BSMW Awards Recap – Best/Worst Basketball/Hockey Beat Writers

We’re knocking off two categories today, the basketball and hockey beat writers.

First, we’ll look at the writers who cover the beat of the Boston Celtics. It’s been a mostly rough 20 year stretch for the Celtics, yet they still have a couple writers on the beat who were around for the glory days of Larry Bird. Steve Bulpett and Mike Fine are among the few writers still working in Boston who witnessed the Legend in person. We did have a omission from the list as Bill Doyle of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette was overlooked when the lists were put together.

We had 1327 votes cast for the “best” category and 1304 in the “worst” category.

Here’s how it broke out:

2005_basketball_beat_writers.png

This was one of the tighter races in the balloting. Veteran scribe Steve Bulpett came out ahead of the industrious Shira Springer with the former getting 437 votes for 33% of the total and Springer bringing in 27% with 353 votes. The infamous came in third with 26%. I was a little disappointed in that total, as I feel some of the other writers are very good as well. Mike Fine, who was mentioned earlier is the only media member to appear on the ballot as a beat writer for two different sports. He turns in solid, consistent work. Michael Muldoon of the Eagle Tribune and Tim Weisberg of the Standard-Times may not be with the team day in and day out as many of the others, but provide some pretty solid analysis of the club when they’re covering the team.

In the “worst” category “no one” received 842 votes for 65% of the total. Springer, who had finished second in the best category, got 17% of the worst vote as well, which I think can be attributed to voters recalling some of her early work, which was jeered in some corners. I think she’s done a really good job the last few seasons as a reporter.

Reader Comments:

Went with Bulpett [best]. Shira's gotten a lot better, but he's still tops, and not everyone that's listed can win…There is no worst, although I think in general that the writers as a group can be too easy on this team…

Now to the hockey beat writers:

2005_hockey_beat_writers.png

It seems the disgust for the Bruins around these parts and the terrible season they had translated to the coverage as well. 509 out of 1266 voters believed that no one deserved the label of best hockey beat writer. That came to 40% of the vote. I don’t necessarily think that the hockey writers are bad, but instead this is a reflection of the team that they cover.

That point seems punctuated by the fact that 932 out of 1254 voters (74%) felt that no one should be called the “worst” either. I believe this category comes down to apathy for the product. Some of these writers are very good and have been on the beat for a long time, but because the team and organization is an object of scorn among fans, it’s hard to anoint a “best” hockey beat writer, or “worst” for that matter.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell was the high vote getter for both best and worst once you got past the “no one” vote in each category.

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Afternoon Update

Couple of blogs and recent missives from some media critics to check out on a rainy Wednesday afternoon.

Dave Scott checks in on witih Scott’s Shots while John Molori’s Media Blitz column features Andrea Kremer.

Over the past few months I’ve found Chadd Finn’s Touching All the Bases to be a must read. Another blogger from Vacationland, Steve Mistler on his Outsde the Hub blog tosses his four cents in on Johnny Damon’s return. Sheriff Sully offers up his five most painful losses as a Boston sports fan. Lastly, the grandaddy of ’em all, Bill Simmons, attempts to explain fantasy baseball to his wife in his latest column for The Magazine.

For those who haven’t read Bruce’s latest on the “Best and Worst of the Boston Sports Media”, check out below.

BSMW Award Recap – Best/Worst Radio Personality

Today’s voting recap is the category of Best/Worst Sports Radio Personality. These are guests, not full time hosts. We’ll have a recap on that category later in the month.

It was hard to include everyone, with so many media people making regular appearances on sports radio these days.

Here’s how the voting came out in this category:

2005_best_radio_personality.png

Sean McAdam of the Providence Journal took home top honors with 465 votes for 32% of the 1471 total. McAdam is oftentimes a voice of reason on the soap opera known as WEEI’s Big Show. While others are in hysterics or trying to fan the flames of panic among the fandom McAdam usually steps in with levelheaded analysis and good information on whatever topic is currently being obsessed over. McAdam made several appearances on various shows, doing a weekly segment on Dale & Holley, Segments on Sports Radio the Score in Providence, doing the Sunday morning baseball show on WEEI and taking the occasional turn as co-host on the Big Show.

Bob Ryan is a favorite guest because of his passion, knowledge and experience in the industry. He did shows on the ESPN 900 in Nashua, as well as on the new ESPN Radio Boston. Despite the limited coverage area, he came in second in this category with 18% of the vote.

Reader Comments: I went with Tony Mazz as the best. I like how he regularly stands up to Ordway's moronfest (I also recognize he's knee-deep in it as well). I'd feel more confident about voting ten folks “worst” than I do about this one. This category is loaded.... Mike Reiss, Josh Miller, and Bob Ryan make Felger's show a must-listen….For “best” it has to be Ryan. No one brings a combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to the air like Bob.

Now, onto the worst category:

2005_worst_radio_personality.png

Ron Borges barely squeaked by Jon Meterparel to take the top spot in this area, getting 257 votes and a 17% share to the morning flashguy’s 210 votes and 14% share. These are out of 1472 total votes cast.

Borges spent the first part of the year on the old 1510 as a guest of the Eddie Andelman program. Because of the small audience, Borges felt confident to make wild accusations and statements that he would not be challenged on, nor would he ever make in his newspaper column. When the station folded operations, Borges moved over to ESPN Boston to a slightly larger audience on Mike Felger’s program. He continued making the outlandish statements, but at least now had someone to semi-challenge him in Felger. Borges also appeared on the Patriots pregame shows on WBCN. All of these snide, I know something you don’t references to Bill Belichick’s character were tiresome. His constant claims that the Patriots were nothing more than a lucky club ready to fall apart annoyed enough people to place in atop this category.

Jon Meterparel delights in playing the contrarian role to a degree on the Dennis & Callahan program. He likes to make unpopular picks and trash popular players as part of his shtick.

Reader Comments: Lots of great choices for the worst, but I had to go with Meterparel over Larry Johnson in the top spot purely because he's slightly more evil. It's like a choice of getting hit by a bus or a train… ...the most deserving candidate...Butch Stearns... Hector Longo also could have been a contenda. Halloran, helped nicely by his nails-on-a-chalkboard, smarmy whine, gets the nod…. Bob Halloran makes Felger's show a must-avoid.….I think Stearns, with his unique blend of know-it-all smarm and utter cluelessness doused with "Hey, I'm on television ... are you?" super sauce, is the single biggest reason to switch to Braille….Another "strong" field in the worst category. Since I gave Calistaparel the nod elsewhere I'm pleased about the chance to give Fred "Dead from the Neck Up" Smerlas a vote here.

Column: The Story Behind BSMW

I’ve given bits and pieces before, but I don’t think I ever gone into detail as to why Boston Sports Media Watch exists today.

I’ve always been a huge consumer of anything Boston sports. I would buy all the newspapers, listen to WEEI all day, watch the Sunday night sports shows, and read USENET postings on the internet. When I discovered Bill Simmons’ Boston Sports Guy site on Digital City Boston back in 1998, I was in heaven. I had my own opinions on guys like Dan Shaughnessy, Peter May, etc, but reading Simmons tear them apart, I realized that probably a lot of people felt the same way. He also updated the site every day late morning with links to stories from newspapers across New England, and also odd stories from around the country.

I spent a lot of time in the old USENET groups, especially in those on the Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots. There were a lot of knowledgeable, intelligent posters in those groups, but even more idiots and trolls.

Some of those posters would point out errors, agendas and hypocrisy in the various media reports and stories. I found that stuff very interesting. For a short time, there was even a small website out there that was meant to point out these errors and inconsistencies in Red Sox coverage. I can’t remember the name of it, or really anything about it. When I found it, I immediately liked it, and fired off a long email about some inconsistencies and agendas on the part of Peter May. The website emailed back that while the information was very good, they only wanted to focus on the Red Sox coverage. That planted a seed in my mind.

In time a couple of thing started to steer me in the direction of creating a site. I enjoyed my day job in the IT department of New Hampshire Public Television, but at the same time, I wanted something more. Helping people change their passwords and find files they deleted by accident gets old after a while. I couldn’t see myself doing tech support stuff for the next 40 years. I wanted something on the side to challenge me. But what could I do? I had no illusions about my abilities to write, even though I enjoyed writing. I actually considered signing on with the Connecticut School of Broadcasting…I even sent away for their brochures. Before they even came, I knew that wasn’t something I really wanted to do.

For years I had enjoyed the sports media columns of Howard Manley, Bill Griffith and Jim Baker. To me, they seemed to have the ideal jobs. They wrote about what they saw on TV, heard on the radio and read in the newspapers. They also talked to people in the industry and got information on upcoming events. That seemed like a pretty good gig. How in the world did they get it? How would someone else get a position like that? I started looking around the internet for other sports media columns, and found that most cities had a couple.

I knew it would be just about impossible to get a column like that, but I figured I’d try. I wrote a few sample columns, which now when I look back on them, they’re just horrible. But I showed these to Bill Griffith at the Globe, and asked for his input. He was incredibly helpful. He offered suggestions on writing style, and what types of things that the reader is going to be looking for. I then took my samples and tried shopping them around to a few small papers in the area. The Portsmouth Herald, and Fosters Daily Democrat were the two that I targeted. I actually heard back from the Portsmouth Herald, and the publisher was very polite, yet explained that he just didn’t have the column space to dedicate to such a venture. We went back and forth a little bit, and he offered a few suggestions and ideas to try out.

Basically, I had gotten nowhere. I felt a little foolish, but still wanted to do something different. I had thought of a webpage, but even though I was in a technical job, I knew nothing about how to create or maintain a site. Then, reading a trade magazine in the first months of 2002, I learned about this new rage that was sweeping the internet: blogs. It seemed everyone was creating a blog. It made it easy to get online and have your voice out there. I found Blogger, the free service that allows you to create your own blog, and I signed up. I wasn’t really planning on the blog being something that would attract readers, or really go anywhere. What I figured was that it could give me a place to practice writing, as well as to keep some notes on what things were happening in the Boston sports media so that I could refer back to them at a later time. I thought it might also give me a chance to build up a “body of work” so that if I had a chance to try a column at a local paper, I could show them what I had been doing.

The early days of BSMW show a lot of choppy, uneven posts. I had no idea how I should go about it. Fittingly, the very first post on the old site took a shot at Dan Shaughnessy. When I started doing the daily links early in the morning, the site really took off. The weeks and months went by, and I tried to watch and listen to as much as a could without impacting the rest of my life negatively. I posted updates on sports radio shows, on TV shows, I did recaps of the Sunday Night Sports shows, which always left me burned on Monday morning. In June of that year, I got my first break as Bill Griffith mentioned the site in the Sunday Globe. I didn’t see a huge spike in traffic just yet, but it was a start, people were finding the website, and encouraging me to continue. I added a “tag board” to the site which allowed people to post running conversations in the sidebar. This grew so popular that eventually the company that provided the service (I was paying for it, but it wasn’t much per month) eventually told me that my board was using too much of their processing ability and that I would need to move it. Around the same time, an incident on the board made me realize that I needed to be able to keep a tighter lid on the things that were being said there, so the board was removed. It was replaced with a message board, which then had to be replaced with another board a few months later.

It took me some time to find my “voice” and I don’t think I’m all the way there yet. (More in a future column) I’ve tried adding things here and there to the site, and it will probably always be a work-in-progress, but the heart and soul of the site seem to be the daily links, which have their clear roots in the old Bill Simmons Boston Sports Guy website. I still interject commentary where I feel appropriate and have added a Friday column with news and items picked up from the week as well as weekend television listings. In any event, I’m pretty proud of what I’ve been able to do over the last four years and what I’ve achieved from my original intent and goals. It’s actually been more than I could’ve hoped for.

Next week, I’m going to take a look at some of the things that I’ve learned since starting up BSMW.

BSMW Awards Recap: Best/Worst Studio Analyst

Get your Red Sox information from the weekend on the Red Sox Daily Links page, and you can also get series coverage from the Baltimore Sun.

With the surging popularity of the local sports teams, we have a plethora of experts brought into the studios on a regular basis to comment on the games as soon as they’re over, and even at halftime and between periods. Who does the best job out of all of these analysts? Who gives us the best analysis of what is going on in the game, and provides insight into the action? Who falls short in these areas?

Remember, these are the guys back in the studio, not the in-game analysts. We’ll get to them later.

Here’s a look at the voting for best studio analyst of 2005.

2005_best_studio_analyst.png

Not too much of a surprise here. When Dennis Eckersley is in studio, the Red Sox post game shows on NESN are pretty much “must see” television. “The Eck” is candid as well as insightful as he breaks down the action for you. He is especially good at looking at the performance of pitchers. We’re fortunate to have him in this market, why ESPN hasn’t snapped him up for Baseball Tonight is beyond me.

Eckersley garnered 517 votes for 40% of the total. Tied for second were Bob Neumeier for his work on the Patriots pre and post game shows on CBS4 and Gary Disarcina for his work on Red Sox games on NESN.

Reader comment: Jim Rice got my “best” vote; technically I'm sure he doesn't deserve it but I just like the guy. Marshall is off to a really good start. Eck is OK-to-good; I actually like him better doing color in games.

Now, let’s look at the other end of the category:

2005_worst_studio_analyst.png

A certain Internet site is bound to be disappointed with the results of this poll. Sam Horn of the NESN Red Sox broadcasts took 359 votes for 28% of this category. Horn seems like a nice enough guy, but doesn’t bring a whole lot of insight to the telecasts. He relies on certain catchphrases during his delivery and isn’t as smooth as an analyst should be in that role.

The “no one deserves this award” category came in second, affirming that Horn is the only one that people feel is really below par in the field.

Reader Comment: Horn was an easy choice as worst. Unsettling is not a good adjective for a studio guy, but he earns it.

Entercom Wins Out

There’s a new leader in the clubhouse for 2006 Sports Media Story of the Year (see 2005 results below). Contrary to earlier reports, it appears Entercom (owners of WEEI and WRKO) has retained the rights to the Red Sox broadcasts with the broadcasts likely to move to ‘RKO (680) on the AM dial. Jesse Noyes of the Herald and Ken Tucker of Billboard Radio Monitor have the initial reports.

BSMW Awards Recap – Sports Media Story/Scandal

The Red Sox and Blue Jays wrapped up their quick series at Fenway park last night. You can get the local coverage on the Red Sox Daily Links page.

Get the Toronto stories from the Toronto Star and the Globe & Mail.

Today we’re looking at the top stories and scandals for 2005 in the Boston Sports Media.

1470 votes were cast in this category. 2005 was another wild and crazy year in the Boston sports media. One sports radio station folded, while another came on line. Both the Globe and Herald had staff reductions which impacted their sports departments. The local media outlets also went through their own “blog” craze, with many newspapers and even television stations adding blogs to their websites on a variety of topics.

Despite new competition in the market, WEEI continued to crush the competition in 2005. Their unprecedented ratings dominance coincided with the huge interest in the Red Sox and Patriots championship teams of recent years. WEEI did lose their longtime evening host, Ted Sarandis, who resigned from the station.

Here’s how the voting broke down:

sports_media_story.png

The launch of ESPN Boston got 454 votes for 31% of the vote. The station, which has as it’s flagship show “The Drive” hosted by Michael Felger, achieved a bit of success by registering in the ratings book almost right away. The ESPN backing of the station perhaps gives the station a bit of legitimacy in the eyes of viewers, as well as the football talk and knowledge of Felger and such guests as Mike Reiss. Ron Borges and Nick Cafardo have also been frequent guests on the program. Perhaps as a sign of continued future growth, the station recently replaced their original program director Doug Tribou with Len Weiner, who had led an ESPN radio station in Chicago to ratings success.

Reader Comments: I went with the Herald and Globe staff reductions. The newspaper industry is definitely in big trouble around here, especially with so many people hooked into the internet. I went with 890 starting up. The emergence of a true alternative to EEI is a godsend to sports fans in this market….1510 stops local programming: If a station that no one listens to stops local programming, does anything really change? At least they still have the Larry Lee Lewis Sports Comedy Hour.

Now, let’s look at the voting for the scandal of the year:

sports_media_scandal.png

John Dennis’ sneering, threatening, just plain creepy voicemail left for Ryen Russillo is the winner. The funny thing is, according to people who have worked with Dennis in the past, this sort of thing is a regular occurrence for the WEEI morning co-host.

Dennis’ voicemail got 468 votes out of 1468 total for 32%. The Red Sox media “cartel” – a phrase which was coined by former Herald columnist Howard Bryant – received 338 votes for 23% of the total vote. Bryant was roundly mocked by media members and outlets portrayed as being part of the “cartel” such as the Globe, NESN and WEEI. The premise of the cartel is that the Red Sox use media outlets which they have power over either through an ownership stake or through broadcast rights to disseminate information which is spun to their liking and advantage and to crush and humiliate the reputations of those who may end up on their bad side.

Reader Comments: I don't know what the long-term impact will be, but nothing was more fun than the incoherent, threatening voicemail John Dennis left on Ryen Russillo's answering machine….I couldn't care less about [John Dennis's] drunken tirade. Much more concerning is that 'BCN would take an intelligent and informative pre- and post- game Patriots show and turn it into "Big Show Lite"….I went with the "cartel" for the simple fact that all of the others will be largely forgotten in a few months (I had already forgotten about the Gee/sloe-eyed sabra issue). The effects of the (real or imagined) cartel will impact Sox coverage going forward for the foreseeable future.

Monday: Best/Worst Local Studio Analyst.