By David Scott
Boston Sports Media Watch

So, it’s the Mangini Men vs. the Belichick Boys and we didn’t even receive the blessing of a Saturday game to make for a short week. Hold on to your hats, folks – the hot air will be blowing to and fro all week long, culminating with what should be a CBS lead announce team game with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on Sunday (1 p.m. on CBS4, locally).

Prepare for an overdose of the usual cast of characters like: “TV” Tim Fox, Steve “DeAwful” DeOssie, Fred “Scalper” Smerlas, Babbling Bob Lobel, Pete Meat Sheppard and, of course, “Rabble Rousing” Ron Borges.

The ensuing five day run-up (post-Holiday) will, like all significant Boston sporting events of late, begin to grate on your nerves by late Wednesday afternoon. There are, of course, ways to avoid the melee – chiefly, resist the urges to either watch FSNNE’s “Sports Tonight” shows (talk radio-meets-TV-cameras, to the detriment of all) or to listen to the “Big Show with the Big No” on WEEI 850 AM. There ARE alternatives, and while ESPN Radio Boston 890 AM’s Mike Felger may not quite be Mike nor the Mad Dog, he does at least have the propensity to listen to callers, create discourse and resist the urge to giggle over other gargantuan garbage gabbers. Oh, and Felgie’s got a pretty good take on the topsy-turvy Pats.

(Speaking of WFAN 660 AM’s all-time greatest radio pairing, these “NFL tournament” days are always some of the best days to tune in over at New York City’s Sports Talk Daddy (in the afternoon drive). They will have A-list guests, dissect games, teams and scenarios and, in general, do everything that Jason Wolfe’s EEI afternoon crew could never begin to understand.

For those of us equipped with satellite radio devices, our options are even more diverse, but the truly wise among us will divert some attention to both college hoops (with Shots live-blogging Northeastern-ODU on Wednesday; Providence-Marquette for Thursday for CSTV.com) and the annual Hot Stove, Cool Music event, which also takes place this weekend.

Before we even get that far, how about a little look back over this past holiday weekend? Crazy times are these when blogs burp up real-time commentary on what we watch:

• Shame on you if you bailed from more than a few Bowl games this weekend, but your biggest mistake would have been going to sleep on the Monday night/early Tuesday morning Boise State win over Oklahoma in the stirring Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on FOX.

Part of the three-man booth (along with Thom Brennamen on PBP and former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez), Charles Davis, correctly predicted that Boise State head coach Chris Petersen would go for the 2-point conversion and the win in the first OT. The modified Statue of Liberty play won it for the Broncos, 43-4, in a wild finish that included a roller coaster final two minutes of regulation.

THEN, to top it all off, 13-0 Boise State’s sophomore running back, Ian Johnson, (the crocheting Bronc (or “Crochet Boy” as teammates called him) used the end of his post-game interview with FOX’s Chris Myers to get on his bended knee and propose marriage (successfully) to the head Bronco Cheerleader (our best guess is it’s Chrissy, but we couldn’t match the video to the head shot and Myers neglected to give her name). (UPDATE: It is, Chrissy Popadics.)

For the game, Johnson had 24 carries, 100 yards, one TD, two receptions for four yards and one PA (Proposal Accepted). He leads the country in the last statistical category.

. . . Every damn story about about Johnson is riveting. As Myers intimated, THIS is what college athletics is all about.

. . . We can’t truly compare the Boise State win to what George Mason did in hoops – as the NY Times’ Pete Thamel’s Sunday piece goes a long way in explaining – but as far as breakthrough victories and fodder for a TRUE playoff, the Broncos may ultimately have just as much impact. Just imagine if the game actually meant something in the grand scheme of the BCS’s money-laundering operation.

Babbling Bob Lobel was back babbling again for the almost unwatchable Patriots “5th Quarter” (on TV38, sister station of CBS4). The show strictly serves as the place where you can watch the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady pressers and is, at all other times, channel-surfing time because of the in-studio trio of Lobel, Scott Zolak and DeOssie. Zolak is the only true TV talent in the group, and even he gets weighed down by the brutal Lobel.

On Sunday, BabBob was baffled by the playoff scenario and went just short of proclaiming the Pats opponent would be Denver. The assumption was not only wrong, but unnecessary and ill-stated. Lobel had no idea who the Pats would play and, at his disposal, he had an entire game of chippy plays and controversy that he could’ve stimulated discussion upon. But he wouldn’t know how to do that and we are all cheated because of it. Bob Neumeier was the only one worth a damn on that show and he got snagged by the fortunate NBC national folks.

. . . No one ON THE Pats’ BEAT will have the cajones to call him out entirely (although the Eagle-Tribune’s Hector Longo gave him a good smackdown) but Bill Belichick’s second annual “Let’s Humiliate the Opponent” extravaganza was bush league at best. When the Flutie dropkick happened last season, we thought similarly, but this one, with the “Vinny 20” streak, was even weaker.

Said Titan linebacker Keith Bullock (who might not be the most rational human being)in Mike Reiss’s gamer: “I think it was [expletive], and as long as I am here I will always remember that,” Bulluck said.

So will we, Keith. Put it this way, if an opposing coach had done anything of the such to the Pats (or any Boston team), he would be vilified forever more for “disrespecting the game” or “rubbing it in.” When Belichick does it, it becomes a feel-good story for the locals to waste their time on. (Testaverde already held the record, remember. He too was tacking on for the sake of tacking on.)

It was beneath such a “proud” organization’s leader, plain and simple and it’s exactly the type of the thing few in Boston can see through their rose-colored Belichick spectacles – especially when the wins begin to blind the irises.

. . . The Herald’s John Tomase, who earlier this season introduced us all to the Scaphoid bone, once again used his Pats organization medical source(s) to get the information on Rodney Harrison’s sprained MCL. Tomase was also the only local writer we saw, who had Harrison on the record saying the Bobby Wade block “was dirty.”

Tomase, a convert from the Red Sox beat for the Herald, has been outstanding all season long and could very well be the most complete newspaper reporter/writer/digger in the market, today.

. . . The NY Tabs will have a nice week, you can be sure, as was evident in the NY Post’s “Beli of the Beast” backpage on new Year’s Day.

If only the Herald would take the next logical step and follow suit and splash the back to match teh front. The Yellow Boxers never go quite far enough on the back flap.

• Monday’s noon treat of the ESPN2 Bobby Knight 880 game was nothing short of the best television broadcast of the year (calendar year 2007 and the past 365 days alike). Dick Vitale stepped back and let the event unfold; Doris Burke added perspective and poise and Dan Shulman once again proved why he’s among the Top 3 current PBP guys in the biz.

The production was extended through both the past-game tribute to Knight (with its compelling pictures of Knight almost crying and Knight with his grandkids) and the absolutely fascinating “I Did It My Way” ‘press’ conference that included no questions, but wonderful anecdotes and a clearly relieved Coach Knight.

Shots is, and will always be, an unabashed “Knight Guy,” but even the Knight haters had to see the significance of what the Texas Tech coach accomplished on the first day of ’07.

. . . Knight was even classy enough to endorse Vitale for the Hall of Fame during his in-arena wrods and thank-you’s. Shots was outraged the past two years when Vitale was snubbed and we share the Knight belief on this one: if there’s a bigger non-player/coach contributor to basketball over the past quarter-century than Vitale, we’ve never heard of him.

Let’s just hope the Hall doesn’t put him on the ballott again, unless they can assure it won’t become a Susan Lucci debacle.

. . .RELATED ITEM:
“ESPN CLASSIC TO TELEVISE ALL THREE OF BOB KNIGHT’S NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES JANUARY 3, 1-7PM, ET”:
As a tribute to Bob Knight, who. . . surpassed Dean Smith to become the winningest coach in NCAA men’s basketball history with a 80-78 victory over New Mexico (on Monday), ESPN Classic will televise his three NCAA National Championship games Wednesday, from 1:00 to 7:00 p.m., ET. Knight, who now has 880 career victories, captured three national titles while coaching Indiana. ESPN Classic will televise all three: the 86-68 victory over Michigan in 1976; the 63-50 win over North Carolina in 1981; and the 74-73 victory over Syracuse in 1987.

Shots (and a few hundred thousand Orange faithful) reserve the right to skip that last one. Keith Smart equals Bill Buckner in the shadow of The Dome.

. . . The weekend’s best Bowl sideline reporter that Shots was able to catch (and we didn’t miss many) was FOX’s Krista Voda (known for her Speed Channel work), who worked the Cotton Bowl on the Pat Summerall/Brian Baldinger call. We just love discovering new national talent. And hearing Summerall again was kind of refreshing.

. . . In what absolutely has to be a cost-cutting measure at the ever-more belt-tightening, Boston Globe (sister, and daughter, of the New York Times), the paper has now turned its back on former bedmate, Boston College.

The Eagles annual bowl trip (this one to Charlotte) was given the shortest of shrifts by the school’s long-time crony and the only acceptable (barley) explanation is that the sports desk ran out of funds in its December budget (likely from such extravagances as the needless November trip to Germany by Borges).

Not only was there not a columnist covering the Eagles dramatic win over Navy in the George Foreman Meineke Carcare Bowl, the beat writer (Michael Vega) didn’t arrive in Charlotte until Friday (for the Saturday game). The Globe used a stringer, C. Jemal Horton, for its mid-week coverage and then supplemented Vega’s game story with a Horton sidebar for the Sunday paper.

The also (and much more) cash-poor Herald, in contrast, had Steve Conroy in Charlotte throughout the week – working his ass off – and then going hog-wild for Sunday’s paper: a virtual one-man Globe wrecking crew.

Said one long-tenured Globie, “When I (realized) Vega was on press row for the BC-Duquesne game (thursday night), I couldn’t believe it.”

The end-of-year travel slashing would appear to be in direct response to the ever-tinkering bean counters who control the purse strings of Joe Sullivan’s rainy day fund. It would also appear to be an about-face to the Globe’s long-standing tradition of over-covering BC, sometimes at the expense of anything else.

We’re smart enough to know that if Sullivan (an avowed college sports guy) had his druthers, he’d have had both Basketball Bob Ryan and Vega (if not a Mark Blaudschun appearance) providing coverage of a ‘dominant’ local interest like BC.

What? you ask. BC matters in this town? In a mid-tier bowl? On a Holiday Weekend? C’mon, Shots – you must still be giddy from your New Year’s Eve grog.

Perhaps. But we can tell you of another group that is wondering exactly what is happening on Sully’s Sports Desk. It’s a business that works in close conjunction with the BC athletic program in all of its marketing efforts. Yep, the Fenway Sports Group, that’s who. By giving short-shrift to the Eagles, the Globe might actually end up hurting one of its 17 Percent off-shoots, the FSG and, in so doing, might be insulting the FSG higher-ups.

• Check back on Friday for a regular installment of Shots – and, as always, if Boston sports media news breaks, we’ll be here to try and fix it.

Happy New Year. Let’s allow it to be the “Year of Shots.”


David Scott writes from a seaside shanty on the shores of Hull, Mass. And can be reached at shotsATbostonsportsmedDOTcom