By: John Molori
September 07, 2005

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THIS WEEK:

- Radio reports
- Cold shoulder
- Double agent
- Blitz Bits

ESPN Radio "going down that road" with Felger

So, just what is going on at ESPN Radio AM 890 and AM 1400? It's time to sort through the rumors and rhetoric, and get to the facts.

Question: Is ESPN Radio courting Boston Herald, WEEI and Fox Sports Net's Michael Felger? The answer is yes.

ESPN program director Doug Tribou would not say definitively that Felger is his man, but, in his best impression of "Deep Throat," he did say that the station was "going down that road."

Question: Is Felger interested in the ESPN Radio gig? Again, the answer is most likely yes.

Felger told Media Blitz last year that his goal was to work full time in radio or TV. Moreover, on Tuesday, Media Blitz emailed Felger and asked if he was in negotiations with ESPN Radio. The always cooperative and accessible Felger responded, "I can't comment."

He did say that if anything did happen, he would be glad to speak about it. It is fair to surmise that "anything" is a deal with ESPN Radio. Meanwhile, several Herald staffers confirm that the paper is searching for a full-time football beat writer.

As reported in Media Blitz last week, Kevin Winter has joined ESPN Radio as SportsCenter anchor for afternoon drive time. He will also be a field reporter for the station covering various games. Tribou says that Winter will also co-host Patriots pregame and postgame shows with Russ Francis. The pregame show will air two hours before game time.

Tribou confirmed that there are still decisions to be made regarding evening and weekend shows. He also said that Michael Smith, Ryen Russillo and others should not be ruled out as possible options. He did say that if Smith were to come on board, he would not be the sole host of a show.

Tribou has not spoken to another rumored host, Fox 25's Butch Stearns. As for former WEEI and current NESN host Bob Neumeier, Tribou states, "We liked Bob but we were not ever near doing anything with him."

Media Blitz has also learned that Tribou had a long meting with CN8 "Sports Pulse" contributor and longtime Boston sports commentator Jimmy Myers. Here's hoping that the station shows equal parts gumption and vision, and gives Myers a role.

The Boston sports radio market is currently dominated by WEEI. Tribou recognizes this, but offers, "We are going to be a factor. There's room for competition. We plan to do what ESPN has done in other cities. There is a niche for our product here."

ESPN Radio will make a big splash in Boston this week. On Wednesday, Dan Patrick will broadcast his 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. show from ESPN's Charlestown studios. On Thursday, morning hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic and midday host Colin Cowherd will broadcast live from "Cheers" at Faneuil Hall.

Hard time

Kerry Byrne, founder of ColdHardFootballFacts.com (CHFF), has revamped his popular website, but his philosophy remains bluntly the same. "The Cold, Hard Football Facts are an omniscient, all-powerful gridiron sage and emotionless arbiter of all things pigskin," says Byrne in reciting the site's mission statement. "Our goal is to ruthlessly crush every misguided opinion floating around the nether-regions of cyberspace. Our facts can beat up your opinions."

Bluster aside, Byrne, as always, has facts to support his confidence. The site was launched in September of 2004 and topped out at 2.5 million hits by January of 2005. CHFF had 3.8 million hits in August. "Our goal is 15 million hits a month during the 2005 season," says Byrne.

Other media outlets are noticing Byrne's cutting edge reporting on the NFL, CFL and college football. CHFF has been mentioned at Salon.com, ESPN.com, The Boston Globe, The Providence Journal, MSNBC.com and The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Adds Byrne, "We got tons of exposure on WEEI. They basically read from our site on-air everyday during the 2004-05 playoffs." This season, Byrne will appear regularly on WZLX and AM 1510 the Zone, and is working on a weekly segment for The Boston Herald.

CHFF has a varied stable of writers including John Dudley, Lew Bryson, New York Post deputy sports editor Tim Sullivan, Mike Carlson of NFL.com who played lacrosse with Bill Belichick at Wesleyan and yours truly. "The site is unique in the online world," says Byrne, a former sportswriter for The Patriot Ledger and current food writer for The Boston Herald.

"It brings together all the elements of the football lifestyle, including cutting-edge football data, tailgate recipes from top chefs, along with a heavy, fact-filled dose of media criticism."

Leigh's law

A recent Media Blitz examined the question of whether famed sports agent and attorney Leigh Steinberg is in violation of any attorney ethics laws by soliciting players as clients. Steinberg openly responds, "While I certainly would never be beyond reproach, violating solicitation canons is not among my sins.

"I'm not sure what the state of the Massachusetts bar canon of ethics entails but in California and virtually every state in the union, attorneys are allowed wide latitude in soliciting clients.

"They can advertise in newspapers, on television, radio, even on buses and benches. Some of the ads are more garish than the "Vegematic Slicer and Dicer" commercials of yesteryear. Any approach we've made to an athlete falls well within sanctioned rules."

Blitz Bits

Andy Gresh's move to mornings at AM 790 The Score in Providence happened because of his current contract. According to a source, Gresh had a deal in place with WFAN in New York, but couldn't make the move because The Score would not let him out of his deal.

In Providence, WEEI's impact is clear. According to an AM 790 source, before WEEI came to Rhode Island, Providence Journal writers had to get clearance from the paper to make appearances on radio and television. With Journal writer Sean McAdam on WEEI frequently, The Journal eased up and now actually pays their writers to appear on The Score's Journal reports

On Thursday, ESPN Radio 900 in Nashua, NH will be at Smokey Bones Bar-B-Q and Grille in Tyngsboro for the Pats opener vs. Oakland. Beginning at 5:00 p.m., radio stars Marty Tirrell and Mike Mutnansky will be giving away Red Sox 2004 DVD sets, IHRA Drag Racing Tickets and other prizes.

Last week, on "New England Sports Tonight," hosts Gary Tanguay and Greg Dickerson asked who was the best Patriots running back ever. The choices were Corey Dillon, Curtis Martin, Craig James or Sam Cunningham. I guess the late Jim Nance, second to Cunningham in rushing yards (5,323) and first all-time in rushing touchdowns (45), didn't qualify.

On Tuesday, WEEI's "Dennis and Callahan" trashed Jesse Jackson for his resentment toward Hurricane Katrina victims being referred to as "refugees." Jackson's sentiment is valid. These are not oppressed people who fled their homes seeking freedom or asylum. They are families forced out by nature.

Jackson is an intelligent African-American man, always an intimidating proposition for the mighty white morning hosts.

Dennis and Callahan also slammed actor Sean Penn's efforts on behalf of hurricane victims, mainly because Penn is an unabashed Democrat. In case you don' t know, Penn literally went out on a boat to aid victims, yet D & C saw fit to insult him. Dennis and Callahan weren't totally negative. They did take time out for their daily dose of Curt Schilling butt smooching, and why not? After all, Schilling is basically a morning co-host.

John Molori's columns are published in The Boston Metro, Patriots Football Weekly, The Providence Journal, Boston Sports Review, New England Hockey Journal, New England Ringside Magazine, TheRemyReport.com, PatsFans.com, BostonSportsReview.com, BostonPressBox.com, BostonSportsMedia.com, ColdHardFootballFacts.com and MethuenOnline.com. Email John at JOMOL3@aol.com.


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