Patriots Reaction/Look Ahead

With the Patriots demolishing the Denver Broncos last night, it puts an end to several storylines:

The streak of one-and-done is over at two.

Tom Brady can still play in the postseason.

The defense can actually make some plays.

Gregg Easterbrook and company can quit with the “Patriots haven’t won a playoff game since Spygate” crap, even though it was incorrect to begin with. (He claims Spygate “started” with the Tomase article, which the Herald later apologized for.)

But we get a whole new set of sports radio storylines this week:

Ochocinco only played one snap!!

Why was Hernandez playing late in the game – he might have a concussion!

Patriots still haven’t beaten a team that finished the season with a winning record!

They’re in trouble when they face a real quarterback!

Good times.

Check all the Patriots stories over at

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Guest Column – The State of Network TV Sports News

This is a guest column from Frank H Shorr – a senior lecturer and the Director of the Sports Institute at Boston University. He worked at both Channels 5 and 7 in Boston, most recently being the Executive Sports Producer at WHDH-TV for twenty one years.

It’s called “Local Sports” but you know what? It’s not, really.

If the network affiliates in Boston want to get an audience back, I think they’d better change the approach – and that goes all the way up to the television station GM’s and the owners.

This isn’t meant to be the rant of a “dinosaur” but let’s be honest, the sports fans of today aren’t tuning into the six and eleven o’clock news to find out what’s going on – no revelation there, right? So how can they change that? Well, how about following a few simple rules, three to be exact

1) Advance The Story.

2) Tell Them Something They Don’t Already Know.

3) Tell The Story of the Game Through the Pictures You Use.

That last one is done pretty effectively in this market, BUT when news directors and producers, (who mis-time) keep the reins on the local sports departments, fans get short-changed.

How can you possibly tell the story of a game that lasts two to three hours in 30 seconds? Yeah, you can try, and believe me I did it for years, but while I’m not advocating the return of the eight-minute sportscast, circa 1985, let’s be honest here, if you’re presenting an hour and a half or two hours of news in the early evening, you oughta be able to give the sports guys a block of time to both attract an audience and exhibit their own capabilities (good writing, better storytelling).

Just an aside here, notice I said “guys” – with the exception of Kristine Leahy at FOX25, there’s nary a woman on a local network affiliates! Which begs the question, what does NESN and CSSNE know that channels 4,5 and 7 don’t?

So yes, time is an issue but so is formatting.

That brings us to cardinal rule number one, advancing the story. It’s the most important factor in any news story, be it sports, politics, weather, business.

Let’s examine – If you start a story “The (Patriots, Bruins, Red Sox, Celtics) beat the (name your opponent) last night”, as virtually every sportscast in this market does, you’ve lost before even getting started. Why? Because viewers already know the result. By six o’clock the next day and many times by eleven that same night, they’ve watched recap upon recap on their portable devices, on ESPN, on NFL Network, NBATV, MLB Network, and NHL Network and all the websites. When viewers hear that opening line the first thing they say is “nothing new has happened, I don’t have to watch this guy(this station) – click! – as in, click, I’m changing the channel.

Conversely, this is exactly why beginning sports journalists flourish in the smaller markets. Unlike Boston, and other professional markets, ESPN isn’t covering Tyler, Texas and Panama City, Florida and Walla Walla, Washington so the local stations there have a captive audience. If you live there, it’s your only outlet. Sports will always be king. But for the Boston network affiliates to concentrate on only “The Big Four” is simply a waste of time. Having a reporter put together a Patriots package for Monday at 6:00, shortchanges the viewer. You’re NOT advancing the story.

And that brings us to rule number two, “tell ’em something they don’t already know.” Repeating yesterday’s(last night’s) score in the lead in just doesn’t qualify. Viewers are thirsty for something new, something they can share, and are you ready – something they can tweet! Sure, news doesn’t break every day but it’s your job to keep the audience coming back for more and it can be done with a little elbow grease. The Boston sports landscape has completely changed when it comes to disseminating information. Tom Curran, Rob Bradford, Mike Reiss, Ian Rapoport, Paul Flannery, Shalise Manza Young to name a few, have burst onto the scene with instant up-to-the minute coverage. Recap sportscasts don’t bring ’em into the tent.

The late night Sunday shows do very well in Boston. Why? For a couple of reasons, certainly a half an hour helps but the approach is vastly different – Live guests, commentary, longer form story telling – it’s more interesting. So here’s the question – why can’t they do that EVERY DAY? The sixty-four thousand dollar question.

Which brings us back full circle to the station GM’s and owners. Anytime fans debate the fortunes (and demises) of a team, they always eventually say “it starts at the top,” so which owner, which GM, which News Director is willing to surrender thirty minutes (say 5:30-6) for a daily sports show? Who’s the pioneer? Certainly there’s an audience there and what better way for a department to showcase the truly “local” stories, the high schools (thank you, Mike Lynch) the NCAA women’s teams in this market that get virtually no coverage, i.e. BU, BC, Harvard soccer teams to name a few, the casual sports even. It would show a real commitment both in resources and time. The Newsies would still have the 5 and 6 o’clock half hours for their “off the satellite” reports from parts unknown. And what do you think the response from the news producers and writers would be if they knew they had a thirty minute break between shows? Guess what, their product would be fresher, better written, better presented. A win-win all around.

It’s time for something different in local network affiliate sports coverage. The cable outlets are running twenty-four hours a day and producing their own local shows, many wrapped around the games that draw big numbers. It’s time to compete again – take a chance!

Frank H. Shorr is a senior lecturer and the Director of the Sports Institute at Boston University. He worked at both Channels 5 and 7 in Boston, most recently being the Executive Sports Producer at WHDH-TV for twenty one years.

From The PFW Archives – An Interview With Fran Charles, NFL Network

This column originally appeared in the December 22nd 2010 issue of Patriots Football Weekly.

Charles Admiring Pats From Afar

By Bruce Allen

On Sunday evenings, when you flip over to the NFL Network for a recap of the day’s games around the NFL, you’re greeted by a panel of former players Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin and former NFL coach Steve Mariucci, who weigh in on each game and on how things are developing in the standings.

Leading this trio through the program is Fran Charles, a veteran TV anchor with ties to Boston. Back from 1995 to 1998, Charles was the weekend sports anchor at WHDH-TV, and was also active on local sports radio programs as well.

After moving on from WHDH, Charles has covered boxing for HBO, Golf for USA Network and the NBA on NBC. However, when he arrived at the NFL Network in 2006, he knew he had found a home. “Football has always been my first love, so NFL Network is the perfect place for me” he says.

Part of what makes his job enjoyable is being immersed in football every day, and being able to learn from some who have accomplished so much in the game. “I thought I really knew football before I arrived at NFL Network, but quickly realized once I started showing up for work day in and day out, I still had plenty to learn.” Citing some of the former players he works with on a regular basis, Charles says: “To have the opportunity to be around players like Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson, Sterling Sharpe, Kurt Warner, Michael Irvin, Marshall Faulk, and Warren Sapp on a daily basis is invaluable.”

Working with former stars with the stature of those mentioned does present some challenges. Charles cites the need to sometimes push the analysts “to make sure all the great stuff I learn from them makes it on air so the fans can soak up that knowledge as well.”

Showing an awareness of something that viewers often complain about when it comes to sports recap shows featuring former players, Charles notes another challenge noting that sometimes he has to “push these players to do more than just laugh and joke on camera – but talk intelligently and educate viewers about the most popular game in the country.”

Working at the NFL Network has other fringe benefits. Because of his position, he is included in EA Sports Madden NFL 10/11 as himself. Charles originally thought his role would be animated, and was surprised to learn it was actually in HD quality video. He notes that his kids long ago got over their dad being on television, but being a part of Madden is “scoring me big points with 10-and-under crowd in the Charles household!”

Charles touches on why the NFL is so popular right now, noting “it’s a great time to be so close to the game because literally, teams can go from worst to first in back to back years, giving fans hope they won’t have to wait an eternity for a chance to compete for the Lombardi Trophy. If you just look at what the Cardinals, Saints and Bears have accomplished in recent years, these are all teams that have had recent struggles and still found a way to make Super Bowl appearances. It’s awesome to see.” He then tips his cap the local franchise here: “Not every organization can run as smoothly as New England and expect the kind of excellence the Patriots have achieved year in year out – which is a thing of beauty as well – especially in the salary cap era.”

As mentioned previously, Charles worked in Boston for three years during the 1990’s, including the year the Bill Parcells-led Patriots went to the Super Bowl to face Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. Even then, Charles could see that the Kraft family was looking to build something that would endure over the long haul.

“It was more than obvious the Kraft family was building something special with the Patriots for all New England fans,” Charles says. “Of course we (at WHDH) covered the Patriots Super Bowl after the 1996 season extensively, and the dye was cast on the type of players and atmosphere that would set up the franchise for years to come.” He adds, however, that winning three Super Bowl Championships, and nearly posting an undefeated season in 2007 was something few could’ve predicted.

The subject turns to the current rendition of the Patriots, and Charles has been watching them closely. He warns against putting too much stock in preseason prognostications.

“Yes they’ve exceeded expectations – but expectations are just that – expectations. You never really know how a team will do until it hits the field.” He goes on to talk about the unit that some feel will hold the Patriots back in the postseason: “There’s plenty of talk about New England’s “young” secondary and no-name defense, but that unit continues to do just enough. Even though statistically the Pats D has given up a lot of yards – you have to look at WHEN those yards were accumulated and whether they were really relevant to the outcome.”

When it comes to the Patriots offense, Charles is effusive in praise. “The bottom line is this – Tom Brady is having an MVP type season that’s MORE impressive than the year he had in 2007 because the offense is not nearly as high powered as it was during that record breaking year and Brady’s finding a way to get everyone involved. Plus the Pats will rarely beat themselves by making foolish mistakes – they play such SMART football which is always crucial once the post season arrives.” He notes that it’s taken a little while for some of his colleagues at NFL Network to come around to the 2010 Patriots. “In the first half of the season few people here believed in the Patriots, but as the wins continue to pile up – the pendulum has swung.”

Hey, if the analysts at NFL Network are coming around on the Patriots, we might just have something here.

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You’re On Your Own, Kids.

Well, for the next 10 days or so, anyway.

Once again in the “Bruce’s great timing” department, I’m heading out this afternoon for some family time. I’ll be gone the rest of this week and all of next week. I might chime in on Twitter from time to time @BruceAllen but for at least part of the time I’m away, I’ll be totally without internet access. That period happens to include Sunday and Monday, so reaction to the Patriots game, win or lose, will have to wait.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the week without sports radio and TV here. On Saturday, I’ll get to watch the games with the other side of the family, who happen to be HUGE 49ers fans. Well at least now they are. Those Bay Area folks are fickle. Maybe that’s what happens when you have local teams in both leagues to root for. The family has big A’s fans, except when the Giants are winning the World Series. Huge Raiders fans in the 70’s, (There’s still a Jim Plunkett autographed photo on the wall of my wife’s grandmother’s spare bedroom) and the 49ers fans in the 80’s and 90’s, and now again. They’re pretty consistent with the Warriors, I guess.

Anyway, should be interesting. If the unthinkable happens Saturday night, at least on Sunday morning I’ll be driving down the Pacific Coast Highway towards San Luis Obispo free from whatever is going on back home.  

While I’m gone, I do have content lined up almost every day. Here’s what it looks like:

Thursday, January 12From the PFW Archives, an interview I did with Fran Charles of the NFL Network last year.
Friday, January 13 –  Guest column – The State of Network TV Sports News, by Frank H Shorr, Director of the Sports Institute at Boston University

Monday, January 16 – Holiday. I may put up sort of a generic post so that people can chime in the comments section about what happened Saturday night.

Tuesday, January 17 – Guest Column – L.A. To Boston And Everything In Between: A Sports Reporter’s Tale, By Jackie Pepper, former CSNNE anchor and reporter.

Wednesday, January 18 – Guest Column – Why write? Why not? by Michael Gee

Thursday, January 19From the PFW archives, an interview I did with Jason La Canfora,  of the NFL Network in 2009.

Friday, January 20 – TBA.

Broncos Will Be Tougher Foe This Time Around

Sunday’s performance against the Steelers opened some eyes as Tim Tebow threw over 300 yards and connected on several long passes, and threaded the needle on a couple others. Preparing for the Broncos is no longer solely about stopping the option and the run.

Air about Tim Tebow now – Karen Guregian has the Patriots defense noting the big plays against the Steelers. Glen Farley has more on the challenges Tebow presents.

The Other Quarterback – Rich Levine compares Tebow’s performance against the best playoff performances from Tom Brady, with surprising results. Ian R. Rapoport has Brady not looking at recent playoff failures, only ahead to the Broncos.

Patriots ready to tough it out – Shalise Manza Young says that the Patriots late-season comebacks have given the team confidence.

Ditch the Good-Evil bit – Steve Buckley doesn’t want to hear about the Good vs Evil storylines that he writes about today. Wait, what?

When it comes to playoffs, neither roster has seen many wins – Paul Kenyon notes that both of these rosters are pretty inexperienced with playoff success.

Charlie Weis: O’Brien can make both jobs work – Bill Burt talks to the former Patriots OC, who explains what Bill O’Brien is going through right now.

Josh McDaniels sports a familiar look on field – Rapoport’s notebook has the offensive assistant playing a background role at practice. The Globe notebook from Shalise Manza Young has a look at a practice with all players present and accounted for the Patriots.

The Bruins got back on track with a 5-3 win over Winnipeg at the Garden.

Late arrival – Fluto Shinzawa has the Bruins turning things on in the third period.

A look at just how good a third-period team the Bruins are – DJ Bean looks at how the Bruins always seem to save their best for last.

Thornton lays the burn on Vancouver columnist – Eric Wilbur has Shawn Thornton taking on a Canucks writer during last night’s Sticks and Stones on CSNNE.

Cam Neely Responds to Alain Vigneault’s Criticism of Brad Marchand, Bruins – Mike Cole has the Bruins President going on with Felger and Massarotti to defend his team.

NHL Suspends Bruins’ Marchand for Five Games – The other sports leagues could learn a lot from the NHL about explaining player punishment. The Brendan Shanahan explanation here is very good.

Celtics search for an identity – Paul Flannery says that right now, the Celtics are just a .500 team looking for answers.

Former teammates have high praise for Pietrus – Jessica Camerato with a look at the newest Celtics, who looks to make his debut tonight.

Sox saving their money – Sean McAdam says that the Red Sox are not likely to add much to their payroll before the season begins.

Time for Red Sox to step to the plate – Michael Silverman says that the Red Sox need to make one more big move.

Wait, The Broncos Once Hired A Fired Coach From A Rival Team Midseason? Yup.

While the national and Denver (and some in New England) media continue their handwringing over the Patriots hiring Josh McDaniels (which they were in the process of doing before it was known they would play Denver) Lindsay H. Jones in the Denver Post points out that in 1989, Mike Shanahan was fired as coach of the Raiders mid-season and less than two weeks later, the Broncos hired him as QB coach – and there was no controversy about the move.

But the Patriots do it – legally – and it’s cheating. Got it. Twice. (as one reader put it, Woody Paige is Shaughnessy on PEDs)

Burden’s all on Brady – Karen Guregian and Kurt Warner speculate that the burden of carrying the Patriots and their awful defense may cause Brady to retire early. Does this apply to Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees as well? Will they get tired of carrying their team’s poor defenses and want to retire? This is just silly.

Broncos threw a curve – Greg A Bedard says that what Tebow and the Broncos showed against the Steelers makes them a tougher opponent this time around for the Patriots.

McDaniels about more than Broncos – Tim Weisberg says that the re-hiring of Josh McDaniels is so much more than just the Denver game.

Why the Patriots are Super Bowl bound – After telling us yesterday what a disaster it would be to lose to the Broncos, Kirk Minihane says that the Patriots are going to Indy.

Broncos’ best hope to stay in Tom Brady’s face – Ron Borges eagerly outlines how the Broncos can beat the Patriots.

Play by play – Amalie Benjamin has a mini-feature on Vince Wilfork and how he’s playing more than ever.

Marchand diary: On Canucks, critics – Bruins winger Brad Marchand writes in his ESPNBoston diary about his suspension and critics of his style of play.

Canucks anger B’s brass  – Steve Conroy has Bruins management with some harsh words towards the Canucks.

Celts’ Pietrus close to comeback – Scott Souza has Mickael Pietrus looking to make his Celtics debut tomorrow night against the World Champion Dallas Mavericks. More from Steve Bulpett.

Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds merit vote in ’13 – Is Michael Silverman just looking for attention?

Andrew Bailey and Jonathan Papelbon may not be all that different after all – Rob Bradford compares the new and former Red Sox closers.

Out of Bounds featuring Lou Merloni – Ryan Hadfield has his first podcast, and he talks to Lou Merloni about being an athlete and dealing with the Boston media. I’m told there are a few BSMW references within.

Why is the Local Media so Divided on the New England Patriots? – George Cain looks at the sharp contrasts in styles of coverage of the Patriots.

A fond farewell to a true gentleman of the business – I should’ve mentioned yesterday Kevin Paul Dupont’s Sunday tribute to his mentor and colleague, former Globe Bruins beat man Fran Rosa, who passed away last week at the age of 91.