By David Scott
Boston Sports Media Watch
Bob Lobel was treated to the cushiest of goodbyes upon his departure from WBZ-TV/CBS4 in the Spring. Steve Buckley praised him. Dan Shaughnessy just about sculpted a bronze statue of the guy to place next to Red. And Joe Fitzgerald did what Joe Fitzgerald does: He immortalized a mere mortal. Lobel was even feted and given a fond, formal farewell at The Tradition.
So smooth was his transition into Citizen Bob that Shots, never afraid to point out the considerable drop in Lobel’s skills, let the ‘BZer ride off into the sunset relatively unscathed. We grew up with him just like everyone else around here. His weekly bloopers night (Thursdays) were must-see at Three Brookbridge Road in Peabody (hard by the Lynnfield line). At one time, he was very very good.
Just not now and evidently, not ever again.
Yes, Bob Lobel (profiled three years ago in Boston Magazine) was given the chance to go quietly into that good night of post-TV life. His fraternal media brothers took care of him and Lobel could have – should have – retired into a life of paid emcee appearances, B-List outings and “consulting.”
Instead, Lobel did what he did more and more over the past decade: He opened his damn trap and out spilled a bunch of irresponsible and exaggerated sewage that had one faithful Shots reader asking over the weekend, “Are we dealing with another (John) Tomase here or what?” (We’re not sure the Herald even dignified Lobel’s lunacy with a mention.)
Lobel’s transgression on Entercom’s airwaves on Friday (curiously not cataloged anywhere at WEEI.com that we can find) doesn’t rise to the level of Tomase’s major mess, but both are incredibly irresponsible instances of media men trying too hard to be noticed during a time when media consumption includes scrutiny (and venom) that are near epic proportions in this town and nationwide.
Lobel’s fall and decline came when the mid-60s-aged local icon was essentially auditioning for a fill-in or part-time role at WEEI on Friday. Said Lobel in a May chat at Boston.com, “Radio has always been very attractive for me. I love doing it. Being on the radio got me to Boston. And maybe being on the radio will end up keeping me in Boston.”
Or not. Friday was the worst on-air audition EVER. Not only did Lobel further confirm that he’s no longer equipped to play in Boston’s sports media playpen, he gave Entercom almost no choice but to never use the Babbling Bob of Boston again on its air.
How could they? Lobel dropped misinformation that could very well have no basis at all. Lobel’s comment to Shaughnessy (which Dan Kennedy properly ripped on Saturday) is filled with half-ass defenses of his obvious attempt at rabble-rousing through exaggeration. Lobel thought he was right? Well that’s not nearly enough to go with such outlandish claims.
Certainly, we can’t expect our sports talk radio hosts to also be reporters, but we can expect them to be responsible with their words and understand that there is still a good portion of the audience that wants trust and reliability to be part of the whole sports talk radio package.
Lobel crossed a line between good, provocative radio discussion and what many (including Gordon Edes and Peter Gammons) seem to believe are flat-out misrepresentations. Even Lowest Common Denominator WEEI and Teflon Jason Wolfe will have to acknowledge that Lobel’s actions were questionable and potentially harmful to the station (let’s not forget its ties with the Sox).
If Lobel wants to present who his source was or why his source should be trusted more than those of long-time, established beat writers and national personalities, we would welcome the explanation. Heck, we’ll even give him the forum to do it.
In the absence of that, we would suggest it is now time for Lobel to do what he should have done upon his first stage exit back in April: go away and into hiding and only come out for a telethon here and a golf round there.
• Another interesting excerpt from the Boston.com chat, which took place just after the non-apology, apology from Tomase (bolds are my emphasis points):
LSCII__Guest_: Hi Bob, what’s your view on what should happen at the Herald with Tomase and his false story?
Bob_Lobel: That’s an explosive question. I can just follow it chronologically in my mind from the day I heard it before the Super Bowl and the last couple of days. The Herald really did the right thing yesterday and these mistakes happen. I don’t know John Tomase’s side of the story, but we all have been, in this business, in that position where you’re out on a limb by yourself and everybody has a saw and wants to saw you off the limb. I think we gotta hear the story, what happened, and what was going through his mind, what was going through the editor’s mind, what the information was… the anti-scoop theory in Boston, when somebody gets a story that nobody else has, it’s like swimming with sharks, there’s blood in the water… our media culture here is more interested in bringing down the guy that got the story than it is about figuring out whether the story is right or wrong… we’ve all lived this journalistic nightmare.
Spock__Guest_: Do you think the Herald will fire Tomase; or at least remove him from the Patriots beat coverage?
Bob_Lobel: Don’t know. I would suspect not… Tomase did not do this by himself, people had to sign off on this. They admitted they were wrong, what more do you want them to do. When you scrape everything away, i.e., was the Commissioner was right or wrong, Matt Walsh, etc., the Patriots would have won the Super Bowl against the Rams with or without Matt Walsh and they would have lost the Super Bowl to the Giants with or without John Tomase.
If this is truly how Lobel feels – and it’s in a chat, so it MUST be true! – then he has even more explaining to do, because there is no editor and no other higher-up for Lobel to hide behind. He should have been even more careful without those catch-alls in place.
• Steve Burton – who shared WEEI studio time with Lobel when he made his claims – conveniently neglected to mention his sidekick’s comments on Sunday night’s ever-weaker “Sports Final.” Burton talked Manny with Everywhere I Turn There He Is Lou Merloni and very strong and blunt Dan Hoard, the PawSox radio guy, who affirmed how ludicrous it is to think Manny threw in the towel against Mariano Rivera. (Hoard, it probably should have been noted, is married to WBZTV’s Peg Rusconi.)
Even Stammering Steve must’ve known just how far off Lobel’s comments were, so he ignored them entirely.
David Scott writes from a seaside shanty on the shores of Hull, Mass. and can be reached at shotsATbostonsportsmediaDOTcom.
Scott’s first book, with Memphis Coach John Calipari, is scheduled for release in the Fall of 2009.