Thursday, November 9, 2017

Quite The Week In The (Sports) Hub

It has been happening far too frequently lately where a sportscaster says something on, or off, the air which sparks a harsh reaction and generates the expected apology. Many sportscasters, whether show hosts or game analysts, are hired to provide their opinions and often to generate discussion when others disagree. If listeners/viewers don't like what they hear, they can always turn the dial or mute the sound.

One such incident took place on Tuesday (11/7) upon the sad news that pitching great Roy Halladay was killed in a small airplane accident. In Boston, WBZ-FM Sports Hub afternoon co-host Michael Felger (along with Tony Massarotti) spent several minutes on the story, giving his reaction that this death was unnecessary because he (Felger) expressed that Halladay had no business flying a small plane and risking his life in the process.

Agree or disagree, the comments were made out of frustration and as a reaction, and I respect Felger for sharing such an honest and thoughtful commentary. Having heard the rant, his adding that Halladay "got what he deserved" was one part of the segment which seemed out of line.

On Thursday, after the reaction, Felger again spoke of the incident and apologied on the air. Significantly, his apology was only for the "deserved to die" reference. From here, Felger deserves credit for doing that. He admitted on Thursday that his choice of words in that one sentence was unacceptable and out of line. He then clarified that the "wrong" sentence did not change his opinion already expressed.

From the way his Thursday segment was delivered, it seems (no guarantee) that this truly was Felger's apology and not one which was induced by management. It did not appear to be forced upon him, and noting that his opinion stood seems to clarify that.

In these times when people call for terminations and drastic measures over controversial opinions, whether on the air or not, it is good to see that, as of press time, no disciplinary action is being taken against Felger. Those listeners who are upset with and/or simply don't agree have the opportunity and the right to call in and express themselves. Or they can choose to listen to another station.

Here's hoping that this doesn't continue to brew and lead to management making a change. Sportscasters should be able to express their opinion, as long as it is factually based, and take what may come.

Speaking of WBZ-FM and "what may come", we'll know soon about the change of ownership of the station, which appears to be coming during the first quarter of 2018 when the station will leave upon the (likely) merger of CBS Radio with Entercom. As has been talked about here and throughout the media, the new ownership group is not able to assume ownership of both WBZ-FM and WEEI-FM and have a sports station monopoly.

One very important local aspect to this is that the structuring of the deal calls for the new ownership group to "never" have any period of time during which it would own both stations. Earlier, the possibility existed that the new group would operate both stations until such time as one of them was sold or spun off.

As a result, WBZ-FM 98.5 will retain the rights to the Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins going forward. This is a big win (pun intended) for The Hub, since it prevents the new group from "stealing" the rights to the teams before letting go of the station. With those rights (especially with the Celtics back into serious contention this season) secured, it keeps WBZ-FM as strong competition. Boston is the national leader for market share for sports radio, with both stations usually in the top seven or eight in the market overall, while no other market comes anywhere near that.

Not the best of broadcasts for University of Kentucky play-by-play voice Tom Leach last Saturday (11/4) when Kentucky lost on a Mississippi touchdown pass with five seconds left in the game. Ole Miss receiver Jordan Ta'amu caught the TD pass while reaching for the ball along with Kentucky defender Lonnie Johnson. Leach thought that Johnson had successfully defended and had broken up the pass, and reacted too quickly and called it an incomplete pass on the air.

Right away, analyst Jeff Piecoro interrupted Leach to inform him, and the listeners, that the ball had been caught for the touchdown against Kentucky. This is why broadcasters are trained to wait for the call before telling the audience what happens, but no one is perfect and it was the final five seconds of a close game.

To his credit, Leach admitted to fellow media members that he blew his call and went as far as to study the replays afterward to try and find out what and why he did wrong. More importantly, Leach revealed that he was pleased that Piecoro stepped in an told the audience what happened right away.

That's a class move.

While the rumors of more on-air cutbacks at ESPN later this year are picking up steam, the network could very well be auditioning a new replacement show for someone. In a sudden announcement, ESPN 97.7/1200 in Syracuse started a one hour show from 3 PM to 4 PM Monday through Friday. The primary host is actor Daniel Baldwin (brother of Alex), who is not considered to be an expert on sports.

His co-host is local personality Josh Grosvent, who is actually the morning show host for sister station WKRL-FM (and WKLL-FM) in Syracuse. The fact that it doesn't seem realistic that an actor would take on a show in Syracuse NY (as opposed to New York or another top 20 market), and that the co-host is also not the "typical" sports talk host, makes it appear that this is a trial run.

Got to believe that this is a one month experiment and if the performance goes well enough that Baldwin will be brought to ESPN Radio as a "replacement" for a dismissed show to start first of the year, if not sooner.

This coming Sunday (11/12) has the Los Angeles market again getting four NFL telecasts during the doubleheader window because both the Rams and Chargers are on CBS. As of press time, it had not been determined which CBS station would air which, but both the early game of the Chargers at Jacksonville and the late game of Houston vs. the Rams will air locally. The regional and national doubleheader games of Minnesota vs. Washington and Dallas vs. Atlanta, will air as the Fox doubleheader. It will be interesting to see how much the ratings are for the Fox telecasts.

SAN FRANCISCO: KGMZ-FM 95.7 The Game continues to struggle for an audience while being trounced by KNBR 680. The station now has a new Program Director, Matt Nahigian. Such a task is familiar territory for Nahigian, whose resume includes more than nine years in Philadelphia at WPEN 97.5. That station, similarly runs a distant second to WIP-FM there.

CINCINNATI: WLW has again renewed its contract as the flagship station of the Reds, which now runs through the 2022 season. The station has carried the Reds with only a couple of interruptions since 1924 and continuously since 1969. Marty Brennaman will return in 2018 for his 45th season calling the Reds. Our younger readers may not be aware that Marty, the father of Fox Sports and Reds TV's Thom Brennaman, started with the Reds in 1974, replacing none other than Al Michaels in that role.

RAPID CITY: KIMM 1150/106.7 changed over to sports (from news/talk) last week, now with the only local show airing from 4 PM to 6 PM on weekdays. The local show host is Nate Brown. Although KIMM is now competing against KTQQ ESPN 1340/105.7, the station is in the process of changing ownership. The new owner is Black Hills Broadcasting, which is owned by none other than Nate Brown. Other than Nate, the station is airing Fox Sports Radio during the remainder of the time.

MARSHALL MN: KNSG 107.5 has dropped its music format and become "The Fan", which is taking the programming of the highly rated "The Fan" from Minneapolis during the daytime. Nights and weekends will feature play-by-play of local high school broadcasts along with the Vikings and the Wild. When not airing games, the station will carry Fox Sports Radio during evening and weekend time.

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