It’s Time For WEEI to Say Goodbye To Dennis and Callahan

Disclaimer: I fully realize the difficulties of contracts and moving people around, especially in this economy for bottom-line companies. I realize the actions below are highly unlikely to happen. But if talk show hosts can proclaim that it’s time to get player X out of town, why can’t we have the same exercise with media folks?

It’s time.

If WEEI wants to ever have a chance to climb out of the hole they’ve dug themselves into against The SportsHub, they need to make some major changes. It starts in the morning.

For years, John Dennis and Gerry Callahan has represented the very worst in institutional arrogance. They trumpeted their numbers when they were doing well, mocked the competition, said and did what they wanted, and were generally untouchable no matter what they did.

Because there was no real competition against them, they won easily. They faced the ultimate lineup of tomato cans over the years.

Even as recently as last spring, they were stubbornly and arrogantly clinging to the notion that they were number one, even if the facts said otherwise.

But now, they are eons behind Toucher and Rich in the latest ratings book,  (T&R finished first at 9.1, D&C sixth at 5.7) and I cannot foresee a scenario in which they ever overtake T&R again.

They remain a solid show with dedicated, loyal listeners, but winning their timeslot, or even being competitive, doesn’t appear to be in their future. If that’s OK with WEEI, then fine, but I don’t think it is.

The problem WEEI faces, and they face it in both of their drivetime shows, is big contracts. Dennis and Callahan received contract extensions when the simulcast deal with NESN came through. According to Chad Finn’s chat on Friday, these contracts are fairly airtight, at least compared to Glenn Ordway, who reportedly had to take a paycut when his own ratings were impacted by the wildly popular Felger and Mazz.

WEEI has tried a few things to mix things up, such as limiting the political talk on the show, using Jon Meterparel’s departure as an opportunity to give auditions to fill the spot, but they continue to fall.

The hosts are openly resentful at the management edict to not talk politics. While they are polarizing when they do venture into that area, they are passionate, stir debate and have intensely loyal followers.

In the absence of political talk, it seems much of their discussions in the past year have centered around day after day of the Sandusky case, or telling us just how evil the latest criminal is or was. They don’t have passion for sports, they don’t appear to even enjoy them all that much. If they do talk sports, they’re attempting to be contrarians and anger anyone who is a “homer.” Talking sports is something they simply do not enjoy.

If WEEI wants to ever have a chance to compete with T&R, they need to get rid of Dennis and Callahan. As noted several times already, this is easier said than done.

So what can they do? A creative solution, one that makes way too much sense to actually happen, is for Entercom to move The Dennis and Callahan Morning Show over to WRKO.

Yes, it’s a step down. The AM signal is not what they have now, and that station has been floundering even worse than WEEI in recent years. But they would have free rein to discuss the topics they want to talk about, and will have a built-in audience that will transition over with them, and give WRKO an instant shot in the arm.

WEEI can then start from scratch and build a morning show in an attempt to compete with Toucher and Rich.

It’s an incredibly risky move, and they’d probably get worse before they got better, which is not the way you do things in the radio world. But they’re not going to get back on top with how things are right now. The question is, how important is being on top? There’s a difference between its importance business-wise as opposed to ego-wise. Is there that much of a difference to the bottom line?

It won’t happen, but I’d love to see WEEI really shake things up and start over in the mornings. As Finn notes, a shakeup is more likely to happen in the afternoon with Ordway, even though I now listen to that show more than Felger and Mazz.

Based on last week however, one thing is clear. Dan Sileo is not the answer. Hopefully they’re not even thinking that.

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WEEI Has Zero Credibility on Jeremy Lin/ESPN Issue

Station Shows Mind-blowing Lack of Self-Awareness

The incident over the weekend in which an ESPN.com editor was fired for using the headline “Chink in the Armor” on a story about the New York Knicks and sensation Jeremy Lin losing their first game since Lin became a starter has been a hot topic everywhere this week.

Naturally the topic has been discussed on WEEI, and while the hosts discussing the issues do manage some thoughtful commentary, it is completely invalidated by the embarrassing lack of self-awareness or just plain willful ignorance the station has shown in ignoring their own history in the same area.

Yesterday, Glenn Ordway was talking about the subject, and how he believes that Anthony Federico should not have been fired, and that media outlets and society in general are too quick to just fire or suspend people when mistakes are made. (I tend to agree.)

Ordway argued that instead of firing or suspending that the time should be taken for the topic to be discussed, and thus educate people on why such things are offensive, and perhaps all could benefit and heal from the lessons learned. Sounds good.

Then Ordway presented his example. He cited when Bob Ryan was suspended from the Boston Globe for a month in 2003 for saying in a discussion about the self-promoting ways of Joumana Kidd, (which included using her son as a TV prop) that someone needed to “smack her.” Ordway opined Ryan was not advocating domestic violence (again, I agree) and that  instead of being suspended and silenced on the matter, that Ryan should have been given the opportunity to explain himself, perhaps in a column, and that dialogue should’ve been opened on the topic, and that discussing the matter would help in healing.

All sounds perfectly reasonable. But why choose to criticize the Globe for its handling of the matter, and ignore his own employer’s handling of a matter that much more closely resembles the Lin matter because it was tied to race? I’m speaking of course, about the Metco incident in which John Dennis and Gerry Callahan were each suspended for two weeks later in 2003, (so after the Ryan incident) for a racially insensitive comment.

At the time of the incident, Ordway and WEEI would not discuss the matter at all. It became a running joke that Ordway would always decline to talk about it because he claimed he hadn’t heard the tapes of the incident, and in fact that the tapes had been “lost.”

So apparently the Globe should’ve allowed the Ryan incident to be discussed and dialogue opened on the matter, but not when WEEI hosts made insensitive comments?In the time that I listened yesterday, Metco was not brought up at all. Perhaps it was, and I didn’t hear it, but in the time I listened, it was not brought up, so it certainly was not a significant part of the discussion.

It says a couple of things about Ordway, either he’s protecting his WEEI colleagues (likely) or he doesn’t put it in the same category as the Federico and Ryan incidents. That too can go two ways; does Ordway believe that what D&C said was not intentionally insensitive? Or does he believe it WAS intentional, but not insensitive?

Either way, to completely ignore an incident that occurred on your own airwaves and instead mention something from another media outlet, is completely disingenuous.

I listened to some of Dennis and Callahan this morning, and their commentary on the matter. They referenced the ESPN Ombudsman column from Poynter, and some of the comments from Stephen A. Smith on the matter (who was actually very good) and generally went with the view that Federico as well as Max Bretos and Spero Dedes, who also used the term, all did so without any malicious racial intentions whatsoever. Their conclusion seems to be basically that this is another example of the politically correct world gone mad. (So those who used the term are the persecuted victims here.)

Even when a caller who claimed to be Asian-American attempted to explain that the term, no matter how it was used was offensive to him, even though he believed it not to be used in an intentionally malicious manner by any of them. He added though, that the people involved should not have been fired, but reprimanded.

Dennis and Callahan basically both invalidated the feelings of the caller and anyone who could claim to be offended by the matter. They insist that no one would ever intentionally use that phrase referencing someone with an Asian background in a racist manner. That it would just be stupid to do so. Which is true. However, what the caller, and other callers tried to explain, (unsuccessfully to D&C) is that even if it the phrase was not racially motivated, it was, at the very least, being used as a double entendre, which means race entered into it, perhaps without actually realizing that it was as offensive as it was.

Intentional or not, using the phrase in the manner in which it was, to reference Jeremy Lin, is not acceptable.

Once again, I did not hear the Metco incident brought up at all, except indirectly by a caller, who stated that he felt that D&C’s stance on this matter was not surprising at all, he then attempted to bring up Metco, and Callahan loudly shouted over him to obfuscate the caller so that he wasn’t heard at all, and then called it a “cheap shot.”

How in the world was it a “cheap shot” to bring up an incident which was exactly relevant to the discussion they were having at that moment, and involved the very hosts of the show?

When you think about Dennis’ comments after the Metco incident (quoted in the article linked above), you can see why the incident is especially relevant. He called it “the single stupidest thing I’ve ever said in 26 years of broadcasting in Boston.”

“I’ve heard people who know nothing about me evaluate my character, analyze my heart, dissect my brain, and pronounce me a lost and despicable soul,” Dennis wrote. “I understand their anger, and, frankly, I deserve much of what I’m getting.”

So why is it so hard for them to understand why Asian people would be angry over the comments made about Lin? D&C would’ve been better served trying to explain how “the single stupidest thing” can slip out at the worst time, but that the anger generated is still understandable and deserved.

Instead, they did their best to hide from the incident and shout over a caller who attempted to introduce it into the discussion.

This gives them, and the entire station, zero credibility when discussing how the Jeremy Lin incident was handled by ESPN.

Ryen Russillo, John Dennis Light Up Super Bowl Weekend With Another War of Words

You likely remember the threatening voicemail John Dennis left for Ryen Russillo back in 2005. It still gets referenced on WEEI from time-to-time, and people bring it up to Dennis occasionally on Twitter. It seemed to been put on the back burner after Russillo gained a national name for himself working alongside Scott Van Pelt on ESPN Radio.

Until today.

Around mid-day today, Russillo tweeted the following (All Russillo’s tweets on this matter have since been removed.)

@ryenarussillo Always know, that when you looked in my eyes, you wanted nothing to do with me,you are a liar, and a fake tough guy @JohnDennisWEEI

That was followed by this: [blackbirdpie id=”165918998570082304″]

To which Russillo responded:

@ryenarussillo @JohnDennisWEEI That’s one version, why didn’t you follow through on your promise? You threatened me, had me fired and then backed down.

Russillo is referencing when he was hired to join the Patriots radio network pre and post-game shows, and then was abruptly let go, without explanation.

Dennis responded: [blackbirdpie id=”165945895303655424″]

SVP = Scott Van Pelt. Dennis is saying that Russillo’s co-host apologized for him, and said Russillo was out of line.

There was a final response from Russillo:

@ryenarussillo @JohnDennisWEEI You call me again, or we can get in a ring for charity. You in?

And nothing further from Dennis. Probably wise on his part. Why extend this out any further?

As you expect, BarStoolSports, who was involved from the beginning, is all over this: Ryen Russillo Vs. John Dennis Round II….Ding, Ding, Ding! 

A couple of the major sports blogs have latched onto this story:

ESPN’s Ryen Russillo and WEEI’s John Dennis Nearly Got in a Fight at the ESPN Super Bowl Party – From TheBigLead.com.

John Dennis Says ESPN’s Ryen Russillo Is A “Stumbling Drunk Alcoholic” – From Deadspin.com.

Here’s an account from David Scott back in 2005, where he calls the original episode a “transparent attempt to gain attention on the part of Russillo.

However this ends up, it was a nice diversion the night before the Super Bowl.

2011 Approval Ratings – Gerry Callahan

Gerry Callahan is the co-host of the Dennis and Callahan Show on WEEI.

It’s easy to forget that at one time, Callahan was perhaps one of the best sports writers in the country.

Callahan grew up in Massachusetts, graduating from Chelmsford High School and UMass Amherst. He started his career with the Lowell Sun in 1983 and then moved on to the Boston Herald five years later. In 1994, he moved on to Sports Illustrated, where was a senior writer for the publication.

He was a frequent Big Show co-host in the early days of the program, before getting his own show with John Dennis starting in 1997. After leaving SI, he rejoined the Herald as a columnist.

In 2007, Callahan missed several months of work on the show with a throat ailment. By the time he was healthy enough to return, his contract as well as that of co-host Dennis was up for renewal, which resulted in a brief lockout for the pair which had them returning in time for the first “Patriots Monday” of the 2007 season on September 10th.

{democracy:131}

2011 Approval Ratings – John Dennis

John Dennis is a former sportcaster for WHDH channel 7, and the current co-host of The Dennis and Callahan Show, mornings on WEEI 6:00 to 10:00 am – and simulcast on NESN from 6:00 – 9:00 am.  

A Pittsburgh native, Dennis graduated from Kent State in 1974, and spent three years at WDAF in Kansas City (Where he was the youngest sports director in the history of NBC affiliates) before moving to Boston in 1977. He remained at WNAC/WNEV/WHDH until 1997, having held many different roles – weekend sports anchor, feature reporter and sports director.

In 1997, he left WHDH to host The Dennis and Callahan Show alongside Gerry Callahan. The show launched on October 6th, 1997, originally airing from 10:00 – noon. In September of 1999, the show moved to its current time slot, where it has enjoyed tremendous ratings success.

One sports media observer told me that Dennis is the best in the business at the “tease” leading into commercial breaks, thus keeping the listener waiting for the next segment. His acerbic and biting style are a turnoff to some, but the consistent ratings of the program indicate there is a large audience that enjoys their style of radio.

{democracy:101}

WEEI’s D&C Strike Out at Competitors, Media Reporters

To open up their show this morning, Dennis and Callahan congratulated themselves on winning another ratings book, and struck out at competitors Toucher and Rich at 98.5 (though they never actually named them) and at media writers Jessica Heslam and Chad Finn of the Boston Herald and Boston Globe respectively.

Rather than having you listen to the entire segment, here are the highlights, and I figured we can let John and Gerry’s exact words be on the record and in print here. I do wish I could accurately portray the sarcasm, venom and whining that some of these statements were made with.

After some silly talk about “high body slams”, they said this:

JD – …We want to keep it subtle.

GC – We don’t want to gloat too much, but congratulations.

JD – We just want to wait for Jessica and Chad to write it, which they always do…

GC – The hell with them, We don’t care about them, we’ll announce it ourselves…

JD You know who we care about? We care about the people who made us # 1

GC – That’s true.

JD – The ones who appreciate what we do and like what we do and support what we do. AND by the way, for the record, and this needs to be said, this was the BOSTON rating book, not Providence, not NESN, these are not all the other stations, and I would dare say this, if you added up the people who are listening or watching on NESN and the entire radio network, including Providence, and including the station from Providence that comes up into the Boston signal area, the beatdown would be like bully beatdown. But this is just the Boston audience. Boston vs Boston, number one, I believe that’s seven books in a row.

GC It’s more than that, but it’s at least that many. We can go back and get the number if you want..

A few moments later, Callahan alluded to their demographic by saying:

GC – In our business, in our genre, the only thing that matters is men, and in men, in the winter ratings book, we won again. Congratulations Meterparel.

JD – What a minute, hang on, you mean being slightly ahead for like three weeks doesn’t count as something? REALLY. So we shouldn’t celebrate if we’re slightly ahead for three and half weeks?

After a few more comments referencing their competition lying to their listeners, D&C unloaded on media reporters, specifically Chad Finn.

GC You know what the amazing thing is, you could call a reporter, lie to them, he’ll run with it, the paper will correct it, I’ve been in that business for a long time, that’s the most embarrassing thing, a correction, to fix your mistake,

JD …and you still continue to carry the water…

GC – How that works, I don’t know. If someone lied to me, and I was forced, the paper,  you know, you’d obviously be called into the boss’ office, and he’d be like what the hell are you doing, don’t you check your facts, and then they run a correction, an official correction, and that would be painful, I would never forget it.

JD – Right, you’d be pissed at the person who erroneously who lied to you and gave you misinformation which went with into the paper…and yet some people say “That’s ok…as long as you call me back, and you remember my first name, isn’t THAD. “He didn’t call me Thad!”

GC – That’s how it works.

JD – I’ll just write some story and be your PR agent, basically.                                                                                    

GC – That is the height of unprofessionalism in this business, and kind of pathetic. ….wouldn’t you double-check it next time? It’s one thing to be corrected once, can you imagine being a writer and the newspaper was forced to run corrections multiple times?

Then they dipped into the area that has caused the most controversy. The allegations that WEEI tries to include numbers from Providence in their total ratings.

JD- That’s part of the lie, Gerry, that they’re counting people who listening in Providence.

GC – That’s never been true, and if you say that, you’re either stupid, or dishonest.

JD – As a clarification the Providence signal comes north. It doesn’t just go south to Rhode Island. It comes north to places like Canton, Stoughton, Randolph and places like that, and people can pick it up on the FM side.

GC – Why wouldn’t you? We don’t have the best signal, that’s another thing we’re proud of, overcoming that obstacle.

JD – So the Providence signal comes north into the Boston market, and so when they do count Providence, and this number one has nothing to do with it, nor did the last one or the seven before that, when they do count people who are listening in Boston, but on the Providence radio station, then the beatdown is significant.

GC  – Again, if you say there is anything deceiving about that, then you are either A) Stupid, or B) lying. Because you know if someone is sitting in, forget Canton, sitting right here in Brighton, and they happen to get the FM signal, and they listen to our show, you’re think for some reason they shouldn’t count?

This morning, on his Facebook page, 98.5 morning host Rich Shertenlieb posted the following:

THANKS for making Toucher & Rich #1 in ALL male demos in March. For the months of Jan Feb & March- We had 35% more Men 18-49 listeners & a whopping EIGHT TIMES more Men 18-34 listeners than WEEI. Time & time again, our listeners continue to show that they are hands down the most diehard and loyal in radio. Never seen anything like it. Thanks from all of us…even Wallach for letting us do what we do.

Back to the Friday Megalinks

It’s been a while since I could give you the Friday megalinks. You’re owed them. Let’s give them to you now.

There’s the Weekend Viewing Picks which has your sports and entertainment viewing choices.

National

USA Today’s Michael Hiestand reports that Fox rookie NFL rules analyst Mike Pereira will be in the broadcast booth for Super Bowl XLV in case there’s a controversial call or booth review.

Mike McCarthy of USA Today notes that in his 2nd stint in the NFL, Michael Vick has become a ratings magnet.

Nat Worden of the Wall Street Journal notes that Time Warner Cable is offering a cheaper package to subscribers without ESPN. 

Milton Kent of Fanhouse is amused by the NFL ratings claims by CBS, Fox and NBC.

Milton talks about Michael Wilbon leaving the Washington Post after three decades for a full-time position with ESPN.

Carolyn Giardina of the Hollywood Reporter writes that ESPN is launching a new research and development lab with a Florida university.

Mike Reynolds of Multichannel News reports that the new NBC Sports/Comcast will have a new man heading up the cable side of the division.

Mike looks at ESPN research showing that 3-D TV had a “presence” during its coverage of the World Cup this past summer.

Mike says NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football won the cable primetime ratings once again.

Anthony Crupi of Mediaweek discusses Fox Sports becoming the home of the Big Ten Football Championship Game starting next year.

CNBC’s Darren Rovell says Reebok sees its future in selling its products through vending machines.

Darren looks at the future of notifying sports fans when something special is in progress.

Marcus Vanderberg of SportsNewser notes that ESPN was not allowed to air an Activision ad before an Outside the Lines segment today.

Glenn Davis from SportsGrid has the time lapse video of transforming Yankee Stadium from a baseball diamond to a football field.

I’ll have more on this story in the megalinks. Here’s Greg Wyshynski’s story in Yahoo’s Puck Daddy about the New York Islanders pulling a media credential from noted NHL blogger Chris Botta.

Joe Favorito talks about Botta and Scott Raab who had their credentials pulled.

Spots Media Watch notes that ESPN’s college football ratings got a rise from South Carolina-Florida last week.

SMW talks with WNBA star Candice Wiggins.

Steve Lepore of Puck The Media says Versus’ ratings for NHL Overtime rose over its predecessor, The Daily Line.

East and Mid-Atlantic

Chad Finn of the Boston Globe looks at the first NESN simulcasts of WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan radio show.

In the Springfield Republican, the lovely Amanda Bruno profiles the blogger who blew the lid off the NHL’s Colin Campbell’s bias towards the Bruins’ Marc Savard.

In her blog, Batter-up with Bruno, Amanda tells younger sports media consumers that they should care if newspapers fall by the wayside.

Richard Sandomir of the New York Times looks at the Islanders revoking Chris Botta’s media credential over a very silly issue.

Richard profiles CBS’ James Brown who is the face of a government contractor. 

Newsday’s Neil Best talks with NBC’s Al Michaels.

Neil wonders why SNY keeps replacing its female hosts for “Beer Money”.

Neil talks with Giants QB Eli Manning about hosting “Saturday Night Live”.

The New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman says ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike refrained from asking tough questions to Tiger Woods.

Phil Mushnick at the New York Post can’t stand live ad reads during live game action.

The Post’s Justin Terranova talks with ESPN’s NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy.

Pete Dougherty of the Albany Times Union lists whom he thinks are among the best in hosting and calling NFL games.

Pete also conducts a poll on the same subject in his blog.

Dave Hughes of DCRTV.com gives a sports media roundup of the Baltimore-DC area in Press Box.

Dan Steinberg in the Washington Post’s DC Sports Bog has Michael Wilbon’s thoughts on leaving the WaPo.

Jim Williams in the Washington Examiner has Alexander Ovechkin’s thoughts on his new NHL DVD.

South

Dustin Long of the Virginian-Pilot has NASCAR Chairman Brian France backing ESPN despite lower ratings this year. 

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes that the Heat’s ratings are up.

Ray Buck at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram looks at three new NFL Films documentaries.

David Barron of the Houston Chronicle also looks at the NFL Films coaching docs.

The Daily Oklahoman wonders if ESPN’s College Gameday is headed to the Sooner State next Saturday.

Midwest

John Kiesewetter of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes what happened since the last time the Bengals were blacked out locally.

Mike Zuidema of the Grand Rapids (MI) Press says Fox Sports Detroit is beefing up its high school football coverage. 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Bob Wolfley doesn’t want to watch NBA TV’s airing of Allen Iverson playing in Turkey.

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

Ed has the Chicago Cubs’ statement on the Big Ten’s decision to use only one endzone at Wrigley Field for tomorrow’s Illinois-Northwestern game.

Dan Caesar at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch takes a gander at the local sports radio ratings.

Dan has a closer look at the ratings.

West

Jay Posner at the San Diego Union-Tribune notes that the Chargers narrowly avoided a blackout on Monday night.

Jay talks with ESPN’s Ron Jaworski about Monday night’s Broncos-Chargers game.

John Maffei from the North County Times also talks with Jaws about Broncos-Chargers.

Jim Carlisle of the Ventura County Star discusses the NFL Films trilogy on coaches that began Friday.

Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times says Manny Pacquaio would have fascinated the writers of yesteryear.

Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News looks at the difference of sports reporting now and then.

Tom has his extensive media notes in his blog.

Stacy Brownhill of Willamette (OR) Week reports that Portland Trail Blazers fans protested Comcast SportsNet’s failure to gain widespread access for the team’s games.

Canada

Bruce Dowbiggin of the Toronto Globe and Mail wonders if the local media is treating Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke with kid gloves in the wake of him losing his son earlier this year.

Burke’s daughter, Katie, has written a reply to some of the comments in Dowbiggin’s column.

We’ll end it there.