On Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan tackling the tired ‘Us (media) vs. Them (athletes)’ conundrum

Hamburger Helper proctology

Bob Ryan is semi-retired and don’t get us wrong, it’s nice to have him around. Surely, The Boston Globe feels the same way. He only shows up sporadically in the sports pages these days, but – usually – seeing his byline is a welcome one since the level of discourse from local columnists isn’t really all that insightful. An opinion coming from him still means something.

But if Sunday’s column is all he’s got left to say, maybe the dynamics of modern sports coverage have passed him by.

From his column entitled Why do media need to talk to athletes?

Now, I will acknowledge that far too many of the postgame encounters are banal and pointless. Really good, juicy, informative quotes are always in short supply. But when writers are facing hideous nighttime deadlines, those boring, obvious, and repetitive quotes are needed in order to fill space and make that deadline. I call them the journalistic equivalent of Hamburger Helper. There are times a writer cannot live without them.

We’re glad Bob used the Hamburger Helper analogy here, because it disproves the point he hopes he is making. Speaking in culinary terms, Hamburger Helper is the lazy way out, a cheap and unhealthy, MSG-laden and preservatives-filled alternative to actually cooking a meal using fresh ingredients, a detailed recipe and a moderate level of skill that goes beyond a pan on top of a stove. If one fancies oneself as even a novice chef, Hamburger Helper is a joke.

In short, you’re a pretty shitty cook if the best you can do is Hamburger Helper.

Just the same – you’re a pretty shitty professional writer if you can’t produce a game story on deadline without use of a couple pithy one-liners from an athlete coming down from the throes of competition.

If you are a reporter or a columnist writing about a sports team, and you cannot do your job without the benefit of what Ryan here admits is pure fluff, pure filler, then you have no business calling yourself a professional writer. Deadlines be damned, particularly in a world in which TV and the Internet render any post-game quote stale by the time it appears in print or even a website an hour later. The time it takes to take an elevator from the press box to the locker room is ample time to come up with a couple more grafs of original material that is pertinent to the game that has just concluded.

If you are a Red Sox beat writer and you need David Ortiz to personally tell you that the pitch he hit for walk-off home run was a fastball, then maybe writing about baseball isn’t your meal ticket after all – unless you want to subsist on Hamburger Helper the rest of your life.

The tragedy here is Bob Ryan was better than this over the course of his career as a beat reporter. He didn’t (and doesn’t now) truly need any of the banal material from athletes he claims a reporter does to make a story better. That is what makes this kind of column all the more puzzling and sad. Maybe Ryan really believes many of his fellow writers cannot live without the ever-so-lazy use of quotes. But after 40-plus years in the business he should know better than most by now that readers certainly can live without them. And that’s all that should matter.

Scrollable Photo Gallery: 2015 Red Sox Spring Training, Week 1

Thus begins the quest to go from worst to first….(with a little bit of jorts and plaid cargo shorts sprinkled in between).

The middle of the order:

K.F. Panda takes some cuts:

Rusney Castillo shows off his Mohawk Hairlines.

Hopefully Han-Ram isn’t too influenced by that potty-mouthed Papi (the guy used the word “shit” earlier this week! Again!):

Boston’s No.1 prospect gets acquainted with Wade Miley:

Former Sox catcher Jason Varitek teaching his protege youngsters Swihart and Christian Vazquez the delicate art of roaming the outfield menacingly:

Strength and conditioning coach Pat Sandora, giving the media the universal signal to settle the fuck down about various players’ weight with five weeks to go until the first game that counts:

Cone drills!

Koji Uehara defies the Florida heat in long sleeves.

Craig Breslow using his glove to catch a baseball.

No. 1 starter Clay Buchholz:

Sandoval, enjoying the unbridled good vibes only the optimism of late-February can bring.

Clay Buchholz’s Love Doctor Mailbag: Seizing the Reigns Edition

Buchholz at Baseball Academy

Veteran right-handed starter Clay Buchholz enters his ninth season with Boston as one of several potential front-end rotation candidates. He is the longest tenured pitcher on the Red Sox and has logged nearly as many innings (915) in a Boston uniform as all of the other pitchers on the team’s 40-man roster combined (970).

As such, the former ladies’ man is now a mentor of sorts for younger players. Even though his swinging bachelor days are behind him, the wealth of knowledge he gathered along the way has made him a Yoda-level sage when it comes to matters of love and relationships.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Clay sat down to answer a few readers’ questions earlier this week.

Clay,

With Valentine’s Day coming up, are you going to take some extra precautions to make sure sexually explicit photos of your wife Lindsay that are meant for your eyes only don’t fall into the hands of cyber-hackers again?

- George from Wellfleet

Boy was my face red after that whole thing, George. This is the first time I’ve really talked about this, but I’m sure incidents of sexting will spike what with V-Day coming up and all. So a little social and technological awareness may be beneficial to some. I’m sure everyone knows by now that my wife, bless her soul, occasionally sends me some photos of herself that I can look at while I’m alone eating room service in my hotel room during those long road trips in the middle of the summer. Unfortunately, they wound up in some wrong hands last year. The real embarrassing part of what happened for me was the hour-long lecture Lindsay and I got from Mr. Lucchino regarding the risky nature of habitual digital erotica. He said he was just looking out for our safety, but I thought it was a little over the line when he asked me if there were any reciprocating photos floating around that the team would need to scrub from the Internet. Damn! Thanks for making it weird, Larry.

Clay,

The Boston sports scene is swimming with rising stars who may make the leap to local sex symbol, following the trails you blazed back in the mid-and-late-aughts. Who’s winning the race right now?

- Greg from Kingston

Julian Edelman seems to be carrying the torch pretty well right now, Greg. I tip my cap to him. But he’s still making some dire mistakes, surprisingly. For example, there are some compromising photos that recently surfaced of Edelman in some “morning after” type situations. Falling asleep in a broad’s bed is a written invitation to winding up on some strange’s Twitter feed, Tinder or Pinterest page. Maybe the dude just hit the drinks with a bit too much verve and passed out. But back in my day, I was always careful to cover my tracks. I wiped fingerprints, paid off limo drivers, ripped up receipts, deleted files on phones, etc. I’ve “confiscated” rolls upon rolls upon rolls of film taken on dames’ cameras that otherwise would have been destined for the Internet. Instead, they’re all disintegrating at the bottom of the Charles River. That’s how I rolled, Greg.

Edelman at Harvard

Anyway, Edelman is a bit too preppy to pull off the party animal thing. Meeting broads at a Harvard party pre-stocked with BU sorority chicks is basically cheating the system. Gronkowski’s seems more spontaneous and is probably a bit more akin to my style, which leads me to the next question this week.

Clay,

How is it that there is Rob Gronkowski fan fiction erotica out there but nothing like that for you?

- Shelley from Plympton

Shelley, there is a lot of absurd, fantasy-based lit out there. I guess this whole Fifty Shades of Grey thing has something to do with it. I’m not at liberty to say who the publisher is, but I was approached about a Fifty Shades of Clay sort of spinoff not too long ago. I read some samples from the book and it sounded pretty unexciting and underwhelming. Most of the letters I receive from female Red Sox fans are far racier than that drivel. I’m not ready to compromise my personal brand with an inferior product.

Gronk gross pose

Clay,

Don’t you think the team ought to be trying to get that No. 1 guy for the starting rotation?

- Myra from Millis

I’m insulted Myra. The depth chart on RedSox.com has MY name and headshot listed next to that No. 1 slot. Check it out – the front and center of it all. Sorta nerve-wracking but I think I’m ready.

2015 Red Sox depth chart
Why would that pic of my face be there if I weren’t the head honcho? Fine print says not subject to approval by the Red Sox, but it’s good enough for me. I’m already long-tossing at 150 feet, so these other guys they brought in are going to see what’s up down here in FLA.

Thanks for the questions, guys. See you all at Spring Training.

Local man: Where Gronk ranks on list of most prolific beer drinkers in Boston sports history

BY FRANCIS FLYNN

CARVER, Mass.–I know everybody in the New England area is all up in arms over how cool it was that Rob Gronkowski chugged a few beers while on the Pats’ victory parade route yesterday. It’s amazing what a couple Natty lites’ll do for ya rep. The guy is a freaking hero for what he did this year. And he obviously knows how to have a good time.

Gronk chug

But I gotta say right now honestly and truly – Gronk has got a ways to go to become a party legend in my town. A long way.

Unknot yah panties and let me explain.

Let’s start off with the most obvious problem with annotating Gronk with the Greatest Boston Boozehound of All Time monikker. He can’t even burn a candle near Wade Boggs. We all know by now how much Wade drank back in the ‘80s. A buddy of mine taped that episode of Always Sunny in Philly with him in it and there was an entire storyline about Boggs and how he’d drink about two thirty racks on airplanes. Think about that – an entire episode of a TV show, aired two decades after he retires, talking about how much Wade Boggs could drink.

Wade on Always Sunny

Not for nothing but those 50 to 60 beer estimates people talk about are real numbers. They stood the test of time. And Wade’s drinking came from a lonely, dark, disturbing, and depraved place Rob’ll probably never have to deal with. Boggs didn’t pound beers while celebrating any World Series titles by rolling down a duck boat on Boylston Street. He was sneaking them on road trips, in his hotel rooms and in the clubhouse to quell his constant need for sex. Wade wasn’t dancing on stage at some nightclub with broads hangin off his arms like Gronk. He was drawing the shades in some seedy hotel to – lemme not get too graphic here – throw a quick one into a married woman.

Put it this way. We all knew he slammed ‘em back when he was a Red Sox, but the only visual evidence Wade liked the sauce was in cartoon form. That’s frigging eerie.

Wade Boggs in a bar
So while I don’t doubt Rob parties harder than Wade did, let’s not get carried away by a few token acts of shotgunning. Wade treated every Marriott and Hilton room he stayed in from sea to foaming sea like it was his own private Duck Boat parade with beers.

There are a few other guys that’ve passed through town that could probably drink Gronkowski under the table.

Larry Bird? That guy drank like a fish and played 82 games a season, not 16. That’s a lot more running and it’s a lot harder to sneak a quick puke in during a timeout on a basketball court. Larry was the first (of many) high-profile stars to tell Dan Shaughnessy to fuck off because Shank wouldn’t stop asking him about some bar fight he got in.

The Boston Bruins, 1970-present. There’s a big difference between a fun drunk and a mean drunk. Guess who’s who when you talk about comparing Rob with just about any Broon?

Orr drinking from the Stanley Cup

Other guys – hmm, let’s see. A guy named Carl Yastrzemski from this here Miller Lite ad. You calling Yaz a liar?

And let’s not forget Bobby Lobel, Channel 4 sportscaster extraordinaire. The entire CBS network couldn’t have supplied enough on-air make-up to hide that guy’s gin blossoms. But he always kept it ultra professional and was always real functional. By the end of his career he got smart – he just started doing his shows in bars. Made things easier I bet.

Koji Uehara. That’s right! Koji. We totally sure this guy doesn’t have some sort of stomach of steel like his Japanese brethren who are always winning those hot dog eating contests?

Koji beer ad

Some former Sox pitchers from a few years back? Yeah, guh, think I heard a thing or two about that. The horror. And well, hell, even Jonny Gomes was publicly treating beer cans like footballs a year and a half before Gronk was able to get around to it. Just saying – this is not open and shut. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few.

jonny-gomes beers

In closing, I just wanna say Rob’s great. Love the guy to death. But let’s make the guy pay his dues here. He’s been here for five years. The guy’s got a chance to be a legend, but longevity and durability count. Let’s hold off on naming any tunnels after him just yet and see how quickly this guy gets back at it once that hangover sets in.

Lifelong Massachusetts resident Francis Flynn and site contributor is an avid Boston sports fan. He is known for his affinity for Heidi Watney and his occasional game stories. Flynn has agreed to take time out from his life’s work maintaining his cranberry bog to answer one pressing question per week for Fenway Pastoral.

A People’s History of Pete Carroll In the Time of the Starter™ Jacket (with scrollable photo gallery)

If the past week-plus of Super Bowl coverage has taught us anything, it is that sports media can be nauseatingly trite and supremely reductive when it wants to be. Everything boils down to the easy explanation, the elevator pitch, the character-capped snipe.

The local discourse is typically binary. You take a side, I take a side. It’s either Brady or Bledsoe. Parcells or Belichick. Bud Light or Coors Light. The unbridled euphoria of Gary Glitter’s Rock & Roll Pt. 2 or a public relations stratagem that includes eliminating the Patriotic right to scream ‘HEY’ after home team touchdowns. You get the point…

When it comes to the Patriots and Pete Carroll’s tenure from 1997-1999, the reductive and universally accepted narrative from the media is that it was a disaster. It was the failure that drove him to grow professionally and prove doubters wrong at USC. Locally, it was the bridge between the two contradicting yet equally polarizing styles of Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick.

The prevalent memory of Carroll’s time is that he possessed a damaging level of over-exuberance, embodied most infamously by his proclamation that he was “jacked and pumped,” a throwaway line he gave the media once or maybe twice during the build up to important games for the team he was being paid to motivate.

Predictably, the local scribes ran with that little nugget and the rest is (revisionist) history.

Carroll had his flaws and was ill-prepared at that time to be an NFL head coach. The Patriots record fell from 11-5 in 1996 under Parcells to 10-6 in 1997 under Carroll. He lost a win each year, bottoming out at 8-8 in ‘99. He lost mainly with other people’s guys. And the team’s draft picks were horrendous – though Carroll had limited say in personnel.

A .500 record in some years in this age of parity would still be good enough for a playoff slot. With that in mind, it is intellectually dishonest to paint his time here as an unequivocal failure as many do. It is a simpleton’s narrative that fails the memory of a period of a franchise that was on the cusp of greatness but not yet in its midst. To trash the guy that preceded The Guy isn’t fair.

Each of the three teams Carroll coached fell short of expectations. Go ahead and debate how much of a hand he had undoing Parcells’ accomplishments. However, for those of us with the capacity for complex thought, those years served as a worthy prelude to what has transpired in the 15 years since.

Elated, newly hired Pete Carroll:

Hands-on, slightly creepy Pete Carroll:

Athletic Pete Carroll (better release than Russell Wilson!):

Life-is-good Pete Carroll (1997):

Life-is-hard Pete Carroll (1998):

The face Patriots fans hope makes an extended cameo on Super Bowl Sunday:

Lest us forget Bledsoe’s heroics in playing with a broken index finger on his throwing hand. Without a banged up Drew at the helm to steal a couple of games NE had no business winning, the 1998 Patriots would have missed the playoffs and Carroll would have one less playoff loss on his resume right now.

The ’98 Patriots beat the 49ers at home for the first time since 1975 in a game they needed and which Fuckin’ Scott Zolak started, replacing Bledsoe – who had broken his index finger earlier in the season. (The shy, soft-spoken Zolak handled his success as a back-up with the utmost grace and was never heard from again…)

Let’s close with this mindfuck: What if Bills linebacker John Holecek, who missed Drew Bledsoe on this scramble in 1999, had managed to gain the same angle going toward the sideline that Mo Lewis had two years later?

This @RedSox Tweet Is THE Classiest Way to Tell Fans, ‘Yeah, maybe Lester signs elsewhere’

Here’s to hoping Jon Lester chooses to accept whatever the generous contract offer is from the Boston Red Sox that he currently has on the table over the other proposals from San Francisco, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs.

But if he doesn’t, Red Sox Nation will always have this quote from Red Sox GM Ben Cherington to cherish. Blow this thing up to 11″ x 17″ and put it in a nice expensive frame and hang it above your toilet either next to – or replacing – that cliche God’s Footprints on the Sand piece.

Why won’t the Boston Globe admit it was scooped by 14-year-old on Hanley/Panda signings?

Is this really how professional reporters paid by John Henry are going to spin getting scooped by a 14-year-old kid on the biggest news of the Red Sox offseason?

On Tuesday night, the Boston Globe’s Chad Finn posted a painfully late-to-the-party take on affiliate site Boston.com regarding the evolution of Twitter in the breaking of baseball (but, really, all) news. (Presumably, some iteration of the piece will make it into real-world mailboxes as part of tomorrow’s print edition.)

Of course, for those who did not doze off in the minutes before the evening officially became morning again, the pending signing of Ramirez, the three-time All-Star and sometimes pain-in-the-ass, was not something you learned when you flipped on the MLB Network while waiting for the coffee to percolate.

It was something you slept on, presuming the notion of another slugging, man-child Ramirez playing left field for the Red Sox did not keep you awake. Because the news was broken in that relatively new, real-time conventional way, with no regard for deadlines. It broke, via Ken Rosenthal, the respected national baseball reporter for Fox Sports and the MLB Network…

Somehow, Finn dutifully includes quotes from some of the old guard guys, former beat reporters such as Peter Gammons and Tyler Kepner, but fails to mention what many Red Sox fans already know – there is some 14-year-old kid out there (Jake Wesley @mlb_nl_al) who members of the Boston front office would rather speak to than employees of a news outlet owned by the same boss/company.

Here is Rosenthal’s breaking news:

Here’s Jake Wesley’s, 11 hours earlier:

This is not an indictment on Rosenthal, by any means. But it’s still worth noting that well before bedtime, the information Rosenthal finally felt comfortable passing along to the general public had already made its way to online message boards on the Internet, including the most notorious Red Sox fanboard, Sons of Sam Horn. Speculation was rampant, even if a 14-year-old kid’s proclamations were understandably greeted with a skeptical eye, even with his recent track record for “breaking” big contract news.

It isn’t all too surprising that the John Henry-employed heads in the Boston Globe/Boston.com offices on Morrisey Boulevard don’t seem all that anxious to admit that a 14-year-old scooped them on news of two of the biggest offseason signings in team history.

But c’mon now – advancing a revisionist timeline to make an already floundering operation look a little less asleep at the wheel doesn’t really make a lot of sense, either. It’s self-serving and utter, complete intellectual dishonesty. Plus, they aren’t close to being the only traditional media outlet to be scooped by outsiders on baseball news. It’s been happening for years.

Twitter has been around for more than half a decade at this point and it’s not exactly groundbreaking that social media has the ability to provide a platform through which news can be disseminated at all hours of the day – true ‘UP TO THE MINUTE!’ coverage, etc. etc.

There is nothing necessarily to be too ashamed of here, after all. Any notable news – whether acquired on the level or not – that is reported by a Globe beat writer is likely to come with the smell of favoritism and insider access.

There is, however, a way to combat that perception. May we suggest that with the team sure to experience a surge in popularity, the Globe consider more carefully the quality of its content and coverage of the team rather than concerning itself with a completely lame and indirect defense of itself for being a few hours behind on a Tweet?

The sad Gawkerization of Boston.com under John Henry’s new regime is well underway and probably irreversible. But the newspaper branch of the company might just be able to save itself yet if they’re willing to be honest with itself and its readership about what it can truly bring to the table, literally.

Because let the record show, this kid – Nick Cafardo or Peter Abraham – may be the Red Sox’s front office’s first phone call for a while longer: