Calling away games from a studio was necessary during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that’s no longer the case.
Moving up and down the dial while wondering why Tom Brady gives the time of day to Jim Gray …
· The topic of when broadcast teams will be returning to the road on a regular basis tends to be a sensitive one for regional sports networks.
Calling away games from a studio — as NESN’s Bruins and Red Sox broadcast teams and NBC Sports Boston’s Celtics team have done — was necessary during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. But with vaccines readily available and making travel considerably safer, keeping broadcasters from traveling feels like a money-saving tactic more than anything else.
The question of when broadcasters will return to the road is valid, especially given that the quality of the telecast suffers when those calling the game are doing so off a monitor.
There have been times this season on Bruins broadcasts when the feed kicked out, or didn’t reveal an important detail, like a goalie being pulled for an extra attacker. And it’s no fault of Mike Gorman and Brian Scalabrine, but too often on Celtics broadcasts, they’re left trying to decipher what an official has called, when if they were in the arena in their usual courtside perch they would get the necessary info firsthand.
NBC Sports Boston does have Sean Grande (filling in for Gorman) and Scalabrine on the road this weekend for games in Detroit and Orlando (sideline reporter Abby Chin has been traveling all season), and a network spokesperson said its broadcasters will travel for “a handful of games this season with more permanence next season.” NESN did not respond to requests for an update on its plans.
· After a stretch of days in which, among other plot twists, ESPN broke the news that Brady would retire, Brady’s father denied it, Brady eventually announced on Instagram he indeed was retiring, and a good portion of New England fans got worked up that he neglected to mention the Patriots, the region or its fans in his post, it would be understandable if there’s a bit of Brady fatigue right now. But ESPN’s “30 for 30″ film titled “Tuck Rule,” which debuts Sunday at 8:30 p.m., is pretty close to must-see. Brady’s farewell may have been drawn out to some degree, but the origin story never gets old, right?
· Brady’s “snub” of the Patriots in his string of eight Instagram slides Tuesday confirming his retirement was curious, though he’s since acknowledged Bill Belichick and his time here in other social media activity. More than that, it was a generous parting gift to the region’s sports radio hosts, a silly, unimportant topic that was nevertheless certain to keep the phones ringing and spawn fake outrage from callers and hosts alike. Instead of wondering why Brady didn’t thank them, everyone should have been thanking him — for the joy he provided to fans, and the hours of sports-radio chatter he inspired.
· It’s always interesting to see which media members appreciate the career opportunities that came their way in part by their proximity to the Patriots dynasty. NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran and ESPN’s Mike Reiss — perhaps the two NFL reporters in the market with the most firsthand institutional knowledge of the Patriots — wrote thoughtful appreciations of Brady’s time here and acknowledged the effect the Patriots’ success had on their career success. A lot of talented people saw doors open — book deals, television gigs — not just because of how they covered the NFL, but to some degree because of whom they covered.
· Al Michaels, who will call his 11th Super Bowl next Sunday when NBC has the Rams-Bengals showdown, and longtime Fox No. 1 analyst Troy Aikman, have been linked to Amazon’s Thursday night broadcasts that begin next season. Both have also said that there will be clarity about their respective futures once the Super Bowl is complete. Both have options — Michaels could retire, and Aikman could stay at Fox — but if they do end up together at Amazon, that instantly becomes the best NFL broadcast team.
· This Red Sox season, whenever it begins, will be the first since 1987 that doesn’t have Jerry Remy offering his incisive analysis and humor from the NESN broadcast booth. Remy, who died of cancer in October at age 68, is about as irreplaceable as a broadcaster gets, and his absence is going to linger for a long time. Dennis Eckersley, superb in his own way, is expected to call the brunt of the games this season, though NESN hasn’t announced any formal plans. One name to keep an eye on: Kevin Youkilis, who contributed to studio programming last season and could end up doing in the range of 50 games in the booth.
· The Red Sox’ Triple A team may have moved from Pawtucket to Worcester, but its pipeline to the big leagues for its broadcasters continues. The Brewers announced Thursday that they had hired WooSox broadcaster Josh Maurer to their radio broadcast team. Former Pawtucket broadcaster Jeff Levering is a Brewers television play-by-play voice. Other broadcasting graduates from the Red Sox’ Triple A ranks include Don Orsillo (Padres), Will Flemming (Red Sox), Dave Flemming (Giants), Gary Cohen (Mets), Dave Jageler (Nationals), as well as NFL voices Bob Socci (Patriots) and Dan Hoard (Bengals), among others.
· NBC Sports made a smart late roster addition to its Olympic coverage, announcing Thursday that Katie Nolan had signed on to create daily content for its television and digital platforms. Nolan, a Framingham native, left ESPN after nearly four years at the end of September. She’ll bring welcome levity to NBC’s coverage.
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