By: John Molori
December 13, 2004

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ORIGINALLY WRITTEN 12/8

THIS WEEK:

- So long, Steve
- Curse Reversed
- Blitz Bits

Why Dakota was dumped by AM 1510

The recent firing of AM 1510 morning host Steve "Dakota" Happas is a tale of speculation, bad judgment and, in a way, a commentary on the state of sports radio today.

On the November 19th edition of his "Morning Sports Brawl," Dakota read from a New York Post gossip column by Richard Johnson. The column included a passage about an unnamed major league manager who had abandoned his wife and family and is dating a female cable television personality.

Dakota speculated that it might be Red Sox manager Terry Francona. He and morning show partner Kevin Winter spoke for several minutes about the article and went so far as to speculate who the cable television personality might be.

What seemed like controversial yet harmless speculation cost Dakota his show. In wondering if it was Francona, Dakota questioned whether the public relations conscious Red Sox would fire the manager for such off the field conduct. Ironically, it was Dakota who got fired.

"After the show, I sent Richard Johnson an email," says Dakota whose last show aired on November 24. "We talked later and he would neither confirm nor deny that it was Francona. He did say that the cable television personality in question worked in New York, not Boston."

After this conversation, Dakota called two of the Boston TV personalities whom he had mentioned on the air to apologize. "Later that day, I also apologized to (AM 1510 GM) Mike Winn," says Dakota. "I told him that I wanted to go on the air and apologize for mentioning names that morning."

Dakota asked AM 1510's Ryen Russillo if he could go on "The Diehards" show. "I went on with Ryen at 3:30," Dakota relates. "I wanted to lay the groundwork by reading the Johnson article, then issue my apologies. Ryen got ticked off that I didn't just give the apology. We argued and I walked out of the studio."

More trouble was ahead. According to Dakota, Red Sox spokesman Glenn Geffner and NESN VP of programming and production Bill Borson called AM 1510 requesting a copy of the morning show tape.

Dakota says that Winn didn't think the discussion was all that bad and that Sporting News Radio, AM 1510's parent company in Chicago, also listened to the tape and had little if any problems with it. According to Dakota, Sporting News Radio instructed AM 1510 not to give the tape to the Red Sox or NESN.

Says Dakota, "The Red Sox put pressure on Mike Winn to give them the tape. They were concerned about the content. Without even hearing the tape, they threatened AM 1510 with a lawsuit and told them to get me off the air."

Dakota speculates that the Red Sox could be a potential buyer for AM 1510, hence, their opinion would carry much weight. "I left a message for Glenn Geffner," says Dakota. "But I was told that he would only talk to me in writing."

On November 24, Dakota was fired from his position as morning host at AM 1510 after less than two months on the air. Dakota was purchasing the time for his show from AM 1510. Kevin Winter, a full-time employee and one of the real up-and-coming talents in Boston radio, was reportedly also fired or suspended for the incident. AM 1510 GM Mike Winn could not be reached for comment.

Dakota had already been in hot water with Major League Baseball for giving away his personal playoff tickets on the air without written approval from the league. "I spoke to Major League Baseball about that," says Dakota.

"They told me that many others do the same thing without any written approval. They are coming after me because I was a threat to WEEI who broadcasts the Red Sox. I can make a dent in the ratings that brings down (WEEI morning hosts) "Dennis and Callahan."

"I don't drink the Red Sox Kool-Aid like everyone else does. I like to talk about things that they don't want out there."

Dakota would like to get back on the air at AM 1510 but calls his chances "slim and none." He says that the Red Sox would have to call AM 1510 and tell the station to bring him back.

A former regular caller to Sportsradio 850 WEEI, Dakota says he spoke to Glenn Ordway about the incident. Ordway told him that there are lines that you simply cannot cross. You don't get into someone's personal life.

Ordway is correct. The bigger issue is that the Richard Johnson story did not name Francona or any other manager. Dakota took it upon himself to speculate about the Red Sox manager.

"I shot myself in the foot, he says. "I just wish that the Red Sox would listen to the tape. If they did, I don't think they would be so upset." Dakota admits that if he had more experience on radio, he probably would not have touched the subject.

Such, however, is the state of sports radio today. It seems that in order to make your mark in the field, one must tiptoe into titillating topics. Speculation is a large part of the genre. In fact, it is the lifeblood of the talk show host.

WEEI and other sports stations regularly speculate about trades, injuries, firings and drug use in sports, however, uninformed speculation about a person's family and home life is another story altogether. Again, there is a line that you simply do not cross.

Should Dakota have been fired? That is up for debate. Undoubtedly, he has learned the first rule of sports radio. Think, before you talk.

Curse Redux

On Wednesday, HBO and Boston's The Greatest Bar hosted a screening of the sequel to the network's fabulous 2003 documentary, "The Curse of the Bambino." Told through the anecdotes of Red Sox fans famous and otherwise, "Reverse of the Curse of the Bambino" is chock full of funny memories from this season's championship run.

Liev Schreiber takes over narrating duties from Ben Affleck, who was unable to be involved due to movie commitments. "This sequel really began with the 2003 ALCS vs. the Yankees," says HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg, an avowed Yankee fan. "The Red Sox are a lifelong obsession filled with drama. It is a beautiful story."

HBO and Black Canyon Productions worked feverishly to put the sequel together for Friday's airing. A DVD of the production will be released in March of 2005.

Says Greenburg, "The 2004 Red Sox were a team of great character. You couldn't pick this group out of central casting. They were hard not to root for, even as a Yankee fan."

The Greatest Bar, one of Boston's best social spots, served as the perfect backdrop for the event. With its multi-levels and myriad TV screens, hundreds of invited guests were able to enjoy the production.

Highlights of the documentary include an array of Red Sox fans shocked at the heretofore-unseen good fortune of their team. What brought tears to these eyes was the program's end. HBO's cameras caught glimpses of several local gravesites adorned with Red Sox hats or balloons.

"Reverse of the Curse of the Bambino" plumbs the depths of the soul of Red Sox Nation and adds a sweet present to a somewhat sour past. It is must viewing indeed.

John Molori's Media Blitz column is published in The Providence Journal, The Boston Metro, TheLawrence Eagle-Tribune, The Salem Evening News, The Newburyport Daily News, The Gloucester Times, The Lowell Sun, Patriots Football Weekly, PatsFans.com, BostonPressBox.com, BostonSportsMedia.com, RedSoxNation.net and MethuenOnline.com. Email John at JOMOL3@aol.com.


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