Earlier this week, I won the lottery. Well, not really, but for the purposes of this column, we’re going to pretend.
After collecting my lump sum, I decided to start a newspaper that will be sold throughout New England and be available on-line for the same weekly rate. Let’s say 50 cents a day and on Sundays, a buck. And for a weekly subscription, we’ll offer $2.75.
However, this isn’t going to be just any paper. It’s going to follow in the legendary path of the greatest piece of sports journalism ever produced, The National. God, did I love that paper. For those who don’t remember, it was this country’s lone attempt at a daily sports newspaper and while it lasted less than two years in 1990-91, the writing, editing and design was as good as the business has ever seen.
Now we really don’t have a clue if this could or would work. Maybe we’d lose millions upon millions and not see our two-year anniversary, like The National, but who cares?
I’ll allow other, more qualified people, to assemble the majority of my employees, but I’m handling the hiring of the writers.
There’s no reason for a full-time auto racing writer. And wait, before the token email from a NASCAR fan threatening to strangle my dog with their koozie, we promise to send someone for whatever that race is in New Hampshire and the Daytona 500. As for other sports, like sailing, well, no one cares. We’ll send a writer for the Boston Marathon and maybe even the Regatta if he or she has pissed me off. But we certainly don’t need a full-time writer to cover that crap. Yes, it’s fun to attend, but no one wants to read about it.
Our NCAA guy will take care of women’s basketball, covering the occasional UConn or BC game, but I don’t think those stories sell a whole lot of papers. Maybe I’m wrong. The only other omission is boxing. Do people still care? I’m not sure on this one. But we promise, if Mike Tyson threatens to eat anyone’s kids or fornicate, we’ll have a reporter nearby.
As for tennis, the legendary Bud Collins will take care of any major tournaments.
And remember, we have unlimited money so we can have anyone we want. However, we’re going to keep the hiring local, so Mitch Albom isn’t coming to Boston. And we’re working in the present-day only, so the legendary Will McDonough and others are not eligible.
Here’s our 20-person staff:
Columnists (4) — Bob Ryan, Gerry Callahan, Leigh Montville, Michael Holley
We thought about Bill Simmons for some time, but in the end, his material has lost some of its freshness and he has never really worked on deadline, either. While some seem to have given up on him all together, he’s still good for some laughs between those unwatchable cartoons and his obsession with the NBA. And make no mistake, there’s nothing harder in sportswriting than making people laugh and over the last six or seven years, dating back to his old site, no one has been funnier in print than Simmons. When he was still hungry, before Hollywood, he was a must-read and his style has influenced a generation of young sportswriters. Whether that’s good or not remains to be seen.
Ryan is a no-brainer. Despite more than 35 years in the business, maybe even 40 at this point, and countless television and radio gigs, Ryan never seems to be going through the motions. He’s relentless. I remember sitting a few desks away from him one morning at the Globe and he was on the phone with some radio show. Anyway, he’s yelling and screaming and all fired up about something, his arms flaying every which way. A few minutes later he’s sitting down for the recording of Around the Horn, and again, he seems ready to jump through the camera arguing his points. Anyway, about 10 minutes after the taping has concluded, he’s doing an interview at his desk with either a high school or college kid for their paper. And he’s just as intense and fired up as on the national television show. It’s not an act. And his writing is the same way. I can’t recall reading a Ryan piece and thinking he mailed it in, while Dan Shaughnessy has long since drained his local post office of stamps.
As for Callahan, politics aside, he’s a great writer and while it hardly appears anymore, his Callahan Tunnel page in the Herald used to be my favorite weekly piece in any paper. And he does a nice job of writing fresh material for his columns that hasn’t already been a part of his radio show. Others writers should take note of this, none more so than Steve Buckley.
Montville was another slam dunk. I don’t remember him that well at the Globe, having been just 8 years old when he left, but before Rick Reilly, he often wrote the last page column at Sports Illustrated and no one was better. Never figured out why SI didn’t use him more. His SI column following Ted Williams’ death was classic and his book on Williams was equally impressive.
As for Holley, it’s hard to explain how much he improved over a short period of time after first becoming a columnist at the Globe. I could barely read him those first few months and felt that he hadn’t even conquered the Celtics beat before being promoted. However, before he left to write his great book on the Patriots and eventually for television and now WEEI, he had developed his own style that was a much-needed change of pace and more times than not, an enjoyable read. Athletes and coaches also enjoy talking to him, which leads to better material, too. He was never out to make someone look bad and that’s not always the case, especially in Boston. His lack of ego is also refreshing.
Patriots beat (2) – Mike Reiss, Michael Felger
This one wasn’t that hard. Reiss’ blog is the must-read for Patriots’ fans. He’s hungry and has developed strong sources in a short period of time. And most importantly, Reiss isn’t writing for anyone else. Not for agents and not to facilitate his own agendas and defeated ego. Back in the day, Ron Borges was a damn good football writer, one of the best in the country, but that was before the Drew Bledsoe/Tom Brady controversy. There’s no way to exaggerate the effect that had on Borges’ writing. It has been all downhill since.
As for Felger, I really like his stuff. Yes, he can be annoying on the radio, but remember, half the time they decide beforehand who’s going to take which angle of an issue and he has to stand by that. He would’ve been the star of any high school debating team. And while he has had a few scoops fall through, Felger is at least out there trying. He’s an underrated writer and a top-notch reporter. An example of that was getting Bo Jackson on the phone when Roosevelt Colvin suffered a similar hip injury in 2003.
Michael Smith was considered here, but fell just short.
NFL (1) – Tom Curran
Still having difficulty figuring out why the Globe didn’t hire this guy. He was the first writer off the Bledsoe bandwagon and is consistently taking different angles and breaking stories. It’s not hard being on a professional beat and going through the motions. The information is provided for you by their media people and most of the interviews are conducted by the masses of media. It takes that little extra to seek out the player not holding their own little press conference and get a different perspective and no one is better at that than Curran.
Red Sox beat (2) – Gordon Edes, Steven Krasner
You know, I really wanted to pick Chris Snow here. That’s how much the kid has impressed me the last month. Just a great hire by Globe sports editor Joe Sullivan. A gutsy hire, too. But once I actually thought about it, the kid has some pretty tough competition.
The picks weren’t easy. I like the Herald’s baseball coverage a lot, although Tony Massarotti was better on the actual beat than as the columnist/national baseball writer. His Sunday package needs major love. Dave Heuschkel is solid, too, and before Sean McAdam tried to become Steve Buckley by drawing paychecks from every media outlet available, he was a heck of a reporter. But Edes and Krasner are the picks here.
Both as professional as they come, Edes is the nicest person in the New England media. And before the Globe combined forces with NESN and Edes had no choice, both were known to pass up radio and television gigs because they wanted their information to be fresh in the newspaper. Imagine that, huh? Ever read Buckley, McAdam or even Massarotti and been like, “Didn’t I hear this on the radio yesterday?”
Krasner, who also writes children’s books, keeps meticulous notes dating back almost 20 years. It’s freaky really. The players respect him, too, and his Red Sox notebooks are unmatched in not only the New England media, but nationally. You want to follow the Sox this year, really follow them and know what’s going on, read Krasner’s notebooks each morning.
Edes has been solid as the Globe’s national baseball guy, but it’s not easy when he’s still with the Red Sox 130 games a year. Let him travel, write some features. Maybe have him cover every team once this year or do at least one game from each ballpark. Something.
Major League Baseball (1) – Peter Gammons
Yes, no one had had a more adverse affect on my fantasy teams over the last decade, but that said, there’s no one close to Gammons in terms of information. Bob Nightengale of Sports Weekly is at least in the ballpark, but he doesn’t have a parking pass. And no one else does either.
Celtics beat (1) – Steve Bulpett
No one has been on an NBA beat with the same team longer. He’s a solid writer, too. Easy pick considering just two writers travel with the team. Peter May isn’t bad and Shira Springer has drastically improved over the last five years, but Bulpett’s the choice here.
NBA (1) – Jackie MacMullan
Really wanted to take her as a columnist, but since she was the NBA writer for Sports Illustrated, we figured why not have the best. Probably the best feature writer in New England, too, and as articulate as they come.
Bruins beat (1) – Joe McDonald
This one was hard. There was no doubt that Russ Conway was my NHL guy. That left McDonald and Kevin Paul Dupont for the Bruins beat. Both were their respective state’s National Association of Sportswriters and Sportscasters sportswriter of the year for 2004. And that’s about where the similarities end.
Dupont is a solid writer and while I disagreed with a few of his past opinions, like Ray Bourque being better than Bobby Orr and the gutsy column calling for Joe Thornton to give up his captaincy before Game 7 of the Montreal series in 2004, at least he’s out there taking a stand on something. Half the writers in Boston spend their entire careers without really forming an opinion of their own.
However, McDonald gets the nod. While Dupont is a better writer, McDonald connects with athletes as well as any reporter. They not only trust him but generally like him. That’s rare. And McDonald also covers the Pawtucket Red Sox and is the heir Red Sox beat writer to Krasner at the ProJo.
NHL (1) – Russ Conway
His column on how the NHL should resolve its lockout a few months ago was scary. No one should know that much about anything. This guy lives hockey and is a relentless reporter. Pretty easy pick.
Boston College beat (1) – Lenny Megliola
Megliola is a vastly underrated columnist for the MetroWest Daily News who covers just about anything. He can easily take care of BC football and basketball. He’s had some great angles on big stories over the years that no one else thinks of, like calling Michael Bishop’s quarterback coach in college when some people wanted him playing instead of Bledsoe. The coach said Bishop, who he really liked as a person, wasn’t an NFL quarterback. Who knows the kid better? Great idea.
NCAA football and basketball (1) – Mark Blaudschun
While he might be the most unfriendly member of the Globe sports staff, Blaudschun might just be the best all-around NCAA football and basketball writer in the country. At the least, he’s top five. He’s also highly-respected nationally, which is quite an accomplishment writing college sports in Boston.
College hockey and golf (1) – Jim McCabe
While his supposed-to-be funny NFL picks column just doesn’t work, on several levels, McCabe is among the country’s best golf writers and also does a solid job on college hockey. And it’s almost incomprehensible the amount of copy this guy produces on deadline at major tournaments like the Masters and the U.S. Open. He’ll have three well-written stories that run about 1,000 words each. That’s like a month of work for the Globe’s other golf writer, Paul Harber.
Media, television and radio (1) – Bill Griffith
There really isn’t any competition here. Former Herald TV guy Jim Baker is still writing for the Nashua paper and does a nice job, but Griffith is a tireless worker who cuts no corners in producing his copy. And while this job may appear easy, Griffith’s predecessor Howard Manly proved otherwise. Griffith spends countless hours putting together his columns and probably doesn’t use 90 percent of his reporting. He’s that thorough.
High schools/Revolution (1) – Mike Biglin
If the Globe cared just a little, who knows? However, they don’t. No one can argue this point. It’s a fact. That aside, Dan Ventura of the Herald does a fantastic job, but he doesn’t compare with the intensity of Biglin. Truth is, no one comes close. There is no experience that comes close to watching a high school sporting event with “Bigs.” The man is nothing short of a legend and simply loves his job. Biglin, who also covers the Revolution, is the Bob Ryan of high school sports.
Olympics and general assignment (1) – John Powers
This was our first phone call in putting together the department. He might be best combination of writing and reporting the New England media has. And while he writes mostly on the Olympics and their respective sports between Games, there’s nothing Powers can’t do.