By: John Molori
February 27, 2006

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THIS WEEK:

- Greg goes off
- Fine whines
- Borges on boxing

FSN's Dickerson trashes weeknight rival

Last Friday on WEEI's "Dennis and Callahan" show, FSN "New England Sports Tonight" (NEST) host Greg Dickerson verbally bashed and belittled Ed Berliner, host of CN8's "Sports Pulse."

Dickerson's show airs weeknights at 6:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. This week, the program debuts a new stadium themed set and will be renamed "Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight." The new set features 16 high definition plasma monitors, a virtual fish tank, vintage sports artifacts and modern sporting goods.

Berliner's show is on opposite Dickerson and Tanguay at 10:00 p.m. On WEEI, Dickerson and Gerry Callahan verbally jibed Berliner. Callahan jokingly wondered on what channel Berliner's show runs. Both Callahan and Dickerson compared Berliner to Ron Burgundy, Will Ferrell's witless character from the movie "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy."

Dickerson mocked Berliner's deep voice and deliberate style, doing a spot on impression of the CN8 personality asking Red Sox GM Theo Epstein a question. Both Callahan and Dickerson compared Berliner unfavorably to fictional TV anchorman Ted Baxter.

Dickerson stated, "Ted Baxter is an Emmy Award winning anchor compared to Ed Berliner." He and Callahan also mocked Berliner for attracting lesser-known guests than Dickerson's show. NEST pays guests an appearance fee while " Sports Pulse" generally does not. Yours truly has been a guest on both programs.

Dickerson's comments were simultaneously humorous and harsh. It's not new for rival hosts to poke fun at each other, but Dickerson directed his venom directly at Berliner.

In the past, when WEEI and AM 1510 were battling for the sports audience in Boston, both station's personalities regularly alluded to each other, but seldom named names.

Berliner refused to elaborate in response to Dickerson's tirade, but did say that there was no particular incident that led to Dickerson's on-air bashing. Regarding Dickerson, Berliner would only say, "I don't respond to petty jealousy."

Whined up

On Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the TD Banknorth Garden, WEEI's "Big Show" hosted by Glenn Ordway will hand out its annual Whiney Awards, paying tribute to the show's diverse group of callers. The show will be hosted by Tony V and feature area media stars as presenters.

Categories include Best Original Character, Best Red Sox Whine, Best Dig on a WEEI Personality and many more.

Ratings and advertising revenue aside, WEEI's greatest strength is embodied in Ordway's Whineys. The drive time show and the station as a whole has located the vein of the Boston sports fan and successfully injected it with a hypnotic serum.

Beyond the financial windfall that the station enjoys (most of WEEI's regular hosts earn in the mid to high six-figure range or more), the manner in which WEEI has cultivated a following of worshipping fans is a model for any radio station, sports or otherwise.

The Whiney Awards are a true testament to how listeners long to be a part of the star-making machine that is WEEI. Many of the callers spend hours preparing their bits and bites. Question their sanity or social lives if you want, but the segment has become a much-anticipated part of the program and is sponsored by Grossman's Bargain Outlet.

Those who dismiss or mock Ordway's Whiner Line should consider that a successful business is willing to plunk down big dollars and put its name on the segment. This, if nothing else, gives it validity.

Ordway has refused phone and email requests to be interviewed regarding the Whineys, but following last year's event, he told Media Blitz, "This is great, outrageous and all that we thought it would be. The tone of the event is biting. It's like a roast. We've really taken it to the next level."

Ordway runs a nightly Whiner Line disclaimer saying that the callers don 't speak for the station, yet his staff does choose the often-racy material that makes the airwaves.

Said Ordway, "(Big Show producers) Andy and Brett put all the whines together. The content is clearly geared toward a certain demographic. It is not intended to have kids listen."

What started as a small gathering has turned into a media phenomenon with close to 3000 people expected at this year's Whineys. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Boston Bruins Foundation and Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation. For more info on the Whineys, check out WEEI.com.

Ron's ring

These days, only a handful of major US newspapers have a boxing columnist. In New England, The Boston Globe's Ron Borges has seen a lifetime worth of pugilists and punches.

"I think that boxing has fallen in the eyes of the mainstream sports fan," says Borges. "The media plays a big role. When I was growing up, the great matches were on free television. Even today, not everyone has the premium cable channels or can afford pay-per-view."

Historically, boxing has always taken its lead from the heavyweight division. Chris Byrd, the Klitschko brothers, John Ruiz and Hasim Rahman have all shown flashes, but have not been able to sustain any kind of public attention.

"It's best when you have a great big guy, but it's not necessary," says Borges. "In the 1980s, guys like Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns were all fighting each other.

"We knew Leonard's story from the 1976 Olympics. Hagler was intimidating with the shaved head. Duran had history and Hearns was the "Hitman.' Still, people like to see two big guys fight because there is always that chance that one shot can change the fight."

A lack of a unified system in the sport is also troubling to Borges. He states, "No one knows who the champion is with all the organizations. Boxing should be thankful that there aren't more letters in the alphabet. I mean, if everybody's the guy, then no one is the guy.

"Look, I don't trust the baseball or football commissioner, but at least there is structure. There are too many disparate financial interests that don't want a central authority, and that hurts. Some people still think Mike Tyson is the heavyweight champion."

It's the hunger for a charismatic champion that keeps boxing fans interested. "People want to see guys they recognize," says Borges. "If you said tomorrow that Hagler was coming back or that there was going to be a Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield III, just watch the excitement. The general fan will watch if you give them something to watch."

Image is a huge problem for boxing, but Borges says it might be a bit unfair. "The NFL is dirtier than boxing ever thought of being, but they have structure. You think NFL players aren't taking steroids? The best thing about the NFL's testing is that no one gets caught.

"I'd much rather be an ex-boxer than an ex-football player physically. Obviously there have been boxers who have suffered permanent damage from fighting, but a guy like (ex-Bill, 49'er and Patriot) Fred Smerlas can't touch his face with his right arm. I golfed with (ex-Patriot) John Hannah and he couldn't walk up a little hill."

Like most sports, Borges says that boxing is affected by media interests and race. "99.9% of fighters want to fight the best opponent to see how good they are. The problem is that, all too often, the TV networks and the people around these fighters keep great fights from happening.

"The Hispanic audience drives this sport now. Black fans simply do not support their fighters. I mean, as bad as he is, Andrew Golota gets great support from the Polish community. If black boxing fans got behind guys like Floyd Mayweather and Jermain Taylor, they'd be huge names right now."

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


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