The Sports Talk of Boston

I've railed against the state of Boston radio a couple times in this space before, here and here, but the news of a couple days ago was quite a shocker -- pioneering rock station WBCN is switching to an all-online format, with top 40 station WBMX (Mix 98.5) assuming the vacant 104.1 terrestrial frequency and the creation of an FM-based sports talk station, WBZ-FM to take over the 98.5 frequency. That's a reshuffling that's quite indicative of not only the state of Boston-area radio, but the radio industry worldwide.

Radio long ago ceased to be about the content and is now entirely about the business bottom line. If a block of airtime isn't generating enough ad sales revenue, then change the block's content. If the entire station isn't bringing in enough ad sales revenue -- change the station format.

There are so many ways a person can satisfy their musical tastes in a format other than over-the-air radio, it's almost not worth it to play music at all. The very thing radio stations like WBCN were attempting to achieve in the 60's and 70's -- education and celebration of great music -- were their downfall, now that someone can click on over iTunes to download their favorite tracks, rather than chancing it by listening to the radio for 30 minutes, or sign up for a Pandora account and listen to only the artists/types of music they appreciate.

These days, if I am listening to the radio in the office, it's online with BBC6, a British-based station that's in online-only format. They play music I like and keep it varied. That's my taste.

On the flip side of things, WBZ-FM comes along as the third sports-talk station to take on WEEI in recent years. Where ESPN and The Zone have failed, WBZ-FM has strength -- local coverage (or in ESPN's case, lack-of) and signal (The Zone doesn't have a strong one). The new lineup has already been leaked to the masses and it looks strong: Toucher and Rich can certainly give the blowhard duo of Dennis and Callahan a run for their money in the morning, and I just hope that Gary Tanguay has the good sense to maintain interesting discussions with interesting guests in the afternoon -- that's all he'll need to beat the bloated idiots on The Big Show. WBZ-FM also benefits from the Boston Globe not banning its staff from appearing on-air, so the pool of talent from which to pick to appear on-air is already deep for this fledgling station.


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...Five Years / My Brain Hurts A Lot

It hasn't been that long since I last wrote in this space, but I just am digesting the fact that it has been five years since Nomah's last at-bat at Fenway Park. Time flies.

Seeing the highlight reel before the game tonight, watching him answer questions about the Boston fans and what they meant to him, and seeing that rousing, standing ovation before his first at bat at Fenway in five years really made me feel for the guy. In the late 90's/early 00's, he was the king of the Boston sports scene -- a sure shot Hall of Famer and the face of the Red Sox organization. Everything seemed to go in a reverse direction for him starting with the trade to the Cubs in 2004 -- watching the Red Sox win two World Series without him on the roster, and nagging injuries reducing his career to not much more than a utility role.

Ironically, it's a player like Nomar that the Sox could use right now, with Mike Lowell and Jed Lowrie both dealing with their own injury issues.


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Bill Belichik and His Kicking Quarterbacks

... A good name for a sixties folk group, I'm sure, but more pertinent for the HC of the NE P's and his late-season plays involving his quarterbacks and their feet.  A couple years ago it was Doug Flutie successfully drop kicking the ball for an extra point against the Dolphins (the first successful drop kick in over 60 years).  Today it was Matt Cassel, punting the ball on 3rd and 8 with 5 minutes left in the game to give Buffalo the ball at their one yard line -- another brilliant call by Bill Belichick, using the awful wind conditions to his advantage and essentially sealing a Patriots win by requiring the Bills to move the ball 99 yards to get at most 8 points with the clock counting down.


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Well That Makes Sense...

Money had long ago become an object for the Northernmost teams along I-95 -- the off season is all about strategy right now: What pitcher on our team counterbalances a batter on their team? What ballpark improvements can counterbalance their new ballpark? And on and on.

Last night the Yankees most definitely outmaneuvered the Red Sox to the point where it's almost a joke. Signing Mark Teixeira not only gives them the most coveted free agent hitter of 2009, it also puts the Red Sox in an extremely awkward corner. Who is the second-most coveted free agent hitter of 2009? Old friend Manuel "Manny" Aristides Ramirez -- that's who. How convenient that the Red Sox and Manny Ramirez had a messier breakup than Brad and Jen this past summer.

The Yankees outspent the Red Sox yet again, and can afford to keep doing so -- revenues from their brand new stadium can almost guarantee this. I can't wait to sit behind a pole in Fenway's right field grandstand next year, directly facing center field and thinking to myself "I really appreciate the ownership throwing the idea of a new stadium away in order to maintain the historical integrity of this place. I don't miss the amenities or financial benefits of something new. More restaurants under the stands, please!"

Still, not all is lost -- the Red Sox were a healthy Josh Beckett away from going to the World Series in 2008, so they certainly won't be a quiet team this year. They still have the 2008 MVP and a 2008 MVP candidate in Pedroia and Youklis, respectively. They have an amazing, young hitter in Jason Bay. Jonathan Papelbon is one of the best closers in the game.

Things do need to happen if they want to get over that hump: the rotation as a whole needs to pick it up a level -- Tim Wakefield needs to retire or move to the pen and the team needs a 4th and 5th starter; Don Corleone needs to grab Jacoby Ellsbury by the face and yell at him to "act like a man!" Shortstop and Catcher positions are still big question marks.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, the Yankees have fewer question marks. Really, just two -- the back end of their rotation and the bullpen. If the Yankees knew what was good for them, they'd return Joba Chamberlain to the pen and groom him to be the closer of the future, leaving the 4th and 5th starter spots open and introducing the question of who takes over the 7th inning.

Even if The Yankees need more help in their bullpen, they figure to just outscore opponents enough to make up for any shortcomings.

It's going to be an interesting 2009.


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Oh Netflix, You Know Me So Well

"At a Dresden hospital in 1945, nurse Anna Mauth (Felicitas Woll) cares for badly injured British pilot Robert Newman (John Light), whom Anna believes to be a German deserter. As Allied forces close in, Anna grows close to Robert despite her engagement to Dr. Alexander Wenninger (Benjamin Sadler). The gripping historical romance won the 2006 German Television Award for Best Movie Made for Television."

I did enjoy Curb Your Enthusiasm so there must be some twisted logic in this suggestion.


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Shut Up and Let Me Go

Last Thursday, Wife and I were lucky enough to be guests #234 and #235 at the 235-person capacity Ting Tings show put on by WFNX at Church. The show was great. In case you don't know who the Ting Tings are, you'll probably recognize them by their song, Shut Up and Let Me Go. The have a bunch of catchy dance tunes -- Great DJ and That's Not My Name included. Think of them as the White Strips of Britpop. I love my Britpop, so I had a fun time.

I had never been to Church, but I had heard that it's a great venue for a show -- half true. The space itself was kind of cramped, but to my surprise, the in-house audio was not turned to 11. I could have an actual conversation with the person next to me, even while the band was playing. My only real complaint is that Miller Brewing Company took over the taps while no one was looking -- I ordered a Smuttynose Porter and got a Blue Moon instead.

Special thanks to Special Ed at WFNX's Sandbox show. Since we were the lasts one in before they locked out over a hundred people in line behind us, we didn't get to share a beer as planned. I was harsh in my post about Boston morning radio, but I realize it's a tough market and each show has to cater to a specific, yet broad audience. I'll keep listening, Special Ed, don't you worry. We'll have that beer another time.


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A Quantum of Solace: AYB Review

A couple years ago, in anticipation of Casino Royale, I ranked all Bond films relative to one another. This year I wasn't able to catch A Quantum of Solace right when it premiered, but I have finally seen it and here's the breakdown:

A Quantum of Solace (2008)
The first ever direct sequel in Bond film history -- you can get by with not having seen Casino Royale since it came out, but you'll enjoy AQoS a little bit more if you do.

Plot: James Bond balances his desire for revenge and his his desire to be MI6 Employee of the Month as he investigates the organization behind the events of Casino Royale.

Villain: Mathieu Amalric plays Domenic Greene, one of the most nondescript villains Bond has ever come up against -- his eyes don't even bleed!

Henchman: Like in Casino Royale, a few thugs here and there, but none have superhuman strength or metal teeth, and thus are no match for James Bond and his wits.

Girl: A relatively low Bond Girl count with just two: a rogue Bolovian agent played by tanned Ukranian Olga Kurylenko and the deliciously named Strawberry Fields played by Gemma Arterton. Miss Aterton should have played a henchwoman -- she was born with six fingers on each hand.

Gadgets: Bond gets his Bourne on with not even a holiday card from Q Branch.

Locations: Two visits to Italy, a ride through the slums of Haiti, an opera in Austria and the Bolivian desert.

James Bond: [at a dirty, small motel] What are we doing?
Strawberry Fields: We're teachers on sabbatical. This fits our cover.
James Bond: No it doesn't. I'd rather stay at a morgue. Come on.
[they go to a nicer hotel]
James Bond: [to the hotel receptionist] Hello. We're teachers on sabbatical and we've just won the lottery.

Good: The opening credits sequence, taking place within an astral globe is cool (not to mention the pre-credits car chase and the post-credits foot chase on the rooftops of Siena, which are even cooler). Feminists will cheer this film because Bond does not bed Olga Kurylenko's character -- he does bed Miss Fields, but she ends up dead for her promiscuity. The floating opera scene is an amazing spectacle that I hope to one day see in real life.

Bad: Most of the movie just feels subdued. The final fight has some cool explosions that are set off, but it boils down to a fistfight between Bond and Greene. Bond staples Moneypenny and Q are still not in the picture -- a lot of critics are claiming the Bond franchise is intentionally losing its identity; reintroducing these characters would go a long way towards putting the Bond "stamp" on this film. The character of Villers (M's assistant in Casino Royale) is nowhere to be seen despite the events of AQoS taking place just hours after Casino Royale ends. The prospect of several movies chronicling Bond's fight against a secret international organization of businessmen is as exciting as it sounds.


So where does it rank? It's a tough call -- it's a slick production, but the actual story is "meh" enducing. The luster of the "new" Bond has worn off already -- better than Thunderball but not as good as The Spy Who Loved Me. Impress me in 2010, James. Now, on to the Star Trek reviews for next May.


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