When Tom Brady asserted that he “sucked” in Sunday’s AFC championship game, not many people were in a rush to disagree with him.
Upon a second look at the game, perhaps Brady was being a bit hard on himself, or so at least one Patriots reporter believes.
Brady got the job done – Greg A Bedard’s game review, which has consistently been one of the best weekly columns of this season, notes that Brady actually played well on Sunday, and that playoff football is completely different from regular season football.
46 lines on 23 issues – Tom E Curran has some very interesting observations and thoughts from Sunday, including Ravens CB Chris Carr calling Brady an “arrogant [bleep] ” after the game, and memories of Asante Samuel’s selfishness.
Scouts’ Super Bowl Take, Part 1: How to beat the Giants – We’ll see tons of columns about “how to beat the Patriots” in the next two weeks, I’m grateful to Christopher Price for going in the opposite direction, which is what I think most fans around here really want to read.
Revenge a real factor for Patriots – Karen Guregian talks to former Patriots Rodney Harrison, Heath Evans, Jarvis Green, James Sanders and Ellis Hobbs about how they would feel about another shot at the Giants.
Not an instant replay– Shalise Manza Young runs through the rosters and notes that a lot has changed since 2007.
Is there anything more miserable than a sports-talk radio caller? Holy crap. I’ve actually heard yesterday’s win described as “disappointing” and that the Super Bowl rematch with the Giants in two weeks “won’t even be competitive.” (with the Giants killing the Patriots) Both of these calls came from self-described “long-time Patriots fans.
Here’s a few thoughts on this Monday after the AFC Championship. (If you’re looking for links, PatriotsLinks.com has them.)
I found it interesting that in almost two weeks away from the Boston sports radio and TV scene, I had nearly zero thoughts that the Patriots would lose to either the Broncos or Ravens. I knew the Ravens game would be what it was – a slugfest, perhaps even worthy of the sainted Ravens/Steelers battles that the media drools over, but I felt the Patriots would emerge with the win, especially at home.
That, Shalise Manza Young, is why it is better to be 13-3 and not 11-5. (And Bill Belichick would prefer it to be that way.)
If you’re a DirecTV subscriber, you might be nervous about being able to see the Super Bowl, given the fact that the contract dispute between DirecTV and Sunbeam Television (the owner of WDHD Channel 7) has resulted in the station being blocked out for Boston area Satellite subscribers.FierceCable reports that Senators Kerry and Brown of Massachusetts are attempting to intercede in the matter, but also notes that Sunbeam owns a FOX station in Miami, and allowed viewers in that market to view the NFC title game yesterday.
Listening this morning, Gresh and Zo were so much better than Mutt and Merloni it wasn’t even close. As a long-time Mike Mutnansky booster, that hurts to write. Even Troy Brown couldn’t save Mutt and Lou.
Here’s how bad Tony Massarotti has gotten for me; I’d rather read a Dan Shaughnessy column on the Patriots than one written by Tony Mazz.
Could this be the worst two weeks of Super Bowl talk ever? In between the constant highlights from Super Bowl XLII and the insistence from the likes of Michael Felger of having to discuss all the Patriots “misses” in the draft in recent years, it might just be better for us all to go to the West coast, figuratively speaking. Or just read the beat reporters.
I appreciate how much Drew Bledsoe has grown into and seemingly embraced his role in the Patriots past and rise to where they are now. Given his reactions during the 2001 season (running to Ron Borges for advice, really?) and his departure from here, it’s nice to see how both sides have handled things in recent months. Having him hold the AFC trophy yesterday and hand it over was a nice moment.
IF the Patriots can beat the Giants – their toughest game to date – it will be a nice settling of all family business this season. Sweeping the Jets, who then implode after the season, seeing the Colts fall to the bottom of the league and Bill Polian shown the door, beating Tim Tebow and the Broncos twice (and avenging the 2005 playoff loss to Denver) beating the Ravens, avenging the 2009 playoff loss.
The last few Fridays, I haven’t been able to provide you with the megalinks. I have to do some today otherwise you’ll stop visiting me.
We begin as always with the Weekend Viewing Picks and there are quite a few for this snowy weekend in Southern New England.
Now to your links.
Michael Hiestand of USA Today talks with Fox Sports’ Terry Bradshaw about Tim Tebow and the upcoming NFC Championship.
Jason Fry, part of the ESPN Poynter Review Project hears sideline reporter Holly Rowe’s side of the story regarding about her now-infamous incident where she shoved a Sugar Bowl staffer away to get an interview with Michigan coach Brady Hoke.
Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter looks at HBO’s new unscripted series on boxing trainer Freddie Roach.
The Tampa Bay Times’ Eric Deggans has a review of the Freddie Roach series in the Indiana University National Sports Journalism Center.
John Eggerton at Broadcasting & Cable says Massachusetts Senator John Kerry has written a letter to the FCC asking the agency to get involved in the Sunbeam-DirecTV dispute which could affect how viewers in Boston see the Super Bowl.
John says Comcast is seeking a reversal of a Federal decision that ruled in favor of Tennis Channel in their dispute.
Mike Reynolds from Multichannel News says DirecTV has signed a rights deal to distribute Big Sky football and basketball games.
This column originally appeared in the July 29, 2009 edition of Patriots Football Weekly.
La Canfora Hits The Ground Running At NFL Network
By Bruce Allen
Since the NFL Network was launched in 2003, viewers have become accustomed to seeing and hearing from the well-connected and enthusiastic Adam Schefter, who seemed synonymous with the network. Schefter however, was unable to come to terms with the network on a new contract this offseason, and ended up joining ESPN.
His replacement at NFL Network is 35-year-old Jason La Canfora, who spent the last several years covering the tumultuous Redskins beat for the Washington Post. La Canfora started at the network in June of this year, and has had to hit the ground running, stepping into the role vacated by Schefter. Gracious enough to speak with Patriots Football Weekly recently, La Canfora says he was “humbled and thrilled” when he found out that the NFL Network was even considering him for the position, which he describes as a “life-changing opportunity.” With the newspaper industry facing very difficult times at the moment, the decision to jump to NFL Network was an easy one, though he notes that the move made so much sense for he and his family that he would’ve made the same choice “in any economic climate, regardless of the issues facing newspapers.”
When asked how the transition from the newspaper to world to the world of network television is going, La Canfora answers: “I’m getting a better feel for what my schedule is going to be like, what an average work day feels like, etc, but once camps open and then the regular season begins, well, everything will change. It’s just incredibly exciting to be doing something new, working on a schedule outside of what a typical newspaper NFL beat feels like, getting to exercise new muscles in terms of information delivery.” The reception he has gotten from his new co-workers has been so welcoming that he says that “it really feels like being part of a family.”
A native of Baltimore, La Canfora will continue to make that his home base, even as he jets around the country in his new job. Despite growing up in Baltimore, he is a rabid Boston Red Sox fan. How does a kid from Baltimore end up part of Red Sox nation? “It’s kind of lame, I agree, but I promise I am not a bandwagon, jumper.” He explains: “I was sitting out at old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore in the mid-80s with my Roger Clemens jersey on. Sadly, The Rocket’s ascent was a big part of why I was drawn to Red Sox nation, and since he’s left I’ve never been able to stomach the man. But his 20 strikeout game was a big deal for me – I was 12 at the time – and the Sox obviously went on an amazing run that season and I shed many a tear during the ’86 ALCS – my dad ran upstairs, while I was crying into a pillow – to tell me about Hendu’s homer. And then Games 6 and 7 of the World Series, well, I still can’t watch highlights of Ray Knight and Mookie Wilson and Jesse Orosco throwing his glove in the air without feeling ill.”
His cheery, bespectacled exterior belies a competitive, sometimes combative nature. While covering the Redskins, La Canfora drew the ire of team owner Daniel Snyder and GM Vinny Cerrato for his candid reporting on how the Redskins franchise was being run. Cerrato blasted La Canfora on his radio show, and La Canfora shot back at the organization. According to DCProSportsReport.com, the incident “led some Redskins fans to regard LaCanfora as hostile to the team.” The site notes though, that La Canfora was, in reality, “only hostile to the incompetent and hyper-sensitive team management.” Ironically, now that he is with the NFL Network, 1/32 of his paycheck will be coming from the Redskins. La Canfora says he doesn’t view it that, way, but rather approaches this job as he would any other reporting job. He says “Eric Weinberger, the executive producer of the NFL Network – and someone I am very grateful to for giving me this opportunity – told me that he was interested in me because of the kind of journalism I have produced, and that the expectation would be that I continue to dig deep and look for the best information possible to serve our readers and viewers at NFL Network and NFL.com. He adds: “As with everything else, fairness and accuracy must carry the day, and my goal is always to provide all sides of an issue, inform as best I can, and fans will form their own opinions.”
Finally, asked for his thoughts on what to expect from the Patriots this season, he responded: “I think they are the team to beat. I have so much respect for that organization, the way they build a team, how shrewd they are, how they value draft picks, the overall sense that no individual is bigger than the collective – save for Bill Belichick, perhaps, as it should be.” Any potential weaknesses fans should be concerned about? “I don’t see much glaring in terms of what they lack. The running game will be under scrutiny as will some additions to the secondary, but I thought that Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs were two of the best values out there as veteran corners, and both ended up with the Pats. The passing attack could be as explosive as it was two years ago, and I love how the defense has transitioned, especially with Mayo now in the middle. To me they go into the season as favorites.”
I’m glad to once again welcome back former Boston Herald columnist Michael Gee, who presents another guest column.
Why Write? Why Not?
By Michael Gee
Almost 400 years ago Dr. Samuel Johnson said that no man but a blockhead wrote except for money. I’ve been writing for nothing for going on six years, so what does that make me?
A happy blockhead. It’s not as exciting writing about sports from a distance rather than from the excellent seat I had at the Herald, but it has its own satisfactions. Much to my surprise, I have found I enjoy quiet satisfactions as much or more than noisy ones. I still experience wistful longing when a big game comes on TV and I realize I’m not in the press box, but the longing has faded to a momentary twinge. I think about having to catch the 7 a.m. flight out of town the day after the game, and the twinge passes.
As a business, even a nonprofit one, my blog is a bust. I lack the entrepreneurial gene. The amount of work I know Bruce does every day for this site fills me with awe. Every expert says that to draw an audience, a blogger must post daily – at least. But doing that would defeat the purpose of my blog, and in fact, remove the primary satisfaction I get from writing it.
The first principle and joy of my nonjournalism noncareer in sports commentary is to only write when I feel I have something to say, when a topic either amuses, enrages or fascinates me enough that I believe I can contribute to the sum of knowledge and opinion on the subject. You’d be surprised, or maybe not, to learn what a low percentage of sports columns, and radio and TV opinion blather stems from that principle. As a rule, in fact, the louder the opinion (and print can be as loud as any medium), the less likely the person expressing the opinion is to actually give a damn about what they’re saying.
Media space and time allotted to sports must be filled. Filling it is a job, and like any job, there are days when getting the job done is the only thing the worker cares about. There are many more games or other types of sports news that don’t lend themselves to engaged commentary than those that do. To take an example that still gives me night sweats, I was often one of three Herald columnists assigned to preseason Patriots games. There’s as close as nothing to say in that situation as can be, and I had to and did say it anyway.
I don’t have to do that anymore. I have the enormous luxury of picking my spots. That improves a person’s performance in any field. I also find writing something that hasn’t been said (or not said as I feel it should be) in the paid sports media is a bracing intellectual challenge. And, of course, I have the freedom to talk about what I read and hear in said media. When I was a member of that club, it wouldn’t have been proper. Loyalty matters.
It’s a new year, and I intend to write more. But not too much more. No more than I feel I should say. No more than I feel I want to say. No more than I feel have to say.
Back in the Terry Francona mess, a commenter on the message board here asked why my blog writing was so different than my Herald writing. It was a good question, and this piece is my answer. I honestly don’t believe my writing is that different. It’s just that the writing that was my job has been erased, and what’s left is the writing that was and is my pleasure.
Today’s guest colum is from former CSNNE anchor and reporter Jackie Pepper.
L.A. To Boston And Everything In Between: A Sports Reporter’s Tale
By Jackie Pepper
Nearly every television broadcaster travels the same course:
You start in a small market, living and working in a tiny town nobody has ever heard of. While you dreamed of a luxurious life on camera, you soon realize that being on air is often the last thing you think of in your first job as a “one-man-band.” Shooting, editing, producing, and writing all of your own stories comes first while powdering your face and stepping in front of the camera as “the talent” is a mere afterthought.
After a few years of life as a big fish in a small pond, you get a new job in a mid-size market and repeat the aforementioned steps. You travel the country going from job to job as you work your way up the career ladder until you reach the top; “The top” being the perfect combination of status, location, money and overall happiness; an occupational unicorn of sorts.
Born and raised in Santa Monica, California, I moved back home after graduating from the University of Arizona and continued to work as a freelance production runner for ABC Sports and ESPN, a gig that I landed by chance in the fall of my senior year of college. I traveled the country working on location at various sporting events from college football to NBA games to the X Games and sports awards shows. I went on Starbucks runs, picked up lunch for the crew, made copies, drove on air talent and executives to and from the airport, wrote thousands of shipping labels, mopped floors, stapled papers, packed equipment, took out the trash, cleaned TV trucks, and performed every other random task you can imagine. Being immersed in a business I craved made it all worth it.
At the same time, I was taking classes at a local junior college to give me any possible edge once I decided to pursue my dream of being an on air sports reporter. I took Sports Broadcasting, Football Coaching and Sports Marketing, just to name a few. After two years of classes and working freelance for the holy grail of sports television, I landed a staff position at NFL Network as a production assistant at the Culver City studio. For nearly two years, I learned the ins and outs of television production, working with editors inside dark edit bays, cutting game highlights and writing scripts (aka shot sheets), sitting alongside producers in the newsroom, building graphics in the control room, typing the ticker content that scrolls on the bottom of your screen and watching professional on air talent doing my dream job every single day.
Although I loved my coworkers and the perks that came along with working for the NFL (like watching a good looking man’s eyes light up after telling him the name of my employer, which never got old), I finally got my act together and made a demo tape of myself doing fake sports reports, an anchor segment, highlights, etc. After a few months of sending my DVD to small towns across the country, one news director took the bait and hired me.
My first on air job was as the weekday sports reporter and weekend anchor at KIDK, the CBS affiliate in Pocatello, Idaho. And to think while in college, I considered Tucson a small town! Tucson was like Vegas compared to Southeastern Idaho. I could write a book about the 14 months I spent in Pocatello (I actually plan on doing so eventually), but to get to the point, it was an utter culture shock. I had never spent time in a true small town where everybody really does know everybody. Each person I met seemed to be connected to my job. The mailman served as an assistant coach of a high school team, or a local business owner was a former Idaho State player, etc.
To give you an idea of where I lived, one of the schools I covered was Preston High School, where the movie Napoleon Dynamite was filmed. One school I covered in a farming community moved its daily afternoon football practices to 10p.m. for an entire month each winter so its players could assist their families in harvesting potatoes in the daylight hours after school. Southeastern Idaho borders Utah and is primarily Mormon, which is vastly different from multi-cultural life in Los Angeles.
Going from good weather year-round and the glitz and glam of L.A. to driving long distances in blizzards, scraping ice off my car and seeing snow in June, all for the first time, felt like an impossible adjustment at times. Tears were shed and home was sorely missed, but it was all part of the journey. A journey which, thankfully, I wasn’t alone in taking.
Almost all of the other reporters and anchors in my area were also in their early to mid 20’s, many of whom were California natives. It was like a do-over of college, moving to a strange place, knowing not a soul. The social destitution of the situation bonded all of us transplants, forming a TV news fraternity of sorts. Members were not only co-workers at my station, but those at the two other local affiliates as well. We were one big team and while we competed against each other in the ratings books, we were friends who often times helped each other professionally.
If one person’s camera malfunctioned (which happened all the time since most of us used ancient equipment) you could always count on a reporter from another station to secretly share their footage with you. In fact, even managers and executives of competing stations would call each other for favors once in a while. There was an unspoken, yet palpable camaraderie between us all.
That was small town life. Hard working, friendly and simple.
The only professional sports team I covered in person was the Utah Jazz. Once a month or so, I would make the three hour drive (each way) to Salt Lake City in the news car, work the game, get back in the car and arrive home in Pocatello around 2 a.m. Sometimes I would carpool with the sports reporters from the other stations which always made the trip more fun, and walking into an NBA locker room less intimidating.
Once I got to know the players and staff, working the Jazz locker room before and after games felt natural, and me and my fellow small market pals were often the only television cameras around. Yes, I was that girl holding my camera with one hand, the microphone in the other, and praying that the mic was close enough to get the sound while the camera was far enough away to get all of the player’s head in the shot, all while looking him in the eye as he answered my questions instead of looking through the lens. Many times, I would return to media work room, roll the tape back, and see I had cut off the top of Carlos Boozer’s head. Apparently, that’s an occupational hazard that comes along with being a “one-man-band.”
The lack of sports media in Salt Lake City gave me a chance to get to know guys with the cameras turned off. There was never a fight for 1-on-1 interviews, or the pushing and shoving you experience in bigger markets, so after I asked my questions on camera, I could take the time to know the man behind the basketball player.
I learned that the best way to get your job done was to be trusted, and a stranger only trusts you when you are no longer a stranger in his eyes. Harvesting a relationship based on genuine interest in the person and knowledge of their craft yields the best interviews, quotes, sources, etc. It would have been hard to learn that lesson in a place like L.A. or Boston.
Just when I felt like I had finally figured out my job, I got a new one! I went from Pocatello, market 168 to Boston, market 7.
Aside from then-head coach Jerry Sloan, the most high profile sports figure I interviewed regularly was a high school football player named Taysom Hill, a man-child of an athlete who played quarterback (as well as defensive end, kicker, power forward, long jump and relay) and won the state championship for Highland High School. Hill had accepted a deferred athletic scholarship to Stanford, but while on a religious mission, he bolted for BYU once Jim Harbaugh left Stanford for the 49ers. Keep an eye out for Hill as he will be a super star, believe me. Okay, I digress…
I went from high school sports, rodeo and the monster truck show to Bill Belichick, 17 NBA championships, the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry and No. 4 Bobby Orr.
I was in the midst of yet another culture shock. One day I was a small-town television reporter, the next, I was beamed into four million households. I went from rookie ball to the big leagues in one fell swoop. Within weeks of arriving in Boston, I met Dan Shaughnessy, Jackie MacMullan, Steve Buckley and Bob Ryan, all living legends in the field of sports journalism whom I had long since admired. The journey took me from Hollywood, to potatoes to the Ivy League. Three different parts of the country, three different lifestyles and three different work environments.
I was prepared for the worst as the Boston media is notoriously tough, its intimidating reputation perhaps second only to New York City.
Yes, the Boston media is hypercritical when it comes to sports, and I sure as hell didn’t envy any of the players I interviewed after a loss. But I was surprised to find that much like in L.A. and Idaho, there is a fierce connection between competitors, even in a town as feisty and scrappy as Boston.
The press corps in L.A. is very laid back, warm and welcoming. In Boston, smiles, conversation and recognition must be earned, but once you’re in, you’re in for good. Perhaps the contrast in dispositions is correlated to the weather, who knows. Fans might not want to hear it, but members of each city’s sports media even like each other. Blasphemous, I know.
Even though we started in different places, we all took the same road that got us to where we are today. Despite diverse accents and attitudes, the goal is uniform; do the work, make the deadline and tell your story the best damn way you know how.