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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.