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WEEI Radio Shakeup: Why The Michael Holley Move Doesn’t Matter

Dale Arnold and Michael Holley posing in front of their now defunct show. (photo courtesey of weei.com)

Its like getting a massive seven-inch gash in the back of your head and trying to fix it with a band-aid. Does it make it worse? Probably not. But there is an immense amount of work that has to go into fixing it. By now, you’ve probably heard that later this month, Michael Holley will be taking his talents to the afternoon show alongside Boston’s favorite blowhard Glenn Ordway. The Boston sports media is all aflitter with this new shakeup at Boston’s long running sports radio giant.

Why It Happened

Well, the only thing it really means is that the powers that be at WEEI (i.e. Jason Wolfe and Julie Kahn, Program Director and GM respectively) have recognized a problem and are trying to rectify it. Define a problem, gather data, formulate an opinion, experiment and modify. That’s the scientific method, folks. Historically, it’s a fairly sound way to go about problem solving. Although John Dennis and Gerry Callahan might disagree, science probably mystifies and thus scares them.

I can just see it now. A caller calls in to dispute D&C’s opinion about Terry Francona’s decision to pull Josh Beckett in the fifth the previous night. The mere mention of ‘science’ on that show would most likely trigger a sniggering lambasting of science as something that’s done by those ‘yahoos’ at Harvard and MIT. That would probably be followed up by Gerry Callahan lamenting about a time when sports was simple and people used to read the newspaper or John Callahan determined to tell you how well his short game is coming along. Undoubtedly, the conversation would end with the caller getting ‘blown up.’ Riveting radio. Either way, I commend Wolfe and Kahn’s approach to the problem, but what they actually did in response is another matter.

Since the launch of The Sports Hub in August 2009, it’s no secret that WEEI’s ratings have been falling faster than dictatorial regimes. Last Fall, Arbitron ratings showed The Sports Hub finishing first in both the morning and afternoon drives, while also topping WEEI in the midday in the all-important men 25-54 demographic. Shocking, right? Didn’t think so. Just listen to the stations.

For all the hype that D&C get, I’m hard-pressed to actually find people that listen to them. Honestly, where do the ratings come from? Enraged, misinformed political venom pre-8a.m. is not for me. Call me crazy. I challenge any fans reading this blog to sound off in the comments section and help me in this quest. Who are you and what do you find interesting about Dennis and Callahan?

Dale and Holley’s show was good. It really was. Holley is fantastic, thoughtful and an actual journalist with an opinion that doesn’t feel the need to chastise callers to pump himself up. Oh, and he’s likeable, relevant and interesting. Dale Arnold is a nice guy, but whenever I listen to him, I always feel like I’m making small talk with my girlfriend’s dad just waiting for her to get ready so we can leave. In fact, there are few people on WEEI that I can stomach. Granted it’s an acquired taste, but I think Mike Adams is hysterical and entertaining. It’s possible that he stands out more due to the drab surroundings of WEEI, but I think his pairing with John Ryder at night is solid.

WEEI vs. The Sports Hub

But contrast the WEEI team to that of the Sports Hub. Toucher and Rick are phenomenal. They’re hilarious, interesting and just fun to listen to. Some of the stuff can get a little campy, but I’d rather listen to that in the morning than try to digest the conservative agenda being shoved down my throat by the other guys. Toucher and Rich are funny. And, get this, they attract people that aren’t super passionate about sports. Imagine that. Mazz and Felger certainly have their enemies amongst the Boston sports fan monolith. However, they’re interesting, opinionated, and they, shockingly, talk about sports most of the time. They listen to callers and actually try to convey their opinions in an intelligent way. Although Felger can be a pompous ass, I think, at times, it can be endearing. Call me crazy, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve worn that crown. From the limited exposure I’ve had with Damon Amendolara, he sounds good. I’ve talked to more than a few people that are avid listeners. As for me, as I mentioned above, I’m a Planet Mikey guy. Gresh and Zo are another matter altogether. I tolerate Zo during football season because of his insight. Gresh is brutal. He makes silence as sweet as nectar. Similar to D&C, if anyone out there wants to take a stab at explaining the allure behind Gresh, I’m all ears. Seriously.

Michael Holley is on The Big Show, Now What?

So now Michael Holley is on the Big Show. I can see why. He’s the only asset WEEI has that is at all attractive to a younger demographic. But the Big Show? From what I can understand, people that actually like that show are into old dudes using volume levels as their trump card to win an argument. When I used to listen to that show, it made me appreciate what my mom went through having three kids all relatively close in age. I remember that look she used to have at the end of a long day when all she wanted was vapid silence. What is Ordway going to do with one co-host that is knowledgeable, well-spoken and wants to hear what callers have to say? Better yet, what about Frank for Gloucester? Will he still call in?! One can only hope. Sadly, there were many afternoons, back when I was listening to WEEI, that Frank was actually the most lucid person in the ‘discussion.’ Scary.

But let’s look at this in another view. Wolfe and Kahn break up a well-ranked, long-standing show to place (arguably) their most valuable asset in the afternoon. In the process, they completely screw over Dale Arnold, who has been with WEEI since the station’s inception, and have yet to name a replacement for a fairly important time slot on the station. Rumor has it the spot will be filled with Lou Merloni and Mike Mutnansky. Sure, they’ve had some fill-in experience, but overall they are largely untested commodities in one of the most important time slots of the day on a station that calls itself a ‘leader’ in sports radio. Is it me, or does this move reek of desperation?

WEEI listeners are old. Old people will eventually become disinterested and inevitably die. Sorry, it’s just biology. The Sports Hub has a lock on the younger demographic, and will continue to hold onto those people. Its just a matter of time before The Sports Hub is the undisputed heavyweight champ of sports radio in Boston. In time, we’ll come to view this move as a blip in the overall downfall of WEEI.

To give WEEI some credit, their online presence is superior to The Sports Hub. There was a time when the word “blog’’ would have drawn unfathomable jibes from people at WEEI. But since hiring former Herald sportswriter Rob Bradford as the editor of its revamped WEEI.com website in July 2008, it has repositioned itself as more of an online player. Undoubtedly, The Sports Hub will catch up and win that battle. Mark my words.

What Does This Mean For Us?

Well, we’re American and capitalists. Just ask Dennis and Callahan. And in America, good, old-fashioned competition is good for the consumer. So as this war rages on, we should hear better radio (hopefully). I’ll listen to Holley on The Big Show when he starts. For about five minutes or so. At least until the quasi-ADD so prevalent in the younger generation forces me to scan the radio stations for the next best thing.

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Discussion

25 comments for “WEEI Radio Shakeup: Why The Michael Holley Move Doesn’t Matter”

  1. I not only emailed jason Wolfe with my thoughts but I entered into his live cht and tried to post nicely 6 plus times and none of them were posted and he never replied to my email. WEEI is getting slammed because they are no longer the best and the line up is aweful. D&C and the eve lineup with Mikey ( love him but not wanting humor but good sports talk). Ted s and andy E could spark it up. They are losing listeners like crazy. DA is the best and Mazz who I couldn’t stand is really stepping up.

    Posted by JWBNH | February 20, 2011, 10:19 am
  2. Charlie could not agree with you more. Refreshing to read someone who echos my thoughts. D and C make my skin crawl and just can’t listen to them anymore. Their politics are irritating and why the management lets them rant on a so called sports station is beyond me. Holly is indeed very interesting, insightful and respectful. You are correct — the ONLY asset on that tedious station. I used to hate Felger, but he has mellowed and is willing to admit when he is wrong and a blow hard. Maz is awesome — the “Squeaker” gets my vote as also insightful, intelligent and respectful. No coincidence that both Holly and Maz were journalists first. They simply get it. Glad the Sports Hub started up and is competing with WEEI. Shows just how complacent WEEI has become. Boston is a great place when you are a sports fan. Thanks for your article. You are spot on.

    Posted by Steve Kimball | February 22, 2011, 1:54 pm
  3. Munatsky is horrible. He uses a alot of words to say very little.What a bunch of hot air!!
    Actually D & C got the word. Tone
    down the politics!! I still don’t
    listen to them. Im not a Dale fan
    but that was the best show on EEI.
    I used to listen to Gresh & Zo
    when they were on in RI so I’m used
    to them. Let’s face it Felger & Maz
    are not enablers when it comes to football. When you have Belicheck on your show, it’s hard to be critical. The best thing EEI can do
    is discontinue Belicheck’s little
    talk on mondays during football season. Fred & Steve are suck ups.

    Posted by steve atley | February 22, 2011, 3:50 pm
  4. A little late but I just discovered this blog. I’m a long time listener to local sports radio (ie., old guy) & I agree w/ most of your points. Hate D&C, whereas T&R get a thumbs up. Hate Gresh but Zo is tolerable. Tho occaisionally aggravating, would much rather listen to Felger & Mazz than the the Big Show, w/ or w/o Michael Holley. During the evening is where we part ways because I find “Planet Mikey” unlistenable so I choose Damon Amendolara when I listen at night. And I completely agree w/ the other poster regarding ‘EEI’s newest addition, the “Mutt Man”, Mike Mutnansky. This guys talks just to hear himself speak I think. I heard him a few times on a local station here in Nashua NH & could not stand him then & still can’t. The guy is just awful, imo.

    Posted by Andy | March 10, 2011, 8:44 am
  5. I agree with Andy. I’ve never understood why Mike Adams gets a pass in this town. ‘Oh, Mikey’s so’crazy.” No he’s not, and he’s not funny either. I’ve listened to him a lot in the past (before Sports Hub) and he’s never once made me laugh. Ham handed and corny …and God forbid there’s a pretty girl in the studio…embarassing!
    I’m thrilled that D&C are getting their just due. It’s so easy to be number one when there’s no competition. I find myself actually listening to the Sport’s Hub commercials rather then switch to EEI. I can’t risk hearing one of Callahan’s sanctimonious right-wing sermons. Sport’s Hub gets it just right in my opinion. Hosts that know what their talking about with the good sense to stick to sports. Lastly, I do feel bad for Dale Arnold–he’s always struck me as a smart and decent guy.

    Posted by greg | March 12, 2011, 11:50 am
  6. EEI is indeed desperate and it is showing–badly. Holley is very good and he was the ONLY reason I would tune in. But his pairing with Ordway is a disaster. They have zero chemistry. I know these things take some time to gel, but the pairing is horrible. You can sense the discomfort between the two. Forget the midday now. Mut and Merloni are just plain awful. And how am I supposed to take seriously a 2nd rate ex-baseball player commenting on basketball or football? How? Ned Flanders, aka Dale Arnold, at least had some informed opinion. EEI is a dinosaur. The sooner it dies, the better.

    Posted by tomiac | March 30, 2011, 10:52 am
  7. the big show used to be great – all those guys talking at the same time was irritating, but you got to hear the heart and soul from the best.

    Mutt is just awful – somebody said it earlier….lots of words but nothing important….Lou is a real potential, too bad he has to put up with Mutt.

    Dale & Holly were fantastik, although I really think that it was Dale who provided the magic.

    Can’t wait for Sunday am – Dale is really exceptional and I look forward to listening.

    Final thought – save the Big Show, bring back all the people who had lots of really good stuff to add!

    Posted by bob boronski | April 1, 2011, 9:46 pm
  8. The fact that the idiots running EEI changed the only show that was tolerable (D&H) shows they deserve to go under. Mutt and Merloni are worse than the college kids at BRU, I gave it 5 minutes and I couldn’t stand another second.
    D&C?… Not worth the finger strokes.
    The Big show was only terrible when Fred and Steve were on, now it sucks all the time. It took a couple days to get used to the HUB and all of the Hockey talk but even that’s better than anything being said on EEI these days.
    You can’t go wrong mixing in a little comedy and that’s something EEI was too arrogant to realize.

    Posted by Nic | April 5, 2011, 8:10 am
  9. I am an “old guy” who made the jump to 98.5 FM.

    The D&C routine was getting so tiresome. Who needs to start the day with that much acrimony? (Your right Jerry, your argument is much more cogent uttered in a funny voice with increased volume.)

    It is striking how quickly the audience shifted once there was some true competition on the airways. (ESPN’s Mike & Mike was the equivalent of the Olive Garden to a full blood Italian)

    One element of the big show that I miss was the guests they had on the show. I like the idea of bringing in a new voice to complement the hosts. (NOT Fred & Steve!)

    I would love to hear the likes of Tom E Curran or Ron Borges showing up with Felger and Maz or somewhere on 98.5 as guests.

    I think the addition of Dan Shaunessey goes a long way to lowering the “Loud Jerk” quality that has become the signature for Gresh & Zo.

    The other big surprise was realization that there is a market for “Hockey Talk” – I mean good informed talk about the bruins.

    For years, EEI dismissed hockey fans, Dale Arnold not withstanding,(This goes all the way back to the Andelman days…told you I was old.)

    I will admit that Gresh becomes overbearing and I had always been a fan of Lou Merloni. So I gave the new show a chance,but I find Mutt insufferable for all the reasons stated by other posters.
    Sorry Lou.

    Finally, I agree with Charlie’s article. The pirating of Michael Holley seems like a panic move. Dale gets screwed, there isn’t any chemistry between Glen & Michael and without guests of interest, I don’t even bother to check in.

    I had enjoyed listening to EEI for years, but just like the teams they critique, when you finally face some real competition, your weaknesses and flaws will be exposed.

    Posted by THEMAXX | April 11, 2011, 10:57 am
  10. I cant stand guys with no opinions, yelling and talking too much to cover their weaknesses. Not only am I referring to ordway but also gresh,zo and mut. Do I need to go on about the big O? I think not.. if you’ve been listening to sports talk in boston you know what I am talking about.
    Gresh and Zo, although they’re good when talking football, their knowledge drops drastically with other sports…the show becomes 4 hours of cliches and non sense. Basically for me mid-day shows are crap…I close my browser from 10 to 2. Mut, I couldnt stand him when he did weekends. I dont know what his background is but he is just awful. I gave him a chance with the new gig…but its the same ol’ crap. He needs to learn the art of brevity. Merloni definitely knows his stuff when it comes to baseball, other than that its the same problem with Gresh and Zo…tries too hard to sound like he knows what he’s talking about. I’ve been following sports for years, I dont need cliches…give me something I don’t already know, dont ride the fence (*clears throat* ordway!), be innovative…I find all of the above when listening to Felger and maz. Felger is bold, doesn’t care about what anybody says…he even pissed off peter chiarelli to the point where he wouldnt come on the show (has EEI ever done that to a local GM or coache?)

    Mikey can be funny at times but this shtick gets old, so juvenile at times. he cant talk about anything besides baseball.

    Posted by 4thn2 | April 11, 2011, 2:10 pm
  11. if the sports hub was kicking EEI’s a$$ for the past year they’re stomping on their face right now. I really don’t care about Charlie Sheen but having him in studio just gave 98.5 national attention.

    Posted by 4thn2 | April 13, 2011, 9:16 am
  12. I could not beleive it, as I was reading this article I started to get the feeling I had already wrote it. I know that sounds weird, but I work in the car rental business and listen to the radio ALOT. I share your opinions and have been disappointed in the direction WEEI has been going. I really enjoyed Dale and Holley, and could not stand the Big show or D & C. Now that they have added Mut and Merloni I find myself listening to FNX during the midday. I think the biggest problem with WEEI is that during the Sox playoff runs in 04 and 05 they gained a tremedous following due to the popularity of the sport. They failed to realize that sports are ultimately meant to be entertainment and fun. Emotions I rarely feel when listening to that station. It was refreshing to read that people share this feeling as well.

    Posted by Pat B | May 8, 2011, 10:34 pm
  13. This page of s#$& comments is just redonkulous!!! This is a one sided opinionative story and all the comments are one-sided also. I hope I’m not waisting these few minutes typing and this stays posted! WEEI is far superior to the sportshub. I loved dale and holley, and was saddened by it shutting down, but I love all the personalities throughout the stations roster, guests and hosts alike. I dont really care for mutt and merloni, but Im cool with the rest of it. As for the sportshub, COMPLETE UNLISTENABLE GARBAGE. Toucher and rich, lol. There shtick was garbage on bcn now you throw that nonsense on a sports channel and its far worse. Not a good sports talk show. The other 5 guys they put up daily are worse. I didnt even like Felger and Mazz on weei and they are no different now. That station is better because they got weeis leftovers that noone liked? C’mon! Id rather listen to a coversation between roseanne barr and fran dreschner(The Nanny) then listen to those two pieces of schmegma piss and moan. The only good thing about the hub is The Bruins and Patriots games. There talk is terrible, and i dont understand why anyone would feel different.

    Posted by Tim Mann | May 20, 2011, 11:19 pm
  14. I’m not very sophisticated when it comes to how radio stations hire, fire, choose their talkies, etc.. What I do know is simple: Glen Ordway is an empty-headed bully whose stage name is an insult to Oscar Robertson. Also, Michael Holly doesn’t deserve the demotion of “getting the chair” beside Ordway. Holly is what Ordway would dream about if he were not so self absorbed.

    Posted by zzkevin | June 27, 2011, 10:58 pm
  15. I was a little upset when you got rid of pete shep.I liked him on the BIG SHOW he made me laugh when he would get into with FRANK FROM YOU KNOW WHERE.But now that you BACK STABBED Dale Arnold,I find my self changing the channel when mut@merloni are on to 98.5.I look forward to the weekend to hear DALE on the RADIO,I try to stay and listen but the midday show SUCKS!!!!!Dont get me wrong Dale got on my nerves but he knew what he was talking about.To finish I hope you get back PETE AND DALE,because I find myself totally not listing like I used to,I hope you read these comments from your listeners but to be honest I DOUBT IT

    Posted by chuck | July 7, 2011, 8:44 am
  16. I greatly prefer 98.5 to WEEI. I’m an old guy too. I started listening to sports talk as a kid in the 70s when Eddie Andleman had his sports huddle show on Sunday nights.

    The one host I can’t stand on 98.5 is Damon Amedolara. He doesn’t have the depth of knowledge that any local has. I saw Dale Arnold completely eviscerate D.A. on Sports Sunday while they were discussing the Red Sox. D.A. was clueless. It was hilarious to watch Felger just let D.A. twist in the wind.

    I guess my hope is that when Dale Arnold’s contract with EEI ends, 98.5 will hire him to replace the other D.A.

    Oh yeah, Gresh is a wannabee John Dennis. He’s tried a few times to slip his right wing politics into the Patriots post game show. I wouldn’t mind if he gets shown the door as well. (Bring in Holley when his contract with EEI expires.)

    Posted by Bob | July 31, 2011, 11:42 pm
  17. I never listen to those fat blowhards and inbred morons on WEEI anymore because I don’t have too Sports Hub is far superior….

    Posted by Larry | August 2, 2011, 4:18 pm
  18. I used to go to work in the AM in a bad mood. One day while driving my teenage daughter to school she asked, “Why do you start your day listening to two guys argue,yell and insult people?”

    She was right. Odd that WEEI thought if they show us those guys on TV spitting into thier mikes – it would be even better.

    SportsHub changed that for me.

    The Bog O is misinformed and a very poor communicator.

    Who could not be the best Bakery in town when your the only one.

    EEI days of being the postal service is over(monopoly) – there is a new sheriff in town.

    Posted by BullSnot | August 11, 2011, 10:12 am
  19. in giving the 10 to 2 show to Mut and Merloni WEEI shot themselves in the foot. I enjoy D & C in the morning and i did listen to Dale and Holley. I never could stand the Big show with everyone talking aat once. Weei would have been better served to move Dale & Holley to PM drive. Dale is a true gentlemen and he and Holley presented a knowledgable and entertaining sports show. now i listen to WEEI till 10AM and to the ballgames. Otherwise i listen to 98.5 0r newsradio 1030. Why not put Dale on at 1pm to 3?

    Posted by Bertolucci | September 2, 2011, 12:14 am
  20. Does Lou Merloni ever shut up???? This third rate major league “ballplayer” thinks he is the most knowledgable host on sports talk. No Lou, you are just an irritable buffoon. Bring back Dale

    Posted by Brsdad | September 6, 2011, 2:01 pm
  21. Some excellent comments here. WEEI didn’t care what their audience had to say, and that’s never good for any business. I took the time to send a letter to Jason Wolfe awhile back. It was in reference to Steve DeOssie and it articulated my dislike for how he treated many callers. Not only was it demeaning, the bullying was uncomfortable to listen to. I also took the time to offer an opinion on Glenn Ordway’s incessant repeating. I did think he was knowledgeable, but he has the habit of repeating the same thing over-and-over. Listeners aren’t morons. Repeating yourself will not change their minds. In fact it makes for boring, irritating listening. Back to the arrogance…. Jason Wolfe NEVER responded back to me. 98.5 has its flaws, for sure, but it is infinitely more listenable than WEEI. They didn’t care… they didn’t bother to listen, and now look, a pretty marginal competitor is gobbling up market share. Jason, you only have yourself to blame…

    Posted by J. Mackerel | September 13, 2011, 11:00 am
  22. John Dennis is a complete buffoon. How the Pats put their players on that junk show is beyond me.

    Thank God narrow-minded luddites, who proudly profess their uneducated belief system (yes, science would scare J Dennis) are on the way out.

    J Dennis deserves his own YouTube channel, with flag draped in the background, sitting in some hoarder-esque den, in a wifebeater, drinking beer and ranting. That’s the mental image I think of when that crab of a man is unfortunately mentioned in my ear-shot.

    Good riddance to J Dennis, he is on his way out.

    Posted by Jason Edward | January 15, 2012, 3:23 pm
  23. My only draw to WEEI was Dale and Holley. The morning show BLOWS!! Mutt and Lou are ok in a pinch and on par with Gresh and Zo only during baseball season. The Big Show has its moments but again it just seems like Glenn with a guest Holley. Bring back D and H and I will listen again. Other then that the Hub is the place to be. Think of the advantage WEEI had on the hub with its loyal listeners and the fact you can listen almost anywhere in New England. Now I listen on my smartphone (which I pay for)to the Hub.

    Posted by Tim G | October 9, 2012, 11:02 pm
  24. The worst thing WEEI did was to cancel Dale and Holley. I have nothing against Ordway but I knew it would never work out. I listened to WEEI everyday when Dale and Holley were on-I actually planned my day around it.More woman would listen if hosts like D and H were on. They are knowledgeable sports people without being rude and vulgar.I haven’t recouped from the D and H cancellation in 2 years. I really miss them.

    Posted by Debbie Paduch | February 15, 2013, 7:33 pm
  25. The afternoon show on WEEI will never get better ratings until Michael Holly leaves. Its a no brainer! Mike Salk was a terrible replacement for Ordway. The last thing to do is get rid of the person that should have been fired to begin with.

    Posted by John | March 20, 2014, 3:01 pm

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