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Sports Media Musings: ESPN Original Programming Wins, Media Scolds NESN, CSNNE’s Farm System

PTI Turned 10 This Week. (

Praising Rage Against The Machine

ESPN gets criticized with great regularity. Much of the scrutiny is deserved. Segments like, “Who’s Now” on SportsCenter” feel forced. I shake my head when Skip Bayless argues Aaron Hernandez’s fried chicken entrée could be a harbinger of trouble ahead for the Patriots. Lastly, Herman Edwards‘ rants lay somewhere between Al Pacino’s cathartic “6 Inches Speech” and Keanu Reeves trite, “Pain Heels and glory lasts forever” pep talk.

With all that laid across the kitchen table, the maligned four-letter network’s documentary efforts are commendable. Since the inception of 30 For 30, ESPN has shown (with its Eff-you $$$) they are capable of getting out of the way and letting accomplished directors spawn great documentaries. I’m not saying this based off the screening of “Unguarded” I attended on Wednesday. Films like “The Two Escobars”, “Four Days In October”, “June 17, 1994”,  and “Jordan Rides the Bus” were all exceptional efforts.

(*Note – ESPN discontinued the 30 For 30 branding for reasons that still seem unclear, at least to me. The subsequent films such as “The Fab Five” and “Unguarded” are being produced by the same creative team.)

During the premiere Jonathan Hock, director of “Unguarded”, took time to praise ESPN executives John Walsh and John Skipper citing, “They supported a project that in the past may have not received blessing.”

Another innovative project from the “WorldWide Leader” reached a different milestone this week. Pardon the Interruption had its 10-year anniversary being on the air. The show was appropriately lauded by WEEI’s Mike Mutnansky during last Friday’s “Mut & Merloni” broadcast. PTI created a myriad of terrible step-children (I-Max, First Take), but also served as the paradigm for “talking head” sports shows I generally enjoy (Sports Tonight).

Here is a 11 minute video of the great opens over the years between hosts Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser. Watch it, enjoy it, and keep avoiding that stuff called, ‘work.’

Quick Musings, Links

(Because, at age 25, I’ve gotten soft)

1.) Many have expressed disagreement with my opinion on NESN not covering Theo Epstein’s exile to the Second City. I expressed my point further in the comments section of the piece. If you don’t agree, no biggie. We’re not going to keep things copacetic with every column, after all, it’s the Internet!

Kirk Minihane, from, expressed similar distaste from the coverage oversight.

 And speaking of embarrassing, if NESN want to at least pretend to be a network with a sliver of credibility, you have to show Theo’s press conference. I think we all could have lived without the 14th straight showing of “NESN Daily.” You either cover all Boston sports, or you are a shill for Larry, John Henry, Linda Pizzuti and the Red Sox. I think we already have our answer.

Michael Holley called it ‘shameful’..

@MichaelSHolley How is NESN not showing the Theo press conference? And Comcast is? #shameful#doyouwannawin

I’m not saying this validates my overall stance. (If I agreed with media-types like Minihane and Holley all the time then I wouldn’t be here.) But I just want to point out that I’m not the only ‘hater’ out there in terms of this issue.

2.)’s affiliation with leaves something to be desired. I get the comedic aura trying to be evoked, but I’d rather the site take itself less flippantly. I like the concept: Major Outlet (CSNNE) espousing Rogue Entity (Wicked Good Sports).

However, I’d tweak the content of Wicked Good Sports. There’s an opportunity to report and ruminate on topics that Deadspin and The Big Lead touches on. I think that’d be cooler than barely cracking a smile at B+ Photo-Shop projects that my college roommate used to do in order to kill time.

3.) Speaking of Deadspin, Joe Buck vs. Jack Buck is equivalent to Theo Epstein vs. Ben Cherington. Creepy.

4.) Not you too, Ron. Bruce Allen hit this topic earlier in the week: The media did some quick math and realized Tom Brady is 6-1 as a starter against the Steelers. I always thought we could count on Ron Borges for “proper perspective,” but even he feels Sunday is a lock. Regardless, I liked the column.

5.) At CSNNE’s “Hockey Night” Monday, Shawn Thorton said he hopes to retire a Bruin. I noted Tony Amonte was in attendance, and asked if he saw a future as a personality in the media: “I’m not doing all this for nothing,” Thorton swiftly replied.

Thorton is good on CSNNE’s new hockey show, “Sticks & Stones”, and his appearances on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich” morning radio program. He is affable and seems primed to join at least one form of medium when his playing days are over. I think Amonte, Thorton, and Mike Felger sparring in pre/post-game settings would bolster CSNNE’s hockey coverage.

Additionally, CSNNE seems to have another prospect waiting in the wings with former Boston Celtic, Brian Scalabrine. Scal is already making brief appearances on Sports Tonight and as a color analyst with sage, Mike Gorman, at Connecticut Sun games. Like the aforementioned hockey trio I just mentioned — Donny Marshall, Scalabrine, and Gary Tanguay would be a solid core debating Celtic news and games.

6.) Good Grantland Range — Really enjoyed Rembert Browne’s piece on MTV’s old Rock N’ Jock productions. Fun stuff, highly recommend it if you grew up during that time frame.

7.) Bad Grantland Range Molly Lambert dissects fluff magazines. Umm, don’t kill me for this, but I liked the piece. Then again, I understand this is probably to far outside the realm of the average consumer reading Grantland. And I don’t doubt (or blame) that it will likely get skewered here.

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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2 comments for “Sports Media Musings: ESPN Original Programming Wins, Media Scolds NESN, CSNNE’s Farm System”

  1. I assume it’s no longer branded “30 for 30” b/c that was 30 documentaries made for ESPN’s 30th anniversary… they are now making more – so doesn’t fit…

    Posted by JoshK | October 28, 2011, 2:29 pm
  2. According to 30 for 30 producer Bill Simmons: “We’re spinning off the “30 for 30” series next year into something that will probably be called “30 for 30 Presents” or something like that… we’re going to be putting out 4-5 sports docs per year on the level of the best “30 for 30″ docs and getting the best filmmakers to do them. Same creative team is involved. We have some terrific ideas in the hopper. So even though the SMU doc will be the 30th one (right after the Heisman ceremony) don’t think the spirit of the series is going away.”

    Posted by Ryan Hadfield | October 28, 2011, 3:10 pm

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