Scott Zolak Officially Named To Replace Gino Cappelletti

Chad Finn had it last week, but WBZ-FM made it official this morning when they named Scott Zolak to be the Patriots color analyst alongside Gil Santos this season.

Here is the release:




Zolak Joins Veteran Play-by-Play Announcer Gil Santos in the Booth

98.5 The Sports Hub is the Official Flagship Station of the Three-Time

Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots

Boston, MA – Wednesday, August 8, 2012 –  Longtime sportscaster and expert football analyst Scott Zolak has been named color commentator for the Patriots Radio Network on 98.5 The Sports Hub (WBZ-FM)…the Official Flagship radio station of the three-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.  In his new role as color commentator, which is effective immediately, Zolak joins renowned play-by-play announcer Gil Santos to provide in-depth game analysis and complete play-by-play detail of every Patriots game.  Zolak replaces Gino Cappelletti who retired last month, and Zolak’s announcement was made earlier today by Mike Thomas, Vice President of Programming for CBS RADIO Boston.

“Scott’s vast knowledge of football and his long relationship with the team make him the obvious choice for this position,” said Thomas when making the announcement.  “I’m looking forward to hearing him with Gil this season.”

“It is with great pride and gratitude that I have been given the opportunity by 98.5 The Sports Hub and the Patriots organization to continue the tradition established by the great Gino Cappelletti to be the color commentator for the defending AFC Champion New England Patriots,” said Zolak about his new role.  “I am beyond looking forward to sitting in next to the legend Gil Santos as I make this transition from the sideline to the booth.”

In addition to his expanded role as color commentator on 98.5 The Sports Hub, Zolak currently co-hosts the “Gresh & Zo” show on 98.5 The Sports Hub for three years with Andy Gresh live weekdays from 10AM to 2PM, and he contributes to “Patriots All Access,” “Patriots Game Day, and “Patriots 5th Quarter” on WBZ-TV.  Before being named color commentator joining Gil Santos in the booth, Zolak reported from the field as part of the Patriots Radio Network programming on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Zolak is a former football quarterback who played in the National Football League (NFL) for nine seasons…most of them as quarterback for the New England Patriots.  Over the course of his career, he played in 55 games, completed 124 of 248 passes for 1,314 yards, threw eight touchdowns and seven interceptions, and finished his career with a passer rating of 64.8.

New England Patriots football coverage on 98.5 The Sports Hub begins three hours prior to kickoff with Sylvania Patriots Preview, continues with the GMC Halftime Show, and wraps up with the Kaspersky Lab Patriots Postgame Show for three hours after the game.  Patriots Preview is a fast-paced, energetic and informative prelude to kickoff, featuring in-depth analysis, dueling opinions and the only game-day interviews with Coach Bill Belichick and Vice-Chairman and President Jonathan Kraft.  Our postgame is a high-energy, opinionated breakdown of the game, with the press conferences of Belichick and Tom Brady aired live, and immediate reaction from the fans.


Was It The Celtics, Or The Red Sox, That Killed Felger and Mazz?

Michael Felger trashed the Celtics all spring, and he then lost the ratings book for his entire station.

Fact, not opinion.

Well, it IS a fact, in the same way that Mike Felger states “facts” about the Celtics, Patriots, or whatever team/athlete/coach is in his crosshairs at the moment.

A statement that may be factually true, but actually inaccurate when you look deeper into it.

What about the opening statement of this post? Yes, it’s true that Felger did trash the Celtics all spring, and that yes, his ratings went down during this time period, actually so much so that while the morning and mid-day shows at 98.5 won their time slots, Felger and Massarotti dipped so far as to tip the entire scales in WEEI’s favor for the spring book.

But was it Felger’s trashing of the Celtics that caused this dip, or something else?

Let’s look at the month of June, week by week.

Keep in mind, that with the ratings periods, week four of June ended on June 20th. Even though the ratings show Mon-Fri, in reality they’re Thursday to Wednesday in this case. The spring book began on Thursday, March 29th.

So the ratings “Month of June” is actually this:

Week 1   May 24 to May 30

Week 2   June May 31 – June 6

Week 3   June 7-13

Week 4   June 14-20

So here is the breakdown:

Men 25-54, Mon-Fri 3-7 pm.

Week One       Week Two      Week Three    Week Four
6.6                    8.4                      6.7                     6.6                        WEEI
5.7                    8.4                      7.4                     5.9                        98.5

Men 18-34, Mon-Fri, 3-7 pm.

Week One       Week Two     Week Three     Week Four
3.1                      3.6                      4.2                      4.4                     WEEI
7.9                     10.5                   10.7                   10.0                     98.5

Men 18-49, Mon-Fri, 3-7 pm.

Week One       Week Two   Week Three      Week Four
5.6                     7.0                     6.0                     5.7                       WEEI
5.9                     9.1                       8.5                    7.0                       98.5

So what do we see from these? It seems pretty clear that the younger audience was listening to Felger and Mazz. It’s not even close in the 18-34 demo.

We’ll concede the younger audience to 98.5 across the month. Let’s focus on 25-54 and why WEEI won this month, and this ratings period for the time slot of 3-7 pm.

WEEI won the month of June in the 25-54 demo 7.1 to 6.8.

You also see that in weeks 2 and 3 of that same demo, 98.5 tied and beat WEEI for the time period of May31st to June 13th. The Celtics/Heat series went on from May 28th to June 9th, and so Celtics discussion was at an all-time high during those two weeks.

But Felger and Mazz beat and tied The Big Show during the biggest two weeks of basketball talk. WEEI won the month by winning weeks one and four. So was Felger’s Celtics-bashing as big a turn-off as it might appear by looking at the entire month?

Did something different happen in weeks one and four?

Yes. Red Sox day games.

On May 28th, which was Memorial day, the Red Sox played a 1:35 game. Felger and Mazz were not on the air that day, but this still counts on their record. On June 15th, during week four, there was another Red Sox day game, against the Cubs, starting at 2:20 pm.

While that is only two days out of the month, it’s a trend that goes through the entire spring ratings book.

Nine times during the springs ratings book, WEEI had a Red Sox game on during the 3-7 pm time slot. Those games included the season opener (April 5th, 1:05pm), the home opener (April 13th, 2:05pm) and the 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park (April 20th, 3:05pm). All big games.

Who is more likely to listen to a baseball game on the radio? Someone 18-34 or someone 25-54? Was the “old bastard” audience of 34-54 who listened to the Red Sox games on the radio enough to swing the ratings into WEEI’s favor?

I don’t have the week-by-weeks for April and May in front of me, but for the two months, the head-to-head ratings broke down like this:

The Big Show:

25-54: April 8.3, May 7.5
18-34: April 5.3, May 3.9
18-49: April 6.9, May 6.4

Felger and Mazz

25-54: April 7.5, May 6.6
18-34: April 10.0, May 7.9
18-49: April 8.0, May 6.9

Once again, 98.5 won with the younger crowd. The “old bastard” crowd saved WEEI. Or more accurately, having Red Sox day games scheduled which would appeal to the “older” crowd is what saved WEEI, and what ultimately, doomed 98.5.

Now, I’m sure that having Felger on the airwaves every afternoon just ripping the Celtics from limb to limb did not sit well with some listeners, and I’m sure a good number switched over to Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley during that time. I know I did.

But can we blame 98.5’s fall solely on Felger’s Celtics-bashing? Considering that his show beat the competition during the most intense period of basketball talk this spring, it seems prudent to at least consider other reasons for WEEI’s triumph.

This is in part, why having the broadcast rights to the Red Sox is such a valuable commodity for WEEI. Do they win this three-month ratings period without them? I have my doubts.

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Toucher and Rich Declare Spring Victory

Public ratings are out tomorrow, but Toucher and Rich are already celebrating. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the lineups do, considering how May went.

Update: Gresh and Zo are declaring victory over WEEI:


Toucher and Rich Featured in Boston Magazine

98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich are profiled in the latest issue of Boston Magazine, in a feature by Alan Siegel.

Revolution Radio

While the column mostly focuses on the rise of Toucher and Rich, (and all of 98.5) and their backgrounds, it also looks at the fall of WEEI.

A quick sample of the arrogance of T&R’s direct competition:

When asked about Toucher and Shertenlieb that summer, Gerry Callahan — their direct competition — said he’d never heard of them. “I am speaking to you from under my desk right now because I am so scared,” he told the Herald’s Jessica Heslam. “I’m afraid to come out.”

Then, to close the feature, after T&R had beaten D&C in four quarterly ratings periods:

In March, I asked WEEI program ­director Jason Wolfe about ­Toucher & Rich’s bomb-throwing.

“Sticks and stones…” he said in an e-mail. “If listeners want compelling, entertaining, and smart sports talk, they’re going to listen to Dennis & Callahan.” For his part, Callahan declined comment via e-mail. It’s unclear if he did so from under his desk.

Way To Go, CSNNE.

This is the star that the Television home of the Boston Celtics has attached its wagon to:

He is on their airwaves for about 8 hours a day, between the simulcast of the Felger and Mazz radio show, and UNO Sports Tonight and the repeat showings of that program.

While most “green teamers” can switch the radio during Felger’s show over to WEEI for semi-intelligent Celtics talk, CSNNE viewers. many of whom tune in to see the Celtics and programming related to them, have no equivalent alternative in that medium. NESN pretty much ignores the Celtics altogether, beyond cursory highlight packages.

The Celtics apparently, are OK with this arrangement.

“Green teamers” apparently occupy an even lower slot than “footy pajama Patriots fans” when it comes to Felger’s contempt. Not sure where the “Texas Tough Guy” fits in when compared to those two.

January Numbers See 98.5 Still Riding High

Thanks to Chad Finn (on vacation this week, but he still posted this to his blog) we have the Arbitron radio numbers from January.

The trend continues.

Morning drive: Toucher and Rich: 12.0 share. Dennis and Callahan: 8.6.

Midday: Gresh and Zo, 11.8; Mut and Merloni, 6.0.

Afternoon drive: Felger and Mazz, 11.0; The Big Show, 7.3.

Chad doesn’t mention whether this includes the Providence numbers for WEEI. (But honestly, how much difference could they make here?) Is this WEEI AM and FM against 98.5? or just one? Update: Chad checked in with me to clarify that the WEEI numbers are for both 850 and 93.7, Arbitron combines them as one. The numbers do not include Providence, but as I said, it’s not going to make much difference here.

I’m just wondering so we’ll know when can we put the FM argument to rest.

Does it mean anything that Felger and Mazz is 98.5’s lowest rated daytime show?

I’d like to go back to when it was announced that 98.5 would be coming on the air, and WEEI management was asked for comment.

From Finn on July 17th, 2009:

On Tuesday, Julie Kahn, vice president and market manager of Entercom New England, told the Globe, “This is the third effort to come after us at ‘EEI. The best content will win.”

I’m not sure it’s really about the best content…

From Don Aucoin on July 15th, 2009:

Jason Wolfe, vice president of AM programming for Entercom New England, which owns WEEI, voiced confidence the station would withstand the challenge. “It doesn’t change what we’re going to do,” Wolfe said. “We’ve dealt with competitive situations before, and we’re fully prepared to deal with it again. . . . We have the largest audience, and we know what it takes to maintain that audience.”

Apparently, they didn’t know what it took…

Thinking About The Patriots Radio Situation

We’ve got a long ways to go until August, when the Patriots will play their first preseason game and debut what is almost certain to be a new broadcast team.

It will be a topic of interest until the official announcement is made. Boston Globe media writer Chad Finn has said that long-time analyst Gino Cappelletti has almost certainly done his last game in the booth. He’s also said that play-by-play man Gil Santos would like to do another season.

The pair has done 28 seasons together, 21 of those consecutively. However, as Finn noted in a December 23rd column, the time has come for changes to be made in the radio booth.

Finn’s column was met with one of two reactions – agreement, or anger. The suggestion that these two broadcasting legends, who have called so many great (and some not-so-great) moments in franchise history, would no longer be on the air, is not an easy one to take. The genuine affection between the two of them is palpable, and almost familial.

It is certainly more noticeable with Cappelletti, as the Patriots AFL legend struggles to keep up and get his thoughts on the game across. Santos has attempted to cover for him, and you could even hear it in pregame talks with Bill Belichick in recent years, that the coach too was making an effort to make things easier for Cappelletti.

As for Santos, he’s still got the great voice, even after 35 seasons of calling Patriots games. No one is going to dispute that. His call of the missed kick by Billy Cundiff to clinch the AFC Championship for the Patriots last month was classic Santos. He still paints a great picture and has the strong voice. However, he sometimes struggles with the action on the field, such as whether a ball is caught or dropped, and which player made the play. I don’t know the situation in the booth – would he benefit from a strong spotter, to assist him with some of these things? I’d like to find out.

Bringing Scott Zolak into the broadcasts this season as the sideline reporter was a very good move. His enthusiasm and ability to see the field as a former player gives him some good insight into what’s happening, and he’s able to convey that. Bringing him into the booth is a no-brainer. I would very much like to see what a Santos/Zolak pairing in the booth sounds like, perhaps with some more help for Santos as well. (Maybe he already has it, and still struggles, which would be very depressing.)

But how long could that pairing go? It seems like Santos might have one season left. Then what? The rumor over the last few years was always Gary Tanguay as Santos’ successor, some have even suggested that the carrot of that role is why he didn’t kick up a bigger fuss when he was replaced by Andy Gresh alongside Zolak on the 98.5 mid-day show.

I’ve heard Tanguay do Celtics games from time to time, while his voice is strong and prototypical for a sports announcer, honestly, I don’t want him doing Patriots games. Tanguay in the role may not be a foregone conclusion, however. This season momentum seemed to be picking up for John Rooke, ( @jrooke0722 ) who currently does the PA work at Gillette Stadium for the Patriots and Revolution and is a veteran play-by-play announcer and radio broadcaster.

Some have asked about Sean McDonough. While the former Red Sox voice has the pedigree and name recognition to be a strong candidate, he’s currently very busy with ESPN, being the voice of the Monday Night Baseball telecasts, and doing a ton of college football and basketball as well. I’m not sure what the logistics could be with bringing him in, but it seems a longshot at best.

With Zolak going to the booth, it would seem that doing that would take him off of the pregame show. Who should replace him there, alongside Tanguay and Gresh and the rest of the cast? I think 98.5 has the perfect candidate in Mike Flynn, who played his college ball at Maine, and had a strong 11-year run with the Baltimore Ravens, finishing up his career in the training camp of the Patriots in 2008. Flynn is very good analyst, oftentimes a voice of reason. He’d be the best fit for that role.

Could Flynn also be used in the sideline reporter role that Zolak had this season? It would depend on whether the Patriots Radio Network wants to keep that position. They may feel that it was just created for Zolak to get him involved with Santos and Cappelletti this season and sort of ease the transition. If they keep the role, I’d like to see Flynn give it a shot.

If you want a real longshot candidate for the play-by-play role in the future,  you could do worse than Flynn’s usual partner on 98.5, Ryan Johnston, @RJVoice who has done some fill-in work on the Boston Bruins radio broadcasts and has very good chemistry with Flynn.

So what we might see for next season is this:

Play-by-play – Gil Santos
Booth Analyst – Scott Zolak
Sideline reporter/analyst – Mike Flynn

Pregame: Gary Tanguay, Andy Gresh, Mike Flynn.

Of course, I’d love an entirely new pregame show, but as Jonathan Kraft apparently loves to have his franchise torn apart on its own flagship station’s airwaves, that’s probably not going to happen.

Depending on how Santos does this season, could he do more? Perhaps Zolak lifts him up a bit and he can get another couple years in? That’s hard to say. I wouldn’t mind it, given the likely alternatives at this point. As far as I’m concerned, Santos can have the job as long as he can keep doing it. Unfortunately, that day is likely to come sooner, rather than later.

Change isn’t always easy, but sometimes it just has to happen.

Bringing Out Friday Megalinks

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.

Anthony Crupi of Adweek says History Channel has purchased a longer ad to promote its series, “Swamp People” during Super Bowl XLVI.

Brian Steinberg from Advertising Age tells us who’s buying what in Super Bowl XLVI.

AdAge looks at the 12 ads that changed Super Bowl marketing forever. Three guesses on number one and the first two don’t count.

Brian says marketers are going longer with their Super Bowl ads this year in an attempt to stand out.

Finally, Brian writes that even though we’re not thinking about next year’s Super Bowl XLVII, CBS already is and has been working on getting an early start on ad sales for that Big Game.

Inside Radio says all of Cumulus’ Bay Area radio stations will simulcast Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

From across the pond, Amy Lawrence of The Guardian in the UK says Fox airing an English Premier League game live over the air is a big deal.

Kevin Iole of Yahoo looks into NBC Sports Network’s first foray into boxing.

Dan Levy at the Bleacher Report wonders which network can muster enough former NFL talent to drum up a flag football game.

Mac Nwulu of ESPN’s Front Row PR blog has an inside look at the preparation of Sunday NFL Countdown.

Matt Yoder at Awful Announcing chronicles this week’s Twitter feud between Sports Illusrated’s Richard Deitsch and CNBC’s Darren Rovell.

Speaking of feuds, The Big Lead looks at an internal ESPN squabble between college basketball analyst Jay Bilas and insider Andy Katz.

Sports Media Watch notes that ESPN is making a major scheduling change for the WNBA this year.

SMW has a look at some local NBA and NHL ratings.

Tennis Channel laments not being picked up by Cablevision.

Ken Kerschbaumer of Sports Video Group takes a look at CBS’ and Fox’s preparation for the NFL Conference Championship Games.

Sports TV Jobs has an interesting graphic of sample camera positions at various stadia and arenas.

East and Mid-Atlantic

Chad Finn from the Boston Globe talks with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Mike Flynn.

Bill Doyle at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette interviews legendary Patriots radio voice Gil Santos.

Newsday’s Neil Best says local TV is gearing up for the NFC Championship.

Neil talks with former New York Giants running back and NBC analyst Tiki Barber who makes his return to TV this weekend.

George Vescey at the New York Times looks forward to seeing Sunday’s English Premier League game live on Fox.

The New York Post’s Phil Mushnick is not a fan of the NFL replay review process.

Justin Terranova of the Post has five questions for CBS Sports’ and WFAN’s Boomer Esiason.

The Albany Times Union’s Pete Dougherty has some NFL TV analysts break down the four quarterbacks still playing for a shot in the Super Bowl.

Ken McMillan from the Middletown (NY) Times Herald-Record has Fox’s Troy Aikman talking about the NFC Championship.

Ken has more from Troy in his blog.

Dave Hughes from notes in Press Box that last week’s Texans-Ravens game set a local ratings record.

David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun attempts to get answers from CBS on having Subway endorser Ndamukong Suh on last week’s NFL Today postgame show.

And David has former Ravens QB and current ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer opining on Ed Reed’s comments on current QB Joe Flacco.

Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post says the Nationals are hoping to get more money from MASN as the sides negotiate a new contract.

Jim Williams from the Washington Examiner talks with the radio voice of the Wizards about his busy schedule.


Keith Jarrett at the Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times says the Big South may have to move its Conference Championship Game venue which could effect ESPN’s scheduling.

Jon Solomon of the Birmingham (AL) News says SEC partners CBS and ESPN want better scheduling for next football season.

Jerry Tipton of the Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader writes that the SEC’s basketball coaches aren’t happy over the scheduling-for-TV moves this season.

David Barron of the Houston Chronicle says the Texans’ flagship radio station hopes to build on the team’s momentum when their new contract kicks in next season.

David has some news and notes that didn’t make his column.

Nancy Sarnoff of the Chronicle says NBC Sports Group is looking for a new facility to house the Comcast SportsNet Houston regional sports network which launches later this year.

Mel Bracht from the Daily Oklahoman notes that the Texas Rangers will have multiple appearances on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.


Michael Zuidema of the Grand Rapids (MI) Press says HBO continues its string of acclaimed sports documentaries.

Bob Wolfley from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says don’t expect NFL Conference Championship Sunday to change its format for the foreseeable future.

Ed Sherman in Crain’s Chicago Business has his winners and losers in sports business and media.

Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune feels Fox Sports North just cheerleads for Minnesota teams and won’t criticize them.

Paul Christian from the Rochester (MN) Post-Bulletin looks at Fox Sports North’s Hockey Day in Minnesota schedule.

Dan Caesar at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has CBS Sports President Sean McManus wanting to keep the status quo for NFL Conference Championship Sunday.


John Maffei of the North County Times looks at MLB Network’s first-ever game show which premieres next week.

Jim Carlisle from the Ventura County Star says CBS was hoping to get Tim Tebow for its NFL Today pregame show on Sunday, but he declined.

At the Los Angeles Daily News, Tom Hoffarth profiles Fox Sports West host Patrick O’Neal and has his list of best and worst local sports anchors.

Tom has a bit more on O’Neal.


Bob Weeks in the Toronto Globe and Mail notes that CBC has gotten out of the curling business, a sport it has televised since 1962.

Bruce Dowbiggin of the Globe and Mail says the Raptors may be suffering on the court, but not on TV.

The Canadian Sports Media Blog looks at the International Olympic Committee throwing out CTV/CBC’s joint bid to air the 2014/2016 Games.

And that is it. Glad to be able to provide the Megalinkage for you.

John Henry Speaks Out On Felger and Mazz

Red Sox principal owner John Henry made a surprise visit to the Felger and Massarotti show this afternoon, after taking exception to how he and the organization were being characterized by the duo.

The interview was contentious at times, with the hosts asking very pointed questions of the Red Sox owner, and not always allowing him to finish an answer before moving to the next point. In the end, Henry stayed on the show for 90 minutes, and took every salvo launched at him.

The item that most will grab onto from this interview is Henry assertion that he did not support the move to sign Carl Crawford, a statement that has to have the outfielder feeling warm, fuzzy and wanted by his team.

This interview further cements Michael Felger’s spot atop the sports media landscape in Boston, and having Henry come to their studio instead of going to the flagship station of the Red Sox (WEEI) is a major coup as well.


Felger And Massarotti To Be Simulcast on CSNNE Starting This Fall

98.5 The SportsHub and Comcast SportsNet New England announced this afternoon that the Felger and Massarotti show would begin a daily simulcast on CSNNE beginning sometime this fall.

The exact date that this will start is not known yet, as a studio is being completely rebuilt/refurbished for this show. Felger said in the announcement that they wouldn’t just be throwing black drapes over the windows – an obvious shot at the WEEI/NESN arrangement – but that they would be “doing it right.”

This further cements the 98.5/CSNNE relationship, and Felger also said this has been in the works for some time, as during the early days of the station, they actually broadcast for a time from the CSNNE building while their studio was readied.

More and more, sides are being drawn, WEEI and NESN, 98.5 and CSNNE. It’s interesting to watch things develop and wonder where they might come to a head.

One thing I appreciated about this announcement was that they said they would have an announcement at 3:00 and they actually announced it at 3:00. Not 3:20, but actually at 3:00. Imagine that.