An Appreciation of Glenn Ordway

I’ve had my issues with Glenn Ordway and his show over the years. It’s no secret. But there is another side, which needs to be told as well.

Warning: I’m about to go into “old bastard” mode and reference things that I remember that happened before some current members of the Boston sports media were even born.

I think I’ve also mentioned before that Ordway was the first media person I ever “followed.” I’m dating myself here, but I was kid back in the 1980’s when Ordway was doing the Celtics games with Johnny Most. I listened to just about every single game. My parents didn’t watch sports, so catching the Celtics on TV was a very rare event. Instead, I had to listen to the games on WRKO.

The first season I followed every game was the 1982-83 season. Johnny Most actually missed a chunk of games that season due to illness and Ordway took over the play-by-play. (Chris Ford stepped into the analyst role.) The games with Most and Ordway were true theater. Each night was good vs. evil, a morality play with the Celtics the valiant warriors fighting off their villainous foes. Glenn would attempt some objectivity, but he too would get swept up in the drama. When Larry Bird hit a game-winning buzzer-beater at Phoenix (Celtics down by one, Bird hits a three with one second left) that season (2/26/83 – 30 years ago this month?????) I can still hear Glenn hooting and hollering in my head after that one.

While there has been much talk over the years (which I’m skeptical of) about the relationship between Ordway and Most  – whether they got along, and how things ended –  their chemistry on the air was terrific. As the decade went on, and Johnny’s health went downhill steadily, Glenn picked him up more and more. They had moments of tension, sure, but there moments of complete hilarity. Most catching his pants on fire with a lighted cigarette (a clip that was played yesterday) chief among them. The times Johnny would knock his cup of scalding hot coffee over the edge of the balcony were always good times, too.

During that same period, WRKO having just recently moved into the talk radio format, was experimenting with a number of shows, including a sports call-in show. The show, creatively named “Sports Call,” featured Ordway with Guy Mainella. (Mainella was already a sports talk veteran, having started “Calling All Sports” in 1969.) The show was on generally from 6-8PM and while there was plenty of Celtics talk, I recall possible Red Sox trades being as much a topic as it is now. On nights that the Celtics weren’t playing, I always tried to listen to this program as well.

Early Days of WEEI

The Celtics broadcasts moved to WEEI in 1987 on AM 590. The Celtics bought the station in 1990, and for a time they kept the all-news format. But by September of 1991, WEEI had made the switch to all sports. It might be surprising to learn that Ordway was not the star of the station. Eddie Andelman was the drive-time host from 4-7PM. Ordway, started out as a midday host, paired with Janet Prensky from 1-4PM. Dale Arnold was on from 10AM-1PM and Craig Mustard from 7-11PM. Andy Moes was the morning show.

Ordway’s show with Prensky (Glenn and Janet)  was largely forgettable. The show lasted a year, and Prensky’s contract was not renewed. Ordway then spent time with Dave Shea, among others. By this time, Ordway was also the fulltime play-by-play voice of the Celtics, after Most was forced to retire due to health reasons in 1990. In August of 1994, WEEI moved from 590AM to 850AM.

In early 1995, Ordway agreed to a four-year deal with WEEI to continue as voice of the Celtics. However, the team, which had the right of refusal, declined the contract. (If you wondered why Ordway was so negative about the Celtics for years on WEEI, other than the fact that they were terrible, there you go.) Speculation was that they felt that Ordway and partner Jerry Sichting were too harsh on the team during their broadcasts. Ordway then accepted the position of program manager for WEEI, a move that would change the very shape and direction of sports radio.

Ordway’s Moves Pave Way For Record-Breaking Ratings

In July, Ordway fired Michael Andelman from his weekend show, citing poor ratings. In August, he announced that the station would be radically changing up their lineup. Starting on September 11th of 1995, the WEEI lineup would consist of the Fabulous Sports Babe from 10-12, The A-Team with Eddie Andelman and Dale Arnold from noon to 3PM and The Big Show, featuring Ordway himself, from 3-6PM. Ordway reinvented himself as “The Big O” and thus an 18-year run began.

Among the original co-hosts on The Big Show were Gerry Callahan, Dan Shaughnessy, Steve Nelson, Lyndon Byers, Cedric Maxwell and Fred Smerlas.

WEEI dropped The Fabulous Sports Babe in October 1997, (Jason Wolfe by then had replaced Ordway as Program Director) replacing her in the 10-12 spot with John Dennis and Gerry Callahan. That duo become the 6-10 morning show in September of 1999, and the A-Team moved from 10-2 and The Big Show from 2-6.

In retrospect, the moves by Ordway beginning in 1995 were brilliant. They set up almost 15 years of ratings dominance. The pairing of Arnold and Andelman was one of two diametrically different men who saw eye-to-eye on very little. Ordway saw that the endless debates on all subjects would make for great radio.  The Big Show format, while tough to listen to at times, brought a plethora of different voices together, with Ordway the chuckling ringleader tweaking his co-hosts and pushing the envelope each day.

Ordway made media stars out of pedestrian reporters and personalities. He also could see talent and get the most out of it. While there were some co-hosts who had no business being on the show (Steve Burton, Butch Stearns, Larry Johnson) there were stars like Dennis Eckersley, Dick Radatz, Rico Petrocelli, Bob Ryan, Jackie MacMullan, Michael Holley, Ron Borges (The latter four found themselves on the outs when the Globe infamously banned its reporters from the station.) Michael Felger, Tony Massarotti, Steve Buckley, Steve DeOssie, even Sean McDonough was an earlier mainstay on the show. Ordway even made stars out of flashguys Sean Grande and Pete Sheppard.

The station brought in ratings never seen before. I’m going to sound like a WEEI spokesman here, (imagine that!) but it is true. They weren’t just winning their targeted demo, they were winning all adult demos. They were the top station in the city. No sports station in the country had seen these types of numbers.

Granted, there was an element of good timing associated with this run. Boston sports in the 2000’s, starting with the 2001 Patriots, went on a professional championship run that no city had ever seen before. Three Super Bowl Championships, two World Series Titles, and an NBA Championship had an already sports-crazed city craving more and more. Ordway was the most powerful media personality in Boston.

Competitors Fall and Rise

The station successfully fought off challenges from weaker signaled sports talk efforts from 1510 and 890. Both of those stations attempted to use former Ordway co-hosts to challenge him in his own timeslot, 1510 using McDonough and 890 using Felger. Neither station mounted any sort of lasting challenge.

When 98.5 The Sports Hub launched in August 2009, they too built their programming around people that Ordway had groomed in to the radio business. Former Herald reporters Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti owe their starts in radio to Ordway and The Big Show. Bolstered by a strong FM signal and corporate backing of CBS, The Sports Hub finally knocked Ordway off his ratings throne.

Still, he wasn’t dead yet. Last spring, as the Celtics went on their unexpected run to the Eastern Conference Finals, Ordway’s by-then revamped show beat Felger and Mazz in the ratings, thanks in part to several Red Sox day games, and incessant Celtics-bashing by Felger.

The Legacy, And The Future

While Glenn Ordway certainly didn’t invent sports talk radio in Boston, (Eddie Andelman, among others, can lay claim to making it a viable medium.) he is nonetheless a pioneer and yes, a legend. He saw where sports talk radio was heading, and what it could be. He put the pieces and format in place that has largely endured. He made stars in the local market, and you saw many many people acknowledging this on Twitter and elsewhere yesterday.

What’s next for Ordway? His comments to the Herald today seem to indicate internet radio or something along those lines may be in the offing. Couldn’t you picture Ordway doing a local version of Bill Simmons’ “The BS Report?” A podcast with endless big-name guests, and going after specific topics, no commercials.

Could he surface on another radio station? There have been recent, quiet rumblings that Greater Media might be interested in dipping a toe into the local sports radio market. Their Boston-area stations include 92.9, 96.9, 102.5, 105.7 and 106.7.

Heck, a station could replicate the entire late-1990’s WEEI lineup if they wanted. Imus, Dale Arnold, Ordway and Ted Sarandis are all available! (That’s entirely a joke, by the way.)

Could he be interested in going back to play-by-play and trying out with the Patriots? Seems an unlikely longshot, but you never know.

Ordway turned 62 last month. He’s not done yet. If he wants to work, there will be a job for him. The show yesterday was the best Big Show I’ve heard in a long time, and showed that he still has that sense of taking the right angle on a story, and presenting in a compelling manner.

While I haven’t always been a fan of the Big Show and the “character” of “The Big O,” I’m a fan of Glenn Ordway. I hope to continue hearing and seeing him.

Ordway Links

We’ll have more analysis of the Glenn Ordway firing as the days go on, but for right now, here are some other stories on the news:

WEEI ousts longtime host Glenn Ordway – Chad Finn’s story in th Globe also has a video with analysis from Finn.

Glenn Ordway gets ax in sports talk battle – Matt Stout in the Boston Herald has money and youth as big factors in the move.
WEEI fires Glenn Ordway as host of ‘The Big Show’ – Bill Doyle says that these are scary times for WEEI.

Ordway will be missed, but game goes on – Steve Buckley weighs in on his friend.

`Big Show’ bombshell: Ordway out at WEEI – Tom Layman in the Herald talks to Gerry Callahan, Jackie MacMullan and others.

Glenn Ordway out at WEEI – NECN had a segment on the story.

Looking to future 
for next big thing – Gayle Fee has Ordway looking at his future.

Sports radio host Glenn Ordway announces exit from WEEI – Craig Douglas of the Boston Business Journal looks at the impact of the move.

WEEI to Replace Glenn Ordway – Alan Siegal says that this is a step in the right direction for the station.

Was Ordway firing more about ratings — or money? – Dan Kennedy muses on the reasons for the move.

WEEI Statement on Glenn Ordway

“WEEI has decided to part ways with Glenn Ordway, co-host of “The Big Show”.  Ordway made the announcement on-air Wednesday, February 13 that his last day will be this Friday.  Michael Holley will serve as host of “The Big Show” for the foreseeable future and WEEI expects to make an announcement in the coming days about Michael’s new co-host.

“Glenn and I have been together since day one. He is an icon in this business and he helped build WEEI into arguably the most successful sports station in history,” said Jason Wolfe, VP of programming and operations for Entercom Boston. “I am so thankful to have been able to work alongside Glenn for the past 20-plus years and I hope that all Boston sports fans realize how important his contributions have been to this station, to the market and to this industry. He’s a true professional and that was clearer than ever in his comments today.”

Chad Finn Reports WEEI To Replace Glenn Ordway With Mike Salk

mike-salk

From 710 ESPN Seattle’s Webpage

The Globe’s Chad Finn, who has been impeccable in his reporting of these things, has sources telling him today that Glenn Ordway, a fixture at WEEI since it went to the all-sports format, will be replaced by former 1510 and 890 host (and current 710 ESPN Seattle host) Mike Salk.

Sources: WEEI to replace Glenn Ordway with Mike Salk

It’s been common knowledge that WEEI needs to make some major changes. But I’ll admit to being floored by this move. Ordway has been a fixture at the station since it went to the all-sports format, and it’s hard to picture Boston radio, let alone WEEI without him on the air.

During the heyday of WEEI, Ordway was tough to listen to, he really encapsulated all that was wrong with the station, talking over callers and co-hosts, not backing down on any opinion, insulting hockey fans, and mocking anything to do with the internet, blogging or the like.

When Entercom management made the move to pair Ordway with Michael Holley, the adjustment was rough. Ordway dominated the show, Holley seemed reluctant to mix it up with Ordway. But in recent months they seemed to have found a nice balance and were providing a decent counter to the daily dramas and hysteria drummed up on the rival Felger and Mazz show on 98.5.

It’s a curious move from that aspect, especially given the continued beatings that the Dennis and Callahan show take in the ratings. It’s apparent that it was much easier to get rid of Ordway (who had already taken a pay cut) than to dump John Dennis and pair Gerry Callahan with someone else.

For some out there, the schadenfreude is flowing. They’ve awaited the day that Ordway fell. The day is here, and I for one, am a bit puzzled by the move, as I have been by many moves made at WEEI since Jeff Brown took over. Behind the scenes, there are unhappy people everywhere at WEEI, and not just the on-air side.

The addition of Salk is an interesting one. He has the local ties, the show he hosts in Seattle is a popular one, but I can’t say I remember a whole lot about him from his time on the airwaves here. I don’t know what style he will bring, though I can guess. (Think: Felger)

You have to think there are other moves coming, though contractual issues with the morning show might force WEEI to hang onto Dennis and Callahan longer than they’d prefer to.

Did Kevin Winter Step Down, Or Was He Fired?

Early this afternoon, Chad Finn reported that Kevin Winter had been called into Jason Wolfe’s office this morning and then fired from his position as morning flash guy for The Dennis and Callahan Show.

Kevin Winter out at WEEI

Around the same time, I had heard the same thing – Winter had been fired.

Shortly after Finn published his post, WEEI released a statement on the matter:

WEEI today announced that effective immediately, Kevin Winter has stepped down from his position on the Dennis and Callahan Morning Show. Winter, who was working exclusively for ESPN Radio before being hired in early December, said “I appreciated the opportunity to join WEEI, but my time commitments at ESPN Radio were just too consuming for me to continue in both roles. I wish John and Gerry and the entire team the best going forward.”

Jason Wolfe, Vice-President of Programming and Operations for Entercom Boston, said, “I respect Kevin’s decision and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

There will be no further comment or follow up as it relates to a replacement at this time.

These are some tumultuous times over at WEEI. Focus groups are being convened, flash guys fired/stepping down, and there are rumors about show changes on a daily basis.

It’s going to be interesting to see how things shake out over these in the coming months.

Q&A with WEEI’s The Big Show co-host Glenn Ordway

One of the longest tenured members of the Boston sports media is WEEI’s The Big Show co-host Glenn Ordway. Since 1975 Ordway has been working in the Boston media, working for all four major sports teams in the process. In 1987, when Ordway was a Celtics commentator the team moved their radio programming to WEEI where he became executive sports director. He was later named program director in 1996 and started The Big Show, not looking back since, adding numerous television appearances and even his own show, New England Tailgate on Comcast Sportsnet to his resume.

Boston Sports Media Watch had the chance to sit down and catch up with Ordway to discuss his career, including the changes he’s needed to make over time as well as talking about some of the coaches he interviews on a weekly basis.

Glenn Ordway has been a member of the Boston media since 1975, working with all four major sports teams in that span. (Photo from the Boston Herald)

Over the years what is the biggest thing that has changed in the sports media, especially radio?

A lot has changed. Believe it or not in the old days we didn’t have the internet so you didn’t have the capacity to go and dig out stories else where. You were dealing with the Globe or the Herald and maybe the Worcester Telegram, that’s what you were dealing with years ago. Nowadays everything is instantaneous, the media is immediate. Stories break in 15 seconds on Twitter.

The two things that were key for doing talk shows years ago were the morning newspapers… In other words, you’d wake up at 7 o’clock in the morning and that’s the first time you’d learn about a rumor or trade. There was no at night, there was no SportsCenter, you weren’t getting any other that. The other thing that would happen is every once in awhile, somebody on Ch. 4, 5, or 7 on TV at night would break a story at 11 o’clock and I’d sit there and say, that’s my show tomorrow.

It’s much different. The sound that is out there, every game is either seen, or you record it — you can watch everything. The preperation for one of these shows is so much easier now than it was, and you can absorb and take in so much more.

What was it like transitioning from the two different co-hosts per day to now having one permanent co-host in Michael Holley?

It is a much different formula with three guys and a flash guy in Pete [Sheppard]. You have a lot of people talking. Yes, I know we were interrupting each other all the time, and it was by design, basically four guys sitting in a bar. That is what you do when you’re with your friends at a bar having a sports debate, you start jumping on top of each other.

On the other hand, for me it was a much different role because I was like the moderator and I had to poke at everybody. I had to jump in with an opinion so I could poke to get opposing views to create some type of entertaining confrontation. Because of that I developed that flip flop reputation and I am guilty as charged, no question about it. That was part of the role that I was in.

The role in this show now, is it is a two man team. So you need player A to have a strong opinion and you need player B to have a strong opinion and it comes out with the both of us challenging each other. I happen to have a partner that I have great respect for, and I think he and I really have found that niche in the show to be able to openly throw our opinions out there and not have to worry about it. It is a much different formula, much different.

How much attention do you pay to the ratings?

You have to. They are not everything because if you have ratings and you’re not driving revenue then you’re not really getting your job done. They go hand and hand. You have to watch ratings, and it’s not just ratings looking at the other sports station, the Sports Hub, you’re looking at what the music stations are doing, you’re watching the trends and trends change throughout the year.

Everybody busts us all the time, why do you take all your vacations in the summer? Because listening habits change dramatically in the summer time. People listen to far more music, people get away from sports, they get into nostalgic music, everything changes. Habits change so much so that’s the book that advertising agencies kind of dismiss. Spring and the fall are the two big books that people really pay attention to. You have to watch everything else that is going on.

Was Bobby Valentine one of the most awkward guys you’ve had on for a weekly interview?

I don’t think awkward would be the way I would say it — I would say the most unpredictable. You’d ask him a question and he was the one guy you never knew what the answer was going to be. I think I can ask a lot of people questions, people I interview on a regular basis, and have a decent idea of how they are going to approach the answer. With Bobby I never had an idea of how he was going to answer. That is why he caught me so off guard so many times.

What about Belichick, sort of the opposite?

With Belichick I kind of know the way he is going to approach it. So, you have to phrase the question in a certain way. You have to be ready to come back sometimes with a follow up. But, Bobby was great with follow ups because once you knew he was going to cross the line with the answer, you knew if you threw him a follow up he wasn’t going to stop. Bobby was not one of those to say, that’s it, I’m not going to talk about that anymore, he always wanted to say more about something. Bill wants to say less about something because he wants to protect his team.

On the other hand, if I were to ask a question to Bill about a play they had on Sunday and compare it to a similar play they ran in 2004, Bill would go back to that play in 2004 with tremendous clearity and he would detail every little thing that happened in that play, why it happened, and every player that was involved. When it comes to history and going into the past tense, because Bill doesn’t want to bring up the present or future, he gives you unbelievable stuff.

There are times when you really listen to Bill on Monday, that if you read behind the lines, there is stuff there, but you have to read between the lines. If he is not answering a question a certain way, or if he does, like the way he answered the question this past week on [Aqib] Talib and how much playing time he was going to get, he gave me the answer, but it was reading in between the lines.

What about the future for you personally, you’ve been doing The Dan Patrick Show nationally lately, do you like that?

I love it. Those guys are great — the Danette’s and Dan is a great friend. I like those guys an awful lot, I like doing the show. I love doing what I am doing right now. I’ve got to tell you, this is fun every single day. It’s fun waking up preparing for the show, doing the show, I have no regrets. I could actually have to work someday, this is fun. I have done an awful lot of things in the business, dealing with pre and post with the Red Sox, people forget I worked with the Bruins for two years, and the Celtics for 14. I am having fun right now.

But, there are challenges down the road. There are a couple of projects that I am working on right now that will hopefully come to fruition. So there are a bunch of other things I want to do, you always want to try and find new challenges and things to do. But, this is a blast and working with Michael has been a whole new level of enjoyment for me.

 

850 AM To Switch To ESPN Radio on October 5th

In a long-rumored (Chad Finn reported it earlier this summer, it had been rumored well before then) move, Entercom Boston announced this afternoon that programming on 850 AM will switch to all ESPN radio beginning on October 5th. The station will carry the full lineup of ESPN Radio programming.

Also announced was a tighter integration with ESPNBoston.com, the audio stream for WEEI 93.7 FM will be available through ESPNBoston.com and ESPNBoston’s video player will power WEEI’s video player with content from ESPN.

The full release:

Tuesday, Sept. 18

Entercom and ESPN Radio Join Forces to

Launch “ESPN on WEEI” 850 AM

WEEI to provide the best in local and national sports talk and play-by-play

ESPN 850BOSTON, MA – Entercom Boston and ESPN Radio today announced that starting on Friday, October 5, WEEI will split its AM/FM simulcast and begin broadcasting ESPN Radio on 850 AM. “ESPN on WEEI” will air ESPN’s entire national lineup, including the entire upcoming Major League Baseball postseason schedule, the NBA, and college football and college basketball. ESPN Radio on 850 AM will debut with Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, of “Mike and Mike in the Morning,” broadcasting live from Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium beginning at 6 a.m. ET on October 5.

WEEI’s legendary local lineup of “Dennis and Callahan,” “Mut and Merloni,” “The Big Show with Glenn Ordway and Michal Holley,” and “Planet Mikey with Mike Adams” will now be broadcast solely on the 93.7 FM frequency. In addition, 93.7 FM will be the exclusive home of Red Sox baseball, Celtics basketball, Patriots’ Monday and Friday, NFL football and the NFL playoffs.

As part of this expanded partnership, listeners will be able to access 93.7 WEEI’s live audio stream through the popular ESPNBoston.com website. At the same time, ESPNBoston.com’s video channel will now power WEEI.com’s video player with the most up-to-date ESPN video content.

“Since 1991, WEEI has been the gold standard in sports radio. This strategic alliance with ESPN allows WEEI to deliver to the most passionate sports fans in America the very best in local sports talk and play-by-play on WEEI FM and the very best in national sports talk and play-by-play with ESPN on WEEI AM,” said Jeff Brown, Entercom Vice President and Market Manager. “WEEI 850 AM is a proven sports brand. Joining forces with ESPN provides advertisers an additional touch point to connect with a highly valuable and sought after consumer.”

“We’re pleased to team with Boston’s preeminent sports radio outlet and one of the nation’s best radio broadcasting companies in Entercom to bring the number one national network into New England,” said Traug Keller, ESPN Senior Vice President, Production Business Divisions. “This move coupled with the existing presence of ESPNBoston.com provides Boston’s passionate fans the best of ESPN’s national and local coverage and analysis.”

“We are excited to be expanding our partnership with ESPN in such a meaningful way,” said Entercom President and CEO David Field. “Combining Boston’s leading sports station, WEEI-FM, and the new ESPN on WEEI 850 AM, together with our ability to cross promote content through our existing mobile and digital platforms, gives passionate Boston sports fans the very best in local and national sports content.”

Beginning Friday, October 5, the new ESPN on WEEI 850 AM ESPN lineup will be:

  • 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. “Mike & Mike in the Morning”
  • 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. “The Herd with Colin Cowherd”
  • 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. “The Scott Van Pelt Show”
  • 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. “ESPN Today”
  • 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. “Hill and Schlereth” / ESPN Play-by-Play
  • 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. “SportsCenter Tonight”
  • 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. “SportsCenter All Night”

This Time, John Henry Takes To WEEI To Refute Rumors

A FOX Business story by Charlie Gasparino reported this morning that the owners of the Red Sox were considering selling the team, saying that the team has even begun shopping the club to potential buyers.

Principal owner John W. Henry quickly issued denials and then took to the airwaves to adamantly deny that the franchise is for sale and to emphasize that he and his partners plan on being here for a long time.

Unlike last October, when Henry stormed into the offices of 98.5 The Sports Hub to confront Felger and Mazz about things they were saying on their show, this time Henry called the flagship station of the Red Sox, WEEI.

Henry called into WEEI’s Mut and Merloni show this afternoon, and among other things, stated that Larry Lucchino has signed a contract extension and will be back with the Red Sox in 2013. Earlier in the show, Gasparino had been a guest to talk about his report and his sourcing.

Audio for the segment has not yet been posted, but when it is, I’ll put the link here.

Edit 2:39pm: The audio is now posted on WEEI.com.

 

Will The Red Sox Surge or Melt In the Second Half? WEEI Responds To Ratings Claims

The Red Sox get back to work tonight as they begin a series in Tampa with the Rays. What will the second half of the season bring for the Red Sox? Can they pull it together and grab a playoff spot, or is a complete meltdown right around the corner?

Mismatched Sox wearing on Bobby? – Gordon Edes has today’s must-read column, with plenty of griping and back-biting going around the Red Sox clubhouse, most of it centered around manager Bobby Valentine.

Sox need to make a statement – Jon Couture tries to be optimistic about this team, but finds it increasingly hard to do so.

Adrian Gonzalez continues his quest to find the old Adrian Gonzalez – Rob Bradford has the first baseman trying hard to regain his power stroke.

Ciriaco takes chance and runs with it – Peter Abraham has the well-traveled 27-year-old giving the Red Sox a jolt of energy.

Media

Mediocre Red Sox not hurting NESN’s ratings – Chad Finn looks at NESN’s strong ratings numbers, has more on WEEI, and weighs in on Matt Millen’s torturous ESPN appearance yesterday.

McDonough talks and plays a great game – John Molori talks to Sean McDonough about his work at ESPN and his love of golf.

Examining Gary Tanguay’s New Confrontational Style – What in the world is going on with Gary Tanguay? That’s the subject of my SB Nation Boston column this week.

In an email to BSMW, Entercom’s Jason Wolfe disputed the numbers from yesterday’s post, (A sure sign WEEI is doing better, Wolfe has emerged from his bunker.) discarding the standard Arbitron numbers that run from 3-7pm and sending over what he claims are the 2-6pm numbers for the month of June.

He also zinged me with this line:

I know you’re a 98.5 fan and not an EEI fan, that’s fine, you’re entitled to your opinion, but you’re numbers are wrong.

OK. Has he paid attention at all to what I’ve said about Felger and Mazz, either here or on Twitter? A 98.5 fan? Someone over at CBS Boston is getting a good chuckle out of that.

Someone from 98.5 emailed me recently and said:

Maybe we suck. Maybe we’re too negative. Or too loud. Or too whatever. You are entitled to whatever opinion you have.

I sure am glad all the radio people are allowing me to be entitled to my own opinion on things.

Anyway, here is what Wolfe sent me regarding the afternoon drive numbers:

Men 25-54, Mon-Fri 2-6 pm.

Week One Week Two Week Three Week Four
6.9                8.4                7.0                 6.3                  WEEI
5.7                7.6                6.4                 5.7                  98.5

Men 18-34, Mon-Fri, 2-6 pm.

Week One Week Two Week Three Week Four
3.3               2.7                3.1                 2.6                     WEEI
7.7              9.8                 9.6                 9.6                     98.5

Men 18-49, Mon-Fri, 2-6 pm.

Week One  Week Two Week Three Week Four
6.1               6.6               5.8                  5.0                    WEEI
6.0               8.8              7.5                  7.0                    98.5

He also included the 35-54 age bracket, which really solidifies that older listeners prefer the Big Show, while the younger ones prefer Felger and Mazz.

Men 35-54, Mon-Fri, 2-6pm
Week One  Week Two Week Three Week Four
7.5                9.0             7.5                   7.4                   WEEI
4.6                6.9              5.5                   4.7                    98.5

The numbers from yesterday were taken directly off sheets with the Arbitron copyright on them. These numbers provided by Wolfe may well be accurate, but he’s also had a history of being, um, creative with how he comes up with ratings figures.

Yesterday, WEEI also sent over these figures, interestingly, the release contained the line “WEEI saw benefits of carrying both the Celtics and Red Sox game broadcasts.” Um, yeah. :

WEEI 93.7 Arbitron Ratings (rival station The Sport Hub compared in red):

M25-54                 June                                      Spring 12                              Winter 12

6a-mid                  6.8 #3    (BZ 5.5 #4)           7.1 #2    (BZ 6.0 #4)           5.7 #4 (BZ 8.5 #2)                                                                                           

6a-10a                   6.8 #4    (BZ 7.6 #2)           7.3 #3    (BZ 8.0 #2)           7.6 #3 (BZ 9.8 #2)

10a-2p                  5.5 #3T  (BZ 5.9 #2)           6.7 #3    (BZ 6.8 #2)           5.5 #4 (BZ 10.0 #2)

2p-6p                    7.1 #3    (BZ 6.3 #4)           7.9 #2    (BZ 6.9 #3)           6.2 #3 (BZ 9.8 #1)

6a-7p                     6.5 #3    (BZ 6.6 #2)           7.3 #2    (BZ 7.2 #3)           6.5 #3 (BZ 9.6 #2)

7p-mid                  11.0 #1  (BZ 4.6 #6)           9.5 #1    (BZ 5.5 #5)           4.0 #11 (BZ 6.5 #2)

Wknds                  5.8 #3    (BZ 2.6 #11)        5.6 #4    (BZ 3.2 #10)        3.7 #10 (BZ 5.6 #6)

Is your head spinning yet?

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The Lou Merloni Conundrum

Here’s something I just don’t get about Lou Merloni – why does it seem like he’s trying way too hard to be just like every other sports radio/TV personality in town? Why does he spend his time pushing storylines, being negative and trying to create and further controversy?

He might try to be like everyone else, but he’s not. For the better part of a decade, nine seasons, Lou Merloni spent at least part of every season as a Major League Baseball player.

While he wasn’t an All Star, or even an everyday player, he made it. He did what 99% (or whatever the number is) of people who play sports could not do. He made it to the highest level. No one else on his station can make that claim, and of all the full-time hosts on the two sports radio stations in town, only Scott Zolak can make the same claim. (If fact, you can make the case that Zolak was the Lou Merloni of the NFL.)

As someone who made it, Merloni can speak of professional sports from a perspective that none of his colleagues can. He can offer perspective on what these athletes and teams face, and perhaps offer insight into why they struggle, or why they succeed.

Why doesn’t he?

Instead, we only get the standard sports radio storylines. We get an entire season of Merloni telling us how badly the Patriots suck. When he goes on TV and hosts Sports Tonight on CSNNE, he’s fostering discussions of controversies so transparent that Skip Bayless cringes.

Zolak, for all his shenanigans beside Andy Gresh, does offer regular nuggets of insight and perspective from his own playing career. Perhaps they get lost in the bluster of their show, but you can occasionally learn something from the show as well. I don’t get any of that from Merloni.

He started out strong. When Merloni first started appearing on WEEI, I felt like he was contributing from the perspective of a former player, not  as a member of the sports media. So where did it go? Did he morph into just another sports media member by osmosis?

I find it hard to believe that 98.5 and WEEI engaged in a bidding war for his services, as has been reported. WEEI kept Merloni, and after paying him big money, needed to carve out a full-time role for him. The result is the Mutt and Merloni show, which I think was unfair on both hosts. Chad Finn has noted that the pair had never worked together prior to their first show together.

At the time, WEEI was desperate to shake things up. They jettisoned Dale Arnold, and moved Michael Holley to the revamped Big Show alongside Glenn Ordway. That pairing after an equally abysmal start, has started to improve, mostly through Holley, who seems to finally be getting comfortable.

In hindsight, it seems like WEEI would’ve been better off keeping Arnold as the host of the midday show, and moving Merloni alongside him. I think the veteran Arnold would’ve gotten a lot more out of Merloni, and been able to draw on his playing experience more than Mike Mutnansky has. I’ve been a longtime booster and supporter of Mutnansky since his days in NH radio. I don’t think he was placed in a position to succeed, but he had to take it. Full-time sports radio gigs are like NFL head coaching jobs – there are only so many available, and if one is offered to you, you don’t turn it down, no matter how big of a mess you’re walking into.

But the bigger issue for me here is still why Lou Merloni seems to want to distance himself from the fact that for almost 10 years he was a Major League Baseball player. You hardly ever hear him talk about his playing career, when he’s joking with a former teammate like Kevin Millar over who had frosted tips first, that might be the only time you’d even be aware he played the game. You’d think he could tap into some contacts for information, but that doesn’t seem to happen either, this morning for example, when Mutnansky asked Merloni about some things we might see for Fenway 100, Merloni’s answer was “I have absolutely no clue.”and then repeated that. Not “I’ve asked around, and no one wants to spill the beans.” but just “I have no clue.” Well, thanks for that, Lou.

It’s a mystery to me why someone with the background that Merloni has would choose to completely ignore it, and instead go with the sensationalistic approach that everyone else locally seems to go with.  If you want to stand out and be different, pull rank on them, and use your experience to your advantage.