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Tony Massarotti on Calling Games for NESN: Big Challenge Will Be Pace

“The big challenge for me is going to be the pace. Not just because it’s baseball. But we move much faster. Talk shows move much, much faster.”

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Tony Massarotti made his NESN debut as a Boston Red Sox TV analyst for Saturday’s spring training game with the Tampa Bay Rays. Earlier this month, he was named as one of three new color commentators with Kevin Youkilis and Kevin Millar to the NESN broadcast team.

Naturally, his Felger & Mazz co-hosts Mike Felger and Jim Murray were going to ask about Massarotti’s experience and allow him to share some insights with the 98.5 The Sports Hub audience when they returned from the weekend.

But first, Felger had to tease Massarotti about using different words for hard-hit balls. “Spanked,” “tattooed,” etc. Credit to a writer for not wanting to use the same verb more than once, especially when different words are needed to express just how hard and far a home run was hit.

“We didn’t get the full Mazz, which I will just say, I think that’s smart on everyone’s part,” said Felger. “To go Full Mazz in the first couple of games is courting sort of blowback, and then we disrupt the whole thing.”

Massarotti was then asked what he struggled with or was surprised by during the TV broadcast, and he gave some intriguing insight into the difference between calling a baseball game and keeping the conversation moving on sports radio.

“The big challenge for me is going to be the pace,” said Massarotti. “Not just because it’s baseball. But we move much faster. Talk shows move much, much faster. There’s a pace to it. You want to keep going. Baseball, the game’s slow, the conversations are more level-headed, for lack of a better term. So that’s going to be an adjustment for me.”

Felger then praised Massarotti for something that’s worth noting since it’s been part of the sports media discourse in recent weeks.

“On the broadcast end, I thought it was impressive, Mazz,” said Felger. “Right out of the chute, you’re not telling a story going into the second out of an inning. The ball is put in play with two outs, you sort of shut up and make sure [Dave] O’Brien goes to commercial. Coming back with the reads, knowing when to fill dead time, was dead-on… It sort of shows you how many guys can’t do it.”

Some critics and fans have knocked Amazon hiring Kirk Herbstreit as its Thursday Night Football analyst because he wasn’t a star NFL quarterback. But observers including Dan Patrick and Andrew Marchand have defended Herbstreit by pointing out that he’s an accomplished broadcaster who knows how to get through a telecast smoothly.

Obviously, a baseball telecast is different from a sports radio show. But the point still applies. Radio hosts, especially when working with a partner or group, have to make their points succinctly without rambling on and hogging the conversation. And there’s an art to saying what you need to say before going to a break or coming out of one. At the very least, Massarotti knows how to do that.

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Peter Schrager: ‘Next Good Morning Football Host Has Massive Shoes To Fill’

“I don’t know where they are going for that and I don’t play coach or GM. I’m just going to sit back and if they ask my opinion, I’ll give it.”

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This week, Good Morning Football ended up winning a Sports Emmy for the best daily studio show. It is a show that has turned into part most football fans’ morning routines. However, there will be new people on the panel eventually with the departures of Nate Burleson and Kay Adams

This week, one of those left, Peter Schrager, was on The Pat McAfee Show. He did not have a name for McAfee that would fill the role Adams leaves behind and he isn’t going to interfere in the process of the executives picking the next host. 

“I would think that there is going to be a long line of people who will want that,” he said. “Those are massive shoes to fill. I don’t know where they are going for that and I don’t play coach or GM. I’m just going to sit back and if they ask my opinion, I’ll give it. But, for now, I trust the executives to hire someone who is going to take care of that hosting job.” 

As for Burleson’s seat, the show has used a number of ex-players to fill-in. Schrager likes it that way because he can learn many different stories each week: 

“Nate and I can finish each other’s sentences. Now, you have a guy I don’t know the story this player is going to tell. I don’t know where he’s going to take it and I think it’s kind of cool for us.” 

Last summer, Schrager hosted The Flying Coach podcast on The Ringer with Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay. Unfortunately, there will be no season 2 of that show this summer. That doesn’t mean there won’t be another season of the podcast in the future though. 

“I won’t do it without McVay. I begged him. He’s just out….He’s getting married this offseason. He’s got his honeymoon. He’s like, we’ll pick it up another offseason. I’m upset. I love doing it. All these new coaches, Sean and I would have had a good time with it and we talked about it, but it’s his decision and he’s saying no and I totally get it. He’s really good at it and he liked it. He’ll have opportunities and you see some of these numbers that these guys are getting. Trust me, he’s aware.”

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Shan & RJ: ‘Inside The NBA Was Trying To Prevent A Riot Last Night’

“You know that moment? Everyone’s joking around. Everyone’s having fun, then someone doesn’t take the joke as a joke anymore and all the fun is sucked out of the room and things are awkward and serious?”

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Things were very far from normal on Thursday night on the set of Inside the NBA. During the postgame show, Warriors fans threw objects at Charles Barkley as TNT was broadcasting live outside of the Chase Center in San Francisco.

Friday morning on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, Shan and RJ discussed the scene and said things felt out of the ordinary long before anything was even thrown.

“You know that moment? Everyone’s joking around. Everyone’s having fun, then someone doesn’t take the joke as a joke anymore and all the fun is sucked out of the room and things are awkward and serious?” Shan Shariff said. “That’s what happened yesterday on Inside the NBA both in the pregame and the postgame.”

Barkley had been picking on Warriors fans calling them annoying and describing San Francisco as having “dirty ass streets full of homeless people” throughout the series.

Shariff said even in the pregame show, it seemed that the Inside the NBA crew was wary of the crowd gathered behind them.

“It felt like yesterday instead of having fun and cutting loose, it felt like they were trying to prevent a riot.”

After a rolled-up t-shirt struck Barkley, he got up and acted as if he was going to throw a ceramic coffee mug into the crowd. Shariff said it was clear that Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith thought Barkley was about to be involved in an altercation of some sort.

RJ Choppy disagreed though. His immediate thought in seeing the video was that Barkley was just taking his ribbing of the crowd to the next level like a WWE superstar might.

“I think he knew the wrestling role, but I don’t think the other guys did,” Choppy said.

Sean and RJ expounded on the wrestling comparison, saying that he had a specific event in mind. He compared the way the crowd treated Barkley on Thursday night to how the crowd at ECW’s One Night Stand in 2006 treated John Cena. Cena and security may have thought they knew what was coming, but it was clear when fans started throwing chairs at the WWE champ that their ire was more serious than anticipated.

There can be peace for the time being. TNT’s NBA season ends at the conclusion of the Western Conference Finals. It will be interesting to see if this animosity returns in the 2022-23 season.

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Don La Greca: ‘Howie Rose Was The Only Sports Talk Host As Passionate About Hockey As Me’

“When you look at the history of sports radio, the only person that I can think of that called games and was [as] passionate about hockey as I am that had a regular radio show was Howie Rose.”

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Don LaGreca has been working on Rangers radio broadcasts since 2005, and has served as the backup play-by-play announcer for the last few seasons, filling in for Kenny Albert when he is unable to be on the call. Because of Albert’s responsibilities in calling national playoff games on television amid the new media rights agreement between the league and its partners (ESPN and Turner Sports), La Greca has called more Rangers games of late, and received positive reviews.

Yesterday on The Michael Kay Show on 98.7 ESPN New York, Kay mentioned the compliments callers have been giving La Greca for his ability to call hockey games, some of whom credit him for introducing them to the sport.

“The one thing hockey is is underexposed,” said La Greca. “Because you hear a lot of people say, ‘Boy, I didn’t realize how much fun this sport is; how great it is to go to a game,’ because a lot of us don’t grow up around it.”

La Greca realizes that he is in a unique position being the co-host of a sports radio show and an NHL play-by-play announcer, giving him a responsibility to communicate and opine on the game of hockey to his listening audience at large. He considers himself the second person to have such a distinction – the pioneer of which, while he may no longer be calling hockey games, still frequently discusses the sport on Twitter.

“When you look at the history of sports radio, the only person that I can think of that called games and was [as] passionate about hockey as I am that had a regular radio show was Howie Rose,” said La Greca. “And Howie Rose has been out of the sports radio game for 25 years.”

Rose was with WFAN from its launch on July 1, 1987 as its weekday nighttime host. Additionally, he served in the same role as La Greca, backing up Kenny Albert’s father Marv on Rangers radio broadcasts – where, in 1994, he delivered the illustrious call of Stephane Matteau’s game-winning, double-overtime goal in game 7 that sent the team to the Stanley Cup Finals. One year later, Rose left WFAN to begin calling games for the NHL’s New York Islanders on Sportschannel, and did not host a sports radio show during his time as a lead hockey play-by-play announcer.

While there are other sports radio hosts in the New York marketplace that exhibit a passion for hockey such as Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti, La Greca is the only one who actively calls the games – akin to how Michael Kay is the only active New York sports radio host who regularly calls professional baseball.

“You don’t have somebody who is as close to the sport as I am to have this kind of forum, so maybe there are a few people like, ‘Hey, I’m a fan of Don. I really don’t like hockey, but he calls a few games so let me listen,’ and it kind of opened a door that otherwise wouldn’t have been opened” said La Greca. “….I don’t think it’s anything that I’m doing. It’s just an opportunity that I have, and it is humbling and it’s pretty cool to hear and I hope those people stick with the sport.”

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