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Let the battle begin. Thursday marks the launch of the area’s newest sports radio station, 98.5FM, a.k.a. “The Sports Hub,” Boston’s first sports talk radio station on the FM dial. While 850AM WEEI has long been the sports radio juggernaut in New England, The Sports Hub hopes to carve a healthy chunk out of WEEI’s #1 ratings, featuring the play-by-play rights to both Patriots and Bruins games this upcoming fall. Today’s station launch is wrapped around the return of Tom Brady, as the Pats’ preseason kicks off Thursday night in Philadelphia against the Eagles.
For their starting lineup, 98.5FM has brought over Toucher & Rich from the now defunct WBCN 104.1FM. Fred Toucher and Rich Shertenlieb, both out-of-towners, have had a top-rated show in the area for a few years now, having started during afternoon drive on ‘BCN, and more recently moving to mornings. While their show won’t totally revolve around sports, their brand of comedy in the morning will continue to bring listeners a refreshing alternative to wake up to, compared to the uber-conservative political yapping found most mornings from WEEI’s “Dennis & Callahan” each day. I, personally, would rather hear “Drunken Red Sox Recaps” and sound clips from “The Chili Guy,” over close-minded, arrogant whiners on the AM dial.
Heading into midday, the sweet sounds of Comcast Sportsnet’s Gary Tanguay will grace the airwaves every weekday from 10-2. Joining him will be ex-Pats sideline QB Scott Zolak, who had seen some time on WEEI’s “Big Show” since losing his gig with Rhode Island’s 790AM “The Score.” This pairing seems a bit “vanilla” to me, but hopefully they can bring enough to the table to at least compete with the already intelligent and successful “Dale and Holley” program on ‘EEI.
The afternoon drive is where the money’s at. For “The Sports Hub,” they are putting all their chips behind journeyman media mogul Michael Felger, who in the last few years has jumped from the Boston Herald to WEEI to ESPN Radio, back to WEEI, over to Comcast Sportsnet, and now as the co-headliner for “The Sports Hub.” 98.5FM has paired Felger with the Boston Globe’s Tony Massarotti, another ex-WEEI’er and ex-Herald columnist. I liked both of these guys during their WEEI stints, and I’m really looking forward to them providing a viable alternative on the radio for my ride home from work each weekday.
While you might not agree with everything Mike Felger spouts, after all he is the region’s ultimate contrarian, his views and opinions are always backed with the facts to support his opinion, and for that you have to respect the work he does. Tony Massarotti is a well-respected journalist whose Red Sox insider status should act as a talking point catalyst for all things Sox.
This new afternoon show has as good a chance as any to dethrone Glenn Ordway’s “Big Show,” or at least take a good chunk of listeners away. I can’t be the only one sick of the yelling, the berating of callers, the talking over each other, and the overall pompous attitude of Ordway, Pete Sheppard, and other Big Show contributors.
The evenings are where “The Sports Hub” has me scratching my head a bit. They have decided to bring in outsider Damon Amendolara to take on the 6 p.m. – 12 a.m. shift. “D.A.,” as he apparently refers to himself as, is a New York native, but has recently been heard on WQAM in Miami. WEEI’s “Planet Mikey” has a strong following, and I don’t see how an outsider like Amendolara can make an immediate impact on swaying listeners to 98.5FM
Also, it’s been reported that former Red Sox radio play-by-play man Jerry Trupiano will be heard on the 98.5FM airwaves on Saturdays, paired with ex-WBCN mid-day host Hardy. Beyond that, most weekend programming will go to CBS Radio or Sporting News Radio syndicated shows.
So while I am definitely welcoming another option in the sports radio world, I see early indications that the inevitable ratings war will shake out to be a draw. I can see WEEI holding strong with “Dale & Holley” and evenings with “Planet Mikey,” while “The Sports Hub” will hopefully gain a lot of ground in the mornings with “Toucher & Rich” and in the afternoons with Mike Felger and Tony Massarotti. The potential for a great new alternative is there, and now, only time will tell if 98.5FM “The Sports Hub” can deliver the goods. I know I’ll be listening to find out.