I now make appointments with NBA games. Life is about snacks, beer, a sanitized remote and Charles Barkley summoning his inner grocery store, warning Shaquille O’Neal, “You better quit yelling at me, Karen.’’
Oh, the joy of railing against bad officiating again, dipping into the old conspiracy bag after Kristaps Porzingis was ejected for weak-sauce b.s. I forgot how liberating it is to vent. The coronavirus? I’m busy, channeling my inner Mark Cuban and having … fun?
The same can’t be said for baseball, which is reconfirming everything that is unwatchable and infuriating about it, including the immaturity of players who still flout virus protocols — see Nick Senzel bear-hugging Joey Votto — and wonder, “Gee, how did someone test positive?’’ And having observed the initial visions of football training camps, we should brace for scenes out of battlefields: so many players lost to COVID-19 that teams literally make public cattle calls for replacements. “I feel like the Titanic — we have hit the iceberg and we’re trying to make decisions on what time we should have the band play,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, an NCAA infectious disease expert who, unfortunately, doesn’t make health decisions for the reckless NFL, SEC, ACC and Big 12.
Oh, and if a world-class goaltender can opt out of the NHL Igloo mere hours before a playoff game, with the Bruins positioned to contend for a Stanley Cup, isn’t any scenario possible in this ongoing reality show known as Sports In A Pandemic? “I want to be with my teammates competing, but at this moment there are things more important than hockey in my life, and that’s being with my family,” said Tuukka Rask, who has a newborn and two other young children at home, not that the cruel-dude segments of Boston sports fandom really care.
But basketball? I’m watching it, talking it, feeling it and unabashedly living it as the postseason begins, with nary a thought about swabs. With live events wrapped in spectator-free weirdness, sports must maintain high levels of performance and intrigue to keep the interest of viewers who, with time on their hands at home, don’t have the usual original TV programming options. Major League Baseball barely can honor a schedule, and I can’t wrap my brain around the concept of a football game, all the spitting and piling and tackling and snorting.
The NBA has been Bubblicious, though, and for coming up with that pun, I don’t know if I should be shot or given a patent. For commissioner Adam Silver, this is a conquest of ingenuity that stands to place his league on the right side of pandemic history as MLB, the NFL and three college holdouts stumble to the dark and dangerous side. The NBA still must complete its playoffs without an outbreak, of course, and any number of temptresses “known by a player only through social media or an intermediary’’ always could slide into DMs and into the sacred Bubble, with the Corona spreading and poisoning all the implied normalcy the league has created within the quarantined confines of Disney World. At this point, the vibe doesn’t involve policy violations or snitch lines in the least.
It’s all about story lines: LeBron’s body language says he doesn’t want to be there … the Lakers are vulnerable to a top-seed implosion against Dame (only the uncool still call him Damian) Lillard and the Trail Blazers … Luka Doncic trying to slip-maneuver through Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Pat Beverley for seven games … Chris Paul, who helped create the Bubble, now wants to blow up James Harden and a hobbling Russell Westbrook … Rudy Gobert vs. Nikola Jokic … the Bucks look distracted and pressure-bloated, which could lead a head-butting Giannis Antetokounmpo to force his way out of Milwaukee … the Raptors have the savvy, toughness and defensive chops to emerge from the East again, even if Canada won’t let them cross the border for another title parade … can’t pick the Celtics if Gordon Hayward is taking paternity leave during a series … are the Heat a sleeper contender or immediate-ouster material?
“I definitely don’t believe in the turn-on switch that everybody talks about, like we can turn on the switch and be great,’’ said Antetokounmpo, who thinks the Bucks slogged through the seeding games.
“Some things that you can’t control that’s here, I really don’t want to talk about. That’s off the floor,’’ bemoaned James, making the same cryptic comments he used to made in Cleveland before playoff exits. “It feels like a different season. Will we be the team that we want to be in Game 1 of the first round that we were when we stopped (in March)? I don’t think so, but we’ll get better and better as the games go on.’’
Will they? “We have a belief in ourselves that we can win the series,’’ Lillard said. The fact we’re even discussing the Lakers-Blazers is a miracle in itself, given the threats that could have sabotaged the NBA restart. “It’s better than what we had envisioned,’’ Silver told Sports Illustrated in a rare Bubble interview. “Players have taken to it in a more spirited way than we thought they would. We knew that this would require enormous sacrifice on everyone’s part, but I think what is hard to calibrate is the human emotion that comes with being around other people. And I think everyone realized that they missed it more than they even understood. I think that it’s the togetherness, the camaraderie, the brotherhood of the players. To take those masks off and bang into each other, whether it’s someone on your team or an opponent, it’s just a human craving we have for contact with other people.’’
Think about it: Take those masks off and bang into each other. Wasn’t basketball supposed to be, with football, absurdly unfavorable to the idea and practice of physical distancing? Only two months ago, I was writing, “Vegas is laying the wrong odds. Rather than establishing the Lakers, Bucks and Clippers as NBA title favorites, sportsbooks should emphasize the real action: What is the likelihood that the league’s military lockdown camp — er, Bubble — will collapse in a shambles of coronavirus outbreaks, Black Lives Matter concerns and star defections that leads to a shutdown of the Adam Silver Salvation Tour and exposes this Disney World fairy tale as an all-time disaster? Again, why are they doing this?’’
Answer: Because Silver is trying to save a league that, in some mystical convergence, has been innovative enough to isolate 22 teams in place and lucky enough that basketball is a sport conducive to such a plan. He also is fortunate to have gained the trust of players who, in near-unanimity, are cooperating in the Bubble and tolerating lifestyle hassles just enough to focus on the competition. Yes, the commissioner is funneling financial givebacks to team owners and pumping oxygen to dying TV partners, but unlike the NFL, which could lose an entire season and remain fully operable in 2021, the NBA has an uncertain future that cannot be overstated. Only MLB, heading toward a lengthy work stoppage and a bleak existence when its collective bargaining agreement expires in 14 months, needs its season to finish more than the NBA does.
Entertaining as the games have been, with Lillard advancing his legend and Doncic emerging at 21 as a generational offensive force, the league is entangled in a thicket of politics at the worst time. By embracing Black Lives Matter — natural and necessary when 75 percent of the league’s players are African American — Silver has alienated Trump America and opened himself to the president’s disdain for NBA players protesting during the national anthem. “I think it’s been horrible for basketball,” Trump told talk host Clay Travis. “Look at the basketball ratings. They’re down to very low numbers. Very, very low numbers. People are angry about it. They don’t realize that, they don’t want, they have enough politics with guys like me. They don’t need more as they’re driving down, going up for the shot. They don’t need it. And there was a nastiness about the NBA the way it was done too. So I think that the NBA is in trouble — I think it’s in big trouble, bigger trouble than they understand.’’
The TV ratings aren’t nearly as grim as Trump claims and will spike beginning this week. But the league is undeniably hypocritical when it claims, in one breath, to care about human rights by displaying “Black Lives Matter’’ statements across its hardwood courts, only to do traditional business in another breath with the Chinese government. The NBA wishes it had more viewers such as myself, who can separate politics from hoops when a game is compelling enough. “I understand critics who say that they turn to sports to avoid controversy. But it’s unavoidable at this moment in time in our country,’’ Silver said. “I wish there was an easier path for us to follow right now. Even if there were, I don’t think it would necessarily be the responsible thing to do. … I think our fans are able to separate words on the floor or messages on the players’ jerseys or the floor. Even to the extent that they don’t, I think they recognize that these are not simple times. Our players are not one-dimensional people, and they can both be deeply concerned about issues that our country faces and at the same time perform their craft at the highest level.”
No one should be surprised that Silver has taken sport’s most ambitious lead in what is becoming a successful social and science experiment. The league wants to remembered as a testing visionary, joining the National Basketball Players Association in funding a fast, inexpensive, saliva-based sample authorized for public use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. MLB is living in a perpetual outbreak scare. The NFL and aforementioned college conferences want to stick tens of thousands of swabs up human noses. At least the NBA is thinking about the masses, as well as its future, in helping to facilitate a convenient test called SalivaDirect.
The league should ship a batch of kits to MLB, which has not played a full schedule of games since July 26 — three weeks and counting, Rob Manfred — after the Reds become the third team to call off games because of positive coronavirus tests. If only Manfred, the antithesis of Silver, had devoted resources to a more reliable system with daily tests and quicker results; instead, the Reds didn’t learn of the positive until AFTER they’d played an entire game with the infected teammate. There seems a better chance of Babe Ruth rising from the dead than a season being completed, with the Cardinals forced to play three doubleheaders in Chicago. Infected teams now seem more interested in spinning excuses than owning their lapses, such as players continuing to hug after victories or indulging in fraught nightlife. “We had some pretty tight rooms when we were up in Minneapolis,’’ Cardinals president John Mozeliak said. “Some people thought they were healthy and they weren’t and they had close contact in terms of discussions. At the time, if I had to guess, they were mask-less. We had it drilled down to possibly the dining halls.”
So they didn’t hit the casino, as reported? “What I can tell you, with confidence, is it would be very irresponsible to say this group went out and did anything that was egregious,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “To say something otherwise would be strongly inaccurate. We will be even more prudent with every regulation that is out there. I don’t think you’ll have anyone touch anyone on the field the rest of this year. Our dugouts will be even more sterile. We’re going to show up later. Every meeting will be outside. It’s going to be very little time spent in the ballpark.’’ I assume the Cardinals, as I write this, already have had players “touch’’ one another on the field.
Knowing the absurd measures MLB teams are taking to sustain this unsustainable season — imagine I-55 the other day as Cardinals players and staffers drove 41 rental cars from St. Louis to Chicago — we should applaud the clubs that so far are beating COVID-19 and their on-field rivals. It figures the Cubs, always quirky, would have one of their most successful starts ever during a pandemic. The organizations that best handle a health crisis will be remembered admirably, and Cubs boss Theo Epstein has been prioritizing protocol obedience for months. While other teams are screwing around, such as two Cleveland rogues who went out in Chicago and maybe ruined the Indians’ season, the Cubs are isolating. “It’s a short amount of time to just hunker down, stay in your room and do what needs to be done,” Kris Bryant said. “It’s a big learning experience. The Indians had some guys step out. Hopefully, we have a collective group of 30 teams that is able to commit to this process.”
Forget it. But baseball does give us glimpses of what it could be if run properly: Clayton Kershaw mowing down Mike Trout all night in Anaheim … the breakout of “El Nino,’’ the dreadlocked, dugout-dancing Fernando Tatis Jr. … and how long Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon can maintain a .400-plus batting average weeks after he was quarantined in Georgia with the virus.
We very much miss spectators and their energy. Without them, we’re hearing way too much of baseball’s salty rawness, which I’ve addressed in an accompanying column. Only in quiet ballparks do we have to hear Stephen Strasburg yell “f—— brutal’’ at the home-plate umpire, which landed him an ejection. Dodgers broadcaster Joe Davis, heretofore a vanilla voice trying not to upset the post-Vin Scully legions in southern California, made a name for himself the night pitcher Joe Kelly retaliated against the Astros. When Houston manager Dusty Baker shouted at Kelly, “Just get on the mound, little f——,’’ Davis realized there was no audio delay and told his audience, “Oooh, OK. So in empty stadiums, we pick up some things that we don’t normally pick up. Apologies for whoever the potty mouth is.’’ Would Vin have handled it any better?
The NHL also is having coarse moments, including 16 fighting majors in the qualifying rounds alone. Between that and the injuries being concealed while staying in the same pods in Toronto and Edmonton, I’m surprised brawls don’t break out in lobbies and elevators. I don’t advocate hockey fights — or cleaning blood off the ice, as they did after one bout — but at the moment, it beats a 0-0 game.
Hell, even the maddening topic of replay is enhanced by pandemic TV. During a Major League Soccer game, viewers could watch a discussion between the match referee and a video review official. Why not provide real-time transparency during reviews in all sports?
So, kids, not all is gloom and doom about sports during its resumption. Though, as soon as I stopped typing those words, a headline dinged on my phone: “Nine Oklahoma Sooners test positive for COVID-19 after returning from break.’’ Said head coach Lincoln Riley: “Disappointed about the news, obviously. We’ve done such a tremendous job this entire time. Certainly, you know when you give your players some time, there is risk in that.”
Does he honestly believe the brainwashing jibber-jabber that college players are safer on campuses than at home? And why doesn’t Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, who is petitioning the Big Ten to reinstate its season, stop with the gushy appeals — “this cause is close to my heart’’ — and do more homework about the risks of spreading the virus to others in close quarters? It should be obvious now, in a time when little in life is discernible, that this much is true in 2020: Sports leagues that don’t play in restrictive environments, such as football, are vulnerable to COVID-19 shutdowns at any time.
And those that do? Bubblicious.
Jay Mariotti, called “the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ writes a weekly media column for Barrett Sports Media and regular sports columns for Substack while appearing on some of the 1,678,498 podcasts in production today. He’s an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and radio talk host. Living in Los Angeles, he gravitated by osmosis to film projects. Compensation for this column is donated to the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust.
Twitter Blue Debacle Showcases Company’s Ongoing Concerns
“If you start giving away blue badges to everyone, then it has no value. It’s the equivalent of a currency. if you start printing more, it gets devalued. Same for verified badges.”
For years, a blue “verified” check mark on Twitter has long been considered a symbol of status. Anyone — entrepreneurs, journalists, business executives — could potentially end up in the same exclusive space as celebrities like Taylor Swift and Tom Brady.
Perhaps the one quality that the blue check mark represented that had been overlooked was its authenticity stamp. The badge has been used all across social media platforms to signal an account’s authenticity — a verification that recently has proven to be of significant importance to not only people, but brands as well.
Shortly after Elon Musk’s $44-billion takeover of Twitter, the billionaire swiftly made his mark which, among many things, included a democratization of the app’s verification system. With a $7.99 monthly subscription to Twitter Blue, which launched last year as the company’s first subscription service, users could now possess what had long evaded them: a blue check mark.
“Theoretically, this would have made it easier for some brands or influencers to get verified than it has been in the past,” Galen Clavio, director of undergraduate studies for the Media School at Indiana University Bloomington, wrote in an email about the possible benefits of Twitter Blue’s verification accessibility.
“From an algorithmic perspective, that would have made sense to pursue under the Twitter setup that everyone had come to know,” he added.
While perhaps not a surprise to Musk or Twitter executives, everyday people were paying for the newly revamped Twitter Blue to boast their social media clout. Whether Twitter leadership knew it or not, though, those same subscribers took the opportunity to verify themselves using the alias of actual people.
Very quickly, Twitter Blue created an abundance of impersonators masquerading as verified celebrities and companies. Misinformation was hard to identify, making it tougher to find information in an era already plagued by discrepancies between fact and fiction.
“If you start giving away blue badges to everyone, then it has no value,” Alessandro Bogliari, CEO of the Influencer Marketing Factory, an influencer marketing agency, wrote in an email. “It’s the equivalent of a currency. if you start printing more, it gets devalued. Same for verified badges.”
Shortly after the Twitter Blue re-launch, a tweet was sent from an account using the same logo and name of Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company. It read, “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.” The tweet seemed legit — the branding seemed real, as did the company name. It also boasted a blue-check mark, so it had to be true.
As just one of many misrepresentations that succeeded it, the Eli Lilly tweet was a fake. Even when Twitter finally removed the tweet, more than six hours later, the fraudulent account had more than 1,500 retweets and 10,000 likes. The pharma company’s stock also plummeted $368 a share to $346 a share, reportedly erasing billions in market cap, according to several economic reports. Eli Lilly’s stock price currently sits at roughly $352 as of Nov. 16th.
“I can only imagine the damage a tweet like that made for the company, its employees, stakeholders, shareholders and anyone really related to their offering,” Bogliari said. “Some were able to tweet from their official accounts and restore it a bit. Others, I imagine, used PR and reputation firms to get to a solution fast. But it’s not that easy for all of them… for others it could be potentially a damage so big they won’t be able to survive, not just in terms of market cap/stock value, but also in terms of reputation and customers love.”
The verification mishap affected not only Eli Lilly’s reputability and profitability, but could also spell trouble for Twitter’s revenue stream.
“It’s making it really easy for advertisers to say: ‘You know what, I don’t need to be here anymore,’ and walk away,” Jenna Golden, who previously ran Twitter’s political and advocacy ad sales team, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “People are not just providing inaccurate information but damaging information, with the ability to look legitimate. That is just not a stable place for a brand to invest.”
Sports personalities were also hurt by the preponderance of fake users across Twitter. Basketball star LeBron James trended on the platform after a tweet from someone with the user handle, @KINGJamez, claimed that the 37-year-old was leaving the Los Angeles Lakers to join his former club, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Adam Schefter, a notable football analyst at ESPN, also trended after someone with the user handle, @AdamSchefterNOT, revealed that Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels lost his job. While the user handle clearly indicates that it didn’t come from the actual Adam Schefter, the fact that it was quote tweeted could have led many people to assume it was really Schefter, since many were unlikely to take the time to click and confirm the tweet — and tweeter’s — validity.
These are just a few specific instances where, while a more open verification system could have helped Twitter users, the idea did not lead to a successful implementation.
“Being verified would have given those brands more credibility and be marked as the official brand — impersonation happens also for smaller brands and not just for Fortune 100 companies,” Bogliari said. “So the idea was theoretically good — I would say only for brands and certain individuals and not just for everyone… documents and proof (are still) required but the execution showed us all the flaws.”
Verification issues aside, Twitter faces an uncertain future under Musk’s leadership. As much as 50% of the company’s 7,500 employees predating Musk’s ownership have been laid off under his tenure. The billionaire also revealed that Twitter’s cost-cutting methods are a result of the company losing upwards of $4 million daily. He’s even announced potential bankruptcy if Twitter doesn’t correct its financial woes.
“I see the Twitter Blue controversy as one of several items that are likely to just make brands and creators look elsewhere in the social media landscape,” Clavio said. “Twitter offers minimal exposure for creators and brands to the public when compared to other networks, and a much higher risk of doing or saying something that can cause a crisis.”
As more people grow skeptical about Twitter, alternatives have started to emerge. More people are visiting platforms like Discord, Reddit, even Tumblr. Others are joining Mastodon, a free and open-source microblogging site that has drawn comparisons to Twitter for its timeline of short updates arranged chronologically rather than algorithmically.
As recently as Nov. 12th, Mastodon boasted approximately 6.63 million accounts, a 17% increase from the 5.65 million users it had on October 28th.
From internal struggles to increased competition, Musk inherited a Twitter that, for better or worse, might be on a continual spiral to irrelevancy.
“It’s clear that the Twitter platform is pretty fractured right now,” Clavio said. “At the end of it all, I think a lot of brands will just opt out of having a presence on Twitter, paid or otherwise. It’s just not big enough of a platform to justify the potential negative exposure.”
Eddie Moran is a sports media reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He is a graduate of Boston University’s College of Communication, and has previously written for Front Office Sports, The Basketball Tournament, the USGA, and BU’s independent student newspaper, The Daily Free Press. He can be reached on Twitter @EddieMorannn.
Christian Arcand Returns To Where It All Started At WEEI
“Going to WEEI was a no-brainer for me. I started there. That’s my radio home.”
Since the turn of the century alone, Boston has hosted 12 ticker tape parades to celebrate championships. Christian Arcand has had the opportunity to experience that success firsthand, initially as a diehard Boston sports fan and then as a voice of the fan. Now as he begins his second stint at the WEEI — this time as a producer and weekend host — he aims to ensure a seamless transition for both the Merloni, Fauria, & Mego afternoon drive show and his career in sports media.
Returning to a station where his Boston radio career began, Arcand enters the same building where he started his last sports media job with 98.5 The Sports Hub. Once the station moved to Dorchester, Massachusetts, WEEI moved its studios to the location – and it is where its shows are broadcast from today. Arcand’s time at 98.5 The Sports Hub ended in being laid off last month; despite that though, going to work evokes feelings of nostalgia and déjà vu.
“Walking back in there for the first time was pretty wild,” Arcand said, who returned to WEEI earlier this week. “I was laid off from The Sports Hub and it was a big surprise to me and to, I think, everybody that [it] happened.”
After graduating from the University of Colorado, Arcand moved back east to work for WDIS AM 1170 in Norfolk, Massachusetts, which he says isn’t really an option for those entering the business today.
“These little stations are all gone,” Arcand expressed. “Those were pipelines to places like WEEI and WFAN and other places in the area. You’d work in Connecticut or you’d work in Rhode Island or whatever and these places all just disappeared.”
Just over a year later, Arcand made the move to ESPN New Hampshire, initially co-hosting Christian and King with Tom King, a sportswriter for the Nashua Telegraph covering the New England Patriots, Boston Bruins and other college and high school sports. The show was broadcast during the midday time slot from noon to 3 p.m. and sought to entertain the audience while informing them about the day’s action.
After nearly four years on the air, Arcand transitioned to work with Pete Sheppard, a former member of the heralded WEEI program The Big Show hosted by Glenn Ordway, on Arcand and Sheppard. Additionally, Arcand was named as the show’s executive producer, meaning that while the show was going on, he was often focused on many different tasks. Once Christian and King was brought back, he continued working in this dual role before the show ended in January 2017, six months before the format flipped from ESPN-branded sports to oldies.
“It was a lot – cutting up all the audio you want to play, then playing it during the show, then cutting the commercial [and] trying to answer the phone,” Arcand said. “It was this whole thing, but I really loved it; we had a lot of fun up there.”
While Arcand currently works at WEEI, it is his second stint with the station – and this time, he is working in a brand new role. He initially joined the station in 2013 as a sports anchor and co-host of the evening program Planet Mikey featuring Mike Adams. Shortly thereafter, he helped launch WEEI Late Night, airing from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. where he became known in the Boston marketplace going on the air after the conclusion of Boston Red Sox live game broadcasts.
Unlike his time in New Hampshire though, he was solely hosting and not producing – requiring him to adjust to not having as much oversight regarding the inner workings of each program.
“I’m not a control freak, but I remember [thinking], ‘Wow, this is different. I’m not running the board anymore. I’m not playing my own stuff,’” Arcand said. “….That was kind of jarring at first [but] I ended up working with a lot of great producers and I still am today.”
Mike Thomas, who currently serves as the senior vice president and market manager for Audacy Boston, was integral in building 98.5 The Sports Hub from its launch in August 2009. He was responsible for signing Arcand away from WEEI to join the brand as co-host of The Adam Jones Show airing weeknights.
Working alongside show producer Jeremy Conley, he gained an in-depth understanding of what it entails to produce a sports talk radio show in a major market, helping broaden his knowledge of the craft and position him for his current job with WEEI.
“I really had a good opportunity to learn from some of, I think, the best [producers] in the business,” Arcand said. “….It’s cool being a fan of these guys and then getting to work with them and learn from them and all that other stuff…. It’s really a job that requires a lot, and the guys who are really good at it, I think, are just top-notch.”
Over the last several years, 98.5 The Sports Hub has earned massive wins across the Nielsen ratings, recently finishing number one in the summer book across all dayparts in the men 25-54 demographic. Days later though, the station’s parent company Beasley Media Group made budget cuts, resulting in Arcand and Toucher and Rich producer Mike Lockhart’s employment being terminated.
While Lockhart has since been re-hired after Fred Toucher and Rich Shertenlieb lobbied for the decision to be reversed, Arcand was in the job market quickly mulling over his future in the industry. In fact, it was reported that Arcand was on the verge of signing a three-year contract that would have kept him at the station before the termination of his employment.
“I was so shocked that it had happened and it was sort of hard to deal with it,” Arcand expressed. “Then I was angry about it and then I sort of channeled that into, ‘Okay, what am I going to do next here?’ You start thinking, ‘Is this it? Is this the end of the career? Are you going to even continue doing this?,’ and that was a thought I had a couple of times.”
Arcand’s abrupt departure from 98.5 The Sports Hub and Boston sports radio was short-lived though, as there was a substantial market for his services. In the end, he communicated with Thomas and WEEI operations manager Ken Laird, utilizing industry connections and his own versatility to return to the place where he began working professionally in Boston.
“Seeing that WEEI was in the market for someone on-air and to produce [the afternoon] show, I was right there and willing to try out something I hadn’t done in a while,” Arcand said. “It was a no-brainer, really. Going to WEEI was a no-brainer for me. I started there. That’s my radio home.”
As someone once again “new” to the station, Arcand is looking to foster a working chemistry with afternoon hosts Lou Merloni, Christian Fauria and Meghan Ottolini, along with radio producer Ryan Garvin. Arcand enters the role replacing show executive producer Tyler Devitte who left the station to pursue other opportunities and feels that the composition of the show is unique in the sports radio landscape. In short, it gives them an opportunity to further differentiate themselves from other afternoon programs across multiple platforms of dissemination.
“It’s an interesting show because Lou and Christian are both ex-jocks,” Arcand explained. “It’s rare that you sort of see shows where it’s just two guys like that and it was just them for a while but then with [Glenn] Ordway and then they brought in Meghan [Ottolini].”
Arcand had been listening to the afternoon drive program long before the offer to return to WEEI was made to him and now looks to offer his insight and expertise when necessary. He does not want to enter his new role with insolence or by coming off as dogmatic when expressing his opinions about the show.
“I’m sort of taking the approach of observing more than maybe I would in a couple of weeks from now or something,” he said. “I want to sort of make sure I get the rhythm of the show and the clock and everything like that. Those are all things that you have to be more aware of when you’re behind the glass as opposed to on the air.”
Arcand will be hosting a solo radio program on WEEI every Saturday afternoon, reminiscent of Sunday Service, a weekend show he used to host on 98.5 The Sports Hub. He is excited to be able to return to the Boston airwaves and connect with his audience once a week to bring them the latest sports news and entertaining talk – all while bringing his trademarks of sarcasm and congeniality.
“I’m really comfortable just sitting in the room, cracking the mic and talking with the callers or putting out my points and getting to certain things that I want to touch on,” Arcand said. “….I think my style is one that you just sort of tune in and you’re hanging out with me for a couple of hours.”
Ultimately, Christian Arcand has made the move back to what he refers to as his radio home. As he concludes his first week back at WEEI, he is focused on producing the afternoon drive program and complimenting that with his solo show on Saturdays, the first of which will take place tomorrow from noon to 2 p.m. Through all of his endeavors, he will talk about Boston sports with his listeners no matter the season, giving them a platform to engage with the hyperlocal coverage.
“Being back at WEEI is something that I’m really happy about,” Arcand expressed. “I was excited to get started, [and] now that I’m there, I’m excited to see where we can take this show.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he serves as the production manager for the New York Islanders Radio Network and lead sports producer at NY2C. He has also worked on live game broadcasts for the Long Island Nets and New York Riptide. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks and wrote for The Long Island Herald. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
What Twitter Alternatives Exist For Sports Media?
Sports Twitter is a major vehicle that has helped establish the platform’s reputation for accurate and authentic up to the minute information.
The reality of Twitter dying as a platform was looked at as a bit hyperbolic when Elon Musk first took over the social media network. Now though, it is slowly coming closer and closer to potential reality.
Musk has been on a quest to salvage Twitter’s economic stability but has done so in an irrational and unplanned fashion. The actions he has taken include publicly criticizing his employees and firing them after pushback and firing essential engineers who literally keep the platform from crashing. Developers have even warned Twitter users with two factor authentication to either remove the feature or to remain logged in because the function that handles that process no longer works.
Sports Twitter is a major vehicle that has helped establish the platform’s reputation for accurate and authentic up to the minute information. It has helped establish the careers of insiders such as Adrian Wojnarowski, Shams Charania and Adam Schefter. In case Twitter does actually come to an end, what should reporters who rely so much on the platform do?
Establish an email list through Substack
With permission from their employers, I would suggest starting a newsletter list that they would be able to carry with them in case they decided to leave their employer at some point (all three of the mentioned journos recently signed extensions). Posting on Substack through a mobile device is just as easy as posting on Twitter and it gives users an almost similar experience to what they had with using Twitter in the sense that they could have their email notifications turned on and they could interact with other basketball lovers through Substack’s comments section.
Create a live blog that always exists on your employer’s page
A running page of information that was sponsored and existed on ESPN or Stadium’s page would make digestible, quick hit commentary monetizable for the networks that employ Shams, Woj and Schefter. It brings people back to their employer’s page and establishes even more of a bond between consumers and apps/websites – a connection that has been taken away from many due to the existence of social media.
Establish a Mastodon server
With over a million users, Mastodon has become the closest thing to a Twitter alternative that’s available. Even though signing up for an account is a little confusing and the ability to search for unique users and takes isn’t fully established in comparison to Twitter – Mastodon has a similar look and feel to Elon’s platform and it gives employers more control over who is and isn’t interacting with their employees and what they are able to see. It would make it easier on ESPN or Stadium’s part to constantly promote links to their pages for viewers and readers to consume.
It’s the closest thing that is available to establishing your own social media network without the startup costs, hiring of engineers and figuring out tech issues. An advertising mechanism hasn’t been established yet but ESPN or Stadium could be in the forefront (because of the credibility they bring to the table) of establishing the revenue side of things alongside Mastodon.
Stick it out with Elon
NBC Universal’s advertising head recently told AdAge that NBC is sticking it out with Twitter. Twitter’s ad program has faced setback since Elon’s takeover but it is still much more established and streamlined that anything else available out there that is similar to Twitter. She also said that Twitter is the biggest host of NBC content on the internet (besides NBC owned platforms of course).
If a major company like NBC is standing with Twitter and if most major advertisers haven’t left yet, maybe sports reporters should also stay put for now. Twitter is not a startup. Despite the disarray we read about everyday, it’s still an established company that is up and running. We are all using Twitter itself to talk smack about its mismanagement but the reality is we are all still using Twitter. Even those who have gone away from the platform still come back more often than not to check in on what is happening directly on Twitter.
Maybe the grass will eventually be greener on the other side and Elon will have Twitter on more established ground. Maybe Elon files for bankruptcy and sells it to bankers who create an environment of stability for the company.
The reality is there is no other platform as good at real time reaction than Twitter so maybe sticking it out and keeping status quo is the best thing for everyone to do. See you later on Twitter (follow me @JMKTVShow).
Jessie Karangu is a columnist for BSM and graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland but comes from Kenyan roots. Jessie has had a passion for sports media and the world of television since he was a child. His career has included stints with USA Today, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Sightline Media. He can be found on Twitter @JMKTVShow.