By: John Molori
May 18, 2005

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THIS WEEK:

- Soccer stars
- Selling the Celtics
- Blitz Bits

Fast start puts Revolution in fast company

The New England Revolution is off to its best start ever and people are taking notice. "When you see color photos on the front page of the Globe, you known there is a difference," says Brad Feldman, the Revs' director of communications and play-by-play man. "The Herald has increased its coverage and players' names are even showing up in gossip columns."

Indeed, the MLS-leading Revolution has carved its own niche while sharing a stadium and ownership with the New England Patriots, the most successful team in the most popular league in major American sports. Television coverage has also grown.

Says Feldman, "NESN did a feature on (ESPN2 soccer reporter) Brandi Chastain and Deion Branch. Channel 4 came to do a story on the team this week. We have been covered by every sports station in Massachusetts and Rhode Island."

Feldman, who calls European soccer for ESPN International, says that the Revs are also making a mark nationally. "Clint Dempsey has been featured in "Sports Illustrated," "Soccer America" and the "New York Times." "USA Today" did a feature on Taylor Twellman and the soccer magazine "442" recently asked coach Steve Nicol to pick his Top 11 players in the MLS. That magazine normally features international coaches exclusively."

The Revs have not allowed a goal in 368 minutes of play and have not been scored upon or beaten at home since last September. They are in first place and, at 6-0-1, have the best record in the MLS. In addition to Twellman and Dempsey, the team has been led by Pat Noonan, Michael Parkhurst, Steve Ralston and Matt Reis, who leads the MLS in won-lost record, goals-against and shutouts.

Attendance has been strong even with the fickle New England spring weather. Feldman also notes a change in the atmosphere at Gillette Stadium.

He states, "There is a strong commitment to customer service. The typical crowd we get is different than that of a "Monday Night Football" game. It is more of a family crowd. We allow strollers at Revs games. Security is tight, but it's more fan-friendly. We realize that there is minor league baseball and other options for the family dollars.

"Our crowds have a great time and you don't see people falling down drunk. We even tailor our in-house music for the soccer crowd with less hard rock and more family-oriented tunes. You don't want to bring 8 year-old to a game and have him beaten down with "Black Sabbath."

The Revolution hopes to do more cross-promotion with their stadium bunkmates. "We enjoy working with the Patriots if it's genuine," says Feldman.

"Deion Branch was an honorary captain for us because he was a soccer star in high school. Adam Vinatieri and Troy Brown also have interest in the game. We have an RV with the Patriots and Revolution logos that will be at the "Hot Dog Safari" at Suffolk Downs this Sunday."

On May 28 at 7:30 p.m., WB56 will have a feature on Branch as part of their Revs-Colorado match. WB has a slate of 19 Revs games this season with Fox Sports Net carrying 11 games. This Saturday, ESPN2 will have the Revs vs. the MetroStars at 4:00 p.m. Feldman and Greg Lalas will have the radio call on WEEI.

Despite the team's success, the trite dismissal of soccer still runs through much of the mainstream Boston media. Dan Shaughnessy recently made a snide reference to the Revolution in a Boston Globe column.

Says Feldman, "I saw Shaughnessy's column and I've heard some sarcastic comments on (WEEI's) "Big Show. We'll take any publicity, but these guys are sticks in the mud and too set in their ways. They don't want to take the time to learn players' names or positions.

"Soccer is a game played by tough athletes. The Fred Smerlas-types have no idea. Not every country cares about winning the World Series or Super Bowl, but everyone wants to win the World Cup."

Rough C's

An on-air source at AM 1510 has told Media Blitz that it is "50/50" that the station will retain Celtics radio broadcast rights. The station has been paying the team roughly $2 million per year for the past four years for radio rights.

The source also said that Sporting News Radio is ready and willing to pay big money to acquire Red Sox broadcast rights in a couple of years. AM 1510 GM Mike Winn states, "I cannot say too much about the Celtics as talks are ongoing, but both sides are trying to create a deal that would keep the Celtics here. We'd like to continue the relationship."

The Celtics will try to make the best deal for their franchise regardless of loyalty to AM 1510. That loyalty was tested this past week when team owner Wyc Grousbeck made a derogatory reference to AM 1510 while appearing on WEEI's "Dale and Holley" show.

Winn would only say that Grousbeck's comments were "unfortunate." He stresses that AM 1510 greatly wants to keep the Celtics, but states, "Losing the Celtics won't cripple us. We'll have to find other programming and the station will go on." A decision is due in the next two weeks.

The Celtics financed AM 1510's Celtics postgame show hosted by Patrick Gilroy and Jeff Hickman. The pair, along with Chris Timoney, also host " Celtic Pride" on the station.

According to Gilroy, he and Hickman have been contacted by ESPN Radio AM 890, Boston's new ESPN affiliate. AM 890 has hired Doug Tribou as program director. Over the next few weeks, the station will be making some key programming decisions.

"We got a random email from ESPN Radio," says Gilroy. "They are deciding whether to go all national or sprinkle in some local stuff. Regardless, it has been mentioned to us that if the Celtics move to another station, our show will go with them."

Hickman and Gilroy will be doing a show at AM 1510, Saturday, Noon-2:00 p.m. Says Gilroy, "We have Wyc (Grousbeck) on the show Saturday. We're going to have to ask him why he (insulted) the station that has given him $2.5 million over the past three years."

Blitz Bits

WEEI's "Dennis and Callahan" spent much of Monday trashing rabid "Star Wars" movie buffs, then spent just as much time on Tuesday talking in depth about the latest episode of "24." Hey guys, a geek is a geek "¦ Chris Borak of Pelham, NH is the winner of ESPN.com's "All-In Poker Challenge" and has won a berth in the 2005 "World Series of Poker" "¦ WEEI's "Big Show" Bit-Master Pete Gustin is doing his stand-up act Wednesday (May 18) at 8:00 p.m. at The Comedy Studio in Cambridge. Fox25's Butch Stearns has a Gustin feature scheduled to air on Thursday's 10:00 p.m. sports report.

John Molori's columns are published in The Providence Journal, The Boston Metro, The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, The Salem Evening News, The Newburyport Daily News, The Gloucester Times, Patriots Football Weekly, Boston Sports Review, New England Hockey Journal, The RemyReport.com, PatsFans.com, BostonSportsReview.com, BostonSportsMedia.com and MethuenOnline.com. Email John at JOMOL3@aol.com.


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