By: John Molori
May 24, 2006

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THIS WEEK:

- Cyber Sox
- Rivers role
- Hockey on air

Red Sox sites provide an online smorgasbord; Rivers on TNT; Getting Inside Hockey

They are the new wave of Red Sox chroniclers, for whom pens and microphones have been replaced by XML and cyberspace. They have created dynamic avenues of information for Red Sox followers and have broken new ground in baseball media.

So, how do these Red Sox-themed webmasters get started? The answers vary. "During the run to the 2004 World Series, I was reading everything I could in order to keep up with the post-season frenzy," says Bill Mahoney of CalloftheGreenMonster.com, a Red Sox humor site. "I thought the idea of doing a parody site focused solely on the Sox would be entertaining and unique."

Says Steve Silva, founder of the popular BostonDirtDogs.com, "I started in July of 2001 making Boston Dirt Dogs t-shirts, an alternative to the crass "Yankees Suck" t-shirts. I then put up the website for people who couldn't make it to Fenway, but wanted a shirt or hat. It was originally an e-commerce site, not an editorial site."

Many Red Sox websites, such as SonsofSamHorn.com, are favorites of Boston media stars and Red Sox ace Curt Schilling. Here, fans get a rare opportunity to communicate directly with players. Other sites cater to a certain niche audience.

"When I first started, I ranked about twenty prospects, got around thirty visitors a day and had little message board activity," says Michael Andrews of SoxProspects.com, a premiere Red Sox farm system site.

"Today, the site reports on every player in the organization, has 500 registered members and gets upwards of 4,000 hits per day."

Many of these Red Sox-related sites have become as popular as traditional media (radio, TV, newspapers) and the issue of competition is very real.

Says Jeff Moon of FenwayFanatics.com, a Sox data and history site, "I definitely feel as though I am competing with the other fan sites. It depends on what people want to do. If they want to find out about Tris Speaker's career or Ted Williams' only inside-the-park home run, they come to my site.

"As for the mainstream media, my competition with them is in the search engines. What I provide and what they provide are two separate entities."

Adds Andrews, "I do really feel like some in the mainstream media are intimidated by the rise of fan sites. We can get information out fast without the red tape. Plus, some players have become justifiably disgusted because of the spin that has become rampant from the mainstream media outlets.

"If all we can do is provide another point of view or another outlet for players who want to get their stories out without the media spin, I think we're doing a service."

Silva has blazed a trail for fan sites having been picked up by Internet giant Boston.com. He states, "Boston.com purchased Boston Dirt Dogs (BDD) in May 2004. I work at Boston.com as a sports producer and am also responsible for publishing BDD.

"Boston.com's sports department collaborates with the Boston Globe sports department on a number of initiatives daily."

Subject matter varies from site to site. Allan Wood's 1918RedSox.com takes a historical perspective. Wood also has a Red Sox blog at JoyofSox.blogspot.com. He states, "Considering how infamous (1918) is, not many Red Sox fans know about the team in any detail."

Adds Mahoney, "I just enjoy taking this soap opera that is Red Sox baseball and looking for ways to make people laugh. I get emails all the time from people simply telling me, "thanks for the laugh.' I find that very gratifying."

While most of the issues regarding fan sites are all about fun, there is a controversy as to the separation of opinion and hard news.

Says Silva, "Some fans sites have gained a reputation for strong commentary or even delivering the news, while some traditional news sites have incorporated fan blogs. I'm not sure there needs to be a separation."

Andrews sees a real difference between fans and reporters saying, "The news-based sites have access that fan sites generally don't get, and they get paid to do what they do. However, the fan sites often are generally faster in adopting new technologies (message boards, blogging, rss feeds), forcing the news sites to follow trends."

Wood views the various Red Sox media as more of a partnership. "I still like reading the Boston papers for quotes and some of the off-beat stuff in the notebooks. Last season, I emailed questions to four or five of the Red Sox beat writers and posted their answers as a roundtable discussion."

Fun aside, these trailblazing Internet content providers work hard to achieve their various goals. Says Silva, "We spend a lot of time scouring the Internet, television, radio, message boards, blogs, emails, etc.

"I've seen a lot of people start blogs then let them slide when they realize the commitment and time necessary to keeping it updated and relevant."

Playing Doc

This may be nitpicking, but when I received the recent TNT press release announcing that Celtics' coach Doc Rivers would be joining the network as a guest analyst for the NBA playoffs, something just didn't sit well.

Rivers previously worked for TNT in 1996-97 and 1998-99 and is certainly free to do whatever he wishes with his spare time. If the Celtics have no problem with it, why should I? Well, here's why.

Rivers talked ad nauseum throughout this past season with WEEI's " Dennis and Callahan" and other reporters about how difficult it was being away from his family in Florida.

The discussion even spurred rumors that Rivers would leave his Celtics post, rumors that the candid Rivers repeatedly denied. If Rivers was in such a hurry to see his family again, why waste more time sitting behind a desk trading barbs with Charles Barkley?

Moreover, the 2005-06 Celtics were a huge disappointment. Despite the presence of some potentially great talent, the team failed to make the playoffs and still has no real identity or sense of direction.

Several NBA teams with comparable talent and even tougher divisional competition qualified for this year's playoffs. The Clippers, Wizards, Cavaliers and Bucks all come to mind.

"We've always been impressed with (Rivers') professionalism and dedication to his job both as a coach and as an analyst with TNT," said Jeff Behnke, Turner Sports Executive Producer. "TNT viewers will benefit from Doc's unique perspective."

Rivers added, "While nothing can quite compare to coaching in the postseason, I'm excited about the opportunity to come back to TNT for the 2006 playoffs."

So, TNT is impressed, the viewers are benefiting and Rivers is excited. What about the Celtics? Rivers is an engaging guy with a glib and upfront style, but his in-game coaching has been questioned by a host of local and national observers.

Rivers has a huge job ahead of him in Boston. His time would better be served assessing his current talent and scoutin g prospective new talent rather than talking about other teams' talent. Simply put, we know Doc Rivers can talk about the playoffs. He ought to be working on coaching these Celtics into the playoffs.

Rink Radio

Despite sagging television ratings, this year's NHL playoffs have showcased some pulse-pounding hockey. With the Bruins on the outside looking in, the local media has predictably ignored the competition with one exception.

The "Inside Hockey Radio Show (Saturday, 4-6:00 p.m., AM 1510, 1510theZone.com) has provided listeners with timely guests and lively commentary.

Hosts James Murphy, Kevin Greenstein and Doug Flynn are a worthwhile listen as the Conference Finals get into full swing. The program features great interviews with hockey personalities, playoff team beat writers from around the country and Canada, as well as columnists from Greenstein's InsideHockey.com website, where past editions of the show are archived. Check it out.

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


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