Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Dear Regional Sports Networks: New England is more than Boston



New England Sports Network. Pretty self-explanatory, right? A network dedicated to New England sports. Pretty much no way you can mess with that, right? How about a show called "Shining City", which according to the Boston Globe:

"Will focus on science, technology, and innovations in New England. Show topics range from the health benefits of barefoot running to the concept of inhalable food. (Kerry Healey, the former Massachusetts lieutenant governor) said the idea for the show was born from her time as lieutenant governor, when she visited Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology labs to see their ongoing projects."

Uh-huhhhhhh.


Meanwhile, ask someone if they know Vermont has a minor league baseball team (they are called the Lake Monsters), or where you can watch UMaine or UNH sports (last season I watched the Maine Black Bears men's hoops team play UConn. I had to tune to SNY out of New York, as NESN was running Clemson vs. Wake Forest or something). Who was the best high school football team in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, or Connecticut? Tough to find it on the regional New England sportsnet airwaves.

New England, by definition, extends from the northern borders of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont to the New York borders of Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut (see map above). I haven't yet seen where it stops just outside of Worcester.

Is there regional programming? Sure. A couple Pawtucket Red Sox and Portland Sea Dogs games make it on NESN where they send Eric Frede up to boss around local stat guys, CSN broadcasts CAA Football in the fall using Gary Tanguay and Andy Gresh, who have to fit the broadcast in between their duties on the Patriots flagship radio station and on Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight. The AHL all-star game, Bean Cup Beanpot, and Hockey East Finals are on NESN, but a Worcester v. Manchester game? Not happening.

Why am I harping on this, you ask? Are the early mornings of co-hosting the Morning Jab starting to kill the brain cells I have remaining? Is this just a desperate plea to get on TV? No, it's a worry. A worry about this happening at the Maine State Football Championships or similar event.

Imagine, for a second, Lee Goldberg, who has been on the sidelines of high school football games all season, being told to back off from the possible Fitzpatrick Trophy winner after he throws a game-winning touchdown pass because ESPN stopped by to broadcast one game and needed to get the sound bite first. Or Pete Warner, a 31 year veteran of the Bangor Daily News, being told to leave the press box because a national outlet took his seat. As long as the local regional sports networks neglect the local coverage, the more national places can come in and squat whenever and wherever they want to.

I understand the battle between CSNNE and NESN has heated up, with CSN expanding and legitimizing it's web coverage, and NESN pairing up Jade McCarthy and Uri Berenguer to square off against Sportsnet Central. Why NESN is deciding to go the non-sports/sports-lite route instead of embracing its roots and its name is confusing, as non-sports stuff like Sox Appeal and Dirty Water TV are just horrific. You mean a Sunday night show focusing on amateur sports with segments from each state couldn't catch on and be more entertaining than a repeat of Charlie Moore? The Weekly Minor League report could go all season long, and show things from minor league hockey, baseball, and hoops each week, but let's go for a cooking show with a sports theme instead? Baffling. The premise would be simple:

"NESN: Where ALL of New England Sports Rule"

I'm not asking for much out of life. I'm asking for NESN and/or CSNNE to realize Boston is not the center of the sports universe, and slipping Red Sox TV ratings show that even Wally the Green Monster can jump a shark on occasion. CSNNE's evening programming is now essentially the WEEI/98.5 The Sports Hub recap show, as the same guys from the Boston radio wars host the night-time shows, which is like eating your left-over lunch for dinner, or seeing Hulk Hogan eating dinner with the Iron Sheik in the mid-80's.

Whoo-hoo, innovative.

No time for a show where they have the Forecaster's Michael Hoffer in for a phoner to talk about the Maine HS Football match-up of the week, or have Alex Abrami from the Burlington Free Press in to talk about  March Madness regulars UVM ?  The Sun Journal's Justin Pelletier to finally explain that the QMJHL is NOT glorified high school hockey? Brian Macpherson from the ProJo breaking down how good a month Josh Reddick's had?

Nope, no time for that I guess. Most of the core Red Sox players only cut their teeth at Hadlock Field and Sidney Crosby was playing in Lewiston 2004 and 05.

Maybe people don't enjoy where they're from, or they are looking for the next market, but New England is a pretty damn big area. There should always be something going on (Jeff and myself didn't start this website because it was a barren sports region), so why not start talking about it?

Matt Boutwell is the Co-Host of The Weekend Warm-Up on The Big Jab, interim co-host of the Morning Jab, and the Jabba the Hutt of The CMSB. He lives in Mechanic Falls with his wife and three children, and refuses to watch "Jersey Shore" even though his wife bugs him about it.

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