favorite here to win the thing. If he can drop-kick a football through the uprights, among his various other athletic talents, I figure he can probably figure out how to throw a decent knuckleball. Given his legendary competitiveness, I suspect he probably mastered it before the show began taping. But there are some other interesting names in the mix.
Former Marlins first-round pick Josh Booty -- who was selected fifth overall as a third baseman in the 1994 MLB Draft, seven spots ahead of Nomar Garciaparra -- had 30 plate appearances in the majors from 1996-98 before quitting to play quarterback at Louisiana State. He spent three seasons in the NFL, never playing a regular-season game.
I saw Booty play numerous games when he was at Double A Portland in 1997 and '98, and he might have had the best third base arm I've ever seen in person. How that translates to tossing a knuckleball, well, I have no idea. But the raw talent is there.
His brother, John David Booty, the former Southern Cal quarterback and Vikings draft pick, is also a contestant, as is Ryan Perrilloux, who stuck briefly with the Giants after a controversial career at LSU and Jacksonville State, and ex-Seahawks draft pick and 2007 Patriots practice squad member David Greene, a lefty.
Though Wakefield will have been retired almost a year to the day that the program premieres, there has been something of a knuckleball renaissance recently, with R.A. Dickey (who will be a guest on the program) winning the National League Cy Young Award last season and the film "Knuckleball" becoming a critical success. The Red Sox even have a promising knuckleballer in their farm system, righthander Steven Wright, who could get to Fenway this season.
It should be fun to see if any of these guys with strong arms and no known experience with the pitch take to it at all.
I mean, besides Flutie. Knowing him, he'll probably be in the Red Sox rotation by June. Fifty isn't that old for a knuckleballer.
NFL season concluded Sunday night, the equipment truck departs tomorrow, and Red Sox players are already trickling in to Fort Myers, ready to get the stench of 2012 off them and begin the new season.
All of that in mind -- as well as my own eagerness for baseball season, which never wanes -- Monday seemed like the perfect time to debut a new segment on Radio BDC. So we did. I joined Steve Silva and host Adam 12 for the first of what will be a weekly conversation (2 p.m. first pitch) about the state of the Red Sox.
I had a blast doing this and can't wait to see how it evolves once there are actual games being played. I'll post the podcast version here each week. Thanks for listening.
Rob Parker, who was suspended by ESPN last month after referring to Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III as a "cornball brother'' and questioning his "blackness,'' has been fired by ESPN.
"Rob Parker's contract expired at year's end. Evaluating our needs and his work, including his recent RG III comments, we decided not to renew his deal," ESPN said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
Parker, who like Griffin is African-American, made the comments on the debate program "First Take" on Dec. 13. He was suspended indefinitely the next day, then ESPN announced the ban would last 30 days.
The 30-day suspension was retroactive, and Parker was expected back on ESPN in the next few days.
Given Tuesday's turn of events, it's natural to wonder whether his comments during an interview on Detroit television Sunday cost him that chance.
Parker said on the program "Flashpoint" that he was surprised at the backlash and suggested ESPN producers knew what he was going to say about Griffin.
“We had a discussion, a pre-production meeting," Parker said. "Not every single word, but they knew which way we were going and it’s just not off the cuff, obviously."
During the final weeks of his lone, tumultuous season as Red Sox manager, Bobby Valentine semi-jokingly offered to punch WEEI host Glenn Ordway "right the mouth" for suggesting he'd given up on the season.
Three months after Valentine was fired following 69 wins, 93 losses, and countless controversies as the Red Sox manager, he's gone from sparring -- verbally, that is -- with sports radio hosts to becoming one.
NBC Sports Group will announce Monday that Bobby Valentine is joining the NBC Sports Radio roster. He will host his own daily sports-talk program on the network, heard in Boston on 1510 AM, beginning in April. In the interim, he will make weekly call-ins to network affiliates.
The news of Valentine's new job was first reported by Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch.
“I think in my years here on earth, I have let people know I have an opinion about pretty much everything,” Valentine told Sports Illustrated. “I think I will remain true to that.”
The groundwork for Valentine to join NBC Sports Radio was laid less than three weeks after he was fired by the Red Sox. During an interview with "Costas Tonight" host Bob Costas that was recorded October 22 and aired the next day -- an interview that generated more controversy when Valentine said injured designated hitter David Ortiz "decided not to play anymore" after the Red Sox' trade with the Dodgers in late August -- Valentine was approached by a network executive with the idea of hosting his own show.
Given the disdain he showed for the genre during many of his weekly appearances on WEEI last season -- including the aforementioned contentious back-and-forth with Glenn Ordway in September -- the sports-radio path might seem a surprise.
But Valentine has extensive electronic media experience, most recently as an analyst for ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" before taking the Red Sox job. With ESPN lukewarm at best about any possibility of bringing him back, it's a reasonable opportunity, and one he said he's looking forward to approaching with candor.
"If I have a fault, it's that I tell the truth,'' he told Sports Illustrated. "You can't dictate to the customer what they want and I think a good host feels his audience and understands what they want and need and tries to provide it."
Valentine does have a couple of crucial characteristics of sports-talk host. He can talk a good game, and he's willing to defend his point of view.
“I think the only time I had a problem with someone on the other side of the microphone is when they crossed over the personal line or they were totally incorrect in whatever they were representing,'' he said. "I am going to try and not get personal. And I’m also going to try to be correct as often as possible.”
Couple of quick programming notes. Chat is set for 2:30 p.m. Also, I have three stories in today's Globe -- a look at conspiracy theories regarding why the Patriots were flexed to 4:25, a short piece on The Sports Hub's thumping of WEEI in the fall ratings, and a lonnngg feature on the challenges and strengths of CBS Sports Network and NBC Sports Network as they build toward taking a piece of ESPN's sports cable television pie.
One of the people I spoke to for the latter story was Jim Rome, who made the jump from ESPN to CBS in January, where he has become a centerpiece of the fledgling CBS Sports Network's multi-platform approach. I think I used just one quote from Rome in the story, and I wish there was room for more, because he was relatively candid about his decision to leave ESPN beyond any monetary reasons. So here, then, are five more questions with Rome:
1. Was there any sense that you felt like you needed a change of scenery after eight years at ESPN? A new challenge?
Rome: “I needed to take a shot at something else because I had done the same thing for so long. I didn’t feel like I was in a rut, but I did feel like it was a crossroads, and if I kept doing the same thing, not taking a shot would be a bigger risk than the shot itself. I’ve had a great time with it. It’s been a great opportunity to join CBS. I don’t look at it in a vacuum, because they gave me that show, which is great, but there are so many other opportunities to do so many things, it was a no-brainer.”
2. How aggressive was CBS in pitching you the opportunity to be a featured voice and personality across various mediums -- television, the Showtime program, the radio show, and so on?
Rome: “When CBS comes to you, you don’t say no. But they were very upfront about saying, ‘We know you’re in a good place, we know you’re doing pretty well over there, and you might not just make a move to come to CBS Sports Network, but we’ve got some other things that might make it interesting. You can contribute to the CBS network, you can do the show on Showtime, and the thing is, I’m 20 years in, and I’m getting some of the best opportunities of my entire career. The radio thing was not on the table at that time, that came after the fact, but yeah, the opportunity to do all of these things across the CBS platform made it an easy decision for me."
3. But it's also easy to get lost in the shuffle at ESPN, just based on the enormity of what they do and their involvement in just about every sport. CBS is more focused or condensed, with the NFL and the NCAA Tournament, as well as fewer personalities to promote. Do you feel like more of a priority at CBS?
Rome: “I think there’s something to it. ESPN treated me extremely well. I never had any issues there. But frankly, I’m getting opportunities now that I wouldn’t have gotten there. As soon as I signed with CBS, they had me do a sit-down interview at the Final Four with Rick Pitino and John Calipari. They had me on the NFL on CBS pregame show [on again last weekend] and I got the show on Showtime. And they just promoted the thing and pushed it out and I got a lot of promotion that I never got in my entire career. I feel like I’m a piece that matters to them, and I’m getting a lot of promotion than I would have gotten anywhere else."
4. For now, CBS Sports Network doesn't register in the regular Nielsen ratings because it does not subscribe. That suggests a limited concern about the numbers for now, but that has to be something you keep an eye on, no?
Rome: “You always worry about ratings. They keep score. If they didn’t have ‘em, it wouldn’t matter. But they do. You always worry about them and you’re always being measured. I want to know what they are and how we’re stacking up and what the research says, but in the end, if I don’t take shortcuts and I pay attention to the brand, the rest will take care of itself.”
5. You give the impression on the radio or on TV that you're not someone who ever needs to be recharged, that you're always into it. But is there an extra jolt, additional motivation, from facing this challenge?
Rome: “Hell, yes. I’m not a guy who lacks for motivation. Look, I live in fear that someone is going to knock on my door one day and say, ‘Look, you had a pretty good run, pal, but we don’t really give a damn what you had to say anymore.’ And I know that day is coming at some point, so I wake up every morning and try to find a way to keep that knock on the door from coming. At the same time, I’m like anybody else. I recognize there’s pressure on me to perform and achieve and justify why they rolled me out. When I’ve seen pictures of me and the promotion that they did, I know people are watching it, and the expectations are high. I’m rejuvenated, I’m motivated, and I do not want to fall on my face."
The ongoing battle between 98.5 The Sports Hub and WEEI for Boston sports radio supremacy was no battle at all in the fall.
The Sports Hub, the radio home of the Patriots, finished first in the Arbitron ratings from the period of Sept. 13-Dec. 5, earning an 8.5 share to easily outdistance runner-up and fellow CBS Radio property WZLX, which was second with a 6.6.
WEEI fell into a tie for seventh place with WBUR with a 4.9 share among the men 25-54 demographic.
In morning drive (6 a.m.-10 a.m), The Sports Hub's "Toucher and Rich'' program was first with a 9.1. WEEI's Dennis and Callahan was sixth with a 5.7.
Midday (10 a.m.-2 p.m.), the Sports Hub's "Gresh and Zo" program was second (7.9), while WEEI's "Mut and Merloni" was fifth (5.9).
In afternoon drive (2 p.m.-6 p.m.), "Felger and Massarotti" was first (9.1) while WEEI's "Ordway and Holley'' show was fifth (5.2).
In evenings (6 p.m.-11 p.m.), "The D.A. Show'' was second (6.9), tying WXKS, which took first because of a higher cumulative audience. WEEI's "The Planet Mikey'' show -- as well as Celtics broadcasts, which air in that time slot -- were seventh (5.6).
In the summer, The Sports Hub was second (6.8) and WEEI third (6.4) overall. This is the first book that does not include 850 AM for WEEI.
Steve Hyder, a radio voice of the Pawtucket Red Sox for nine years, resigned last week but is working on a book detailing his experiences calling the Triple A team's games.
"I did in nine years with the PawSox and 12 years overall, and it's kind of lost its luster,'' said Hyder. "I felt like I didn't get the respect at McCoy Stadium that I've earned elsewhere. Wherever else I go, I'm treated pretty well. I just didn't feel like the PawSox valued my services.''
The job as play-by-play voice of the PawSox is considered a stepping-stone to a big-league gig. Don Orsillo, Dave Jageler (Nationals), Dave Flemming (Giants), Andy Freed (Rays), and Dan Hoard (NFL's Cincinnati Bengals) are among the former PawSox broadcasters who have risen to prominence.
Hyder, who was the No. 2 voice to Jageler, Freed, and Hoard and remained in the role when Aaron Goldsmith was hired before last season, admits there was frustration in the apparent stagnation.
"I've had some great partners over the years, super-talented. Last year, they hired a 28-year-old kid. I've got nothing bad to say about him, I don't blame him for the decision, because I'd take the job if it was offered as he did. But to play second-fiddle again was kind of the last straw.''
Hyder said he had health problems in 2011 that he thought might have contributed to his wariness with his role. But he realized upon a return to full health that his frustration with his place in the hierarchy remained.
"You can only do so much when the handwriting is on the wall,'' he said. "I'd be a dummy if I kept banging my head against the wall over and over again and doing the same thing. I have had a great time, you know, I've forged some tremendous relationships with players and managers with guys like Torey Lovullo and Ron Johnson and Buddy Bailey and Arnie Beyeler and guys like that, but at the end of the day, you've got to think a little bit about the future.''
While he figures out his next step, he will work on his book about his experiences with the PawSox. It already has a catchy working title: "The Real McCoy.''
"A lot of anecdotes about stuff that has happened over time, fun stuff with the players, and then I kept a very detailed diary of the 2012 season when they won the Governor's Cup, so that's what it will be all about,'' he said. "I don't think everybody is going to be quite happy with it, to be quite honest with you, but it will be my honest perspective, and it will be entertaining, I hope.''
Rob Parker has been suspended 30 days by ESPN for his controversial, race-related comments about Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III last week.
Parker, a commentator on ESPN's "First Take" debate program, had been suspended indefinitely since last Friday, a day after he had suggested that Griffin, who like Parker is African-American, was a "cornball brother'' who is "not really down with the cause. He's not one of us.''
His 30-day suspension is retroactive to last Friday. Parker apologized for his comments via Twitter Wednesday: "As I reflect on this and move forward, I will take the time to consider how I can continue to tackle difficult, important topics in a much more thoughtful manner."
ESPN announced the length of his suspension in a statement by vice-president of production Marcia Keegan, who indicated the show will have stricter standards.
"Our review of the preparation for the show and the re-air has established that mistakes both in judgment and communication were made," said Keegan in a statement. "As a direct result, clearly inappropriate content was aired and then re-aired without editing. Both were errors on our part.
"We have enhanced the editorial oversight of the show and have taken appropriate disciplinary measures with the personnel responsible for these failures. We will continue to discuss important issues in sports on 'First Take', including race. Debate is an integral part of sports and we will continue to engage in it on First Take. However, we believe what we have learned here and the steps we have taken will help us do all that better."
Keegan’s indication that the show will have stricter standards is somewhat encouraging, though such a suggestion also raises an obvious question to anyone who has lingered for more than a wasted second on a Skip Bayless/Parker/Stephen A. Smith “debate’’:
“First Take” had standards in the first place?
Adam Jones is the choice to succeed Damon Amendolara as the evening host on 98.5 the Sports Hub, multiple industry sources have confirmed.
Jones, 28, arrives from ESPN Radio, where he has most recently served as a weekend "SportsCenter" anchor. But he is not a newcomer to the Boston market, having hosted the online "Adam Jones Show" on ESPNBoston.com until August, when it was discontinued in advance of the October return of ESPN Radio to the market on the 850-AM signal.
Jones's hiring still must be approved by CBS Radio management.
He has previously worked part-time at The Sports Hub, co-hosting "The Dan Shaughnessy Show" on weekends and occasionally filling in for Amendolara before he took the ESPN Boston online gig.
He also hosts pre- and postgame programming on Patriots.com radio.
Jones first gained notice in Boston as an on-air intern on Michael Felger's program on ESPN 890 several years ago. He will now follow Felger and Tony Massarotti's program in the Sports Hub lineup.
Jones will debut Jan. 2. Rich Keefe, who often filled-in for Amendolara, is expected to be the update anchor.
Amendolara's final show was Friday. He will still be heard on the station, however, as the overnight host on the upstart CBS Sports Radio network.
Rob Parker has been suspended indefinitely by ESPN for controversial racially charged comments he made about Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III on Thursday's "First Take" program.
“Following yesterday’s comments Rob Parker has been suspended until further notice,” ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys said. “We are conducting a full review.”
Parker, who like Griffin is African-American, made his comments about race during a debate with fellow panelist Skip Bayless,
“My question, which is just a straight, honest question, is . . . is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?,'' said Parker. "He’s not really. He’s black, but he’s not really down with the cause. He’s not one of us. He’s kind of black, but he’s not really like the guy you’d want to hang out with.”
Griffin, who is engaged to a white woman, recently said he doesn't want to be defined solely as an African-American quarterback.
“I want to find about him,” Parker said. “I don’t know because I keep hearing these things. We all know he has a white fiancee. Then there was all this talk about he’s a Republican, which there’s no information at all. I’m just trying to dig deeper into why he has an issue. Because we did find out with Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods was like, ‘I’ve got black skin, but don’t call me black.’ So people wondered about Tiger Woods.”
Parker's comments were included in Thursday's replay of the morning "First Take'' program. On his Twitter account (@RobParkerESPN) Thursday, Parker did not seem concerned that he would be held accountable for the comments, responding to one commenter who suggested he would lose his job, "Typical silly response. Watch me on First Take tomorrow and Sat.#pleze."
His comments were not addressed during Friday's edition of "First Take." Parker was not part of the show, which aired before his suspension was announced.
It probably should not come as a surprise that the documentary on Bo Jackson, which debuted Saturday, is the highest-rated film yet in ESPN's superb "30 for 30'' series, earning a 2.3 rating in major markets. "You Don't Know Bo'' was a perfect marriage and near-perfect execution of subject and format. I'm not sure which I've looked forward to more this week -- that film, or Monday's Patriots-Texans game. Both had the anticipatory vibe of major events.
The "30 for 30'' series, originally conceived by Bill Simmons as a way for ESPN to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2009 by celebrating stories, moments, and personalities that shaped the sports landscape along the way, is an extraordinary ongoing success and now includes more than 50 films under its own or the "ESPN Presents" umbrella.
My personal rating of "You Don't Know Bo," which was directed by Michael Bonfiglio, among "30 for 30" films more or less corresponds with the Nielsen ratings. My four previous favorites are "The Best That Never Was" (directed by Jonathan Hock, on former Oklahoma running back Marcus Dupree), "The Two Escobars" (Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist), "Into the Wind" (directed by Steve Nash and Ezra Holland, on Terry Fox) and "The Announcement" (Nelson George). Bo makes five. Organize them any way you see fit.
You almost wonder why Bo, whose did-he-really-just-do-that? athletic feats as an outfielder for the Kansas City Royals and as a running back/hobbyist for the Los Angeles Raiders made him a legend in his own, unfortunately abbreviated, time, wasn't a topic sooner. He's one of the first names I thought of when the project was announced. His 50th birthday was last week -- yeah, it was that long ago -- so this is as appropriate a time as any to pay proper homage.
Of course, you knew the legend of Bo. At least, I hope you did, and Saturday's film served as an entertaining, damn-they-got-this-right reminder rather than an introduction. He was an understated, matter-of-fact but engaging interview, clearly proud of his accomplishments but not defined by them. We were awed, but his shrug-and-a-smile tenor suggests that's who he always was, and thus expected to be.
I supposed I had some minor -- well, they aren't even big enough to be gripes. Call them observations of a trained nitpicker. I would have liked to have heard from football/baseball combo athletes who attempted the same crossover move, such as Brian Jordan or Deion Sanders, and yes, that's the only time I'll ever say I want to hear from Deion Sanders. Mark Gubicza and Marcellus Wiley were perhaps too prominent at the expense of more anecdotal voices, and there was redundancy in some talking heads' praise of his physical talent. Perhaps some more former teammates (though George Brett, who admitted he put off going to the bathroom to watch Bo hit, was tremendous) or a contemporary running back who marveled at Bo like the rest of us could have added more nuance.
And I disagree that he was a mythical figure in part because of a smaller media universe -- there was "SportsCenter'' to provide every amazing highlight no matter the season. The difference is that there was no Skip and Stephen A. to boil up some fake outrage the next morning. We saw what we needed and wanted to see with Bo -- the public trampling of Brian Bosworth on "Monday Night Football,'' the home run off Rick Reuschel in the '89 All-Star game -- without all of the ancillary noise.
But as I get older and farther away from Bo's late-'80s and early-'90s heyday as a sports and cultural icon, I've sometimes wondered whether the generations of sports fans that followed thought we were doing the "back in my day ...'' old guy's routine, that he couldn't have been the impossibly superheroic meteor we fans of a certain age reminisce about. You had to see Gale Sayers or Tony C. yourself, like your dad or granddad did, you know?
But he's one athlete whose highlights render hyperbole ineffective, and whether it was a former coach pointing out where he hit a home run that may or may not have ever landed, or footage of him running full speed up a wall while wearing spikes or leaving the Seattle Seahawks defense in his vapors, it was pleasant reaffirmation that Bo Jackson still resonates. Perhaps best of all is the coda at the end, when he hangs out in what he calls his man cave -- middle-aged Bo isn't above middle-aged-man jargon -- while carving arrows after growing bored watching football with his wife. There is no discernible regret that it ended so fast, no lament to be found. And you realize that Bo always knew and stayed true to the real Bo, even when the rest of us were reveling in the whirlwind.
Kevin Winter has been chosen as the new update personality on WEEI's "Dennis and Callahan'' morning-drive program, according to industry sources.
He replaces Jon Meterparel, who left at the end of his contract in October to pursue play-by-play opportunities.
Winter begins Monday.
He has been at ESPN Radio since May 2004, where he has served as an anchor and host. The Hofstra graduate has previous experience in Boston, having worked for ESPN 890 and WWZN 1510.
Winter is expected to continue to work for ESPN, which is partnered with WEEI in the Boston market, having taken over the familiar 850 AM signal from the Entercom-owned station in September, with WEEI 93.7 ending its simulcast.
Meterparel had been part of the program since 2000. Several potential candidates either filled in or tried out over the past two months, including current WEEI personalities Pete Sheppard, Mike Adams, and Kirk Minihane, as well as Winter, Jen Royle, Barstool Sports' Jerry Thornton, comedian Graig Murphy, and others.
Well, I think we're probably in unanimous agreement around here that we hope Channel 4's Steve Burton is correct and, spurred by a secret meeting Monday, the NHL lockout could end in the next couple of days. The winter doesn't feel right absent the best hockey has to offer.
But the lingering question is this: Since no one with stronger established ties to the NHL is corroborating what Burton said on the Monday's 10 p.m. newscast -- and some are shooting it down -- is there a snowball's chance in Phoenix of the report proving wholly accurate?
First, here is what Burton said:
"Today is Day 79 of the NHL lockout. A select group of owners and players are scheduled to meet tomorrow in New York. My sources tell me that an unannounced meeting was held today with a high-ranking official from each side and significant progress was made toward salvaging the hockey season. It's possible that an announcement could come as early as tomorrow or Wednesday."
Burton then segued into an interview with Milan Lucic from the Joe Andruzzi Foundation's "New England Celebrities Tackle Cancer Gala'' Monday night at Gillette Stadium.
I'm not about to speculate about Burton's sources. Presumably, or perhaps naively, they should be strong and have his complete trust given that his report ran three minutes into the newscast. And he has broken Bruins news before, most notably regarding Phil Kessel's cancer diagnosis in 2006.
But it cannot be ignored that at the moment, Burton remains the lone wolf reporting this -- that is, unless you want to count comedian Lenny Clarke, who was also in attendance at the Andruzzi event last night and according to his comedian pal Jimmy Dunn .. well, you read it:
Take that for what you wish -- whether that's a real clue that this is about to be over or simply gossip that inevitably emerges from a good time.
But keep in mind -- above all else -- that reporters who make their living and their reputations by covering the NHL have not been able to substantiate any of this yet:
Asked if there was ANY MORSEL of truth to WBZ report that deal is imminent, B.Daly: "Not even a single morsel..." Great. And now I'm hungry.— Sarah Kwak (@SI_sarahkwak) December 4, 2012
Three separate sources, closely involved with #NHL CBA process on all sides, say reports of potential settlement are without basis— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) December 4, 2012
TSN's Bob McKenzie, who knows his way around a scoop, used more than 140 characters to respectfully elaborate on Burton's report and what he's hearing:
Getting a LOT of questions about a Boston-based report suggesting a significant breakthrough/possible deal to end lockout. Here's my take:— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 4, 2012
If I had info to that effect, I'd have reported it. I don't have that info and I didn't report it. I have no knowledge of any breakthrough.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 4, 2012
As of this moment, I don't believe the lockout is any closer to ending than it was, say, on Sunday. We'll see what happens today in NYC.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 4, 2012
I try not to be in the business of shooting down someone else's report. I always allow that person may have better info than me. Or not.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 4, 2012
So, just to be clear, I'm not saying the Boston report is untrue or not accurate. I'm saying I can't get info to support it. That's all.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 4, 2012
But the clearest perspective may have been provided by The Hockey News's Adam Proteau:
When the NHL lockout actually ends, few will care who broke the story. Quick -- who was first to report the 04-05 lockout was over? Exactly.— Adam Proteau (@Proteautype) December 4, 2012
It's true. Few, especially outside of the media bubble, will care about who gets the scoop on the lockout's eventual end -- they'll just care that it's over.
Burton is yet to return a message seeking comment, but it's fair to assume he must care about the credit.
Because by saying it could come "as soon as [Tuesday] or Wednesday," he's put a loose deadline on his own credibility.
Taylor Twellman, the all-time leading scorer for the Revolution, five-time MLS all-star, and somewhere down his résumé, the occasional Gary Tanguay debate partner on Comcast SportsNet New England, has found his post-playing-career niche as ESPN's color analyst on US men's soccer.
He'll join Adrian Healey on the call of Saturday's MLS Cup match between the Houston Dynamo and the Los Angeles Galaxy (4:30 p.m., ESPN). I had a chance to catch up with Twellman, a huge sports fan and worthy subject for what is probably the first soccer post on the blog, earlier this week.
1. The easy story line is that this is David Beckham's last match for the Galaxy, and I'm sure that will be a big part of the production. But from your standpoint as the analyst, what are you looking for from both teams in this game. It's a rematch of last year's Cup, but a lot has changed, correct?
Twellman: "Well, first, these are two teams that beat me and the Revolution four times combined in the MLS Cup, so I'm kind of sick of looking at both of them. So that emotion is still there. [Laughs.] But you know, it's a rematch on paper, but it's really two different teams. Particularly Houston. Houston has three new starters that have made them a better team than they were a year ago. Both teams hit adversity getting here, which is why one is a 4-seed and the other a 5-seed -- they had to fight to get here. Forget where they were seeded, because it's hard to argue that both of them don't deserve to be here. It's two very, very good teams.
"They are coached by arguably the best big-game coaches in MLS history in Dominic Kinnear [Houston] and Bruce Arena [Los Angeles]. They're very similar in that they're organized, they don't take a lot of chances, so initially might wonder if the game will be very exciting, but it will be fascinating to see what Houston does to LA, not what LA does to Houston. LA is going to play one way and it that will be be to try to put pressure early on Houston. But LA has shown some vulnerability this year to being taken out of its rhythm, and if Houston can do that in the first 15-20 minutes, they've got a shot. But if they go in and lay back and try to weather the storm like they did last year, the game's over.''
2. You joke about the frustration of losing those four MLS Cups to these two teams, but is that something you really carry with you even after your career has ended?
Twellman: "Oh, of course. Stays with me? When I go to sleep at night I have Dynamo shorts on and a LA Galaxy jersey just because I can't forget. It's weird, man. I joke about it, but really, four MLS Cups, and we lost to only two teams. It might be totally different if it were four different opponents. But I see these teams, and I think of my place and my time with the Revolution, and of course you think about how it might have been different. I'm proud of my career, but I'm not going to sit here and lie to you and say I don't wish we'd had at least one.''
3. But you're back here a lot and know the Boston sports mind-set, and it's clear, at least to me, that you're not thought thought of as a guy who couldn't win the last match four times, but as a guy who was a terrific goal-scorer and someone who should have had a longer run than he did. I assume that's how your peers see you as well. Does your success and the fact that you played relatively recently prove beneficial in getting insight from players and coaches now that you're a broadcaster?
Twellman: "Yeah, it does help, because it's still very fresh and I still could be playing. A lot of these guys I played with, and they know me and, I think, trust that I know my stuff. They know that as a broadcaster I don't have an agenda and I'm just going to speak my mind based on how I see something, and then it's over with. I got a lot of feedback this year from players and coaches who enjoyed the broadcast and my perspective because they know it's true to who I am. And I know enough people on every team that they might as well give me a straight answer because they know I'll find out what's going on. I have enough friends still on all of the teams that if they're lying to me, I know they're lying.
"I have to say, it's been really fun. If you'd told me while I was playing that I'd have done broadcasting, I'd have told you you were out of your coconut. I had no aspirations to do this whatsoever. They referred to me as 'Bull Durham' because I had every cliché down pat. I was worried about the bulletin board material. [Bill] Belichick's office was only about a half a football field from our office, so maybe it wasn't a coincidence."
4. You started off doing some stuff at CSNNE, even did a little bit of hosting, which is unusual for a recently retired player, a big leap, and really threw yourself into it. People there raved about the effort you put into it and the willingness to learn, which has manifested itself with generally really strong reviews of your first year at ESPN. You may not have known this was the path you'd take when you were done playing, but it seems pretty apparent that you've thrown yourself into it.
Twellman: "Yeah, when I first helped out on Comcast with some World Cup stuff and then filled in a little bit on 'Sports Tonight,' I realized, listen, I don't have the wealth of knowledge that some of these guys have since I'd only been in Boston for nine years. Anyone who has hung out with me, played golf with me, run into me in a bar, they know I'll talk sports with anyone. But I also knew TV wasn't that easy. So I was looking at it saying, 'I'd better put work in.' But it's not just about working on your knowledge, but the art of television. I never took a class, so I had no idea how to be a director, a producer, to segue, to go to a break ... all of that was new. If it wasn't for Comcast throwing me in there with [Michael] Felger, Tanguay, [Andy] Gresh, [Lou] Merloni and telling me, 'let's see how you do,' you either need to prepare or you're going to be exposed. There was a learning curve and there are still growing pains, but I treat it as if I was a player. You can't just show up and expect to be good. You have to be prepared. I just hope it comes through, because I am working hard."
5. Your career, as everyone knows around here, was ended prematurely because of concussions. You have your Think Taylor foundation that raises funds and helps educate others on the effects of concussions. You've been candid about what you've gone through. How are you doing?
Twellman: "It's such a cliché , but I take it one day at a time. I have a headache, I still have a headache, and I haven't worked out in over three years. But I'm very thankful that my family convinced me to start a foundation and be a voice about it. Just by having a website out there and being able to talk to people means a lot, especially if it's kids who are dealing with the symptoms and don't know what to do. It's a full-time gig, and it's kind of easy because I deal with symptoms every day so I can always relate, but it's also a struggle because sometimes you just don't feel like talking about it all the time. But it's going well, and I'm very happy I did it, because helping just one person would be worth it.''
Amendolara, whose affable if increasingly contrarian style and catchphrases such as "the mothership has connected, welcome aboard" won him a loyal young audience, will host his program from 2-6 a.m.
It will still be heard in that new time slot on The Sports Hub, which is owned by CBS Radio.
Amendolara joins upstart CBS Sports Radio's roster of hosts, which includes Jim Rome, Doug Gottlieb, John Feinstein, and Scott Ferrall.
I'll have more next week on how The Sports Hub may plan to replace him.
Hello, friends. What? That's taken as a go-to intro already? Ah, I'm sure Jim Nantz won't mind, especially since CBS's signature play-by-play voice took more than a few minutes this week to discuss Sunday's Patriots-Colts matchup, which he will call alongside Phil Simms. It's the fifth time CBS's top NFL broadcasting tandem will call a Patriots game this season, and the third time in New England's last four games. They've seen the Patriots dozens of times over the years, and let's just say Nantz thinks any discussion about finding a successor to Brady -- a popular topic around here this week -- is way too premature.
1. It's still jarring watching the Colts and not seeing Peyton Manning under center. How much of a chance have you had to see Andrew Luck?
Nantz: “We did one game, and it was probably their worst performance of the year. It was against the Jets, and they got thumped. For whatever reason that day it just didn’t come together. Chalk it up to a youthful team that when things go sideways they may not always have the solution to correct it. That was one of their poorer performances of the season. Still, though, in the meetings we had with the Colts before the game, and getting to the stadium early and watching warm-ups, and having time to spend with Andrew, you can see it. You can see there’s a whole lot there. It’s a pretty amazing and quick transformation for a team that pretty much jettisoned everybody and put a whole new roster together, Reggie Wayne and a few others excluded. It’s amazing on paper that they’re 6-3, but I’ve gotta say, when you watch the film and even when you see them on the field on a bad day like the day that we saw them, you can tell that there really is a lot there.’’
2. There has to be some envy around the league when it comes to the Colts, who have Manning for 14 years, have one awful season when he's hurt, and have the good fortune of hitting the jackpot with Luck. Especially given how crucial quality play is from that position.
Nantz: “This is a true testament to how important the quarterback position is in the National Football League. It’s a true eye-opener here as to how important it is to have a franchise quarterback. There aren’t 32 of them to go around. That’s the problem. You’re lucky if you can sit down and really say there are 10 in the league that I would entrust to build my franchise around for the next 10 years. I was doing a radio tour Tuesday and I got a question about whether Brady was getting some age on him. People are starting to feel like, ‘Hey, the window must be closing. Like I said, we see the Patriots about every other week, and I don’t see it at all. Tom’s always said he wants to play for a long, long time, and I think he will. There’s no slowing down. He fires it in there like he did 10 years ago. Even though I know the birth certificate says he’s a certain age, the way he’s taken care of himself, he’s got a long run to go. And then you get questions about Manning, too. Earlier in the year we had several Broncos games, four of their games overall, and we’ve transitioned from questions being asked “Is Manning ever going to make it all the way back and be the same player?’ to 'Is he the MVP.'
“I have to say that when you look at the success of the Colts and how they’ve built this back up so fast, it’s got to leave fans in cities like Jacksonville and Buffalo shaking their head and saying, “Wait a minute, we’re trying to slowly gain on this thing every year and build something sustainable, and we’re not. And we’re signing high-priced free agents like Mario Williams. How does this happen? We’ve got the same record we had the year before, the year before, and the year before that. Indianapolis blows up in one year, comes in gets, Luck, and wow, they’re 6-3 and making a playoff run again. It really gets down to the quarterback, again, though there are other factors, none as important as a franchise quarterback.’’
3. Sports radio being what it is, the Manning/Luck thing has made discussing the Tom Brady succession plan a popular topic up here. Is that something even worth considering at this point?
Nantz: “I don’t think they need to worry about that right now. I really don’t think that’s anything of a concern right now. Who knows, maybe Ryan Mallett develops, but I don’t see this as two or three years in the offing, by any means. Yeah, one day, that franchise is going to face an important crossroads – yeah, what do we do now at quarterback? – but that day is a long way away. I don’t even want to add to the speculation. That is not something right now that’s a big priority for them.
4. Can you maybe call a couple of programs up here and share that point of view?
Nantz: [Laughs.] "People are just playing the numbers. Playing the age numbers. Because I look at his numbers and I see 18 touchdowns against three interceptions. A 6-1 ratio. I’m looking at the Patriots putting 30 points on the board every week and there is my mind no concern with their quarterback position this year, next year, or the year after that. Probably several years beyond."
5. At this point a season ago, the Patriots had the same record and the same most obvious flaw -- an inconsistent-at-best pass defense. They ended up winning the rest of their games until the Super Bowl. Is this team capable of a similar run?
Nantz: “I don’t think there’s any question they’re capable of it. There’s that two-week stretch that everyone knows coming up in December. San Francisco and Houston back to back. But they get them at home, and the schedule other than those two – and that’s a big 'other' –it’s an extremely favorable schedule, and you’re looking at a team that has three losses by four points, and while I can hear Belichick saying “We are what our record says we are,’’ this team right now could be 9-0. And it’s not like somebody really whipped ‘em. I know there have probably been some nailbiters the fan base isn’t accustomed to, like this past weekend, but that’s the NFL. That’s the NFL. If the Patriots end up cranking out wins the rest of the year and go 13-3 or 12-4, there’s not going to be anything wrong with that."
Semi-random question while I offer up Friday's media column, which includes items on NESN's latest hire, the late Jim Durham, and the lack of political chatter on WEEI's morning program:
Shannon Sharpe? Magic Johnson? Mitch Williams?
All worthy choices to have their microphones turned off, I say.
As large as his personality is, I think I’d vote Shaquille O’Neal from TNT’s “Inside The NBA’’ off the island. He’s reluctant to offer a real opinion unless Charles Barkley eggs him on or it’s an opportunity to insult Dwight Howard, and more damning, he’s affected the phenomenal chemistry between Barkley, Kenny Smith, and ringmaster Ernie Johnson.
Turner’s decision to pursue Shaq when he retired made sense; ESPN was desperate to hire him in its ongoing to attempt to match what "Inside The NBA'' had going for it.
The irony is that they lost out on him, and yet his presence has adversely affected the most enjoyable sports studio show I've ever seen.
Maybe he'll get better, but who would have thought he'd show more charisma when he pretended to be a statue in Harvard Square than he would on TV?
So who would it be for you? Shaq? Or some other talking-head nuisance? Who am I missing and who should be tuned out?
Note before you vote in the comments: Remember I said "pregame or postgame" -- otherwise we'd vote unanimously for Skip Bayless and be done with it.
My weekly media column can be found here. It includes items on a couple of new hires at NESN, Greg Dickerson's status, and various other notes, but leads with a conversation with Steve Kerr, who will call the Celtics opener Tuesday at Miami along with Marv Albert on TNT.
Kerr, the former dead-eye 3-point shooter for the Bulls and Spurs among other teams and later a successful general manager with the Suns, is an excellent analyst, and he's always fun to talk to whatever happens to going on in NBA.
Here are few of his other thoughts about the Celtics and various other story lines that didn't make the column:
1. I saw one projection that had the Celtics finishing third in the Atlantic Division, behind New York and New Jersey. Do you see that a possibility? They have much better depth than a year ago, but being in peak condition and good health when it's playoff time will be Doc and Danny's priority over all else, right?
Kerr: "Well, it's about time Boston had a challenge in their division. They've had it easy the last five years. Last year was obviously a little different with the shortened season and everything, but four years in a row, they blew everybody out of the water. It's gotten a lot tougher for the Celtics now. Philly New York, New Jersey should all be good teams. Maybe not great teams, but good, competitive teams that could possibly win 45-50 games. Boston, with Pierce and Garnett at the age they are, they're not going to run away and hide in their division anymore. As you said, the job is to be ready and peaking for the playoffs. Giving guys rest, particularly having the older two guys take time off during the regular season, Boston has to do that. I think that makes their division reign that much more vulnerable."
2. The consensus seemed to be that the Celtics would move on from this New Big Three group by now, yet Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are still essential entering their sixth year together, and the team they have this year is deeper than the one they had a season ago, when Marquis Daniels and Ryan Hollins ended up playing meaningful minutes. Did it surprise that Danny Ainge was able to bolster the roster to the degree that he did when there was a perception that he might blow it up?
Kerr: "It's really difficult to do what Danny did, but that's why he's so good. He doesn't miss a thing. They used the mid-level on [Jason] Terry, which is a home run in replacing Ray [Allen]. They were very clever getting Courtney Lee in a sign-and-trade. They benefited from having Jeff Green's Bird Rights and were able to re-sign him. I think outside of the Lakers, Danny and the Lakers had the best offseason of anybody in terms of retooling. I've always been impressed with Danny and the job he does and the aggressiveness with which he tries to make his team better. He did a great job."
3. Now that LeBron has overcome the stigma of not winning the big one, is he going to go on a run like Michael Jordan and the Bulls did, winning three in row and taking no prisoners along the way after finally getting past the Pistons? Is it possible that LeBron's silly "not one, not two, not three" championships routine when he signed with the Heat might actually come true?
Kerr: "If I remember correctly, it wasn't two or three it was seven or eight, wasn't it? [Laughs.] But who's counting? I do think this year will be much easier for LeBron and Miami. Some teams struggle to repeat because they get fat and happy. But I think with this team, there was such a burden on their shoulders to win and they broke through, they're going to be able to relax and enjoy the journey at lot more now. I think repeating … there's an excellent chance it will happen. Whether they win another title this year, they have an excellent chance to have a run where they win 3-4 titles over the next 6-7 years. You know it and I know it, if you follow this league long enough, you know it's just not that easy. I think they're primed to have an extended run. But who knows, maybe he leaves in a few years as a free agent."
Back to Cleveland?
Kerr: Or LA. That city seems to be the destination of choice.
4. Speaking of LA, the Lakers have done the super-team thing before when they brought in Gary Payton and Karl Malone in 2003-04 to join Kobe and Shaq. This is a little different because you're getting a guy in Dwight Howard who is a dominant big man in his prime, but is there any way this will fall short of the hype like the team nine years ago did?
Kerr: "I expect this to take some time. I really do. Howard missed all that time with the back, so in theory he's going to be a little rusty coming in. The Lakers were at the bottom in 3-point shooting last year, and all of a sudden Steve Nash is playing for the first time in a long time, maybe ever, without a great outside shooting team. And he’s got two dominant post men, and he's always played in Phoenix with no dominant post man save for a year and a half with Shaq. Steve’s had the ball and he's had four shooters around him and he's had a wide-open court. So now you look at it, he has two dominant low post men and very little outside shooting. It's a huge adjustment for Steve and for Kobe, and then Howard and Gasol have to learn to play together on that block. So I think there are a lot of questions for LA. But I think by the end of the season they will have figured a lot of that out and they will be very formidable come playoff time. I'm delicately picking the Lakers to be in the Finals. But I do think it will take them a long time to figure it out."
5. So you've got the Lakers in the West and the Heat in the East. Something tells me David Stern would be all right with that matchup.
Kerr: [Laughs] "Yeah, a ratings bonanza for sure and the matchup would be fascinating because Miami really thrived last year playing [Chris] Bosh at center and going small, putting LeBron at the 4. It absolutely killed Oklahoma City in the Finals. Oklahoma City doesn't have any bigs that can hurt you down low. You put Miami against the Lakers and you get the ball consistently inside to [Pau] Gasol and Howard. If you’re Miami, you can't play that small lineup the whole game. That changes everything, and I think that's probably the most intriguing matchup from a basketball standpoint that we could have as NBA fans for the Finals, though folks up there in Boston may not see it that way."
Quick programming note since we've received a couple of calls on this:
The network's Boston affiliate will air Game 7 of the National League Championship Series between the Giants and Cardinals tonight beginning with the pregame show at 7:30 p.m. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 p.m.
The third and final presidential debate, which begins at 9 p.m., will be streamed online at myfoxboston.com.
There has been some confusion because Fox 25 has the debate listed in its program guide online.
The reminder is probably unnecessary and even unwelcome, but it's relevant to this discussion since it is one that has come around for the Patriots and their fans a couple of times in the past half-decade or so:
No matter how talented a football team you have, it is extremely difficult to win a Super Bowl. (Let alone three, or four, or five ...) An unfortunate bounce here, a receiver catching the ball by clamping it to his helmet there, and the confetti that was supposed to rain down on your head is falling on the other, victorious side.
That disclaimer aside, I can tell you this: After watching a screening of "Cleveland '95: A Football Life,'' the latest installment of NFL Films' extraordinary documentary series that premieres on the NFL Network at 8 p.m. Wednesday, I'm almost certain the Browns under coach Bill Belichick would have won at least one Super Bowl and probably more had everything remained in place during his time there.
Of course, you know it played out differently, a story of greed, desperation, and abandonment so ugly that it became instant sports legend. Nothing remained in place other than a jilted, devastated fan base. Word of debt-ridden owner Art Modell's heartless plan to move Cleveland's cherished Browns to Baltimore leaked out during the 1995 season, Belichick's doomed final year among his five as the franchise's head coach.
The result over the rest of the promising season -- Sports Illustrated had picked the Browns to go to the Super Bowl -- was escalating chaos fueled by fan anger, resulting in a toxic lame-duck situation unprecedented in professional sports. It was hopeless.
"I felt bad for the team and the players and the coaches who were working so hard with less than no support,'' Belichick says. "The owner was nowhere to be found. He was in Baltimore. You kind of felt like you were on a deserted island, fending for yourself."
As you might have guessed, this film isn't exactly a warm eulogy for the recently deceased Modell. Nor should it be. He fled the city before taking his team with him, unaccountable to the end. Belichick, as we are reminded with some downright eerie final-game footage, was left behind as a victim of the misguided wrath, receiving death threats and being hanged in effigy in the stadium parking lot. Jim Schwartz, the current Lions coach who was on Belichick's remarkably talented staff at the time, remembers his work being interrupted multiple times a day by bomb threats.
The team collapsed under the weight of it all, and during the final home game, on Dec. 17, 1995, the stadium was in effect torn apart around them, with fans bringing hammers and saws into the ancient venue to take a memento with them. What they didn't want was discarded onto the field during the game.
"I personally never felt threatened,'' Belichick recalls. "But it certainly was not like a normal home game.''
Ozzie Newsome, the legendary Browns tight end and current Ravens general manager who was breaking into coaching on Belichick's staff, summed up the hopelessness of it all: "It's hard enough to win with no distractions in this league. When you have a distraction like that, you've got no chance. No chance.''
Seventeen years after the Browns' departure, it's still impossible not to sympathize with Cleveland, which was awarded an expansion team, retained its name and records, but hasn't made any meaningful history since. But for a Patriots fan, there is another truth in the subtext: All of the great things that have happened here since Belichick's arrival in 2000 never would have been had Modell not moved the Browns and scapegoated his coach.
The Patriots were blessed because of Cleveland's loss. Belichick had a plan there that was aborted by factors beyond his control. In New England, he proved he had the right ideas.
The film, flawlessly executed with that familiar, irresistible NFL Films formula of gorgeous video, miked-up personnel, and candid interviews, leaves little doubt that great things were on the verge of happening in Cleveland. The behind-the-scenes footage of Belichick's early days as head coach are the closest a Patriots fan will ever come to seeing the Patriots on "Hard Knocks.''
In one early scene, Mike Lombardi, the Browns' player personnel director under Belichick who is now a respected analyst on the NFL Network, talks about his boss's attention to detail, specifically how he wanted a writeup of every single opposing player --"not how I would write it up, how he wanted it written up.''
The film then cuts to footage of Belichick (who apparently favored Mizuno shirts and hideous pastel-highlighted sweaters in those days) and Lombardi sitting in an office, presumably in 1991, going over the personnel of that week's opponent.
"Before we get into the X's and O's,'' Belichick tells him, "we're going through each player. Strengths, weaknesses, overall physical abilities, what his history is, speed, you know, all that [expletive]."
Lombardi offers an eager medley of criticism on a couple of players. "I'm not sure this guy's got enough arm strength left to play,'' he says of one.
"OK, so that's a typical report right there,'' said Belichick, his eyes smiling. "Everybody on their team stinks, nobody has any athletic ability, so unless the coaches [expletive] this game up, there's no way we could lose."
In retrospect, it's surprising that while building his program, it took Belichick until his fourth season to have a winning record. His coaching and personnel staffs were stacked with future stars, with nine future NFL head coaches or GMs and three successful college coaches on his staff.
"What was Bill looking for in people?" recalled Newsome. "Bill was looking for Bill. And he found a lot of little Bills.''
Alabama coach Nick Saban was his defensive coordinator for four years. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was plucked from the University of Maine to oversee the offensive line. Schwartz, Newsome, Tom Dimitroff, Eric Mangini, and Scott Pioli were among the self-proclaimed "slappies'' who got their first break from Belichick, much the way Belichick had been given a break by Colts coach Ted Marchibroda in 1975. (Included is some outstanding footage of a very young Belichick lurking on the Colts sideline, holding a clipboard and various colored pens.)
Among the film's most mesmerizing scenes is one in a coaches room in which the respect and trust between Belichick and his staff is evident. Saban -- skinny, bespectacled, and apparently willing then to make eye contact with other human beings -- laments to Belichick about how that week's opponent had beaten them in a previous meeting:
Saban: "I mean, if we don't play our [expletives] off, they'll beat us."
Belichick: "Oh, I agree.We've got to do everything we can to get our team to the highest level we can this week. Pull out all the [expletive] stops, no matter what they are."
Saban: "And I'll tell you what. We may not have had a very good plan, but we had [expletive] preparation the last time we played these guys."
Belichick: "No question."
His coaches were permitted such candor if they had his respect, so they strove desperately to earn it. Newsome, who has been an outstanding general manager in Baltimore, said the lessons he learned from Belichick were applied during his first draft with the Ravens in 1996.
Modell wanted running back Lawrence Phillips in the first round, a troubled, talented player who fit a need. But Newsome remembered Belichick's first rule of draft day: Always stick to your board and take the best player. He chose the player tops on his board, UCLA tackle Jonathan Ogden, with the fourth pick, then at No. 26 selected Miami linebacker Ray Lewis. Combined, they made 24 Pro Bowls -- Lewis could make another one or two on reputation -- and they will be reunited in Canton someday.
Newsome and so many others on that staff learned their lessons well. It's less certain that Modell ever did. When "Cleveland '95: A Football Life'' is complete, his legacy is more complicated than before. Stealing the Browns from Cleveland still stands as his cruelest move. But his dumbest? Not taking Belichick with him.
The latest round in the apparently never-ending battle for sports-radio supremacy in the Boston market belongs to 98.5 The Sports Hub, which finished second among men 25-54 in the quarterly Arbitron ratings for the summer.
But WEEI wasn't far behind, finishing tied for third despite a dismal season for the Red Sox, for whom it is the flagship station.
The Sports Hub earned a 6.8 share in the summer quarterly, which covers the period from June 21-Sept. 12, trailing classic rock station WZLX (also owned by CBS Radio), which was tops with an 8.3.
WEEI, which finished second in the spring book, two spots ahead of The Sports Hub, earned a 6.4 share this time around.
The Sports Hub, the flagship for Patriots broadcasts, benefited from the anticipation and start of the football season, surging in September with a 7.8 share to WEEI's 5.8 in the month.
-- The Sports Hub's morning drive program "Toucher and Rich'' was first in the 6 a.m-10 a.m. window with an 8.6 share. The "Dennis and Callahan" program on WEEI (93.7) was tied for third at 7.2.
-- Despite the Red Sox' struggles, WEEI was first in the evenings (8.9), while 98.5 The Sports Hub was fifth (5.6) in that 7 p.m.-midnight window. The "Planet Mikey'' program airs on WEEI when the Red Sox aren't playing, while Damon Amendolara is The Sports Hub's evening host.
-- The Sports Hub's "Felger and Massarotti" program in afternoon drive (2 p.m.-6 p.m.) finished first (8.6), while WEEI's "The Big Show with Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley" was third (6.3)
-- The Sports Hub's midday program "Gresh and Zolak," was second (6.8 share) while WEEI's Mut and Merloni was third, also with a 6.8. The latter ranks third because of a lower cume score.
Couple of quick media notes since I had a one-topic column Friday, which in case you missed it wss on Jack Edwards, Dave Goucher, and the professional limbo broadcasters endure during a lockout ...
* WEEI 93.7 won the prestigious Marconi Award Thursday night as national Sports Station of the Year. The awards were announced at the annual NAB Marconi Radio Awards Dinner and Show in Dallas.
Awards are presented in 21 categories. It's the seventh time WEEI had been nominated and the fourth time the station or one of its personalities has won.
98.5 The Sports Hub won the award last year. Stations and personalities who won a 2011 Marconi could not be nominated in the same category again until 2013.
Perhaps WEEI and The Sports Hub plan on alternating wins from here on out.
* It's fair to say the NFL Network somewhat marginalized NFL Films in recent years, filling too much of its airtime with cheap talking-head, list-oriented programming.
But the network has done Steve Sabol right this week in paying homage to the NFL Films mastermind (well, co-mastermind, with his father, Ed) who passed away Tuesday from cancer at age 69. That will continue Sunday, when it airs a feature on Sabol on "NFL GameDay Morning, which includes interviews with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick that were conducted Thursday and Friday. Sabol is the one who convinced Belichick to wear a wire for an entire season for "A Football Life,'' and Brady was Sabol's final interview.
* Asked WEEI program director Jason Wolfe for further explanation on how turning over the 850 signal to ESPN Radio benefits Entercom, WEEI's parent company. One way is that Entercom still gets the ad revenue from 850. Here what Wolfe had to say via email:
Our ability to generate additional revenue and provide more sponsorship opportunities for our clients are the main reasons why we did this deal, besides the obvious of partnering with a tremendous brand in ESPN.
The deal we struck is multifaceted and is great for both of us. There is network inventory that we will clear as is the case with any affiliation. We keep everything else and we will create additional content on our own that will air on the weekends.
I'm talking about long form specialty programming I can sell, that I wouldn't necessarily create on 93.7. A golf show, a sports business show, a NASCAR show are among the ideas we're kicking around.
The vast majority of our audience has made the move to FM. That was expected given the landscape in the market. But 850 is still a huge signal and given the audience shift, it makes sense to make this move now to take advantage of that signal and of our ability to drive more dollars for the company.
* Loved Sports Illustrated's list of "The Twitter 100,'' its second annual list of the -- you guessed it -- 100 sports-related must-follows on the social network. (I'll just have to presume I was No. 101 for the second year in row.) There wasn't a lot of Boston representation on the list -- does Bill Simmons count at this point? -- though CBS Sports basketball guru Jeff Goodman is local and my former colleague Marc Spears made the cut. If the list was missing anything, it was the inclusion of SI staffers. I'd put Andy Gray, who finds gold in the SI Vault multiple times per day, and always-insightful media writer Richard Deitsch in my top 100 without a second thought. Peter King? To borrow from Kissing Suzy Kolber: MAYBE.
Entercom, the parent company of WEEI, and ESPN officially announced Tuesday that the 850 AM radio channel will begin broadcasting ESPN Radio programming in October.
As I reported in August, "ESPN on WEEI" will broadcast ESPN's national lineup of radio programming.
The schedule starts Oct. 5 and is as follows:
6-10 a.m.: Mike & Mike in the Morning
10 a.m. - 1 p.m.: The Herd with Colin Cowherd
1-4 p.m.: The Scott Van Pelt Show with Ryen Russillo
4-7 p.m.: ESPN Today
7-10 p.m.: Hill and Schlereth/ ESPN Play-by-Play
10 p.m. - 12 a.m.: SportsCenter Tonight
12-6 a.m.: SportsCenter All Night
Heidi Watney, who left NESN last November to return to her native California as the sideline reporter for Time Warner Cable SportsNet Lakers telecasts, has left the regional network without working a single game.
Time Warner, which began hiring its staff for Lakers broadcasts last year in advance of a rights agreement that begins with the 2012-13 season, announced its on-air team in a press release Wednesday.
Watney's absence was confirmation of summer-long speculation that she was no longer part of the network's plans.
Watney, a popular if occasionally controversial personality during her four years (2008-11) as NESN's in-game Red Sox reporter, was replaced by Mike Trudell as the Lakers' sideline reporter.
A network spokesman would not confirm an official date when her employment at TWC ended. But the network did provide a statement, first to Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News, on Watney's departure.
"Heidi Watney and Time Warner Cable Sports have reached an agreement that allows Heidi to leave the organization to pursue other opportunities. Both parties entered into their original agreement some months ago with the best of intentions, but as Time Warner Cable Sports has evolved toward its official launch, the talent needs of the network have been altered.
"Heidi and Time Warner Cable Sports have parted on good terms. Heidi is extremely talented and TWC Sports expects that she will have great success in her next role and throughout her entire career. We wish her well in her future endeavors."
Industry sources told the Globe that there was frustration on Time Warner's part that the news of Watney's hiring last November became public before the Lakers had been informed of it.
Further, the Lakers were livid, according to one source who was at one point a candidate for the job, because they had been assured by Time Warner not long before the news of Watney's hiring became public that they would have input in all personnel decisions. Time Warner had already hired Watney, the source said, when it agreed to the Lakers' wishes for a significant and perhaps even final say in each hire.
Her departure from TWC ends an unusual arrangement in which she was essentially on stand-by for a year, having been hired nearly a full year before the network would air its first Lakers game.
In August, the website The Big Lead was the first to report that there had been falling out between Watney and the network. That speculation was fueled further when Watney recently auditioned for a role on ESPN's "First Take" that eventually went to Cari Champion.
Watney's next endeavor remains a mystery. She has not responded to a message Thursday inquiring about her status and whether she'd consider a return to Boston. But such a scenario seems unlikely.
While she was popular with viewers and handled her role with increased capability each year she was on NESN, the University of San Diego graduate admitted to occasional homesickness for the other coast while she was in Boston. Her eventual departure was not greeted with disappointment by some co-workers who found her difficult.
Watney nearly left the network after her second year by mutual decision, but the network picked up the option on the third year of her contract.
Brian Scalabrine, a popular role player for five seasons with the Celtics, including the 2007-08 champions, will have a new role when the NBA season begins.
Scalabrine, who played last season for the Bulls, will join Comcast SportsNet New England as an analyst on its Celtics broadcasts, though the deal is not yet finalized according to industry sources. His decision to turn down an assistant coaching position with the Bulls and join CSNNE was first reported by Yahoo! Sports’s Adrian Wojnarowski Thursday.
"Saying no to [Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau] was the hardest decision I've ever had to make,’’ Scalabrine told Yahoo. A free agent, he said he wasn’t yet ready to formally announce his retirement but that he had “zero opportunities’’ to sign with a team.
His foray into television is no surprise. Scalabrine has often said he’d prefer broadcasting to coaching once his playing days were done, and he earned good marks for his work as a guest analyst during pre- and postgame programming on CSNNE last spring during the Celtics’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
He said he will handle color analysis on 11 games -- most likely on road trips in which color analyst Tommy Heinsohn does not travel -- and also take on some studio work. Industry sources confirm his hiring is an addition rather than a replacement, with the legendary Heinsohn and analyst Donny Marshall both continuing in their current roles. Scalabrine’s role will be similar to that of Bill Walton and Dave Cowens , who have contributed to CSNNE Celtics broadcasts in the recent past.
NBC Sports Radio officially joins the sports-talk fray in the Boston market Tuesday when it launches daily programing on the WWZN 1510 signal.
WWZN will carry all of NBC Sports Radio's current content, which includes three daily programs beginning at 7 p.m. and running until 5 a.m. the next morning. They are:
The Erik Kuselias Show: Monday-Friday, 7-10 p.m.
Amani and Eytan: Monday-Friday 10 p.m.-1 a.m., featuring former Giants receiver Amani Toomer.
The Dan Schwartzman Show Tuesday-Saturday, 1 a.m.-5 a.m.
The show that should have some immediate appeal in this market is a weekend program hosted by former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison. It's titled "Safety Blitz,'' which seems appropriate, and runs for two hours.
Harrison's program is recorded and will air at various times depending upon the station, so keep an eye on the local listings.
Channel 25 has hired Brendan Fitzgerald as its sports anchor, replacing Kristine Leahy, who departed the station at the beginning of August.
Fitzgerald, a native of Cape Cod, will appear on the 6 p.m., 10 p.m., and 11 p.m. daily newscasts.
He comes from KGBT in Harlingen, Texas, where he was the weekend anchor and reporter for the past two years.
When the Patriots make their preseason debut August 9, a voice that accompanied generations of fans on autumn Sundays for more than three decades will be absent from the team’s radio broadcast.
Gino Cappelletti, known affectionately as “Mr. Patriot” for his on-field exploits during the franchise’s early years before embarking on a 32-year career as the popular color analyst on the team’s radio broadcasts, has decided to retire.
Gil Santos, his partner for 28 years on the broadcasts and the past 21 consecutively, will return for his 36th year in the booth. Scott Zolak, the former Patriots quarterback who thrived in an innovative sideline-based third analyst role last season, is expected to succeed Cappelletti on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s broadcasts, though that decision is yet to be finalized.
The gentlemanly Cappelletti, 78, was not available for comment Thursday night, but he said in a statement through CBS Radio that it has been tremendously rewarding to watch the Patriots develop into one of the NFL’s signature franchises
“Through five decades, my romance with football and my relationship with the Patriots organization have provided me with a lifetime of wonderful memories,” said Cappelletti a rookie wide receiver/kicker/defensive back on the franchise’s inaugural team in the American Football League in 1960 who would go on to be an MVP, a five-time All-Star, the league’s all-time leading scorer, and a member of the all-time All-AFL team.
“I have had the privilege of sharing the broadcast of six Super Bowls, and amazingly, five in the past decade. The memory of the first Super Bowl victory will always be fresh in my mind. For me, it serves as a special reminder of how far this franchise has come, the challenges that were met, and the adversity we faced in those early years. But as they say in the huddle after a long, successful day’s work, it’s time to take a knee and celebrate the win.’’
Santos and Cappelletti, paired together from 1972-78 and consecutively from 1991 through last season, had many successful days of work. With Santos’s classic baritone and Cappelletti’s genial manner, they were the unofficial voices of fall in New England. During their heyday Patriots fans liked to say they turned down the sound on the television so they could listen to the broadcasters they knew simply as Gil and Gino. Their call of Adam Vinatieri’s winning field goal in Super Bowl XXXVI remains an all-time classic.
But in recent years, the game seemed to speed up on Cappelletti, and gaffes became more prevalent during the broadcast. Adding Zolak to the team last year was a graceful way of providing support while letting Cappelletti go out on his own terms. But for generations of Patriots fans, it won’t be quite the same without him.
“Gino is a beloved sports legend in the region who has earned this well-deserved retirement,’’ said CBS Radio Boston senior vice president and market manager Mark Hannon. “Listening to the Patriots games without the voice of Cappelletti will be a big change.”
During our Friday chat (always a league-leader in bronze plaques and commemorative displays!), we discussed the start of the second half, Larry Lucchino's tone-deaf letter, whether the Red Sox can overcome their clubhouse issues, Ray Allen's subdued farewell, and the usual media matters. Bring along a crabmeat roll and a root beer and check in below to relive the fun.
Bolstered in part by a Celtics team that captured fans' imaginations with a deep playoff run, resurgent WEEI (93.7) finished second in the quarterly Arbitron ratings during the spring among men 25-54, while 98.5 The Sports Hub was fourth.
WEEI, which had finished fourth in the winter ratings, two spots behind The Sports Hub, earned a 7.1 share in the most recent quarter, which covers the period from March 29-June 20. The Sports Hub had a 6.0 share.
WEEI saw significant benefits of being the flagship station for both Celtics and Red Sox broadcasts. The Celtics made a compelling run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, while the Red Sox began the season with their usual interest and intrigue despite last September's collapse. The result was an enormous nighttime (7 p.m.-midnight) listenership in the spring for WEEI, which finished first in the time-slot with a 9.5 share. The Sports Hub was fifth (5.5).
WEEI's afternoon drive program, The Big Show with Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley, also saw a significant ratings surge in the spring, moving from third in the winter to second in the spring with a 7.9 share. It surpassed The Sports Hub's Felger and Massarotti program (third, 6.2), which had been first in the winter with a 9.8 share. It wouldn't be a stretch to suggest polarizing 98.5 host Michael Felger's frequent anti-Celtics approach had an effect on the ratings.
In morning drive, The Sports Hub's Toucher and Rich program finished second for the second straight quarter, earning an 8.0 share. WEEI's Dennis and Callahan program was third (7.3).
In midday, The Sports Hub's Gresh and Zo was second (6.8), edging WEEI's Mut and Merloni (as well as an occasional Red Sox day game), which had a 6.7.
In the 6-7 p.m. window, WEEI had a 7.3 share, good for second place, while The Sports Hub, usually featuring The Baseball Reporters hosted by Tony Massarotti, was third (7.2).
Classic rock station WZLX was first overall among men 25-54, and No. 1 during mornings, afternoons, and midday.
Bolstered in part by the Celtics' compelling playoff run, WEEI finished a resurgent second in the Arbitron ratings for May, while sports-talk rival 98.5 The Sports Hub dipped to sixth.
WEEI, which carries Celtics and Red Sox game broadcasts, earned a 7.5 share among men 25-54 from the period of April 26-May 23, trailing only classic-rock station WZLX. The Sports Hub, which broadcasts Bruins games and saw the team's season end in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs on April 25 -- the day before the May ratings period began -- had a 5.5 share.
Here's a breakdown of the individual day parts.
Morning drive (6-10 a.m.)
Toucher and Rich, 98.5: Second place, 7.7 share
Dennis and Callahan, WEEI:Third, 7.4
Midday (10 a.m.-2 p.m.)
Mut and Merloni, WEEI:Third, 7.2
Gresh and Zo, 98.5: Fourth, 6.5
Afternoon drive (2 p.m.-6 p.m.)
Ordway and Holley, WEEI: Second, 7.7
Felger and Mazz, 98.5: Fourth, 6.6
Evenings (7 p.m.-midnight)
Planet Mikey, Red Sox and Celtics broadcasts, WEEI: First, 11.6
The D.A. Show, Bruins broadcasts, 98.5: Eighth, 4.1
Over the past year, the Sports Hub has consistently held the upper hand in the ratings over WEEI, finishing second in the most recent winter and fall three-month ratings periods and first last spring and summer.
But the Bruins' early dismissal from the postseason and the Celtics' deep run favored WEEI in May, and should during the first few weeks of June as well.
It sets up a fascinating final-month stretch run of the spring ratings period, which covers March 29-June 20. The spring ratings will become available July 11.
The Celtics' compelling Eastern Conference Finals showdown with LeBron James and the Heat continues to draw enormous ratings for ESPN.
The Heat's 98-79 victory in Game 6 Thursday night earned a record 8.2 overnight rating, making it the highest-rated NBA game on cable television since records started being kept in 2003.
The previous standard was set all of two games ago, when the Celtics' 93-91 victory drew a 7.9 rating.
ESPN said the 8.2 was up 49 percent from the most recent conference finals Game 6 aired by the network, a Celtics-Magic matchup in 2010.
Game 5 had a 7.6 rating. The last three games of this series, which is tied 3-3 heading into Game 7 Saturday night in Miami, rank as the three top NBA games ever on ESPN.
Game 6 drew a 22 rating in Miami and a 20.5 in the Boston market.
After a year's hiatus, the popular NFL reality program "Hard Knocks'' will return to HBO late this summer when it documents the training camp of the Miami Dolphins.
"We are delighted that 'Hard Knocks' will be returning this summer and placing the spotlight on the Miami Dolphins, a venerable franchise that had an exciting off-season activity," said HBO Sports president Ken Hershman in a press release announcing the decision. "This marks the first time that the series has featured a first-year head coach and we are extremely grateful to both Coach [Joe] Philbin and the entire organization for agreeing to participate. As always, there will be plenty on the line for veterans, free agents and rookies."
"Hard Knocks'' debuts Aug. 7 with the first of five one-hour episodes. This year, it will air on Tuesdays in prime time after previously being shown on Wednesdays.
The Dolphins may initially seem a curious choice for the behind-the-scenes candor that helped the network, which co-produces "Hard Knocks'' with NFL Films, win three Emmy Awards the last time it aired two years ago while featuring the New York Jets.
But while the Dolphins, who have had a losing record in seven of the past eight seasons, may not feature star power and natural story lines of the Jets, and Philbin is unlikely to utter lines as memorable as Jets coach Rex Ryan's "Now let's go eat a [expletive] snack,'' it won't require much of a search to find interesting angles for the 24-person NFL Films crew that will shoot more than 1,000 hours of video over the course of the series.
And there are interesting personalities. Philbin, formerly the offensive coordinator for the Packers, didn't get to bring Aaron Rodgers along with him when he was hired in January. Instead, he inherits a quarterback competition featuring first-round pick Ryan Tannehill, veteran David Garrard, and incumbent Matt Moore.
Philbin is working for a general manager in Jeff Ireland (a Bill Parcells protégé) who is reputed to be on the secretive side and an owner in Stephen Ross who courts celebrity. It shouldn't take two guesses to determine which one of them signed off on "Hard Knocks,'' which did not air last year because of the NFL lockout and seemed in jeopardy this year because of an apparent unwillingness of teams to commit to the program.
“All the decisions that have been made this off-season have had one guiding principle -- will it help our players and organization reach its full potential?,'' Philbin said in a statement. "This one is no different. We are convinced that our affiliation with NFL Films and HBO will allow football fans everywhere an opportunity to comprehend the significant sacrifices and demands that our players endure each day along their journey in training camp as a Miami Dolphin."
Charismatic running back Reggie Bush, a darling of the tabloids when he dated Kim Kardashian, is coming off the best season of his career. And it is the 40th anniversary of the franchise's 17-0 season in 1972.
"On the 40th anniversary of the greatest season in NFL history -- Don Shula’s perfect ’72 Dolphins -- it is perfectly fitting that Hard Knocks is heading to Miami to capture the start of a new era for one of the league’s proudest teams,” says NFL Films president Steve Sabol in a statement. “After Hard Knocks’ hiatus last summer, I know our team at NFL Films can’t wait to get back on the field.”
Today's media column, which is basically a 700-word wish that Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn were permitted to call Celtics postseason games beyond the first round, is over here on BostonGlobe.com.
Because the column runs exclusively there now and yet I still want to acknowledge it on the blog, I think what I'm going to do each week is something like this: On Friday morning, I'll write a brief outtake or footnote from the column, or a sidebar directly related to it, then add a poll related to the topic. It's rare that there's a week where the topic doesn't lend itself to strong opinions, so let's give it a shot and see where it goes.
It's easy to understand why Comcast SportsNet New England and the regional cable networks that broadcast specific NBA teams' games get squeezed out after the first round of the playoffs. TNT and ESPN pay roughly $930 million a year combined to the league on the current eight-year television deal that runs through 2015-16. Given that CSNNE's ratings nearly doubled the national numbers in the first round, well, if you were an executive at TNT or ESPN, you wouldn't want to be dealing with that, especially considering what you're paying for the rights..
I generally like Dick Stockton on the TNT telecasts -- mostly because his voice takes me back to the "NBA on CBS'' in the mid-'80s, when the Celtics, Lakers, and Sixers reigned and the game was never better. But his partner, Chris Webber, often says things that make me wish for another alternative, such as when he noted Wednesday night that the Celtics will require Rajon Rondo to play "one guard, two guard, and even three guard because of injuries.''
Presuming Heinsohn was watching the game at CSNNE -- he and Gorman at least get to appear on the pre- and postgame programming -- I'd have loved to have witnessed his reaction to that silly comment. I imagine it was something like, "Are you KIDDING me, Chris Webber? Rah-JON RON-do is a POINT guard.''
One last thought, regarding Game 4 that is just a few hours away: I have absolutely no idea what to expect from this team tonight, though Paul Pierce's sudden (and to me, stunning) return to form and apparent health in Game 3 certainly bodes well going forward. After watching him struggle to move in Game 3, I never thought we'd get the whole Truth until November. But that's how it goes with this often maddening and yet so damn likable team. You wonder if they've hit their ceiling, and somehow they smash through it. Their incredible ability to overcome just about any obstacle -- including the self-inflicted ones -- is part of their charm.
Be sure to stop by our always defiant Friday chat, during which we'll rail against Josh Beckett and the wretched Red Sox, praise Kevin Garnett and the resilient Celtics, and discuss the usual media matters. Bring along anything but chicken and beer and check in below to join the fun.
Red Sox color analyst Jerry Remy, who has missed the past five games with a sinus infection, will not return to the NESN booth for at least another week.
In a statement issued this morning, the network said Remy and NESN "have decided to have him take the next week off to give him the best chance to fully recover.'' The target date for Remy to return to the booth is Thursday, May 10, when the Red Sox return from a road trip to begin a four-game series against the Indians.
In Remy's absence, Dennis Eckersley and Peter Gammons will fill in alongside play by play voice Don Orsillo. Eckersley will work the games of May 4 against the Orioles and May 7-9 against the Royals. Gammons will be in the booth for games May 5-6 versus Baltimore.
With each game Remy has missed, there has been a natural concern whether it's more than a sinus infection because of his past health issues.
In November 2008, he had surgery to remove cancer from a lung. While recovering, he suffered from pneumonia and an infection. He returned to his NESN duties in time for Opening Day 2009, but on April 30 he abruptly left the team and took an indefinite leave of absence, returning in mid-August.
He later revealed a battle with depression. In a note in Thursday's Globe about Remy's status, reporter Mark Shanahan referenced a quote Remy once told the newspaper about his depression:
“You didn’t want to get out of bed. The first thing you thought when you woke up was ‘another lousy day is ahead of me.’ I had no desire to do anything.”
I'll have more on Remy's status in Friday's media column in the Globe.
The winter couldn't put a chill on 98.5 The Sports Hub's ratings, with the CBS Radio-owned station finishing second in the Arbitron ratings in the period from January 5-March 28.
The Sports Hub earned a 8.5 share in the ''winter book" among the men 25-54 demographic, the second consecutive three-month period it has finished second after finishing in the top spot last spring and summer.
WEEI was fourth with a 5.7 share after a third-place ranking in the fall.
Another CBS Radio property, the classic rock station WZLX, was first overall (8.9) for the second straight three-month period, with its morning drive (Karlson and McKenzie) and midday (Carter Alan) programs winning their day parts.
The Sports Hub's Felger and Massarotti program was first in afternoon drive, the lone program on either station to finish in the top spot in any time slot. The Sports Hub's other three daily programs -- Toucher and Rich, Gresh and Zo, and The DA Show -- all earned second-place ratings in their respective day parts.
The overall second-place finish for The Sports Hub was impressive in that there was a school of thought that its audience might drop once the Patriots season ended. The Sports Hub is the franchise's flagship station. But a month-by-month breakdown showed that it was first in January, but held on to second in both February and March.
Here is the breakdown between the two stations at each day part:
Mornings (6 a.m.-10 a.m.)
Toucher and Rich, 98.5: Second, 9.8.
Dennis and Callahan, WEEI: Third, 7.6.
Midday (10 a.m.-2 p.m.)
Gresh and Zo, 98.5: Second, 10.0
Mut and Merloni, WEEI: Fourth, 5.5
Afternoons (2 p.m.-6 p.m.)
Felger and Mazz, 98.5: First, 9.8
The Big Show with Ordway and Holley, WEEI: Third, 6.2
Evenings (6 p.m.-11 p.m.)
The D.A. Show, 98.5: Second, 6.4
Planet Mikey, WEEI: Eighth (tie), 4.7
(WEEI has Celtics broadcasts, while 98.5 carries the Bruins.)
I talked to both decorated former pitchers for today's media column, which led off as a look at TBS's baseball coverage this season (Eck and Smoltz will again serve as analysts) but meandered into the Bobby Valentine/Michael Kay fake controversy.
As I noted in the piece, the normally ebullient and unfiltered Eck didn't want to touch the question regarding how he feels about Valentine, which makes me think two things: 1) I'm a buffoon of a reporter for not being able to get it out of him. 2) On the nights when Valentine does something puzzling and the Eck is on the postgame show, it's going to be appointment viewing.
There was one other topic I brought up that both Eckersley and Smoltz are eminently qualified to comment on: the Daniel Bard dilemma. An effective setup man for two-plus seasons with the Red Sox, Bard prefers to start, and he's getting that chance. But with closer Andrew Bailey lost into the summer, it's possible that he's needed in the bullpen, particularly after the semi-meltdown in the season-opening 3-2 loss to the Tigers Thursday.
Eckersley famously salvaged his career by moving from fading starter to lights-out closer with the A's in 1986, and Smoltz thrived as a starter for 14 season, was an exceptional closer for four (2001-04), then returned to the rotation without a hitch in '05. Between them, they have 45 big-league seasons, 407 wins, 544 saves, and Smoltz is a sure bet to join Eckersley in Cooperstown someday.
Both believe Bard can be an excellent starter, and both caution that the shift from relief to starting is more challenging than vice versa. I think the Red Sox should keep Bard in the rotation but will, sooner rather than later, cave to Valentine's wishes and return him to the late-inning role. But what do I know? Here are the expert opinions of Smoltz and Eckersley, which, it should be noted, they shared during an interview the day before the Red Sox opener:
Smoltz: "I had 14 years as a starting pitcher, so I had some arm strength built up before I did it. These guys [Daniel Bard and the Rangers' Neftali Feliz, who is making a similar conversion] have not logged a lot of innings. It’s going to be difficult in that regard. It’s not that they can’t do it, but they are going to need some time. To do it in one year and for winning ball clubs is enough pressure in itself.
"Bard especially is a hard thrower. He'll need to learn to live at a different miles per hour and feel comfortable and consistent with his mechanics. I know both of these guys always wanted to be starters, they were both converted to the bullpen because of circumstances or because it was a faster track to the major leagues. The both have the 100 miles per hour arms, but it's a matter of whether they can get into a rhythm with their mechanics and use the great stuff that they both have. If they can, they'll be fine, but just remember they don't have 1,000 innings of experience as they go into this. I hope it really works for them.''
Eckersley: "They have an instant advantage because they both have electric stuff. They don't have a lot of innings, and when you haven't started, you run into those innings where you throw a lot of pitches just to get through and it throws you off, even those lights-out guys. They have to learn to manage that, because those pitches can add up on them. But either one of them is capable of winning 15 games very easily.
"But the way it is with the Red Sox, with their bullpen situation and [Andrew] Bailey hurt, if it doesn't work out early on, they're going to be thinking of pulling him back in [to the bullpen. That's always going to be there.''
Today's media column, calling out Curt Schilling's about-face as an analyst, is here. I should note that I don't have a problem at all with Schilling criticizing the Red Sox; it's his job, after all, and as I say in the piece, he's offered some thoughtful analysis this spring, particular in regard to the starting rotation.
My gripe is that given his mantra during his playing days that no one can know what's going on in the clubhouse if you're not a part of the team . . . well, he sure seems to think he knows what's going on in the clubhouse, and unless he's a late entry into the bid for the fourth/fifth starter roles and I missed it, he's definitely not a part of the team. He's a media member who now gets his information in the same conventional way a reporter does -- by talking to those who know. That he used dismiss the method he's now using is pretty rich.
Plus, he was way over the top in his criticism of Bobby Valentine and how his stewardship has already taken a wrong turn before a single meaningful game has been played. It's just the kind of thing he would have railed against, loudly and repeatedly and through as many mediums as would have him, as a player.
Chat is at 2:30. The post is below this one if you missed it.
One other media note that didn't make the column, but is something many of you have asked about: Why did it take NESN so long to put new in-game reporter Jenny Dell on the air? (She made her debut Saturday, though a couple of segments were taped.)
I checked in with NESN spokesman Gary Roy for an explanation. Here's his reply:
This is a non-story. Historically, NESN's Red Sox reporter has not been a big part of our spring training game broadcasts. Jenny has been doing what Heidi and Tina before her have done during spring training games, gathering interviews and comments for NESN Daily, since the clubhouse is open and players are made available during the games.
Regarding the taped introduction of Jenny, unlike at Fenway, we do not have a fixed in-booth camera in Fort Myers, so it is difficult to see people in the broadcast booth, so we pre-recorded the introduction interview.
It's a reasonable answer, though I do recall Heidi Watney being much more visible during the spring than Dell has been this year -- interviewing players coming off the field after workouts early in camp, that sort of thing. And NESN did have nine broadcasts this spring before she made her debut. Given the anticipation -- much of it built by the network -- regarding who would replace the popular Watney, it is curious that it took so long for her to appear on the air, just as it was surprising that her debut March 24 was taped.
The logical question was to wonder whether she was initially ready for the job. At ESPN, her online segments were recorded, and her live television experience before being hired by NESN was minimal. One industry source said the decision to hire her from among seven candidates was made in part because of her engaging personality and selfless attitude. Those were not Watney's strong suits behind the scenes.
No matter how clumsily NESN might have handled the buildup to Dell's debut, the belief here is that she will prove a strong hire. Her segments Saturday and Sunday (when she did go on live) were fine. She works hard. She'll get better. Chances are she already has.
Jenny Dell will make her on-air debut Saturday
Dell, hired in late January as the replacement for the popular Heidi Watney as NESN's in-game Red Sox reporter, will be in NESN's lineup during the Red Sox-Phillies game at 1:30 p.m.
Dell, a UMass grad, has been in Ft. Myers for much of the spring and has received rave reviews for her professionalism, work ethic and demeanor. But the more time passed without her appearing on the air, the more curious it became in regard to what the reason might be.
Dell had previously worked at ESPN, but had limited on-camera work, so perhaps NESN's caution is just a case of making sure she's ready for the relatively high-profile role.
After some delay in getting it posted online this morning, my weekly media column, leading with a conversation with CBS's outstanding broadcast team of Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery, and Lesley Visser, can be found here and here.
I spoke to them together at the Garden before Wednesday's practices for the teams playing in the East Regional, and it was a blast. Raftery's renown as a master storyteller was on display, but Lundquist and Visser more than hold their own. Just for the heck of it, or perhaps because I enjoyed the interview so much, here are a few other reminiscences that didn't make the column:
Lundquist, recalling a Celtics-Knicks playoff game in the '80s that he said was perhaps his favorite memory of calling a Boston sporting event. ‘‘I remember Larry Bird, to this day, fueling a run, and he hit a jumper from the corner before the Knicks finally called time out. And we went to commercial, and it was the most extraordinary thing in the world. People cheered through the timeout. Two-minutes-and-30 seconds. And they were still cheering at thesame volume when we came back out. We’d gone in with no commentary, and we came out and let it keep going. Finally, after it started to die down, I said they haven’t quit since we left for commercial. It was amazing.’’
I'm drawing a blank on the specific year and game -- the Celtics and Knicks met in the playoffs in 1984, '88 and '90 during the Bird era. Anyone remember watching this? Or better yet, have a video clip?
Raftery, recalling dealing with Bird while working on a feature to air during a Nets broadcast in the '80s: "The public stock for the Celtics had just come out. I bought a share. That was the gimmick. They'd had a couple of losses, and I was there to complain about Bird's play, and Red [Auerbach] and that was the gist of it. So I got the cam, came over here, and Jeff Twiss [the Celtics' p.r.] director says, 'Bird's going to shoot and leave.' Well, without him, there's no feature. I say, 'All he has to do is shoot one free throw.' Twiss asks Bird, comes out, and says he's not going to do it. So I went to him, I said, 'Larry, Bill Raftery,' and he looks at me like, who's this [expletive]. So he finally says, 'I'll do it if you shoot a couple.' So I shot a couple, and made 'em, and he looks at me and says, 'You old son of a [gun].' "
I suspect some money may have changed hands there given Bird's hobby of beating reporters in free-throw shooting contests -- with the bait being that he would shoot lefthanded.
Raftery, on whether he's run into Jerome Lane in recent years (Raftery's joyous call of Lane's backboard-shattering dunk in a 1988 Pitt-Providence game -- "Send it in, Jerome!" -- is a famous phrase in college basketball's lexicon): "I ran into him at a Pitt game once, but a couple of years ago, the 20-year anniversary, I was on ESPU down in Charlotte, and they hooked him up, and I didn't know it was coming. I was on this panel of experts, coaches who couldn't win, basically, me being one of them. So they hooked him up and run the footage, and he's on and he said that his son now sees this thing and gets so excited, and he said, 'Thanks, Mr. Raft, for making me famous with my son.' It was the nicest thing. I had never said "Send it in" before. It just popped out. People nowadays use "flush.'' You want to say your own thing, and it just comes out naturally."
The play-by-play man for that game was Mike Gorman, who worked with Raftery on Big East games for years. One of the cool things about the video of Lane's dunk is the genuine excitement of the announcers. All these years later, the love of basketball for both of them -- Gorman on CSNNE's Celtics telecasts, of course -- is still obvious and true.
If there's ever lived a superstar athlete with more genuine effervescence and charisma than Magic Johnson, he's not coming to mind right now, probably because he (or she) does not exist. As a Celtics fan, I can, begrudgingly, admit that includes ol' No. 33. Magic's smile was as electric as the Lakers' fast break he orchestrated, his personality as big as his typical performance in big moments.
Save for the occasional disastrous talk show, Magic has always made us watch, particularly when he and his glitzy Lakers were dueling Larry Bird in the Celtics during the NBA's '80s heyday. Yet it's also true that even for those of us who wax nostalgic for those days, we will always remember watching Magic more than anything else for a reason that resonated well beyond the world of sports.
On November 7, 1991, Magic stepped to the podium in front of black curtain at the Great Western Forum and told the world that he was HIV-positive. "Because of the
HIV virus I have attained," he said. "I will have to retire from the Lakers." If you're of a certain generation, the words rattled you to your core. I can still remember the blood rushing from my face while watching the announcement on CNN in my college apartment.
He occasionally smiled, forcing it for the first time perhaps in his life, but his eyes did not. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, the words of this extraordinarily vivacious athlete shook a generation. He vowed to beat the disease, but the statistics countered with an awful reality. As he spoke that day, you believed Magic Johnson, just 32 years old then, was going to die, possibly publicly and surely soon.
Twenty years later now, and we have another reason to watch Magic, and no, that's not a reference to his studio duties on ESPN's NBA programming. (He never has quite mastered the TV thing.) Tonight at 9 p.m., ESPN debuts "The Announcement,'' a look back at that staggering day and Magic's exceptional life since. He's a wildly successful businessman, a grandfather, an advocate, and with his burly physique, literally more larger than life than ever.
The film, directed by Nelson George, is extraordinary as the basketball player and the man himself. For the basketball junkie, the NBA archival footage of Magic as the peak of his powers is reason enough to tune in. But "The Announcement'' also delivers for those wondering how Magic survived the devastating news and the 20 amazing years since.
It becomes quickly apparent that his beautiful wife, Cookie, who has rarely spoken at length publicly about his diagnosis until now, is the heroine of the story, something her husband, whom she first met at Michigan State, recognizes bluntly. "If she had left," Magic said, "I probably would have died.''
And Celtics fans may not want to hear this, but Pat Riley comes across as a truly good man. In 1991, he had since moved on from the Showtime Lakers to the Knicks and was implementing his brand of goon basketball that would set back the league a decade. But Riley gave Magic a shoulder when he needed one, once working him out at Madison Square Garden because he knew it would boost Magic's spirits (it also helped spur one of his two comebacks). Riley's emotion and candor when he discusses Magic jostles the feelings Magic's fans felt the day the news came down.
"The Announcement'' is a must-watch, but it is not without obvious flaws. I'd put it a notch below ESPN Films's best offerings, such as Jonathan Hock's "The Best That Never Was.'' Very little time is spent on Magic's promiscuity and how he contracted the disease other than vague and seemingly sentimental those-were-some-times references to wild nights at the Forum Club, where Magic was the superstar among superstars and women treated him accordingly.
I would have liked to have heard from former teammates Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Byron Scott, A.C. Green and Michael Cooper. Only James Worthy's voice is prominent. Comedian Chris Rock, a longtime friend and collaborator with the director, is overused, particularly when he's talking about the anything-goes L.A. nightlife in the '80s. Rock was 20 and only on the fringes of fame in 1985. I'd rather have heard more from someone who experienced the times with Magic, or more from his friend Arsenio Hall, and yes, this is probably the only circumstance in which I'd say that when Chris Rock is an alternative.
But those are small gripes about a film you'll want to watch again immediately the moment it ends. As Magic, who narrates much of the film, charmingly banters with a crew member, you'll recognize that few men could handle November 7, 1991, the announcement, and the aftermath, with the grace, determination, and positivity of Magic Johnson. Magic's words, as recalled by longtime Lakers trainer Gary Vitti, are sure to stay with you. "When God gave me this disease, he gave it to the right person." What a remarkable, reassuring thing it is to see him alive and thriving in every way two decades later.
A little more than two years after Pete Sheppard's position was eliminated by WEEI's parent company Entercom, he's returning to the station's airwaves.
Sheppard will host a program on the station Sunday from 12-3 p.m.
WEEI program director Jason Wolfe said in an email that Sheppard "will host some weekend shifts where I’ve got some time available."
A blustery everyman who was popular with WEEI's core listeners because of his genuine enjoyment of sports, was let go in January 2010 after more than 10 years at the station.
The reunion between Sheppard and the station began during segment a few minutes past 5:30 on WEEI's "The Big Show'' this afternoon, when hosts Michael Holley and Glenn Ordway took a call from a "Pete in the car.''
Sheppard had teased earlier Wednesday on his Twitter account that a return to the station, or at least something "interesting," could be imminent.
It was, of course, Sheppard on the line.
After some bantering with hosts Ordway and Holley -- they joked that he's been driving around looking for the New Balance building that houses WEEI for two years -- it was made clear that Sheppard will host a program this Sunday.
"Let me check my schedule," joked Sheppard. "You know what? I'm free."
Buzz has been building over the past few weeks that his return was pending.
“I’m so glad, it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Sheppard said. “We’ll take it one day at a time and see what happens.”
At 5:45 p.m., following the conversation with Ordway and Holley, he tweeted: "Yes, it is now official..I am back at WEEI!!..My first shift back will be this Sunday from noon-3pm...Thanks so much everyone!!"
The interest generated by Sheppard's return is a plus for WEEI. It's afternoon drive program, which was revamped last February, has solid ratings but has finished consistently behind 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Felger and Mazz" show in the Arbitron ratings.
In the fall, Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti were first (10.7), while "The Big Show'' finished third (7.0), up from seventh in the summer (4.9) but still a significant distance behind.
It remains to be seen whether Sheppard will have a greater role down the road, beyond this Sunday. There is a belief that Jeff Brown, the VP Market Manager at Entercom Radio, is not nighttime host Mike Adams's strongest backer. Because of Red Sox and Celtics programming, Adams hosted fewer than 30 full-length programs last year.
Sheppard began at WEEI in 1994, when he joined the station part time. In 1999, he moved to "The Big Show," a ratings behemoth at the time, where he provided sports updates and bantered with the callers and hosts.
He also previously hosted the "Real Postgame Show" following Patriots games and has been hosting a Tuesday show on Patriots.com the past couple of years.
Quick and late link to our most recent podcast, which includes some final thoughts from yours truly and Steve Silva on Jason Varitek's Red Sox legacy. Also, last week's media column, in which I hope ESPN doesn't Grudenize Terry Francona, is here. Finally, a new column on Jose Iglesias and how he compares to some other homegrown shortstops in Red Sox history will be posted in the a.m. As always, thanks for the patronage. Snacks are in the break room.
Dale Arnold's contract at WEEI expired today. But he's not going anywhere.
Arnold, who has been on the station's airwaves since it switched to an all-sports format in September 1991, will remain at WEEI in a slightly expanded role.
Under his new deal -- terms have not been confirmed -- he will add some Saturday duties to his current weekend role as the host of the morning "Sports Sunday" program, and he will also be the primary fill-in for morning drive hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan and afternoon drive personalities Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley.
His decision to remain at WEEI was a mild surprise given the events of February 2011, when Arnold was blindsided by a programming shakeup that left him without a weekday role.
Holley, Arnold's co-host since March 2005 on WEEI's midday show, was paired with Ordway and moved into the more prominent day part.
Arnold, who had worked with such varied co-hosts as Eddie Andelman, Bob Neumeier, and Holley, was demoted to fill-in and weekend duty and occasional play-by-play.
Mike Mutnansky and Lou Merloni took over the the midday program and have struggled in the Arbitron ratings compared to their counterpart at competitor 98.5 The Sports Hub.
There was some backlash against WEEI and parent company Entercom's decision to demote Arnold when the Bruins made their run to the Stanley Cup.
Arnold, formerly the team's play-by-play voice on NESN, discussed hockey (as did Holley) when it was a subject of mockery on other WEEI programs.
He gave up his role calling Bruins games on NESN in 2007 when the network wanted him to call road games. He decided he could not do so because of his commitment as co-host of WEEI’s midday program.
Arnold returned to NESN in September as the studio host for Bruins telecasts. That will remain his primary job.
Just a reminder that there's no chat or media column today. Vacationing a few degrees in temperature and longitude away from Vacationland, though the breeze suggests Camp Bobby V. is off to an encouraging start while the Celtics could be described with much cruder adjectives. We'll talk about it all next week.
Meanwhile, because a couple of you asked, here are some January Arbitron numbers. Not sure about Mikey/Celtics vs. DA/Bruins.
Morning drive: Toucher and Rich: 12.0 share. Dennis and Callahan: 8.6.
Midday: Gresh and Zo, 11.8; Mut and Merloni, 6.0.
Afternoon drive: Felger and Mazz, 11.0; The Big Show, 7.3.
Both 93.7 and 850 are included in the WEEI shares.
Ron Jaworski has signed a five-year extension with ESPN for what the network touted in a press release this afternoon as an "expanded multi-platform analyst role." But the announcement undersold the biggest news:
Jaworski will no longer be part of the "Monday Night Football'' broadcast team.
ESPN will go with a booth of holdovers Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden next year, just the sixth time in the program's 42-year history in which it has had a two-person booth.
The move is surprising since Jaworski's Xs-and-Os acumen -- he has the ability to make what he learns during extensive film study accessible to casual fans and diehards alike -- proved a nice balance to Gruden's outsized and occasionally over-the-top personality.
Jaworski will be prominent on studio programs such as "Monday Night Countdown,'' "Sunday NFL Countdown,'' and "NFL Matchup.'' ESPN said the move is not a demotion for Jaworski, citing his "greater year-round presence,'' but the list of sports broadcasting jobs as prominent as being part of the "Monday Night Football'' team is short, and the program is ESPN's crown jewel.
“I am grateful for having the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of working on Monday Night Football the past five seasons with Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and so many other talented people behind the scenes who make the show so great, and I look forward to bringing my passion and knowledge of the game to more fans in more places than ever before on any and all football topics,” said Jaworski in ESPN's press release.
He told Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch that he was told about the move on Monday. "“It’s bittersweet,'' he said, ''but I’m excited and thrilled with some of the projects moving forward.”
It will be interesting to see whether Gruden, an enthusiastic, entertaining, but rarely critical analyst, suffers or thrives without Jaworski offsetting him. Gruden signed a five-year contract with ESPN in October, but the former Bucs and Raiders coach's name is often rumored whenever there is a prominent NFL coaching opening.
Should he eventually leave, ESPN, which struggled to find the right "MNF'' mix before Tirico-Jaworski-Gruden, will have a vacancy with no obvious heir apparent.
“I thank Ron for the great contributions he has made to Monday Night Football,” said ESPN president John Skipper. “With two strong analysts in Ron and Jon, these moves will better utilize their strengths and benefit our entire NFL presentation.”
By Chad Finn, Globe Staff
INDIANAPOLIS -- A couple of links to my stuff in the paper the the past few days that didn't get posted here. And, some wisdom from Cris Collinsworth, whose '81 Sports Illustrated cover is presented without comment.
* Some thoughts from Rodney Harrison -- who will be ubiquitous on Sunday's broadcast -- on why revenge will be a motive against the Giants.
I didn't use it in the column, but Collinsworth, who played in two Super Bowls with the Bengals (and lost both to the Niners) agreed with Harrison that revenge is a strong motivator.
"I can relate to that a little bit,'' Collinsworth said. "There were only four or five of us who were still around and I think that's fairly true of the Patriots, that there's probably 10 or 11 of them who played in Super Bowl 42. It's a new team. But for those guys, they'll never forget. Some of the guys who played in the '81 Super Bowl played really well in the '88 Super Bowl, and you could tell that there was a maturity level to it.
"I also think players who have been in Super Bowls, who have played in Super Bowls, have a distinct advantage. The first Super Bowl you play in, you're in the Super Bowl, and you're looking around and checking out the movie stars. I can still remember Diana Ross, who sang the National Anthem, walking in front of me, about this close, and we were like, 'Aw, maaaan.' I still joke with the 49ers guys that if she'd walked in front of your sideline, we'd have been up 20-0 at halftime. She completely destroyed us."
Collinsworth said the disappointment of losing a Super Bowl never truly fades.
"It was a great experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything, but the pain of losing two is almost twice as much. I'll tell you a story. I once asked Joe Gibbs, 'You won three and you lost one, how much time do you spend thinking about the one that you lost?' And he said, 'All I think about.' You expect to win, you expect that to happen. And when you lose, it's like someone takes a cup of cold water and dumps it over your head. Only, you never warm back up. I'm 53 years old, and I still think about it every day. Every day.''
* Many readers have asked as the season has progressed where Greg Dickerson been on the Celtics telecasts. As he discusses with great candor here, he was diagnosed with epilepsy after suffering a major seizure two days before Christmas and a lesser one two weeks ago before a game. He's back on the Celtics' sideline this week and plans to handle his usual workload the rest of the season.
* Finally, my column from Thursday's paper on Radio Row. Shaughnessy noted this today, but it was beyond bizarre to watch Tim Tebow and Joe Montana get out of the elevator at the same time yesterday, with one getting swarmed and the other nearly getting trampled. Good thing for Montana he's still fairly elusive at 55.
During our always super Friday chat, we discussed Gronk's chances of effectiveness Sunday, the Patriots' air of quiet confidence this week, and the usual media matters. (A Red Sox question or two also slipped past the filter.) Check in below to relive the fun.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Ryan Wendell won't know whether he and his Patriots teammates will leave here with football's ultimate prize until their Super Bowl 46 showdown with the New York Giants concludes late Sunday evening.
But the third-year offensive lineman is already assured of departing with at least one prize: A black bra, his reward from "The Insider'' host Kevin Frazier and his co-host, R&B singer Ciara, for having a passing knowledge of Madonna lyrics.In everyday context, an NFL offensively lineman being goaded into "vogueing" by a singer adorned in skyscraper heels, leather pants, and an undersized Tom Brady jersey could be considered one more sign that the apocalypse is near.
But on NFL Media Day, the league's annual theater of the ridiculous in which more than 5,000 credentialed media members descend on obligated players and coaches, it was just one more silly vignette from an hour-long availability session dotted with them.
"I've always wanted one of those," Wendell said, upon receiving his parting gift.
"You could wear it under your uniform," Ciara suggested helpfully.
As Wendell turned to show his reward to some lingering linemates -- sadly, the wait proved to be in vain for one to make the obvious booby prize joke -- one of the day's chief lessons proved just a few steps away: It helps to have big hair. And that applies whether you're a relentlessly chipper entertainment reporter who would likely answer in the affirmative if asked whether a football field has bases, or an obscure Patriot going for a distinctive look.
Ross Ventrone, the Patriots' special teamer who was cut and re-signed so many times this season that he may well have broken the waiver wire, was clearly reveling in the attention. "Ross Ventrone, aka Rusty Benson, Fox 59,'' he said, nailing a promo on the first take and even slipping in an alias. That camera crew moved on, another arriving immediately to take his place. "How do I care for my hair?" said Ventrone, earnestly repeating a question about his lengthy mane. "Shampoo. Conditioner. I keep it healthy. Love the product. Need it."
Tiquan Underwood, the Patriots' easygoing young receiver, was scarcely noticed on the field this season, with three catches for 30 yards; he's probably more remembered for a pass he dropped against the Eagles. But his breathtaking '90s-style high top fade hair style has made him instantly recognizable to New England sports fans -- the camera never misses him when he attends a Celtics game -- and it made him a favorite of the television cameras on today's stage.
"I just like to be different, to be my own person and have my own style,'' said Underwood to a British television reporter who asked him seven consecutive questions about the motivation for his 'do.
"Yeah, I'd say about 80 percent of the questions have been about my hair," Underwood said later. "Maybe 90 percent. But that's cool. This day is supposed to be fun, right?"
That seemed to be the universal attitude of the Patriots, who arrived on the Lucas Oil Stadium field, accompanied by the Dropkick Murphys' "I'm Shipping Up To Boston,'' at 10 a.m. to fulfill their duties. For the first time, Media Day tickets were sold to fans, and while it's tempting to suggest P.T. Barnum had nothing on the NFL (tickets were priced at $25 but were in such demand that there were a few stray scalpers generating some business outside the stadium), their frequent cheers suggested that they were pleased with their investment.
Fans were given radios that allowed them to listen to any of the dozen or so players on individual podiums. Rob Gronkowski, sans the walking boot on his injured left ankle, was his usual agreeable and goofy self, as popular with the crowd listening in as he was with the swarm of reporters. Only Tom Brady drew more attention, and he effortlessly charmed his way through his fifth Media Day, including a good-natured jab at a 20-something man all spandexed up as a super hero.
He introduced himself as Pick Boy. Your kids may know him from Nickelodeon, but Brady didn't.
"Nice outfit,'' Brady said. "Halloween?"
"I asked him if his regular season game face was different from his Super Bowl game face,'' said Pick Boy, who didn't seem at all disturbed that he was wearing what looked like a green spandex onesie and a cape. "You should write down that he made a face and even gave me some sound effects."
The spotlight found just about everyone. One moment Aaron Lavarius, No. 60 in your program and probably a who's-he? even to the most diehard Patriots fans, stood alone watching Bill Belichick answer questions from his podium. The next, the practice squad defensive end was being interviewed by Marisol Gonzalez, a Mexican television reporter wearing a red dress that may well have been illegal in Indiana.
It did not take much coercion on her part to get Lavarius to put on a sombrero for his interview, which consisted of him sputtering out a few words of Spanish before getting a hug.
It was arguably a more dignified turn than singing Madonna lyrics. And don't tell Wendell, even Ciara's fandom proved fickle. By the time the Giants players were took the field at noon, her Brady jersey had been replaced by a Victor Cruz gamer.
No word whether he too was told to wear game-day undergarments.
In case you missed the note in today's media column, the longest-running Red Sox-related personnel saga of the offseason -- save for perhaps the search for a quality starting pitcher -- is about to be settled.
NESN is yet to make a formal announcement, but industry sources have confirmed that Jenny Dell is the choice to replace Heidi Watney as the in-game reporter on NESN's Red Sox telecasts.
Dell, a University of Massachusetts graduate, most recently worked at ESPN, where she had both on and off-camera duties.
She has been in Aspen to help with the network's coverage of the Winter X Games.
But all video of her on-air work for the network was removed from ESPN.com yesterday.
Flynn is an excellent resource this week in particular because of his connection to Baltimore -- he spent more than a decade playing center for the Ravens. But he's a rising star on the local sports media scene not just for his knowledge, but because he's self-deprecating and doesn't hammer listeners over the head with the "I-played-the-game-caller" stuff that plagues many ex-athletes who end up in the media. Probably has something to do with his UMaine education.
Also, if you missed it, there's an update at the bottom of the column on NESN's search for Heidi Watney's replacement. It's down to six or seven candidates, with the decision ultimately up to Tom Werner, who has a tape that includes everyone who auditioned. So you'll have that answer you've been waiting for soon. Now, if the Sox will just find a right fielder and fifth starter, baseball season will finally feel near.
I'll be at Gillette Sunday, handling the tweeting duties from our @GlobePatriots account among other things. Should have a post or two right here leading up to the game, so be sure to check back in.
Finally, I've posted a few deleted scenes from today's column below. They probably should remain deleted, but you know me. Wasted words are my specialty.
* * *
With the team he formerly and brilliantly quarterbacked, the 49ers, hosting the Giants in the NFC Championship Game, ESPN analyst Steve Young was asked earlier this week to reminisce about the franchises' classic showdowns in the late '80s and early '90s.
Demonstrating that the agony of defeat sometimes lingers as long as the thrill of victory even for the most decorated athletes, it was actually a game the 49ers lost -- New York's 15-13 victory in the 1990 NFL title game in which Young replaced injured starter Joe Montana -- that seemed to stick with him the most.
"The Giants always played us tough," Young said. "Bill Belichick-coached defenses [he was the Giants defensive coordinator] always felt like they knew what was coming, you know, so it was tough to play them. And they were great that day. That was a really tough one."
Despite the Hall of Famer's deep personal history with the Niners, Young said he's actually finds the other conference championship game more compelling.
"I think the game to watch is Ravens and the Patriots," Young said, "because the Ravens have the big boys on defense and [the Patriots have] this phenomenally unique, different offense, led by one of the great players ever. It's unbelievable what Tom Brady does now. He's built a repertoire that you just don't want to miss. I'm really looking forward to the results of that game. Phenomenal offense against a great defense. We'll see in this era who can pull off championship football."
* * *
It wasn't just Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos who got thumped by the Patriots Saturday. Not surprisingly, they did the same in the Nielsen ratings to the Bruins and Celtics, who had the misfortune of playing in the same approximate window. The Patriots' 45-10 victory earned a 44.4 rating and a 60 share in the Boston designated market area for their 8 p.m. game on Channel 4. The Bruins, who have averaged a strong 6.1 household rating on NESN this season, got a 1.8 for their 4-2 loss at Carolina, which began at 7 p.m. The Celtics, who also started at 7 p.m., were even more of an afterthought, with their 97-83 loss at Indiana drawing a 0.7 rating on Comcast SportsNet New England. The bad news for both the Celtics and Bruins? They both play in the same window as the Patriots again Sunday.
During our always charming Friday chat, we talked about all matters Patriots-Ravens, whether the Celtics are salvageable, the Red Sox'
hot lukewarm stove, and the usual media matters. Check in below to relive the fun.
It didn't take long for Tom Brady and the Patriots to take the drama out of their divisional playoff game versus the Denver Broncos last night, building a 28-point halftime lead en route to a 45-10 victory.
And because the outcome was all but decided before the prime-time matchup was halfway to completion, the ratings for the broadcast on CBS ended up being merely very good rather than the massive numbers that some anticipated because of the appealing matchup of Broncos phenomenon Tim Tebow against Brady and the three-time champion Patriots.
According to CBS this afternoon, it's broadcast scored an average overnight household rating/share of 20.6/34, making it the highest-rated prime time playoff game in 11 years. The rating/share peaked at a 24.1/39 from the 9-9:30 p.m. window, which is right about the time the Patriots put it out of reach.
The key phrase here is "prime time.'' The 4:30 p.m. window on Sunday is the most appealing ratings-wise, and chances are that today's Giants-Packers game on Fox will put up bigger numbers than the Patriots-Broncos did on Saturday night, particularly if the game is competitive. The most-watched divisional game in NFL history is the Jets' 28-21 victory over the Patriots on January 16, 2011. That game, which kicked off at 4:30 p.m. on a Sunday, earned a 26.2 overnight rating, a 44 share, and had 43.5 million viewers on CBS.
The Patriots-Broncos game wasn't even the highest-rated game Saturday. The 49ers-Saints instant classic, which aired at 4:30 p.m. on Fox, grabbed a 21.7 rating.
I'll update here with the ratings from the Boston market when they become available.
Ratings are the percentage of all homes with televisions tuned into a program, while share is the percentage of homes that have televisions in use at the time. Overnight ratings are a measure of the 56 metered markets in the country.
While offering up a quick link to today's media column on the potential for massive Patriots-Broncos ratings for CBS Saturday night, I might as well become the last person in America who owns both a keyboard and an opinion to chime in on the phenomenon driving those ratings.
I was wrong about Tim Tebow.
I thought last Sunday's wild-card matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers would go down as his only career postseason start as an NFL quarterback. But Tebow, Demaryius Thomas and the Broncos played an inspired game against the limping Steelers, and from what I understand he'll be getting that second career playoff start against the Patriots this Saturday. Someone really ought to cover this. Sounds intriguing.
But while I was wr-wr-wrong about his one-and-done, I remain convinced I'm correct about this:
Tebow is no one's long-term answer at quarterback.
I suspect John Fox, who has done a remarkable job of catering to Tebow's strengths while wearing a perpetually bemused look following their improbable victories, would tell you as much if you could slip him some truth serum. You know John Elway, as gracious as he has been, is perplexed by how Tebow, a quarterback who completes less than 50 percent of his passes, has mechanics that give quarterback coaches migraines, and struggles to make his reads in what is said to be a rudimentary offense, is doing this. Bet you he'd trade a whole roster of Tebows for one Andrew Luck.
(Somewhere, Skip Bayless just fainted at the thought of a whole roster of Tebows.)
Hey, I'd be cool to be wrong about this too. No matter where you stand on his outward faith, Tebow is an extremely likable player and personality. It's fun to watch someone from a different mold, with an original style, play quarterback, even if he gives quarterback coaches migraines with his mechanics. The NFL can use more genuine uniqueness, and he is a tremendous runner. There's a place for him in the league, and I'll always wonder how Bill Belichick would have used him had he ended up with the Patriots in the 2010 draft.
But that place is not at quarterback, not for the long-term and perhaps not beyond this week. Whether or not rumors of Brady Quinn preparing to get playing time against Pittsburgh were true, the fact was that Tebow had played so poorly in the previous couple of games it was actually a logical possibility that he could be replaced in passing downs by one of the great quarterback flops in recent years.
Doesn't that tell you all you need to know?
The great times and comebacks and 80-yard touchdown passes in overtime are amazing. But they are more the result of small sample-sizes, coincidences, and foolish, undisciplined opponents than his own talents or determination. And Tebow's lows are so low -- he was 6 for 22 against the Chiefs just two weeks ago -- that the Broncos with him at the helm will remain in a cycle of the occasional improbable comebacks sandwiched around crushing defeats. And those improbabilities will eventually give way to probability. A quarterback who can't throw cannot and will not win in the long-term in the NFL.
The Broncos have an intriguing player in Tebow. But they still need a quarterback.
I could give you a confident "no" right now. But really, that's a question I'm not going to have to answer.
So says NFL public relations guru Greg Aiello, who tweeted this a few moments ago about the Broncos' 29-23 overtime victory over the Steelers:
It was most-watched game of season, most-watched Wild Card game ever w/42.4 million viewers, & most-watched TV program since Super Bowl XLV.
The overnight ratings, a measure of just the major metered markets, were available yesterday, so this is not a huge surprise. The game earned a 25.9 overnight Nielsen rating, making it the most-watched NFL wild-card game since a Seahawks-Oilers matchup earned a 26.7 overnight on January 3, 1988.
It will be fascinating to learn how huge the numbers are for Saturday's Patriots-Broncos divisional round matchup. The matchup between the two teams -- or should we say Tom Brady and Tim Tebow? -- four weeks ago drew enormous numbers in the 4:15 p.m. time slot on CBS.
The network received a 19.5 overnight rating for the Patriots’ 41-23 victory nationally, its largest highest regular-season overnight since the Patriots’ 24-20 win over the Colts Nov. 4, 2007. In the Boston market, the Patriots earned a 42 overnight rating and a 68 share.
The highest-rated divisional game in Patriots history was a January 14, 2007 game with the Chargers, which got a 44.9 household rating. The biggest share happened on January 5, 1997 a Patriots-Steelers game earned a 70.
Beckett does take an eternity between pitches, Crawford's stance was a tangled mess, and it was Valentine's job to say so if he thought so. Kudos to him for actually offering an opinion.
In part because those critical comments were brought up again after Valentine was named the Red Sox manager, and in part because I'm always looking for an excuse to watch a baseball game in January, I thought it would be interesting to go back and watch a couple of ESPN broadcasts of Red Sox games from the past season. I know, I should have done it sooner -- hey, it took the Sox five weeks to find a manager, so cut me some slack.
Well ... not really.
The No. 1 takeaway from watching this particular game -- a May 22 "Sunday Night Baseball" matchup with the Cubs at Fenway -- was the reminder that Dan Shulman is an exceptional baseball play-by-play man, and Orel Hershiser is an articulate and constantly insightful analyst, particularly when it comes to pitching. I'm convinced he could be a fine manager if he chose that path.
As for Bobby V.? His reputation as someone who tries to tell you everything he knows in a single broadcast was not in effect here. He was actually ... quiet. Understated. Sometimes to the point that you wondered if he'd sneaked out to teach the sausage guy how to make a wrap.
When he did chime in, it was often about the Cubs -- he's a big Starlin Castro guy. As for his comments on the Red Sox, there was nothing worthy of generating headlines, then or now. But there were some insights that offer a clue as to how he regards certain players on the team he is now managing, and his acumen for recognizing the small details was on display.
I'll probably do another one of these over the long winter -- I have a game he called between the Red Sox and Yankees as well. But here are a few Bobby V vignettes from the Red Sox' 5-1 victory, their 25th win in the 46th game of the season ....
* * *
Valentine gushes about Adrian Gonzalez, who is hitting .328 with 9 homers and 41 RBIs at the time. "[He's] a huge star, and before the season, I said a Triple Crown candidate."
After Gonzalez inside-outs a pitch to left field in the first inning, Valentine elaborates briefly:
"Well, that's exactly where you have to pitch him. If you bust him, you can get him out. But because he's such a good hitter and so strong, he hits this ball off the label and bloops it into left field for a base hit. He's a weapon. One of the best hitters in baseball."
Comment: Well, yes, he's a weapon, and one due to make $100 million less on his current contract than Albert Pujols is on his new deal. And Red Sox fans lamenting the makeup of the 2012 roster so far should remind themselves that Gonzalez, even with his diminished power in the second half, is one of three players from last year's lineup to finish in the top nine in the MVP voting. Valentine knows what he has here.
* * *
- "Lefthanders definitely have to throw inside to righthanders at this ballpark. You can't let that big wall in left field intimidate your pitching selection.
Then, during the same at-bat, after Youkilis fouls one off his foot:
- "Came back inside there, exactly what you have to do as a lefthander. Bruce Hurst was always so successful doing that, pitching here, looking at the Green Monster, he would throw righthanders inside and then throw the changeup away."
Comment: A reference in appropriate context to Hurst -- forever a favorite at this address -- is always a fine way to endear yourself to Red Sox fans. Better yet is the recognition that lefties cannot allow themselves to be intimidated by the Monster -- and can even use the ballpark's dimensions against over-aggressive hitters.
* * *
Jarrod Saltalmacchia homers on the third inning to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead. It's his third homer in four games after a brutal start.
- "Terry Francona before the game said the game was spinning a little too quickly for him the first few weeks of the season. It's started to slow down. With it comes the production."
Comment: I'm curious whether Valentine will have similar patience with Saltalamacchia this season should he get off to another slow start. He did struggle late last season (.542 OPS in September), but there was plenty of reason for hope (16 homers, threw out 31 percent of basestealers) for the 26-year-old catcher.
* * *
Fifth inning, Jacoby Ellsbury is on first base after singling to shortstop:
- "Ellsbury's swing right now, Dan, I think is really on time. He has the bottom half of his swing in synch with the top half of his swing, and I think if he keeps that, he'll be as productive a hitter as the Red Sox could want at the top of the order, with some power."
Comment: That's as prescient as Valentine gets during this particular broadcast, and it is pretty impressive. Ellsbury had four homers at the time. He finished with 32.
* * *
Seventh inning. Red Sox lead, 3-0. Tim Wakefield is still in the game:
- "That contract that just keeps rolling over is just an insurance policy for the Boston Red Sox. He's there to protect the starting staff, to protect the bullpen in case something goes wrong. It went wrong -- Matsuzaka is out, and he's in. And doing a heck of a job."
Comment: Valentine (and Shulman, who brought up the topic) were actually wrong about Wakefield's contract -- he signed a two-year deal after the 2009 season. But the notable takeaway is that Matsuzaka is actually the probable insurance policy this season, provided he can make it back midsummer from Tommy John surgery. It will be fascinating to see how Valentine, having managed in Japan and with genuine knowledge of the culture and approach to baseball, will handle Dice-K.
* * *
Eighth inning, Kerry Wood buzzes Jed Lowrie, then hits him with the next pitch. Stunningly, Lowrie does not disintegrate on the spot. Wood's intent was obvious to Valentine, coming a day after the Cubs' Marlin Byrd was hit in the face with a pitch.
- "It was interesting that the bullpen was loose when Kerry Wood went out there, just in case he got the ejection. I think that was a planned pitch on the first pitch, and a planned pitch on the second pitch. Kerry earns some stripes [with his teammates]."
Later, Valentine on same topic:
- "I was managing here when Don Slaught was hit in the face by Oil Can Boyd. As we carried him off the field, I said, "Donnie, whaddaya think?" He says, 'Please get the first hitter.' The first hitter happened to be Don Baylor. My pitcher, Dwayne Henry, got Don Baylor, Baylor walked down to first base understanding what was going on, and we played the rest of the game."
Comment: Well, it's a nice anecdote, and a clue that Valentine values the unwritten rules of baseball. But who would have thought he was more into telling stories than making candid assessments during his broadcasting days?
Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn will begin their 31st season together calling Celtics games tonight when the 0-2 Celtics (who have opened with two national TV games) take on the New Orleans Hornets on Comcast SportsNet New England.
I chatted all things Celtics with Gorman, of whom I've often said is as good as it gets when it comes to basketball play-by-play, earlier today.
Here's some of the conversation to feed your pregame basketball jones, including his educated guess that rookie JaJuan Johnson (pictured) gets meaningful playing time tonight:
Doc Rivers has always done a great job of keeping the big picture in perspective, of resting guys even it costs them a game or two in the standings along the way. But it's going to be challenging this year if there are injuries -- Ray Allen has played more than 40 minutes in each of the first two games with Paul Pierce out -- even though it is absolutely imperative. I mean, the schedule gets brutal. There are 17 games in March alone. That's incredible:
Gorman: "Yeah, it is. Doc will be the first one to tell you that he goes into these games with a plan on how he's going to keep the minutes down, and then he gets involved in the game and he looks up and somebody's got 36, 37 minutes. This is virgin territory for both coaches and players on how they're going to take care of themselves and how they're best going to be cautious, I guess is the word now, so that when you get into that stretch in March and early April when you head to the playoffs, you have a complete team and not a team that's flat-out exhausted. It requires a change in style, and again, Doc will be the first one to tell you, he's probably going to have to play rookies more. A little inside information: We're sitting on the bus last night, about to leave Miami, and JaJuan Johnson gets on the bus and Doc looks up and says, "You gotta be ready tomorrow night." This is a difficult situation, the third game in four nights, back-to-back on the road, we checked into the hotel in New Orleans this morning at about 3:30 a.m. You're going to have to play kids, you're going to have to play guys, who in the usual year you'd go 30 or 40 games before you start working somebody into the lineup. Now you go 5 or 10 games.
"From where I sit as a broadcaster, it's exciting because I want to see JaJuan Johnson play, and it will be good to find out how much of a contributor he or someone like E'Twaun Moore can be. I think it begins tonight and it's an interesting situation for Doc tonight. You drop those first two games of the season, and you don't want to start out on a three-game losing streak. You go to New Orleans, and that's a beatable team, so you want to go out and get that win tonight. But in situations like this, when you look at their schedule, you know these are the times when you have to play rookies. So JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore might just find themselves on the court in a close game tonight.
"In March and April, it really gets nasty, which for this ball club ... I don't want to say it could be a problem, Doc is going to have to be proactive in how much rest he gives guys, how much he plays guys. And the toughest part of the schedule is definitely the final 30 percent of it, and that's also where he's going to want to get guys rested before the playoffs."
You almost want to give them a mulligan for the 0-2 start. Losing at New York by 2 points then at Miami. That's two teams that always want to beat this particular group of Celtics, the Heat are the odds-on favorite to win the championship, and the Celtics nearly stole both games without No. 34. It's a pretty encouraging 0-2, isn't it?:
Gorman: "I like the golf analogy there, because playing without Paul Pierce is like playing without your driver. Tommy [Heinsohn] was pointing out last night during the postgame show, there are two major things that Paul Pierce means to this team among a lot of other things. He forces you to spread the floor and he brings the 3-point shot. Last night in Miami, the Celtics took only five 3-point field goals, which was the lowest number they've attempted since Kevin Garnett showed up here. Paul is missed, and I agree that the mulligan is deserved. But there's no mulligan tonight. The Celtics obviously consider themselves and are a better basketball team than New Orleans, and they need to go out and prove it tonight."
It's only two games, but one thing that jumps out here is that there is probably no reason to worry any further about how engaged Rajon Rondo will be after hearing his name in trade rumors. He's been excellent even by his standards.
Gorman: "Yeah, I don't think there's any question that he's engaged through these first two games. You know, Rajon is a special player, and Chris Paul is a special player. I kind of kept my mouth shut, but I marveled at how much was written and said and talked about with the Rondo situation and whether his feelings would be hurt. My two observations were, one, I didn't hear anybody suggest the Celtics were trading Rondo to the Knicks for Toney Douglas, you know? The only name that was ever mentioned was Chris Paul. And Chris Paul and Rondo along with Deron Williams are in any discussion about the best point guards in the league. If I'm Rondo and I'm hearing I might be traded for Chris Paul, I might be feeling pretty good about myself. And then as as Doc said that to Rajon, and as I also said to Rajon, he smiled and said, 'I know,' and I believe that. The time to worry is when nobody is talking about you in trade talks. You want to be in demand. You don't want to be the guy nobody talks about or covets. I think it was much ado about nothing in the offseason, I think that Rajon is headed for an All-Star season. Tommy has said from the very beginning that he's a Hall of Fame player ultimately, and he's certainly playing like one right now."
I don't want to dwell on something that's never going to happen now that Chris Paul is a Clipper, but the resistance to trade Rondo for Paul seemed like a parochial thing. Rondo is so fun to watch and so talented that fans who follow the Celtics but who probably aren't huge NBA fans overall didn't comprehend how good Paul is.
Gorman: "Oh, I think that's a fair assumption, sure. Chris Paul played in New Orleans, he wasn't on TV a lot. Even if you were an NBA junkie and you were watching Turner or ESPN, you still didn't see Chris Paul. He was the guy you saw on 'SportsCenter,' or "SportsNet Central" but that's about it. If you happen to live inside the game, you know that Chris Paul is just a terrific player. But he wasn't necessarily featured, especially as you got deeper into the playoffs, so parochialism definitely played a big part in letting Rondo go."
Apply the two-games caveat again, is there anything that you've seen that has surprised you so far?
Gorman: "I don't want to say he's a big surprise, but a player who is better than we thought is Brandon Bass. Really brings a very solid contribution to the front court. I think this is a guy whose minutes you are going to see increase. He played 32 minutes last night, and for a guy coming off the bench, that's a pretty good night. We're going to see a lot of nights where Brandon Bass is in the 30-plus category in minutes played. He's a good player, takes good shots, defends, he's an offensive rebounder, and that's something we haven't had around here in a long time."
He seems to do a lot of the same things Big Baby did without the melodrama.
Gorman: "You said that, Chad, not me." [Laughs.]
Doc has been pretty good about implying that too. But it does bring up an interesting point -- because it ended badly for Baby here, it's easy to forget a lot of the good things he did when he was, well, engaged, and taking charges, and not taking shots so bad that even World B. Free probably would have passed in those circumstances, you know?
Gorman: "I couldn't agree with you more. Nobody took charges better than Glen Davis did. And charges get you a possession back and force a turnover on the other side, so there are a few things that he did well that Brendan still needs to show us. It's kind of ironic that these two guys went to college together [at LSU] and have been friends forever. I really like the deal and hear a few things out of Orlando that Glen is struggling a little bit in Stan Van Gundy's system ...
I can see that.
Gorman: "... yeah, I can see that, too. So yeah, I think the Celtics made a terrific deal. And the other story I couldn't feel better about is Marquis Daniels. All of us watched him taken off the court [on a stretcher last year with a neck injury] and wondering if the kid was ever going to walk again love having him back and playing well. I would tell you he's one of the nicer guys on this team, a good kid, and it does my heart good to see him back out there, playing pain-free, and doing what he wants to do."
He seems to be one of those players who, if you see him once, you probably don't think twice about him. But if you see him for 10 or 12 games, at some point it dawns on you all of the little things that he does well.
Gorman: "I try to think of a way to say this and it never comes out quite right, but he really has this way of slowing the game down. It's like when the ball gets in his hands, everything comes down a level, the pace and tempo. There are only a handful of players I've seen in the years I've been doing this who are able to do that. When you look, he puts up shots, and you think, 'Why wasn't that blocked?' But he dictates the way the defense plays him and the tempo of the game when the ball is in his hands. He's going to be a good contributor this year in a lot of ways for the Celtics."
So much of their success this season is going to be determined by the big guys. Jermaine O'Neal had a pretty ugly stat line at Miami, but expectations for him are pretty realistic. But what about KG? The Heat made him look slow at times, and he had just five rebounds. Are we going to see more peaks and valleys with him this year than we've seen in the past?
Gorman: "Yeah, I think Kevin is going to have to play more at the center position than he is used to or than he has had to do before. I'm not big on who's in the starting five. What's more important is who's on the floor in the final minutes of a close game, and I think you'll see a lot of Kevin Garnett at the center position with Brandon Bass on the floor as we head down the stretch. I think at some point, I hope the Celtics find a way to get Greg Stiemsma a look. Mostly because of what he does is what we need -- he's a shot-blocker, and he's not looking to shoot the ball. There are enough guys on the team who can shoot the ball. He seems very comfortable in that role. So he, along with the other kids Moore and Johnson, are guys that just have to play. The schedule is going to dictate it. Once you get into that stretch in March and April, these guys have to see minutes."
The fall Arbitron ratings saw continued big numbers for 98.5 The Sports Hub as well as a significant boost for WEEI during its first period simulcasting on FM.
The Sports Hub, which had won the previous two Arbitron quarterly ratings periods, finished second in the "fall book", which covers the period from Oct. 15-Dec. 7, with a 9.4 share among men 25-54.
It was second to WZLX (9.9), a classic-rock station that had the best ratings in its 26-year history. The Sports Hub's share was up from its first-place 7.5 over the summer. Its programs finished first in morning and afternoon drive.
But there was plenty of encouraging news for WEEI, which was third (6.4) in the fall, up from its tie for eighth (4.6) during the summer book.
The main significance of this ratings period, which covers Oct.15-Dec. 7, is that it is the first full three-month book since WEEI began simulcasting on 93.7 FM on Sept. 12. Its share includes listeners on both 93.7-FM and 850-AM stations.
Here is the breakdown among the specific day parts:
Morning drive (6-10 a.m.): The Sports Hub's Toucher and Rich program was first with a 10.8 share, up slightly from its first-place finish in the summer (10.3). WEEI's Dennis and Callahan program was third (7.9), up from fifth (5.8) over the summer. They were sandwiched around WZLX's Karlson and McKenzie Show, which was second (10.4).
Middays (10 a.m.-noon): The Sports Hub's Gresh and Zolak finished second (9.9) to WZLX's Carter Alan (13.5), but its share was up from its No. 1 finish over the summer (9.5). WEEI's Mut and Merloni program made a huge leap forward, finishing tied for third (5.9). It was 13th in the summer (3.1).
Afternoon drive (2-6 p.m.): The Sports Hub's Felger and Massarotti were first again (10.7, up from 9.3), while WEEI's Big Show featuring Michael Holley and Glenn Ordway too third (7.0), up from seventh in the summer (4.9).
Evenings (6-11 p.m.): The Sports Hub, featuring the DA Show and Bruins broadcasts, tied for second (7.0). It was 11th (3.6) over the summer. WEEI, with the Planet Mikey Show and other programming such as Monday Night Football, was fourth (6.5). It was third (7.2) in the summer.
You've probably seen TNT's "NBA Forever" commercial that aired before yesterday's Celtics-Knicks season tipoff all over the Internets by now. But it's just so mesmerizing, perfectly executed like a DJ backboard pass to Bird, that I must post it here.
Using editing technology beyond my comprehension to meld past NBA legends in photos and footage with contemporary stars, it's ... well, if it's not the greatest commercial in the history of the NBA, I've forgotten anything better.
Sure, the Bird/Magic Converse ad is classic, and this excellent compilation of the 50 greatest NBA commercials is guaranteed to entertain/distract you for the rest of the day. But nothing else quite measures up to "NBA Forever,'' in part because the point in the others isn't as meaningful. They're all selling something, but with this commercial, TNT has done a masterful job of using nostalgia and rich history to remind even a Grinch still angry about the lockout that the NBA's return is a welcome present.
You bet I'm buying.
Here are a few of my favorite highlights after watching it approximately 33 times this morning:
:02: Paul Pierce jogging out of the tunnel with the dynasty Celtics of the last '50s or early '60s. Recognize that handsome fella right in front of Pierce? Hint: "YOU'RE GONNA CALL THAT A HAHD FOUL?? If you knew that was Tommy Heinsohn, you earn a Tommy Point.
:06: Kobe and Magic paired together. Shiver. It's funny to realize how close they did come to becoming teammates -- Magic's ill-fated 32-game comeback in 1995-96 came the year before 18-year-old Kobe joined the Lakers straight out of high school. But that's challenged as the best "Can you imagine if they played together at their peak?" pairing in the whole video ...
:20: ... by the triangle of Michael Jordan, Derrick Rose, and Scottie Pippen. Nice of the editors to allow Bill Cartwright to remain in the clip, though I suspect he accidentally knocked out the fifth Bulls starter (Artis Gilmore? Jerry Sloan?) with an inadvertent elbow.
:39 Bird ducking the shoulder into Dirk. Just ... awesome. You know, Cedric Maxwell took a lot of heat a few years ago for suggesting that Nowitzki was equal to or better than his former Celtics teammate, and at the time, it did seem that Max was partially motivated by his festering frustration that Bird had signed off Red Auerbach's deal that sent him to the Clippers for Bill Walton before the 1985-86 season. But taking our understandable nobody-did-it-better perspective on Bird out of the equation, and considering all that Dirk did this year -- including overcoming his rep for shrinking in big moments -- while leading the Mavs to the title ... it is a fair question and a fun debate, and one that tilts Dirk's way in certain categories. But six seconds on the clock, score tied, and doomed to an eternity of eating nothing but Chicken McNuggets if you lose, Larry's getting the last shot. I mean, have you ever looked at a McNugget?
:41: A trio of inspired pairings: Charles Barkley and Carmelo Anthony (you'd think they'd be yapping at each other but they aren't), Kevin Durant and George Gervin (gotta be the two lankiest, finger-rollingest scoring machines in NBA history), Steve Nash and fellow magician Pistol Pete Maravich ...
:49: ... and then it ends. LeBron dunking over Dr. J? Sorry, the wrong No. 6 is bringing the thunder there.
1:08: Bird kicking to Ray Allen for a three. Beautiful. I'd still rather have Larry take the must-make shot, but if you don't think Allen is in the top five options, take a look at his cumulative numbers and his career percentages overall, from 3, and the free throw line and find me five better shooters in the history of the sport. I triple-dog-dare you.
1:32: The late Croatian legend Drazen Petrovic, who died in a car accident in 1993 at age 28 just when he was starting to show what he could do in the NBA. A nice touch, coming right at the lyrics "... live forever," and a savvy reminder that the NBA has gone world-wide since his death.
1:43: A Jordan-Rose fist bump, and finis. My only gripe? No clip of Greg Kite awkwardly giving a high-five to Greg Steimsma after the Bird-Allen connection. Maybe next Christmas.
Sunday's matchup between the Patriots and Broncos -- or Tom Brady vs. Tim Tebow if you work in promotions -- was so desirable to the networks that air NFL games that CBS and NBC battled over the right to air the game early last week. The reason was simple: Ratings were certain to be enormous.
NBC lost out on its bid to "flex" the game into prime-time, CBS retained it in the 4:15 p.m. window, and today the predictions of enormous Nielsen ratings were confirmed.
CBS received a 19.5 overnight rating for the Patriots' 41-23 victory, as first reported by the Sports Business Journal. The game was available in more markets than any other CBS has aired this season.
It is the network's highest regular-season overnight since the Patriots' 24-20 win over the Colts Nov. 4, 2007. Both teams entered that game undefeated.
I'll update with Boston numbers when they become available. According to the Denver Post, the game pulled a 40.6 rating and 74 share in the Denver market.
Update: In the Boston DMA, the Patriots earned a 42 overnight rating and a 68 share according to an industry source. Both numbers are expected to rise even higher once Nielsen announces the final household figures later in the week.
It could well end up the second-highest rated game locally in Patriots history. The top five in terms of household rating:
1. Patriots @ Giants, Dec. 29, 2007: 50.10
2. Dolphins @ Patriots, Dec. 7, 2003: 43.80
3. Packers at Patriots, Dec. 19, 2010: 42.62
4. Jets at Patriots, Dec. 6, 2010: 42.20
5. Colts at Patriots, Nov. 21, 2010: 42.04
But there were some notable developments in the new agreement, which begins in 2014 once the current eight-year deal expires and runs through 2022. Among them:
- The NFL will have a limited option to move NFC games between Fox and CBS beginning in ’14 with the intent of bringing regional games to a wider audience. It will mark the first time that CBS, which has owned rights to AFC games since 1998, will also broadcast some NFC games in the same season. Fox will retain the NFC rights it has had since 1994 and will also carry some AFC games.
- Specific details of the new flex scheduling agreement — which includes those potential Fox/CBS game swaps — have not yet been released by the league. The current flex scheduling system, which allows for appealing late-season Sunday matchups to be moved to 4:15 p.m. on Fox and CBS as well as NBC’s prime-time ‘‘Sunday Night Football’’ slot, will remain in its current format until 2014.
- NBC will pick up a prime-time Thanksgiving game next season and in 2014 will get a divisional playoff game from CBS or Fox. In return, it will lose one of the two wild-card games it currently carries. ESPN, which extended its ‘‘Monday Night Football’’ rights deal with the NFL in September for eight years and $15.2 billion, is expected to receive the wild card game.
- The package of Thursday night games on NFL Network will expand next season, though the specific number has not been determined. Currently, it carries eight games in the season’s second half.
- NBC will add a Sunday morning pregame show on the NBC Sports Network, which will change its name from Versus in January. The NFL season will also continue to open with a Thursday night game on NBC.
- Each network will broadcast three Super Bowls over the length of the extension. NBC, which has the rights to the 2012 Super Bowl under the current deal, gets the 2015, ’18, and ’21 championships. CBS, which has the ’13 Super Bowl rights, gets the milestone Super Bowl L game in 2016 as well as ’19, and ’22, while Fox has the 2014, ’17 and ’20 games.
The terms of the extension were not announced by the league or the three networks. USA Today reported the extension brings a 60-percent increase in rights fees over the collective $1.93 billion CBS, Fox and NBC currently pay the league annually, with the three networks eventually totaling $3.1 billion per year. That does not include the $1.8 billion ESPN will pay annually.
‘‘These agreements underscore the NFL’s unique commitment to broadcast television that no other sport has,’’ said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. ‘‘The agreements would not have been possible without our new 10-year labor agreement and the players deserve great credit. Long-term labor peace is allowing the NFL to continue to grow.’’
The deal also includes ‘‘TV everywhere’’ rights, allowing each network to simulcast games it is broadcasting on television on tablets and other digital platforms. This does not include mobile phones because Verizon has a separate agreement with the NFL.
If you missed it, Friday's media column led off with a look at the MLB Network's "Clubhouse Confidential,'' the network's innovative, sabermetrically-oriented program hosted by Brian Kenny, the incisive and opinionated former ESPN anchor and host.
And if you read it and had a hunch that I was using my media forum on the occasion of the Albert Pujols-to-the-Angels blockbuster to not-so-covertly talk baseball, well ... maybe. Please don't tell my boss.
In all seriousness, I had a blast talking to Kenny, with whom I share a similar approach to evaluating baseball players: Ask the right questions, gather as much information as possible, put it into context, and draw informed conclusions from there.
During our interview, he provided plenty of informed conclusions that didn't make the column, including thoughts on Tim Raines, Dwight Evans, the meaning of relief ace, and how to make sabermetrics accessible to
Harold Reynolds the fan who trusts their eyes more than statistics. We even somehow mentioned Wayne Garland.
Here's the (long but hopefully entertaining) Q&A ...
* * *
The resistance from -- I guess you could call it the long-established media, since mainstream applies to the internet these days -- seems to be fading. Writers such as Keith Law or Dave Cameron at Fangraphs have BBWAA membership, which is a wonderful, progressive development. But there's still that challenge of making sabermetrics accessible to the those who are skeptical or intimidated. How do you approach that challenge on the show?
Kenny:"That's always the challenge in knowing where the line is. I want any baseball fan to be able to tune into the show and have a passing knowledge of statistics to be able to watch the show and enjoy it. So I really take my time and take particular care to explain the methodology and to explain what some of these new analytical tools are and how they are used and why they work.
At the same time, I stress this is not math class, a lot of times I try to say, hey, this is wins above replacement. Try not to get caught up in what goes into the number, just look at what the numbers are telling us. We can look at OPS, we can look at weighted on-base average, let's see what all the evidence is telling us. I don't get caught up in one number because there is no magic number. A fan is already looking at the numbers. How do you know someone is a good hitter? He hits .300. He drives in 100 runs. Those are metrics. They're just not the best possible metrics to analyze production and project future performance. There are other numbers for that and we're going to teach people what they are and how to use them."
But there are those fans who just will not believe that RBIs is a rudimentary measure of a hitter's production. And I've had people roll their eyes at me when I make Lou Whitaker's Hall of Fame case by noting he has the highest rWAR of any modern player not enshrined who has already been on the ballot. Is there a particular metric you favor, not only because it is telling and informative, but because it's a concept that is relatively easily grasped?
Kenny: "Well, you look at everything that's there. I do it with the researchers every day -- do we want to use WAR, do we want to use OPS ... the best way to look at it is to look at everything that's available. Because what makes up WAR are the guys singles, doubles, triples, and home runs, then in what context. Were there two guys on base? Were they down by a run? You can use that for leverage, clutch hitting. Statistics are shorthand. If you want to boil it down to one number, you really just can't, because you can find a flaw at every system. It's really about asking the right questions. It's about value.
"And I think fans are becoming more sophisticated. And any time they get back to RBIs and home runs. You're looking at numbers, too. You're thinking sabermetrically. Those are numbers everybody should look at. They're just not the best numbers."
You were known at ESPN for boxing as much as baseball. So I was pleasantly surprised when I heard you on Bill Simmons's podcast sometime over the summer and your appreciation for and mastery of sabermetrics was evident. How long have you been interested in advanced metrics, or the application of statistics in baseball in general? For me, it's rooted in Strat-O-Matic, which taught the lessons of on-base percentage and WHIP. I get the sense you were into this well before Brad Pitt ever heard of Billy Beane.
Kenny: "Oh, yeah. I was charting statistics and the ERA leaders and all of that on my little notepad when I was 7 years old. On Jim Palmer and Mike Cuellar and Mel Stottlemyre and the wins leaders and all of that. And as I got older, like a lot of people, I started to read Bill James and other baseball writers and tried to rank the greatest baseball players of all time, I started thinking more analytically. It's funny, by the time 'Moneyball' the book came out in 2003 the guys I was talking to, all of the baseball analysts, thought, 'Wow, this is really behind the times. We already know all of this already.' Even through the '90s, I think we recognized what the Yankees were doing with guys like Wade Boggs on the team and Chuck Knoblauch and high on-base percentage guys who worked the count and didn't let pitchers get deep into games.
"On-base percentage, raising pitch counts, the exponential effects of that That was something I was studying by the early '90s and implementing it in everything I did in my sportscasting career, all through those years, through the '90s. It's just that fewer people were listening. No one wanted to hear it. The fans were not ready and the fans were not ready for the new applied intelligence. I was called Sluggo at certain times because I was talking about slugging percentage. You bring up this VORP, are you going to a Star Trek convention? Now, the intelligent fan knows this because young fans have grown up on sortable statistics and the industry is there implementing this. Now, fans who don't follow it realize they're kind of behind."
But would you agree that some don't realize it? There's more information than ever before when it comes to analyzing baseball and predicting future performance. But again, some people who have spent a lifetime around the game are resistant to change. That's understandable in some regard, because their approach worked for them, got them to the big leagues. But how to do you make your points to the I-know-what-I-see-types who will always trust their eyes and experience over hard evidence on a computer screen?
Kenny:"Well, when I first got with MLB and was on 'MLB Tonight' and we were doing those shows, I know Larry Bowa, for example, said, I love how the Diamondbacks are aggressive on the bases. They take extra bases but they run into a lot of outs. And that's something Larry was seeing with his eyes and all of his experience. The first thing I thought of was, 'Is that true?' We looked it up. There are ways of charting how often a player takes two bases on a hit when they're on first, when they're on second, and how often they're running into outs and what that general percentage is. Is a team hurting itself by being too aggressive? It's a very important thing to know. And Larry was absolutely right. And when you think you're seeing something, what you need to find out is, 'Is that true?"
So when Harold Reynolds says, 'Of course Albert Pujols is worthy of a 10-year deal, he's Albert Pujols!,' how do you get the point across that there's compelling evidence that being Albert Pujols won't be quite so impressive five years into a new contract? Or that there are a glaring signs of decline that can be found in his numbers already?
Kenny: "Well, if someone is seeing something such as, 'All I know is Pujols a great hitter, well, why do you know that?' Well, he hits home runs. That's reflected in slugging percentage. He has a high batting average and he has good plate selection. All of those things show up in numbers. The performance does get reflected by the statistics. Do they show everything? No. It helps to be watching as well and have your own eye on it.
"But your eyes will lie to you You see a guy make one great defensive play on a particular day, you'll have it stuck in your head, 'Wow, that guy is a great defensive player.' Even if he makes 50 errors in a season, you're going to remember that one play. It's better to look at the metrics, but yeah, try to follow up on what you're seeing on the field. Fielding statistics in particular are frequently conflicting. You try to take the weighted average of that, and use common sense. There is no one magic number. The key to it is asking questions and finding evidence. Someone says something: "This guy hits for great power. I saw him it one into the upper deck one day." These guys run into a lot of outs. In Larry Bowa's case with the Diamondbacks, it absolutely was true."
'Clubhouse Confidential' has dedicated a lot of time to determining Pujols's value, and the conclusion is pretty simple: The last half of a 10-year deal is going to be expensive and probably regrettable for the team that signs him and is paying for his decline. [Note: The interview was conducted the day before he signed a 10-year, $254 million deal with the Angels.] What are some of the ways the show has approached discussing and evaluating Pujols's value?
Kenny: "It starts by asking questions. Is Albert Pujols worth $30 million per year? What percentage of payroll can you pay one player? How can you project his performance based on his age going forward? When we do this every day, we get a much clearer picture of a player's value. Hidden value, and what that really means to a team and to the market place. We've drawn clear conclusions on Pujols in particular.
"We do one particular show on 'Clubhouse Confidential,' we do the essays called "High Heat,'' and we wanted to know how many good $100-million contracts have there been. And so we looked at the $100 million contracts, and when you put it into free-agent contracts, which means you're getting an older player, we did our own value system, and we found that of the 16 $100 million free agent contracts, four were what you could consider good contracts for the team. Actually doing the thought experiment and going through the exercise of looking at each individual one and let's rate them good bad or inclusive or somewhere in between, that's a telling stat. Only 25 percent were what you could consider good.
"What's the next question? Why? And we found that the why is usually a misevaluation of the player's skills, ignoring the evidence of the trends, or age. So what's the worst combination: A guy on the wrong side of 30, a big slugging first baseman, whose trends are going down. Who am I talking about?"
It's either Albert Pujols or Willie Bloomquist.
Kenny: "It's staring us in the face. I started to say said that on the show. Only after going through exercise of studying the big contracts, then considering the worst contracts of all time. Do you remember Wayne Garland, the first outrageous contract?"
Sure. I think Cleveland is still paying him.
Kenny: "Right, right. [The Indians paid him] $200,000 a year, it was kind of outrageous then, but it's still laughable now. It turns out they were rating him on a 20-win season, he was relatively young, but his WHIP was very high and his strikeouts were low. The underlying components of his production told you that he wasn't going to be a great pitcher. But they didn't know that then."
Whereas with Pujols, or any player nowadays, there's so much data available that if you mine it properly and ask the right questions, you'll recognize trends, and those predictors point you toward the answers, fair to say?
Kenny: "Absolutely. You look at all of the components and see where they are trending. And Albert Pujols not just his walks, his declining walk rate, his rising strikouts, and his declining power, but his chase rate. But he's chasing more and more pitches out of the strike zone. We saw that during the World Series, but you wonder, is that just one at-bat, a small sample, one game. Or is this true? It turns out he went from a 17 percent chase rate in 2007 to 31 percent. And these numbers that we're kicking around, is it fascinating to a fan? Well, it's worth 10s of millions of dollars, knowing this information and not ignoring this information. We've done a lot on Pujols, and everything points in a certain direction. And it's that the Cardinals got his greatest years already. His best half of his career is not to come. And stay away from big bodied, slugging first basemen on the wrong side of 30 for long free-agent deals."
History suggests signing relief pitchers to long-term deals isn't the brightest approach to team building, either. While there's lots of hand-wringing here in Boston over Jonathan Papelbon's departure, particularly regarding who will replace him, isn't their patient approach a more prudent one than, say, giving Heath Bell three years and $27 million, as the Marlins did?
Kenny: "Well, with Bell, we ran him through the shredder. Are you familiar with the shredder?"
Sure. You did a similar thing with David Ortiz recently.
Kenny: "Right. We break it down analytically, and we get the components of his production. The main thing you look at with a relief pitcher is the strikeout rate, or strikeouts and walks. I said on the show his decline in strikeout rate is alarming. It's alarming. It should not be ignored. And I think it's part of the old guard valuing and overvaluing saves. Looking at a guy and saying he's special, he saves games. And I would maintain that anyone who is effective in the seventh or eighth inning can be effective in the ninth inning as well. There might be some exceptions, but by and large, anyone who is excelling in the seventh or eighth can in excel in the ninth given enough repetitions. That is not the way it has been thought of, and there are still teams making that mistake saying, this guy is a quote-unquote proven closer. There's a value to experience, but you can overvalue that they way the Marlins just did Heath Bell."
It looks like Daniel Bard is going to get his chance to start for the Red Sox next year, and to me they need to find out if he can do that, because a 200-inning starter obviously has more value than a 75-inning relief pitcher. Conventionally, he's the most logical successor to Papelbon. Yet there's a notion here that he may not be cut out to close, despite the fact that he's essentially been the Red Sox' relief ace the past two years, being the guy to come in and face Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira with two on and one out in a one-run game in the eighth. It seems absurd to me that a guy who has been getting tough outs since he's been here couldn't handle the ninth.
Kenny: "Yeah, you're right. It's funny, because now, the tail is wagging the dog where you rate a guy based on saves and whether he's a proven closer, whereas in the 1950s, that term you used, relief ace, that was how it worked. A guy could come in in the fifth, sixth, seventh inning and put out the fire. He was the 'fireman,' pitching the highest-leveraged situations. If the bases are loaded in the sixth inning and you're up by one, the game is being won or lost right then and there. Why keep your best pitcher in the bullpen? And yet that's still being done to this day. And there's still resistance to that, with people saying, "No, no, no, a reliever needs to know his role, you have to be a proven closer, and it's just not true.' "
"I know when Boston did the bullpen by committee several years ago [in 2003] ...
"... exactly, and they were mocked. Had they just stayed the course on that ... teams should just stay the course on what they believe will work and not worry about what the rest of the league or fans or what anybody else is saying. It's funny, because Tony La Russa did a mix and match bullpen trying to apply the best guys in the best spots through the playoffs, and he was applauded for it. He got the best matchups, worked the percentages, well, why don't we just do that all the time?And your best pitchers should be brought in during the highest-leverage situations. Don't keep Mariano Rivera sitting out there waiting for the magical save opportunity. Bring him in when the game is on the line. Bring in your best pitcher at the biggest moments and then worry about later in the game if you're still competing later in the game."
Kenny: "Tim Raines is two Hall of Famers."
That's what I like to hear.
Kenny: "Tim Raines is such an obvious Hall of Famer, a slam-dunk, first-ballot Hall of Famer in my book. His on-base percentage, his net steals, not just that he stole a lot of bases but he stole a lot of bases and didn't get caught, probably the best percentage of all time for people who stole as often as he did.
"I have a whole list of players that I use on what I call "Cooperstown Justice," a segment that I do on a regular basis. Raines is at the top of the list. Raines, Edgar Martinez, by the way, Dwight Evans, and Keith Hernandez. They are some of my pet projects that I say need to be reevaluated now that we're looking at."
Kenny: "It's insane. I've said that too. With Dwight Evans and Keith Hernandez, they're not on the ballot anymore. [Hernandez was on for nine years, never receiving higher than 10.8 percent of the vote.] And the idea too, this is always puzzling to me, is that the baseball writers are on the beat, watching every game, so even if they're not doing the statistical analysis that one of us would do, at least they're watching the player every game. Well, if you're watching Keith Hernandez or Dwight Evans, shouldn't you be appreciating that defense that was so obvious? It was so obvious that no one ran on their arms, that they changed games with their defensive play, that they were simply among the greatest players ever to play their position. And yet it's those writers who wouldn't give them enough support to keep them on the ballot.
"Beyond that we, didn't appreciate Dwight Evans's ability to draw a walk, his on-base percentage, his power, which was not Jim Rice's but it was very good, and this was a great all-around player. And Keith Hernandez, he was the greatest fielding first baseman on all-time, and seven times in an eight year span he was in the top three in on-base percentage in the National League and also had doubles power. All of these things make a guy a Hall of Famer. But there's still that old thought of, 'How many home runs does he have?' and we haven't quite gotten sophisticated enough yet to make those judgments. But that's what we're doing on "Clubhouse Confidential." We're getting that out in the forefront."
... Tim McCarver was an outstanding baseball broadcaster once upon a time. Really. No punchline. Honest. He was.
What's that? No, it is the same Tim McCarver, I'm sure.
Yes, his heyday feels like a long time ago. And yes, I'm probably only writing this here because there wasn't room in my media column today. And yes, he aggravates with his dependence on and exaggeration of secondary, trifling details that run on so long that his alleged point often lasts longer than the batteries in your remote control. The man can filibuster a mute button into submission.
So it was unsurprising Wednesday when the consensus reaction -- via Twitter, e-mail, and terrific baseball sites like Hardball Talk and Big League Stew -- to the announcement that McCarver was was named the winner of the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence went something like this:
Hmmm. It appears my case on his behalf is rather lacking so far. Hey, he usually drives me crazy these days, too, especially when he's chattering about the Red Sox and expounding on minutiae we either already know or strikes us as dubious in accuracy.
But the key is these days. But -- and this is coming from someone who has made exceeded the appropriate share of McCarver-hearts-Jeter jokes -- would go too far to suggest that McCarver is undeserving of the honor. Because if you heard him when, during his pre-Fox days on NBC, CBS, and ABC, if you remember how original his voice the six-time Emmy Award winner was then, you understand why he'll be honored at Cooperstown this summer.
There was a time when McCarver was a master of instant, incisive analysis, when his catcher’s-view insight and folksy, pun-heavy style were refreshing and innovative. Listening to him, you understood how he managed to play four decades in the big leagues. His knowledge -- and his connection with Carlton -- kept him around when his ability waned. He knew the game, and he knew how to share that knowledge with the viewer.
OK, maybe the puns were always a little much. But the man knew his stuff. If you’re skeptical, try to catch a replay of the MLB Network’s recent look back at the 1986 postseason. McCarver called the Mets-Astros NLCS, and the program stands as a reminder of how sharp he was.
Like fellow Frick Award winner Tony Kubek, who was paired with Bob Costas in the '80s on NBC's Game of the Week (they were the second team; Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola were the No. 1 pairing), he elevated the role of color analyst to a new level of insight. It was the an overdue progression from the days when Howard Cosell shouting over Keith Jackson and Tom Seaver during big moments passed for analysis. That he ticked off Deion Sanders is another point in his favor.
He's lost few miles per hour off his fastball years ago, and a few more in recent years, which is neither a crime nor a surprise considering the man is 70 years old. Not everyone is Scully. But when he was 45, and not so far removed from active involvement the game, had that uncanny knack for telling you when something would happen, then after it inevitably did, he explained with impressive insight why he saw it coming. Jerry Remy used to do that quite often, too. I'd be willing to bet Terry Francona has the same knack.
Tito is an interesting variable in the current perception of McCarver. It was telling that when he filled in for McCarver for two games during the American League Division Series, the consensus among those who comment on such matters was that he was a natural despite being a relative novice.
It did not go left unsaid that his subtle humor and speak-only-when-there's-something-worth-saying approach felt like a refreshing break from McCarver's current style. Fox will lament letting him get away to ESPN, particularly if Tito's TV stay lasts more than a year. I hope he manages again, but when he does, I'm pretty sure we'll lament his departure from television.
We felt that way about McCarver once too. It would be argued here that fellow finalist and former Red Sox broadcaster Ken Coleman -- "Yastrzemski is going hard ... way back ... way back ... and he dives and makes a TREMENDOUS catch!" -- would have been a more deserving Frick choice this year, and pretty much any other year.
But that doesn’t mean McCarver doesn’t belong. Because he does. No matter how hard that might be to fathom now.
Now, should Joe Morgan ever gets nominated? I assure you there will be a far different reaction in this space.
The anticipated matchup between the Patriots and Broncos -- a surefire ratings monster because of quarterbacks Tom Brady and cultural phenomenon Tim Tebow -- won't be played until Dec. 18.
But it can already be chalked up as a win in one regard.
CBS, which spent yesterday battling NBC's intention of "flexing" the game into its "Sunday Night Football'' window, will retain the compelling matchup. It will air at 4:15 p.m. locally on Ch. 4.
Sources at NBC Sports have not yet responded to requests for comment. Communications director Adam Freifeld said via e-mail that the network would "defer to the league for comment."
Frustration on the network's part would be understandable. NBC pays $650 million per year to air 18 NFL games, an extraordinary expenditure compared to the $622.5 million CBS pays for 102 AFC games.
(Fox pays $712.5 million for the same number NFC games, while ESPN pays $1.1 billion for 18 Monday night games.)
Perhaps the major benefits for NBC is its contractual right with the NFL to "flex" games in Weeks 10-15 and 17 from other networks to their Sunday night package, ensure it has appealing prime-time matchups.
Instead, the network will feature the regularly-scheduled game between the 9-3 Ravens and 5-7 Chargers rather than Tebow vs. Brady.
CBS did have a reasonable case to keep the game, and not just because it owns AFC rights. The network was flexed out of a chance to get its piece the Tebowmania ratings pie when the Broncos-Vikings game was flexed to Fox in a flurry of moves that began with NBC replacing the Patriots-Colts game with Saints-Lions. And this week's Broncos game, against the Bears, is also on Fox.
But it is curious that the network's decision weeks ago to protect the Eagles-Jets game on Dec. 18 was not held against it in the end. CBS and Fox can protect one game per week from being flexed, but they are required to notify the NFL of their selections before the flexing period begins in Week 10. (Clarification: This season, the league required the networks to determine its protected games by Week 5. Explains a little better why CBS didn't go Broncos-Patriots in the first place. It didn't see Tebowmania coming, either.)
Decisions on flex games are typically made on the Monday 13 days before the scheduled game, with an official deadline of midnight Tuesday (or 12 days before).
But because both networks adamantly coveted the Broncos-Patriots game -- and because both had a legitimate case that it deserved to air it -- the NFL made the unprecedented decision of waiting until 11 days before the game to make a formal decision. The news came at approximately 2 p.m. this afternoon.
The decision benefits the Patriots to some degree since a 4:15 p.m. start (2:15 in Denver) allows them to depart at a more reasonable hour after the game than an 8:20 p.m. game would. With a short week -- the Patriots host the Dolphins on Dec. 24, a Saturday -- the less daunting travel schedule mattered.
One other significant angle here: Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who was in New York yesterday for the league's committee meetings, is the chairman of the broadcast committee.
While The Kraft Group, of which he is the founder, chairman, and CEO, has a business partnership with CBS -- there is a CBS Scene restaurant at Patriots Place -- a team source said he was sympathetic to both CBS and NBC's perspective.
The Denver Post reported yesterday that he was making the case for the game on CBS's behalf. While his precise role in the final decision is uncertain, it's doubtful that the game would remain on CBS without his blessing.
The Globe has requested comment from Kraft on the matter, so we'll have further updates here and on Extra Points should he be made available.
Tebowmania, that increasingly frenzied phenomenon regarding polarizing, unorthodox, and usually victorious Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, has hit a new peak, with an assist from Tom Brady and the Patriots.
CBS and NBC, the two networks with the rights and intention to broadcast the much-anticipated December 18 matchup between the Broncos and the Patriots, spent Tuesday engaged in a tug-of-war over which will ultimately show the game.
Despite a midnight deadline to determine whether it would be ‘‘flexed’’ from a 4:15 p.m start on CBS’s Sunday schedule to NBC’s prime-time ‘‘Sunday Night Football’’ time slot, the matter was not settled.
The NFL announced at approximately 8:30 p.m. that it will determine Wednesday morning which network will carry the game.
NBC wants to utilize its contractual right with the NFL to move the game to its ‘‘Sunday Night Football’’ broadcast, replacing the previously scheduled matchup between the 9-3 Ravens and 5-7 Chargers.
Such a late-season maneuver is not out of the ordinary. The NFL utilizes flexible scheduling in Weeks 10-15 and 17 to ensure appealing prime-time matchups late in the season.
Losing compelling games can be a source of frustration to CBS, which has AFC broadcast rights, and Fox, which carried NFC games, but resistance is rare.
But this game is justifiably coveted. With the charismatic Tebow, who has led the Broncos to five straight victories, squaring off against Brady, the marquee player on a marquee franchise, the game is certain to be a ratings blockbuster for whichever network carries it.
It became increasingly evident Tuesday as the hours passed without an announcement that CBS was attempting to keep the game and a stalemate had occurred. Flex scheduling rules state that teams much be notified whether they will be moved into the Sunday night time slot no later than 12 days before the game, meaning midnight Tuesday was the deadline. Typically, the announcement comes the previous Monday.
Since flex scheduling was implemented in 2006, there are no other documented instances of a decision being held until a Wednesday.
The final decision on who gets the game will be made by the NFL, and it will be fascinating to learn which network it chooses. Conventional wisdom suggests the league would want Patriots-Broncos, a matchup that has been anticipated for weeks, in prime time, though the late-afternoon time slot on either CBS or Fox is usually its biggest ratings draw.
CBS and Fox can protect one game per week from being flexed under league rules, but the catch is that CBS protected Sunday’s Eagles-Jets matchup weeks ago, when that game had considerably more luster.
CBS, however, also could be excused for believing it is owed a break, having been flexed out of a Broncos/Tebow game just last Sunday. Then, the Patriots’ matchup with the winless Colts, originally scheduled for ‘‘Sunday Night Football,’’ was moved to an afternoon game on CBS. The Saints-Lions game, scheduled for 1 p.m. on Fox, was moved to NBC.
Because Fox had just two games to choose from in the early window, it was permitted by the league to take the Broncos-Vikings game from CBS.
Adding more intrigue to the situation was a report by the Denver Post Tuesday afternoon that Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who was in New York for the NFL committee meetings, was making a case on CBS’s behalf and that the matter may have been resolved Monday had he not become involved.
The Kraft Group, of which he is the founder, chairman and CEO, is partnered with CBS in a restaurant venture at Patriot Place in Foxborough.
A source with the Patriots said Kraft, the chairman of the league’s broadcast committee, is sympathetic to both sides but may have some reservations about how a time change would affect the team’s travel plans back from Denver.
A spokesman for the Broncos said the team had no preference for when the game is played.
The idea of what in essence looks like a job swap would have seemed unfathomable in, oh, August. But tonight it's the reality.
Terry Francona has joined ESPN as analyst on "Sunday Night Baseball." The network confirmed the former Red Sox manager's hiring tonight.
He fills the vacancy left by Bobby Valentine, who left ESPN last week after two years as an analyst to become Francona's successor as the manager of the Red Sox.
Francona, whose eight-year run as Red Sox manager ended when his contract option for 2012 was not picked up following a disastrous 7-20 September, made his debut last night on "SportsCenter" and "Baseball Tonight" from the winter meetings in Dallas.
He chose ESPN over Fox Sports, which had hoped to hire Francona as an analyst after his well-received two-game stint on the network filling in for analyst Tim McCarver during the American League Divisional Series matchup between the Rangers and Tigers. Francona was a novice -- he said he'd previously been part of one broadcast, more than a decade earlier in the Arizona Fall League -- but he was informative, understated, and funny, and came across as a natural.
Francona will join Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser in the "Sunday Night Baseball" booth. He will also provide analysis for "Baseball Tonight,'' and contribute to ESPN's coverage of the Little League World Series.
"Ted Williams for Joe DiMaggio never happened," said ESPN executive vice president for production Norby Williamson in a statement, referencing a tale that the two legends were nearly swapped for each other before the respective team owners thought better of it in the morning, "but this is ESPN's version with Bobby moving to the Red Sox dugout and Terry replacing him on 'Sunday Night Baseball.' "
Duringo our always damn exciting Friday chat, we discussed the Bobby Valentine hiring, Rondo for Paul, the Patriots vs.
Peyton Manning Curtis Painter Dan Orlovsky, and the usual media matters.Check in below to relive the fun.
Hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and for those among us who dare brave the shopping malls today, I hope you get through it with only surface injuries.
Just a quick pre-chat note here to link to today's media column, which leads with NBC's attempt, beginning with today's Red Wings-Bruins matchup (1 p.m.), to make the "Black Friday'' matinee game as national tradition just as it has been in Boston since the early '90s. Mike Milbury, who is in his usual studio analyst role today, said he's extremely impressed with how the Bruins have recovered from their slow start.
"They're playing hard and they're playing with passion, and they've gotten back to playing the way they did during their run to the Cup last year," Milbury said. "And you can't really blame them for starting slow. Last season was so long, with three seventh-game victories, and they had the right to have a great time over the summer, to celebrate what they accomplished. But it was such a short time away -- what did they have, eight or nine weeks off, really? -- so the slow start wasn't unexpected, and the recovery from it has been impressive."
There's also an item on NESN's hunt to replace Heidi Watney as its in-game Red Sox reporter, noting that Molly Sullivan (a Las Vegas native, North Carolina graduate, and self-proclaimed Red Sox fan) is perceived to be the front runner at the moment.
No media column or chat this week. On a bit of a mini-vacation. No truth to the rumor I'm interviewing for the Red Sox managerial opening right after Stump Merrill, Maury Wills, and Terry Bevington get their chance to genuflect in Larry Lucchino's general direction.
In the meantime, if you missed it, here is this week's podcast, during which I chat with Tony Mazz and Daigo Fujiwara about the managerial merits of Dale Sveum (yup, so much for that), the departure of Jonathan Papelbon, and Jacoby Ellsbury's MVP chances.
Be back Monday morning with a column on the AL MVP race. Enjoy the weekend. Also: Hire Alomar.
Heidi Watney, the in-game reporter on NESN's Red Sox broadcasts since 2008, is leaving the network, industry sources have confirmed. The Globe's Dan Shaughnessy was first to report the move in a column published Tuesday.
A University of San Diego graduate who worked at a television station in Fresno, Calif. immediately prior to joining NESN in April 2008, Watney will return to her native California to work as a sideline reporter on Lakers' telecasts on Time Warner.
Watney, a former first runner-up in the Miss California pageant, was popular with viewers and increasingly polished at her job after replacing Tina Cervasio in the reporter's role. But her departure does not come as a surprise.
She nearly left the network by mutual decision following last season before her contract option was picked up at NESN. Sources said the decision to retain her last year was not a unanimous one.
When contacted last night via text about her situation while on vacation in Australia, Watney responded: "Nothing is final and not dealing with it until I return at [the] end of the month.''
In my Friday media column, I've generally moved away from reporting on the monthly Arbitron ratings for WEEI and The Sports Hub. The quarterlies are much more relevant and, with a larger base of data, often more revealing. And with both stations having a ton of listeners, the majority of whom probably jump back and forth depending upon the topic, the monthly updates were beginning to feel redundant.
The exception, obviously, is when there's something particularly significant worth noting. And the October Arbitron numbers, covering the period of Sept.15-Oct. 12, certainly qualifies since it was WEEI's first full month of simulcasting on 93.7 FM.
So how did it go for WEEI? Well. Very well, actually. As it also did for the Sports Hub.
WEEI finished third overall in the October monthly with a 7.5 share among men 25-54, up from a 4.6 (9th) in September. The Sports Hub was first (9.9, up from 8.2 last month), with WZLX second (8.4).
The Sports Hub continued to produce outstanding ratings; its programming finished first in morning drive, middays, and afternoon drive among men 25-54 as well as among men 18-49 and 18-34.
But WEEI was first in the 7 p.m.-midnight window, while the Sports Hub was 10th. And the station's ratings improved significantly from September across the board among men 25-54. Here is the show-by-show progress over the last month.
Dennis and Callahan: September: 5.1 share (5th); October: 8.3 (2d, tie)
Mut and Merloni: September: 2.3 (15th); October: 6.6 (3d)
The Big Show: September: 4.7 (6th); October: 8.2 (2d).
Planet Mikey, some Red Sox broadcasts: September: 8.7 (2d); October: 10.9 (1st).
Again, it's one month, and huge conclusions shouldn't be drawn. But it's fair to stay the outlook is still excellent for The Sports Hub, while the decision to move to FM is already showing signs of being a tremendously effective one for WEEI.
And any doubts that the city could support two highly-rated sports talk stations were eliminated long ago.
Update: Don't have the official Arbitron numbers for the midday and afternoon drive programs on 98.5 yet. Will update when I do. I do know that from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in October, The Sports Hub had a 10.9 share, while from 3 p.m.-7 p.m., it had an 11.5.
Update, part 1: Felger and Mazz had an 11.6 share in the 2 p.m.-6 p.m. day part, while Gresh and Zolak had a 10.9 during the midday.
Update, part 2: With the share of Boston listeners of Providence-based 103.7 included, WEEI's total men 25-54 numbers look like this:
Overall: 7.8 share
Mut & Merloni: 7.0
Big Show: 8.3
Planet Mikey (7 p.m.-midnight): 11.8.
Playing nine innings while hoping the manager who outwitted Tony La Russa in 2004 will be his replacement in 2012. Terry Francona does know how to win in St. Louis, as you may recall . . .
1. So far, so good with this Ben Cherington fella, huh? Less than a full week on the job officially, and already he's solved the John Lackey problem (would it be cruel to hope the Tommy John surgery is done against his will and possibly without anesthesia?) while saving a few bucks in the process, let Carl Crawford know that the biggest advocate in bringing him to Boston is now his boss, and picked up the option on Marco Scutaro, a steady and dependable shortstop who was one of the few Red Sox who swam against the current in September (.387 batting average, 1.019 OPS). Of course, the real tests are ahead: Finding a manager, of course, and coming up with some roster depth and a couple of decent pitchers from a free-agent class that doesn't appear to have a lot of quality at the Red Sox' areas of need. Bruce Chen, anyone?
2. It doesn't take a whole lot of research to recognize La Russa's legacy. As the third-winningest manager of all-time -- he'd have passed John McGraw before midseason next year had he chosen not to retire today -- his place in Cooperstown would have been secure even without winning a third World Series title a few days ago. And somewhere on the plaque, possibly in the first sentence, it will be acknowledged that he's the architect of the specialized modern bullpen. Whether you like it or not (yes, Mr. Maddon, we know you're in favor), La Russa's matchup-based approach will be remembered as a pivotal innovation in the way the game is played and managed. But for all of his accomplishments, I'll best remember him -- because it is always about us around here, right? -- in relation to the Red Sox. His jacked-up Oakland teams mauled the overmatched Sox in the 1988 and '90 ALCS before going on both seasons to lose in the World Series to heavy underdogs. I'll remember him for kindly managing the Cardinals to a runner-up finish in 2004. And strangely, but perhaps because this game is on the MLB Network from time to time, I'll remember him for managing Carlton Fisk's debut with the White Sox at Fenway on Opening Day '81. For the fun of it -- and because it's beyond impressive that he's managed in the majors for 33 years -- I looked up his first game against the Red Sox. It was a 7-5 Red Sox win on August 16, 1979. Fisk hit second for the Red Sox, ahead of Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, and Yaz in a lineup made out by Don Zimmer. Judging by the box score, it's apparent that La Russa hadn't yet perfected his managerial style. He used just two pitchers.
3. I'm just going to assume that Cherington's thinking in bringing in Pete Mackanin and Dave Sveum as the first two candidates to interview for the vacant managerial job is to find out first-hand if any of the less-inspiring candidates might surprise him before he moves on to the legitimate candidates to succeed Terry Francona. Mackanin has had two interim gigs -- with the 2005 Pirates and 2007 Reds -- but apparently didn't do enough to warrant keeping the job, having been replaced by Jim Tracy and Dusty Baker, respectively. As for Sveum, I want documented evidence that he's mastered coaching third base first before he gets a shot at piloting the team from the dugout. That man is entirely capable of getting a player thrown out at the plate while walking from the on-deck circle to the batter's box.
4. Pitching coach extraordinaire Dave Duncan is under contract with the Cardinals for the 2012 season, but with La Russa retiring, I'm curious whether the former catcher will have any interest in managing in St. Louis or elsewhere. If he's at all interested in Boston, Boston should be interested in him. After last season, it would be nice to see some Red Sox pitchers overachieve for once.
5. Enjoyed this post-World Series find by Peter Abraham on the Red Sox' twice-foiled plans to acquire David Freese before and during the 2006 draft. The Sox' plans to sign Freese before the draft -- he was a fifth-year senior at South Alabama -- were nixed by the commissioner's office, so farm director Jason McLeod went to Plan B, which was to draft him in the sixth round. McLeod decided to postpone picking him until the ninth round when scouts touted other prospects. It would go down as an opportunity lost. The Padres plucked Freese 10 picks before the Red Sox planned to, dealt him to his hometown Cardinals in December 2007, and the rest is World Series history.FULL ENTRY
Today's media column, on the oddity of the World Series teetering on record-low ratings and yet beating two consecutive prime-time NFL games, can be found here.
After last night's epic Game 6, any talk that this year's World Series would be the lowest-rated ever has gone the way of Ron Washington's common sense: The Cardinals' 10-9 victory in 11 innings earned a 13.8 overnight rating, topping all of the previous five games this year and every game from the 2010 World Series between the Rangers and Giants.
One other media note that I didn't have room to include in today's column: A number of you asked -- actually, asked probably isn't the right word -- why NESN didn't broadcast Theo Epstein's introductory press conference with the Cubs live on Tuesday afternoon, while other local stations, including Comcast SportsNet New England, did.
Here is the explanation I received Thursday from NESN spokesman Gary Roy:
While NESN decided not to cover the Theo Epstein Chicago Cubs press conference live, NESN did show the relevant excerpts of the presser during our special NESN Daily coverage that aired throughout the afternoon and evening. We anticipated that Theo would be addressing Chicago Cubs issues to fans in Chicago rather than speaking about Red Sox issues to fans here in New England.
As you know, Theo did speak to Boston fans directly through a print ad and Boston Globe op-ed piece which we had already covered in-depth on NESN Daily.
We decided it was of more interest to our fans to look forward to the future of the Red Sox.
And here is an explanation from CSNNE executive vice president and general manager Bill Bridgen on why the network did carry the press conference live.
Theo Epstein's press conference announcing his move to the Cubs--and his departing words to the Red Sox organization and Sox fans--was an important story to New England sports fans. We knew fans would want to see it, so we carried it. That's what we do. Having our friends at Comcast SportsNet Chicago on the ground helped us cover this saga from the beginning and the press conference punctuated our week long coverage from the ground in Chicago."
The thought here: Of course NESN should have showed it. Epstein may have been in Chicago, but it was a huge Boston story, and if the network wants to shake the perception that it's more interested in promoting Fenway Sports Group properties and making money than given Boston sports fans what they desire, it needs to deliver in circumstances like Tuesday's, even if the ratings may not justify it.
To NESN's credit, an interview with new general manager Ben Cherington, conducted by Tom Caron and Jerry Remy in the 6 p.m.-7 p.m. hour, was very well done, thorough and informative. The network didn't cover the entire scope of a pivotal day in Boston sports, but it did good work on the most important part -- helping Red Sox fans get a read on the new GM.
During our always haunting Friday chat, we discussed Ben Cherington's good first impression, whether the Patriots have the Steelers' number, and the most entertaining World Series game in years. Check in below to relive the fun.
. . . or where me, Peter Abraham, and Daigo Fujiwara gab about GM-in-waiting Ben Cherington, the World Series, and pretty much everything other than what brand of beer Red Sox pitchers prefer. I give it two days until we find out that they actually had a keg in the dugout.
A massive and possibly coherent Red Sox column will be posted tomorrow morning. In the meantime, a couple of recent links I neglected to post here:
-- 20 offseason predictions for the Sox: Forgot to include the prediction that Varitek, who really should be moving along now, would deny everything.
-- Last Friday's media column on Terry Francona's two-game cup of coffee in the Fox broadcast booth. The strong hunch here is that he does TV for a year before getting another managerial gig. He was very good and enjoyed it much more than he thought he would
-- Two recent Patriots postgame sidebars -- one on Aaron Hernandez's return against the Jets, and this week's on the Cowboys' costly conservative offensive approach -- that I don't expect you to read but I'm posting anyway.
Caught up with Scott Hanson, host of the game-changing NFL RedZone channel, in Friday's media column. The question he gets asked the most -- one not at all related to football -- is accounted for in the column.
While we wait for the Patriots and Jets to get going, here are five other more conventional questions and answers with the genial and energetic Hanson:
1. Virtually all of what you do is dependent on what happens in the games; it's essentially a real-time highlights show. So how do you prepare for it during the week? I imagine it's a lot of studying rosters and injury reports to make sure you don't, for instance, mistake Ben Tate for Arian Foster or something along those lines.
Hanson: "Absolutely. It's a seven-hour show, and it's all ad-libbed except for the first two minutes setting up the game. So you have to stay dialed in to every story line, injury, depth-chart changes, coaching decisions, so I spend, oh, give or take, a couple hours each day combing the websites, hearing what's being said in various cities by the local reporters, I'm on Twitter all the time following beat writers, and all of that goes into telling me how the week is going and getting the information about a story line we might want to highlight on Sunday, or to learn about a player who might not have been on our radar previously. And depending upon the flow of the game, I might have to talk about this player for five seconds or I might have to talk about him for 60 seconds. You have to be prepared for just about anything. I really believe it's a lot like jazz music, preparing for this show. You can know your instrument, you can know your history, you can know all the notes to play, but until it's live, you don't know how it's going to sound.''
2. Given the frenzied nature of your role, it appears to be the most rewarding hosting job in television sports, and probably the most stressful, too. Yet the overwhelmingly positive reaction to RedZone pretty much since it launched in 2009 probably helps make it more of the former than the latter, correct?
Hanson: "My answer to that is yes, and yes. Lookit, the old cliche is, sitting in your living room is the best seat in the house. Well, if that's the case, I've got the best seat in America. I get to watch every single game and see everything of meaning that's happening, and not only that, I get to enjoy it with whatever the number of people who are watching every Sunday. It's thrill, whether the feedback is coming from fans on Twitter or someone I just bump into on the street, when people say how much they love NFL RedZone and how it's changed their viewing experience. The whole thing is just so pleasantly overwhelming, the response. There's almost nothing you can do, in sports, in entertainment, in television, that is going to be overwhelmingly positive. If you do something and 70 percent of the people like it and 30 percent don't, you're doing pretty well. This is, in everything I've heard in the three seasons we've been doing it, 95 percent positive, maybe even higher than that.''
3. The appeal to football fans in general is obvious, and I'm sure a decent number of your viewers might have a wager on a game or two. But it's an amazing resource for fantasy football players. Can you put a number on what percentage of people watch it for fantasy football purposes? It's the closest a fan will ever get to watching their team play in reality.
Hanson: "Well, we get some over-the-top flattery a lot of the time -- 'It's the greatest thing since sliced bread, it's the greatest thing since pizza, the greatest thing since penicillin' -- and that's always nice to hear. But I get, oh, probably as many questions about fantasy football -- 'Should I start Chris Johnson or Arian Foster?' -- and there are so many that I can't respond to all of them, but I would say, oh, it's well over 50 percent, certainly the majority of the people watching have some kind of fantasy football interest."
4. You played at Syracuse, having described yourself as "Rudy without the sack at the end.'' is the adrenaline rush you get from this similar to what it's like playing the game, and how tired are you after seven hours of standing in front of all those screens hopping from game to game?
Hanson: "Well, it really is exhilarating, and I think that adrenaline rush you mentioned tends to make the seven hours go by a lot quicker than you'd think. In the middle of that seven hours, I'm not at all tired usually, and never think that way. But by the end of the day, let me put it this way: As soon as we say goodnight and run the touchdown montage [featuring every TD of the day], well, my office is about a 50-foot walk from the studio. And it takes every bit of energy I can muster to walk by to the office and slump in my chair, flip on ‘Sunday Night Football,’ and just start watching some football as a fan and not a broadcaster. I exhale for the rest of the night.''
5. It's such an intense commitment for those seven hours, it takes someone with great enthusiasm to host "NFL RedZone.'' Obviously that is not something you struggle with, but do you foresee a day where it will begin to feel more like a job than a fun way to spend a Sunday?
Hanson: "I know exactly what you're saying. If I was talking to you off the record, I could probably name some names of famous sportscaster who at one time were very organic and genuinely enthusiastic, and now it seems like they . . . it's what they're known for, so they go out there and do it even if that enthusiasm isn't what it used to be. So let me put it this way: I don't ever want it to become an act with me. Because it's not. It's not. When I was a 10-year-old kid, I'd listen to my favorite sportscasters, radio sportscasters or television sportscasters, and those guys sounded like they were having the most fun in the world. My parents encouraged me to get into a career where I'd have a passion for what I did. I have that. And the wonderful thing about this is that it's new and different every week. The only thing you know about an NFL Sunday is that your jaw will drop at some point. You don't know when it will happen, you don't know how it will happen, you don't know who will make it happen. But you know it will happen, and experiencing that with audience, it rejuvenates me every single week, and it's hard to put into words how fulfilling that is."
Terry Francona is in between managerial jobs after taking the fall for the Red Sox' 20-loss disaster in September. But he's found some high-profile work to keep him busy in the meantime.
Francona, whose tenure as the Red Sox manager ended Friday after eight seasons, five playoff berths, and two World Championships, and one epic collapse, will view the postseason from a different perspective this October -- he will join Fox Sports as a color analyst during the American League Championship Series, the network confirmed this afternoon.
He will fill in for at least games 1 and 2 of the ALCS between the Texas Rangers and the winner of the ongoing Tigers/Yankees series on the network telecasts. Analyst Tim McCarver will miss at least the first two games of the series with what the network called a "medical issue'' but is expected to return for Game 3.
It's uncertain whether Francona, who will be paired with play-by-play voice Joe Buck, will continue to contribute to the telecasts once McCarver returns.
There were nothing but good vibes this summer for 98.5 The Sports Hub, which won its second straight Arbitron quarterly ratings period according to data available today.
The Sports Hub finished first in the crucial men 25-54 demographic with a 7.5 share, edging classic rock station WZLX (7.2). The station's programs finished first in morning drive, middays, and afternoon drive.
WEEI (850-AM) was tied for eighth with hip-hop station Jam'n 94.5 with a 4.6 share.
It should be noted that WEEI began simulcasting on 93.7 FM on Sept. 12, or the final three days of the book, which covers the period from June 23-Sept. 14. But all numbers in the summer quarterly apply to the previous station at that spot in the dial -- the now-defunct WMMK, known to listeners as Mike FM.
The simulcast began being counted on September 14, the first day of the October monthly. WEEI program director Wolfe said in an e-mail that Arbitron had a specific process that we needed to follow in order set it up once the simulcast was announced.
Overall, WMMK was tied for 11th in the period with a 4.3 share.
With WEEI strongly emphasizing its FM signal, the share from 93.7 for those three days might have given the station's overall numbers a small boost had they counted toward their share. WEEI also includes the Boston share for its Providence-based FM station in its ratings.
Among the specific day parts, The Sports Hub's Toucher and Rich program was first in morning drive with a 10.3 share. WEEI's Dennis and Callahan program was fifth (5.8), but again, that's based solely on AM numbers alone.
In afternoon drive (2-6 p.m.), The Sports Hub's Felger and Massarotti were first (9.3), while the WEEI's Big Show was seventh (4.9).
In middays (10 a.m.-noon), Gresh and Zo took the top spot for The Sports Hub (9.5), while WEEI's Mut and Merloni program was 13th (3.1).
In the 7 p.m.-midnight window, WEEI (850) was third (7.2), while The Sports Hub was 11th (3.6).
It is the second straight quarterly ratings period won by The Sports Hub, and the third since it launched in August 2009.
Bolstered in part by the Bruins' run to the Stanley Cup -- 98.5 is the team's flagship station -- it earned an 8.8 share in the spring book, finishing first in the men 25-54 demo.
WEEI (850) was tied for sixth in the spring (5.1), though they were fourth (5.6) with the share in the Boston market for its Providence-based FM station included.
Have to presume most Red Sox fans are tuning in to the meaningful 157th of the 2011 season on Fox this afternoon. But should the oblivious stylings of Matt Vasgersian and Tim McCarver -- or another disappointing performance by Jon Lester, which seems to be developing as I write this -- send you lunging for the remote, you can get a satisfying Red Sox-Yankees fix elsewhere.
At 5 p.m., the MLB Network will debut "1941: Summer of Legends,'' a compelling look back at two of baseball's most enduring legends and accomplishments: Ted Williams's pursuit of .400 and Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak. Set against the backdrop of "the final summer of peace before the second World War,'' it includes spectacular archived footage of both icons, as well as interviews with Bobby Doerr, Phil Rizzuto, Leigh Montville (who wrote a terrific book about Williams), and Tony Gwynn (who hit .394 during the 1994 season and became close with Williams in his later years.)
You're probably aware of this, but DiMaggio won the MVP that year while Williams finished second, by a vote total of 291-254. Williams hit .406 -- you're probably aware of that, too, I suspect -- with 37 homers, a .553 on-base percentage, a .735 slugging percentage, and a ridiculous rWAR of 11.3. All of those numbers were superior to DiMaggio's -- and those of everyone else in the league.
Williams also led the league in runs (135), walks (147, to just 27 strikeouts -- that's a week for Adam Dunn), and adjusted OPS (234, seventh-best all-time, behind three Babe Ruth seasons and three Swollen Barry Bonds seasons). It was the greatest season for the greatest hitter who ever lived. But the Sox finished second in the AL, 17 games back of the Yankees, so you can see how they settled the "does the MVP have to come from a contender?'' debate back then.
Anyway, check it out. Nostalgia about Williams beats the hell out of watching Carl Crawford play left field at the moment.
If Brad Daugherty wasn't the only player in NBA history to choose his uniform number as an homage to his favorite NASCAR driver, then he's on a very short list.
After an eight-year career with the Cleveland Cavaliers during which he made five All-Star teams and retired (prematurely because of back problems) as the franchise's top scorer, Daugherty had his No. 43 retired.
Forty-three. It's number permanently associated with his boyhood idol, Richard Petty, a number that stood not only as a symbol of Daugherty's lifelong love for auto racing, but foretold his second career after his days on the hardwood ended.
The transition from basketball to auto racing may seem unusual, but for the gracious Daugherty, it was as natural as can be. He grew up around the sport in North Carolina, has owned teams on various circuits, and can currently be seen in a prominent role as a racing analyst on several ESPN programs, including "NASCAR Countdown'' and "NASCAR Now.''
I had a chance to talk to Daugherty leading up to this weekend's Sprint Cup race in Loudon about his mutual sports passions.
We'll start with the obvious, the question I'm sure you get in every interview: How does a guy with such a decorated basketball background -- star at North Carolina where you played with Michael Jordan, No. 1 overall pick in the '86 draft, multiple All-Star selection -- end up so involved and associated with NASCAR?
Daugherty: "I grew up in a little town in western North Carolina, in Black Mountain, North Carolina, and my dad and grandpa, they were all huge race enthusiasts, tinkered with race cars, built race cars, drag cars, everything. We had a local speedway in the neighbor town of Asheville and we'd always be there at that track watching races. I was just always around it, the pieces, the parts, since I was a little kid. The big item in our little local newspaper was how the local racers had done. We had Jack Ingram, who has a lot of success on the short-track series, and that was a huge deal in our community, so it was all around us. It was all my dad and uncles talked about, and when you're a little kid, you want to do what they do. I learned to work on race cars, it was just normal to me."
Did you stay involved in racing even as your basketball career was taking off, whether that was high school, college, or even into your NBA career?
Daugherty: "Oh, yeah. I played all sports, baseball, basketball, and football, and I was pretty good at all of them. I wanted to go to college and I knew the best opportunity to go to college was through an athleltic scholarship, because people weren't lining up to throw academic grants at me at that point in time. I had this big old body and I like to play sports, period, and worked really hard on my basketball and ended up going to North Carolina and playing for coach [Dean] Smith. But I still was always hanging around race tracks, building late-model stocks, because Robert [Pressley, a childhood friend] was racing all over the country, and I spent every weekend I could at the race track dabbling in something or at a NASCAR race. By my senior year, Robert and I built a late-model stock together, and my rookie in the NBA, I had a couple more quarters to rub together, so we could build a couple nicer race cars, and won a Mid-Atlantic regional championship, which as a pretty darn big deal. Then in '88, I want to say, we build a couple Busch Series cars, got a motor, and won our fourth race. First rookie driver and first rookie owner ever to do so. So that was pretty cool."
You had some success as an owner on the Truck Series, discovering such drivers as Kevin Harvick and Kenny Irwin Jr., but you did step away for racing for a couple of years after the death of your friend Irwin. What brought you back to the sport, and how did the eventual transition to talking about racing on television develop out of that?
Daugherty: "I had a lot of fun, owning a team on the Truck Series and so on, but I did, I got out when Kenny got killed. I lost a little bit of steam there, losing one of my buddies. So I got out for a little while, sat on the NASCAR rules committee, and about four years ago, I was doing some college basketball broadcasting for ESPN. And it was funny, Dr. Jerry Punch, who has been a good friend of mine forever, we'd been partnered up to do some college basketball games. And the producer was always yelling at us because any break we had or at halftime or what have you, we'd sit there and talk NASCAR the whole time. And he'd say to me, 'Man you need to get back into racing, you need to get your race team going.' And I said, 'It doesn't feel the same after Kenny lost his life,' and Doc [Punch] mentioned that ESPN was getting the TV package back the next year and he said I should do some racing analysis, that it would be a blast. I said, 'Doc, I don't know, people have a tough time when they see you do something for so long, it's hard to change in their mind.' The following year, I was sitting on my couch watching a race, and Doc calls, and he said, 'I'm here with the executive producer, Jed Drake, and I told him about your racing background, he knows all about it, and he wants to talk to you for a bit. And he said, 'I want you to come over and join our race broadcasting team.' I told him I was had been talking to some guys about ownership in a Nationwide team, and he said, 'That's absolutely no problem at all. This isn't stick-and-ball where there's direct competition, it's 40-something teams all doing their own thing,' and so I told him I'd give it a shot. It's been about six years now, and I'm having an absolutely great time. Doc was right.''
Your mutual passions for basketball and racing probably were looked at as a bit unusual by your teammates in the NBA. Or were there a couple of guys during your days with the Cavs who shared your interest in NASCAR?
Daugherty: "I always knew I'd be doing something racing-wise at this point in my life. Always knew it. I was so fortunate with the Cavs, because Larry Nance came along about my third year there. He owned a couple of cars, a couple of dragsters, and that was all we did was talk racing. We used to go over to his shop, every day after practice we'd go over there, and we were either working on Larry's race car or another friend's race car, and we'd come to practice with busted-up fingers. Lenny Wilkens was like, 'I don't get it.' But Larry, I could sit and talk to him about racing all day. It was incredible to have a buddy who loved racing as much as I did on the same basketball team. You have a lot of guys, a lot of urban guys, who had no clue. They could care less. They just thought we were a couple of idiots who knew way too much about cars to be playing basketball.''
The sports do have some things in common -- the competition, for starters, and the teamwork required for success. Was there something you got from basketball that you don't from auto racing, or vice versa?
Daugherty: "I love what basketball did for me as an outlet. It put me in the best physical condition of my life. I loved the way the game played because everyone has a job to do, and if everyone does their job on the basketball court, it's a beautiful game. It really is. I loved the strategy part, the competition part of it, and trying to outthink, outplay, out-position, out-strategize your opponent. It was awesome. What happened for me is that I loved both [basketball and auto racing] with a passion, and when one door closed, it enabled me to come home and begin focusing on racing. As long as I was physically capable of playing basketball, I was going to play basketball. I loved to do it. I've been so lucky to have both, to be able to transition from one to the other, because they've both meant so much to me for as long as I can remember.''
Dale Arnold has long been familiar NESN viewers and Bruins fans -- just not in the role he will have on the network's coverage of the Stanley Cup champions this season.
Arnold, who spent 11 seasons as the Bruins play-by-play voice on the network, will return to NESN this season as the studio host for the team's telecasts, industry sources have confirmed.
Arnold replaces Kathryn Tappen, who departed NESN for the NHL Network in July. Tappen had hosted NESN's pregame, in-game, and postgame coverage since arriving at the network in 2006.
Arnold called Bruins home games on the network from 1995-2007 (the 2004-05 season was lost to a lockout), but gave up the job before the 2007-08 season when the network asked him to call road games as well.
At the time, he said he could not make the commitment because of his role as the cohost of WEEI's midday program. Jack Edwards, who had been calling road games in the 2005-06 season, then took over as the full-time play-by-play voice.
Arnold's role at WEEI was significantly reduced in February. In an unexpected lineup shakeup, co-host Michael Holley was moved to afternoon drive while Mike Mutnansky and Lou Merloni took over the midday program. Arnold was reassigned as the primary fill-in host. He said in retrospect he lamented his decision to leave the Bruins broadcasts.
Arnold, who will remain at WEEI, also co-hosts a weekend program with Steve Buckley and joins Joe Castiglione in the Red Sox booth on Wednesdays when Dave O'Brien has an ESPN commitment.
Sweet rings, sweet cover about Boston's winnahs, and sweet distraction from the submerging Red Sox. Or as Kevin Garnett put it in a classic commercial for ESPN Mag back in the day before he was part of the Boston sports scene, it's tastefully done.
While the suspicion here is that this week's all-Boston issue will include more references to "Beantown'' than most true Bostonians would ever actually say -- that would be one or greater -- a glimpse at the table of contents suggests it should be appealing overall even to the most parochial Boston fan.
Hey, anything with an article about Boston sports titled "Decade of Dominance" is off to a good start as far as I'm concerned. Also, Bill Simmons -- Grantland Sports Guy these days -- returns to the magazine to write a back-page piece on why the issue was a bad idea.
I know there's a punch line there, but I'm not finding it. So let's consider five other articles included in the issue, in order of appeal:
The Front Office Diaries -- A look inside the thinking of the Red Sox farm system featuring the scouting reports on some of the team’s best homegrown players, such as Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, and Jonathan Papelbon. Sounds like required reading for those howling without context or a clue that Theo Epstein should be fired.
How to Rob Fenway Park -- Chuck Hogan’s novel “Prince of Thieves” was turned into “The Town,” a well-reviewed and wholly Boston movie directed by and starring Ben Affleck. (Jeremy Renner, a Modesto, California native, had the most accurate Boston accent in the movie, however.) Following the movie’s release, there was a string of copycat bank and armed car robberies utilizing techniques seen in the movie. But no one has tried to copy the film’s heist of Fenway Park -- yet. Other than perhaps John Lackey every fifth day.
Bruins in the Bean -- This photo essay will show why the Stanley Cup champion Bruins are the most Bostonian of all the pro athletes in the Hub, with vignettes of their daily lives and what they love about Boston. No wisecrack here. Could not agree more with the premise.
Debating Boston -- Artie Lange (a Yankees fan) and Denis Leary face off to argue that Boston’s sports teams are awful and amazing, respectively. Then they rip apart the other’s view. Kudos to ESPN for going with two legitimately funny personalities to rep the two fan bases rather than, say, Billy Crystal and Lenny Clarke.
Regarding that last article, I'm going to do what Brady does so well: pass. But I am looking forward to checking the issue out. It should arrive in subscribers' mail boxes today or tomorrow and is available on the newsstand Friday.
Other than possibly Derrick Mason, it's hard to believe anyone who tuned in to the premiere of "Bill Belichick: A Football Life" on the NFL Network last night didn't come away entertained and feeling like they had a new depth of insight into the Patriots coach's personality.
(He's more than a guy who mumbles when he's standing behind a podium; he's also a guy who eats soup while he's on a conference call! Oh, I'm being facetious -- Belichick is extremely compelling, and comes across as funny, brilliant, sentimental, prepared and prescient. And I'll tell you, any player who watches this -- excluding Scoreboard Mason -- will probably want to play for the guy if he didn't already. Especially Ed Reed.)
Plenty of people did tune in, particularly by the NFL Network's standards. An average of 657,000 fans watched the first of the two-episode look at the Patriots coach last night, making it the most-watched documentary in the network's eight-year history.
Locally, it pulled in an average of 151,000 viewers, trailing only the Red Sox-Rays game on NESN as the most-watched program during the time period in Boston.
The second part of the series premieres next Thursday on NFLN at 10 p.m. I've heard from a couple of sources who would know who say that Part 2 is even better than the first.
Perhaps this is a spoiler -- pause -- but I've heard Belichick says something along the lines of "We need to get Welker off the field," just before he blew out his knee in the 2009 regular season finale at Houston. If true, that should induce chills in Patriots fans, if not a more visceral reaction.
By the way, Belichick is just the first subject in the network's very promising "A Football Life'' series. Upcoming episodes include a feature on former Eagles defensive linemen Reggie White and Jerome Brown, as well as looks at the life of Walter Payton and the improbable ascent of Kurt Warner. Count me in for all of them.
* * *
Today's media column, on the abundance of recent former Patriots thriving as analysts, can be found here.
So, did you guys like "A Football Life" as much as I did?
First, a couple of housekeeping details: No chat today. Got a couple of things I need to get a head start on for next week. Aww, I'll miss you guys too.
Today's media column, which kicks off with some thoughts from a few national analysts on the Patriots, can be found here.
And if you missed it in our NFL preview section Thursday, my review of the first episode of NFL Films's "Bill Belichick: A Football Life'' is over here.
Speaking of which . . .
*** SPOILER ALERT ***
*** SPOILER ALERT ***
*** SPOILER ALERT ***
Was that obnoxious enough for you? Sorry. I've always wanted to pull off the rare triple spoiler alert. Feels good. It's also probably necessary based on what's to follow here. Quick explanation: I loved the first episode of "Bill Belichick: A Football Life.'' Loved it. It's NFL Films at its engrossing (if glorifying) best on a personality New Englanders care about and still probably don't know as well as they'd like. I can't say enough about it, and I mean that a couple of different ways. It's superb, and it was a joy to write about, yet there were so many revealing vignettes that I didn't get to touch on in the column.
So . . .
*** SPOILER ALERT ***
. . . I'll share a few here. If you want to be surprised when the first episode airs next Thursday at 9 p.m. on the NFL Network, well, this is probably the only time I'll actually suggest you stop reading. But if an extended written preview of just some of the most fascinating scenes you'll be seeing works for you, dig in.
* * *
It's obviously no big deal, a precautionary measure in a meaningless game. But when the opportunity comes to needle Welker -- and send a message that is neither subtle nor entirely serious -- he can't resist.
The coach sidles up to a smiling, healthy-looking Welker on the sideline:
Belichick: "E-R-W today?"
Welker: "Yeah, what's that mean?"
Belichick: "Eat, ride, and warm up."
A few moments later, a smirk creases Belichick's face as he speaks into his headset microphone:
Belichick: "Hey Ernie. [It's the mysterious Ernie Adams!] What’s that guy’s name who played before Gehrig? [Pause.] Wally. Yeah."
[Of course Ernie Adams knows Wally Pipp. You thought he'd say Don Mattingly?]
On the field, rookie seventh-round pick Julian Edelman fields a punt and jitters and jukes his way to the Philadelphia end zone. The voice over the highlight belongs to Gil Santos: "This is Wes Welker in progress. He looks just like him on the field."
And like that, Belichick has his opening bigger than the one Edelman had on his return. He approaches Welker, whose smiling but looks like he suspects his coach is up to something:
Belichick: "Ever heard of Wally Pipp?"
Welker: "Wally what?"
Belichick: "Wally Pipp?"
Belichick: "Well, he played first base before Lou Gehrig."
Welker: "Oh, OK."
Belichick: "Well, he played first base before Lou Gehrig. Then Lou Gehrig started whatever it was, 23,000 straight games.
Welker: "Right. [Laughs.] The little man. The little man. No doubt. He can have [the punt return job], man."
Belichick, deadpan: "Way to compete."
* * *
Maybe you and I, the sometimes-perceptive Sunday afternoon citizens of the couch that we are, noticed what he was doing. Maybe we did not. Maybe Tom Brady didn't know himself, at least on any level above his subconscious.
But after two errant-for-Brady throws during Week 1 against the Bills, Bill Belichick noticed. He detected that his quarterback was not certain that the repairs to the devastated knee, an injury that cost him 15 7/8 games during the previous season, could be trusted to survive the violence that constitutes an NFL pass rush.
The voice precluding the lowlights -- presuming two slightly inaccurate throws to Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk qualify as lowlights -- belongs to ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski: "It's going to take time to mentally overcome the injury."
Belichick: "Tom. Settle down now, buddy. Step into the throw."
Brady, incredulous: "I hit him right in the hands."
Belichick: "The throw to Kevin out here?"
Brady: "I got drilled. When I threw it."
Belichick: "Did you get hit on that?"
Brady: "Yeah, he was blitzing. I had to flop it over [the defender]. He was standing right in his face."
Belichick: "The one to Maroney?"
Brady: "It was right in his hands."
[This is where it should be footnoted that hitting Maroney in the hands is equivalent to an errant pass.]
Belichick: "It was over his head."
Brady: "Oh, that one."
Belichick: "Just step into it, OK?"
Something occurred to me while watching this scene that I'd prefer to never have considered.
Belichick is going to recognize when Brady's skills begin to slip before the quarterback does. Hopefully no earlier than 2020. Make it 2025.
* * *
The anecdotes flow as he recalls those championship days with the Giants, and he becomes downright wistful at the scene of some of his best and most reassuring times. .
Belichick, who almost looked the part of a Bon Jovi fan then, was building his reputation as a defensive mastermind, Lawrence Taylor was reckless and unstoppable on the field and off, and the proud son of a coach's grandest football dreams began coming true.
Of course he's wistful. But not when it comes to his boss, whose accomplishments as a coach were enhanced by his uncanny gift for sharp verbal manipulation.
The voice in the classic film clip belongs to Bill Parcells. He gyrates and wobbles on the sideline, barking into his headset, and the apparently unacceptable response he's getting from his defensive coordinator soon escalates his mood from agitated to threatening:
"Don’t you start giving me that. Your ass will be out in a [unintelligible] minute."
Belichick knew better. Parcells was his superior in the hierarchy. But in terms of defensive coaching acumen, well . . .
‘‘You know, look," Belichick says, still standing in the old familiar hallway. "There was a good mutual respect there. And look, he was the boss. I’d tell him, Bill, this is what I think we should do, and sometimes he would be OK with it, like, 'yeah, that’s great.' And there were other times he’d be, well ...
‘I’d say, 'OK, you don’t want to do that, what’s the alternative?'
'Well, I’ll just tell you what you’re doing is screwed up. This is screwed up.'
'How do you want to change it?'
'I don’t know. But it’s screwed up, and you need to get it fixed.' "
Belichick shrugs, the body language version of It Is What It Is.
The half-smile on his face makes you wonder exactly when the the student realized his knowledge surpassed the mentor's.
* * *
It's obvious to Brady and Belichick before the snow-globe scene against the Titans that they're going to be able to throw the ball. "A quarterback's best friend," Brady says of the snow. Fifty-nine points and a couple of NFL records later, the adage is confirmed and then some.
In the winners' camaraderie of the postgame locker room, Randy Moss hoots across the room to Robert Kraft, "You ain't never seen 59 points!"
Even Belichick is impressed, though he quickly recognizes that he's lost a familiar talking-point:
‘‘Can't say anything more about [us having made] no big plays,'' he says. "That shut me the [expletive] up."
* * *
Belichick has always seemed to respect Derrick Mason. Spent many words of praise on the veteran receiver when he played for those tough Tennessee teams a decade ago. Once tried to sign him as a free agent. He instead chose Baltimore.
After a catch along the sideline, Mason chirps something at him during an October game against Baltimore. It seems fairly innocent by NFL trash talk standards, but it quickly becomes clear that Belichick has little interest in renewing acquaintances at that particular moment.
"Aw. [expletive] you Mason, just [expletive] you, will ya? Why don’t we talk after the game. Just shut the [expletive] up."
And then, as if his point needs punctuation, he whacks Mason with the eternal comeback of the winning team:
"Can you look at the scoreboard?"
Derrick Mason is a Jet this year.
C'mon, NFL Films. We need a 2011 sequel to this. One more episode isn't going to do it.
An oft-cited reason for WEEI’s recent struggles in its sports-radio showdown with 98.5 The Sports Hub is its lack of an FM signal.
As of Monday, that reason will no longer exist. And neither will Mike FM.
Industry sources have confirmed that Entercom, WEEI’s parent company, will announce tomorrow morning that WEEI (850-AM) will begin simulcasting on WMKK (93.7), better known as the pop-rock station Mike FM.
Entercom, WEEI’s parent company, owns four stations in the Boston market: WEEI (850), WMKK (93.7), hard-rock WAAF (97.7/107.3 FM), and talk station WRKO (680 AM).
WMKK’s pop-music format -- its slogan is ‘‘We play everything’’ -- will not move elsewhere on the dial.
While WEEI executives have occasionally denied that a simulcast or outright switch to FM was imminent, the news is not a surprise. The Sports Hub’s advantage in having a potent FM signal has often been noted by its competition as a significant factor in its rise up the Arbitron ratings since launching an all-sports format in August 2009.
Entercom’s decision to implement the simulcast now comes two months after The Sports Hub’s sizeable victory in Arbiton’s spring ratings book. The Sports Hub earned an 8.8 share, finishing first in the coveted men 25-54 demographic. WEEI-AM was tied for sixth (5.1), but moved up to fourth (5.6) when the Boston share from its Providence-based FM station was included.
WEEI’s move is similar to a recent one made by WIP in Philadelphia, which began simulcasting on an FM signal in mid-August. WIP, coincidentally, is owned by CBS Radio, which also owns The Sports Hub.
Entercom said in a press release last night that it will have a major announcement at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning on the ‘‘Dennis and Callahan Show.’’
If you're one of those football fans who loves the compelling peek behind the scenes NFL Films traditionally provides -- and who among us isn't? -- let's just say this should make up for the absence of HBO's "Hard Knocks'' this year.
Especially if you happen to follow the Patriots.
The NFL Network announced yesterday that it will air a two-part documentary series titled "Bill Belichick: A Football Life," which will premier Thursday, Sept. 15 at 9 p.m. The second part airs Sept. 22 at 10 p.m. Here is a link provided by the NFL Network to the preview.
In preparation for the documentary, the Patriots coach became the first person ever wired for a full season when NFL Films recorded him during the 2009 season, his 35th on the NFL sidelines and the Patriots' 50th anniversary season.
Vignettes include game-planning sessions with quarterback Tom Brady, who was returning from a knee injury that cost him virtually the entire 2008 season, Belichick's last trip to Giants Stadium, and the ultimately disappointing ending, a 33-14 playoff loss to the Ravens. It also includes off-the-field footage, including a visit with Belichick's mom and scenes from his offseason home in Nantucket. There may or may not be footage of him holding a teddy bear.
While Belichick might seem a surprising subject given his reticence with the media, his cooperation also makes sense on a couple of levels beyond his great stature in the game. For one, since footage is from the 2009 season, there are few secrets to be revealed at this point.
The Patriots coach also is well-known for his deep appreciation for and knowledge of NFL history. NFL Films is not only legendary for the stylish manner in which it documents the sport, but legendary in its own right -- founder Ed Sabol was an inductee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year, a long overdue honor. It's an appropriate marriage of subject and medium.
“Bill Belichick doesn’t only make history – he studies it; he understands his place in it; and he appreciates our desire to capture it,” said NFL Films president Steve Sabol, Ed's son. “Like Vince Lombardi’s Packers in 1967, Belichick and the Patriots gave us access to his football life and what we created is a portrait of the coach, the father, the taskmaster – and most importantly – the man.”
Belichick will be the first subject of "A Football Life,'' a new series by NFL Films that aims to offer "untold stories into the lives of some the NFL’s most recognizable icons." Other subjects include Walter Payton (greatly looking forward to Jeff Pearlman's upcoming book on Sweetness), late Philadelphia Eagles teammates and legends Reggie White and Jerome Brown, and Kurt Warner's rise to one of the NFL's all-time great quarterbacks.
Just a quick one here to link to today's media column since I always get a couple of emails from readers saying it's tough to find on the site. For future reference, it's almost always in the headlines section in the righthand column on the sports front. Even my dad can find it, and he's 103, calls his computer the intranet machine, and has cataracts, I believe.
Regarding the topic: My lead fell through at the last moment -- no, it had nothing to do with the offspring of a quarterback and a super model -- so I ended up with a mishmash of notes on Jade McCarthy's departure from NESN, Sox-Yankees ratings, the July Arbitron numbers for WEEI and The Sports Hub, and so on.
In case you were curious, here are some of the key Arbitron numbers for July, some of which didn't make the column. Keeping in mind that the monthlies aren't nearly as relevant as the quarterlies, these numbers are somewhat newsworthy considering the perception/spin that The Sports Hub's huge win in the spring book was powered by the Bruins' Cup run.
Overall: The Sports Hub (tied for third, 6.1 share); WEEI-AM (tied for 10th, 4.3 share)
Morning drive: Toucher and Rich (first, 8.6); Dennis and Callahan
and Portnoy (sixth, 6.0).
Midday: Gresh and Zo (third, 7.1, down from June's monstrous 10.8), Mut and Merloni (12th, 3.3, same share as in June.)
Afternoon drive: Felger and Mazz (first, 8.4); The Big Show (tied for 7th, 4.7).
6 p.m.-7 p.m. The Baseball Reporters (tied for third, 6.5); Red Sox pregame show for the most part (seventh, 5.0, up 25 percent from June).
Evenings: D.A. Show (17th, 2.0. Down from 1st/14.6 in June. That's the Bruins' effect right there.) Planet Mikey Show/Red Sox games (sixth, 5.2).
One last thing: Overall among men 18-49, The Sports Hub tied for fourth (6.8). WEEI-AM was 13th (3.2).
Heading to the chat now. I'll post a couple of Pats thoughts later, hopefully.
During our always semi-coherent Friday chat, we discussed which Red Sox MVP candidate is the most worthy, whether Stevan Ridley should just go straight to Canton right now, and the usual (and unusual) media matters. Check in below to join the fun.
Turns out Kathryn Tappen isn't the only anchor departing NESN this month.
Jade McCarthy is leaving network after less than two years at the regional sports network. She gave her two weeks' notice today.
The ‘‘NESN Daily’’ anchor will return to Philadelphia, where she previously worked at NBC affiliate WCAU before coming to Boston in September 2009.
McCarthy, a Newton native, is seven months pregnant and the network has recently been interviewing candidates to replace her in anticipation of her maternity leave.
But according to industry sources, her husband recently got a job in Philadelphia and they decided to move before the birth of their child.
Her departure comes just weeks after the news that Tappen, the host of the network's Bruins studio programming on game nights, was leaving for the NHL Network.
McCarthy debuted on NESN in January 2010, frequently anchoring the highlights program ‘‘SportsDesk.’’ When the format was changed to the issues-oriented “NESN Daily’’ in August 2010, McCarthy was chosen to co-host along with Uri Berenguer.
Berenguer was let go from the poorly received show three months later, with McCarthy remaining as the lone host.
It’s uncertain who will replace her permanently, though Randy Scott, who hosts ‘‘NESN Daily’’ on weekends, is expected to do so for the immediate future.
Whether you appreciate Bobby Valentine's approach to broadcasting or are annoyed by it -- and judging by the reaction to my media column today on the ESPN "Sunday Night Baseball" analyst, there's not much middle ground -- there's no denying the man knows his stuff.
Like Terry Francona, he's saw the game from the perspective of a phenom and a journeyman, which helped him immensely as a manager. And his experiences managing in Japan and looking down from the broadcast booth have only enhanced his distinctive résumé.
Valentine is smart, informed, and insightful. So what if he happens to know it? Beats the alternative.
Maybe you're one of those people who got your fill of him during the Red Sox' 16-inning win over the Rays Sunday; me, I could talk baseball -- or listen to him talk baseball -- all day.
Here are five outtakes from our conversation for today's column.
1. You got to watch the Red Sox for nearly two full games' worth of innings Sunday night. Thoughts on what you saw, where they stand right now and where they are headed?
Valentine: "With [Dustin] Pedroia hitting like he is and [Carl] Crawford back, their offense is the best out there right now. It really is; the numbers say no one can match it, and that's also what your eyes tell you. I have some questions about the starting pitching. At the start of the season some people wondered if they have too much, but there's always attrition and now I'm wondering if they have enough. We'll know better when Buchholz and Lester are in sight again. But overall they're the class of the American League. That includes the Yankees and the Texas Rangers, who also have rode a terrific offense. You know, if you stopped the season right now and lined all three of them up, I'd have to say Texas has the nod in starting pitching over the other two. But you don't stop the season now. [Alexi Ogando is still throwing 97, [Derek] Holland has been outstanding, but the only question about it is whether they can do it over the entire season. Because the entire group other than maybe Colby Lewis are not really battle-tested as starters over many seasons."
2. Having managed for several years in Japan, you've become a go-to source whenever a player comes stateside. Who among the players who have come from Japan to play in the major leagues has surprised you with his success, and who did you think would do better over here than he has? I'm sure that latter part sounds like a loaded question coming from a Boston writer:
Valentine: "I think Hideki Okajima's success really surprised me. I didn't think of him as someone who would be a pitcher on a good team. He was a good pitcher on a bad team over there, then he became an OK pitcher on a good team. Guys like Takashi Saito . . . there were a lot of guys who just couldn't pitch there who came here and overexceeded any expectations. The biggest disappointment that I saw or had was Hideki Irabu, who I had in 1995 when he was absolutely, other that Nolan Ryan, the best thrower I had ever seen. On days, he was the best pitcher I had ever seen in my life. For him to be such an also-ran and a bust here was very surprising. And Daisuke Matsuzaka-- and yes, that was a loaded question -- he's that hard-headed guy who I felt had to get into the perfect scenario and be in the perfect spot to be the pitcher he could be. At times it was that in Boston, but that's a tough place for anyone to change teams and go to and be successful."
3. Right now it looks like Carlos Beltran is going to be the most coveted player leading up to the trade deadline, with legitimate contenders such as the Red Sox, Phillies, and Giants all interested. Where is the best fit for him in your opinion?
Valentine: "You would think that the team that would be best would be Philadelphia. Their offense has been flawed but has produced enough to give them the best record in baseball. Ryan Howard has been a leader in the RBI category all year with the Who's Who of baseball not hitting behind him. He woudl seem to be a wonderful piece to that puzzle. Putting him San Francisco, for instance, you would say that they're asking him to be the guy because they don't have an offensive player like him. I don't think that scenario of asking him to do that would work. And if Boston wanted to bolster what is already the best offense in baseball, they could do it and be the team that is able to go down the stretch and win those 15-10 games. But I don't know that he's the guy that Boston needs at this time. The other thing about Carlos Beltran is that of all these guys who have gotten the huge, multi-million dollar contracts over the last 5-10 years, he's come as close to anyone to fulfilling that, even with the injuries he's had to deal with. He's a stellar player and a terrific person, and he'd be a welcome addition just about anywhere."
4. I'm sure I'm not breaking news to you here, but one of the primary criticisms about you as a broadcaster is that you talk too much, and you've sometimes been accused of being a know-it-all dating back to your days as a player and manager. Do either of those perceptions bother you?
Valentine: “I know I'm perceived that way by some people, but that's just how it is. I'm myself, true to myself, and I think it originates from me being I’m just one of these guys in baseball who has always challenged myself so that when someone said something that I accepted to be true when I was 15, by the time I was 21 I would be challenging it to see if it was true then. I did that my whole playing career, I did that my whole managerial career, and then when I finally thought that I had it all figured out, I went to Japan and got challenged again. I have a lot of frustration with our game of baseball because . . . there’s so much confusion out there with the different ideas about what people think happened. I like to try to get to the bottom of that, to get out what the proper idea is.”
5. Sort of a quirky question here but bear with me. Don't know if you saw this, but a fascinating recent ESPN.com article ranked you as the 11th-best prospect of the draft era, right between Reggie Jackson and Gregg Jefferies. You were considered the best prospect among all of the young talent the Dodgers came up with in the late '60s [Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Bill Buckner], and yet you had a star-crossed career. What are your recollections of those days as a phenom?
Valentine: [Laughs] "Where was that? I want to read that one. I don't really remember what they were, those early days. When I first signed, I was in a pretty select group, and I was lucky to be with the Dodgers. I was pretty hot, I guess. I was better than most and younger than most and probably crazier and cockier than most, and that was a good thing and a bad thing. I made some stupid mistakes, and I got beaned at the end of a really good minor league season which was the reason I was rated, because I was 20 years old, led the league in hitting, won the MVP at the Triple A level. Before spring training, I played in a couple of intramural football games [at Southern Cal] and wound up going to spring training with my leg in a cast. That was stupid move number one. I could have been a little more patient as a 22-year-old and not tried to buck the system as I was always doing and always did. I got into a little rift with [Dodgers manager] Walter Alston as to whether or not I should be playing shortstop or second base. When he decided I should be the second baseman of the future, I decided I should have a future with another team. They obliged me. And then I ran into a wall. It was all kind of crazy stuff. But I can look back at it with good conscience. I played with a lot of really good players, and I was as good as most of them and better than some of them and had some fun while it lasted."
If you require another reason why the NBA must settle its labor issues before the lockout affects next season, here you go: Fans would miss out on the chance to discover whether Shaquille O'Neal's sharp sense of humor translates to television.
O'Neal, the 15-time All-Star center who spent the final season of his career with the Celtics, has joined Turner Sports to serve as an analyst across its various NBA platforms. Most notably, he will become a full-time analyst on TNT's popular studio show "Inside The NBA," joining host Ernie Johnson and analysts Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley.
“Shaq knows the game and, on and off the floor, he has always been entertaining; a guy who gets it," Johnson said in a press release. "Obviously, I know I’m going to have to eat before I get to the studio.”
Chris Webber and Kevin McHale appeared on the program as guest analysts last season. McHale has moved on to coach the Houston Rockets. Webber will continue as an analyst on NBA TV, also a Turner Sports property.
O'Neal's role on TNT extends beyond his studio duties -- and even the realm of sports. He will contribute to NBA TV and NBA.com, providing analysis and commentary throughout the regular season, postseason, All-Star festivities, and the draft. His deal also includes a development agreement with Turner's entertainment and animation networks.
But the coup for TNT is bringing him aboard "Inside The NBA." The chemistry on the program between Johnson, Smith, and Barkley has made the five-time Emmy-winning program arguably the best sports studio show on television. O'Neal outsized personality may change the dynamic somewhat, but the interaction between the charismatic O'Neal and the outrageous and hilarious Barkley should make for compelling television, presuming they get along better than they did here:
Turns out the spring wasn't just a memorable season for the Stanley Cup-champion Bruins, but for the station that airs their games as well.
In the spring Arbitron ratings period, 98.5 The Sports Hub, the Bruins' flagship station since launching in August 2009 as a challenger to WEEI's throne as Boston's sports radio king, finished first in the market among the all-important men 25-54 demographic, earning an 8.8 share. The classic rock station WZLX was second, at 7.6. WEEI-AM was tied for sixth (5.1). With the share in the Boston market for its Providence-based FM station included, WEEI moves up to fourth (5.6).
It was a similar story during the four daily time slots. The Sports Hub, receiving a boost from the Bruins' run to the Cup, was first in morning drive, afternoon drive, and evenings, with the midday program finishing second in its window. Here's the breakdown of all the weekday programming in the men 25-54 demo:
Midday (10 a.m.-2 p.m.) The Sports Hub's "Gresh and Zo" finished second (9.7 share) to WZLX's Carter Alan show (10.5) in the time slot. WEEI's "Mut and Merloni" show was 10th (3.8), eighth with FM included (4.3).
Afternoon drive (2 p.m.-6 p.m.): The Sports Hub's "Felger and Massarotti" won the time slot was a 9.4 (11.5 in June). WEEI's "The Big Show," featuring Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley, tied for fifth with a 5.5. (fourth, 6.0, with FM.) The Sports Hub also won the period from 6 p.m.-7 p.m. when it airs "The Baseball Reporters," often against the Red Sox pregame show on WEEI. The Sports Hub had a 7.9 share, while WEEI was 10th with a 4.7.
Evenings (7 p.m.-midnight): The Sports Hub, which has the "DA Show" and Bruins game broadcasts in this period, earned a 10.2 share, including a 14.6 in June. WEEI, which carries "Planet Mikey" and Red Sox games at night, finished in a three-way tied for third (6.9). With FM, it's an 8.2, good for third place alone.
The spring book covers the period from March 31 to June 22. It is the first time The Sports Hub as finished atop a quarterly ratings period.
In the winter ratings book, WEEI was fourth, while the Sports Hub tied for fifth.
I'll have more on the sports radio ratings in Friday's media column.
So . . . not a bad parade, huh? Just wish Mayor Menino had attempted "Zdeno."
Wouldn't call these three stars, exactly, but here are a couple of quick links to my Bruins stuff that was elsewhere on the site this week, including today's story on the celebration and the Bruins players' reciprocation of the fans' admiration.
Also, here's a brief story on Marc Savard joining his teammates in the rolling rally, and if you missed it, Friday's media column on Dave Goucher getting his chance to call a championship moment, just as Gil, Castig, and Grande have in recent seasons. Got a nice e-mail from Gil today saying how much he enjoyed Goucher's call.
TATB will be back to its regularly scheduled programming this week. (In other words: it's baseball season. It is mid-June, you know. Where did May go?) As for the Bruins: I'll always appreciate the chance to skate a lane and help cover this team the past few weeks. The three cross-continent trips and 12 plane rides in 15 days were exhausting
and looting and rioting is way more tiring than I thought.
But watching this genuine, admirable group of players win and seeing the beloved, stoic Cam Neely tearing up on the ice after Game 7 was worth every dull moment stuck in a terminal choking down another $4.29 bag of peanuts from Hudson News. Was it ever.
Be sure to stop by our always-biting Friday chat, this week originating on location from scenic Vancouver. We'll talk about the Bruins' chances in Game 2 and beyond, what the heck as happened to cause the Sox to turn back the clock to April since I've been gone, and the usual media chatter. Check in below to join the fun.
I'm officially in hockey mode here at TATB for the next, oh, four to seven Bruins games. But we'll also chime in with a baseball post here and there (and don't forget the Sox podcast, either. Can't believe the season Papi is having.)
First up is a Q&A with ESPN's Karl Ravech, a Needham native, host of ESPN's "Baseball Tonight," and someone so professional and well regarded at the network that "Those Guys Have All the Fun" co-author Jim Miller told me his name came up often among his peers when discussing the most underrated talents in Bristol.
Ravech, along with the "Baseball Tonight" studio crew, was at Fenway a few Sundays ago for the Cubs-Sox matchup. This is the first season that "Baseball Tonight" has taken its program out of the studio and live from the site of the game. It's an interesting dynamic -- it has a little bit of edgier vibe than the collegial "College GameDay." I had a chance to catch up with Ravech and get his thoughts on doing the show in front of a live (and occasionally inebriated) crowd, how he manages to work with such diverse personalities as Bobby Valentine, Orel Hershiser, and the guy to the left, and why he expects to return to Fenway again in October.
So you're roughly eight weeks into this traveling road show? Thumbs up? Does it take a while to get used to the crowd behind you.
Ravech: ‘‘Overall, it’s going great, though it did take some time to learn how to use the crowd to our advantage and to adjust to it. Depending on the city we’re in, it can be really great. I think this is the ideal city for it because of the set location."
Meaning there are a lot people wandering out of bars nearby who are drawn to the TV lights?
Ravech: "There’s a lot of bars, a lot of good times going on. Here, Philadelphia, anytime the fans walk out the stadium and have to go past the set, it’s a home run. It’s automatic, win or lose, they’ll stop. With the Yankees, when they lost and we were on top of a garage across the street, it’s not like they’d be coming to find TV. But if they’d won, it would be totally different.
"But for the fan to see us out there, we take more pictures and sign more autographs and talk more baseball than we’ve ever done. And for the fans to see us, I think that’s a good connection. They realize that, ’Oh, yeah, they don’t just sit there in the studio and talk about baseball.’ They’re actually here, they’re accessible people who like to talk about baseball,’ and that’s good for us. It’s cool."
They should put a net behind you in Philly. You'd be wise to wear batting helmets or something there.
Ravech: ‘‘We joked about that. We joked about it. In case somebody decides to throw something. But we don’t want to plant any seeds in anybody’s heads.
St. Louis was great, but you know how nice they are there. Funny part about St. Louis is that we were there for our 7 o’clock show, and there’s like people lined up around the stadium and I’m thinking, ‘We’re going to have a huge crowd. This is great.’ It was the Stan Musial bobblehead give away. And you had to be inside to get it. So they all left. But after the game it was pouring out, and it was zoo because they literally had to walk by the set.
‘‘It’s energizing. It’s great for us. It gives us a big lift. Anytime you’re sitting there in an environment like that. It’s like the old Boston Garden when the Celtics were playing in the playoffs. It’s a different feel. The old Yankees Stadium. That energy? That’s what it does.’’
How much of an adjustment is it? Does it feel like the same show you were doing from the set in Bristol
Ravech: ‘‘It doesn’t, because I try to involve the crowd. When were talking about Ortiz or Youkilis or Gonzalez, I turn around and say, ‘How do you like Gonzalez?’’ In New York, you ask them about A-Rod or Jeter, and they’ll boo or cheer.
This isn’t entirely new to us. We’ve always had a huge crowd behind us whenever we do something at Disney. And we’ve done the World Series since ’93. The difference with that is that when we’re on the air, most of the people have usually left the ballpark. Now, they leave the ballpark, they’re walking by the set."
You're set off from the crowd more during the World Series. Out of range, you might say.
Ravech: ‘‘Totally. We’re in the ballpark. We’re high up. We’re set off from the fans. It’s a totally different feel. This works. When we do World Series games, the stadium could be empty. The fields empty. The atmosphere is nothing compared to this. This is a pretty sweet. Plus you get to hear people. Schilling was with us in New York. He just got destroyed.’’
He looked weird in a suit.
Ravech: ‘‘It was pinstriped suit, too. You know he got some grief for that. They really let him have it there. It was beautiful. And he gave it back to them. He’s quick like that. ‘How many rings to you have?’ He was funny. But it worked. That’s stuff’s great.’’
How’s the public reaction to guys like John Kruk and Barry Larkin? That's two pretty accomplished and popular ballplayers.
Ravech: ‘‘Kruk’s a cult hero in Philly. It’s a joke. They were booing me because I was there with Kruk. They have to boo somebody. And Barry, he’s a Hall of Famer probably this summer. They know that they’re around somebody who’s among the best ever to play. He gets that kind of respect."
One of the underrated strengths of ESPN's baseball broadcasts the relative youth of a lot of your analysts. A lot of them, starting with Larkin, are relatable to today's players because it wasn't so long ago that they were playing themselves.
Ravech: "Sure. You look at who we have now, with Barry, Nomar, you bring Rick Sutcliffe and Orel Hershiser into the studio, I know what it’s like to be Dustin Pedroia. I’m surrounded by superstars. And it hasn’t always been that way. When we’re on the road, the quality and depth and credibility of our team is so much higher. That’s resonating.’’
Nomar surprises the hell out of people here because he was famously standoffish with the media, yet he was good on TV from the beginning.
Ravech: ‘‘You know who else was like that? Kruk was a disaster with the media.’’
Was he really? He has such a likable persona.
Ravech: ‘‘Oh, yeah. He was surly. Prior to doing that bus tour [during spring training, when he went from camp to camp with Tim Kurkjian], he was averse to going into clubhouses. He didn’t go in. He was very much of the mind set that ‘That’s their stuff. That’s for the players.’ And when he played, that’s what he thought then. But he’s tremendous TV. He and Nomar are alike that way. The clubhouse is the players’ domain. And when you have people who are doing this all the time with the media and interviews and you don’t like it, if it’s prone to bother you, you’re dead, especially in Boston. Kruk hated it. But now him and Nomar, that they’re two really good on-air people.’’
When a player who wasn’t particularly cooperative ends up with a media career when he’s done playing, it's easy to see that as hypocritical.
Ravech: "Yeah, but their point of view is understandable to some degree. Not to speak for John, but the attidude is, It’s my job to catch the ball and hit the ball. That’s my job, it’s not always to talk to you guys. I need to produce. I collect my paycheck from the Red Sox, not the Globe or the Herald or ESPN. But now he realizes this is now my job. I need to do this and do it well. But I think that has something to do with it. Your point is well-taken.’’
That’s not that unusual these days anyway. But I think it frustrates those in the media who had to deal with them as players.
Ravech:" Sure it does. But both of those guys are pretty bright guys, too. Larkin’s a bright guy, Sutcliffe and Hershiser are bright guys, Bobby Valentine is a bright guy. Whether you agree with them or not, the things they present and the level at which they think the game, I find myself saying, ‘I never thought of that’ a lot. And that more than justifies the positions they have."
That jumped out with Bobby the first time you guys did a Sox game this year, when he broke down J.D. Drew’s swing. He pointed out that while it’s a classic swing, his timing isn’t great and he doesn’t square up the ball as often as it would seem, which is why he’s not as productive as his swing would suggest.
Ravech: "I’ve said that about Bobby all the time, and Buck Showalter was the same way -- I never thought of that. It’s a different level of knowledge, a different way of thinking about the game."FULL ENTRY
I like Claude's chances, by the way. No matter what Stan Fischler says.
Anyway, I have a few baseball posts queued up and ready to go that will be posted over the course of the week. The chat on Friday is probable, and I'll also chime in from time to time here with a hockey thought or two (bandwagon, meet feet).
And while I've got hockey on the mind, here's last week's media column on the coverage of the Bruins so far.
See you in Vancouver. Bruins in 6.
Be sure to stop by our always goofy Friday chat, during which we'll discuss the Red Sox' (and Carl Crawford's) surge, the usual media matters, and, let's see, Game 7, Game 7, and Game 7. Bring your preferred beverage to drink from the Stanley Cup (not that we're getting ahead of ourselves) and join the fun.
(Note the 1 p.m. start time. Our friend Peter Abraham is the Ellsbury of today's chat lineup, starting at 11:30 p.m.)
Where's Dwight Schrute with the pepper spray when you need it?
Chances are you've already seen this commercial for New Era baseball caps elsewhere today. it's the one where Yankees fan Alec Baldwin wheezes up the stairs like he's Bartolo Colon to confront Red Sox fan John Krasinski.
I'm posting the commercial here semi-belatedly anyway because it's . . . well, it's hilarious.
Krasinski: "You drove all the way over here to punch me in the face?"
Baldwin: "No. I ran. [Pause.] I was too angry to drive."
Krasinski: "And at no point did you stop and think, 'This is a bad idea.' "
Baldwin: "No. I still don't."
Beyond it being a clever parody of the absurd lengths we sometimes take the rivalry, I like it for another reason. I think we can all agree that there are few better ways to commence a Sox-Yankees series than to watch one NBC Thursday night star sucker-punch another.
I have no idea what that means, either. Have a good weekend, everyone.
Sometimes I do wonder how many Red Sox fans of a certain age -- say, 30 or younger -- know that Jerry Remy hasn't always been associated with the Red Sox, having begun his career with three seasons (1975-77) with the California Angels.
Heck, there are some among the younger demos who probably don't know (or are just vaguely aware) that he actually played for the Red Sox (1978-85). That's a tribute to the legacy he has built in his 23 seasons as the popular and respected analyst on the team's local television broadcasts, though I suppose it's also true that his usefulness as a player has been exaggerated by his prominence in his second career.
Anyway, consider that my long-winded introduction to this week's media column, which leads with the news that Remy expects to be back in the booth Monday. He's missed 14 games -- every one since April 27 -- with pneumonia, and I don't think I'm speaking out of turn to say his absence became increasingly worrisome as it grew longer. So to hear Remy say it's "just" pneumonia is actually reassuring given all he suffered through two years ago in the aftermath of lung cancer surgery. Here's hoping there are no further delays in his recovery and he's feeling well enough to return to his Fenway perch in the booth when the Red Sox return home Monday.
It should be noted that in Remy's absence, Don Orsillo has again demonstrated a remarkable knack for compatibility with just about any analyst with whom he’s paired. In 2009, he worked with 26 different broadcast partners, including Remy.
As of yesterday, that number is six, the best of which has been Dennis Eckersley, who could become a star nationally in the role with the right opportunity. Otherwise, sans Remy, the spectrum has run from Rick Dempsey, a chattering storyteller who apparently has discovered a way to avoid pausing for breath, to Gregg Zaun, whose mellow, NPR-ish intonations during this week’s Toronto series initially masked a subtle wit and a recent retiree’s deep knowledge of the league. Listening to them talk, it’s hard to believe Dempsey is Zaun’s uncle. That's got to be an interesting family tree.
In a sense, Remy feels like family to Red Sox fans. Here's looking forward to Monday, and hopefully hearing that familiar voice around 7:05 p.m. Buenos noches, amigos.
Goucher is a polished, no-nonsense play-by-play voice who has that knack, just like Bob Wilson and Fred Cusick, of telling you a scoring chance might be coming up just by a slight change of inflection in his voice. And maybe it's a result of having called nearly 1,000 games together, but he and Beers rarely fail to be in sync, with the analyst dotting the call of the game with quick, insightful observations that are technical yet understandable to casual (or bandwagon-hopping) fans.
I had intended to write about them for today's media column as sort of a contrast to last week's column on Jack Edwards, but the NFL Network's decision to hire Brad Nessler alongside Mike Mayock on its game telecasts took precedence. (Don't forget to unclip those microphones on your way out, Theismann and Millen!)
I never did catch up with Beers, the former Bruins defenseman and UMaine Black Bear. But despite his lack of a hockey card to use here, I did talk to Goucher, who as usual was candid and reasonable about the state of the Bruins.
Here's a transcript of that conversation to help whet your appetite for Game 4.
So, a 3-0 lead over the Flyers. Does this seem familiar at all? I imagine we're in agreement that this is an entirely different circumstance from what happened a year ago, with the Flyers being worse than they were and the Bruins considerably better
Goucher: [laughs] "The similarity is they had a 3-0 lead last year over Philly. But this year feels different, and it is different. Just the way they've played these first three games. The Bruins blew them out in Philadelphia the first game, in Game 3 they won handily as well, and they were able to come back from a deficit early on in Game 2 and then got great goaltending from Tim Thomas. So, to me, the 3-0 lead this year feels much, much different than the 3-0 lead last year. It's just a coincidence of opponent and round more than anything else."
Last year, the turning point in that series was easy to pinpoint. David Krejci, who was playing brilliantly, got hurt in Game 3. And Simon Gagne came back. The Flyers became the better team.
Goucher: "Yeah, and I thing there was even more to it than that beyond Krejci getting hurt. Marco Sturm, who led them with 22 goals last year, got hurt in the first game against Philly and never did return, [Dennis] Seidenberg didn't play in the playoffs last year, Andrew Ference was coming off an injury, Tim Thomas wasn't even part of the equation. So you factor all that into it, it feels so much different now than it was a year ago. I know people keep drawing parallels and it's understandable. But the Bruins have also had a lot of turnover from last year to this year. They've got, I would say, a half-dozen key players this year who weren't part of that series last year. So that's benefited them as well."
How has the feedback been from Bruins fans? Do you get the sense that there is real optimism about this team, or does the cynical mindset that the "same old Bruins" will let them down in the end still exist?
Goucher: "Well, I understand that. I know people maybe have a mindset like they're waiting for the other shoe to drop. And that's understandable. They've been disappointed like the Bruins have the last three years in the playoffs, especially the last two. But I also think this team has grown from losing in heartbreaking fashion last year, those who were here, and the turnover with the people they brought in, be it Nathan Horton, Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, Brad Marchand wasn't a part of it last year, you can understand maybe a cynical outlook overall from some fans, but I must say the feeling so far is one of optimism. And I think part of that is that they were able to get over that hurdle in the first round, winning Game 7 against the Canadiens. To do it overtime against their most hated rival seemed to get them over the hump and now here they are on the verse of trying to sweep the team that caused all the disappointment last year."
It seemed like the relief was almost palpable after beating Montreal in Game 7. Now, it feels like what's happening is the definition of momentum.
Goucher: "Yeah, and the other part of it is, they were down 0-2 to Montreal, and I can remember sitting at the morning skate prior to Game 3 in Montreal and wondering, you know, where's this going to go from here? They're down 0-2, there's been so much discussion about potential changes, and is that something that's in the very near future. And the next thing you know, they win two games in Montreal, they win three overtime games in the series, and now they're on the verge of hopefully advancing to the next round. It's amazing, and they learned this from last year, how quickly things can change. You start to take a turn for the better in that Montreal series, and especially after Game 7, they really seemed to be riding it since then."
The Sports Hub has been using your call of David Krejci's overtime winner in Game 2 in its promos, and it's really fascinating to hear how you and Bob handled the uncertainty when it appeared the puck was in the net but play never stopped. As a play by play guy, how do you avoid sounding confused when it's uncertain what just happened?
Goucher: "I think you have to hedge it a little bit. It looked like he scored, and Milan Lucic standing right in front of the net raised his arms as if he'd scored and he had the best view of anybody. He was pretty certain it was in. The problem that we had was, neither referee signaled that it was a goal, the goal light never came on, and those three people were much closer than we are. So you start to think, well maybe it did hit the crossbar, because we're a lot further away than them. You have to hedge it because what if it was crossbar and out of the net? So you just try to convey that. I yelled 'Score!' and then we said, well, wait a minute, maybe that hit the crossbar. Then we said something along the lines of, 'Milan Lucic is sure acting like it's in,' and as we said that we got a look at a replay and it was clearly evident it was in so we said immediately, 'he's right." You know, I always hope that with overtime goals they're just clean goals, like Horton's goals in the first round and Michael Ryder's goal in the first round. This one looked obvious, then it was as obvious, and then it turned out to be an obvious goal after all."
The Bruins were essentially a punch line on sports radio in Boston for years. The Sports Hub emphasized treating them as an equal to the other three major pro teams here from the get-go, obviously in part because they held the radio rights. But the response has been remarkable, and it's become clear the interest in a real outlet to talk about them has always been there. Has the switch to 98.5 and the increased discussion of the Bruins had any effect on your broadcast?
Goucher: "It's increased dramatically for all of us from an exposure standpoint. The one big thing we had on the [WBZ-1030] was obviously a powerhouse signal at night that stretched into 38 states. But what we gain from being on an all-sports FM is not only 24/7 sports talk, but a lot of that revolving around the Bruins. Now we have the weekly one-hour hockey show, and overwhelmingly the feedback has been positive. It's really increased the profile of what we do because people are talking about the Bruins now most of the day and they keep it right in the same spot on the dial to hear the games at night. It's broadened the spectrum of what we do over the last two years. There's no question we've benefited from the team being good. There's not any doubt about that. But we've also benefited from that sports talk all day long, and so much of it being about the Bruins. That's been a huge, huge positive for us.
"Bruins fans are incredibly passionate and incredibly loyal over all these years, and now I think they feel like they have a forum to express their opinions, good or bad. They've been so loyal for so many years, and now I think there's a the thought that they have a team that is ready to take the next step, and they are waiting for them to hopefully go on to do bigger and better things. They have a place to talk about it now, every day, throughout the day, which I think is great."
You guys have one significant advantage over the TV guys, other than your refusal to work royalty and the Revolutionary War into your broadcasts: You get to call every game through the playoffs, while NESN is done after this round, ceding the games to the network.
Goucher: "That’s what I like about doing radio the most, to be there however far they go. If the Bruins are fortunate enough to go on and do some really good things, where else would you want to be but in the booth calling it? I love that aspect of it. It's irreplaceable. Radio allows us to do that. And that will be more pronounced next year when none of the local outlets will have games in the second round because of the national networks claiming them in the new television deal. I'm sympathetic to that, and NESN does a terrific job. But for what I do, that's the part that I like the most, that we're there until the end no matter how far they go."
Don't get it, never will, though I am oddly impressed by their dedication and durability in waiting on hold for an hour for a half-minute of airtime with their favorite caterwauling host after Carl Crawford goes 0 for 4. These are the same people, right?
As for the rational majority among us, I'm pretty sure we'd have all been cool with it had the last words we ever heard about Game 6 of the 1986 World Series -- which rolls in at No. 3 on the MLB Network's countdown of the best games of the past 50 years -- been Vin Scully's cruelly pitch-perfect ". . . and the Mets win it!" as New England collectively stared at the television, impossibly staggered by the moment.
During those 18 seasons, from '86 through the magic of 2004, ESPN and Fox rarely passed up a chance to show Mookie Wilson's slow roller up along first base getting through poor Bill Buckner whenever the fates (inevitably aided by a doofus manager) turned against the Red Sox. One of the great cathartic realizations after the Sox formally exorcised all ghosts, demons, and myths seven years ago was that all of that well-worn footage of Buckner, Bucky and Boone would no longer torment us.
That it no longer torments Red Sox fans alone makes watching the MLB Network's take on Game 6 tolerable. It is, despite the outcome, a compelling chapter in the franchise's history. (Can you imagine the Papi-like postseason legend Dave Henderson would be around here had they held on?) As always, the MLB Network does a terrific job of presenting it. But what makes it recommended viewing -- it debuts Sunday at 7 p.m., with Buckner, Wilson, and Bob Ojeda joining hosts Bob Costas and Tom Verducci to discuss the game over a condensed replay -- is that it provides new information and fresh anecdotes that in some ways run counter 25 years of lore and conventional wisdom.
A few, if you're still with me and not cursing Rich Gedman or Bob Stanley right about now:
Ojeda, the Mets' starter, on Calvin Schiraldi coming in for Roger Clemens to start the eighth. [Ojeda had been traded to the Mets by the Red Sox in the previous offseason for Schiraldi, Wes Gardner, and LaSchelle Tarver]: "When Schiraldi came in – because they knew him as well as Boston knew me – they were fighting over the bat rack. No disrespect to Calvin Schiraldi, none meant, none intended, but these guys – getting Roger out and it happened to be Schiraldi – it was like the clouds had parted. They were ready."
Buckner, on the perception that Red Sox manager John McNamara blundered by not putting Dave Stapleton at first base for defensive purposes: "In McNamara’s defense, I was the best first baseman, defensively, that he had. Dave Stapleton, bless his heart, he wasn’t a great player by any means. He had his own issues. If I thought that Dave Stapleton was gonna do a better job than I was, then I’d have told McNamara. I wanted to win, so did everybody else. … I’d been in positions where my ankles were in better shape, where I could cover more ground but I wasn’t having an issue at this point. I was the best player we had to be out there. Was I Keith Hernandez? No. But I was the best that we had." (Video here.)
Buckner, on why he moved from Boston to Idaho: "The fans in Boston were great to me. … People ask me how I feel now about it, I feel very blessed. I played 21 years in the Major Leagues, I got to play in two World Series. Would I have liked it for things to change differently in the sixth game? Obviously. But it didn’t. Would I do it again, with the same results? Heck, yeah. I lived [in Boston] until 1993 and I moved to Idaho because that was a dream of mine since I was a little kid, since I watched “Bonanza” on TV. I wanted to buy a ranch in Idaho, which I did. People say I left Boston because of [Game 6]. That’s hardly the case."
Revisionist history? Maybe. But it's good stuff, though I should note there's still no definitive answer on whether Clemens asked out. (He totally did. You know he did.) Check it out. All those ancient scars have faded for good, right?.
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Today's media column, on Jack Edwards's connection between royalty and Canadiens divers, can be found here, if you're into that sort of thing.
A couple of late-night scattered Sox thoughts and housekeeping items while wondering if Jed Lowrie can catch . . .
Coco Crisp's '70s swingin' A's flashback was cool. But to be honest, I'm just looking forward to the point when Carl Crawford stops reminding me of him.
He handled it well, but Crawford doesn't deserve to be booed. His brutal start is not from a lack of effort, he never bolted Boston for the Yankees, and it's pretty apparent he knows he's lousy. It's been 12 games. Give him a real chance.
How many of you Sox fans follow an NL team too, not necessarily passionately but just for the heck of it? I've pretty much got both feet aboard that Colorado Rockies bandwagon right now. Troy Tulowitzki is still swinging the bat like it's last September.
The Sox are -- and, yes, this is mind-numbingly stunning -- off to their worst start since 1996, when they opened 3-15 and then 6-19. Tim Wakefield was a 14-game winner for that team. And Kevin Kennedy probably took credit for all 14 of his wins.
The Disney ending would have been for Adrian Gonzalez to wallop a crucial ninth-inning homer on the day he signed his (anticlimactic) seven-year, $154 million deal. Instead, he grounded out feebly to second base for the final out in a one-run loss. Who's writing these lousy scripts?
I like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and I understand why the Sox want to give him an extended chance. He's just 25, and there have been occasional glimpses of the talent that made him a Baseball America darling not so long ago. But man, if his hitting wasn't so bad, we might notice that his throws to second seem to be getting more and more scattershot.
I'm not going to second-guess their lukewarm interest in Russell Martin, though, because I'm skeptical he makes in through the season in New York.
One legitimate concern as I see it: They might be a little too lefthanded. Papi has been surprisingly good, but I doubt Crawford, Ellsbury, and J.D. Drew could get a hit off Dennys Reyes at this point.
Momentum is only as good as . . . well, let's see, Josh Beckett goes tomorrow. A performance as dazzling as his effort against the Yankees Sunday would go a long way toward reassuring the crowd gathering on the Zakim (Tobin references are so pre-2004). It would probably also make John Farrell wonder where that curveball and changeup have been the past two years.
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Anyway, to slightly less disappointing matters, here's some stuff I put together recently that appeared in various other neighborhoods on Boston.com. You know, in case you missed them by accident rather than choice:
Bruins-Canadiens historical playoff quiz: The answer is Ken Dryden. I'm not telling you the question.
Celtics-Knicks historical playoff quiz: Celtics in five, but 'Melo has one Bernard King tribute in him where he'll drop about 44 on the C's.
This week's media column looking at Toucher and Rich's fulfilled effort to get Charlie Sheen on their airwaves. I've long been all winning-ed out -- the most lucid thing he has said is that "2 1/2 Men" is garbage -- but I thought the creativity and hustle Rich Shertenlieb put in to get Sheen on the show was pretty telling. These guys work for their success.
Last week's media column chatting with Dr. Jack Ramsay about the Celtics and Heat. It's always fun talking NBA with him not only because of his unmatched depth of knowledge or because he coached those wonderful Walton/Lucas Blazers, but because he's almost casual in his candor. Among other things, he said he thinks Derrick Rose has been trying to do too much lately, revealed that he gets on Rajon Rondo about his free-throw shooting when he sees him, and that the Celtics will get out of the first round easily even if Shaq doesn't play.
One last argument . . . Taped this Globe 10.0 clip about the state of the Sox with my Joe boss Monday. Still believe every word of my it's-all-gonna-be-OK sermon, too, even after tonight's crusher. I mean, this is all a tremendous letdown given the expectations, sure, but it's still so early, and you have to believe the Sox are going to be an outstanding team when players start performing to their established norms. You'll exhale soon, I'm sure of it.
His No. 31 hangs in the Garden rafters, but Max actually wore No. 30 early in his career. That number, however belongs to Mike and Tommy now, as noted in today's media column right here.
It's always a pleasure to talk to Mike Gorman, who, as I am reminded painfully each time I transcribe an interview with him, has an uncanny knack for turning a rambling question into a thoughtful answer. I suspect a similar ability also comes into play with the various cast of analysts he's worked with this year. Tommy, of course, but also Max, Donny Marshall on occasion, and trippy Bill Walton on those West Coast trips.
‘‘It’s different personalities, it’s different preparation on my part," Gorman acknowledges. "The preparation I do for games I work with Tommy really is small compared to say if I’m working with Donny, working with Bill, working with Cedric. When I work with those guys, I always try to have a list of subjects to bring up of things to talk to them about if the conversation lags or if I feel that they don’t have the energy we want them to have, I have different talking points I can go to to bring them back. I don’t do that with Tommy, first of all because his energy level is never low, but I know exactly where he’s going to be."
And what he wants to talk about.
‘‘I know he doesn’t really want to comment on the state of the NBA, he doesn’t really want to comment on the NCAA tournament, he just wants to comment on the Celtics," Gorman said. "He wants to comment on how the Celtics can win tonight how, they beat the guys on the other side, and how we do it despite this team of officials working against us over there. So we kind of have the same approach every game.
"Does it feel like 30 years? It just doesn’t. I can’t think of any other way to put it. It just doesn’t. But that really has been the style for the last 30 years, I sit down, get to the press room. I usually beat Tommy there, he shows up around 5:30, sits down, gets himself a meal. Says ‘What do you think, who’s playing, who’s doing this, who’s doing that?’ all about hte game at hand. Goes out, finishes his meal, sits on the sideline with some of the assistant coaches, watches players go through warmups and everything else, talks to players, and he’s ready to go."
It's an approach that's worked wonderfully for 30 years, and the vast majority of Celtics fans would agree: Here's to many more.
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Rescued a couple of deleted scenes from the column. Do with them what you will . . .
• The Fab Five, a look at the wildly popular University of Michigan basketball team from the early ’90s produced by ESPN Films, earned a 2.1 rating to become the network’s highest rated documentary according to the Nielsen Company. Wonder if Grant Hill was among those turning in. The former Duke star took umbrage with Jalen Rose’s comment in the film (which Rose executive produced) that he believed while he was at Michigan that black players who went to Duke were ‘‘Uncle Toms.’’ Hill, now with the Phoenix Suns, wrote a graceful but pointed rebuttal to Rose’s comments that was published as an Op/Ed piece by the New York Times, concluding the piece with this slam-dunk of a paragraph: ‘‘I am proud of my family. I am proud of my Duke championships and all my Duke teammates. And, I am proud I never lost a game against the Fab Five.’’
• WEEI has made a couple of noteworthy tweaks to its lineup of weekly baseball insiders for the new season. Former Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar, now with the MLB Network, will join Mike Mutnansky and Millar’s former teammate Lou Merloni during the midday program on Mondays. Red Sox manager Terry Francona will appear on the ‘‘Big Show’’ with Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley each Wednesday at 2:30. Also on Wednesdays, Jerry Remy will chat with Dennis and Callahan at 9 a.m. while Peter Gammons will join ‘‘Mut and Merloni’’ at noon.
Today's media column, on the changes to the NCAA tournament telecasts this season, can be found right here. Have you found truTV on your guide yet?
One question that won't be resolved until the bracket is announced Sunday at 6 p.m. is which teams will be playing on which network. So I thought it was interesting that Jim Nantz, who will be calling the tournament for the 25th year for CBS, was asked whether the Brandon Davies controversy at Brigham Young means the Runnin' Jimmers will have a lower profile during the tournament.
Davies, the Cougars' top rebounder, was suspended for an honor code violation, and his absence is regarded as potentially having a major effect on BYU's hopes of reaching the Final Four.
Nantz, with his usual relentless positivity, said don't abandon the Cougars yet, namely because of the kid with the sweet shooting form on the left here.
"I don’t think it changes anything at all as to how well will cover BYU in the tournament," Nantz said. "I think a lot of people still think this is a team that could make a long run deep into the tournament.
‘‘I’ll say this from someone that’s sitting courtside. Jimmer Fredette is a huge part of college basketball this season, even without his teammate. I expect that BYU is going to find a way to make up for losing [Davies], and I expect they’ll do just fine in the tournament, and we’ll look forward to broadcasting them.
"But which one of the four networks are they going to be on come tournament time? We’ll have to see the bracket Sunday night.’’
The slightly educated guess here: BYU ends up on CBS in rounds 1 and 2. For the season he has, Fredette has had limited television exposure, and there's no more intriguing story line than BYU trying to overcome the loss of a player whose violation wouldn't have garnered a second thought on just about every other Division 1 campus in the country.
Pretty interesting dynamic on WEEI this morning, with Dale Arnold co-hosting "Dennis and Callahan" on the day Mike Mutnansky and Lou Merloni debut in the midday spot that he held (with three different co-hosts) for 20 years.
There was neither the usual acknowledgment at the end of D&C as to what was coming up next, nor a crossover between hosts. Can't say that's unexpected considering the awkwardness of the situation, but it was noticeable since it was out of the ordinary. It's a credit to Mutnansky and Merloni that they began with an immediate bit of graciousness, praising Arnold and their predecessors in the time slot.
As for the show itself, we're not making any concrete judgments on Day 1, but it felt pretty familiar, even more so, really, than the remodeled Holley/Ordway version of the Big Show, which is beginning its second week. I suppose that's not surprising since Merloni and Mutnansky have been relatively prominent in fill-in and weekend duty, not to mention Merloni's co-hosting spot on the previous incarnation of "The Big Show." They haven't worked together much, but it seems like they have, if that makes any sense.
Anyway, just wanted to drop in here to add a link to last week's column about Merloni and Mutnansky's approach to the show. I didn't get a chance to post it Friday because I was at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference all day, which was an absolutely blast. I had the same bummed feeling when it was over that I did on my way home from the Vancouver Olympics this time last year.
Thanks for tolerating my utter lack of timeliness, and let me know your early impressions of WEEI's lineup shakeup in the comments.
Today's media column, a longer piece on Sean McDonough's return to a regular baseball gig with ESPN six years after leaving the Sox, can be found right here.
In working on the column, I talked for a bit to Jerry Remy, who credits McDonough for bringing out (or downright creating) his on-air RemDawg persona and, presumably, earning him untold millions. It's funny, they are remembered so fondly as a duo that it's hard to believe Remy's actually been paired with Don Orsillo longer. This will be their 11th season, and it's one Remy is looking forward to just like the rest of us.
"Can't wait to get going," said Remy, who's entering his 24th year as a Red Sox television analyst. "I haven't looked forward to the start of a season like this in I don't know how long. On paper, this is a team without any glaring flaw, and I'm really interested, just like everyone else around here obviously, to get a look at [Carl] Crawford and [Adrian] Gonzalez. This has a chance to be a very impressive team from top to bottom."
Remy agreed with the conventional wisdom that there's only one thing that can prevent this team from fulfilling its spring promise.
"Well, it's the injuries," Remy said. "It was one after another there for a while last year -- Ellsbury, Beckett, Pedroia, Youkilis -- and it undercut what could have been another very good season, another playoff team. I'm anxious to see how all of these guys come back, and Gonzalez coming off his shoulder surgery, too, but if you look at this roster and players play up to their ability and their track record, there's really nothing that is going to prevent this team from being an outstanding team other than injuries. And it's hard to imagine what happened last year is going to happen again."
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One more comment about the McDonough piece while I think of it:
There's definitely been an interesting reaction to this one -- had more e-mail about this than probably any other media column I've written, and only one among the dozens has been what I'd call anti-McDonough.
Yet I had a couple of voicemails and comments in my chat this afternoon from people saying he needs to quit whining about losing the gig. If that's what readers took from the story, I wrote it poorly or didn't convey the right tone, because McDonough's not whining at all. Any bitterness he had from his departure is long gone in regard to the Red Sox, and he expressed respect for Orsillo.
I've also had a couple of readers ask why the Sox let him go. I didn't elaborate on it in the column because I thought it had been rehashed plenty through the years, but maybe I should have said more.
Basically, he had been marginalized by NESN (and to a lesser degree, the Sox) in 2003-04, when he called just the Friday night games on Ch. 38. With all of the games moving to NESN in '05, there was no need for both him and Don Orsillo. Orsillo, who has grown into a very good play by play guy in own right, worked cheaper and didn't have network commitments. And NESN does like cheaper.
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Couple of other media footnotes . . .
* Thought Ryan Johnston did a terrific job filling in for Dave Goucher on the Bruins radio broadcast Wednesday night. Wasn't familiar with his work before, but he's polished and has classic pipes. It has been a little jarring to hear him filling for "Toucher and Rich" with former Maine Black Bear Mike Flynn the past couple of days, though. Their straightforward style compared to the regulars couldn't be much different.
* If Dennis and Callahan have ever had a better interview than their 25-minute chat with Ray Allen this morning, I must have missed it. Great questions -- Gerry Callahan in particular is a strong interviewer -- and Allen's engaging candor was refreshing, if hardly surprising given his reputation.
* Missed Sean Grande's call of Allen's record-breaking 3-pointer. (I was watching the TNT broadcast to see if Reggie Miller might flash him the choke sign; instead, he was beyond gracious) Curious if Grande's sounded scripted (like his "very definition of full circle" call of the final moments of the Finals three years ago) or if it came across more organically and in the moment.
* NESN begins its coverage from Fort Myers Sunday night with with "Red Sox Live," beginning at 7 p.m.
The temperature was minus-6 degrees when I lumbered out to the Toyota this morning. The Patriots are a week into the offseason, and the only season that really matters for the Bruins and Celtics is the postseason, which I believe ends in the NBA and NHL sometime around August.
Seems to me that now is as good a time as any for some warm thoughts about baseball. Unfortunately, pitchers and catchers don't report for roughly 21 days. (20 days, 15 hours, 42 minutes, 20 seconds as I write this sentence, but who's counting?) So if we can't look ahead just yet, we'll do the next best thing: Look back.
We're always up for some Red Sox reminiscing around here, and the MLB Network has provided a terrific opportunity to do just that. Tonight, in its latest episode of its MLB's 20 Greatest Games series, a particular game near and dear to all Red Sox fans' hearts will be featured: Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees.
That's the one where it all changed, of course. We trust you know the details . . . and very possibly are now griping that the games is rated just the 17th-best of the last 50 years according to the MLB Network's countdown. Shouldn't it be in the top 10? The top 5? Heck, even Joe Buck got excited by the end of this one. (See No. 26.) Shouldn't it be in the argument for No. 1? I know this much: If the Aaron Boone game rates higher . . .
Ah, we may not be so objective on this topic, I suppose.
While the historically pivotal events of the game are easily summarized in three words -- Dave Roberts's steal -- it's more fun to discuss it in, oh, a couple thousand more.
And we've got just the guy for that task.
Kevin Millar -- the man who worked the walk off Mariano Rivera, then gave way to Roberts so he could steal his place in history -- will join Bob Costas and Tom Verducci on the telecast, during which the three will converse over an abbreviated replay of the game. It airs beginning at 8 p.m., and judging by the previous three entries in this series, we can't recommend it enough.
This afternoon, TATB had a chance to chat with Millar, a natural in his second year as an MLB Network analyst. (FYI, he's no longer doing work for NESN.)
Here's a partial transcript of the conversation, focusing mostly on Game 4, a memory that will never fade around here. (No. 17? Really?) . . .
Before we talk about Game 4, first things first. Have you heard from the Rays yet? Seems like they're having a little bit of a 2004 reunion down there. [In case you were in football/shoveling mode and missed it, the Rays signed 2/3ds of the 2004 Red Sox outfielder over the weekend in Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon.]
Millar: "I was actually thinking about giving [Rays GM] Andrew Friedman a call and seeing if he would hook me up. [Laughs.] Maybe get Pedey [Pedro Martinez], give Trot Nixon a call to complete the outfield . . . he might be on to something down there. The Idiots, together again.
"In all seriousness, though, the Rays don't make too many mistakes. That's a great organization. Pat Burrell didn't work out for them, but they've had a real knack for finding players that fit well and building a farm system and all the things they have to do to compete with the Red Sox and Yankees year after year. And signing Manny and Johnny, that's just smart, getting the two of them for that price [$7.5 million combined]. Manny can still hit and get on base and Johnny can still play. At the very least that's a heck of a platoon."
Let's go back to the year you won it all with those guys, and specifically the game we'll see you talking about tonight. I've talked to Dave Roberts about that postseason before, and he says that stolen base is something he is reminded of every single day, usually by a Sox fan he bumps into in some random place. Is it similar for you? He had that one particular defining moment, but does anyone ever say to you, 'Hey, thanks for walking so Roberts could swipe second'?
Millar "You know, it's not daily that I'm asked about 2004, but it still happens all the time. Red Sox fans still come up and say, 'Thank you guys for getting that monkey off the Nation's back' and Yankees fans come up and say, 'Millar, you bum, we're sick of hearing about '04,' though they don't always put it that politely. With Dave, he should hear about it every day. It was a pivotal moment in changing the history of the franchise. I mean, he came off the bench on a freezing night, had to dive back a couple of times as Rivera threw over, and it was close, man. It was close. Then he stole the base by, what, the length of hand, with [Derek] Jeter nearly stealing an out with that sweep tag that he does. I mean, Dave had a great career, was a regular with the Padres and Giants, and yet it's this one amazing play that has given him a place in baseball history that will always be his.
"I don't think he would ever get sick of hearing about that, and I don't ever get tired of hearing from Red Sox Nation about 2004. That whole series changed everything in Boston forever. The Red Sox could win 20 more World Series, and that team will still be remembered not only for what we did, but how we did it. Everyone was a regular guy, we had no entourages or anything like that, we went out to the bars and had beers with the fans. We had fun, we loved talking baseball day or night so we could relate to the passion, and we understood what it meant to win here. We looked at the fans like three million family members."
I assume you've probably seen your at-bat against Rivera in the ninth inning of Game 4 quite a few times over the years. But how vividly do you remember it? Can you go through the pitch sequence in your mind and remember what was going through your head when he threw you ball four?
Millar: "Oh, yeah, I still can remember it like it happened yesterday, man. All the details. It's funny, I actually enjoyed facing Rivera. I was probably the only one, but I'm a little crazy. [Laughs.] But he's a fastball pitcher, and comes right at you, and I was a fastball hitter so I always felt like he was going to challenge me. Honestly, I was literally thinking, man, I could hit a home run here. I was thinking "hit the vanilla coke bottles," which his what we tried to do in batting practice when we were at Fenway. He was trying to pound me in, and if he came in too far or left that cutter out over the plate enough, I was thinking I was going to homer."
With that approach, how did you manage to lay off the high fastballs, particularly the one on ball four. It was pretty similar to a pitch you hit out off of Clemens in the ALCS the year before. How'd you resist?
Millar: "Now that you mention it, I have no idea. [Laughs.] No, I had a pretty good idea what they were going to try to do -- come up and in and get me to chase one out of the strike zone. It was a pretty good approach on their part, because I couldn't resist those high heaters sometimes. And ball four really wasn't that close, which sort of surprised me, because once it got to three balls I thought they'd come after me a little more. It's not like I was Manny or Papi and needed to be pitched around. I'm proud that it was a disciplined at-bat, though, because what we needed was a baserunner. Though a homer would have been pretty cool, too." [Laughs]
So you work the walk, Rivera mutters something to himself, and you trot down to first base as Roberts makes his way out of the dugout. What did you say to him? You offer him any words of wisdom?
Millar: "Nah, because we immediately knew the situation and what had to be done. No words were necessary, and it's not like I was about to give him baserunning advice. So I gave him the knuckles, got off the field, and tried to get some elbow room by the railing to watch him go off to the races. And you probably don't need to be told this, but man, it couldn't have been closer. [Jorge] Posada made a great throw, Jeter nearly stole the out with that sweep tag of his, and Mariano is tough as heck to steal on. Dave deserves all the credit in the world for pulling that off, in that circumstance, against those guys, with all of Red Sox Nation on his shoulders."
The Roberts steal is the defining moment of that run for you guys, but so much happened in all of those games that a lot of amazing things got lost in the shuffle. Even Bill Mueller's hit that scored Roberts is probably a little bit overlooked.
Millar: "Man, I agree with that 100 percent. A hundred percent. This guy raps a single up the middle off Rivera, who was and still is death on lefty hitters even more than righties. If Bill doesn't get that hit, maybe Dave gets stranded at second, and history is different. He was the unsung hero, and it wasn't the first time he beat Rivera. And Billy, what a great ballplayer. Great, great ballplayer, and a better human being. I remember in '03 when Theo traded Shea Hillenbrand so Billy and Papi could play every day, and people were like, 'We traded Shea Hillenbrand? Why?' But Billy, like so many of us newcomers to Boston that year -- Papi, myself, Todd Walker -- really found himself at home here, winning the batting title. Red Sox Nation learned to appreciate him pretty fast."
This might seem like an odd question, but do the 2003 and '04 seasons almost run together in your mind? It's almost like 2004 was a continuation of '03, with the Aaron Boone game making '04 even more rewarding, almost as if it all were scripted. And it never seemed right that someone like Todd Walker, who was so great in the 2003 postseason, didn't get to be a part of it.
Millar: "It's a great question. I actually thought the 2003 team was a little better, at least with our lineup. We set a couple of records, scoring all of those runs , had something like six or seven guys with 20-plus homers. [It was six with at least 25.] That was a tremendous team. And then we had the painful ending, which really taught us about where Red Sox fans were coming from, how they'd dealt with so much disappointment. So in '04, we had probably 80-90 percent of our team back, and we were that much more determined to get over that hump and bring that championship to Boston. That first spring in '03, so many of us were all new -- me, Billy Mueller, Ortiz, Walker -- and we didn't know what to expect. We were taught that in '03, and those of us who were back in '04 were on a mission. I mean, our pitching was better with Schill and Foulkie, giving us that other ace with Pedey and the closer we needed after bullpen by committee, but if you compared our lineup to New York's, there were probably two guys who would start for them -- Manny and Papi. You look at third, you have to go A-Rod over Mueller, you probably go Bernie Williams over Damon in center, [Gary] Sheffield over Trot in right, and you definitely go Jason Giambi over Millar at first base. But we were a team, and we were together after what happened in '03, and that really meant something in the end."
In all of the videos and recollections of 2004 -- whether it was ESPN's recent "30 for 30" film or "Faith Rewarded" or whatnot -- there's always that footage of you saying the same thing to anyone within earshot before Game 4: "Don't let us win tonight." How calculated was that, or was it just something that popped into your head that you thought might provide a little spark in what looked like a hopeless situation?
Millar: "Well, it definitely makes me look pretty good looking back on it. [Laughs.] I mean, no, it wasn't premeditated. It happened the way it happened, but it came from me really believing in our team and wanting fans to still believe in us despite having the odds stacked against us. Looking at it realistically, I knew it was hard enough to win four games in a row against the Royals, let alone the mighty Yankees, you know? How do you beat that team four games in a row? We were down three games, got crushed in Game 3, and I didn't really like our pitching matchup in Game 4 with Derek Lowe on the mound, because the Yankees had a knack for hitting his sinker since they'd seen him so much. But if he could come through, and he did, as I always said, we'd have Pedro in Game 5 and Schilling in Game 6 and then anything is possible in a Game 7 because even the Yankees have that human factor. They'd be so tight and scared if we could just put them in that situation, and it started with Game 4. I just wanted people to believe in us, for our fans to keep believing in us. And hey, look how it worked out, right? [Laughs] Faith rewarded. But I'll tell you, in Game 7 . . . even after Johnny's second home run gave us that huge lead, we still wanted to keep on scoring and scoring, because we had to get that, that insurmountable lead on those ghosts Jeter was always talking about. We exorcised 'em, though. Man, we exorcised 'em."
In case you missed it (or tried to ignore it and just saw your luck take a terrible turn), today's media column/notebook is right here. It features more on the stratospheric NFL ratings, the good fortune CBS has with the intra-divison Pats-Jets and Ravens-Steelers rivalry matchups, and notes on Dickie V. reupping with ESPN and T.C. reupping with NESN.
There's also a thought from Phil Simms, who along with Jim Nantz will be in the booth at a Patriots game for the eighth time this season, on the Jets' chatty ways. CBS studio analyst Bill Cowher, who had a perm once, also touched on the topic, but that didn't make the column for space reasons. Maybe I should have used his more pointed comments instead. Have a look:
"I think Rex Ryan is being Rex Ryan. At some point it’s going to lose its luster…," said Cowher during a conference call this week with CBS NFL personnel. "The New England Patriots will say all the right things and they will say it’s just talk. But I can tell you back in that locker room and on Saturday night when Bill Belichick is talking to his team or Sunday morning, whenever that may be, some of those quotes will come back. And I’m going to tell you players can say what they want but you’re only going to be motivated by what you want. New England loves to make it personal. And Bill Belichick will make it personal. He’ll make his players make it personal. And I think I wouldn’t wake a sleeping giant. I think he may have done that."
Patriots fans require no reminder that Cowher is speaking from first-hand knowledge. His Steelers teams in the early 2000s -- particularly the 2001 squad -- were notorious for having a spotty record of backing up their bragging. It might be a stretch to say Cowher regrets letting his team talk so much smack, but it's apparent that some lesson -- perhaps "do not give Belichick ammunition" -- was learned. When he coaches again, it will be interesting to see if his new team is less verbally brazen than the ones he had in Pittsburgh.
By the way, has Kordell Stewart played that Super Bowl in his hometown yet? Seem to remember him mentioning he was looking forward to it.
And so opening day of 2011 concludes with me plunked on the couch, watching the Winter Classic/Slush Hockey Spectacular with the sound down (no offense, Mike Emrick) while simultaneously playing NHL 2K11 on the iTouch in season mode.
The Bruins are my chosen organ-eye-zation, and thus far, the trades for TATB post-Olympic favorites Jonathan Toews and Ryan Kesler are working out spectacularly, as is the savvy free agent signing of
one-hipped multi-concussed mighty Black Bear Paul Kariya. I don't know, Chiarelli, this GM thing looks pretty easy to me. Hey, I wonder if the Sabres would take Tim Thomas straight up for Ryan Miller . . .
As you can tell, the New Year is off to a rousing start by my standards. But there is a point here amid the nonsense: All of this hockey action served to remind me that I neglected to post Friday's column, which looks at the synergy between NBC's preparation for the Winter Classic and HBO's spectacular four-part "24/7" series leading up to the game with a rollicking behind-the-scenes look at the Penguins and Capitals. I can comfortably say that I've enjoyed "24/7" more than any season of "Hard Knocks," and I love "Hard Knocks."
So that link to the media column is here. One last hockey thought: Give him a month to find his lungs, and I'm pretty sure Mario Lemieux, who is allegedly 45 years old but looks 10 years younger, could outscore any Bruin this season. Check out the embedded video above from "24/7." Damned if he doesn't still have the magic.
Hmm, wonder if he's available on 2K11 . . .
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Also, just as a bit of housekeeping, I'll be blogging all day from the Brian Hoyer Extravaganza at Gillette tomorrow. Be sure to check out Extra Points for all the updates. The Patriots might not play their starters, but ours will be there all day.
. . . Happy
I know. What kind of mad-nerd genius comes up with this stuff? I do! I'm the mad-nerd genius!
OK, so maybe it's much more nerd than genius. But it does seem like the appropriate kind of "holiday cards" to be sent out from this little corner of Boston.com to you, no?
Anyway, beyond wishing you a wonderful holiday season, just a note to say our usual Friday chat is on hiatus today. A guy's got to start his Christmas shopping sometime.
Also, here's a link to today's media column, looking at ESPN/ABC's docket of five games on Christmas and whether that's too much given that it keeps so many people involved in the game and the broadcast from their families on the holiday.
Enjoy watching the Celtics try to make it 15 straight, enjoy the day, and we'll catch up next week.
Before we get to a quick media note and a link to this week's column, priorities. Check out the upcoming 2011 Topps card of Carl Crawford, showing off his fancy new work clothes. It comes courtesy of the Topps Twitter feed. Pretty sweet, and yet another reason I wish that inevitable Lombardi Trophy could just be collected already so we can zip ahead to spring training.
By the way, since this image is obviously airbrushed or photoshopped or some done up with some other digital trickeration, it's possible that we're looking at Crawford swipe one of his 62 bases in 66 tries against the Red Sox through the years. Somewhere, Jason Varitek just twitched and doesn't know why. (Actually, upon further review, the background suggests the picture was taken during a Rays-Rangers game. But we're going to ignore that. It's the magic of Carl Crawford as a Red Sox stealing against the Red Sox, and I'm not backing down. Poor Tek just twitched again.)
Anyway, to slightly less sports-dorky pursuits . . .
Today's media column, leading with the Patriots' remarkable run in the Nielsen ratings this season, can be found here. There's also a note about Bob Neumeier checkin' in full-time at Comcast SportsNet New England, a good and logical move on their part. But there was another item about something cool CSNNE is doing that I wanted to get in but didn't for space reasons.
Starting tonight at 7, the network will debut the first two games from its Old School series -- vintage games of current Celtics stars during their college years that will run over the next three days. As you might suspect, I love this idea. Classic Sports was one of the stations programmed into my remote back in the day before ESPN bought it and turned it into a dumping ground for old poker tournaments and bowling matches. And then Time Warner, my cable provider in Maine, put it on the sports tier. Not that I'm resentful. I was just beginning to enjoy the six straight hours of "American Gladiator" reruns.
The Celtics, with all of their star power, are the perfect team for something like this on a national level, let alone on a local one. Tonight's opener features Ray Allen -- with hair, looking about 15 years old, pre-Jesus Shuttlesworth and already possessing that gorgeous shooting stroke -- dropping 36 on UCLA during the 1995 NCAA Tournament. Pretty sure Donny Marshall makes more than a cameo in this one, too.
The rest of the schedule:
- Tonight, 11 p.m., replayed tomorrow at noon: Paul Pierce and Kansas against Arizona. If they listen to my advice, there will be a large black bar over Raef LaFrentz at all times.
- Tomorrow, 2 p.m. Rajon Rondo and Kentucky take on Michigan State in the tournament. Pretty sure this is the one where Billy Packer referenced Rondo's huge hands at least 25 times.
- Tomorrow, 4 p.m. Skinny Shaq, LSU, 1990. Need I say more? I don't think I do. Only wish this one was from the year he played with Chris Jackson.
- Tomorrow, 8 p.m. Big Baby, LSU, 2006. I will say more: This came during the Regional Final against Texas, when he became a national phenomenon for a time.
- Sunday, 4 p.m. Moonlighting Blue Jays second baseman Danny Ainge and BYU during the '81 tournament against Notre Dame. If you don't already know the ending to this one, you probably have no interest in watching anyway.
The topic is one we've spent a lot of words on over the past year, and one we'll surely be revisiting again for years to come -- the burgeoning sports radio rivalry between WEEI and 98.5 The Sports Hub.
The topic sure isn't getting tired for me, and I'd like to think today's column takes a pretty comprehensive look at where the radio bout stands. Included in the column (at least the newspaper version) is a chart with monthly head-to-head ratings over the past year, opinions on each of the week day shows, and online we have a poll in which you can weigh in on who and what you like (or don't like) about the stations.
Checked out the voting a little earlier and it seemed to coincide with my take, but I'm curious what you guys think.
As always, thanks for reading, and I'll be back with a baseball post on Monday.
Just a quick blink of a post here to supply some linkage to today's media column, in case you happened to miss it or require my subtle badgering to actually read the thing. Led it off with a chat with ESPN's Mike Tirico, who will be in the area for an interesting bit of broadcasting double duty next week, first calling the Patriots-Jets bout on "Monday Night Football," then handling the play-by-play duties on ESPN's broadcast of the Celtics-Nuggets game Wednesday. Seems to me Tirico's engaging tone and multi-sport versatility makes him a heck of an asset for ESPN, perhaps even an underrated one.
It's fair to say the biggest news was probably buried a little bit within the column -- 98.5 The Sports Hub had an exceptional November book in the Arbitron ratings, winning the men 25-54 demo that is crucial to advertisers while also finishing No. 1 in the market among men 18-49 and 18-34. At this point, we've moved beyond wondering whether they are a sustainable long-term competitor to WEEI. The question now has to be whether this is a sign that they will consistently beat them going forward, particularly in morning and afternoon drive.
As for a couple of other deleted scenes from today's column (meaning notes that didn't make it because I write way too damn long), here you go . . .
- Sports Business Daily and Sports Business Journal this week revealed the results of a readers’ survey that included this question:Who produces better sports documentaries, ESPN or HBO? Readers gave the nod to HBO, 56 to 44 percent. Tough call, but our vote would go to ESPN. While HBO’s productions are more polished and stylistically consistent, an approach that has resulted in multiple Sports Emmy awards, ESPN’s films -- specifically those in its stellar ‘‘30 for 30’’ series -- tend to be more entertaining and relate to a younger demographic. ‘‘The Best There Never Was,’’ director Jonathan Hock’s reflection on what became of former Oklahoma football phenom Marcus Dupree that debuted last month, is as compelling as any sports documentary we can recall seeing on ESPN, HBO, or elsewhere.
- Phil Simms, CBS’s lead analyst, will miss the network’s broadcast of the Raiders-Chargers game Sunday while recuperating from scheduled surgery on his back. Simms is expected to return to the booth next week when he and play by play partner Jim Nantz are scheduled to call the Patriots-Bears game in Chicago. In the meantime, Nantz will be joined by another former quarterback-turned-analyst, Dan Fouts. Jeff Hostetler must not have been available.
- Actor/singer Donnie Wahlberg will serve as the narrator on ESPN’s upcoming five-part behind-the-scenes series titled ‘‘The Association: Boston Celtics.’’ The Dorchester native has the right stuff for the role: he’s a regular at Celtics games at TD Garden as well as on the road when his schedule permits. The series’ half-hour premiere airs tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
- The programming honchos as CBS College Sports Network recognize a good college hockey rivalry when they see one. The network, which is found locally on Comcast Channel 261 and Verizon FiOS Channel 94, will broadcast both Boston College-Boston University hockey games this weekend. The telecast both tonight and tomorrow will begin at 7:30 p.m. with a pregame show hosted by Shireen Saski. The always dependable Eric Frede will handle play by play, with Dave Starman on color.
- Finally, one last item relating to the "Monday Night Football" matchup: If you want to help out a good cause -- and maybe, if you're lucky, get called "that guy" in person by Jon Gruden -- there's a special event at the Greatest Sports Bar Saturday night that may be of some interest. The MNF crew -- including Tirico, Gruden, Ron Jaworski, Suzy Kolber, and Michele Tafoya -- will be in attendance for a sports-themed auction fundraiser for the Graham Gardner Foundation. Graham Gardner, the son of Marblehead resident and MNF stylist Cynthia Gardner, passed away this summer at age 22. The auction will take place from 7 p.m.-10 p.m. and is open to the public, though guests will be limited to 150. Memorabilia from Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and other NFL stars will be up for bid. Good luck outbidding Gruden for the Favre goodies.
Anyway, as you may have noticed, there's no chat today. (No, I'm not just later than usual.) However, I'll gladly chat if we happen to bump into each other at the Museum of Science in a couple of hours, where I'll be spending this off-day with the wife and our pair of mini-beasts. (Speaking of being a dad, absolutely loved this blog post by Esquire's amazing Chris Jones.)
Today's media column, featuring a conversation with Bill Simmons -- I've been told he will also answer to "Sports Guy" -- about ESPN Films' and NBA Entertainment's upcoming five-part behind-the-scenes series on the Celtics, can be found here.
I've taken my jabs at Simmons many times, but he was a blast to talk to, and there's lots of good stuff that I couldn't shoehorn into the column. At one point, I asked if he agreed with my perception that the Celtics' Game 7 loss to the Lakers -- and the crushing way it came about -- hasn't damaged the perception of that team as much as it would if it had been the Patriots or Red Sox blowing a late lead in a championship game.
"Yeah, I think that's because they won two years before, [Kendrick] Perkins got hurt, they had to play Rasheed [Wallace] 35 minutes in Game 7," said Simmons, who said he still thinks about that game frequently. "There’s still some things I can’t figure out. I can’t figure out why Nate [Robinson] played only three minutes.I just feel like if we had to do that game over again, I don’t know if the rotation would have been the same . . . Rasheed never should have played 35 minutes, because he was just out of gas in the fourth. They kind of went for the knockout punch in the first three quarters and in the end, it didn't work."
The aftereffects from the loss and the Celtics' drive for redemption this season will be an underlying theme in the ESPN series, as Simmons explains in my column. The first half-hour episode of "The Association: Boston Celtics" debuts Friday, December 3 at 7 p.m., leading into ESPN's NBA pregame show. It should be insightful stuff, so set those DVR's and TiVos now.
We do have a few things going on. Some programming notes:
Today's media column, taking a look at the first few days of the Dennis & Callahan simulcast and a bunch of other stuff, is right here.
Aiming to have the second installment of the 60 Best Topps Baseball Cards posted this weekend. The feedback on part one was pleasantly overwhelming, and I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say about the next five. One clue: The next edition includes two players I truly loathe, and neither is Roger Clemens.
If you missed it Tuesday, our Red Sox podcast, hosted by Daigo Fujiwara, is over here. Always a blast to do the hot-stove chatter thing with Nick Cafardo. We'll be doing the podcast every other week during the offseason, so be sure to keep checking it out.
Since a couple of your mid-afternoon hours are freed up now that you don't have to suffer through the chat, how about some assigned reading for your lunch break?
The news that the Diamondbacks are listening to offers for Justin Upton caught me by surprise. I mean, he's 23, is a legitimate five-tool player who is already established as a star, and just completed the first year of a very reasonable six-year, $50 million deal that runs through 2015.
That's not a kid you trade; that's a kid you build the entire franchise around, and that's what the Josh Byrnes regime was trying to do. That new general manager Kevin Towers is considering dealing him, even after a season in which Upton's OPS dropped 100 points to .799, was enough to make a skeptic wonder if there was more to it.
Maybe his shoulder injury that bothered him from time to time is lingering. Maybe there's an attitude issue, something that shadowed him occasionally but hardly ominously during his rapid ascent through the minors. Maybe . . . well, it's got to be something. Other than a high strikeout rate, there's no baseball reason to trade Justin Upton? Is there?
Well, yes, actually there is. Which brings us to that assigned reading. Tim Marchman as SI.com has a very insightful piece that succeeds in answering the question we've been pondering: Why in the world would the D-Backs trade Upton?
The simple response is that dealing him -- in a trade, by the way, that Towers says they "have to win," meaning he's have to be overwhelmed to pull the trigger -- gives the D-Backs a chance to fill numerous holes on a team that has . . . numerous holes.
Beyond the chance to roster remodel . . . well, then it gets more interesting. Because as Marchman writes convincingly, history strongly suggests that there's a fair chance he's not going to get much better than he already is at age 23. Turns out young surefire would-be superstars actually become superstars in their mid-to-late 20s much less often than you'd think.
Upton's baseball reference comps provide supporting evidence. He's most similar player through age 22: Ruben Sierra. And you never want to see Jeff Francoeur on any young player's comp list; he's 10th here.
The other question as it pertains to Red Sox fans is whether Theo Epstein should pursue a deal for Upton -- a potential cornerstone, or the potential next Ruben Sierra -- while knowing Towers's price will be exceedingly steep.
Me, I'd say sayonara to Jacoby Ellsbury and Daniel Bard (as talented and fun as he is, he a relief pitcher), albeit with considerable reluctance. Which I suppose is the sign of a fair trade. And probably a sign that Towers would ask for even more.
During our always sporadically riveting Friday chat, we discussed plenty of Red Sox chatter, the return of Randy Moss and the gimpy gunslinger's visit to Gillette, what we can take from the Celtics' and Bruins' early results, whether the Rangers can make a series of the Series, and the usual media matters, including the news that Heidi Watney is staying at NESN. Click the replay button below to relive the fun.
Kodak moments aside, here's some linkage to today's media column. The lead item was the result of a conversation earlier this week with the great Mike Gorman, who will be calling Celtics games alongside Tommy Heinsohn for the 30th consecutive season.
Gorman should be regarded as a certified Boston broadcasting icon, but he's underrated and a bit overlooked for some reason. Maybe it's that his pitch-perfect, unobtrusive calls ("Takes it . . . makes it!") and uncanny knack for staying in the flow of the game is overshadowed by Heinsohn's larger-than-life personality. Maybe it's his utter disinterest in self-promotion. What ever the reason, let's just call him easily the best play-by-play man in town and go from there.
Anyway, it's the second item in the column -- and the altered view of the cast-wearing man in the above picture concerning the game he played so ferociously -- that I want to elaborate on here. I hate wasting a good interview, and Rodney Harrison, the former Patriots star safety who spends his Sundays sharing his NFL opinions and insights from the set of NBC's "Football Night in America" studio show, at least when he's not taking good-natured-but-kinda-serious jabs at fellow analyst Tony Dungy, is most certainly a good interview.
Also, you may have noticed his name in the news a time or two this week.
Almost assuredly the hardest-hitting safety ever to return a call from a Chuck E. Cheese, where he was doing the Mr. Mom thing Thursday afternoon, Harrison was typically candid as he talked about the reaction to his controversial comments that players should be suspended for helmet-to-helmet hits.
Here are a couple of outtakes from the conversation . . .
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After all, he is the most fined player in NFL history and was widely perceived as dirty by his peers. Yet now that he's no longer playing, the game is too violent?
Harrison, who said offhandedly that he thinks he had in the vicinity of 100 concussions (yes, 100) in his playing days "by the standards for a concussion they go by now," said the reason for his change in perspective is a simple one.
Now that he's no longer playing the game, he sees beyond it.
"I when I was playing, I had the gladiator mentality," Harrison said. "I couldn't see outside the box. Now I'm two years removed from the game now. I'm a father, I'm older, I'm more mature. I realize that football isn't life. I retired when I was what, 36? I realized I've got the rest of my life. I don't want kids to suffer headaches, post-concussion syndrome, migraines, depression, all of these things. I want these guys to live good, healthy, fulfilling lives. You don't want to see people get hurt, like a Darryl Stingley situation, but with the size and speed of the players these days, I mean, man, something bad is almost inevitable, and we have to do what we can to prevent it before it happens.
"I know that contradicts the way I played the game to some point, but I see things differently now that I'm not out on that field. I don't think that's a bad thing. It's called growing up and keeping an open mind."
Harrison admitted the reaction to his comments has been mixed, and shared an anecdote about a fan confronting him at the gym this week.
"He was like, 'Rodney, why did you have to go and say all of that stuff about the hits? Don't you of all people know it's part of the game," Harrison recalled. "But I got him to see it my way when I said, 'Listen, would you feel the same way if DeSean Jackson was your son laying on the ground motionless? Because that's the point. People are so used to seeing these guys, me included, going out there and killing each other and you forget that they are human beings. They are brothers, husbands, fathers, uncles, you know what I'm saying?
"We always have to remember that," said the ex-safety dad, talking on the phone from Chuck E. Cheese.
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It's not an exaggeration to say that Brandon Meriweather, whose helmet-to-helmet hit on Ravens tight end Todd Heap was one of the blows Sunday that got the league riled up, is perhaps the most frustrating and enigmatic player remaining on the Patriots' roster now that Laurence Maroney has tap-danced his way to Denver.
He hits hard and with malice. He runs very well for a safety. He's big and rangy.
He dances after making a tackle following a long gain. He takes bad angles. He freelances too much.
Some call him Tebucky Meriweather. (Well, I do.) Others wonder if that's an injustice to Tebucky Jones.
But it should give pause to Meriweather's critics that Harrison, who played with him for two seasons in the New England secondary, does not hesitate to praise the fourth-year safeties work ethic and ability.
"I told Brandon, there's two ways you can handle this," Harrison said. "You can handle this like a jerk or you can be humble about and apologize and let people know you're sorry. You can still be aggressive, you can still be a big hitter, but you've just got to be a little smarter, because you're team needs you. I don't want the same thing that happened to me to happen to you over the course of your career. You're a fantastic young player and I don't want you getting that reputation of being dirty. Because it overshadows everything you will do on that field."
Harrison also said he advised Meriweather in a conversation this week to avoid the same mistakes he made, which Harrison, justifiably, believes cost him accolades over the course of his career. It is curious that Harrison made half as many Pro Bowls in his career as Lawyer Milloy has.
"That's my point to Brandon," Harrison said. "There's no way in the world, when I look at my resume and then look at some of these guys playing now and it'll say [on the current player's list of accomplishments] three-time Pro Bowler and I'll wonder, 'How the heck did he make the Pro Bowl more than me?' I had a year  where I had over 120 tackles, six sacks, six interceptions, and I didn't make the Pro Bowl. My reputation was held against me. There's no reason why I shouldn't have been a six, seven, eight-time Pro Bowler. Because I played hard, and made plays, and made an impact, and played on championship teams.
"I got my Super Bowl rings, which comes above all else, but I just don't want Brandon to have to deal with stuff like that. He's too good of a kid -- we played on the same teams, and I know his real personality -- he's not dirty, he's not a cheap-shot artist, and I want people to know that."
Today's media column can be found right here. It's one of those occasional one-topic deals. Yup. Favre. Who else? I suppose Kiper might have been a decent guess this week, too. But it's all Favre, tastefully done. The column is all text, no third-party audio or camera-phone pics. Promise.
So it was a notes-free edition, which was sort of a bummer since I wanted to write about Sox center fielder Mike Cameron;s thoughts as he prepares for his debut tonight as an in-studio guest on the MLB Network's "MLB Tonight" program following Game 1 of the ALCS. (He'll also appear on the program tomorrow night.)
Fortunately, I have this swell little blog here where I can use any worthwhile deleted scenes, and checking in with Cameron, who came across in a 20-minute interview as a tremendous fan of the game he plays for a living, is certainly worthwhile.
Here are a few of Cameron's thoughts on the playoffs, his future, making his television debut, and playing in Boston:
* * *
Cameron, who has 269 homers in 14-plus big league seasons, said he began giving the idea of doing some baseball analysis on TV serious consideration a couple of years ago after he noticed that TBS was using current players such as John Smoltz during its postseason broadcasts.
He mentioned to his agent that it was something that he would like to try, and when the opportunity was presented by the MLB Network, during the season, he figured it was time to take a swing.
"MLB is giving me a great opportunity, and one of the best things about it is that I get to be around players I played with and played against," Cameron said, noting that he'll be alongside former Reds teammate Sean Casey tonight. "The comfort level should be pretty easy. Plus, coming here to [the network's state-of-the-art Studio 42, which includes a scaled-down field for demonstrations] is sort of like going to a baseball facility or like a big kid's playground for baseball players. I couldn't wait to check it all out. So that was sort of the deal-maker."
Cameron, easygoing and articulate, looks younger than his 37 years, and he's decent bet to be a television natural. He'll begin the process tonight of finding out if it's the path he wants to follow once his career is over.
"It's something I've thought about, but it's more along the lines of, 'It wouldn't hurt to try, and then I'll have a better idea,' he said. "I'd like to stay in uniform after I'm done playing, but you know, I'm not sure about the traveling. I've been doing that since I was like 21 years old, and that's a lot of time on the road in hotels. Hopefully it's not something I have to make a decision on for a few more years."
* * *
Cameron agreed with the notion that his personal season -- he played just 48 games because of an abdominal injury and sports hernia -- in a sense symbolized how 2010 went for the Red Sox. Like Cameron himself, they gamely tried to play through injuries and stayed tough as long as they could, but ultimately, it was all too much to overcome.
"Yeah, that's a fair way of looking at it," he said. "It was frustrating in some ways, especially with this being my first year here and wanting to make a good impression. But, you know, I don't know how everybody else feels, but my attitude is that every time I take the field, it's a blessing and I'm lucky to be out there after what happened to me in '05 [a frightening head-first outfield collision with Carlos Beltran while they were playing for the Mets]. Every game is a bonus.
"This year, with our team, and Boston fans can be harsh sometimes, but they're also very knowledgeable, and I think they recognized that we continued to fight despite losing some very, very good players. It was frustrating personally to be injured, and it was frustrating to see my teammates get injured. It was one thing after another. It's kind of too bad we can't come back with the same team next year and see what we might be able to accomplish, but because of free agency and so on that can't happen. Change always happens."
* * *
While Cameron said he's intrigued by all four of the teams remaining, the conversation inevitably turns back to what he believes lefthanders Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson are capable of achieving at the front of the Texas Rangers rotation.
"It's a really interesting four teams that are left," he said. "Really interesting. The difference might be experience. If you're a Yankees fan or the Phillies, you have to feel good about the fact that they've been in this situation before.
"The Giants and Rangers, they are little bit new to it with the groups of players they have now, but they're both excellent in their own right. The Giants have the great pitching with [Tim] Lincecum at the front while the Rangers have Cliff Lee and [C.J.] Wilson, and Texas can win in the same way the Yankees can, with a bunch of mashers in the lineup. They can hit the ball, as we found out when we played them near the All-Star break. They ran right though us. They're good, and they hit Tampa Bay's good pitching in this last series.I expect two great series. In a short series, anything can happen. I don't care who you are, if you have to face Lee and Wilson, you can go home pretty quick."
So does that constitute a prediction? He's reminded that picking against the Yankees certainly couldn't hurt his standing with Red Sox fans.
"I don't know, man. I'm still thinking, honestly," Cameron said with a laugh. "Looking through the notes, doing my homework. How is it going to go? I don't know. I do know that Texas has home field, and if it comes down to Cliff Lee in Game 7, the Rangers would have to feel pretty good.
"In the NL, I'd say the Giants can't play against the Phillies the way they did against the Braves, they need to be even better. That's an AL lineup . . . and imagine if they had kept Cliff Lee! Man. Though (Cole) Hamels has pitched like him lately . . . "
Yep, Cameron's enthusiasm about Lee's ability is palpable. (in case you were wondering, Cameron is 2 for 6 in his career against Lee, with a home run.) The same can be said about his passion for the game he plays for a living.
He hopeful that it will translate to his TV doubleheader tonight and tomorrow.
"It's cool," he said. "It's going to be fun. The nerves are like opening day in a new place, but I'm looking forward to it. But it's the same game, the game I know, and I'm just talking about it rather than playing it."
This week's media column -- featuring an explanation for ESPN's planned LeBron and Friends Overkill, the summer and September ratings in the fierce and fascinating sports radio rivalry, and the shrinkage of NESN's Red Sox ratings -- can be found right here. For those of you who have told me you have a hard time finding it on the site, it's almost always posted early Friday morning in the righthand "headlines" column on the boston.com/sports front, and I'm working on coming up with some kind of archive here on TATB. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.
One item that didn't make the final cut this week was a semi-media-related note about longtime Pawtucket Red Sox owner Ben Mondor, who died Sunday at age 85. Mondor, who rescued the PawSox from bankruptcy 1977 and befriended the likes of Jim Rice, Nomar Garciaparra, and Wade Boggs through the years as well as countless ballplayers who never achieved their status, was legendary and beloved for treating the team’s employees with uncommon generosity.
That kindness extended to the PawSox broadcasters, a striking number of whom, as my colleague Pete Abraham pointed out, have gone on to high-profile big league gigs. Remarkably, including NESN's Don Orsillo, there are six former Pawtucket broadcasters currently calling games for big league clubs: Gary Cohen (Mets), Dave Flemming (Giants), Andy Freed (Rays), Dave Jageler (Nationals), and Glenn Geffner (Marlins).
Dan Hoard, the current (and outstanding) voice of the PawSox, elaborated on Mondor's way with people in a thoughtful tribute on his "Heard it from Hoard" blog earlier this week. Wrote Hoard:
For the past few years, [my wife] Peg has received flowers on every appropriate occasion -- Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, her birthday -- you name it, the flowers have arrived like clockwork.
Only I had nothing to do with it.
Ben Mondor recognized that the spouses of his full-time employees faced a difficult burden because of the amount of time that we spend away from home, so he made a point over the years to always have the team send something thoughtful on holidays.
Hoard’s warm sentiments and recollections about Mondor were echoed by Orsillo, who spent five years calling PawSox games (1996-2000) before his callup to the big leagues.
‘‘He was a grandfatherly figure, and the most generous person I have met in this game,’’ said Orsillo from St. Petersburg, Fla., where he was preparing to call Game 2 of the Rays-Rangers playoff series on TBS.
‘‘He treated us all like family, and made us believe we could do our job at the big-league level someday. He was a wonderful man and so many of us are indebted to him.’’
Hard to imagine a more meaningful legacy than leaving those who knew you feeling like they were better for it.
Today's media column, in which we check in with NESN/Bruins play-by-play guy Jack Edwards (probably just my mad journalistic instincts kicking in here, but I think he might like a hockey a little) and gripe about a couple of prominent films looking back at the 2004 Red Sox (Lenny Clarke? On the wonderful "30 for 30"? Talk about cruel jokes), can be found right here.
Some small items got cut for space reasons -- a look at WEEI's "Celtics Thursday" programming, the usual dig at "NESN Daily," and a few other scattered lines. Maybe we'll revisit some of them this week, space-permitting.
There also wasn't room for some tidbits from an interview I had a little while back with Cal Ripken, David Wells, and Ron Darling, who will again be part of TBS's postseason coverage team, along with, among others, NESN's Don Orsillo and Dennis Eckersley.
(I should probably pause to note here that TBS has exclusive coverage of all four Division Series, beginning Wednesday with a tripleheader, times and teams to be determined. The network will also carry the ALCS beginning Oct. 15. They also show lots of reruns of "The Office" from when Jim and Pam weren't perfect and Dwight wasn't a sociopath.)
Anyway, as you'd imagine, it was fun to talk to all three of those guys for 20 minutes or so in a casual roundtable atmosphere. The bombastic Wells was the least engaged and opinionated, while Darling and Ripken were enthusiastic and insightful . . . though Ripken did say one thing that caught me off guard.
He thinks A.J. Burnett is . . . good.
It's true. While talking about the Yankees, Ripken casually mentioned that he expects Burnett — who is atop the public enemies list in the Bronx after losing 15 games with a 5.33 ERA this season — to be a successful member of Joe Girardi's postseason pitching rotation, saying, ‘‘I totally expect him to right himself.’’
I know. I almost asked him if there was another A.J. Burnett of whom I am not aware. Instead, I suggested that he’s in the distinct minority in that opinion, Girardi included.
‘‘Yeah, maybe I’m a little biased because I remember facing him at the end of my career and thought he was the nastiest guy I’d ever faced,’’ said Ripken with a laugh. "So I know he’s got explosive stuff and it’s just a matter of controlling himself.’’
(Hmmm, maybe there is another A.J. Burnett. Because the one Ripken faced got him out once in two career at-bats, with the one hit being a homer. He also drew a walk. Could he be thinking of Sean Burnett? Carol Burnett? She did allegedly have a filthy changeup, and no, I don't know what that is supposed to mean.)
It's hardly surprisingly given his status as baseball’s all-time ironman, but Ripken said he greatly enjoys the marathon days in the TBS studio, where he's joined on set by Wells, The Eck, and host Matt Winer. On certain days -- such as this upcoming Wednesday -- they'll have to watch and analyze three games, weighing in during the studio show that airs between them.
It's a long day, 10-12 hours at times, and as Wells said, it can be a grind even though you're getting paid to watch baseball. "I mean, you put me in front of the TV, and I'm gonna doze anyway," he said.
Ripken says there will be no couch time for him. True to his image, he is savoring every inning.
‘‘I love the fact that you have to watch every single pitch of every single game,’’ said Ripken, who has been part of TBS's postseason studio lineup since 2007. ‘‘I do enjoy the discipline of watching all three games. But to Boomer’s point, sometimes at the end of the day, after watching three games and it's 2 o'clock in the morning, you have to ask yourself, did that really happen today, or was it yesterday? But I really, really enjoy it, and we have a great group of guys. I enjoyed being around Boomer last year, I love Eck's enthusiasm, so it's been a wonderful experience for me.’’
So there you go. Cal Ripken still likes baseball a lot. (Yes, probably even more than Jack Edwards likes hockey.) I suppose that doesn't exactly qualify as the scoop of the day, but it seems entirely genuine, and that's pretty cool.
He's totally wrong about A.J. Burnett, though.
Sadly, you sports and media nerdles are going to have to find another way to kill a couple (or three) hours this afternoon. As you may have noticed by now, no chat today. I've got my bye week during the first week of the NFL season, with Shalise Manza Young sliding in to the noon slot this week to get you primed for the Patriots opener with her beat-writer wisdom.
Complete disclosure: Rather than chat a little later, and risk confusing my puny but charmingly devout audience by bouncing around various timeslots like "Freaks and Geeks" before eventual and unjust cancellation, I decided to take the afternoon to actually write a column for this blog. I know. That's been a foreign concept far too often lately, and while it's rewarding to be habitually busy working on other projects scattered around Boston.com (some recent stuff is aggregated below just to annoy you further), I don't visit this, my favorite neighborhood, nearly as often as I'd like.
So here are some recent links; I'm frequently told the media column is hard to find on the site (it's usually linked near the top of the headlines on Friday mornings, FYI). I've also posted a couple of Patriots quizzes I had great fun putting together that you may have missed.
And the photo of Mike Haynes? Just the usual nostalgia, but also a nice reminder that the best corner in NFL history played for the Patriots. He's pretty high on the list of Patriots players I wish I could watch play again. Top five, probably. Stingley, Morgan, Curtis Martin, Tippett . . .
(Why am I suddenly humming "Reminiscing" by the Little River Band? Make it stop.)
Anyway, on to the housekeeping/pathetic self-linkage. I'll be back here with a column this afternoon (topic: TBD), and I'm already looking forward to chatting about the 1-0 Patriots and 0-1 Jets next week . . .
- Today's media column on the fallout on the rush to be first in reporting the two major Tom Brady stories this week. A few of you guys have told me -- as well as certain Dirt Dog to my right in the office here -- that Dennis and Callahan agreed with my take, which came as a surprise given that we are well established as not-quite-BFFs, not to mention that I somewhat called out Adam Schefter, a regular weekly guest on their program during the football season. I didn't hear it, but it would explain the pigs circling Logan right now. I suppose it has to do with the fact that Channel 7 -- which was shameless in how it handled the Brady news yesterday -- is trying to infringe on WEEI's well-handled scoop.
(Aside: Did any of you crafty veteran TATB readers notice that I weaseled in a mention of Lyman Bostock? He's long been a pet cause around here. In my nearly two years of writing the media column, shoehorning in a reference to the doomed former Angel and Twin may well be my finest feat. And the MLB Network should do a show on him. And check out this picture of his locker from Sept. 24, 1978, the day after he died. There are at least three things here you'd never see in a baseball clubhouse today. A cigarette machine. Stacks of bottled Pepsi. And -- sigh -- a pile of newspapers.)
- Thursday's media column in our NFL section on what analysts at various networks are saying about the Patriots. As a reader pointed out the other day, Jon Gruden essentially said the opposite here of what he told Sports Illustrated. I like Gruden as an analyst, but he hasn't exactly mastered the concept of predictions yet. He's also picked the four AFC North teams to have better records this year than they did last season. That would be a hell of a feat given that three of the four teams won at least nine games a year ago.
- Last week's media column on NFL Films's ridiculously fun series on the NFL Network counting down the top 100 players of all time. I'd never talked to Steve Sabol previously, so it was cool to discover he's just as friendly and animated in an interview as he is as the host of so many NFL Films productions.
- Totally piggybacking on SI's entertaining concept of the best player in NFL history to wear each jersey number, here's our list of the greatest Patriots, Nos. 1-99. The toughest call for me: Randy Moss over Russ Francis at No. 81, though it probably shouldn't have been.
- Finally, a couple of recent quizzes. One on the history of Patriots openers, and an earlier one on general Patriots history. Love doing these, and I suspect they're more fun for readers than seeing them in gallery form.
Two other things: I'll be blogging the Pats-Bengals game from Gillette Sunday, so be sure to stop by the Extra Points blog for news, updates, and very possibly, some snark. Also, buy it! Now! Or I might have to snivel and beg, and no one wants that.
Column coming up in a bit . . .
He seems to have won over the straggling skeptics with his typically shrewd humble charm during his introductory press conference Tuesday. But I'll still never understand why anyone thought the signing of Shaquille O'Neal was a bad idea in the first place.
The Celtics might own an 18th championship banner had they had any semblance of inside scoring against the Lakers, and Shaq's shoulder-to-the-chest, shoulder-to-the-chest, hop-step-and-dunk move is still as go-to as go-to gets. He's well-aware of his role -- if you think Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers are anything but straight shooters, you haven't been paying attention to how deftly they've juggled egos the past couple of seasons by taking one primary approach -- brutal honesty. Yeah, he's little more than a semi-effective roadblock on the defensive end, but we'll assume Lawrence Frank will channel his inner Thibodeau and find a way to hide him for 22 minutes a game. And I mean, hell, he's Shaq!, owner of a secure place on the NBA's list of all-time great players and all-time great comedians. And he's here for the veteran's minimum. What's not to love?
That's a question pretty much every sports media outlet is considering as it angles to have one of the NBA's most recognizable and personable players become a part of their programming. I wrote about this a little bit in today's media column, which you can find here.
I noted in the column that WEEI program director Jason Wolfe didn't return messages; turns out he did, only after last night's column was filed and I was trying to decide if the first preseason game is too soon to talk myself into a Brandon Spikes jersey. My bad there. Anyway, Wolfe acknowledged WEEI's interest in Shaq -- and logically, he will probably end up there rather than on The Sports Hub given that the station is the Celtics' radio home -- joking:
"... He's going to be awesome for us. He's already agreed to co-emcee the Whiney Awards next year with Tony V. In all seriousness, he's a huge personality that will fit this town perfectly and I'm sure you'll hear him quite a bit on WEEI."
Wherever we hear him, this much is certain: It will be appointment listening.
* * *
Wolfe also responded to a query about WEEI's plans for Patriots programming, with the most notable news being that Bob Neumeier will take over as the host of "The Real Postgame Show." Longtime host Pete Sheppard was let go by the station in January.
Neumeier, whom we wrote about last week -- my reader e-mail offered 100 percent approval of him as a radio host, which was unprecedented in my inbox -- had been pulling off the impressive feat of contributing to both WEEI and The Sports Hub.
A source indicated last week that he had been asked to stop contributing to The Sports Hub while he was working for WEEI, and Wolfe confirmed that Neumeier will now have an expanded role at the station.
"Neumy is going to be a regular with us during the football season, hosting with [returning co-hosts] Fred [Smerlas] and Steve [DeOssie] after Patriots games, in addition to consistent appearances on
Glenn's show, and co-hosting on Monday nights with Mike Adams prior to 'Monday Night Football.' "
Other notes regarding WEEI's football programming:
Here's the oft-promised, rarely-delivered link to my weekly media column. FYI, it usually can be found on Friday mornings somewhere relatively prominent on the right side of the sports front, but for those who say they can't find it, here you go.
This week we caught up with ESPN/ABC hoop analyst Jeff Van Gundy. In the time I've been on the media beat, he's right there at the top of the list (along with Phil Simms) among prominent personalities who are genuinely enjoyable to talk to. Van Gundy comes across in an interview just as he does on the telecasts -- as loving basketball so much that he can't help but share his unfiltered opinion.
I pretty much emptied out the notebook in the column, but I didn't use a bit with Van Gundy -- who picked the Lakers to beat the Celtics in the Finals when I spoke to him before the alarming Game 5 -- talking about how the Celtics are an embodiment of their coach, Doc Rivers.
So here it is.
"The Celtics are going to put out a very competitive team," Van Gundy said. "The Celtics won’t be outcompeted. Who ever beats them will beat them. But they won’t be outcompeted. I’m sure that gives Doc some comfort.
‘‘And that’s who he was as a player," said Van Gundy, who was a Knicks assistant when Rivers was the New York point guard. "He was the ultimate competitor. Now if you’re doing a drill in practice, where there’s no score kept, he was, ‘Eh, OK. It’s practice.’ But if you put a score on it, and you have one of the great competitors that’s every played the game. And he has a team that fits who he was.’’
In a related note: Celtics wrap it up tonight. Bring on the Suns.
Here's the linkage to today's media column, featuring a bit on Lou Merloni. In the time I've been on the sports media beat, I'm yet to hear anyone have anything but the highest praise for the way the former Sox utilityman treats people and goes about preparing for each show, whether he's on radio or TV.
"Lou's a great man," said Comcast SportsNet New England assistant news director Morry Levine, who during his time at NECN helped Merloni begin segueing into a sports media career while he was still playing baseball. "He wants to be the best and he works extremely hard for it, and he wants to learn. You really want to work with someone like that."
Always nice to hear about an ex-athlete who takes his second career as seriously as his first.
If you missed it, here's today's media extravaganza, leading with Tom Jackson's explanation of his defense of Brett Favre after The Stupidest Interception Ever Thrown, Non-Ryan Leaf Division.
Not sure if this came across in the column as clearly as I'd intended, but Jackson didn't back down from his sentiments while also conceding after a little bit of prodding that he might have chosen his words a little more carefully. He said he did not mean to praise the pass so much as he meant to applaud Favre's overall performance and toughness.
I guess it makes a little more sense in that context. Still, it's hard to believe anyone -- let alone a smart and accomplished ex-player such as Jackson -- could defend that throw to any sane degree, because such a disastrous decision under those circumstances absolutely negates anything that was accomplished before it.
It was a colossally dumb play, it's not the first time Favre has made such a mistake with his team's season on the line, and it's perfectly OK to say that the emperor has no Wranglers, or however the saying goes.
(Somewhere a few blocks from here, Peter King just heaved his mocha latte at the wall. Curiously, it was intercepted by Tracy Porter.)
One other interesting note from Jackson, which I didn't use because it's more of a football thing than a media thing: Peyton Manning's relatively new habit of essentially curling up in the fetal position when it's clear he's going to get sacked has TJ's seal of approval.
Speaking in the context of Favre's toughness and the brutal punishment that quarterbacks sometimes take, he said, "When the guys who are 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6, 300 [pounds], who are just fierce in their pursuit of hitting you and harming you, when that's going on, I always wish I could put fans in that position one time, and then they would understand and they would go, "Oh, my goodness. This is why they make the $100 million during the course of a contract. This is why.'
"In fact, as long as we're talking about it, one other thing that Peyton Manning has kind of incorporated into his repertoire now is kind of going down on his own. When he sees that there's going to be this clear, clean shot on him, and there's nothing that can be done about it, he's now just going down on his own, not taking the hit, and lining up for the next down. That kind of prudence and thought I think is really . . . I think he's decided after 12 years that this might benefit me in the long run."
Just a hunch, but I suspect Patriots fans would choose another word besides "prudence."