By: John Molori
June 01, 2005

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THIS WEEK:

- Schilling's shillings
- Web wars
- In Memoriam

Schilling provides comments for cash on WEEI

Red Sox ace Curt Schilling is only speaking to Sports Radio 850 WEEI these days. WEEI is the Red Sox radio broadcast partner and has an appearance contract with Schilling. The station has partnered with Schilling in support of the pitcher's outstanding "Curt's Pitch for ALS" charity to benefit Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Schilling has every right to speak or not speak with any member of the media and WEEI certainly has the right to ink appearance deals with any athlete, but the arrangement does raise some ethical questions.

A veteran Boston news director calls it "checkbook journalism" and the name fits. The situation is magnified in the case of Schilling who is rehabb ing an injury. Information and facts are at a premium. Everyone wants the real story on Schilling's health, but only WEEI is getting it because they paid for it.

Regardless of the very worthwhile charitable aspect, Schilling's actions smack of payola. Red Sox manager Terry Francona also appears on WEEI, but he hasn't snubbed other outlets. In essence, Schilling's words come at a price. If The Boston Globe or WBZ-TV offered Schilling money for his charity, would Schilling talk to them? Is access now going only to the highest bidder?

In this light, Schilling is less a player and more an auction item. Again, a player has the right to speak or not speak, but when that decision is based on cash, something just isn't right. Schilling likes to talk about credibility when critiquing the Boston media. He might want to check his own supply of that quality.

Internet intrigue

There is an ongoing battle waging between traditional media types, i.e.- sportswriters, television/radio gabbers and Internet media, i.e.- sports bloggers, fan websites and Internet media critics.

The latter group is also engaged in a civil war of sorts with one web writer never turning down a chance to trash another web writer. In short, these new, cutting edge media members, however legitimate, are falling prey to the vilest ill of the established media, namely, self-absorption.

Whether it is Steve Silva's BostonDirtDogs.com, a Red Sox site hosted by Boston.com, or Bruce Allen's BostonSportsMedia.com, a popular portal site with links to many regional sportswriters and talkers including yours truly, the problem is the same.

Even if they don't admit it, the Internet media are in search of respect from the traditional media. Conversely, even if they don't admit it, the traditional media feel threatened by the Internet media. Lines are blurred when issues such accuracy and journalistic ethics come into play.

When Silva's site prints something that is not true, should it be looked upon as reporting or just the ramblings of a rabid fan? When a writer on Allen's site discloses the name of a media member mentioned anonymously in a story, is it a scoop or a lack of ethics? Both of these things have happened.

My view is threefold. First, unless advertised as parody or opinion, anything written or said publicly should be accurate. Second, whether on the air or on the web, respect is earned, not given, and third, all of this is just another sad example of commentators commenting about commentators. Enough already.

In Memoriam

The sudden death of Red Sox Spanish Baseball Radio announcer Juan Pedro " J.P." Villaman leaves a deafening silence. Villaman was killed Monday morning in a car accident on Route 93. Ever the voice of the fan, Villaman's business card was a rosy outlook, his press pass a vibrant smile.

"That smile was always there," says Bill Kulik, owner and producer of The Spanish Beisbol Network. "It could be a sunny day or a rainout, a Red Sox win or loss, J.P. was always positive."

The 46 year-old Villaman called Red Sox games on WROL Radio and various other stations along the Spanish Network. He also worked at WCCM in Lawrence and several Spanish language stations. Kulik says that Red Sox players embraced Villaman.

"They got along with him great. It's difficult to be accepted by Major League players. J.P. was more likely to ask them about their families as opposed to their swings. Other reporters gave him strange looks, but that was J.P., very blue collar."

Villaman lived with his family in Lawrence, MA, a city that beats with the pulse of the Latin community. His jovial personality translated perfectly to his audience. Says Kulik, "He gave listeners a virtual hug every night. I remember the last out of the 2004 ALCS. I was doing the game with J.P. and, in Spanish, he yelled, "Here's the Red Sox passport to the World Series. Billy Kulik, let me give you a hug!'"

According to Kulik, Villaman spoke very little English. "He got by on just being friendly," says the former producer of the syndicated "Forever Baseball." "He was very impressive to our advertising clients. Even people who didn't speak Spanish knew that he cared about the Red Sox."

As a resident and an icon in the Latino community, Villaman was larger than life. "They called him Papa Oso (Papa Bear)," says Kulik. "He couldn' t walk the streets of Lawrence without hearing his name." Villaman won numerous accolades and civic awards for his outstanding contributions to the Latino community.

On Monday night, Kulik sat in for Villaman alongside broadcast partner Uri Berenguer for the Orioles-Red Sox game. It was a difficult evening for all. He states, "It was very tough, but we never considered not doing the game. J.P. would have wanted us to go on.

"I was nervous at the start, and then I thought I was composed. During our nightly call-in segment, I got choked up as listeners saluted J.P. Uri and I told stories about J.P., warm memories of his personality on and off the air. That got us through."

Kulik has been the driving force of the Spanish Beisbol Network since 1993. Villaman was hired in 1995. When Kulik assumed ownership in 2001, he made Villaman a permanent Red Sox announcer. "J.P. was on cloud nine during our first plane trip with the Red Sox," says Kulik.

"He felt that we had finally arrived, like we had made the big leagues. Before that, we had never been on a par with (Red Sox radio broadcasters) Jerry Trupiano and Joe Castiglione."

Speaking of Castiglione, Kulik singles him out as one of the few English-speaking reporters at the ballpark who reached out to Villaman. He states, "Watching Joe and J.P. talk to each other in broken Spanish and broken English was priceless. To Joe's credit, he tried to communicate with J.P. It kind of makes me mad that no other reporter reached out and now they all want to talk about J.P. when it's too late."

Fans and friends can pay their respects to Villaman on Wednesday, June 1 from 2:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. at Farrah Funeral Home, 133 Lawrence St. in Lawrence, MA. Funeral services are scheduled for Thursday, June 2 at 10:00 a.m. at St. Mary's Church, 300 Haverhill St. in Lawrence.

Kulik, who has expanded his Spanish network to Philadelphia and Tampa with plans to add seven or eight more markets by 2007, will fill Villaman's Red Sox booth slot alongside Berenguer until he hires a replacement. He gives a fitting tribute saying, "J.P. lived and breathed Boston. I wish more reporters had taken the time to get to know him. It is a great loss."

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, TheRemyReport.com, PatsFans.com, BostonSportsReview.com, BostonSportsMedia.com and MethuenOnline.com. Email John at JOMOL3@aol.com.


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