When NESN's Red Sox-Phillies broadcast Wednesday night was beset with the dreaded "technical difficulties'' in the sixth inning, play-by-play voice Don Orsillo and fill-in analyst Rob Bradford didn't zip out to grab a cheesesteak or make a quick phone call.
Instead, they kept calling the game. It turns out that even though fans watching on NESN couldn't see or hear them — the network briefly carried Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia's feed before order was restored in the seventh inning — the NESN telecast was still going strong online at MLB.TV.
For Bradford, the WEEI.com editor and Red Sox writer who along with Dennis Eckersley is filling in while Jerry Remy is sidelined with what NESN has said are allergies, it was one of the lessons he took away from his season debut (and second game ever) in the booth.
"First off, let's be honest. It's hard doing a game the day after Eck does a game,'' said Bradford. "Jerry is obviously a legend, but Eck is pretty good in his own right.
"I'm watching Eck do it the night before and he's saying things like, 'When I was playing with Duane Kuiper in 1975, this happened . . .,' and I'm thinking, what am I supposed to say, 'When I was playing Essex Little League . . .'?"
His approach was the broadcaster's equivalent of a hitter letting it fly when he gets the pitch he's looking for.
"I tried to fill my head with as much stuff as I could, and then if something came up, I just talked about it,'' Bradford said. "The problem is, the tendency is that you have all of this stuff and you just want to talk about it all in the first three innings."
Bradford said some social media feedback suggested he talked too much. While a chatty approach is no more frustrating than a broadcaster who is just a few consonants beyond silent (think man-of-few-words Brian Daubach as a Remy fill-in a couple of years ago, or Bret Boone during the 2003 postseason), Bradford understands that the game can often speak for itself on television.
"I have to make a conscious effort to let the game and the images tell a story, and as it went on [Wednesday], I hope I did a better job of it,'' Bradford said. "There's nothing wrong with waiting for them to show the replay rather than starting to talk as soon as the play is over.
"I mean, I don't know that anything I say rings quite as true as someone with the credentials of a Hall of Famer like Eck anyway. But it's a great opportunity, and it's a blast."
Bill Simmons isn't the first sportswriter to overreach while attempting to use a city's history as a way to explore the mind-set of its fans. But I can't recall an example as clumsy and inappropriate as one he offered on his ESPN podcast with Jalen Rose Thursday.
Here is his bizarre and ill-considered theory on how the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis related to the way Grizzlies fans react to their team:
"I didn't realize the effect [the King assassination] had on that city,'' Simmons said. "I think from people we talk to and stuff we've read, the shooting kind of sets the tone for how the city thinks about stuff.
"We were at Game 3. Great crowd, they fall behind and the whole crowd got tense. It was like, 'Oh no, something bad is going to happen.' And it starts from that shooting and it's just that mind-set they have."
It's beyond absurd to connect a culture-altering national tragedy to Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference finals 45 years later.
Simmons continues to do excellent work over a variety of platforms, the podcast usually included. But he might be wise to take a lesson from this and resist any desire to attach cultural meaning to a sporting event in a city that is not particularly familiar to him.
Change in the air?
The buzz has persisted for weeks that Entercom is contemplating a midday change at WEEI, with Comcast SportsNet New England's Jessica Moran the name that keeps popping up as a potential replacement for Mike Mutnansky alongside Lou Merloni. Damon Amendolara, the former 98.5 The Sports Hub nighttime host who became CBS Sports Radio's national overnight voice in January, is also believed to appeal to Entercom, though he has made it clear that he is happy in his current gig. Thus far, all the smoke hasn't led to fire, and here's hoping it doesn't. The midday show is the least of WEEI's programming issues . . . With the Red Sox-Yankees game airing exclusively on Fox Saturday, and an offday Monday — the days of Games 1 and 2 of the Bruins-Penguins series — there's a possibility that Bruins pre- and postgame programming will be on NESN as well as NESN Plus. The studio programming for Games 3 and 4 will air solely on NESN Plus. CSNNE will also have pre- and postgame coverage.
Mike Emrick (play-by-play), Ed Olczyk (color), and Pierre McGuire ("inside-the-glass'' analyst) will call the Eastern Conference finals. Saturday's Game 1 airs on NBC, while the remaining games will be on NBC Sports Network. Judging by a decent-sized sample of feedback on Twitter, Boston fans are thrilled with Emrick, indifferent about Olcyzk, and desperately wish they had access to McGuire's mute button . . . If this isn't a classic case of takes-one-to-know-one, I don't know what is. During NBCSN's Blackhawks-Red Wings Game 7 telecast Wednesday, studio analyst Mike Milbury said deposed Rangers coach John Tortorella is "a little too over-the-top'' at times. Tortorella, who carried himself with the demeanor of a diabolical soap-opera villain, may have aggravated Rangers fans. But I'm pretty sure he never whacked one with a shoe.