Before You Ask Which Way You’re Going, Remember Where You’ve Been

As Glenn Ordway approached his final hour hosting “The Big Show” last Friday night, the competition and primary parties responsible for his unemployment (well, besides Ordway himself), “Felger and Massarotti,” reflected on his career, his exile, and the business in general. Along with Chris Gasper, Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti gave a very appropriate response to the Guest Street Shakeup that rocked the sports media landscape here in Boston.

Media criticism often becomes problematic. We purvey analysis of other people’s, uh, analysis. And I fear, at times, we obfuscate the truth — that writing and sports commentary is hard. The segment, which was as meta as a Quentin Tarantino film, echoed these sentiments; providing an introspective view of the hopes and fears of two hosts, who, evidently, comprehend the ephemeral nature of success in broadcast media. And from my Ivory Tower, it appeared the salient points were that Ordway’s extraordinary run will likely never be replicated in this — or any — market, and that the profession, in any form, is a tough, unforgiving industry.

Here are highlights from the segment (a friendly hat tip to the guys over at Sports Rantz for the transcription):

Michael Felger: And he’s been on the air with that show almost twenty years? I mean, probably over half of it, he was number one. And, it wasn’t all that long ago that he was still number one. And yes, we’ve had a good run here the last couple of years. But, what are [Ordway and Holley] now, I — you know, second to fourth… third, fourth, second, somewhere in that range. It’s not like they went to last [place]. And I just — from a personal level? Good God, I’m gonna be number one for twenty years, and then I’m third? And that’s tanking? And you’re out of a job? I don’t feel like being congratulated at all. That scares the crap out of me.”

Tony Massarotti: I mean, in this business, to do that, for that length of time, is borderline unheard of, really. It’s extraordinary, and again, the — look, in this business, okay, you’re exposed. On a regular basis, every day, for twenty hours a week, and I’m not making a pity party. That’s the job. That is what the job is. And so, some of you love him, some of you hate him. Fine… but don’t disrespect the ability, is all I’m saying. And that’s how I look at it. So, I have tremendous respect for his talent, and again, I feel indebted.”

 Quick Musings

I hate when people take up two parking spaces! A little consideration please! #unosportstonight

— Gary Tanguay (@Gary_Tanguay) February 20, 2013

1.) Truth be told, I was going to wait until Friday to post my weekly media column, but then Gary Tanguay practically #begged #me #to #write #something by abusing the hashtag, “#unossportstonight.” Look, I post nonsense all the time on Twitter (sorry!). I get it. But I don’t tweet about Tom Brady then use the #Celtics hashtag. I mean, am I missing something? Will Tanguay’s crusade on double-parking be a topic of conversation on “Sports Tonight?” (Note: I’d thoroughly enjoy it if it was). In the history of social media, I’d argue Tanger needs a Twitter training seminar more than any other user. That said, next to Jose Canseco, Gary’s my favorite follow. (I’m not sure what that says about me.)

2.) I have high hopes. I really do. But I’ve written many press releases in my day, and the transparency oozing in WEEI’s release about the Mike Salk hiring was alarming.

“I’m especially excited to talk Bruins hockey. I grew up a rabid Bruins fan and have great memories from the old Boston Garden. My wife might not know it yet, but our 1-year old daughter will be wearing a lot of black and gold in the future.”

Maybe I’m too cynical and Salk is just ecstatic to talk Bruins. More likely, however, is that the Entercom brass’ mindset is still saturated with paranoia about the backlash caused from their sparse (Read: Awful) coverage of the B’s. (Again, I personally enjoy Michael Holley and have a hopeful outlook about the new program. I think they’ll be a formidable duo that will scare their competition … and sooner rather than later)

3.) Will Leitch had a thoughtful piece about the Bleacher Report, content aggregation (*NESN*) versus real journalism and analysis, over at Sports On Earth. 

What I think really rankles about B/R is that it was a reverse engineering enterprise from the get-go: It was created by business people trying to game the system, the type of people who refer to all work as “content.”

Naturally, the column upset a few of the high-profile writers at Bleacher Report (which Turner Sports recently purchased, and subsequently replaced as CNN’s primary sports publication partner with). Specifically Dan Levy, who is terrible and can’t comprehend the stigma associated with his employer (even though he would totally take a similar stance if B/R weren’t the ones writing his paycheck). But Leitch is more than fair; in fact, he does well to credit the younger writers who bust their humps to earn “badges” or whatever the hierarchy at Bleacher Report is using to measure productivity. The column is worth your time. 

4.) Speaking of the Bleacher Report, Erik Frenz will be contributing to the as a blogger on a part-time basis this offseason (and beyond). Frenz, who is the lead writer for the AFC East Blog at the Bleacher Report, tells me his responsibilities there will remain the same. With the addition of Baxter Holmes to the Celtics beat, it appears the Globe‘s free site is making efforts to bolster their presence on its blogs … A wise move.

5.) ESPN announced it will be launching Nine for IX, a spin off of their critically acclaimed 30 For 30 documentary series, which, will specifically focus on women in sports using in-depth storytelling. The tagline is: “About Women. By Women. For Us All.”



18 thoughts on “Sports Media Musings: Now And Then, Then & Now

  1. Wait a sec, I saw the Felger-Mazz segment on Ordway and you’re being totally unfair in terms of context. They said plenty of nice things about Ordway and what he did for their respective careers. Nice try cherry picking a small segment of what they said for your own purposes. You’re just as guilty of doing what you and Bruce often rail against them for doing. Pretty poor on your part.


    1. Wait, what … Unfair? Maybe you skipped over this line, but what, exactly, is unfair about what I wrote:

      “Along with Chris Gasper, Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti gave a very appropriate response to the Guest Street Shakeup that rocked the sports media landscape here in Boston.”

      I applauded the segment as a whole, and enjoyed the insight.


  2. I listened to Dale and Holley every day. Independently, Dale is a little stiff, and Holley on his own I find boring. But together, they brought the best out of each other’s personalities on the air. Sure, their sound bits were corny (remember “Outstanding!” .. ugh), but there was something about that show that just worked. And the numbers backed it up. Their show featured fewer “storylines” and the collective tone was perfect for a midday show to listen to at work.

    I say this as a backdrop for …

    Has it occurred to anyone that the primary reason the revamped Big Show dropped in ratings was the total lack of chemistry between Ordway and
    Holley? Holley was asked to be a different kind of co-host on the Big Show and it was like asking him to bat lefty (I assume he’s a righty). And Ordway had spent so many cushy years surrounded by the ex-athlete buffoons that he had lost a little off his fastball. You can bemoan the lack of a Bruins presence (which no doubt had some effect), but that’s too simple. Felger rips the Celtics every chance he gets and F&M is still #1. The central problem was that Ordway and Holley together felt contrived and people didn’t by the storylines from them.


    1. Yes there are those who question Holley and the pairing. Some have written quite critical pieces pointing out that Holley is a master at stating nothing, has no original insight, borders on inane and has now been part of the demise of two of the longest running sports personalities on the Boston air. Let me be more blunt…the central problem is/was and will be Holley. The had a gravy train with the Big SHow and its syndication when Glenn played ringleader. So the Boston ratings dropped a little…i doubt Providence, Springfield, Portland or the Cape were in trouble. Entercom was making money hand over fist and they panicked. They took their only show that was beating 98.5 (Dale and Holley) and disassembled it. They then took aim at the Big Show…rather than getting rid of people like Butch Sterns, Fred Smerlis, Steve D’ozzie and Steve Buckley and replacing them with better revolving guests…they got rid of the whole concept bringing in the woefully bland Michael Holley. It was brilliant reactionary management…the kind that would get someone fired in my company.


        1. They dropped from first to third not first to 12th. From what I understand ad rates and revenues did not fall appreciably. All that fell were the ratings. I do admit to getting my insight from second hand sources but I am pretty confident that falling revenues were not nearly the issue as much as falling ratings. Had the revenue fallen then julie Kahn and jason Wolfe would be looking for jobs.


          1. LTD, not sure EEI’s decision at that time was strictly related to ratings. I think part of their rationale moving Holley from midday to PM drive was that his contract was up for renewal and they needed to offer him an enticement to potentially prevent losing him to 98.5.


          2. Jason:

            I have heard that as well. My simple response would be…why would you be worried about losing him? I am being facetious, I know the brass at WEEI like him and I am sure he is a good guy, hard worker, good company man. But as a listener, you have got to be kidding me if WEEI thinks they can’t do better than Michael Holley. Let him go to 98.5 he has already destroyed two good shows…let him work his magic there.


  3. The Will Leitch piece is great but also very scary if this is what J-Schools are going to shoot out. Next, crayons and coloring books are the future of fine art at the Met.

    SI might have fallen off but, still, to be replaced by BR..

    It’s amazing how Time, Inc. has fallen since ’89 and AOL was once “The Internet” and as big as.


  4. Dude, read what you write. You’re a professional now. There they’re their are not interchangeable.


    1. Thanks for pointing out the mistake. Not to be defensive (because, frankly, you’re correct), but while I understand the difference between ‘there,’ ‘they’re’ and ‘their,’ any writer working without an editor is playing with fire; especially publishing a column over a thousand words. In fact, this happens in major publications.

      Alas, I’ll try to be better. I’ll be honest, under these circumstances, mistyping “their” when I meant “there” once in a column … happens. And it’s bound to happen again.


      1. Sure, and you missed the point. Presumably you should care more about the quality of your copy than those reading it (who, while not writing 1000 word column are maybe reading their 10th 1000 word column that day?) – so, if your single error screams out at me, an uninvested reader, how can it possibly escape your attention?

        Unless you don’t read your own writing, or really don’t aspire to any sort of excellence.

        Still looking for an editor? Might I suggest Sol Stein, “On Writing Well”? He’s an excellent editor.


      2. Dear Ryan, you’re misuse of words — in the semi-daily content you provide me for free — has ruined my day. So their!


        1. haha, well done.

          … Because James is clearly “uninvested;” so “uninvested” that he decided to actively call me out (twice!), even after I apologized for the mishap. Man, if that’s the case, I wish more
          people were “uninvested” in my writing.

          In all seriousness, I don’t know how it could “possibly” escape my attention. Shoot, I don’t know, probably because I never read my own writing and aspire for mediocrity, not superiority. You got me, James


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