Eight years ago at this time of the season, I wrote a column proclaiming with some forced adamance that it was time for true legends Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti to move on from the Patriots broadcast booth.
I regretted writing it, oh, probably before the ink on the newsprint was dry.
Not because it was the wrong thing to say — Gil and Gino had slipped even before that 2011 season, and as beloved as they were, it was time — but because it was the wrong time to say it.
Suggesting a couple of aging, accomplished gentlemen should lose their jobs in what was supposed to be the joyous holiday season was lousy form.
I let them know. Not surprisingly, they showed more grace than I did in the first place.
In the years since in this space, I’ve tried to keep the snark and negativity to a minimum at this time of year. Sometimes I’ve even succeeded.
With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the good stuff from the sports media scene in 2019.
As usual, these are wholly subjective and 100 percent indisputable, not that that will stop anyone from disputin’. You know where to find me . . .
■ Best broadcast booth (local) — Dave O’Brien, Jerry Remy, Dennis Eckersley, NESN Red Sox.
In August, the sports media website Awful Announcing released its rankings of every Major League Baseball team’s broadcast booth based on a poll of readers, who were asked to give a letter grade to each booth. NESN’s Sox booth came in 20th, which tells me that either there are a lot of excellent broadcast teams that don’t get much notice, or that Red Sox fans were very harsh graders in this. I’m guessing it’s the latter. (The Padres’ team, featuring Don Orsillo, Mark Grant, and Mark Sweeney, was first.) O’Brien, Remy, and Eckersley worked 30-something games together last season, and when they’re in the booth at the same time, there is no way there are five better broadcast teams around baseball, let alone 19. Remy and Eckersley’s chemistry as ex-teammates — and their willingness to share amusing stories from those days — is what producers covet but rarely find, while O’Brien strikes the right balance navigating the game action while leaving room for conversation.
Aside: I suspect almost all of the eight major broadcast teams in this market (radio and TV for the Bruins, Celtics, Patriots and Sox) would get some support as No. 1. My runner-up would be the Celtics television broadcast on NBC Sports Boston (specifically when Tommy Heinsohn is alongside Mike Gorman) or the Green’s radio broadcast with Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell.
■ Best broadcast booth (national) — Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson (sideline), NFL on CBS.
For much of this two-decade Patriots heyday, it seemed like every other Patriots game was narrated by Nantz, first with Phil Simms as his partner on CBS’s No. 1 broadcast team, and then since 2017 with Romo. This season has been a little different. Nine broadcast teams (most recently Mike Tirico, Kurt Warner, and Peter Schrager Saturday against the Bills on NFL Network) have called Patriots games nationally this season. Nantz and Romo have called three, but they didn’t have a Patriots game until Week 8 against Cleveland. They’ve been missed. Some of the hype around “NostraRomo’’ and his knack for predicting what will happen has died down, but he still has genuine enthusiasm and an uncanny knack for explaining a complicated game in an accessible way. He’s the best since John Madden.
■ Best local television show — “Quick Slants,’’ NBC Sports Boston.
NBC Sports Boston and NESN are always searching for fresh, entertaining programming, but it’s rare that it clicks right away. “Quick Slants,’’ hosted by Tom Curran, has been the best of the local sports television programs for nearly a decade. Yet it hasn’t gotten stale despite occasional turnover in the cast. The one constant has been Curran, who has a deep well of institutional knowledge on the Patriots and remains very well-sourced. On the air, he takes the material seriously but not himself.
■ Best sports radio show — “Toucher and Rich,’’ 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Here’s my thing with Boston sports radio after more than 10 years of covering it: I’d much rather laugh than be ticked off. Brothers and sisters, I’ve got enough to agitate me in my everyday life that there’s no need for me to tune into sports radio to hear why everything stinks in an era in which Boston teams have won 12 major professional sports championships since 2001. Toucher and Rich aren’t for everyone — sports is a part of the show, but not all of it — but they easily generate the most laughs per hour of any show in the market.
■ Best farewell (even if we wish he’d stayed) — Mike Lynch, Channel 5.
In August, Lynch retired as a sports anchor at WCVB after 37 years in the role. He’s not fully out of the picture — he still contributes his popular High 5 high school segments and will be part of big-event coverage — but his profile is smaller, and the Boston sports scene is lesser for it.
So why is this the best farewell? Because Lynch, a throwback to the ’80s heyday of television news when the anchors were stars, navigated what could have been an awkward situation with his usual grace and good nature, reminding viewers one more time of what a class act he has been all these years.