A couple of sports media developments over the last week got me thinking about perceptions.
The first was CBS sideline reporter Dana Jacobson’s interview with Patriots coach Bill Belichick before Sunday’s game. I know, we’ve gnawed on that bone for several days longer than it deserved already, so I’ll keep it short.
Belichick spent the preseason practicing his death stare on Ch. 4’s Steve Burton during their hilariously inane halftime interviews, so what Jacobson got, and by the way handled well, was well practiced.
She asked about the decision to cut Antonio Brown, Belichick stared a laser through her forehead, and that was that. She did her job, even if she didn’t get an answer.
The second item that got me thinking was Jonny Miller’s induction Friday into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame, an honor befitting his legend.
Miller, who despite the challenges of cerebral palsy has been with WBZ radio since the early ’70s, doesn’t just ask the tough questions on the Red Sox beat, he’s utterly fearless in doing so.
He has the honor of asking the first question at the Red Sox manager’s daily news conference, and more often than not his question is something that a less bold reporter might shy from asking, even if it might be the most relevant topic of the day. Miller, like Jacobson, knows how to handle a less-than-gracious response like a true pro.
That common ground among Jacobson, Miller, and reporters who seek answers in uncomfortable situations made me wonder about a certain perception:
Namely, who do fans, viewers, and readers believe do a good job asking the right questions on the local and national sports media scene.
So I did a little social media crowdsourcing with this, and the result of 50-something replies on Twitter was a pleasant surprise. The interviewers you appreciate jibe with a lot of the same ones your friendly neighborhood media columnist also appreciates.
(Note: I left my colleagues at 53 State Street out of the equation, as I usually do in matters like this. Besides, we all know no one asks tougher questions than Shaughnessy.)
Among Patriots reporters, the two mentioned most as having a good rapport with Belichick and getting informative and sometimes candid answers from him were Mike Reiss of ESPN and Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston. I agree wholeheartedly with both choices. I think it helps tremendously that both have such first-hand institutional knowledge of the Patriots. They’ve both been on the beat for the entirety of the Belichick/Tom Brady era, and both take a facts-over-nonsense approach to the job. That seems to be noticed by those in the locker room. I’d also include NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry in this group.
I didn’t keep this conversation strictly to Patriots coverage. And so two names that came up fairly constantly were a couple of prominent NBA voices, Rachel Nichols and Jackie MacMullan. Again, agree wholeheartedly on both counts. Nichols, in her role on the outstanding “The Jump,” and soon, on ESPN’s “NBA Countdown,” both celebrates the league while also sometimes serving as its conscience. She gets candid sitdowns with the league’s most prominent figures, and her easygoing style belies her roots as a relentless reporter at the Washington Post.
As for MacMullan, she is so well-known for getting players to open up to her that when she asked a question at Kevin Garnett’s introductory news conference after his 2007 trade to the Celtics, Paul Pierce interrupted, laughing, to say he needed to be careful because MacMullan would get him to spill his guts on topics he never intended to discuss.
Now that you mention it, maybe she should be the one to take the next crack at Belichick.
And the winner is . . .
The Sports Hub picked up some hardware — the kind much more prestigious than participation trophies — Thursday night at the National Association of Broadcasters Marconi Radio Awards in Dallas. The station won the Marconi Award for sports station of the year, the third time in 10 years it has collected the honor. Other finalists included KFAN in Minneapolis, 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland, WIP in Philadelphia, and 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit. WEEI won the Marconi last year. Also, the highly rated afternoon-drive “Felger and Mazz” show, hosted by Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti, was named Major Market Personality of the Year, which is essentially show of the year. That honor was across all categories, not just sports . . . The Nielsen Audio ratings for the summer will be available Oct. 2. One interesting development so far: “The Greg Hill Show” on WEEI got off to a good start, with a 9.3 share from its debut July 29 through Aug. 21 (9.5 with Boston listenership of Providence-based WVEI included). That included the Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, when WEEI tends to see a dip in listenership. The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich” program was first with a 9.9 share in that span, and has increased its lead in recent weeks. But given the backlash WEEI received when it fired longtime host Gerry Callahan and moved Hill’s show over from WAAF, it’s clear, at least, that the program has retained its listenership from the rock station and has found some following in the sports format.
No word on Austin
No word as of Friday evening whether Guerin Austin would return next season as the sideline reporter on NESN’s Red Sox broadcasts. Austin, whose contract is expiring, has been at the network since September 2014, when she was hired as the Bruins rinkside reporter when Jamie Erdahl left for CBS Sports. Austin was left in a weird kind of limbo with the network in April when she was left off the schedule without explanation, but after the situation became public, she continued in her familiar role throughout the season.