I live in Connecticut, lacking any major professional sports teams. It wouldn’t matter much if the state has its own team, anyway, since it seems you can go only two ways when it comes to your rooting interests: New York or Boston.
The state is a veritable Mason-Dixon Line when it comes to the two already bloated fan bases. And it goes without saying that the media coverage is always bent in those two directions.
Local sports television in Connecticut has seemingly put up a white flag when it comes to covering the major sports, knowing full well that regional superstations NESN and YES will take care of the heavy lifting for the states’ fans.
Those two networks supply an endless group of media personalities who wear their bias so brightly that it might as well be on a t-shirt. Here are some of the best from these two camps.
1. Jerry Remy (pictured)
I know, an unlikely choice for the top spot. However, NESN has taken the former player-turned-color analyst to a new level. “The Remer,” as he’s called, did play for the Red Sox, but what makes him the champ is the accent.
Other people on this list will have more bias, but Remy’s dropped “Rs” are so authentic that it sounds like Sully from Southie or an extra from The Departed is calling games next to Don Orsillo.
2. YES Network “A” Crew
Stay with me, but there are two crews calling TV games for one team on one network. It seems that the Yankees are so huge that their regional TV station has two broadcast teams.
The “A” crew is whatever team Michael Kay happens to be working with. YES has a loose formula for its broadcast teams: Kay + "True Yankee" + someone who played briefly for the Yankees = TV gold.
I feel bad for Kay. I’ve seen him on programming not owned by the Yankees, and he always has thoughtful and intelligent (read: unbiased) things to say about all sports, not just baseball.
But when you cue up that YES theme, he’s like the mouthpiece for the state-run media. Nothing is ever really wrong with the Bombers and no, the new stadium isn’t half full.
Watching a YES Yankees broadcast makes me wonder how the Steinbrenners can type so fast to deliver their message to the airwaves. More on the YES “B” Crew later.
3. Tommy Heinsohn
Imagine the basketball Remy, with more bias. Heinsohn has been with the Celtics so long that he’s got dirt on everyone from Red Auerbach to Brian Scalabrine.
He played for the Celtics before becoming a broadcaster for the team in 1966, and also coached Boston to two titles in the 70s.
It’s unintentional comedy at its finest to hear him do a game these days, as his over-the-top love of the C's has gotten the best of him.
I can’t tell you the last time a “Tommy Point” was awarded to an opposing player. Oh, and he’s beloved.
Heinsohn was in bad health during the 07-08 season, but that didn’t stop him from calling in during the broadcast to do portions of the game.
4. Suzyn Waldman
As the saying goes, you’d have to invent Suzyn Waldman. Was she a former Broadway performer before becoming a journalist? Yes. Has she cried on the air? Yes. Do most New York sports fans hate her? Quite possibly.
She’s the total package, to say the least: Annoying voice, uncontrollable bias, gift for hyperbole, and if you listen closely to Yankees’ radio broadcasts, you can hear the contempt in the voice of her broadcast partner, John Sterling.
She has the same job that Phil Rizzutto once had, and she once called Roger Clemens’ presence in George Steinbrenner’s box prior to his return the most dramatic thing she had seen at Yankee Stadium.
5. John Sterling
“THUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH YANKEES WIN.” That’s him to the rest of the country. He also has other classics like, “An A-bomb from A-Rod” and “The Giambino.” Enough said.
6. YES “B” Crew: When Michael Kay’s not in the booth, this group is dreadful. Ken Singleton takes over in the play-by-play chair (he’s normally the lead color analyst), but it’s not really his fault that this team is so bad.
Because he moves into Kay’s position, the network has to find that third wheel to accompany him and “True Yankee” (remember the formula) Paul O’Neill. That third wheel becomes most recently either John Flaherty or Al Leiter.
Flaherty played all of two seasons in the Bronx and was best known as Randy Johnson’s personal catcher. In my opinion, a local color analyst should mean more to the fans than someone who was barely a member of the club.
Leiter had two stints with the Yanks totaling three seasons, but made his mark winning titles with the Blue Jays and Marlins, and spends most of his broadcasts talking about those two stops in his career…just what a true Yankee fan wants to hear.
7. Peter Gammons
I know, he doesn’t work regional television, but his homerism is certainly there. Look no further than him playing in a band with Theo Epstein.
8. Mike and the Mad Dog
Many of my friends here who are natives of the area were almost as traumatized by this duo's separation as if it were their own parents’. Therefore, I will not separate them and cause more grief.
Imagine, if you have never heard the show, every stereotype about New Yorkers and their sports fans—then give those stereotypes five and a half hours of radio and TV airtime every afternoon.
That was “Mike and the Mad Dog.” They were kings of New York radio, and it didn’t matter what was actually going on in sports news. These two always had time to talk Giants football in June or Yankees baseball in January.
During the broadcast, you could see more turtlenecks and Diet Cokes than you would ever want two humans to be involved with. As much as he plugged his books, you would think Chris Russo (Mad Dog) was the Malcolm Gladwell of sports media.
Then there are the callers. Give them credit: Few big-time shows take calls anymore, but they stuck with it just so you can hear Sal from Staten Island say, “First time, long time,” or Bobby from Jersey say, “I’ll hang up and listen.”
If only they could’ve stayed together, they could have made it to the top of the list.