By: Russ Goldman
I had the pleasure of asking Damon Amendolara several questions regarding his history of covering the NFL. He is the host of “The D.A. Show” on 98.5 The Sports Hub from 6-11 PM EST weeknights in Boston.
What I found interesting about Damon is that he has had past sports radio shows in Kansas City and Miami. So along with the Patriots, he has covered the Chiefs and the Dolphins. I asked him questions that involved his career of covering these three NFL teams, and as you can imagine the majority of the questions centered around the New England Patriots.
If you have not listened to his show I would highly recommend it. For fans of Boston sports, I think he brings something a little different to the table and his show is quite unique in the Boston sports radio market.
Below is my conversation of “Talking football With Damon Amendolara Of 98.5 The Sporst Hub.”
Before we talk about the present I was curious about asking you questions about your experiences in two other football markets. You spent almost 5 years in Kansas City at 610 Sports between ’03-’07. When you first arrived the Chiefs had a tremendous year. What was your first year like covering/discussing the Chiefs?
It was amazing. I started at 610 when the ’03 Chiefs were 4-0 and off to one of their best starts in recent memory. The first home game at Arrowhead I experienced was against the Broncos when Dante Hall returned a punt from his own 5-yd-line (with the help of a questionable block from Gary Stills) for a GW-TD in the 4th QTR. That’s when the city really exploded. That first season was magical. Ended up going 13-3 and a first-round BYE. I hosted a weekly show with Dante Hall – and NFL sensation. Got to know him very well. It’s hard to describe just how special KC is as a football experience when the Chiefs are really good.
Did you feel after that season that the Chiefs would begin a gradual decline over your time in KC?
Didn’t know what to think. It was a bit of smoke and mirrors that year because the offense was so good, but the defense was putrid (Greg Robinson coached, not surprisingly). But Dante bailed them out so many times and they had some really close calls. But you kinda knew (even if no one wanted to admit it) that was a bit of a lightning in the bottle season.
What was the fan base like in Kansas City during your time there, and how does it differ from the fan base here?
It’s absurdly loyal and even more locked in than here. Why? Because there’s no other team to distract you. The Royals are terrible. The Chiefs are truly a 365-day talk topic. We used to cover April mini camps and off-season OTAs like games. Here, if the Pats are bad – there’s three other teams to worry about. KC is one of the great football towns in this country.
You them moved on to Miami at WQAM where you worked weeknights. You also hosted “Phins Final” which was a postgame on the Dolphins Radio Network. What was the environment like there with Dolphins fans compared to what you experienced in in KC?
There are a pocket of loyal, passionate Dolphins fans. They are the flagship franchise in Miami. But it’s just nothing like KC or Boston. They have had playoff games blacked out and even during the 11-5 season in ’08 after the 1-15 in ’07, they had trouble selling out. That tells you everything. Miami – and I still have some good friends there who would have to agree – is the single worst sports city in America.
You came to work weeknights at 98.5 The Sports Hub in August of 2009. I am curious what was the initial difference between working in Miami and coming to Boston?
The passion, the intensity and the attention on all four teams. In Miami, you talk 80% of the time Dolphins, 15% of the time Heat and 5% Marlins. A block of all of those topics has to do with why no one is going to the games. As a comparison, combined ratings for two sports stations per daypart was about 20% of what it is here. There is no regional sports cable outlets with a full docket of local shows. Here there are two. There, most sports media was totally invisible in the public eye. Here, I got recognized around town almost as soon as we launched. It’s just a different beast. It’s terrific. I love it.
What I find interesting about your show is I feel you combine local and national elements in your programs. How would you describe your show for those who haven’t had a chance to hear yet?
It’s a knowledgeable, discussion-based look at sports with a healthy dose of humor (I hope). Or maybe it’s just 5-hour gasbagging. I don’t know – hard to grade yourself. I do a show I would like to hear. I’d like to tune into a show where the callers have a true voice, where the host has done his/her homework and doesn’t take itself too seriously. I hope we do that.
“Good, spirited, hearty bunch that loves their football” – DA on his opinions of Patriots fans who call in to his show.
What were your preconceived thoughts of Patriots fans before starting at 98.5 The Sports Hub?
Thought they were a good, spirited, hearty bunch (there was a lot of losing before Parcells and BB in sub-zero temps). For the most part that’s true. What I didn’t expect was how over protective and sensitive some are to any criticisms of the team. I always loved Boston sports fans because there were no sacred cows. Heck, Teddy Ballgame got booed. But there are a few (not many), that are like secret service protection of BB and Brady. Kinda wild. All in all though, I love Pats fans. I’m a football junkie and people love the Pats. Can’t ask for any more.
Now that you have been here for a year, how would you characterize them now after talking to so many of them on the air?
Good, spirited, hearty bunch that loves their football – with a small pocket of them who treat BB like their 6-year-old kid with his science project. “Awww, that’s SOOOO good Billy!”
You have several Pats beat writers and National writers on your show that cover the Patriots. They all bring something different to the table. What types of things do you try and do to give different perspectives on the Patriots?
Try to look for someone who is objective. I have little use for the beat writers (and this goes for any town, not just Boston) who just act as team PR because they’re scared to be critical. You’ll notice our guests have the spine to look at it objectively – or we probably won’t have them on again. “Everything is great, everyone played well, every draft was solid” makes for boring radio.
What was your experience of covering the Patriots last year?
Loved it. I go down to Foxboro every WED for locker room access and the BB and Brady pressers. Fascinated by BB on a weekly basis. He’s the smartest, most calculating coach I’ve ever been around (although I’ve covered Vermiel and Herm, so that’s not saying much). The entire locker room parrots his tenants. It’s like solving a puzzle every week. What you see is NOT what you get. I also love NFL history and BB is an enormous monument in that history, so it’s kinda like going to a museum every week.
On the current team are you surprised by how well they have played halfway into the season?
No question. Thought we would see far more growing pains to this point.
What has been the biggest surprise this season so far for the Patriots?
How consistent the defense is and how the secondary hasn’t been carved up every week. They’re starting a rookie and Kyle Arrington at CB every week. That should be an “all you can eat” sign for opposing QBs.
What has been the biggest disappointment this season so far for the Patriots?
Running the football. Just can’t do it consistently enough. Need better backs.
What are your predictions for the rest of the season for the Patriots?
11 or 12 wins and a playoff berth. Can’t predict a division yet because the Jets may be at the same win mark. Would be crazy to win 12 games and go on the road for the first round, but happened to the Colts two years ago.
What NFL team were you a fan of growing up, and have you become a fan of the Patriots after spending some time here in New England?
Grew up with a dad who was/is an enormous Giants fan who once saw them at Yankee Stadium. So watched a lot of Parcells and BB’s Giants growing up. God, I loved Tuna and BB. Lawrence Taylor was one of my favorite players. But there’s no question, when you spend time around these guys and cover a team you start rooting for them. Plus, from a selfish standpoint, talking about a winning team is way better than a losing one. So I hope the Pats win every game. I also hate the Jets – so I would love to see the Pats crush the Jets in the playoffs… like 51-3. That would be fun.
And finally, what are your thoughts about this week’s game against Indy?
I like the Pats. Think they get the Colts at the perfect time. Indy is coming off a win, lead the division, not desperate of urgent part of their season. Totally banged up. Peyton is just not running the same offense without all those pieces. I like the Pats by a TD.
I would like to thank Damon Amendolara for taking the time to answer my questions about his experience of covering football. Along with his radio show you can follow him on twitter at the DAshow.