[Update]: Chad Finn has the official numbers from Arbitron posted on Touching All The Bases.
From the piece:
The Arbitron winter ratings period was a rout for 98.5 The Sports Hub.
The Sports Hub finished first overall in the men 25-54 demographic for the period of Jan. 3-March 27, earning a 9.0 share. Each of its four daily programs finished tied or alone in the top spot in their respective time slots.
WEEI (93.7) finished tied for sixth place with WMJX with a 5.2 share. That’s slightly up from its seventh-place tie and 4.9 share in the fall.
Because fledgling columnists (like myself) love lame gimmicks, let’s just play nine innings with this, shall we?
1. The Story
“The Sports Hub” winning the winter ratings book isn’t shocking. My thoughts on the daily crusade against ownership and (I don’t know?!) fellow media members taking place in the afternoon is well documented. We don’t need to rehash the winning side’s pros and cons. Just know that Michael Felger reminds me of the political pundit in “V For Vendetta” shrewdly saying, “You want my opinion? You’re watching my show, I imagine you do,” then, minutes later, callously reciting his credo: “ENGLAND PREVAILS!”
Bizarre, but very effective.
2. The Real Story
Guest Street is in shambles. Pete Sheppard wasn’t the first radio host in the history of the medium to quit on the air, and he won’t be the last. It’s indicative of the volatile feeling that lives in the New Balance building. Morale, most likely, has reached a new nadir.
Let’s review quickly: The “Dennis and Callahan” show jumped the shark long ago, and their attempt to bring crude, if not inappropriate, discussion to the table (something totally out of their lane), feels misplaced. That failure is not particularly tough to imagine when you got banter like this on your side:
The other money maker, the afternoon drive program, “Salk and Holley,” has the advantage of a fresh start to work with — mind you, something we’ve been sure to afford them in this space. Judging their show at the starting line is a fool’s errand. But there have been rumors that Mike Salk isn’t the most popular personality at the station, and that he is too ESPN Radio (and not in the good way). Is this resistance to change? I don’t know. Either way, what a complete, utter meltdown.
The precipitous fall of the former
MONOPOLIZER leader of sports talk radio in Boston is quite remarkable. 2009 feels like 1999. In his “Sports Talk Radioactive” column in Feb. of 2009, published then for the short-lived, but underrated OT Magazine (produced by the Boston Globe), Chad Finn wrote the following:
[WEEI} think the station’s success somehow reflects on them, that we tune in for their shrill banter, contrived characters, and prefabricated opinions. We don’t — never have, never will. We listen because we love sports, our beloved teams are enjoying a remarkable run of success, and WEEI happens to have both access and broadcast rights. Most of all, we listen because there is no other decent local alternative with a signal stronger than that of a ham radio.
Prescient is the word I would use. The scary thing was everyone knew this much (well besides certain WEEI personalities and Jason Wolfe, evidently). But no one, not even Finn, could have foreseen the alacrity at which Entercom’s hold on the market dissipated. It’s startling, really. Since the spring books of 2011 were released, the same period the Bruins made their Stanley Cup run, “The Sports Hub” (for the most part) has controlled the key 25-54 men demographic. The following summer period “The Sports Hub” was victorious again and WEEI finally got on the FM dial.
No longer would signal issues or debate of whether to count the Providence numbers in WEEI’s market share be part of the discussion pertaining to the radio wars. The playing field was level, compelling discourse would win out.
3. Common Formula
Here’s the thing, though: Compelling sports talk didn’t really win out. I’m not learning anything about advanced statistics, insights into the locker room, or, really much of anything besides aimless conjecture, polarizing contrianism, and baseless predictions. But what “The Sports Hub” have accomplished is simple: From the top of its roster to the bottom, 98.5 has out-gooned the Goons of Guest Street.
You remember that Outside the Lines piece about WEEI that ran in its heyday, which showed Michael Holley proclaiming something to the notion of, “It’s not what you know, it’s what you’re willing to say!” 98.5 took that idea to new places.
“Toucher and Rich” have made a living testing what athletes will say in their skits, drunken fans will say after games, and whoever else may cross their path will say. “Felger and Mazz” will say just about anything, even if it’s not true or contradictory to previous declarations, and especially if it’s salacious — just ask Heidi Watney or Mike Reiss and Tom E. Curran.
Remember, it was 98.5 who reported and then blew the Clay Buchholz pool party story out of proportion (even for the Boston media, this was over-the-top). Lou Merloni was the first to call it what it really was – a non-story. It’s just too bad for Gary Tanguay that he didn’t get the memo, leading to this hilariously rewatchable segment.
(Yes, Gary. The trainer. He went to the trainer. Oh, by the way. Per Tanguay, Buchholz is never going to take advantage of his potential, guys! It’s a bad look when Shank is the voice of reason. Never mind that, less than a year later, Buchholz almost became the 30th pitcher in MLB history to pitch multiple no-hitters.)
4. All The
Right Wrong Moves
In the last four years, WEEI has made the wrong move at every turn. They never should have moved Dale Arnold, waited too long to get on the FM signal, curiously brought back Pete Sheppard (yeesh!), drastically overvalued Glenn Ordway, oddly waited (still waiting?!) to properly use Kirk Minihane (the only media member, sadly, capable of challenging Felger), and failed to recognize and execute any “Moneyball” moves. (For example: I know that Marc Bertrand pined for the night shift at “The Sports Hub” when Damon Amendolara went national. I’m not sure if Beetle is still part-time, I know he wasn’t a full-time employee up until last summer, but he’s young, entertaining, and seems well-versed in the takes he can bring to a show. He goes at Felger. And did I mention he’s YOUNG? Wouldn’t hurt to inject some youth into your lineup, Jeff Brown.)
It has been an astonishing lesson on mismanagement from The Suits at Entercom. More alarming, is that these weren’t bad mishaps in retrospect. No, no, no. None of these personnel decisions — not one — were met with great adulation. Not from me, not from listeners.
So here we are.
5. Pat Summerall, the anti-Jack Edwards, passed away.
(For the record, that’s not a shot at Jack Edwards. Hockey requires a frantic and voluminous narrative.)
I was always infatuated with how Pat Summerall said so much by saying so little. Thought this was a clever orbit by Chuck Klosterman.
As always, the natural questions turn to legacy: Were he and John Madden the best play-by-play booth in NFL history? Historians will point to Howard Cosell, Don Meredith, and Frank Gifford because it’s Howard freakin’ Cosell (Side Note: How many years does it take Cosell get fired these days? Poor Brent Musburger was chastised for pointing out a hot WAG was a hot WAG. Granted, everyone is a product of the times, but is Cosell’s bravado viewed the same way if it happens in 2013? Who knows.).
I’m not a huge fan of any contemporary teams. (I get annoyed when Jim Nantz says “Hello friends!” at the beginning of broadcasts. Not exactly a tone setter for a big game. And while I’m on the Joe Buck bandwagon — yeah, yeah .. I know — I’m perplexed by Troy Aikman.) And Madden and Summerall were a big part of football’s ascent passed MLB. Even the small stuff, like the duo voicing the Madden video game franchise (a big deal to my generation), played a large role. The rapport the two had with one another was infectious and effortless. Never felt forced. They told us what we needed to know and let the game handle the nuance of the broadcast. As simple as it is, staying out of the way is no easy feat.
6. Still? Really?
I get the “Sweet Caroline” venom around these parts. But trust me when I say this: If this Red Sox team continues to compete, maintain likability, and stay in the sports section and out of the gossip section, much of the media will miss these ancillary story lines. Whether it’s filling radio time or writing a column, remember, they root for the story.
7. Thank you, guys
I am enjoying binge-watching “Breaking Bad.” Happy you all helped me choose it over “Game of Thrones.” Although, I’d be lying if I didn’t concede Don Draper and Co. have my undivided attention. The two-hour premiere was taxing, but Sunday’s episode was fantastic. Pete Campbell‘s salty ways, which caught up to him by the end of the episode, produced the best exchange of the nascent season.
Pete and his pleasure pal were wrapping up relations at his new apartment in the city. While said-Pleasure Pal was getting dressed, the following conversation takes place.
Pete’s Mistress (AKA Pete’s Neighbor): “I’ll park in front of the hotel lobby, that way you know I’m thinking of you.”
Pete Campbell: “That’s nice. Now, move along now. I’m in a hurry.”
I love this show.
8. Twitter Thoughts
In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, Twitter proved to be extremely worthwhile. While I bemoan its existence for producing inane observations during games or useless rumors as a trade deadline approaches, the social media site broke all sorts of imagery and updates on the situation. That said, beware of the lowlife humans who create Twitter accounts to “raise” money for victims. These people aren’t people, they’re opportunists.
9. Thanks for reading
We probably don’t have enough hug it out moments here at BSMW. So let’s take a second, if just for a moment, for some Real Talk. After Monday afternoon, getting back to business was never going to feel normal. Not today, anyway. It’s too soon. But last night I told myself, “I’m going to write about sports media because that’s what I do.” Presumably, that’s why you’re here, looking at this page. To get away, to find normal again. It’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint.
If this helped distract you, even for 10 minutes, then it was worth writing. Thanks for reading. I’ll talk to you guys out there, @Hadfield__.