“The Fellowship of the Miserable” – A Boston Magazine Feature on Sports Media

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You’ll recall that last year, Alan Siegal wrote a feature for Boston Magazine on 98.5 The SportsHub morning team Toucher and Rich.

Siegal, who has also written for Deadspin among other publications, is back in the pages of Boston Magazine this month with a feature entitled The Fellowship of the Miserable.  The introduction for it goes like this:

Whiny, petulant, entitled, self-important—no, it’s not Boston fans we’re talking about, it’s Boston sportswriters. How did the sports media in this town, once the envy of the nation, become so awful?

The piece focuses on how far the local media has fallen in terms of being beaten regularly by the national media on local stories, (The Jeff Passan piece on the Red Sox last summer, and Adrian Wojnarowski on the much of the Ray Allen stuff with the Celtics) and by non-beat reporters on other pieces (he reports that then-Globe publisher Marty Baron was the one who initiated what became the Bob Hohler “beer and fried chicken” column following the 2011 season, not sports editor Joe Sullivan) and why they seem to be getting worse and worse on the rest of the stuff. Dan Shaughnessy is among those dinosaurs who are targeted in the feature.

 To put it bluntly, “The Lodge”—as Fred Toucher, cohost of the 98.5 The Sports Hub morning radio show, mockingly refers to the city’s clubby, self-important media establishment—is clogged with stale reporters, crotchety columnists, and shameless blowhards. Their canned “hot sports takes” have found a home on local television and talk radio, but do little but suck the fun out of a topic that’s supposed to be just that. And we haven’t even gotten to Dan Shaughnessy yet.

If you’re a sports media junkie, it’s a must-read. And yes, I am quoted in it.

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Rondo Injury Sparks Many Different Reactions

The Celtics received the devastating news yesterday that point guard Rajon Rondo will be out for the rest of the season after suffering a torn ACL in the double-overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.

How the news was disseminated yesterday was interesting to follow, as social media reports early in the afternoon suggested it could be a a torn ACL, and Sean Grande on the Celtics radio broadcast was among the first on the air to report the news.(The Celtics put it on Twitter around 3:15.) Behind the scenes, Jackie MacMullan recounts how she was the one who told Rondo that people were speculating the ACL was torn, before he even got the official word on it. She then told Dwyane Wade, who took it back to the Miami bench. It appears the Heat knew before the Celtics did.

Doris Burke of ABC/ESPN broke the news to a visibly distraught Paul Pierce following the game. Doc Rivers said he told his team about the injury after the game, though he knew before the game that Rondo was likely done for the season.

Callers and texters to 98.5 during the game (and WEEI this morning) celebrated the injury, a pattern that is sure to continue with the hosts today. While Felger and Mazz are in New Orleans for the Super Bowl this week, you can bet they’ll be gleeful over the injury. It’s a contrast to the reaction of teammates and opponents around the league alike, many of whom (including Kobe Bryant) expressed their affection and respect for Rondo.

You’ll hear the phrase “blowing it up” a ton in the coming days and weeks, and armchair GMs, fan and media alike will be advocating getting rid of anyone, including Pierce and Kevin Garnett. (They can’t get anything for them.)  A few might insist that the team might get better without Rondo and all his “selfish” assists.

A few other thoughts on the short and long-term future of the Celtics.

Rondo’s done, and so are the Celtics – When a guy I like and respect as much as Steve Bulpett is writing this, I know things can’t be good.

Rajon Rondo injury clouds Celtics future – Chris Gasper manages to work in references to the deaths of Reggie Lewis and Len Bias when discussing what this injury means to the Celtics.

Celtics forced to look for options in wake of Rondo’s injury – A. Sherrod Blakely thinks that the Celtics will be at least considering a look at Delonte West.

Where do Celtics go from here? – Ben Rohrbach thinks that the Celtics will either be the latest example of the Ewing Theory, or that this injury will be what finally killed the heart of champion.

Doc Rivers, Celtics not packing it in – Chris Forsberg has the Celtics feeling that they can still make a run in the East.

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 50 vs. the Clippers

Celtics (36-13) vs. San Diego (27-28)
January 27, 1980
Boston Garden

Larry Bird exploded for 36 points — a new career high — as the Celtics regained their edge at the Garden and sent the Clippers away with their sixth straight loss by defeating San Diego, 131-108.  Bird added seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals.

The Celtics controlled the boards, out-rebounding the Clippers, 55-38.  Rick Robey fought through a pulled groin muscle to deliver 23 points and 14 rebounds, and Cedric Maxwell added 13 boards.  Though the Celtics committed four more turnovers than SD, it was a product of their passing.  Led by Tiny Archibald’s nine assists, the Celtics compiled 14 more assists than the Clippers.  Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe captured the connection the Celtics’ fans had for their team: Continue reading Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 50 vs. the Clippers

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 49 vs. the Bullets

Celtics (36-12) vs. Washington (20-27)
January 25, 1980
Boston Garden

The Celtics are always connected with history.

In addition to drafting the first African American player (Chuck Cooper), employing the first African American starting five, and hiring the first African American head coach, the Celtics are in many ways to the sport of professional basketball the complete opposite to what the Red Sox were to diversity in baseball.  This particular night held a little history, as the Bullets ended a six-game losing streak — their longest since 1966 — with a road victory, 118-107, over the Celtics in the Garden. Continue reading Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 49 vs. the Bullets

Sports Media Musings: The Mailbag, Chapter I

Welcome to the Sports Media Mailbag! Here are comments and emails from you, the readers, and (mostly) made up emails from your favorite sports media personalities. To contribute to the mailbag, either shoot me an email at Hadfield.Ryan@gmail.com, hit me up on Twitter, or leave a response in the comments section of any one of my columns.

“TROLLING … ON A JET PLANE … I DON’T KNOW WHEN I’LL BE BACK AGAIN!!!”

-FauxWilbur@boston.com

Unlike last year, Eric Wilbur, who essentially admitted to Kirk Minihane that he writes for page views and reaction and doesn’t think facts are imperative in Internet columns, actually wasn’t the biggest troll following the Patriots loss to the Ravens. That honor goes to Chuck Culpepper on SportsOnEarth (which, aside from this abortion, is a great site you should all check out. Mike Tanier is the best national columnist covering the NFL, and it’s not even close.). Culpeepper’s piece though? Just awful.

“I’m sitting outside Guest Street, biding my time (a la Rajon Rondo), debating if I want to go in there. It’s cold, 5:40 am, and I just want to know … WHY WON’T THEY ACKNOWLEDGE ME? I EXIST.”

-FauxKevinWinter@weei.com

Hmm. I don’t know, Kev. I will say this: The web side of things is giving you a nice push and exposure with the Winter’s World podcast. Though, I’m not sure what the point of it is – just seems like more of the same dialect we hear everyday. I think The Brass over on Guest Street brought you in for your ESPN relationship, and if we’ve learned anything from the Sports Radio Wars, it’s that you’ll have plenty of time to make your mark. (Full Disclosure: I applied for the job, though was never a serious candidate. Just felt worth mentioning.)

As far as John and Gerry not, you know, engaging you on-air – I wouldn’t worry about it. John Dennis associates himself with the likes of Dan Sileo, who is making news for being an idiot (again) – this time as a misogynist, guys! (Here’s where your mother says, “You are the company you keep.”)

Another thing to note: we’re about to hit a dry spell in sports – the Celtics and Bruins are entering midseason (well not so much the B’s, but you get the point) –this is where I exclusively listen to shows, like “Toucher and Rich,” and read sites like Barstool Sports more than I usually do (I ripped on David Portnoy for Brady-baby-gate, which I stand by … But he’s also hilarious). More than any other time in the calendar year, I don’t need analysis as much as I just want to consume content from people that make me laugh and that I want to hang out with.

To me, that’s what WEEI lacks the most and is perhaps one of its bigger problems (and no, guys like Sileo aren’t the solution). Did they forget that sports are supposed to be fun? This market will always be big enough for two radio stations, but no one I know under the age of 40 listens to WEEI, and that 18-49 demographic that The Sports Hub instantly commandeered in 2009, is slowly becoming the coveted 25-54 demographic.

“Joe Buck is fucking terrible – a smug, smarmy twat.”

-Tyler

Ahh, yes. That’s a comment from my Championship Sunday media roundup, where I said Buck has done well to change his monotone voice to a higher pitch of excitement in big moments recently. Hell, I even went as far as to say I like Buck. Will Leitch does a better job defending Buck than I could in this space, but I’ll say this: As fans, so many times we complain about announcers; sometimes it’s warranted, other times it feels like we do it just because we can. The Internet culture doesn’t help. And I’m not sure if we’re looking to distract ourselves or to kill time, but Buck is America’s punching bag, partly because he’s omnipresent. Regardless, I’m certain Fox could do worse (Thom Brennaman, anyone?)

Speaking of announcers …

“STOP PUMPING THE CROWD NOISE, JUST STOP.”

-MarvAlbertsToupee@orneryannouncers.com

What was that last night? In case you skipped out on the Celtics-Knicks match-up, Marv Albert went on a rant of sorts during the second quarter, claiming the folks at TD Garden incessantly pump crowd noise into the arena. Albert tried goading Steve Kerr, who seemed awfully reluctant to take part in the conversation, to agree. Kerr passed.

Look, I attended every Celtics game last season while covering the team, and could never tell if there was any artificial crowd noise pumped through the speakers. Keep in mind, I wasn’t exactly listening for it, either. I’m not sure it matters. This is the same crowd that started chanting “Ugly Sister” to Lamar Odom (in reference to Odom’s wife, Khloé Kardashian) during a Mavericks game last season. It’s a great fan base; and, frankly speaking, with the amount of times the Celtics have no showed this year, why should the team expect the crowd to bring the intensity? I don’t blame them.

“I’m free!”

-RedheadsRule@cnn.com

Despite Albert’s ornery outburst, Thursday was a win for Turner Sports. News broke that Rachael Nichols is leaving ESPN for CNN/Turner. The decision is logical for both Turner and Nichols, and a direct hit to the WorldWide leader. She is a pro’s pro, who has had successful runs at The Washington Post and the four letter network. Look for her profile to substantially increase (there are already discussions of developing a “Real Sports”-esq show based around Nichols). Interesting times for CNN/Turner, who just abandoned their relationship with Sports Illustrated (a curious move) to join forces with the king of keywords, search engine optimization, and pageviews … the Bleacher Report.

As far as ESPN goes …

“Great to have you back Ryan. And, Rob Parker thinks this column is too ‘cornball’.”

-bsmfan

Oh, “First Take.” I … just … oh, fuck it.

Moving on.

“This mailbag is terrible, because you’re terrible! GOD, Boston is awful.”

-FauxMagary@Deadspin.com

Drew Magary is a top-5 read for me right now. He’s great, and he knows it. He writes like Bill Simmons used to write, which is ironic, since he constantly rips on the Sports Guy. You are what you hate, I suppose.

As far as The Sports Guy goes, it’s safe to say Simmons has lost a bit of his fastball over the years. His initial appeal was that he was an average guy, talking about sports the way we talk about sports; meanwhile, in the last month, he’s led two columns with anecdotal stories that were relevant to him and only him. One was how his version of the mailbag originated (I personally enjoyed this), and the other was how he had to type a column without an ‘S’ key or something.

(OK, it may not have been the ‘S’ key. I forget. But he was complaining about a shoddy computer warranty, like he couldn’t just expense a new laptop anyway … Are times really that tough over at Bristol?)

Don’t get me wrong, I still read his columns and listen to every one of his podcasts. He’ll always be one of my favorite writers – and was my inspiration to start writing. To top it off, his story will be taught in journalism classes forever. But he lives in a different world now, and the component he relied most on in his writing — being relatable — is dissipating.

“Well written article Ryan and I understand you point. However, I do feel there are exceptions. Granted I was very young when this happened, but from what I’ve heard, I don’t remember hearing people defend Wilfredo Cordero for spousal abuse. Again, I was young, but from everything I remember, he was outcast and people wanted his head. Maybe “we” as fans, only feel protective of that “star player” who must rise to X status level before getting the protective cloak around their shoulders. Obviously Cordero never has that cache.”

-Winning_Again

The Obstructed View columns will, eventually, get me into trouble. The BSMW community frequently comes up with smart, insightful takes, so when I talked to Bruce about coming back, I told him that I wanted to do something to challenge the readership. It is a work in progress, but a feature I really wanted to pursue. In a vacuum, each column is meant to coerce discussion in a genuine and creative way. By no means am I trying to play devil’s advocate; in fact, I hope to do the opposite by removing bias and filters, and (ultimately) explore How We Think About Sports. I’m happy it appears to have worked here.

Anyway, from my vantage point, both Kobe Bryant‘s and Ray Lewis‘ personal situations are sticky, and I would classify neither as a “good” person. Still, despite the snark and suspicion, Lewis falls within the gray area discussed in the column. I absolutely think Lewis is revered in Boston if he plays for the Patriots, instead of a rival. Same goes for Kobe — whose rape victim had more than a few holes in her story, which was sort of the point of the column.

*Side note: Whenever Kobe’s rape case gets brought up, I always laugh about the following line of questioning.

Via The Smoking Gun:

Detective Loya: So you like to cum in your partner’s face?

Kobe Bryant: That’s my thing, not always, so I stopped. Jesus Christ man.

That’s his thing, guys. Priceless.

Anyway, to reiterate, teams have to be successful for the “Our Guys” theory to work, but I’m with you — I was young, too, and I remember Will Cordero‘s case being cut and dry, eliminating him from this discussion. Good call.

I am going to have the biggest smile on my face when I see Ray doing his dance next Sunday, and what makes it great is knowing that you Boston bitches hate it!!!! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA SUCK IT BITCH YOU LOST!!!JOE FLACCO HAS OUTPLAYED BRADY IN THE 3 STRAIGHT GAMES!!!!!!   AND LEARN HOW TO TALK PROPER WITH YOUR STUPID ACCENTS LOL       YOU MAD BRO?!?!  AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA   RAY LEWIS IS GOING BACK TO THE SUPERBOWL….LIVE WITH IT!!!  AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

-Chris

So that same great community I just waxed poetic about? Chris, clearly, is not part of it. Learn how to “talk proper,” guys. Wait, or is it “proper talk?” I just consulted Google, and the results show, “Properly Talk.” Who would’ve thought!

“Bruce, I don’t think you allowing these guests posts is doing your site any favors. I’m not sure why I should care about this writer’s opinion”

-Anonymous Commentator

Pulled that from my first column here. Do people long for the days of George Cain? I know I do. I really do.

“I met a girl on Tinder, asked how many push ups she could do, and now I’m in love. We haven’t actually met. She is wearing a Canton High School hoodie in her profile picture, but she says she is 21. Should I be concerned?”

-No one ever.

Covered the media aspect of this story last week, but the Manti Te’o story is so strange. I don’t know what to think, why I should think it, and if I should really care. I get the feeling the story has run its course no matter what the outcome. And that’s probably a good thing, but wow … 2013, everyone! Welcome.

Closing the book on Patriots season

Even three days after the Patriots fell to the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game much of the talk in the Boston sports media remains the Patriots and their loss on Sunday. Every play and situation has been discussed, as well as finding common links in the Patriots recent playoff losses. Clearly, both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady deserve some of the blame for the loss, but some members of the media have a hard time in calling out the two for their poor performances on Sunday.

In getting to the AFC Championship game it’s hard to call a season a disappointment, but the way it ended was definitely disappointing. The Patriots did not play their best game and certainly were not 100 percent in health. The team did make some strides over the course of the season, especially on defense, and one would expect the Patriots to be right back in the AFC Championship Game next year with the hope of winning another Super Bowl before Brady’s historic career comes to an end.

Here are a look at some of the better reads from the past few days:

In their biggest game,  the Patriots failed to measure up– Greg A. Bedard is his final game review of the year, a must-read all year, has the team playing their worst game at the absolute worst time.

A five-point improvement plan for the Patriots– Tony Massarotti looks at what the team needs to do this off-season to get to the big game next year.

Patriots lost, but they didn’t fail– Ron Borges puts things in perspective saying things could be a lot worse like being Mark Sanchez in New York, or Scott Pioli in Kansas City.

Patriots roster breakdown– Jeff Howe breaks down the roster and what holes they may have going into next season.

Piecing together Patriots losses– Mike Reiss finds the common threads in each of the recent Patriots playoff losses.

Tom Brady in unfamilar place– Jackie MacMullan looks at Brady’s performance Sunday which was extremely disappointing.

Why Spygate doesn’t matter– Kirk Minihane puts an end to some people claiming Belichick and the Patriots haven’t accomplished anything since Spygate.

Hard to see a scenario where Aqib Talib sticks around– Christopher Price doesn’t think the Patriots cornerback will return next season.

Patriots led their opportunity slip away– Tom E. Curran says the Patriots failed to capitalize on their opportunities, especially early in the game, which ultimately was the reason for their season ending loss.

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 48 vs. the Pistons

Celtics (35-12) vs. Pistons (13-36)
January 23, 1980
Pontiac Silverdome

The Celtics hammered the Pistons with 77 second half points and walked all over Detroit for a 131-104 victory.

For the first time all season, Bill Fitch changed his starting five.  Dave Cowens, forced to miss the game after injuring his left foot in the game against the Rockets the prior evening, was replaced in the starting lineup by Rick Robey.  Robey delivered for the C’s, contributing 24 points and 19 rebounds.

Rick Robey

“Robey is the guy,” Fitch told Bob Ryan in the Globe, “that regardless of any circumstance would have had fingers pointed at him, with people saying he couldn’t stand the heat, if we had lost.”

There was no way to overrate Robey’s role in this victory. It was the third time in the last seven games he has had to step in for Dave Cowens, and each time he has come through. He opened up with a 14-point, five-rebound first period while being guarded by Bob McAdoo, who had to start at center in place of the injured Leon Douglas. McAdoo could not contain Robey on the boards, and the Celtics had the good sense to dump the ball in low. By the end of the third period, Robey had compiled 22 points and 15 rebounds.

“When the pressure’s been on him,” said Bird, “he’s come through.” Rookie Greg Kelser gave the Pistons their only source of life by scoring 29 points via a mixture of drives and medium-range jumpers, but none of the others appeared to view the game as a team sport. “They’re amazing,” sniffed one Celtic. “They wouldn’t pass the ball to their mother on the fast break.”

The free-falling Pistons had no answer for the Celtics starters nor, for that matter, their reserves.  Larry Bird added 21 points and 10 rebounds The Celtic bench, led by M.L. Carr (21 points) and Gerald Henderson (16 points, and 5 assists, playing well for a second straight game), scored 47 points.  Robey and Henderson understood the significance of their extra opportunity, wrote Ryan:

Robey recognizes the opportunity he now has to demonstrate his viability as a playoff performer.

“I’m just trying to play hard,” he explains, “and I’ve been learning from one of the best in Dave. When someone asks me about this center or that center, I say that he’s no better than the center I face every day in practice. Dave has prepared me for this job, and the coaches have, too.”

As for Henderson, whom Chris Ford has nicknamed “Quick,” he has been taking two steps forward for every one backward over the past month or so. The rookie with one of the league’s most envied pair of legs has been playing with increasing confidence, and in his 16- point, 5-assist performance on Wednesday, he was able to do pretty much what he wanted to do against the Detroit guards.

“Gerald’s end product should be a total guard,” assesses Fitch. “We have four guards with specific skills now. We’ve got Tiny (Archibald), Chris (Ford), Duck (Don Chaney) and now Pete (Maravich). Gerry can learn something from each of them.”

Former Celtic and current Piston Bob McAdoo shared with Bob Ryan the reason behind about his unsuccessful tenure in Boston:

“I think a lot of the blame of what happened last year has to go to John Y. Brown. The man was just no good for basketball.”

The Pistons would only win three games, losing 27, the remainder of the season.

The Boston media was still abuzz with the Celtics’ signing of Pete Maravich.

After Bob Ryan covered the pros and cons in the Globe, Will McDonough added some additional info on the legend from LSU:

 

Pete Maravich

 

The big question about Pete Maravich’s joining the Celtics will not be how he fits in with his new teammates or his playing style but how good his injured knee is. Maravich has been slowed by an injured knee in recent years, and that is why Philadelphia gave him a complete physical when the 76ers tried to sign him the other day. What the doctors discovered could be pleasing to Celtic fans.

“The knee that was injured is now 19 percent stronger than his good knee,” said Celtic general manager Red Auerbach, not bothering to explain how you come up with a figure like 19 percent for a knee.

Besides the knee, others who have followed Pistol Pete wonder why Utah coach Tom Nissalke wouldn’t let Maravich play or even practice with the team in recent weeks. The rumor is that Nissalke’s beef with Maravich goes back a decade to college.

Nissalke was an assistant coach at LSU when Maravich’s dad, Press, was head coach. The next year, Nissalke took the head- coaching job at Tulane. When Pistol Pete and LSU arrived to play at Tulane, Maravich threw in 58 points, completely devastating the opposition. Some say Nissalke never forgot – or forgave.

Boston would have to open a roster spot to make room for Maravich.  In the meantime, the Celtics returned home for a Friday night matchup at the Garden against the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions, the Washington Bullets.

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