Both Scott’s Shots and bostonsportsmedia.com founder, Bruce Allen, have been told, independently, by a number of industry insiders, that Boston Herald multi-media superstar, Michael Felger, will be given the keys to the all-important afternoon drive show at the new ESPN Radio Boston, 890 AM and 1400 AM.
Station general Manager, Jessamy Tang indicated this past Thursday to Scott’s Shots, that any official announcements will be made this upcoming week, when some of the network’s national radio programming originates from ESPN Boston’s new Charlestown studios. Felger could not be reached for comment.
Scott’s Shots has also confirmed through an ESPN Radio insider that the station will begin a locally generated, pre- and postgame, Patriots show to be hosted by the newly hired Kevin Winter (a Bellingham, MA native) and former Patriot great, Russ Francis, who began hosting a weekend sports show in New Hampshire (Concord’s WTPL 107.7 FM) last month according to this Ian Clark, story from the Union Leader.
It is still a possibility that a co-host will be added to the Felger show, which is expected to be a 4-7, afternoon drive show that will go head-to-head with WEEI 850 AM’s “Big Show” and its supreme – if unchallenged – Glenn Ordway and his cast of characters. (Winter, we’re told, could be used in the co-host role as well, or with a three-person format, he’d be used in the Flash/Meter/Meat role.) It would also appear that The Zone’s AM 1510′s Ryen Russillo is not in the mix for a spot on the ESPN roster.
The show would most likely get the 2-4 p.m. lead-in from the popular, national, “Dan Patrick Show” and then serve as a lead-in for whatever local nighttime programming ESPN 890/1400 accumulates (such as Northeastern University hockey, which they have under contract). Doug Tribou, the 890/1400 program director, along with Tang, will have to sort out the plusses and minuses of going head to head with The Big Show for the entire 2-6 p.m. slot or just parts of it. Tang did confirm this week that some timing issues do need to resolved. The chance to be “alone” for the 6-7 hour could help at the outset in getting switch-overs from ‘EEI, which runs a “Best of the Day” segment and the Sox pre-game during that hour on most nights.
• In other regional radio news of the weekend, Scott’s Shots has been informed that Providence’s Andy Gresh will indeed move from The Score 790 AM’s afternoon show to it’s morning drive slot and be replaced in the afternoon by longtime Patriots Football Weekly writer, Bryan Morry. Other “major” changes at The Score are also imminent, but station Program Director John Crowe replied to a request from Shots by emailing: “I do not comment on rumors.” Morry did not reply to a Friday night email from Shots nor would Gresh (contacted earlier in the week) comment on any pending moves. . .If true, it would seem to confirm that Gresh will not be getting the overnight gig at WFAN 660 AM in New York. It could also mean that Gresh will be paired with rising talent, Scott Zolak, for the morning show, an intriguing pairing and one that has shown early promise for the WBCN Patriots Rock Radio Network game day shows.
• Some things to think about with Felger taking on his former cohorts at WEEI:
It would seem unlikely that Felger can continue to effectively offer up Patriots coverage for the Herald AND host the radio station’s marquee, local show. These positions, as Ordway or a Gerry Callahan can attest, require the personalities to be active in the “selling” of the show. Callahan does manage to contribute a column or two per week to the Herald, but Felger’s current responsibilities for the Yellow Boxers require his daily presence in Foxboro. This new job opportunity would seem to preclude him from being “on the beat.”
The guess here is that Felger, who has been at the Herald for almost 14 years, winds up being a TV (FOX Sports New England/WBZ “Sports Final”)/Radio guy and perhaps a part-time Herald Patriots columnist in the mold of Kevin Mannix, contributing a report card-type column and maybe one or two other Patriot columns per week. Felger has been on the Pats beat since 1999 and is the author of “Tales From The Patriots Sideline.” He is married to WBZ’s Sara Underwood.
A reduced Felger role would absolutely decimate the Herald’s already anemic Patriots coverage (hurt recently by the loss of former family member Mike Reiss to the Globe). With the regular season starting in four business days, the timing of a possible Felger departure would be devastating to Hank Herald’s already-barebones, all-hands-on-deck staff. An SOS for Reiss to return would surely be shouted from the rooftop at One Herald Square if the Felger-to-radio deal is consummated.
• Since Friday’s Shots story on ESPN Radio (scroll down), we have been contacted by several high profile media personalities who were surprised – stunned even – that ESPN Radio Boston never reached out to Globie, Basketball Bob Ryan, to discuss the drive-time slot. Not a phone call, not an email, not a smoke signal – nothing, according to several people with knowledge of the search. Ryan, we’re told, would have, at least, listened. And he’s already a part of the ESPN inner circle (See: “Sports Reporters” and “PTI” fill-in duties).
There was also never a concerted effort to bring home Bill Boston Sports Guy Simmons, another ESPN family member who would have a legit chance at competing with “Ordway and the Giggling Guys.” (Imagine, if you can, a “Bob and Bill” show with Ryan and Simmons giving old and new school views on all things sports. It would have been like “PTI” on radio – maybe better.) Simmons, who is said to be enjoying his California livin’ just fine, thank you, would have also listened. But it would have been an admittedly tougher sell to the BSG.
Instead, ESPN Radio Boston barely beat the bushes and supposedly tried to land mid-major, unsexy names like Michael Smith, Greg Dickerson and Bob Neumeier. And while Felger is both competent and compelling, it does appear that the ESPN entrant in Beantown is more concerned with saving money than with TRULY competing against the dominant incumbent. If money is going to dictate what this new entry does – to that extent – than it’s an early wanring sign that ESPN Radio Boston will be nothing but another also-ran. Felger should keep all of this in mind before signing off on the deal which we’re told is very nearly completed. Maybe, however, the talent budget is being trimmed in hopes of landing the Red Sox package when it comes up for bid (‘EEI currently has one season remaining with the Fenway Folk.) Even so, that’s a ways off and seems quite shortsighted.
• Let’s have a little bit of fun for a moment and try to help the ESPiNners come up with a name for their new show.
1. The FBU Show (Felger-Belichick-Underwood)
2. Fee, Fie, Foe Felger
3. Mike and, Ah, Someone to be Announced Much Later
4. The “I’m Sara’s Husband, Who Are You?” Show
5. Mike and the Mad Dog – whoa, already in use, eh?
6. Mike on the Mike (not to be confused with ESPN’s AM show, “Mike and Mike”)
7. Felger? I Nearly Killed Her
8. The FU Show – Felger Up
9. The Collapsed/Uncollapsed Lung Power Hour(s)
10. The We’ll Get Beat, But at Least We’re Not The Zone Extravagazna
David Scott writes from a seaside shanty on the shores of Hull, Mass. and can be reached at shots@bostonsportsmediadotcom