By David Scott
Boston Sports Media Watch
There are probably several dozen reasons why Peter Gammons is a living legend. He revolutionized the Sunday paper with his notes columns. He transitioned from print to TV to Web and paved the way for colleagues to do the same. He continues to prove that “connected people” get the best, most accurate information on a consistent basis.
But for us, the Legend of Gammons will never be bigger than it was on Saturday evening at a legendary local joint known as The Paradise for the “Night Before” Hot Stove, Cool Music event. In that room, where Bono, Tom Petty and Billy Joel – to name a few – had stood, we were treated to Gammons joining an All-Star compendium of musicians, jocks and Kid GM-types.
And while Theo Epstein, “Sonny D” (Lenny DiNardo) and Zack Scott’s “hot harmonica” were entertaining; it was the sight of Gammons that was both inspiring and energizing.
June 27th was a literal Tuesday but it was almost Gammons’s literary Sunday. That morning he suffered a brain aneurysm near his Cape Cod home. He was airlifted to Boston, placed on an O.R. table and forced to face the nastiest fastball of his baseball life.
Six and a half months later, Gammons was his own, rock and roll version of “ phenomenal swag,”, dressed in a slick, black button-down and crisp, white slacks with black loafers.
He played his Stratocaster, yes he did – played it well, too. But mostly he just soaked in the seventh annual event that is becoming Boston’s equivalent of MTV’s Rock and Jocks. His “Hot Stove, Cool Music All-Star Band” played a rousing set, highlighted by a gritty, inspired Powder Finger from Neil Young. By the time Paul Barrere knocked us out with some vintage Little Feat – including a Willin’/ The Weight/Back into Willin’ number, we found ourselves in stunned silence, alone on the balcony of The ‘Dise. We watched as Gammons sat mesmerized, in the background, fixated on Barrere’s guitar-playing during the night’s final set.
And we couldn’t help think about the journey Gammons has taken from, quite frankly, near death to a stage in the neighborhood of the park, Fenway, where he’s done some of his best work. Was he a medical miracle or “Just Peter” as his associates say? Saved or re-born?
Gammons, who was stretched thin all week with HSCM and the Baseball writers’ dinner, was able to email us this wonderful anecdote as part of the answer to those questions:
“Paul and all of them are incredible, and when I told (drummer) Richie (Hayward) that it was ridiculous that they were thanking me, (considering) they (were the ones who) flew in for an hour’s performance, Richie said, ‘We’re here to celebrate you being alive.’
“That brought tears on the ride home,” Gammons admitted.
After that night, we know all about driving home a bit misty-eyed.
. . . Shots got over to the show a bit late, and missed the “pretty people” who had been in earlier Saturday night including Big Papi’s Big Mami and a Papelbon or two. We did manage to glimpse Leigh Montville and who believed to be Paul Epstein in the Improper Bostonian’s roped off VIP box and Dirt Dog Dim Dog, Steve Silva was snapping pictures.
. . .Further proving how little couth Shots actually possesses, we were overtaken by the need to drink the Paradise’s Pabst Blue Ribbon 16 ouncers in a can ($3) and even prompted to hand a few out as tokens of our appreciation. Umie extraordinaire, Keith Gainsboro, from Elevate Communications took his, punched a key hole in it and shot-gunned the sucker in under three seconds. No, actually he left it exactly where it landed and went back to his Sam Adams Light. Hater.
Gainsboro, Meghan Campbell and Elevate’s entire staff work tirelessly (pro bono, we’re told) on HSCM every year and each year, with yeoman work from the Herald’s Jeff Horrigan and a host of others, it gets bigger and more a part of the fabric of the city. Just an all-around fantastic event for a great cause.
. . . Zack Scott (no relation to Shots), for those of you who are wondering, is Theo’s Assistant Director of Baseball Operations. He really could wail harp quite well.
• ESPN, now closer with NASCAR than ever, is rolling out all sorts of blanket coverage of the motor sport. So far, the best upshot of that as been an introduction to Shannon Spakes.
• Serving our self-discovered role of helping everyone else do their jobs, Shots would like to offer a few suggestions (specifically on the Pepperdine club) for Bill Simmons, who is going to be doing some “deep research” on what it’s like to do color commentary for one of the “networks” (ESPNU, which is technically part of one of the Networks).
“I’m just doing two games – 1/15 and 1/22 – because I wanted to write a column about what it’s like to announce a game,” Simmons wrote in his chat this week. “Don’t get your hopes up – there’s a 100-percent chance I’m going to be bad at this. As long as I don’t completely kill the game, I’ll be happy.”
So, here, in no particular order, are three things you’ll need to incorporate into the Pepperdine broadcast:
1. Head Coach Vance Walberg is an evil genius of the highest order. He wants his teams to score 200 points a game and he won’t be happy until that mission is accomplished. He’s about two years from what he wants the Waves to be, but you’ll see glimpses of the Phoenix Suns from your NBA.
2. The Waves have a female trainer by the name of Debbie Prouse. Prouse not only sits at the head of the bench with assistant coaches (a rarity for trainers), she also served as a trainer for a reality show that you’ve probably heard of, but escapes me right now. This will be good fodder when the game becomes a blowout, or when you need divert attention from the fact that you had been singing Katrina and the Waves songs to mock the Pepperdine student body.
3. Walberg’s daughters work with the program. They are quite attractive, and obviously like basketball. There should be no fewer than 20 shots of each, on the bench (preferably next to Debbie Prouse) during the game you work. This will ensure a ratings bonanza and turn your George Plimpton-of-the-sideline routine in a lucrative, long-term deal.
. . . By the way, has anyone else been enjoying Sports Gal’s weekly riffs and picks? It’s at the point now where I read her before Simmons. She’s sassy.
• Just a bit more on our GateHouse grumblings from last week: How would like to be a 10-year employee at a low, mid-major paper and be asked to re-apply (and interview) for the job you’ve held for a decade?
Well, according to one Shots’ dime-dropper familiar with GateHouse’s plans, here’s some of the junk the Gate Keepers are pulling”
The company has made every employee at (two of the papers, the Fall River Herald-News and Taunton Gazette) re-apply for their jobs. They have informed (workers) that “not 100 percent” of staffers will be rehired, and the lucky ones who are, will likely be done so at a new (read: lower) pay scale.
Fall River is unionized, and there is every indication that GateHouse is trying to break the union. With that in mind, staffers at Fall River are planning a sickout very soon. Taunton has no union.
It seems likely that GateHouse intends to cut some of its best staffers simply because they’re too expensive, and cut costs with a less-talented staff.
Disgraceful, isn’t it? But really, these papers have been mis-managed for so long, that the only – SOLITARY – shot that companies like GH have, is to blow up the model and re-invent the diagram. They just don’t seem to be going about it with much consideration for the employees.
• Junior Seau, still a Pats team member appears to be out of sight, out of mind for the local papers (however, NBC7’s “WB News at Ten” jumped all over it on Thursday night). Fortunately The Smoking Gun and the San Diego locals haven’t forgotten about him. Doesn’t exactly sound like a “Pats character guy” to us.
The locals are at least a day (and now two) late on the Seau story, something the Track Gals should be embarrassed by.
Perhaps some of the Pats’ traveling media can visit the Sidebar on Market Street in San Diego and report back on the findings.
• Great, MLS gets David Beckham and places him in LA where he can become a caricature of himself and be largely ignored by the East Coast-biased sports media. Whatever. Soccer doesn’t work here. It never will. And I’ll never change my mind.
• Be on alert earlier next week for a new “This is SportsCenter” spot which will feature the farcical AnchorCam. Debuting Monday, Jan. 15, the as will feature John Buccigross “wearing AnchorCam, providing viewers a first-ever anchor’s-eye view of SportsCenter.”
• Once again proving that no act is career-ending in sports journalism, we bumped into the presumably original writings of former Hartford Courant national college hoops writer, Ken Davis at MSNBC.com.
And you wonder why sportswriting is considered the “toy department”?
• Northeastern Husky Mania will sweep CN8 this weekend as the local Comcast entry airs CAA hoops action on Saturday at noon with Hofstra visiting Northeastern, and the night-cap to the day-nighter of Husky athletics later that evening with a hockey visit from UVM (7 p.m.).
. . . CN8 had some ugly technical difficulties in the late second half of its Hofstra win at Drexel in overtime (55-53) on Thursday night that left viewers without graphics and with a jumpy, fuzzy, blinking screen for several minutes. It only intensified our headache by 100 or so. Just awful. Scott Graham (on PBP) kept apologizing, but we’re guessing most casual observers flipped away from the production embarrassment. Rob Kennedy, on color, maintained his steady, informed delivery throughout, and once the picture got straightened out, Graham offered: “You can see the picture, we’ll fill you in on the rest.” He proceeded to go into radio broadcast-mode deftly until full graphics returned with 2 minutes left in the game, and in time for OT (as well as couple of key slo-mo replays).
Watching sports without time, score and shot clock can be quite a challenge – for everyone involved.
• Congrats to the Globe’s new ‘west coast correspondent’, Mark Blaudschun, who was honored with the Bert McGrane Award by the College Football Writers Association of America.
Blaudschun was instructed this week to stay west, young man, as he extended his journey from the Phoenix-area (where he covered, since Jan. 2, the Fiesta Bowl and the BCS Championship game) to San Diego (where he did advances from Chargers camp).
That kind of road trip can get old in a hurry, we’re guessing.
• UMass (and the Atlantic 10 Conference) have finally managed to place three games locally on WSBK TV38 in addition to the school’s remaining CSTV and ESPN2 appearances. The games scheduled for ‘SBK are all road contests: Charlotte (1/28, 1 p.m.), Dayton (2/18, 2 p.m.) and the final regular season game at St. Joe’s (3/3, 4 p.m.).
David Scott writes from a seaside shanty on the shores of Hull, Mass. And can be reached at shotsATbostonsportsmedDOTcom