June 28, 2005
John Molori's Media Blitz 6/27
BY: John Molori
- Tomase talk
Welcome to the jungle, John!
It was somewhat amusing to observe the onslaught of criticism fired at Lawrence Eagle-Tribune baseball scribe and WEEI/Fox Sports Net regular John Tomase last week. Tomase wrote a scathing column, completely eviscerating Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez.
In the aftermath, Tomase was absolutely skewered by talk radio and fan emails. While I disagree with Tomase’s assault on Ramirez, in which he questioned the man’s heart, doubted his dedication to team and blamed him for the high ticket prices at Fenway Park, I give Tomase credit for having the gumption to pen such a piece. Tomase has to go into that locker room and face Ramirez every day. Many talk radio hosts can hide behind their microphones.
It was nearly laughable to listen to fellow media members grill Tomase, specifically, WEEI’s Glenn Ordway. It was Ordway who, back in 2003, said that the Red Sox should not and could not bring Manny Ramirez back to Boston for the 2004 season.
Steve Buckley dissed Ramirez before he ever played a regular season game for Boston. In March of 2001, Buckley wrote, “We all knew there would come a day that, Manny being Manny, he’d clam up and ask to be left alone, that he’d find himself a little hiding place in the clubhouse, a place that would be off limits to the knights of the keyboard.”
The point is that all of Tomase’s criticisms have been voiced previously by others, but timing is everything. In 2001, Ramirez had yet to prove himself as a Red Sox player. In 2003, the team had lost to the Yankees in the ALCS and Ramirez was not yet the media darling he became in 2004.
Many of Tomase’s points were valid, but he chose to state them at the most popular point in Red Sox history. Maybe Tomase can now empathize a bit with the likes of Boston Globe writer Ron Borges who has been similarly and, at times, unfairly bashed for criticizing the ultra-popular Patriots.
Ramirez’s recent hot streak has given Tomase’s critics more fodder, but Tomase never said that Ramirez was not a talented player capable of big numbers. In my view, his only mistake was going on WEEI to defend himself and writing a follow-up column responding to the criticism.
Tomase learned what many other commentators already know. In Boston, it’s OK to kick a guy when he’s down, but when he's up, put the boots away, or risk being kicked yourself.
The Celtics new multi-year broadcast agreement with Entercom Radio has been met with justifiable glee from all sides. While the actual games will be broadcast on AM 680 WRKO, the deal includes regular interviews with Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers and C’s players on WRKO’s sister station Sports Radio 850 WEEI.
No one can debate the value of this move for the Celtics. Since 2001, the team has been struggling with bad ratings and a bad signal on AM 1510 WWZN. The move to Entercom brings them back to an established station with a better, if not overwhelming, signal. In addition, they are, in effect, back on WEEI, the dominant force in New England sports media.
This past week, WEEI director of programming and operations Jason Wolfe said, “The Boston Celtics represent the very best of the NBA. I’m extremely excited to have them back in the Entercom family.” In addition, WEEI’s “Big Show” host Glenn Ordway talked on numerous occasions about the Celtics’ return.
Strangely, when the Celtics left WEEI in 2001 to join WWZN, the move was met with blasé indifference from WEEI. In 2001, Ordway told Media Blitz, “WEEI, a highly successful sports radio station, lost $2 million on the Celtics last year. The key to success is sales and ratings. You have to have the numbers.”
Wolfe also expressed no remorse over losing the Celtics in 2001, saying that he did not consider WWZN a threat to WEEI’s dominance. Both men were correct, but it is interesting to note how the Celtics have now been welcomed back by WEEI and showered with praise.
The Celtics’ return to Entercom brings up a fascinating fact about broadcasting commodities and how stations view them. Simply put, if the commodity is leaving, good riddance. If it is returning, good deal.
It was the NHL’s version of “All the President’s Men.” Lawrence Eagle-Tribune associate editor Russ Conway spent a decade digging into the practices and malpractices of former NHL Players’ Association chief Alan Eagleson.
This month marks the tenth anniversary of Conway’s book “Game Misconduct.” “It all started in 1988 when I was having a few beers with Wayne Gretzky and (the late) Ace Bailey,” explains Conway. “Gretzky brought up international hockey, which was run by Eagleson. Wayne said that something was wrong.”
The next year, Conway ran into ex-Bruin Don Awrey who asked if there were any job openings at the Eagle-Tribune. Conway thought he was joking, but the truth was that Awry and many other players were very down financially.
Says Conway, “Eagleson ran international hockey and was the keeper of the NHL pension system. There was no parallel in the US in terms of the power wielded by Eagleson. You’d have to combine George Steinbrenner, Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Hoffa.”
Conway discovered that Eagleson was indeed using union money to finance his own business interests. After the first series of stories ran in the Eagle-Tribune in 1991, Conway became very unpopular in Canada as the man trying to bring down Eagleson, a Canadian icon.
Says Conway, “We had sources inside Eagleson's office in Toronto. Former NHL president John Zeigler sent faxes to league personnel demanding that they not speak to me.” Hall of Famer Phil Esposito told Conway that he once confronted Eagleson about league economic issues.
Conway says that according to Esposito, Eagleson responded, ‘You are just a (expletive deleted) player. Pay attention to the game. Let me do the business.’ “In 1994, Eagleson received federal indictments on thirty-four counts including insurance and mail fraud and lying to players,” relates Conway.
“There were high ranking Canadian government officials trying to protect him, but Eagleson was not a great Canadian. He was a manipulative, conniving cheater. He went so low as to cheat players out of their career-ending disability insurance and manipulate their pension funds. This was the biggest sports corruption case of union official ever.”
Perhaps the most notable example of Eagleson's betrayal involved hockey legend Bobby Orr. “Orr trusted Eagleson like a brother,” says Conway. “They were inseparable. Bobby found out at the end of his career that he had no money left.
“In addition, Orr was offered 18.5% ownership of the Bruins in the mid-1970s and Eagleson never told him. Eagleson was in bed with Blackhawks' owner Bill Wirtz, the Chairman of the NHL Board of Governors. He delivered Orr to Wirtz and Chicago on a silver platter.”
Despite spearheading arguably the biggest story in NHL history, Conway never sought the media spotlight. He states, “TV and radio never floated my boat. The offers were there, but the readers are my number one priority.”
“Game Misconduct” was chosen by Sports Illustrated as one of the Top 100 sports books of all-time. It spent 17 weeks as a top-ten best seller in the US and Canada. Conway even added two chapters in three subsequent printings.
“Several NHL players said that they would not accept Hall of Fame induction as long as Eagleson was a member,” says Conway. Eagleson became the first person in sports history to be ejected from a Hall of Fame. “
The ramifications of Conway’s work are many. He states, “Players have become more educated about their salaries, pensions and insurance. NHL salaries are now disclosed and the entire game was restructured. John Ziegler, four NHL VP’s, the league treasurer, secretary and chairman of the beard were all removed. The NHLPA director and the union treasurer and officers were all fired.”
In 1999, Conway received the Elmer Ferguson Award and induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Ironically, he was inducted alongside Wayne Gretzky, eleven years after their innocent conversation over a few beers that turned hockey upside down and made Alan Eagleson a convicted felon.
John Molori's columns have been published in The Providence Journal, The Boston Metro, The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, The Salem Evening News, The Newburyport Daily News, The Gloucester Times, Patriots Football Weekly, Boston Sports Review, New England Hockey Journal, TheRemyReport.com, PatsFans.com, BostonSportsReview.com, BostonSportsMedia.com and MethuenOnline.com. Email John at JOMOL3@aol.com.
Site-specific editorial/photos Copyright 2001-2004 PatsFans.com. This website is an unofficial and independently operated source of news and information not affiliated with any school, team, or league.