Got this email this morning from a long time reader, George, who gives his take on the state of afternoon drive radio in Boston. For the most part, I think it’s pretty much dead-on:

Bruce – the Michael Felger role in Sports talk is very interesting. I hate this guy which is unfortunate because I like the energy he brings but too often I feel like 98.5 has become the MSNBC to WEEI’s FoxNews. Felger was the guy once battling the old titans Borges and Cafardo during the Bledsoe vs Brady wars in 2001. He became popular somehow using this contrarian status and pushed the boring Greg Dickerson out the door. Now if Holley could only push Tanguay permanently out the door at Comcast we’d have a tandem.

But now Felger has become the Chris Russo of the Boston sport market. He’ll have Borges on to call the Patriots and BB a liar but never refutes anything Borges says. He is anti-Celtic and NBA and a full fledged Patriot basher. For some reason he is pro-Red Sox except when he thinks they are cheap. Cheap is his big thing, everyone is cheap. And finally the Bruins, he’s a shill on that station which has way more Bruins calls than it should. Hockey in July is borderline inappropriate. The Bruins have a spot in this town and a small but rabid fan base. And that base calls the radio, but it is not reflective of the market in general.

As for Felger and Mazz: It’s a terrible combo, because Mazz has become the contrarian as well. It worked at WEEI where the backrubs of Boston teams had become common. But its boring radio to have two guys bashing the local sports scene. Tony’s big thing is to bash the Red Sox, that’s where he differs from Felger.

So overall given the success of the teams, I find the late afternoon shows very disappointing because they don’t really attack the issues objectively. I think Holley, Zolak, Gresh and Dale do a much, much better job on a daily basis analyzing the issues, whereas Felger is pretty much the same schtick every day. “Patriots are cheap, Brady wants out, blah, blah, blah.” “Bruins are losers, but I love them and will talk about them for hours.” “Basketball is stupid and I don’t understand it but I’ll talk about it.” The only debate of interest ever is with the Sox because they will take different sides, Mazz is always anti-Sox and is still talking about Teixeira.

At the other end, the Big Show is too complimentary and I think their deals with the local teams is the problem. They give the Sox and Pats a pass too often, don’t talk hockey, and well, the Celts talk is biased when they are playing well and non-existent when they aren’t.

What are your thoughts on the afternon drive shows?

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47 thoughts on “Interesting Reader Analysis

  1. This reader is 100% correct. I am 27 and I have to say the afternoon drive is not good at all. I really almost do not bother listening if I have a chance because none are great. I rather listen to DA in the drive the Felger/Mazz. Those two are just not interesting and big show lost something when pete left. My shows go T+R (with some flipping), Dale Holley (no flipping), Afternoon flipping back and forth and then DA all the way at night. I do think it is good to have the two stations and letting them compete is important but it feels we are not at the right combination yet. Would Felger be the better with Big O as cohost?

  2. Hockey talk in July is more than appropriate considering the recent high draft pick, the beginning of free agency and the constant trade rumors surrounding the Bruins as of late. George makes some valid points but I think he underrates the general amount of hockey talk that goes on around the "watercoolers" of this region. Everything is cyclical and the Bruins appear to be trending upwards and the "hockey talk" will probably only increase over the next few years.

    1. LOL “trending upwards”? Is that what you call a team that has zero heart and just completed yet another epic choke? Take off the pom poms…

  3. I'll agree with most of that. I was surprised by Felger's quick flop on the Bruins after they lost. Since 98.5 came on the air, I hardly ever flip back to WEEI. There's no reason to listen to their same, tired yelling.
    I think the weakest part of the Felger & Mazz show is when they're talking to an "expert" about any non-baseball sport. Mazz disappears for the entire interview, so we're stuck listening to the same point that Felger has been beating for a week. They need a well-rounded co-host to challenge Felger and call him out when he's wrong. If Tanguay could tone down his "the sky is falling" routine that he developed before getting canned, that could work. Still, an infinitely better show than The Big Show.

  4. I agree with that letter as much as if I wrote it myself. I can't really comment on Felger's 98.5 show, because I've never listened to it. I hate Felger that much. From what I've read on this and other forums he has given me no reason to change my opinion. The same contrarian garbage as always. His lack of knowledge about baseball and basketball should be embarrassing to his employer. Somehow his act his taken him a lot farther than I would've ever dreamed, so I suppose he deserves credit for that. He knows how to get jobs.

  5. The Big Show is the worst show on Boston radio. Uninformed nitwits. Their formula worked for a long time, but it is way too played out, as are the same retreads they have on the air.

    That said, how anyone can complain about the loud yelling of WEEI, yet say they listen to Gresh and Zolak is absurd. Gresh is the loudest loudmouth of them all and his voice is like nails on a blackboard. 98.5 did a smart thing by realizing their mistake on Tanguay, but replacing him with Gresh was an even bigger mistake. Zolak is arrogant and gets all his "original" takes from barstool sports. I especially love the commercial reads when Gresh is telling me about the health benefits of certain foods and products.

    As for hockey talk in the summer – with 98.5's ratings growing "despite" all that hockey talk, I think George is totally misguided in saying it's inappropriate.

    At least Felger and Mazz are sometimes capable of smart, non-yelling discussions. And when they bring on Bob Ryan or Gasper it's even better with that non-biased third voice. Mazz needs to get some stones. He starts every third sentence with "you're exactly right, Mike." I think part of the problem with how people view Felger is their long standing perception of him, and not giving him more of a fresh chance since 98.5. I don't think he's the same guy he's always been.

    As for Holly, I don't get his appeal. He spends most of the time coming up with hypothetical scenarios to make his point instead of simply justifying or intelligently explaining his point.

    When can we get some fresh voices? Is it that much to ask to get someone on the air with some energy and smarts that hasn't had their opinion all over Boston sports media forever? Does Comcast SportsNet really think we want to hear the same half-dozen guys on TV at night that were blabbing and yelling all day on the radio? It's like the same 10-15 people write every column (print and online), are on every radio show, and are on every local sports TV show. Give me some originality.

  6. Great Email…..However I DON'T AGREE that hockey talk is "borderline inappropriate"….anything is better than the CONSTANT, "Lebron/basketball free agent talk" ……"where are Lebron/Wade/Bosh going to go???!!"…."oh, they could go here and they could go there of course they might go there and then it's possible they could go here……PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!…….The fact that ESPN is going to have a "special show" with Lebron as master of ceremonies announcing where he's going to go is BORDERLINE OBSCENE…….even the local sports radio has spent WAY TOO MUCH time on this story, which is unusual for them because it doesn't directly involve the local teams…….I'd rather listen to a million vuvuzelas

    1. Well, Old Bastard, plenty of people could care less about hockey. I love NBA talk. You don’t. Continue to root for a choking dog franchise and a rich man’s sport.

      1. fine…..and you can continue to root for a sport where 95% of the players care more about how many points they score and being "celebrities" than winning……..now, where is Lebron going again?…….let's discuss, it hasn't been talked about enough

  7. Felger and Mazz is a major improvement on the Big Show. I mean you can nitpick any show. F&M is just fresher and has more energy. And I'll tell you what, the Big Show misses Pete the Meat big time. The co-host model has run its course too. Why do I have to listen to Lou Merloni or Butch Stearns? Boring radio.

    At least Felgie (and let's face it, it's the Felgie Show featuring Tony Mazz) loves to take a stand, and a semi-outrageous stand is better radio.

  8. Amen to comment above by "Shawn". I agree with most of what the reader said but I refuse to lump Gresh in with anything that might be considered a positive. He is beyond horrible and I have no idea how this guy has infiltrated the market. I refuse to listen to his radio show and if he is co-hosting on CSN, which is WAY too often, I change the channel.

    Felger would be better if he would genuinely embrace the "agent of truth" thing he used to joke about. The audience can handle someone not having to be one extreme or the other. Mazz is a horrible co-host. Nothing like a pseudo-midget acting all tough and repeating "that's right, Mike!" 20 times a show. I still listen because I do find Felger mildly entertaining/funny and hate EEI.

  9. I mostly agree with Mr. Peck, but Felger has gone beyond tolerable for me. His unchecked speculation is absurd and his studied cynicism is boring. At the start of his 890 show he was good. He was funny, willing to debate issues and was confident to rely on people who knew more than him. Now he is the instant expert on everything.

  10. I was a Full-Fledged Felger Fan but he's gotten on my nerves. I admit that he's the one guy in Boston sports radio that I believe is "that way" on and off the air, and the fact that he's a genuinely miserable person (in my very uninformed opinion) is why I respect him as a radio host. But he's lost his fastball and he just repeats the same storylines that other commenters mentioned – Jacoby's a woman, Bruins choked, Moss is a cancer, etc.

    Mazz is Mazz. I respect his general knowledge of sports and I think that when he cuts through the BS he is good to listen to about baseball, but it seems like he's always trying to be cool or contrarian just because he's probably sick of the WEEI method of kissing up to everyone.

    The best hour of the show every week is when Gasper's on, since he's the only one who consistently calls out Felger for being so ridiculous sometimes.

    By the way, doesn't BB's attack on Casserly lose some credibility if he was right? Who cares if it was months late? Just asking – not trying to cause a sh*tstorm with the rest of you gents.

  11. The Big Show model has run its course. The Whiner Line, once the most entertaining part of the program is downright lame. Same callers everyday. A dead Ted Kennedy, a dead Billy Mays, A dead Butch from the Cape among others doing the same schtick on a daily basis. Felger is the most entertaining talk radio host in town whether you love him or hate him. I found the show the most interesting during the week when Neumie co-hosted for three days. If they could step up and pay him, Felger and Neumie would be a great pairing and would blow away Ordway and his weak roster of co-hosts. Buckley is my pet peeve. If he is on the show pimping his charity baseball game, I tune out every time.

    1. Agree 100% but as I've stopped listening to them (and for some reason my disposition has improved) things are better. But as a huge percentage of radio material is uninformed whining callers with no lives, listening to sports talk on the radio isn't for me. I love sports but when I'm in the car it's not worth my time.

  12. George's assessment of Felger always playing the "cheap" card is spot on. The Bruins are the only truly "cheap" franchise in Boston. While the salary cap has allowed them to spend with the rest of the NHL teams on big league salaries, the rest of the operation behind the scenes remains a penny pincher (which affects scouting and untold other aspects of trying to operate a pro hockey franchise). Are the Sox spending as much now on payroll as they were in 2004? No, but they're still in the Top 5 and they also spend a ton of money on player development. Just because they can't drop $200 million every year like the Yankees can doesn't make them cheap. The charge that the Pats are cheap and don't pay their players is a tired one, and it's never been true. They pay the ones they feel should be paid, and say "good luck" to the rest–and they're always either right up against the cap or just under it by about a million or so. Obviously, the Celtics aren't cheap either given what's transpired with that team over the last few seasons.

    That's a broken record that Felger simply must change.

    1. Do you really have any idea how much the Bruins spend on the “behind the scenes” aspects of the game compared to other clubs? I have no idea myself how they stack up. it seems like they’ve “hit” on several non-first round draft picks as of late and that it either makes them lucky and/or good.

      1. I have a pretty good idea. I used to work in the Garden and I had a lot of first-hand experience talking to B's employees. It's not exactly a Rolls Royce operation behind the scenes, at least it wasn't when I was working there.

  13. Ranking of quality of hosts (best to worst):
    1. Holley
    2. D&C
    3. DA
    4. Felger
    5. BIg O
    6. Mazz
    7. Zolak
    8. Dale Arnold
    9. Mikey Adams
    10. Gresh

  14. Gresh is awful, and where is DA from? I’ve googled him. Toucher and Rich openly embrace their midwest ties, and I think that gives them a fresh perspective. He doesn’t have to be from here, but he should own up to his personal sporting ties. I think he’s from Flordia.
    Adams is done, Zolak should be on one of those redneck Fox overnight shows, big fan of Mutt and if Minahane was as entertaining on the radio as he is in print he would be a star.

    I’m a Felger Fan, he does bring energy and when he was doing the Sunday Morning football show on EEI, it was great. I hate Brett Favre too!

    1. DA went to Syracuse and I think is from the NYC area. He worked in Miami before getting the 98.5 job. Only Toucher is from the midwest, suburban Detroit. But he went to school in Florida and worked in Atlanta for most, if not all, of his career before Boston. Rich is from Atlanta and worked there and Dallas.

    2. I can't prove it, but I have to believe that when Favre was with the Packers Felger though he shiit rainbows. He can't stand Favre only because he turned his back on Wisconsin.

  15. I agree about the Big Show..really has run its course. And the Whiner line has been taken over by the "regulars", who do the same shtick day in and day out. After yet another moronic bit from "Mary Curillo" and "Morgan Freeman" re-hashing the same crap, I stopped listening.

  16. I played a little drinking game the other day. Every time Mazz prefaced one of his comments with one of his annoying "you're absolutely right, Mike" rejoinders, I downed a shot of tequila. I was passed out by 2:13 pm.

  17. After Gresh pulled his little stunt by calling Nomar a "loser" to get his jollies, I lost any faith in 98.5 making any decent decisions and have since spend most of my drive time with NPR.

  18. Unfortunately, neither show is worth my time. As I have said before, Felger has become completely obnoxious and I do no not believe he believes in half of the things he says. He is broken record. Jacoby Ellsbury is soft. The Patriots are screwing with Tom Brady because he is a player rep. (By the way Mike did it ever occur to you that Brady and his agents are waiting to see what Peyton Manning is going to sign for with the Colts? Jim Irsay said Super Bowl week that they were going to sign Manning by the summer to the richest contract in the NFL. Maybe Brady is being prudent? Of course not, because you would have to think before you speak. Something you rarely do.) Randy Moss needs to be released. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

    I disagree with George with regards to Maz. Maz does not have contempt for the Red Sox. He has contempt for the reader/listener. He believes he is much smarter than any average Joe and cannot take it when someone makes a point that makes him look like an idiot. He has also become a robot by constantly saying, “You’re right Mike” constantly.

    I don’t think you tell the difference between F&M and the Big Show. In fact, Felger himself has tried to copy Ordway. When asked about Ordway's style on Channel 5 Felger said, “If ain’t broke then don’t fix it.” I’ll keep my opinions on the big show brief because it is simple. When you have three to four people talking over each other and the host always interrupting, it makes for a giant headache but terrible sports radio.

    I still believe there are only two good shows during the weekday. D&H and DA. The others are not bad, they are dreadful.

  19. Felger talking Bruins in July is “borderline inappropriate”? His show’s ratings leading up to now certainly don’t support that point. As for his act, I don’t always like what he says but at least he says something, unlike his competition. As for Massarotti, he has grown leaps and bounds in a short time and is a terrific supporting guy who occasionally verbally smacks Felger down.

  20. I’m very torn on mid-day and afternoon sports radio.

    On one hand, the first time I ever tuned into 98.5 I ended up enduring eight straight minutes of Andy Gresch channeling the bastard child of Jim Rome and Peter Griffin. It took months before I would even dare tune into that station again.

    On the other hand, I will IMMEDIATELY change the station if I ever hear that Steve “Re-writer of interview history” Buckley is on WEEI. After the stunt he pulled trying to soften up his obviously aggressive and borderline-antagonistic attitude by changing up question wording in a transcript he later posted of his Ortiz interview, he can go DIAF for all I care. I would rather listen to a 24 hour marathon of Howard Stern being castrated with a rusty olive fork than ever have to see or hear from Steve Schmuckley ever again.

  21. I should also mention that not only will I turn off Schmuckley, I called a Program Manager at WEEI and told them I was doing as such.

  22. I live in W.Mass so I don’t get to hear much of 98.5. What I’ve heard when I’ve driven back to Boston is simply more of the same: yelling, interrupting, over the top opinions, stirring the pot. None of it is worth the time.

    I listen to Bill Simmons’ podcast because he asks his guest intelligent questions, rather than some rambling, 2 minute bum kiss like Steve Buckley does.

  23. I somewhat disagree. To my mind, the core of the problem with the Felger-Mazz Show is that it's really Felger's show — Mazz is his Ed McMahon. Mazz all but admitted such when F. was on vacation. If you had "You're right, Mike" as a drinking game, you'd be soused by 3:30.

    Given his terrier personality and lack of any actual debate, Felger uses the entire afternoon to go on rants. The problem is that he's neither smart enough nor informed enough to have more than one rant topic per day, so like Headline News or NECN on the weekends, he's stuck in an endless tape loop. Every 15 minutes he repeats the same spurious assumption, which he pretends is an issue roiling the town on that day, and then plunges into his defense/destruction of said assumption. Can you say Tim Tebow?!?

    As an aside, I am constantly amazed by Felger's grade-school level knowledge of the English language. He is a fountain of malapropisms and a couple of times a week he'll read an email from listeners and stumble over words, even completely mispronouncing them. A day or so ago, he was reading one that had the word "vacuous" in it and he had to stop and ask Mazz what the word meant. How he was ever employed in the print journalism business — even if it was the Herald sports pages — is a total mystery. But then, he and his wife are testaments to grooming products over actual ability.

    As for The Big Show, I actually think it's been better since the lessening of De Ossie and (especially) Smerlas because of their propensity to inject their political opinions into any sports discussion. I respect what Smerlas has to say about playing nose tackle. If I wanted to hear his muddle-mouthed grumbling about Hilary Clinton, I'd … no, I'd never want to hear that.

    For all his smarm, a week of Mike Adams shows that Ordway at least can keep things moving and understands that the purpose of the show is NOT to give him 4 hours to hump his own crazed feuds with players past and present (Hey, Mike — Manny left town years ago. Get it?) Ordway is like any variety talk show host — our own Regis Philbin, if you will. Inexplicably self-satisfied, but at least cognizant that there's an audience out there that needs to be entertained. Far too many of the 98.5 and 850 clowns haven't even made it to that first step yet.

  24. It's like we still have no choice in this market, even with two stations.

    I disagree with the emailer that Felger is like Mad Dog. Russo may be bombastic in his verbiage, but he doesn't just take sides for the sake of steering a conversation and is far more informed about sports than Felger. In fact they're nothing alike.

    As far as everything else goes, I agree with a lot that has been said here.

    Felger's petty issues with the Pats and such is bizarre. He comes off like a jilted lover in his Partriots commentary these days –a far cry when he first burst onto the scene here and made a name for himself by challenging the Ron Borges of the world during the first SB run. He was a breath of fresh air then, but he's like a circus act now. In many ways he's become the very thing he was challenging back then!

    Still it's better radio than The Big Show. I don't understand what EEI is thinking. First they canned Pete — and as I've written before, I think dropping Sheppard was a big-time mistake. That show has never been the same. Instead, they're content to have on a daily diet of Lou Merloni (so smooth, yet so superficial), Rob Bradford and Joe Haggerty. The latter two come off like two little kids trying to get attention every day, there's just no weight to their commentary so why should I as a listener bother tuning in? The Big O seems tired (I think he misses his co-host), the formula is stale. And whoever decided Mike Adams was the "go to" guy for fill-in gigs….man, I just don't get it. I hear his voice and I instantly turn off the channel.

    So it's like Felger is better by default, but it's not saying much. I think he needs a better co-host who will challenge him on his off-the-wall commentary, Mazz is perfectly content to just let him go and it doesn't really work. Ironically I think Pete Sheppard would be ideal to counteract Felger's over-the-topness — removed of the Big Show I truly believe Pete was more informed about a lot of sports than people believed. Certainly when he filled in for Ordway he was very good and the show was actually better when he hosted! I know Bruce felt the same at times as well.

    Just something to consider…

  25. Can anyone offer insight into how Gresh managed to find himself behind a microphone, much less as a co-host in the midday slot of a major radio market? I don't see anything redeemable in his broadcasting skills. This is the man that all but single handedly made a once enjoyable Patriots' gameday broadcast virtually unlistenable. There is little doubt that he knows nothing more than any reasonably literate fan of the local sports scene does, yet he has been given a podium from which to speak as though he does. To top it off, he is simply obnoxious and unlikable. I just don't see the attraction.

    Purely from a ratings/businsess perspective this appears to be an indefensible decision. Did 98.5 raise the white flag of surrender to Dale & Holley and decide to fill the chair with the cheapest warm bodies they could find? It is obvious that Zolak is a weak host who is trying to grow into the role. How much potential for improvment Zolak posseses remains to be seen and it is possible we have already seen the best of what he has to offer, but teaming him with Gresh cannot be viewed as anything but a recipe for failure.

  26. Andrew — I wouldn't expect much growth from Zolak. He and Gresh did this show in Providence already — it bombed here and it's not going to work in Boston either. I agree about Gresh, he's always been unlikeable but filled with enough "bombast" that apparently radio execs think he knows his game just because. I've never understood his appeal from the very second he appeared in Providence. And I've also never really heard anyone who likes him either…I assume they must be out there, somewhere, right?

    1. i'm not sure what the nadir was: Gresh's off key singing of URI's (Tar Heel) fight song when he was on the Score or his 4 hour monologue on Tiger Woods during a week where T and R was off. Sigh.
      It's tough to say Gresh and Zolak bombed on 790. It was a tiny station in a tiny state that used to pre-empt the weekday show so we could listen to Brown basketball.

  27. is it just me, or has Tony M. picked up Felger's speech patterns? If you listen to the "Baseball Reporters" (which I rather like), it takes a second to two to realize that Felger isn't there.

  28. Mazz is much better on the Baseball reporters than he is on Felger. He's patient, he listens to callers, he seems to care about the sport he's covering. I still want to buy a half dozen Tedy Bruschi jerseys, but he's much less obnoxious…

  29. i don't get the Chris Russo reference. He's not a contrarian. And he's forgotton as much about sports as Felger will ever know.

    1. Russo's also got cojones that Felger will never have.

      Felger goes on rants constantly, but when has he ever challenged one of the targets of his ire face-to-face?

      I'll never forget the day of Parcells' introductory press conference with the Jets in 1997. It was a total media love-in until Russo got up there and said, point blank, "Bill, how can Jets' fans really be excited about this move given your history of bailing out on teams?" Of course, Parcells did three years in New York and then basically did "run out" on them.

      That was priceless–Felger would never do that. He'd just wait until he had the floor to himself and go on another rant/soliloquy.

  30. PLEASE FIRE MAZZ, Felger is right-on with many comments and we all know it – we just hate to admit it. If Mazz says one more time how we are all offended by his comments I might kill myself. HE IS OBVIOUSELY THE ONE GETTING OFFENDED!!!
    My God, do the program directors actually listen to that guy on the show??? Can you says useless regurgitation of Felger's comments ???? AHHHHHHHHHHHHH !!!!!!

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