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Sports Media Musings: Jack Edwards, Sports Hub, WEEI, ESPN

Bruins Play-By-Play Announcer, Jack Edwards (Courtesy thehockeywriters.com)

Excuse me, while I channel my inner Richard Deitsch…

While watching Game 2 of the Spurs/Grizzlies series on NBA TV Wednesday night, I noticed the announcers were based in San Antonio. This was made apparent right from the moment Matt Bonner hit a 3-point shot and the call was something along the lines of, “Red-Rocket for three…Yes!”

Anyway this triggered me to think about our own local coverage of the NBA and NHL playoffs thus far. As I’m sure many of you heard, play-by-play man Jack Edwards was extremely emotional in his call, as the Bruins restored faith in the masses Game 3 Monday night in Montreal. This drew the ire of Deadspin, the local sports radio stations, and probably your dog. Opinions on the matter ranged from Jack Edwards being unprofessional, to entertaining, all the way to delirious. I guess I lie somewhere in the middle. We’re the same town that lends it’s ears to Tommy Heinsohn, so it’s tough to really hammer Edwards for investing himself to the point where clearly loses objectivity during the contest.

But did he go a tad bit overboard? Well, you decide: first he gave a dissertation on the career of Benoit Pouliot, after the Canadien player took a cheap shot on B’s blueliner Johnny Boychuk.  The denouncement of Pouliot’s career was like the coach in Rudy calling out a young Vince Vaughn, after Vaughn’s character took a cheap-shot on the upstart practice hero, “If you had half the heart of Ruuttigers’ you would’ve made All-American. As it is you just went from the third team to the prep team!” The call was classic Jack – caddy, frank, and profound all while speaking eloquently.

Edwards’ next target was Roman Hamrlik, who feigned a dive towards the end of the game in an attempt to draw a penalty. Jack vehemently screamed “get up” almost like a drill sergeant in boot camp. In spite of this quirkiness, overall the NESN coverage has been solid. Both Edwards and Andy Brickley complement one another well, and Edwards – despite some frantic sequences – is on point with the call.

Donny Marshall and Gary Tanguay’s Celtics post-game show has been endearing. Marshall (with exception of a few bad power suits) has been insightful, and the Tanger (with exception to his Weezer-Buddy-Holly glasses that give off tremendous glare) directs traffic sufficiently. Unfortunately, I have to grade the station an incomplete as far as in-game coverage is concerned, because there’s no way I’m not watching Celtics/Knicks under the narration of the legendary Marv Albert.

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This could get ugly(er). The Boston sports radio wars took new heights Wednesday due to the winter ratings book being released by third party Arbitron. 98.5 The Sports Hub and Sports Radio WEEI have been at odds since the Sports Hub’s inception well over a year ago.  Because the morning drive is such a paramount time for ratings in the radio industry, today both stations took time out of their programming in order to address information. What transpired next was what we call media on media crime. WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan show lobbed bombs not only towards their adversary, Toucher & Rich, but also writer’s Jessica Heslam at the Boston Herald and Chad Finn at the Boston Globe. After receiving word that D & C were proclaiming victory, Toucher & Rich quickly addressed the audience refuting their competitors statements even going as far as to call ‘EEI and request a public debate on the interpretation of the data. D & C, in turn, decided to point to the fact that the sky was blue. Meanwhile, T & R countered that the grass was green. Things got a little juvenile following that exchange.

Look, I don’t really care about ratings. They mean nothing to me, and probably less to you. Am I interested in the radio wars? Of course, I’ve been listening to sports radio since the mid 90′s while doing yard work with my dad. I’m 5% all the way invested. What interests me more is how Gerry Callahan can accost Jess Helsam, WHEN THEY WORK AT THE SAME PUBLISHMENT. Talk about awkward. Do I know anything about the ratings? No. From the minimal research I dug up tonight, it appears both stations can claim they are number 1 – largely because all a station has to do is win one demo to stake that claim. This is sort of like how a film can use the phrase “based on a true story” extremely loosely.

But Heslam and Finn actually break down the numbers and analyze what the data means. For example, one period ‘EEI fabricated their ratings to include their Providence data in the Boston based study when the Sports Hub made initial gains becoming a threat. Would I have caught that? No, probably not – so until further columnists come out and give a definitive view of what this data all means, I won’t know what to think. Finn announced on Twitter he was doing a lunch time chat Friday for Boston.com, and I inquired if he would address D & C’s remarks to which he replied:

@ If I’m asked about it in my chat tomorrow, sure. Probably should defend myself with the truth and facts and stuff.

If you want the juicy details, I would check out this piece from Boston sports media critic Bruce Allen.

In other local sports radio news, Mike Felger and Tony Massarotti recently received contract extensions to host their afternoon-show on 98.5 The Sports Hub. This move, seemingly coincides with the exodus of Dale Arnold from his midday-show at WEEI.  Another move ‘EEI made recently which raised some eye-brows, was bringing night host Mike Adams to fill the third chair on the revamped Big Show. In my opinion, Adams is a boisterous blunderbuss who doesn’t seem to know much pertaining to sports, which is kind of an issue given his line of work. That’s just me though.

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In national news, the release date of Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN is set at May 24th, which is rapidly approaching. Say what you want about “BSPN,” the self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports” did change the sports landscape forever. I’ve read rumblings over the Internet (and take that for what it’s worth) that the brass over at the four-letter network is not to happy about the book. And can you blame them? Read this product description (Via Amazon.com):

Chris Berman, Robin Roberts, Keith Olbermann, Hannah Storm, Bill Simmons, Tony Kornheiser, Stuart Scott, Erin Andrews, Mike Ditka, Bob Knight, and scores of others speak openly about the games, shows, scandals, gambling addictions, bitter rivalries, and sudden suspensions that make up the network’s soaring and stormy history. The result is a wild, smart, effervescent story of triumph, genius, ego, and the rise of an empire unlike any television had ever seen.

To quote the character Bob Ryan from HBO’s series Entourage (Yeah, I know, I can’t believe I just went there too), “Is that something you’d be interested in?”

Ending on a positive note for ESPN, I strongly recommend watching The Brady 6 documentary. ESPN films did a fantastic job taking fans inside the 2000 draft, which saw Tom Terrific fall all the way to the sixth round. Additionally, as you watch the Celtics begin to loll and plod in stretches against the Knicks this weekend, you should check out the mini-series The Association about the team. The inside access is great and the episode Kendrick Perkins is traded epitomizes the term, ‘reality television.’

Comments? Suggestions? Insults? Follow Me on Twitter



About Ryan Hadfield

Ryan Hadfield is the author of the weekly Sports Media Musings column at Sports Of Boston. Hadfield is known as one of the top sports media critics in Boston. He also contributes to Boston Sports Media Watch. In November 2011, Hadfield helped launch the new SoB Point Taken blog featuring his podcasts & musings on sports, media and culture. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

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