By: John Molori
June 13, 2005

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THIS WEEK:

- Bye, bye Borson
- Rodgers redux
- Swinging seniors

Programming chief Borson leaves NESN

Media Blitz has learned that New England Sports Network (NESN) vice president of programming and production Bill Borson is leaving the regional network. While Borson and NESN will say that Borson is leaving to pursue other opportunities, two sources close to the situation confirm that Borson was let go by NESN president Sean McGrail.

"Bill Borson never saw eye-to-eye with Sean McGrail," says one source, a longtime NESN employee. "McGrail just doesn't understand TV. He is a businessman trying to run a television network. That, to me, is a square peg in a round hole.

The source described Borson, who joined NESN in January of 2004, as a " good TV man who was under great pressure from McGrail." Borson, a 25-year television pro, came to NESN from Fox Sports Net in Los Angeles. NESN is owned by the New York Times, the Red Sox and the Bruins.

This is the third programming chief that has left NESN under McGrail's watch. Bob Whitelaw and Rick Abbott also left the position. Abbott, who departed in April of 2003 after just six months on the job, left for a position in his home state of Minnesota.

The source says that, like Borson, Abbott was not on the same page as McGrail. The source also says that Borson and McGrail have not been on speaking terms for a while. "McGrail is trying to get these program directors to do things for money that he does not want to spend," says the source. "He is great at negotiating contracts with cable companies, but he simply does not understand television."

Despite the source's contentions regarding McGrail, NESN has experienced unprecedented growth and success with him at the helm. The network recently took home six New England Emmy Awards and five Telly Awards. NESN has also expanded their program lineup and added fresh talents such as Gary DiSarcina and Hazel Mae.

Bob's back

One broadcaster who worked for both Sean McGrail, and briefly, for Bill Borson is ex-NESN personality Bob Rodgers. Rodgers refused to comment on Borson's departure or on McGrail's work at NESN. He has moved on as the new owner and host of "Calling All Sports," Sundays 4:00-7:00 p.m. on WTKK 96.9 FM Talk.

Rodgers was dismissed from NESN in February of 2004. While working Red Sox Spring Training that year, Rodgers left Fort Myers and returned to Boston to coach his Whitman-Hanson High School boys' basketball team in the state tournament. In response, McGrail released Rodgers from his contract.

"I was working on a piece on Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez," explains Rodgers. "I had taped all my voice-overs and logged all the tapes. A producer and camera operator were getting comments from Nomar and Pedro. My assignments were all completed. I hopped a flight to Boston at my own expense to coach the game, and planned to return to Fort Myers the next day."

Rodgers says that McGrail felt he was being deceitful by leaving Fort Myers. "There was nothing deceitful about it. Everyone knew that I coached basketball. Sean called me into his office and released me from my contract. I was at NESN for 17 years, but I hold no ill will. I bet both sides wish it didn't turn out the way it did." At the time of his dismissal, Rodgers had just signed a new contract at NESN with a clause that the network could buy him out at a fair price.

Following his departure from NESN, Rodgers was contacted by Norm Resha, the owner and host of "Calling All Sports." Says Rodgers, "Norm brought me in to co-host with him and Gary Tanguay. When Gary got the Patriots pregame job at WBCN, I stayed on with Norm."

Resha passed away in January of 2005. Shortly thereafter, Rodgers contacted Resha's sister about purchasing the show from the Resha family. In early May, he became the show's owner. Rodgers splits advertising time with WTKK.

He states, "I don't just buy time from the station like a lot of guys do at (AM 1510) The Zone. I think sometimes that degrades what you are doing. It's like, if you have money, you can be a broadcaster. This is a partnership. To keep the show as great as it was with Norm, we needed financial resources. I had always been an on-air guy and had never experienced the business side of broadcasting."

Rodgers had early success in signing sponsors and hired NECN sports personality Jimmy Young as his on-air partner. Young, who is also a sales rep for NECN, cannot sell "Calling All Sports" due to a conflict of interest. Rodgers is also producing and voicing ads for many of his sponsors.

He hopes to keep the content of the show at a high level. "I am not going to say the words "raise the bar' like another former radio host did," says Rodgers referring to Sean McDonough's noble efforts on AM 1510. "But we are definitely not as tightly wound as WEEI. In addition to talking about the Red Sox, we've done segments on the Special Olympics and homosexuality in baseball, topics that will appeal to the sports fan and to WTKK's regular listeners."

"Calling All Sports" features a fun trivia segment, golf talk with Bob Bubka, Ian Browne on baseball and discussions with Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino and Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck. Jonathan Kraft and Harry Sinden are penciled in as future guests. Area writers such as Dan Shaughnessy also appear.

"At NESN, I was allowed to be critical of the Red Sox, but I was never allowed to be critical in a creatively funny way," says Rodgers who still coaches boys' hoops and now also teaches a television course at Whitman-Hanson. " I'd still like to get back into a regular TV gig, but there is an awesome freedom that radio provides."

Tee time

The Champions' Tour Bank of America Championship, June 20-26 at Nashawtuc Country Club in Concord, MA, is celebrating its 25th Anniversary with unprecedented media and marketing visibility.

"This is the oldest 54-hole event on the Champions (formerly Seniors) Tour," says tournament director Tracy West. "We have raised over $3.7 million for a variety of charities over the years. This year, we are celebrating our anniversary on Saturday, June 25.

"We'll have a military salute to past champions including four F-16's doing a flyover. Lee Elder, Arnold Palmer and other past champions of the tournament are scheduled to return. We'll also have a special video presentation highlighting the past 25 years."

Live coverage of play is on The Golf Channel, June 24-26 at 1:30 p.m. each day. The tournament is a great and affordable take for families. Events include a meet and greet autograph session with current and former players and an appearance by the Red Sox World Series trophy on June 25. On June 23, newly elected Hockey Hall of Famer Cam Neely will participate in a long drive event.

Says West, "We'll have a Family Fun Zone with games, face painting, food and contests for kids, as well as a Junior Clinic on Friday June 24." Children under the age of 15 are admitted free to the tournament and related events.

West says that Arnold Palmer will return to Nashawtuc this year along with favorites like Jay Haas and Craig Stadler. The popular tournament has more than 120 corporate partners. More information on this year's event is available at BankofAmericaChampionship.com.

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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