In reviewing the year 2011 in Boston sports, there were highs (The Bruins winning the Stanley Cup) and lows (The Red Sox September collapse.) Disappointments (The Patriots playoff loss to the Jets) and inevitability (The Celtics playoff loss to the hated Heat).
In terms of sports media, there were similar highs and lows.
On the plus side:
- 98.5 The SportsHub continued to grab high ratings, outpacing their competitors over at WEEI.
- NESN and CSNNE got record ratings for the Bruins and Celtics respectively.
- The Bruins run to the Stanley Cup championship brought in great ratings for Bruins-related programming on NESN and CSNNE, and big numbers for NBC affiliate WHDH channel 7 for the telecasts carried by the network.
- WEEI started a simulcast with NESN for the Dennis and Callahan show, and finally made the move to FM, shuffling on over to 93.7 FM.
- NESN re-signed play-by-play announcers Jack Edwards (Bruins) and Don Orsillo (Red Sox) to multi-year contract extensions.
- CSNNE added a Dan Patrick simulcast to go along with a Felger and Massarotti simulcast, giving them almost continuous live programming for much of the day and evening.
- Adding Scott Zolak to the Patriots radio broadcasts with Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti was a needed move. Zolak has been able to add to the broadcast in a unobtrusive but informative way.
On the low side:
- WEEI's attempts to shuffle their lineup to stay competitive with 98.5 brought headscratching changes. Dale Arnold got bumped off the air for the most part, relegated to "fill-in" duty, while Michael Holley was moved to a new "Big Show" alongside Glenn Ordway. Mike Mutnansky and Lou Merloni took over the mid-day shift. Later, Mike Adams was added to the Big Show. The moves did not really help the station at all.
- NESN lost Jade McCarthy (NESN Daily) and Heidi Watney (Red Sox sideline) as well as Executive Vice President of Programming and Executive Producer Joel Feld, all whom left the network this year.
- The Charly-like decline of Tony Massarotti into madness continued as the former writer apparently lost most of the use of his vocabulary and thinking faculties. He is apparently now only capable of saying that things SUCK.
- The John-Dennis-on-Twitter experiment needs to end. Now. When Dennis recently suggested, more than once, that Jeff Green's heart condition was a direct result of Danny Ainge trading Kendrick Perkins for him, a new low point in Boston sports media was reached.
- When Hurricane Irene knocked out power in Foxborough, a local sports columnists accused Patriots owner Robert Kraft of strong-arming National Grid, the power company, into restoring power to Gillette Stadium ahead of the rest of the town. It turned out that nearly 15 years ago, the Krafts paid for a backup power line to another plant, which was operational and that is why the Stadium had power. While the issue was eventually clarified by the writer, no apology was publicly issued.
- The Boston Globe's story about the collapse of the Red Sox and specifically the allegations made against manager Terry Francona were distasteful especially when the paper could not get anyone to go on the record with their allegations. What was even more distasteful was the victory lap taken by sports editor Joe Sullivan in the hours and days following the publication of the story.
What will 2012 hold?
Depending on how the Patriots do in January, the start of the year could be much the same. There should be tremendous interest and discussion about Red Sox spring training as the team goes into a season with a new manager for the first time since 2004. NESN should announce a replacement for Heidi Watney sometime early in the year. It has been reported that the Celtics could purchase as much as 20% of CSNNE, a move that would likely be announced sometime next year.
Most importantly, the local teams should all remain mostly competitive, which gives a tremendous advantage for the sports media, as interest will remain high.
I hope everyone has a happy and productive 2012.