The Unstoppable NFL

Like a TV zombie that takes multiple hits to the body, the National Football League continues to survive, and thrive. The September 20 Sunday Night Football game between Seattle and Green Bay led all programs that week with over 26 million viewers. According to Variety.com, “This was the largest audience for a Week 2 NFL primetime game in 24 years (since Dallas-Washington on ABC’s ‘Monday Night Football’ in 1991).”

We could have seen this coming. The Hall of Fame game on August 10, the NFL’s preseason opener between the Steelers and Vikings that featured neither Ben Roethlisberger nor Adrian Peterson, had a 6.9 rating, (according to CBS Sports) better than Game Six of the Stanley Cup Finals and both the American League Championship and National League Championship openers.

This all seems incredible based on how the NFL has presented itself as a tone-deaf botch-fest this year. We have witnessed many events that would weaken most corporations. Yet pro football keeps gobbling up brains.

So what, if anything, could possibly derail the NFL’s popularity? We asked a number of journalists their thoughts on the topic and categorized their answers.

NOTHING

Most seem to have joined this camp (well, less “joined” than “acquiesced to”). Even those who posited potential problems with the league included disclaimers. Nothing, it seems, shall damage the allure of the shield.

BSMW head Bruce Allen laid out the bullet points: “Well, what hasn’t derailed the NFL’s popularity? An active player arrested and convicted for murder. Numerous drug arrests and suspensions. Concussion and brain damage studies. Numerous domestic violence incidents. An inept boob of a commissioner who has been proven a liar on more than one occasion. Made up scandals (Bountygate and Deflategate) which the WWE wouldn’t even attempt…

If those things haven’t – I don’t know what will.”

Tanya Ray Fox, writer for SportsGrid, had a similar outlook, including a few specifics and a New England perspective.

“Let me put it this way,” Fox said. “In a league where a superstar QB has been substantially accused of rape, a superstar RB was videotaped beating his wife, a Hall of Fame LB was arrested for rape, a former TE is in jail for murder, a former DB and NFL Network employee is in jail for serial rape, and Pacman Jones is still playing (Note: a rundown of Jones’ arrests here), you know who the fans hate the most? Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, who they believe have been in six of the last fourteen Super Bowls because they cheat.

“Think about that. Fans still watch loyally, despite the fact that they think the most successful team in the NFL are cheaters and the rest of the teams that they hate far less are peppered with violent criminals. If that’s not enough to take away even a fraction of the fan base, I don’t know what is.”

Dan Duggan, NJ.com Rutgers football beat writer, agreed. “I really don’t think anything (can derail it), at least in the short-term. We all get outraged about the off-field issues, and then we dedicate all day Sunday, Thursday night and Monday night to watching the NFL.”

Duggan did hint at a possible pitfall. “Maybe there will be an effect down the road as parents shy away from allowing their kids to play football due to concerns about concussions. But I can’t see the popularity of the NFL diminishing any time soon.”

CONCUSSIONS

The greatest trouble for the NFL lurks within this issue. Just a few years ago, we would hear about a player from a past era dealing with what was then an alleged – and seemingly rare – brain injury. Now, in real time, we’re witnessing the decline of recent retirees whom we followed into the new millennium; meanwhile, young players have decided to hang up their cleats early. The most recent report from the Department of Veteran Affairs and Boston University study on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) puts the rate at 96 percent of NFL football players tested.

The study comes with caveats, of course. The brains that have been tested came from players who showed symptoms and/or had concerns. Still, we could see these occurrences increase. We have to ask: will more and more of our favorite players live out their post-NFL lives in constant physical and mental pain? That’s tough to consider, and even harder for the league to spin.

“The only thing that could remotely threaten the league’s popularity is the concussion issue, and even that is probably not enough to stop it.” said Mike Giardi of CSNNE.com. “I think it’s pretty clear that we’re just scratching the surface on the staggering amount of brain injuries players have suffered in the past, and I wonder if eventually we get to the point where players are forced to sign waivers, absolving the league of any legal responsibilities and the financial burden that can come with it.

“That’s obviously a slippery slope, but unless there are some dramatic rule changes – say no helmets – then this will continue to be an ongoing issue. But by and large, I think the average fan doesn’t care. They want points, they want big hits and they enjoy the potential that you can rebuild your team from year to year if needed.”

Mark Daniels, football writer for The Providence Journal, said, “I think it would come down to the concussion issue. I still think we’re a long ways away from that, but it would have to get to a point where parents didn’t want their children playing because they were fearful of head injuries. If people stopped playing, then you might see a diminished product on the field. But so many people love this sport and it’s so popular, I don’t know if I see that happening in my lifetime.”

Mike Reiss, ESPN Boston writer, and Shalise Manza Young, writer for Yahoo! Shutdown Corner, saw both the concussion problem and a leadership problem plaguing the league in the future.

Reiss said, “Head trauma and concussions remain issues worthy of further exploration. As we learn more about it, perhaps there is a possibility that the game becomes more challenging for the general public to support. Admittedly, that seems like a reach right now.”

“You know, at this point I’m not sure if anything could (derail the NFL’s popularity).” Young said, adding, “Parents are rightfully concerned about their own kids playing, but that doesn’t mean they won’t watch someone else’s kids play. Maybe if we start seeing an increase in former players committing suicide (i.e., more Junior Seaus), that could affect it.”

The concussion/CTE issue puts the NFL in a tough spot. They have to admit their product can cause irreparable damage to its employees, yet the scheduling of Thursday night games reveals players’ health remains a minor concern. If former Patriot guard Stephen Neal can allude to NFL games as “car crashes every week” and few people bat an eye, it will take more time – and more exposure of damaging effects – for health issues to make a difference in fans’ minds.

While most respondents considered the long-term, chronic effects of playing football, Christopher Price of WEEI.com brought up another, more immediate danger. What if, he asked, a player died because of an on-field injury?

“I think that would cause the rest of the world to take a hard look at player safety and and the level of violence associated with the game. You’d likely get Congress involved, and there would be hearings, which would (inevitably) lead to other revelations, most of which would probably come down to money. I think the fallout from something like that would be incredibly severe, and making a sizable impact on how the game is viewed and played going forward.”

In 2005, Al Lucas of the Arena Football League’s Los Angeles Avengers died of blunt force trauma to the spinal cord. A write-up of the incident from 2013 can be seen here on Grantland. A high school player from New Jersey died last Friday night, cause as yet unknown.

These deaths happen rarely enough that they can be viewed as aberrations, but if an NFL player were to get killed in front of tens of thousands of spectators and millions of TV-watching fans, how would the league handle that? Is leadership prepared for this?

Which brings us to another potential issue…

LEADERSHIP

In talking about the leaders of the NFL, I am reminded of a slogan from 30 years ago: Certs have Retsyn.

Sounds like an Eastern European language? Let me explain: the Certs breath mint company created an additive (basically cottonseed oil, sugar and flavor) specifically so they could mention it and set themselves apart from competitors (as does this vintage commercial).

“The NFL has integrity.” Right? They use words like “integrity” and “shield” as if they mean anything, as if they give the NFL something that other professional leagues can only long for but never attain.

We’re talking about a league with a commissioner that has – on the record – mischaracterized the testimony of two different players. Roger Goodell said Ray Rice lied to him; a judge disagreed. Goodell said Tom Brady did not mention speaking of the football scandal with his equipment manager. Brady’s appeal transcript showed that was not true.

“And maybe,” Young said, “if Goodell keeps making such stupid decisions, that could affect interest.”

Maybe. It seems probable the commissioner will make more mistakes; therefore, it must be possible he makes one or two big enough to actually make an impact. But how big do those gaffes have to get?

COMPETITION

We know they’ve busied themselves with keeping the shield clean, but have the heads of the NFL stayed in touch with fans’ interests? As Reiss said, “Any time you are No. 1, there is always the possibility of resting on one’s laurels and not pushing harder to continue to improve and be proactive against competitive threats. Resisting against that is critical.”

This topic provides fascinating hypotheticals. What could possibly draw viewers away from the NFL?

We look past baseball, basketball, and hockey because, frankly, they’ve had their chances. Soccer? Too many teams, too many leagues, too many countries. And too floppy for the taste of many.

Maybe we’ll see a non-traditional sport like “American Ninja Warrior” grow, where we root for the contestants (rife with human interest stories) and root against the obstacle course. At some point, there could be a kind of live-action single-shooter video game, a choose-your-own adventure where viewers would text an actual human being where to go in a game of laser tag.

Mixed martial arts has gotten popular. But then we go back to the health/concussion issue.

I dunno. Is dodgeball still viable?

Well. Maybe something can take viewers away from football, but hell if I can predict it.

GAMBLING

If you watch television for more than two minutes on a Sunday afternoon, you will see an ad for a fantasy sports website. On these sites, visitors pay money to participate in a fantasy league. According to DraftKings.com, “Daily fantasy sports is a skill game and is not considered gambling.”

Hey, remember when Pete Rose gambled and got banned from the Baseball Hall of Fame for life? Bet he wishes he’d had the Internet.

This angle seemed to intrigue Matt Chatham, founder of footballbyfootball.com, writer for Fox Sports “Game of the Week” breakdown, analyst for NESN and ESPN, and volunteer Super Bowl 38 security guard. Chatham sees the NFL’s potential downfall in the money that exchanges hands outside of NFL arenas.

“Reversal of some law regarding fantasy sports and some government overreaching would be the biggest potential blow,” he said. “Stripping away a huge new part of the audience that likely otherwise wouldn’t watch. TV revenue projections and ad values are based (I believe) on the assumption that that audience will be there and continue to grow. If for some reason it was gone overnight and there were a competing product that could accept that audience, that’s probably the most plausible scenario.

“But I don’t think that’s happening. Very unlikely. The wagering (legal, fantasy and otherwise), the league, and the communities that have these teams are symbiotic at this point. They both need each other. There would be holy hell to pay if it was ever disrupted, for politicians, whatever. So in the absence of choice, everything will be done to maintain the status quo.”

Young said the NFL could also get hurt “if some major scandal like finding out games are fixed is uncovered. But really, at this point I don’t think anything could have a major impact on numbers and interest, and fantasy plays a huge role in that.”

OFFICIATING

Related to Young’s point, let’s look at officials not for what they do or how well they do it, but for their role in upholding the (dare I say it) integrity of the game.

As Price said, “If there was some sort of overarching scandal involving officiating and/or gambling regarding major games, like the conference championship and/or the Super Bowl. I’m not just talking about Donaghy-esque style issues with regular season contests between the Bucs and Jags. If there were marquee games that were found to be not on the level, the fallout would be massive. The ripple of suggestion that games might not be on the level would in turn create sizable waves throughout the sports world – namely distrust among the NFL’s fanbase.”

Fans don’t trust the NFL front office or its players. They do trust the game itself and the effort put into each one. Taking those elements away could deal the biggest blow of all.

Concussions/Injuries, Leadership, Competition, Gambling, Officiating. All possible traps for the NFL. But, for now at least, it looks like they shield is safe.

Chris Warner has email (chris.warner@patriotsdaily.com) and tweets: @cwarn89

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Bruins First Round Series Coverage on NESN and NBC

NESN will have regionally exclusive coverage of up to five first round playoff games between the Bruins and Detroit Red Wings.

In addition to first round game coverage, NESN will produce one-hour of pre and post-game shows before and after Boston Bruins playoff games throughout the playoffs.

Games two and five (if needed) of the first round will be broadcast on NBC. The rest of the games in the series will be on NESN.

NESN’s Bruins Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Schedule

Day Date Game Game Broadcast Network NESN Coverage Begins  Game Time
Friday 4/18 Game #1 NESN 6:00 PM 7:30 PM
Sunday 4/20 Game #2 NBC 2:00 PM 3:00 PM
Tuesday 4/22 Game #3 NESN 6:30 PM 7:30 PM
Thursday 4/24 Game #4 NESN 7:00 PM 8:00 PM
Saturday 4/26 Game #5* NBC **2:00 PM 3:00 PM
Monday 4/28 Game #6* NESN TBD TBD
Wednesday 4/30 Game #7* NESN TBD TBD

* = If necessary

** = Game 5 pre and post-game coverage on NESNplus

NESN also announced that that Bruins regular season averaged a 5.0 rating over the 71 games that NESN broadcast. They’re calling this a ratings record for a full season, noting that last year’s shortened season averaged a 6.3 rating in the 41 games NESN carried (out of 48 total).

The Red Sox will be bumped over to NESNplus when the games conflict.

Red Sox Games on NESNplus in April

Day Date Red Sox Opponent Game Time
Friday 4/18 vs. Baltimore Orioles 7:00 PM
Tuesday 4/22 vs. New York Yankees 7:00 PM
Thursday 4/24 vs. New York Yankees 7:00 PM
Wednesday * 4/30 vs. Tampa Bay Rays 7:00 PM

 

Doing Our Friday Megalinks

Haven’t been able to provide the Friday megalinks in a while. Let’s do an edition today.

Normally I include a link to the Weekend Viewing Picks, but I’ll be doing that tonight so you can find it on the Fang’s Bites on BSMW site when it’s posted. If you follow me on Twitter or have an RSS feed, you’ll be updated as soon as it posts. If not, you can find it later.

Let’s do the links.

National

USA Today’s Michael Hiestand wonders what effect the gold medal win by the US Women’s Soccer National Team will have on the sport in the long run.

Michael also live blogged Thursday’s Olympic Primetime on NBC.

Jeffrey Martin of USA Today looks at the grand experiment that’s known as the Pac-12 Networks.

At the Sports on Earth blog, Joe Posnanski chronicles his day in covering the Olympics.

Austin Karp of Sports Business Daily says with NFL preseason games airing in many local markets on Thursday, NBC Olympic overnight ratings took a hit.

Bill King of SBD says CBS Sports is forging ahead with a show featuring the professional debut of several US Olympic boxers despite their poor performance in London.

Ryan Baucom of SBD writes that several Olympic athletes are getting a boost in Twitter followers after their success in the London Games.

Tripp Mickle of SBD says Universal Sports broke out an ad on NBC Thursday trying to promote its Olympic sports programming. Good luck with that.

Eric Fisher of SBD says Yahoo is declaring victory over NBCOlympics.com for unique pageviews.

Sohrab Amari of the Wall Street Journal reviews an NBC News documentary fronted by Tom Brokaw which will air on NBC’s Olympic coverage on Saturday.

Sarah Kwak of Sports Illustrated talks with Lolo Jones about the media firestorm that swelled just before she ran her 100 meters hurdles race.

In the Sherman Report, Ed Sherman talks with outgoing Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan about his first job. Ryan will be missed in the pages of the Globe.

Sports Media Journal’s Keith Thibault and I have an Olympic-themed podcast with Richard Sandomir of the New York Times and Bruce Beck of WNBC-TV.

The Hollywood Reporter notes that Today Show host Matt Lauer had an icy reunion with former co-host Ann Curry on NBC’s London Olympics set.

John Eggerton at Broadcasting & Cable writes that the FCC has already denied a Comcast request to stay its decision requiring the cable provider to give space to the Tennis Channel.

Christopher Heine of Adweek says Olympic marketers have failed to medal in their social media campaigns.

But Simon Dumenco of Advertising Age looks at the Olympic sponsors that managed to get a boost through social media.

Michael Learmonth of Advertising Age says NBC and the International Olympic Committee have to fix the Olympic business model before it breaks down.

Toni Fitzgerald of Media Life notes that NBC’s ratings for Wednesday Olympic Primetime show drew better viewership numbers than Atlanta in 1996.

Brandon Costa of Sports Video Group says CBS Sports is preparing for all type of weather conditions for this weekend’s PGA Championship.

Karen Hogan of SVG looks at NBC New York Olympic operations.

Ken Kerschbaumer at SVG says Denmark TV has a floating barge studio for the London Olympics. Now that’s pretty cool.

And Birgit Heidsiek of SVG says Eurosport TV is producing the Olympics in 3-D.

Jason Fry of the Poynter Institute and writing as the ESPN Ombudsman investigates a plagiarism incident at the Alleged Worldwide Leader.

Ronnie Ramos at the Indiana University National Sports Journalism Center writes that the Pac-12 Conference is readying an aggressive digital strategy that will go along with its television distribution.

Ty Duffy at The Big Lead goes after former NBC Sports Emperor Dick Ebersol for being out of touch in defending the tape delayed Olympics.

The Big Lead looks at the Pac-12 being in the forefront of digital distribution after being marred for years of being behind the curve.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk says the Miami Dolphins will take advantage of the NFL’s relaxed TV blackout policy this weekend.

Emmett Jones of Sports Business Digest notes that Buffalo Wild Wings has purchased naming rights for a college bowl game. Looks like it will be going to overtime every year.

Sports Media Watch says with NBC committed to the Olympics this year, the NFL Hall of Fame preseason game was aired on NFL Network and naturally suffered a big viewer dropoff.

SMW reports that NBC got another ratings increase for the Olympics.

TVNewsCheck says Gannett is declaring victory saying three of its stations are the top-rated local NBC affiliates in key demographics.

Alex Weprin of TVNewser looks at NBC’s Today Show operations in London.

At TVSpy, Alex tours NBC’s operation center for its local affiliates in London.

East and Mid-Atlantic

Chad Finn of the Globe talks with Celtics TV voice Mike Gorman who’s been calling Olympic handball off a monitor for NBC.

At SB Nation Boston, BSMW Fearless Leader Bruce Allen discusses Golf Channel’s meteoric rise and its plans to cover the PGA Championship this weekend.

Verne Gay at Newsday notes that a long-time NBC Sports director is retiring after the Olympics.

Newsday’s Chris Serico wonders if NBC’s Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera will be a bit more subdued during the Olympic Closing Ceremony on Sunday than their talkative performance during the Opening Ceremony two Fridays ago.

Neil Best of Newsday catches up with ESPN’s Ron Jaworski who’s filling a new role at the network after being in the Monday Night Football both.

Phil Mushnick of the New York Post is in another one of his moods today.

Pete Dougherty of the Albany Times Union notes a local radio station’s high school football schedule.

Ken McMillan from the Middletown (NY) Times Herald-Record says Pac-12 Networks will be seen on Time Warner Cable locally.

Keith Groller of the Allentown (PA) Morning Call says despite a lost season, the Philadelphia Phillies TV crew still has plenty to talk about during games.

Tim Richardson in Press Box looks at the business of fantasy football as leagues get ready to hold their drafts soon, if not already.

Sarah Kogod of the Washington Post’s DC Sports Bog notes that more people were watching the DC NFL Team in area sports bars last night as compared to the Nationals.

Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Bog says the Nationals radio team tried to explain the term “ball bag”.

South

Greg Cote of the Miami Herald reviews HBO’s Hard Knocks on the Dolphins.

Craig Davis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel says the Dolphins have announced their TV blackout policy today.

Mel Bracht of The Oklahoman says a local high school sports TV show expands to a new market.

Midwest

The Cincinnati Enquirer says ESPN’s College GameDay could be visiting the Queen City in February.

Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looks at Dick Ebersol’s latest comments on tape delaying Olympic events.

Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch talks with a local sports radio host who’s perturbed at a former employer.

Dan notes that the Olympics and the St. Louis Cardinals ratings have been hurt by each other.

West

John Maffei of the North County Times talks with a former NBC Olympics analyst who was fired on the spot after calling a race.

To the Ventura County Star where Jim Carlisle talks about the increased spotlight on the Pac-12 through its new TV networks.

Jim says Twitter has become an Olympic event.

Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times has the Irish radio call of boxer Katie Taylor’s victory giving the country its first gold medal of the Olympics.

Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News says this is a critical time for beach volleyball as the sport is in transition now.

Tom has some Olympic TV notes in his blog.

And those are your supersized megalinks for today.

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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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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Let’s Do The Friday Megalinks

Time for Friday linkage.

The Weekend Viewing Picks have your sports and entertainment suggestions. Let’s get cracking.

National

Michael Hiestand from USA Today looks at TNT’s plans to go mostly split-screen during breaks for Saturday’s NASCAR race.

Tom Perrotta of the Wall Street Journal reports that the one Wimbledon souvenir the players want is the towel.

Alex Sherman at Bloomberg Businessweek talks with NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus about the Olympics.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk says enhancing the NFL fan experience might bring more people to games.

Ed Sherman of The Sherman Report is happy to learn that Jeremy Schaap’s ESPN Radio show is now available as a podcast.

Bob Pockrass at The Sporting News says NASCAR hopes that NBC Sports will be a bidder for the sport’s TV rights.

Mike Reynolds of Multichannel News says ESPN Deportes scored with the EURO 2012 Final last Sunday.

Mike says Golf Channel has selected the venue for the next season of “Big Break”.

Christopher Heine of Adweek says MLB’s allowing Twitter votes for the All-Star Game for the first time may have had a hand in deciding which league hosts the World Series.

Jason Del Ray of Advertising Age says the impending Turner Sports purchase of Bleacher Report makes sense.

Wayne Friedman at MediaPost says the NFL easing requirements on local TV blackouts shows the league wants to reach the casual fan.

Dan Daley at Sports Video Group says ESPN will be utilizing plenty of microphones at the MLB Home Run Derby.

Awful Announcing’s Matt Yoder has a screengrab of a Canadian TV station messing up the Steve Nash trade to the Lakers.

And Matt has found an episode of Judge Sapp. Yes, that’s Warren Sapp.

The Big Lead soaked up the latest Twitter battle between ESPN’s Darren Rovell and Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch.

MediaRantz looks at the top 5 ESPN plagiarism scandals.

Nick Bromberg of Yahoo’s From the Marbles blog wonders what is the big deal with the TNT/truTV simulcast of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup race on Saturday.

Joe Favorito likes how MLS has adopted “Food Week” to get fans to explore its markets’ restaurants.

East and Mid-Atlantic

At SB Nation Boston, BSMW Fearless Leader Bruce Allen says it was time for Erin Andrews to leave the ESPN Mothership.

Jerry Barmsah of Fishbowl NY says CBS Radio’s WFAN could be headed to FM and could take the Yankees with it.

Yes, Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, we know you hate ESPN.

Justin Terranova of the Post has five questions for ESPN tennis analyst Brad Gilbert.

Ken McMillan from the Middletown (NY) Times Herald-Record says the MLB Extra Innings pay per view package will be free next week.

Don Laible of the Utica (NY) Observer-Dispatch talks with the NHL on NBC’s Dave Strader about calling Olympic basketball.

Ken says a local minor league baseball team has found a new radio home.

Dave Sottile of the Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News says there are no plans to bring Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic to the local area.

Tim Richardson in Press Box looks at the differences between the Washington Nationals and MASN over the team’s TV rights fee.

Jim Williams of the Washington Examiner talks with MLB Network’s Chris Rose.

South

Kyle Veazey of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal says a popular local sports radio host is changing stations.

At the Houston Chronicle, David Barron writes that the new Comcast SportsNet Houston will air Conference USA football featuring the University of Houston.

Midwest

Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says MLB feels it has restored integrity to the All-Star Game. It’s an exhibition game!

Paul M. Banks of the Chicago Sports Media Watch wonders who had the best mock NBA Draft?

Paul Christian at the Rochester (MN) Post-Bulletin says the new TV voice of the Minnesota Wild will have an exciting team to call this season.

Dan Caesar from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch talks about Erin Andrews making her Fox debut next week.

Dan writes that Blues analyst Darren Pang turned down a full-time offer from TSN and will remain in St. Louis.

West

Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News has this harsh takedown of Erin Andrews.

Here’s Tom’s column which has a little more on the last post.

Tom also links to reaction to his Erin Andrews column.

Matt Rudnitsky of SportsGrid replies point-by-point to Hoffarth.

John Maffei of the North County Times writes about Erin Andrews joining Fox.

Jim Carlisle of the Ventura County Star talks with Fox’s Joe Buck on the challenges of calling the MLB All-Star Game.

Jim has his Weekend Viewing Picks.

Matthew T. Hall at the San Diego Union-Tribune wonders where’s the fan outrage in the Fox Sports San Diego-Time Warner Cable dispute leaving Padres games off TV.

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News tries to clear up some confusion over the Pac-12 Network.

And that will conclude our links for today.