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Sports Media Musings: Taking Stock in Finn’s Column, Grading Gary Tanguay, Dismissing Andy Gresh

The Real Hot Stove: Sports Media Frenzy in Boston

I know what you are (obviously) thinking. “Ryan said he’d do a media column every Friday. I need my analysis. I need my fix.” Or, if you are Andy Gresh, you’d just pass it off by calling me a “P***Y” (We’ll get to that later). Anyway, truth is, I had written something up – but then – Chad Finn blew the internet up with his column. So I had to adjust the piece. To make things up to you, I’m posting a two-part (YES TWO-PART) media column. So check back Friday for some more local coverage (And by that, I mean coverage of coverage. Does that make sense?), and some ESPN noise.

It’s Not Your Fault. It’s Not Your Fault

(That’s me trying to channel Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting)

In all seriousness, Chad Finn’s column wow. Dude killed it. And I’m not just saying that because I like the guy. His coverage in the radio wars has been spot on, and this was solid reporting on the brewing rivalry between the burgeoning Comcast Sports Net and NESN. CSN insider Joe Haggerty called the piece a solid “objective” view of both sides. And he’s right, Finn’s reporting was thorough, informative, and  compelling.

Takeaways: They are who we thought they were!

Here are some highlights of Finn’s piece along with my own musings…

  • I wrote, in this very space, the mal-nourishment of the Boston Bruins by NESN would ultimately hurt the affiliate. This was affirmed in the column. Finn noted the NESN post-game show, following the Bruins Game 7 Stanley Cup Final victory, posted a 1.7, while CSN’s show grabbed a 1.6 rating. Ostensibly speaking, NESN won the battle.  But that’s hardly the case. The virtual tie  indicates that while NESN may be the “Home” of the Bruins – CSN’s coverage is just as solid, if not more. Not following me? Put it this way, CSN carries the Celtics games – is there any way NESN comes moderately close to a tie against CSN following a Celtics championship game?
  • No. Because, as Finn points out, NESN failed to send a reporter to LaLa Land in last year’s NBA finals.
  • I’ll concede NESN does have talent, but the programming philosophy is deleteriously flawed. Yes, viewers want to be told the news, but viewers value opinion as well. In other words, what does the news mean? And as much as the odious perception is transparent towards CSN talking heads, at least they are trotting out opinions.
  • NESN has to develop its own Sports Tonight. NESN Daily either needs to be cancelled or revamped. It’s clear Comcast programming directors looked at the Mark Shapiro ESPN years and saw what shows like PTI and Around the Horn did for the company. Sports Tonight is that vehicle for CSN.
  • More embarrassing NESN B’s playoff-run moment: Jack Edwards having to pay his own way to Game 7 in Vancouver or NESN not interrupting an infomercial to broadcast the Chiarelli press conference breaking the Patrice Bergeron concussion severity?
  • CSN has significant financial backing from the NBC Sports Group. This was accentuated during the massive hiring spree that took place during 2009. No question, a vast amount of talent was brought in.
  • NESN can combat the financial committment made by CSN without breaking the bank. The network can look within their own talent pool for a rebuttal. For instance, I look at guys like Michael Hurley – who is 25 and writes for NESN’s website – to be future stars on back-and-forth debate style shows. I follow him on Twitter, he’s got some spunk. Instead, his talents are wasted writing three-paragraph blurbs on news coming across the ticker. That’s a specious thought process on management’s part.  People go to ESPN, The Big Lead, or Deadspin for that type of crap. I’m not saying Hurley is the answer to the likes of Felger, Curran, or Haggerty. I’m simply stating NESN doesn’t need to break the bank to catch up or offer more credence to it’s coverage, they just need to change the ideology of their programming.

As Cool As the Other Side…Ahh, Nevermind

This week, Gary Tanguay re-appeared on Comcast Sports Net’s bread-and-butter program, Sports Tonight. It was good seeing Gare-Bear back on the air. Although, I get why he’s not exactly a beloved figurehead to Bostonians. With that said, on Friday’s show, Michael Holley made an abundance of small jokes, referring to an apparent new contract for Tanguay. So now that he’s in our lives for the forseeable future, I thought it would be wise to take a step back and dissect Tanguay objectively.

On one hand, the Tanger is clearly in bed with the Celtics. It takes viewers about 10 minutes to ascertain that fact. Tanguay, like Greg Dickerson, seems like a cast-member of Celebrity Rehab at a bar since the Celtics have rebounded from years of despondence. And that’s fine, I didn’t mind Jack Edwards reveling in the Bruins’ post-season success either. It’s tough to get on a guy who had to cover the Celtics during a myriad of 20-30 win seasons. In the same vein, the Celtics propaganda during pre- and post-game programming isn’t nearly as ubiquitous as the filth Tom Caron disseminates on NESN’s Red Sox coverage.

Secondly, I think, because they co-host Sports Tonight, Tanguay often is compared to Mike Felger. That’s a tough break, though. As I documented last week, right now Felger is throwing 98 MPH. And though critics point to him being pompous, the guy has some conviction in his takes.

The plight for Tanguay is he has the “pompous” mantra down, but lacks Felger’s acerbic tone. Therefore, Tanguay just comes off as arrogant rather than passionate. This shouldn’t be perceived as a mar on Tanguagy, moreover it’s a component of what makes Felger, well, Felger. Tony Mazz has been dealing with this same dilemma  since the inception of Felger & Mazz.

Lastly, I think we need to appreciate what Tanguay is to this market. He is a pure host, a poor man’s Stuart Scott. He pushes dialogue with Donny Marshall during Celtics coverage, and with Zolak and Gresh on the Patriot radio broadcast. He’s nothing more, but nothing less either. That’s probably why he struggled and, eventually, was excommunicated from his radio show on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Neither the Time, Nor the Inclination

When bringing up Tanguay and his short stint as midday host on The Sports Hub, I can’t help but think about his successor, Andy Gresh. This is partly because this week, when Felger made a jab at Tanguay’s shortcomings in radio, Gare-Bear quipped that the knife from Gresh was still in his back.

I’m not saying this to hint there is any lingering animosity between Tanguay and Gresh. I doubt that exists. But since Tanguay’s departure, we’ve been cursed with Gresh’s boisterous ways. And frankly, it’s irking to listeners.

Look, there’s a reason Gresh was available for the slot in the first place. He isn’t accomplished, lacks merit, and – worst of all – fails to see (or acknowledge) his own misconceptions. In the world of sports media, the last charge is the most damning.


If you want to yell about how you ‘called’ something, fine, I’ll listen. In the same light, admit when you’re wrong. Gresh is perfectly comfortable with the former, but the second request doesn’t register.

For example, many pundits, including Gresh, tried to mitigate the impact of Shawn Thorton in the Stanley Cup Finals. And you know what, most conceded the notion. Meanwhile, Gresh called Jacoby Ellsbury a “P***Y” on Twitter, following his elongated stay on the DL last year. Thursday night, on Sports Tonight, Tanguay gave Gresh every opportunity to rescind the statement. Gresh refused, citing that Ellsbury’s performance doesn’t trump last year’s long stay on the injury list. Tanguay countered, pointing to the maligned Red Sox team doctors, who have mis-diagnosed several players recently. Gresh dismissed that notion as well.

It’s a joke. It’s grandstanding, and worse-off it’s UNPROFFESSIONAL.

You know how I know these things?

The following night on that very same program – with a panel of Rob Bradford, Mike Holley, Dale Arnold, and Tanguay – Gresh’s stance was brought to the table to which Tanguay said something to the effect of, “He’s holding on. It doesn’t make sense.”

And you know what? No one came to the defense of Gresh. Think about that, Holley has written a book, worked on a much more successful radio show than Gresh, and was a mainstay at the Boston Globe. Bradford’s accomplishments are similar (Established newspaper presence, Editor at the award-winning, and Arnold is the only play-by-play man to EVER call a game for each of the major sports teams in Boston.

And no one came to his defense.

Even disregarding Gresh not relenting his erroneous take, let’s talk about his conduct in general. Remember, he is a journalist. Journalism requires criticism by nature, but it also requires some self-restraint and a view beyond what is peripheral. Gresh doesn’t feel inclined to give us that satisfaction. He got killed on Boston Sports Media’s “Approval Ratings” for bringing nothing to the table. And though I hate the callous commentators on the internet using forums as an opportunity to accost people inappropriately, it’s tough to defend those that verbally assaulted Gresh.

After all, he called a ballplayer a “P***Y” on the internet.

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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4 comments for “Sports Media Musings: Taking Stock in Finn’s Column, Grading Gary Tanguay, Dismissing Andy Gresh”

  1. Sorry but Felger is still clearly an idiot who screams “look at me, I’m important” way too much. If he’s throwing 98 then he’s throwing it to the peanut vendors.

    Posted by L | July 15, 2011, 2:30 pm
  2. Fair enough. I get that. Felger does draw the attention seeking stigma. My main admiration is his willingness to be right as well as be wrong.

    I just feel like, right now, If ESPN were to hold a PTI: City vs City tourney, who do we pick over Felger? Maybe Holley?

    Here is my full take, which I alluded to in the column..

    Posted by Ryan | July 15, 2011, 2:59 pm
  3. In all seriousness, it is amazing how quietly Eddie Andelman retired…who would have thought 15 yes ago that he would end his career in such a quiet way

    Posted by Rob | July 19, 2011, 7:44 am
  4. Good start, although not a lot we can’t get better from Finn. There can’t be enough Gresh critique for my liking and it is good to see a voice of reason on the surprisingly polarizing Gary T. The piece could stand some editing, waayy too ‘words for words sake’ and adverb-y and perhaps we should toggle the spell check (proffessional?)

    Posted by TU | July 19, 2011, 9:57 am

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