The Athletic, a subscription-based, venture-capital-backed sports website that launched in January 2016 with its inaugural city-specific branch in Chicago, managed to keep any plans for Boston quiet even as it quickly expanded to 18 cities over the past two years.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to confirm last month that The Athletic did indeed have plans to enter the already-saturated Boston sports market. And the process is well underway. The specific launch date isn’t certain, according to a couple of writers who are joining the site. But its lineup of writers is taking shape.
Among those who will be writing for The Athletic Boston are Fluto Shinzawa, who is leaving the Globe to become the site’s Bruins writer; Jen McCaffrey (currently MassLive) and Chad Jennings (Boston Herald), who will cover the Red Sox; and Jay King (MassLive), who will be the Celtics reporter. The site’s Patriots hire will be evident in the coming days.
It’s uncertain who will be the local editor of the site. The writers who have been hired have dealt with Paul Fichtenbaum, The Athletic’s national chief content officer and a former Sports Illustrated editor.
Poor choice of words
The calendar hasn’t yet turned to April, but we’ve already endured a year’s worth of obnoxious sports radio segments between the two major local stations, 98.5 The Sports Hub and WEEI 93.7. The discussion of Johnny Manziel and his demons on Wednesday’s “Felger and Mazz” show on The Sports Hub might have been the worst so far, though it’s still early.
Hosts Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti and third voice Jim Murray were discussing Manziel and whether his history of alcohol abuse should preclude him from going to nightclubs. Manziel, the former Browns quarterback who is trying to make a comeback, was recently spotted at one — sober, by all accounts — in Los Angeles. Here’s how the conversation went:
Felger: That doesn’t concern you a little bit, that he was going to a club?
Murray: No, it doesn’t.
Felger: Murray . . .
Murray: Mike, it doesn’t! You don’t have to go to a club and get all [messed] up.
Felger: If you’re an alcoholic and you’re in recovery? If you’re an alcoholic and you’re in recovery, you don’t go to clubs.
Murray: Says who? What if you want to test yourself?
Felger: Says who? AA [Alcoholics Anonymous].
Murray: What the hell do they know? You’ve got to test yourself.
Felger: Do you really feel that way? Honestly?
Murray: It works for some people, yeah. Different strokes for different folks. Maybe it’s different for Manziel. He didn’t need to go through the program — presumably AA’s 12-step program — and he’s clean and deciding it’s time for me to actually have a second act here, but I still want to have a little bit of fun, so I’m going to take me, my fiancée, we can go to the club and have a little bit of fun, and I’ll sit here with club sodas all night.
Massarotti: See, usually the teaching is to stay out of environments in which you are vulnerable.
Murray: Yeah, if you’re soft.
Felger: Oh God, Murray.
Massarotti: The point is, you are soft.
Felger: You are soft. That’s the whole point. That’s why you’re an addict.
Massarotti: It’s to acknowledge your weakness and stay out of environments in which you are vulnerable.
Murray: Maybe that’s how it is for some people. But for Manziel, maybe it’s different. Maybe he’s saying, you know what, I’m going to try to test myself and put myself in this environment where I was weak before. Look at me, now I’m strong. So strong that I can be the quarterback of the New England Patriots.
Felger and Massarotti’s point was a reasonable one: It’s at least curious, if not alarming, that Manziel is still going to clubs. It was actually Murray who pushed the envelope to the obnoxious edge. But the choice of the word “soft” — one they all seemed to endorse — to describe someone fighting addiction was insensitive and ignorant. They should know better. What’s sad is that they probably do, but went that route anyway.
NBC Sports Boston is ramping up the search for a replacement for Kayce Smith on “Boston Sports Tonight.” Smith left the network for Barstool Sports in late February. Among those who will audition to join holdovers Tom Curran, Michael Holley, and Tom Giles on the program is Emily Austen. Austen is familiar locally as the former in-arena reporter for the Celtics. She gained notice for all the wrong reasons in June 2016 when she made racially disparaging comments during a Facebook live chat on Barstool Sports. Austen lost her job at the time as a Rays and Magic reporter for Fox Sports regional networks in Florida. Austen has spoken frequently to college athletic programs in recent years about the perils of social media and how quickly one moment can ruin a career. Others who are expected to audition include Elika Sadeghi, MJ Acosta, Chantel McCabe, and Danielle Trotta.
Patrick had enough
Dan Patrick explained on his radio show Thursday morning why he has decided to leave as host of the “Football Night in America” studio program on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” broadcasts. Patrick, who has been host of the program since its launch in 2008, said NBC offered him a five-year contract extension but he decided not to accept. “I didn’t know if I wanted to do five more years of it,’’ he said. “I decided that I was not going to be spending Sundays doing football on TV anymore.” Patrick said he did not know who would succeed him but speculated that Mike Tirico would make the most sense . . . Joseph Maar, NESN’s vice president of programming and production and executive producer since July 2012, is leaving the network at the end of April. Maar, who had a significant say in the network’s programming and personnel decisions over the past six years, is departing to pursue “interests in sports technology and content production,” per a NESN spokesman. The network has already begun its search to find his replacement.