March 01, 2005
John Molori's Media Blitz
BY: John Molori
- Michael moves in
Holley jolly times begin at WEEI
He is young, knowledgeable and on the rise. Michael Holley brings his multi-media talent to WEEI at 10:00 a.m. on March 1 as the station’s new midday co-host alongside Dale Arnold on the “Dale and Holley” show.
What ended as a full-time, three-year contract at the nation’s top-rated sports station began as a casual lunch regarding a part-time gig.
Says Holley, “I met with (WEEI programming chief) Jason Wolfe in mid-January. I thought it was about a show called “Seven Sundays,” a temporary Sunday show that I would host with (ESPN regular) Michael Smith. When he told me that there could be an opening on the midday show, I told him it was intriguing.”
Holley was coming off the cancellation of his Fox Sports Net (FSN) show “I, Max” with Max Kellerman. “I was disappointed, but not surprised,” says the 34 year-old Holley.
“We had four or five format changes. The show never became what we wanted it to be and I’m not sure if Fox ever knew what they wanted it to be. Max is signed with Fox until May of 2006, so he’ll be fine. There is no fault. It’s like a bad relationship that should just end.”
When it became clear that Bob Neumeier and WEEI were miles apart on a salary figure, Holley and his Los Angeles-based agent Michael Price began talks with the station. Price represents several entertainment clients including the creators of “South Park.”
Says Holley, “It took about a month and a half to get the deal done, but I never took it seriously. I really thought that they’d sign Neumy.” Holley would not comment on his WEEI salary, but is thrilled that it gives him a chance to talk sports in Boston on a daily basis.
“When I signed on to do “I, Max,” they gave me the option of doing the show in New York, but I chose to do it from Boston,” says Holley. “In September of last year, FSN put pressure on me to move to New York, but I refused. Boston is where I want to be.”
Holley came to the Boston Globe in 1994 from the Akron Beacon Journal in Ohio. He left Boston for a columnist job in Chicago, but returned in short order. He was a frequent guest on WEEI, a regular on Channel 7’s “Sports Xtra” and a host at AM 1510 The Zone. His 2004 book, “Patriot Reign,” was a bestseller.
“It’s not normal here,” jokes Holley. “I wouldn’t put Chicago, New York, or Philly in the same category as Boston. I mean, we talk contracts here. In how many cities would Scott Pioli be a star?”
The articulate and affable Holley is adept at cutting through an issue and getting to its core. His work as a writer and on-air talent has been characterized by integrity, originality and a wry sense of humor. Holley was the perfect choice for WEEI. He is also the first daily African-American host at the station.
“I understand why people ask the question about that,” says Holley. “ But that can’t be the hook. It’s not like you can say, ‘OK here’s the black guy!’ and that’s it. I’ll be judged on my knowledge and commentary. I know it hasn’t happened here before, but it’s not enough to carry a show Monday through Friday for three years.”
Wolfe has shied away from the racial issue stating that Holley was simply the best person for the job. He’s right, but it is a significant hiring given the predominantly white, male and politically conservative roster of WEEI hosts.
“I have never wanted to become a caricature of the angry black man,” says Holley. “I bring a lot more to the table than that. I won’t focus on the racial aspect of every issue, but I can provide depth if a subject calls for the black angle.”
In 2002, Holley spoke openly to Media Blitz about being an African-American reporter in Boston. “New Englanders are guarded, but it’s not racist. It’s cultural,” he stated. “Black people in New England have the same traits as white people. The reputation is out there that Boston is a racist city. Culturally, you are constantly reminded that you are black, but guys like myself Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce enjoy Boston.”
Holley covered Walker’s first stint with the Celtics and shares some unique insights on his return. “I’m still trying to figure the deal out. Fans generally like Antoine, but he has to be coached. Jim O’Brien let him shoot all those three-pointers. Doc Rivers won’t allow it.”
Holley joins WEEI at the height of the station’s power and influence. He says that WEEI today is like the Boston Globe in 1994. At that time, the Globe featured the legendary likes of the late Will McDonough, Bob Ryan, Peter Gammons and Bud Collins.
“I’d much rather join a winning team as opposed to the one I left,” says Holley referring to his departure from FSN. “We were in second place, 35 games behind ESPN. It was like that at The Zone too. There were a lot of talented people, but we were a distant second to WEEI and there was a lot of uncertainty. That makes you nervous.”
Holley recognizes the challenges of his new gig. “Radio is hard. You have to go in with a plan and you can’t wait for the callers to save you. You have to have an agenda and make it sound natural.”
Arnold and Holley got together last week for a long dinner meeting. “ Dale is great,” says Holley. “We talked forever. It’ll be fun to see how we develop a rhythm. I’m looking forward to the first time we disagree. If he has a problem with disagreement, we both should get out of the business. That’s part of the gig. It’s going to happen.”
Michael Holley and Dale Arnold will be a great team, but the “Dale and Holley” show is hardly a great name. It doesn’t flow and it fails to grasp the qualities of the hosts. So, here’s your chance to make radio history.
If you have an alternative name for WEEI’s “Dale and Holley” show, send it to me at the email address below and include your name and address. Be original. Show names do not have to include the names of the hosts and can be humorous. Stay within the boundaries of good taste and keep it clean.
I’ll include any interesting show name ideas in a future Media Blitz and give out sports-related prizes to the top three submissions. I’ll even forward the submissions to WEEI programming chief Jason Wolfe. Who knows? You could change the course of sports talk history.
When it comes to media, anything the New England Patriots touch turns to gold. The latest nugget is the NFL Films “Super Bowl XXXIX Champions” DVD that hits stores on March 1. The Patriots and Warner Brothers held a special screening of the DVD on Monday at Loews Theatre Boston Commons.
Bill Belichick and several Patriots players, including Super Bowl XXXIX MVP Deion Branch, were on hand to watch a game-by-game recap of the 2004 season and postseason.
The DVD opened with video of the 1970s Steelers, 1980s 49’ers and 1990s Cowboys, clearly putting the Pats in the NFL dynasty category. The DVD also includes terrific sound bites from the sidelines, locker room and stands, all narrated by the inimitable Harry Kalas and featuring the trademark slow motion artistry that is NFL Films.
With behind the scenes footage, a recap of Super Bowl Media Day and Paul McCartney’s halftime show, the DVD is another jewel in the Patriots ever-glistening media crown.
John Molori’s Media Blitz column is published in The Providence Journal, The Boston Metro, The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, The Salem Evening News, The Newburyport Daily News, The Gloucester Times, The Lowell Sun, Patriots Football Weekly, PatsFans.com, BostonPressBox.com, BostonSportsMedia.com, RedSoxNation.net and MethuenOnline.com. Email John at JOMOL3@aol.com.
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