Monday, June 1, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Boston Sports Media

"Greer gets the ball in play. He gets it out deep and ...Havlicek steals it..Over to Sam Jones. Havlicek stole the ball...It's over..It's over...Johnny Havlicek is being mobbed by the fans..."

The call is more famous than the play itself. We all know the "Most" (Johnny) famous call in Boston sports history. Yet as fans, many do not know the opposing team, the score or even that Hondo's theft didn't win the game, but prevented the Sixers from winning it.

And of course this isn't the only call in Boston sports lore that has grown larger than the game itself.

Joe Castiglione's radio call of the final out that ended the Curse of the Bambino in 2004 will be forever linked with Fenway Fame. The sound bite is more famous than the video footage of the event itself.

“Swing and a ground ball, stabbed by Foulke. He has it. He under hands to first, and the Boston Red Sox are the world champions! For the first time in 86 years, the Red Sox have won baseball’s world championship! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?”

Then there are calls,which fall under the heading of memorable, yet infamous. Calls we'll always remember but not as much for capturing a moment as for their out and out lunacy.

The Bruins play by play man Jack Edwards made the following call during a recent game between the Bruins and Flyers. Not a great call per se but definitely an instant classic.

And of course, nearly any rant by Celtics announcer and resident homer Tommy Heinsohn, becomes memorable to Boston and national listeners alike.

I feel with all my heart that when God created sports, all roads pointed to Boston. Not only are we Bostonians blessed with four of the top sports franchises in the world, but we are equally blessed with the radio, television and print media personalities to enhance our sports experience.

The list of media legends or near legends is endless, Johnny Most, Will McDonough, Ken Coleman, Curt Gowdy, Derek Sanderson and Fred Cusick, Peter Gammons and Sean McDonough set the tone of Boston sports print and broadcasting.

What follows is the Best and Worst of Boston Sports Media. Thank you to the many friends and fans who participated in my "informal poll." Your opinions were invaluable. In many cases your thoughts were the same as mine and in some instances quite different. That is what makes for good sports media banter.

The list of legends in waiting is perhaps equally impressive as Jerry Remy, Bob Ryan, and Joe Castiglione both entertain and enhance the Boston sports picture in much the same manner as their predecessors.

The Good

Top Newspaper for Sports: Boston Globe

The Globe's competition is not only the Boston Herald in Boston proper, but the Providence Journal Bulletin, The Lawrence Eagle Tribune, The Worcester Telegram and the Patriot Ledger.

With such writers as Bob Ryan, Nick Cafardo, Mike Reiss, Kevin Paul Dupont and Dan Shaunessey (not my favorite, but still a great writer), the Globe coverage is unparelleled. Now if they can't keep afloat in the wake of recent problems, the nod goes to the Herald.

Best Columnist: Bob Ryan

Looks like a cross between Captain Kangaroo and one of the Kennedy's to me. Not only a Boston legend but a national legend as well. Ryan has covered 20 NBA finals, 20 Final Fours, nine World Series, five Super Bowls, and the last seven Olympics.

In recent times Ryan has become less basketball-oriented and more general sports-oriented. He has also written for the Basketball Times. Bob votes for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In 1982, Ryan would hand the torch of the Celtics beat to, then-not well known, Dan Shaughnessy and later Jackie MacMullan. He did this in order to go to WCVB for a couple of years. Ryan ended up hating it and moved back to the Celtics beat in 1984 for two more seasons before getting promoted to general sports columnist in 1989.

He has won the following prestigious awards during his Hall of Fame career.
  • Dick Schaap Award for Outstanding Journalism
  • Curt Gowdy Award from the Basketball Hall of Fame
  • Associated Press National Sportswriter of the Year
  • National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association National Sportswriter of the Year
  • Member of the College Basketball Writers and New England Basketball Halls of Fame.
Red Sox Beat Writer: Tony Massarotti

The one-time Herald writer jumped to the Globe this past summer and may have single handedly decreased the Heralds readership. The squeaky voiced scribe no longer appears on WEEI due to conflicts with the Globe but was recently seen on Red Sox telecasts to fill in for Jerry Remy.

Knowledge eminates from his very soul. Mazz alos appears on New England Sports Network (NESN). In addition, Mazz's book, "Dynasty, How the Red Sox Became a Baseball Powerhouse" is a must read for any Sox fan.

Best Patriots Beat Writer: Mike Reiss

Not to be confused with the writer of the Simpsons, Mike Reiss of the Globe might be the best beat writer for any team in any sport.

His blog Reiss' Pieces is not only a clever name but the best and most informative sports blog I read. Outside of Michael Holly, writer and WEEI sports personality, Reiss knows more about the Patriots than Belichick himself.

Best Celtics Beat Writer: Frank Dell'Appa

Though his Globe mug shot looks like is was stolen from the FBI's Most Wanted list, there is nothing criminal about Dell'Appa's coverage ofthe Celtics. Previous to this position, he was the beat writer for the New England Revolution and also reported on the U.S. National Team and international soccer.

In 1997, he was inducted in the Massachusetts Soccer Hall of Fame. He has covered five FIFA World Cup Finals and two Womens’ World Cup finals. He has been a member of the Boston Globe sports staff since 1989.

Best Bruins Beat Writer: Fluto Shinzawa

Though I personally think there is something oddly humorous about a writer of Asian decent covering hockey and NASCAR there is none better.

The BU grad is the Boston Bruins beat writer for the Boston Globe sports section. He also covers NASCAR for the paper. Prior to assuming the B's beat, Shinzawa was the lead college hockey writer for the publication. His Bruin's blog and his pre-game reports are second to none.

Best Radio Play by Play (Red Sox): Joe Castiglione

Love Joe Castig and Love Sean Grande (Celtics). This one was too close to call so we split the award. The two are both professional with Joe being the voice of experience and Grande representing the new regime of sorts.

Castig is a seasoned pro whose radio voice is calming and soothing to the often whigged out Red Sox listeners. Castiglione was a Yankee fan as a kid and this almost cost him the award here. He said in his autobiography that he then closely followed the Pirtates becasue the were the closest to Youngstown and became in Indian fan after moving to Cleveland.

Not only did Castig make that famous call when the Sox won in 2004 but he is also the Geography King. Seems to know the home town of every MLB player this side of Tokyo.

Best Radio Play-by-Play (Celtics): Sean Grande

Grande is in his seventh season as the radio play-by-play voice of the Boston Celtics working along side Cedric Maxwell.

Prior to taking the job in 2001, he was mostly known among New England sports fans as the “Flashboy” on The Big Show on WEEI He was also the program director at WEEI for three years. Grande is knowledgeable and consistent and is a good straight man for Maxwell.

The duo is known as “Grande and Max.” As of the end of the 2007-2008 season, only the legendary Johnny Most and current television voice Mike Gorman have called more Celtics games than Grande.

Best TV Color: Jerry Remy

Jerry Remy is the God of color commentating. He has been working in broadcasting since 1988 and as the Red Sox color commentator since 2000. He laughs at himself and has no bones about poking fun at his perceived baseball inabilites. He promotes himself endlessly and is the first president of Red Sox nation.

Remy's hot dog stand, RemDawg's, is open outside of Fenway. He also runs a web site, called the Remy Report and is the author of children's books Hello Wally and Wally the Green Monster and his Journey Through Red Sox Nation! and his air guitar bit is legendary.

Best TV Play-by-Play: Don Orsillo

The consummate professional, even when he cracks up to Remy's antics. The pride of Melrose Ma spends much of his time laughing at RemDawg when he is not announcing top notch Red Sox.

He has been NESN's play-by-play man since the beginning of the 2001 (a no-hitter thrown by then Red Sox pitcher Hideo Nomo in his first game). He also called Cal Ripken Jr's final game, as well as the no-hitters thrown by young Sox pitchers Clay Bucholz and Jon Lester

He is sometimes referred to by fans as "announcer boy," after he was given that nickname by Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield in a NESN commercial. In addition to his Red Sox duties, Orsillo has called the Beanpot hockey tournanment and Boston College.

Best Sideline Announcer-Naoko Funayama

Certainly not as pleasing to the eyes as Tina Cervasio, Hazel Mae or Kathryn Tappen were, but if this is about beauty then Dan Shaughnessy is in trouble.

A graduate of Williams College and BU College of Communications, she joined NESN as a freelance feature reporter in April 2007. In her first year with NESN, she covered Red Sox pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima. Funayama caught the eye of NESN after she helped Matsuzaka's strugling translator during Matsuzaka's introductory press conference. Funayama joined NESN full-time in August 2008 as the Bruins in-game reporter and host of "The Buzz," a Bruins countdown show.

Best Post and Pre-game Analyist: Dennis Eckersley

No one closes it out like Eck. Rice and Donye Marshall are good for the Sox and Celts and David McCarty was my personal favorite but Eck is in a league of his own. Plus the ladies say he is still "one fine piece of eye candy."

Dennis Eckersley serves as a Red Sox studio analyst for select Boston Red Sox games. He delivers pre-game analysis and commentary on "Olympia Sports presents The Boston Globe Pre-Game Show," NESN's one-hour pre-game show. After the game, Eckersley returns for extra analysis on the network's popular Red Sox post-game shows, "W.B. Mason Extra Innings" and "Granite City Extra Innings Extra."

The six time All-Star has served as a color analyst for the Oakland A's television broadcasts (1999) and has also filled in for Jerry Remy during Red Sox broadcasts.

Boston Sports Media Hall of Fame

Johnny Most, Will McDonough, Derek Sanderson, Bob Ryan, Fred Cusick, Peter Gammons, Sean McDonough and Jerry Remy are first ballot HOF. Votes have to go to Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti due to longevity, but I truly think both leave a lot to be desired.

Also, gaining votes are Kevin Paul Dupont, Jackie McMullen, Ken Coleman, Ned Martin and Michael Holley.

The Bad and the Ugly

Worst Sideline Reporter: Greg Dickerson

Comments on Boston Sports about Dickerson say it best.
Sluggo says: He has some talent, but his abrasive, smarmy on-air manner leads me to turn thumbs down.
NASCL says: Tough call. Kind of gives me the heebee-jeebees when he looks straight into the camera.
Steve says: Any “approvals” tell me the kid is from a large family. How is this cat employed? Period. He and Shepard give hope to morons from coast to coast. To listen to what actually comes from his pie hole is simply mind boggling.
Bricag says: He would be at the opening of an envelope if he thought he would be on TV. Best thing they ever did was get him off the Baseball show—when I see his face I switch the channel!!!!! Nuf said.

Worst Columnist: John Tomase

After his botching of a story the day before the Patriots Superbowl, Tomase should have been fired.

The Yahoo sports story by MJD went as follows:

If you aren't familiar with the name John Tomase, I sort of envy you. That would mean that you aren't terribly caught up in all this Spygate business, at least not caught up enough to know the name of the unfortunate soul at the Boston Herald who first "broke" the story of the Rams walkthrough tape, which, of course, we now know never existed.

He screwed up. He had sources that weren't concrete and he really wanted to break the story first, so he made some poor assumptions. He ended up printing something about the Patriots that wasn't true.

And in a special treat for Herald readers who demanded their pound of flesh, the Herald turned comments back on for the apology story. One hour after the story was posted (which was sometime around midnight or 1 a.m. last night), there were 53 comments, and exactly two of them weren't bile-filled rants calling for Tomase to be fired and/or beheaded, and then to have his severed head paraded through downtown Boston on a stick, while his parents are tied to the Bunker Hill Monument, where the public are invited to drop by and throw rocks at their faces.

Worst Color Man: Tom Heinsohn

No Tommy Points for Tommy-He is clearly too emotionally attached to the Green, too excitable and overall too loud. I am a homer, but when an announcer alters the truth becasue he has Green in his eyes it gets old fast. Johnny Most was endearing. Tommy Heinsohn is annoying.

Worst TV Play-by-Play: Jack Edwards

Edwards was named the Bruins play-by-play announcer for home and road games in 2007. It was during this time that Edwards started using various phrases such as "Sticks a fork in it", "sends it down the river", "fungo's the puck", "I think I heard post", "sets up in Gretzky's office", " dangles along the (blueline/sidewall)", "The Bruins gave Montreal the proverbial dutch oven!", "They have beaten them, and tonight they have beaten them up", "Oh look there's brave Steve!", "This is like Rockem-Sockem robots", "This building is VIBRATING."

Recently, NESN put together and BINGO game of "Edwardisms" that fans can play at home as Edwards broadcasts. During the March 29, 2009 game between the Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers, Edwards cackled maniacally after Flyer defenseman Randy Jones was shoved into the boards by Milan Lucic. Bottom line. If it looks like a baffoon and it sounds like a baffoon, it's a baffoon.

Worst Radio Play-by-Play: Gil Santos

I feel a bit like I'm kicking my Grandpa here. How can he be a Hall of Fame candidate above and yet be one of the worst. The long time voice of the Patriots is rarely accurate. His voice goes hand in hand with Patriots football, but I spend most of the game thinking about innaccuracies instead of the game.

He has called Patriots games continuously since 1966, except for a stretch between 1980 and 1990. His 30 years of service makes him the longest-serving current announcer in the NFL. He is also the last team play-by-play announcer from the American football League. Time for some new blood.

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