#6 The Death of Will McDonough (and others)

This decade has seen the passing of a number of Boston sports media figures, some big names, some smaller, some after a long life, some taken from us way too soon.

The passing of Will McDonough on January 9th, 2003 was among the biggest passings of the decade.

McDonough’s death was the true end of an era. He was the last of the “old school” style of reporter/columnist, who wasn’t really all about writing flowing prose, but about getting information from his sources and passing that along to the readers. McDonough got personally involved in many of his stories, a huge example being the Bob Kraft/Bill Parcells split, where McDonough was basically right in the middle between the two sides. Then was the time he got in an altercation with Patriots cornerback Raymond Clayborn in the locker room.

The day after his passing, McDonough was remembered on sports radio by one friend and colleague after another. There were dozens of articles and columns written about him.

McDonough was active right up to the last days of his life. He had hosted a sports radio program with Bill Parcells on 1510 AM that season, and had just had a public war of words with the Red Sox Larry Lucchino in his final columns. McDonough was a pioneer, becoming the first NFL reporter to take his act to television pregame shows.

The loss of McDonough was felt throughout the Boston sports media world.

There were other notable passings in the sports media world this decade. Another that really touched a lot of people was the suddenly, untimely death of Hartford Courant Patriots beat reporter Alan Greenberg. Greenberg’s death sparked off an organic outpouring of tributes to him and his like here on BSMW, and sports media people from around the country emailed in their thoughts and memories of Alan. This post from that week has links to the pages of tributes received after Greenberg’s death.

Sadly the person who first told me about Alan’s death was Dan Pires, who died himself just over a year later, also much too soon. Pires was extremely popular in Foxborough and on the Patriots beat, a huge family man, and by all accounts, a loyal and cherished friend.

Another pioneer we lost this decade was Larry Whiteside – the long time Boston Globe baseball writer, who died in 2007. In the 1970’s he was the only African-American reporter covering a major league baseball team on a daily basis for a major metropolitan newspaper. He was honored with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the baseball Hall of Fame and was the creator and keeper of “The Black List” of African-American reporters and copy editors designed to aid sports editors in helping hire black journalists. Nick Cafardo had some thoughts on a great man.

Television sportscasting legend Don Gillis passed away in 2008 at the age of 85.  

TV (and radio) Play-by-play legend Curt Gowdy died in 2006 at the age of 86.

Longtime Globe sports columnist  Clif Keane, the original Poison Pen died in 2003.

Earlier this year, we lost longtime Bruins voice Fred Cusick at the age of 90.

John Callaghan – longtime sports anchor for channel 7 died in 2008 at the age of 81.

George Bent – a pioneer in the world of sports radio, from the 1960’s to the 1980’s died in 2007.

Dick Radatz – the most dominant relief pitcher of the 1960’s, who went on to become a regular on WEEI and on various sports television shows, passed away in 2005.

I know I’ve forgotten some…there’s one name…another long time sports writer here in Boston, that passed away this decade, and for the life of me, I can’t think of it.

Who have I missed on this list?

EDIT: Here’s a few additional names as pointed out by readers:

Ernie Roberts, former Globe Sports writer and editor, died earlier this year.

Legendary Red Sox radio voice Ken Coleman passed away in 2003.

Legendary Red Sox TV voice Ned Martin died in 2002, while returning home from the Fenway Park memorial service for Ted Williams.

(How in the world did I forget Coleman and Martin?)

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Patriots Don’t Grade High In Win Over Bills

The report cards are out, and the results are pretty tough for the Patriots again this week.

Jeremy Gottlieb on Patriots Daily says that this one was even uglier than last week’s win over the Panthers, which he didn’t think would be possible. Steve DeOssie says that the Patriots offense barely passed a test that they should have aced. Ron Borges says that the offense once again disappeared like it was held hostage at halftime.

Mike Reiss wonders why all the national critics (Hello, Peter King.) aren’t shouting “Arrogance!” and “Hubris!” over Mike Tomlin’s on-sides kick on Sunday.

Adam Kilgore has Bill Belichick raving about the performance of Mike Wright on Sunday. Danny Picard has more on the praise for the fifth-year defensive lineman. Rich Garven notes that Ron Brace also got some praise from the head coach, along with Wright. Ian R. Rapoport has the Patriots secondary and defensive line working well together on Sunday.

Robert Lee wonders if there is something seriously wrong with Tom Brady. Tom E. Curran says that this team is just OK, and won’t go far in the playoffs. Picard has Belichick looking for more consistency from his team. Glen Farley says that there are no guarantees for the Patriots going forward, even for Sunday.

Rapoport has the Patriots glad to cure the road blues that they’ve had all season. Jonathan Comey says that this Patriots team doesn’t seem to have what it takes to be a champion. Jeff Howe points out that the Patriots still have a slim chance of earning a first-round bye.

Steve Buckley says that there has been too much criticism of Randy Moss. Lenny Megliola says that the Patriots are fortunate to be in strong playoff position.

The Globe notebook has a “hat and T-shirt game” on tap for Sunday. Rapoport’s notebook has more on the praise for Wright. Lee’s Patriots journal has more on Wright. Farley’s notebook has Wright being modest about his role, and looking to get better.

Bruins

Joe Haggerty has old reliables coming through for the Bruins last night in Ottawa. Fluto Shinzawa has Tim Thomas pulling out all the stops in the 2-0 win. Stephen Harris has the Bruins getting their tenth win in a row against the Senators. Graig Woodburn has some key Bruins re-emerging last night.

Shinzawa’s notebook looks at the move of Steve Begin to the top line. Harris’ notebook has Shawn Thornton doing the gritty work.

Celtics

Mark Murphy has Paul Pierce feeling married to Doc Rivers and his system, even after a shaky beginning to the union. Jessica Camerato has Pierce’s overall versatility making him one of the most dangerous players in the league. Scott Souza says that the Celtics need Pierce to be more aggressive offensively. Frank Dell’Apa has Pierce being told to trust his instincts on offense.

Mike Fine has Tony Allen’s latest comeback going well. A. Sherrod Blakely has Allen making the most of his increased minutes in the absence of Marquis Daniels. Murphy’s notebook has more on Allen’s stock rising. Camerato has Glen Davis planning on keeping slim during the holidays.

Misc

With six championships this decade, Bob Ryan examines the state of Boston sports in 2009.

Michael Silverman says that the Red Sox have still not closed the door on Jason Bay or Matt Holliday.

Gordon Edes has Mike Lowell saying that the Red Sox didn’t know about his thumb and didn’t treat it for seven weeks.

#7 A-Rod is Coming…Wait, No He’s Not…

Continuing my look back at the 10 top Boston sports media episodes of the decade…

Remember December, 2003? Yankees hysteria was at an all-time high following the Red Sox loss in the seventh game of the ALCS two months earlier. The Red Sox had already hired Terry Francona to replace Grady Little, and brought Curt Schilling onboard – a pretty big event in itself.  

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Then word got out that the Red Sox were trying to land the reigning AL MVP, and in the process, attempting to change the entire face of their franchise. They had already attempted to rid themselves of Manny Ramirez, unsuccessfully, and now offered him up to the Texas Rangers (along with a kid pitching prospect named Jon Lester) for Alex Rodriguez. The trade was agreed upon, pending the Red Sox being able to work out a renegotiation of A-Rod’s record $250 Million contract.

In addition it was reported (by New York Newsday) that the Red Sox had also agreed to trade Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago White Sox for Magglio Ordoñez, which would complete their makeover,  replacing Manny and Nomar with A-Rod and Ordoñez.

It was so much of a “Done Deal” that The Boston Globe was even refering to him as Alex Rodriguez, the Sox shortstop-in-waiting, and calling him for comment on other Red Sox player moves, such as the signing of closer Keith Foulke. Kevin Millar went on ESPN SportsCenter and declared that he was glad to have A-Rod, and would take him over both Manny and Nomar.

Then it all fell apart.

Gene Orza, associate general counsel for the players’ union nixed the deal that had been agreed upon by Rodriguez and the Red Sox. This resulted in angry outburts from Larry Lucchino and John Henry (who posted on SoSH) and a total media monopoly on this story.

The story dominated WEEI, and the newspapers, to the exclusion of almost everything else. Even the regular “news” outlets couldn’t get enough of this story, websites crashed from the traffic it generated, and the Patriots, in the midst of a 14-2 regular season, heading for their second Super Bowl title of the decade, were an afterthought.

A Gordon Edes story in the Globe from December 31st, 2003, lays out what went wrong with the deal.

Then, a few weeks later in early 2004, just when things had settled down a little bit, word got out that the Yankees were interested in A-Rod, and they did manage to successfully work out a deal, making him into a third baseman. This pushed the Yankee hysteria even further, lasting throughout the 2004 season.

Ironically, it was an incident with A-Rod, that spurred the Red Sox on later that summer. Jason Varitek and A-Rod got into a scuffle, resulting in Varitek’s mitt being stuffed squarely into Rodriguez’s face, which many mark as one of many turning points of that season.

With the gift of hindsight, we see that things actually all worked out for the best. The Red Sox finally got past the Yankees in the postseason, and Manny Ramirez ended up as the World Series MVP, as the Red Sox swept the Cardinals for their first World championship in 86 years. Rodriguez proved to be a head case, not the leader and captain that the Red Sox would’ve expected him to be.

This whole episode was a total circus, and even now, six years later, stands out in memory.

Which Is It?

Thanks to reader Kevin for pointing this out.

Dan Shaughnessy on December 11th:

ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, who watches more film than Martin Scorsese, says he has observed Patriot players loafing on defense. Dollars to doughnuts he’s talking about Thomas.

Dan Shaughnessy today:

So we have Pa Brady joining the chorus line of Moss defenders, which stretches all the way from Canton, Mass., to Canton, Ohio. Every person associated with the Patriots came to Moss’s defense last week, and several members of the team’s national media cartel also attempted to convince us that Moss didn’t tank against Carolina.

One of the prominent national media members defending Moss was none other than Jaworski. So Jaworski got stupid in 10 days and is now a member of the Patriots “national media cartel?”

Since when do the Patriots have a “national media cartel” anyway? Doesn’t he know that the whole country hates the Patriots?

Patriots Have Enough

The Patriots are a step away from reclaiming the AFC East crown after their 17-10 win in Buffalo yesterday afternoon. This win wasn’t all that pretty, nor was it “sexy” enough for many, but a win is a win, especially on the road in the division. I actually was encouraged by the energy of the defense, along with the dusting off of an old game plan that I enjoyed watching immensely. The Patriots employed, as Chris Warner puts it, the cocktail party formation with a bunch of players just sort of standing and milling around the line of scrimmage. Given the Patriots lack of available bodies on the defensive line, the formation may have been out of necessity as much as strategic.

But overall, the tone from the fourth estate is very negative indeed once again this week…

Adam Kilgore notes that it was a pretty good day all around for the Patriots. Ian R. Rapoport says that the Patriots didn’t answer any questions about themselves with their play yesterday. Even Mike Reiss doesn’t seem pleased with how the Patriots played yesterday.  Shalise Manza Young has the Patriots using a little chaos to restore order.

Christopher Price trots out ten things we learned, while Tom Curran has the top five things to take away from the game.

Do you really want to read what Dan Shaughnessy has to say about Randy Moss? I know some of you do. The rest would do well to just skip this one. Even though Michael Felger‘s column is supposed to be about Laurence Maroney, there are enough shots at Moss in it to make it also worth the skip. Karen Guregian says that Moss didn’t wow anyone with his play yesterday.

Jim Donaldson sticks up for Moss, calling the criticism from his colleagues “vituperative and arguably excessive” over the last two weeks. Tom E. Curran also has a few words for the Randy rippers.  

Albert R. Breer discredits anything the Patriots did yesterday, chalking up the win to the number of Buffalo penalties on the afternoon. Ron Borges knocks the Patriots for scoreboard watching, saying that in the past, they only worried about themselves, not what anyone else was doing. Bill Burt needs to see a lot more from this team before he can feel any optimism for them. Duane Rankin has more on the rash of Bills penalties.

Monique Walker has Laurence Maroney once again leading the way in the running game. Brian MacPherson has Maroney serving as the Patriots’ grinder. Danny Picard notes that the Patriots were able to convert a third down late in the game to close out an opponent – something they hadn’t been able to do in recent weeks. Kirk Minihane has Maroney, Moss and the defense all getting some redemption yesterday.

Reiss looks a little deeper at the Defensive wrinkle that the Patriots employed yesterday. Guregian has Tully Banta-Cain picking up a hat trick of sacks. Donaldson has the organized chaos defense causing problems for Buffalo. Bob Matuszak has more the Patriots defense confusing the Bills. Zuri Berry has Tom Brady just happy to get the win.

Borges selects the Best and worst from yesterday. Rich Thompson picks the Play of the game. Young offers up game Analysis from both sides of the ball. Mark Farinella tells us who was hot and who as not. Hector Longo continues his season-long trashing of Jerod Mayo in his two-minute drill column.

The Globe notebook has Ron Brace finally getting to be a big part of the action. Rapoport’s notebook has the Patriots offense just good enough to get by – with the help of some Buffalo pass interference calls. Young’s Patriots journal has the Patriots choosing to feature the run against the Buffalo defense.  

Celtics

Frank Dell’Apa has the Celtics regaining their winning form with a 122-104 thumping of the Timberwolves at the Garden last night. Mark Murphy has the Celtics looking to make up for their loss to the 76ers. Jim Fenton has Paul Pierce finding the range last night. Bill Doyle has Pierce breaking out of his slump. A. Sherrod Blakely has the Celtics quickly putting the Philly loss behind them.

Gary Washburn notes that the Celtics made shrewd selections in drafting Kendrick Perkins and Al Jefferson directly out of high school. Steve Bulpett has Jefferson gushing about his former teammate, Perkins. Duggan has Jefferson keeping things in perspective out in Minnesota.

Tim Weisberg says that the Celtics are already being impacted by Rasheed Wallace’ temper. Blakely has Wallace saying he’s not going to change his game. Dan Duggan has Tony Allen making a contribution. Jessica Camerato has the Celtics putting on their Sunday best last night.

Dell’Apa’s notebook has Rajon Rondo wishing he could’ve set up Paul Pierce for another three-pointer. Murphy’s notebook has Pierce tying Danny Ainge with his 6-6 night from behind the arc. Doyle’s notebook has Wallace still upset over Friday’s ejection.

Your Friday Megalinks

Let’s do the megalinks on this Friday. And as usual, you can find your weekend viewing with the Weekend Viewing Picks.

Now we go the links.

National

We begin with a story that could get quite interesting. Fox is negotiating with Time Warner Cable to get a transmission fee, but the talks have gotten so contentious that Fox is threatening to pull all of its channels. Franklin Paul and Yinka Adegoke of Reuters have the story.

Reed Albergotti, Vanessa O’Connell and Russell Adams of the Wall Street Journal investigate how Tiger Woods gave Men’s Fitness an interview in 2007 in order to squelch a story about one of his affairs in sister publication, the National Enquirer. 

Anthony Crupi of Mediaweek writes the absence of Tiger Woods from the PGA Tour will affect CBS the most.

Diego Vasquez from Media Life Magazine says Tiger is losing credibility with the public.

CNBC’s Darren Rovell asks if Tiger Woods’ wife, Elin Nordegren, would really make a good endorser.

Darren says a former Survivor winner is trying his hand at selling Russian hats with a sports twist.

Mike Reynolds of Multichannel News says Fox Soccer Channel got its highest ratings in a key demographic last week.

The Sports Media Watch says Ernie Johnson, Jr. will call his first NBA game since 2001.

Chris Byrne in the Eye on Sports Media gives you a primer on calling an NFL game in Spanish.

The Big Lead says when ESPN Los Angeles’ website launches on Monday, it will have assembled a pretty good lineup to challenge the Times and Daily News.

Northeast and Mid-Atlantic

Chad Finn of the Boston Globe says MLB Network has made quite the impression in its first year.

Bill Doyle of the Worcester Telegram and Gazette writes that NBC is looking forward to airing the NHL Winter Classic from Fenway Park on New Year’s Day.

Kristine Leahy of WEEI.com has today’s version of The Five.

Richard Sandomir of the New York Times says this isn’t a good week for those who don’t have NFL Network.

Richard says Russian Mikhail Prokhorov is one step closer to owning the New Jersey Nets.

In the New York Daily News, Bob Raissman writes that the Mets losing is hurting their ticket sales and SNY ads.

The New York Post’s Phil Mushnick says there could be a change coming at the YES Network.

Laura Nachman says Fox is sending a familiar trio for this Sunday’s 49ers-Eagles game.

Dave Hughes of DCRTV.com writes in Press Box that Orioles fans have to get used to watching the games without Buck Martinez next season.

Jim Williams from the Washington Examiner ranks the first set of bowl games on whether they’re worth viewing.

Jason Reid of the Washington Post talks with ESPN’s Ron Jaworski about his on-air partner, Jon Gruden. 

South

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald says former Dolphins running back Mercury Morris loves talking to the media when an undefeated NFL team goes deep into the season.

Sarah Talalay in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel explores a new cell phone ad starring Dwayne Wade and Charles Barkley.

And Sarah discusses a new line of personalized sports jersey photos.

Barry Horn of the Dallas Morning News writes that the Cowboys continue to show confidence publicly.

Ray Buck in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram talks with NBA TV’s Kevin McHale about the Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki.

To the Houston Chronicle, David Barron says high school football championship games will be all over local TV this weekend.

Mel Bracht of the Daily Oklahoman talks with ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla.

Mel also has his weekly media notebook.

Barry Tramel of the Oklahoman writes that he broke down and signed up for the NFL Network.

Midwest

John Kiesewetter of the Cincinnati Enquirer says a former sports talk show host would like to return to the radio soon. 

Josh Slagter in the Grand Rapids (MI) Press looks at the fights HBO will re-air next week.

Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says there will be plenty of NBA action to watch on Christmas Day.

Ed Sherman in Crain’s Chicago Business has his weekly winners and losers in sports business and media.

Jim O’Donnell of the Chicago Sun-Times writes about HLN’s Sunday special featuring TNT’s Charles Barkley. 

Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Cardinals Fox Sports Midwest team will return for next season.

Dan says despite not being able to show the Calgary-Blues game, Fox Sports Midwest scored in the ratings for the pregame Brent Hull retirement ceremony.

West

Scott D. Pierce in the Deseret (UT) News talks about the mtn. owning the rights to BYU home games.

Jay Posner of the San Diego Union-Tribune has CBS’ Boomer Esiason being high on the Chargers.

In the North County Times, John Maffei says one community won’t be able to see tonight’s high school football championship game.

Jim Carlisle of the Ventura County Star writes that local Time Warner Cable customers won’t be able to watch Saturday’s Cowboys-Saints game on NFL Network.

Diane Pucin of the Los Angeles Times previews Sunday’s HLN special featuring three of Turner Sports’ analysts.

From the Los Angeles Daily News, Tom Hoffarth notes that Lakers radio voice Spero Dedes has been missing games of late.

Tom talks with former Utah Jazz announcer “Hot Rod” Hundley who’s filling in for Stu Lantz on Lakers TV broadcasts.

Tom has more with Hot Rod in his blog plus his usual extensive media notebook.

Canada

Bruce Dowbiggin in the Toronto Globe and Mail says the diagnosis of one hockey player will send shockwaves about concussions to the media.

Chris Zelkovich of the Toronto Star says Don Cherry will never admit that he promotes hockey violence.

William Houston in Truth & Rumours reports that the Canadian Olympic Broadcasting Consortium will fall well short of its sales goal for the Vancouver games.

That’s going to do it for the megalinks.

#8 Manny Ramirez Becomes The Easiest Target Ever

Like shooting fish in a barrel…

Twins v Red Sox

http://cdn.pis.picapp.com/IamProd/PicAppPIS/JavaScript/PisV4.jsTo borrow an antiquated phrase, that’s what ripping Manny Ramirez was like during most of this decade for the Boston sports media. Whenever things might be a little slow during the baseball season (or in Mike Adams’ case, any time of year, and even well after Manny left town) they could always call Manny lazy, or clueless or a clubhouse cancer, and immediately they had a polarizing topic that could be turned into days of heated, insulting discussion.

What helped embolden the media here was the fact that there was no danger that Manny would ever pull a Curt Schilling and call into their show and call them on their nonsense.

Manny was accused of many Crimes Against Baseball during his time here, including:

  • Not always running full speed to first base on a groundout.
  • Missing games because of questionable or non-existant injuries.
  • Not wishing to play in the All Star Game.
  • Potentially arriving late for Spring Training (Remember the car show?)
  • Boneheaded plays on the base paths.
  • Didn’t speak to the media on a regular basis.

During his last season in Boston, things escalated after an incident with Kevin Youkilis in the dugout during a game, and for “assaulting” the team’s elderly and feeble Traveling Secretary Jack McCormick.

Back in July 2006, I published a little 6-page ebook dealing with the subject of Manny and how he is treated by the media in Boston.

Manny Ramirez – Reality vs. Perception

Some things have certainly changed since then, but many of the arguments and statements I still stand by. I also believe the reasons I gave in that piece for why the media chose to rip Manny so frequently.  

Manny has certainly tarnished his own image following his 50-game suspension last season for testing positive for a banned substance. I can say that I am tremendously thankful that Manny didn’t get caught here, because the world might’ve ended right then and there.

But during his time in Boston, there were no allegations of drug use, and Manny put up historic, Hall of Fame numbers in helping the Red Sox to two World Series championships. Yet, he was villified more than any other player in newspaper columns by the likes of John Tomase and Dan Shaughnessy, and by sports radio hosts such as Gerry Callahan, John Dennis, Glenn Ordway and Mike Adams. For them, it was too easy, just start ripping the guy, and the calls would come. It was an instant, ready-made topic that could be brought up any time there might be a lull in the sports world.

Manny Ramirez may not have spoken to the media, but he sure made their lives a whole lot easier simply by just being Manny being Manny. That’s why the Manny Ramirez era is the eighth biggest episode in the Boston sports media during the last decade.