Fox Sports 1 will celebrate its one-week anniversary Saturday. It’s a rudimentary milestone, but don’t bet against an on-air party, with plenty of guffaws, back-slaps, and maybe even a sheetcake.
After all, as network personnel — executives, talent, public-relations folk — emphasized time and again, they’re all about fun, celebrating sports, and good times.
Did I mention fun?
It’s all about fun!
The implication, of course, is that ESPN, and all of its various offshoots, have become stale and staid. There may be some truth there — if you caught Chris Berman’s act in 1985, you’re up to date. But there’s plenty that remains exceptional, from Bob Ley and “Outside the Lines” to the generally superb live-game production to “Pardon the Interruption” to Dan Shulman to the “30 for 30’’ series.
It’s a matter of picking and choosing want you want and ignoring the noise of the tight-faced banshees I’m not going to name here out of principle.
It’s much too early to judge whether Fox Sports 1, which is available in 90 million homes, roughly 9 million fewer than ESPN and ESPN2, has enough substance to legitimately challenge ESPN.
Fox’s various live-game rights are a start. But it’s imperative, particularly with daily centerpiece highlights-and-banter program “Fox Sports Live,” is that the fun doesn’t devolve into “Best Damn Sports Show Period,” you’re-my-bro obnoxiousness.
With that particular program, the one I’ve watched the most, it’s so far . . . fairly good.
Host Charissa Thompson, an ESPN refugee, can deftly moderate a discussion while trading one-liners with the rest of the cast.
Among the panelists, Andy Roddick comes across as a lifelong sports nut who happened to be an exceptional tennis player. He’d fit anywhere.
Ex-NFLers Donovan McNabb and Ephraim Salaam are works in progress, and I’m not sure I care what they say about anything other than the sport they played. Same for ex-NBAer Gary Payton.
Gabe Kapler, the former Red Sox outfielder who has been doing some insightful writing recently for Baseball Prospectus and WEEI.com, actually cited Baseball Prospectus the lone time I saw him on “Fox Sports Live.” I’m not sure intelligent statistical analysis is what Fox considers a good time, but a tip of the cap to Kapler for trying to elevate the discussion.
I should acknowledge that my one previous judgment about two of Fox’s personalities already has changed. I was vaguely familiar with “Fox Sports Live” anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole during their time as popular anchors on TSN’s “SportsCentre” in Canada.
I caught them a handful of times while covering the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 and the Bruins’ Stanley Cup Final victory over the Canucks in 2011, and . . . I didn’t get it. Their show seemed like a “Saturday Night Live” interpretation of Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick.
Onrait and O’Toole, who handle the highlights, then turn the program over to Thompson and the panelists for commentary, are an acquired taste — and one I’ve acquired.
Beneath their earnest friendliness is a wry subversiveness that may not be evident on a couple of views. Kudos to Fox for bringing them stateside.
It’s too soon to judge much about Fox Sports 1, including Regis Philbin’s “Crowd Goes Wild!” and “Fox Football Daily.” But Onrait and O’Toole give “Fox Sports Live,” the signature program, plenty of promise and a few laughs. They’re fun, and funny, and I think I heard somewhere that’s what Fox Sports 1 is going for.
Clock running down
The news earlier this week that Entercom and the Celtics could not come to terms on a new contract that would continue the team’s broadcasts on WEEI ostensibly leaves little time to find a new radio home. After all, the preseason opener is set for Oct. 7.
But there are a few clear signals amid all the static that suggest the Celtics will end up on 98.5 The Sports Hub sooner rather than later. There would be some scheduling conflicts with the Bruins, for whom the Sports Hub has been the flagship station since its inception in August 2009.
But CBS Radio, which owns the Sports Hub and four other stations in the Boston market, could easily move either team to one of its other signals — WBZ 1030, WZLX 100.7, WODS 103.3, and WBMX 104.1 — on nights when both teams play. And having rights deals with three of the four major teams in the Boston market would make for a remarkable portfolio for the Sports Hub.
The Celtics, who are likely to be ratings-challenged as the team rebuilds in the post-Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett era, would be the most likely to move when the situation calls for it. But the Bruins aired on WBZ 1030 from 1995-2009, and simulcast Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2010.
No matter where the Celtics end up for the coming season and beyond, the voices should remain familiar even if the spot on the radio is not. Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell, the popular play-by-play and analyst tandem that has been together since 2001, are hired by the team rather than the flagship station.
Hoping for a return
Jerry Remy, as Red Sox fans know, has missed significant time over the previous few seasons as he’s battled lung cancer and the aftereffects, including a recurrence this spring. He’s also dealt with depression.
Obviously his current absence, which began last Friday and carries through at least the end of this road trip, is for an unfathomable, horrific reason. He’s been on leave since his son, Jared Remy, was arrested a week ago on charges of murder and domestic assault and battery in the stabbing death of his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel.
Jerry Remy has not commented other than a statement expressing his “disgust and remorse over this senseless and tragic act.” It surely will not be easy for the famously private Remy to be in the public eye when his son goes to trial.
It’s uncertain when or if Remy will return this season. But the hope here is that he does, in part for his own well-being. He’s told me in the past that being away from the ballpark when he was ill has contributed to his problems.
“A big part of [the depression] was that I couldn’t do my job,” he said this spring. “I couldn’t be at the ballpark, around baseball. It makes it worse when I can’t do the job I love. Being at Fenway helps a lot.’’
Our sympathy belongs to the Martel family. Hopefully that doesn’t even need to be said. But here’s hoping Jerry Remy can find some comfort, too. That booth at Fenway is the place where he’s found it before.