December 19, 2014
By Chad Finn
From: Boston Globe
The holiday season is a time for celebration, appreciation, maybe even a few moments of introspection.
But thanks to “Seinfeld,” the reruns of which remain on a very short list of the most entertaining programs on television 16 years after the last original episode aired, this is also the time for Festivus. Or more specifically, the traditional airing of grievances.
How is that relevant to sports media? Easy: I’ve got a grievance — more of a bewilderment, really — that I need to discuss with you.
My question is this: As sports fans and consumers of media, why do you deliberately subject yourself to personalities and programs that, based on your interactions with this space via e-mail or social media, seem to serve little purpose other than to chronically annoy you?
I do get it to a small degree. You’re a Boston sports fan, passionate about teams that are compelling and, over the last dozen years or so, generally excellent. It’s a tremendous sports city, and a tremendous time to be a sports fan in this city, and a major reason for that is that so many people genuinely care.
The desire to talk sports — and to listen to others talk about sports — is borderline insatiable around here, to the point that two sports radio stations are not just sustainable, but constantly highly rated. That’s a tribute to you. You want to be in on the conversation.
But what I don’t get is why a fan might subject to being annoyed by a particular viewpoint or approach when there are actual, diverse options. It was one thing to do so back in the late ’90s/early ’00s heyday of Glenn Ordway’s “Big Show” on WEEI, when he was putting up massive ratings for years against little to no competition in the Boston sports radio market.
But now, in a media world in which there are so many varied options that it’s easy to tailor what you read, listen to, and watch to your particular preferences as a sports fan, I’m stumped as to why anyone would allow themselves to be deliberately antagonized time and again.
I suppose this could apply to a few voices in pretty much any market, but the impetus for it here is the “Felger and Massarotti” program on 98.5 The Sports Hub. It’s often an excellent show, superbly produced and particularly entertaining when hosts Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti are allowing themselves to be the butt of the joke.
Felger is an especially charismatic host who, despite 20 hours a week on the radio and hosting what seems like another 20 programs per week on Comcast SportsNet New England, still hasn’t reached his saturation point with sports fans. The winter ratings come out next week, and Felger and Mazz is expected to be the No. 1-rated program in the 2-6 p.m. window for a 10th consecutive three-month period.
But there’s another phenomenon with this show beyond the ratings, one that they would certainly find encouraging but I find puzzling. In the immediate aftermath of a big game by a Boston sports team, win or lose, I’ll receive a steady flow of messages speculating on what Felger and Massarotti will say about the game.
Usually, it is presumed to be something negative, since part of their shtick is telling us why the sky is falling even if there’s not a cloud in plain sight. Guessing what they will say has become a weird part of this not-so-small segment of fans’ postgame routine.
Every media member strives to have the audience anticipate their work.
That Felger and Massarotti have this effect on their listeners is nearly as great a confirmation of their success as their large ratings and lucrative new contracts.
But as someone who was addicted to sports long before I began writing about it, the idea of allowing the anticipation of being aggravated to impact your enjoyment of a game — especially a victory — is beyond my grasp. So that’s my grievance — that you cannot resist their grievances, whether real or contrived.
When Jon Gruden joined ESPN in May 2009, conventional wisdom suggested that the prominent gig as a “Monday Night Football” analyst was nothing more than a brief timeout from his coaching career.
Gruden’s name still shows up on the speculative candidate lists whenever an appealing NFL head coaching job opens, but five seasons into his second career, he’s resisted any temptation to return to his first.
After this week’s news that he’d signed an extension with ESPN through 2021 that, as a carefully worded press release noted, will “keep him on sports television’s signature series and out of coaching through the remainder of the current NFL rights agreement,” perhaps Gruden’s temptation to coach again has been tempered, if it ever existed at all.
This is good thing for ESPN; he’s become everything the network hoped he would be when they hired him as a novice commentator four months after he’d been fired by the Buccaneers. Though he’s never watched a quarterback that he couldn’t praise in some way, Gruden is an uncommonly charismatic analyst with a knack for making playbook jargon sound interesting — we’d never have heard of “Spider 2 Y Banana” without him, right?
Meetings rated big in large part because of the tireless reporting of Ken Rosenthal, also an affable on-camera presence, the MLB Network was consistently outstanding in its coverage of baseball’s Winter Meetings. So it’s both appropriate and deserved that the network’s viewership from Dec. 8-11, when 36 players were swapped in a dozen trades, was its most-watched Winter Meetings coverage. The network averaged 127,000 viewers in primetime over those four days, a 38 percent increase over last year, according to Nielsen. Further, it’s 119 percent higher than the prime-time average during the 2010 Winter Meetings, which was MLB Network’s first year being Nielsen-rated . . . Anyone for a Pinstripe Bowl preview? Jon Meterparel will host a NESN special Sunday at 10:30 p.m. on Boston College’s matchup with Penn State on Dec. 27. The program, which will air after Sunday’s Bruins game, will be replayed throughout the week . . . WEEI has hired John Tomase as a senior sports writer and columnist for its website. Tomase, who had been at the Herald since 2005, will also contribute frequently to WEEI’s radio programming. He is essentially the de facto replacement for Alex Speier, who will join the Globe in January.