Boston Bubbling With Optimism


A sunset view of Boston's financial district from the Back Bay, December 16, 2010.

Sports radio is an annoying format. It's mainly sports writers, shock jocks, and fans either yelling at or with each other. I have no business listening to Boston's WEEI sports radio, especially after the morning guys, Dennis and Callahan, mentioned my name on the air in 2005, followed immediately by the word, "idiot."  Twice.

But on my latest drive to Brockton from Manhattan, I didn't have my own car with me. I opted to rent one, and I relied on terrestial radio rather than XM radio for most of my entertainment. WEEI's range is impressive. I think I picked up the station in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, just past the halfway point between New York and Brockton.

And for the first time, I heard something called the Planet Mikey Show. Mike Adams seems like a funny guy. He's from Pittsburgh, but he almost sounds like Seth McFarlane as Peter Griffin (the main character in Family Guy who has a Rhode Island accent). Mike and his sidekick last Tuesday night just couldn't avoid the theme for the entire city of Boston right now - that their pro sports teams were among the hottest in the nation as 2010 drew to a close.

The Bruins were running their predictable course of having a great regular season, followed by a painful playoff exit. The Celtics were in the middle of a long winning streak. The Red Sox had made two blockbuster acquisitions during the MLB winter meetings in Florida. And the New England Patriots, in just five weeks, had gone from playoff probables to Super Bowl favorites.

A common talking point repeated by all of WEEI hosts and guests is that the Patriots are now favored to win all of their remaining games, including all playoff games and the Super Bowl. The talking point is so common and pervasive, I wonder if everyone in front of the microphone was given a memo, Fox News style?

Coordinated or not, they're correct. The New England Patriots are once again favored to win the NFL Championship. I blogged about this before, in early 2008, and we know how that story ended. But this season is dramatically different. The Patriot defense has gotten better with each game. And in my opinion, this has been the season that finally proved that it is the quaterback, Tom Brady, who has made the Patriot offense great.

He has thrown to both good and great receivers. But Brady has this ability to elevate all receivers. He delivers the ball to them as if they are all named Jerry Rice or Deion Branch. Brady has surpassed names like Steve Young and Johnny Unitas on the list of great quarterbacks and has entered the territory of Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and John Elway. There is simply no active quarterback better than Tom Brady, no matter what Marshall Faulk or Tom Jackson currently say about the Patriots on television.

Boston's getting ahead of itself a little bit. Great things are happening in December 2010 (the Celtics and Patriots), but one of those teams needs to win a championship in order for 2011 to be remembred as a great year in Boston sports. But with 1986 and 2007 already recorded as great years, it is certainly understandable how expecations are very high for three of Boston's four pro sports teams in 2011.

The first test will be the Patriots playoff run. They have defeated all the top teams this season. For them, it really is Super Bowl or bust this time around.

WBCN Goes Digital-Only

I wish I had learned about this sooner. But news in Boston seldom travels out of the city (unless it's an embarrassing episode involving Mayor Menino).

Boston's most legendary rock radio station, WBCN, ended its 41-year analog broadcast run just after midnight on Wednesday, August 12th (here's how the station went out). The station will continue to stream classic and alternative rock from the 80s, 90s, and 2000s on HD digital radio and the Internet. It is most easily accessed on iTunes, in the Radio folder, under the 'rock' category.

I worked at WBCN's original Boylston Street location in the summer of 1993 as a sales / copywriting intern. I was in the only office with windows, facing north, overlooking the brick and mint green facade of Fenway Park. I mostly did traffic reports and put together media kits. But eventually, I got to cover the switchboard (Peter Wolf once called with, 'Hey this is Peter Wolf, who's this?'), write a couple of radio commercials, and attend a Lansdowne Street block party to send off Mayor Ray Flynn, who was chosen by Bill Clinton to become ambassador to the Vatican ('natch).

It was an unforgettable be 20 years old and working (albeit part-time) at the most popular radio station in Boston, a city that was undergoing a healthy economic, cultural, and architectural boom that continued into this decade. The current stream at WBCN captures a lot of songs from that era by such bands as Stone Temple Pilots, The Breders, Radiohead, The Smashing Pumpkins and so many others. I love my XM Radio, both in my car and online, but I do hope CBS Radio keeps WBCN alive online. The online stream acts as a kind of live memorial or historical archive (the classic WBCN station ID's from the 1990s continue to be used). I can see CBS shutting it down in a few years. But until then, we have a fairly good rock radio stream that captures the 90s rock revivl (the 'alternative rock' era).

It was Boston's first full-time contemporary rock station. It was the first commercial US radio station to play U2 songs. And it had the best morning show (The Big Mattress) for 28 years.

Just listen to the voices in this MP3 clip that closed out the analog broadcast.

Good Thing I Said 'Alledged'


Because it turns out that Joseph Sullivan, the principal of Gloucester High School, embellished the story of teenage girls forming a pregnancy 'pact' in his school. The didn't act disappointed when they got negative pregnancy tests. They didn't plan group baby showers. And they didn't give each-other high-fives when they received positive pregnancy tests. Those are the fabrications he told Time magazine, and it became a sensational national news headline last week.

Why oh why have some the most embarrassing news stories of the decade have come from my home state? When will this shit end?

Dunkin' Donuts & Starbucks: Profiles in Class Warfare, Gender Roles, and Brand Loyalty

No kidding. I went back into my pile of saved articles and found two great ones analyzing Dunkin' Donuts, "the most aloof fast-food franchise in the USA," as Bryan Curtis has written.

Among their findings: Like Dodge automobiles, Dunkin' is a male-centric brand. That doesn't mean that females aren't allowed (in fact, women make-up about nearly half of customers for both Dunkin' and Dodge), but it means that the brand has a "male" image and feel. Dodge has its ads that speak to guys and their desire for toughness and utility ("Yeah, it's got a Hemi"). Dunkin' is about quick service and irresistible beverages, pastries, and occasionally ice cream. Calories be dammed. And having the very large John Goodman as a spokesman certainly helps to reinforce the sell. Dunkin's dirty, florescent-lit stores are not warm and fuzzy at all.

Starbucks, it can be argued, is a more European and 'female' brand, that invites customers to sit and stay (a decent minority does). Starbucks has barristas who might ask for your name during peak periods, and take over 60 seconds to deliver a beverage, sometimes with a label and your name on it. At Dunkin', the guy or gal behind the counter pushes a button on a $10,000 machine, and your hot or cold beverage is ready in about 20 seconds.

And it is really something how Dunkin' Donuts went from being a Quincy / Dorchester chain favored by Bruins fans, to a mega chain popular with Patriots and Red Sox fans. It really is the #1 brand for the pickup truck driving Massachusetts male who loves pro sports.

Here is Bryan Curtis from Slate, in an article published on March 2nd, 2005.
Dunkin' Donuts: A More Perfect Pastry.

And here is a wonderful article by Mike Miliard in Boston Phoenix Magazine (now simply called The Phoenix) from March 2nd of this year, entitled, Choosing Our Religion.

Grab a cup of joe and enjoy.