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Breaking the golden rule

Posted by Bob Lobel December 11, 2008 05:58 AM

Reading unsolicited e-mails from people you donít know ó unless, of course, they are secretly your immediate family ó is a practice to try to avoid at all costs. Anyway, this one e-mail was particularly priceless to me. Check it out for yourself and pretend you are receiving it. It arrived after my last literary effort:

ďI thought you sucked for every one of those 29 years. Especially the last 10 or 15, when you just mailed it in.Ē

Violation of personal rule No.1: Never read e-mails. Violation of personal rule No. 2: Never, ever answer e-mails. But, for this precious reader, I am going to violate those rules and probably regret it. Here goes:

What you say is really not true. Not about your assessment of this former TV sportscasterís job performance. Not at all. And by the way, I do hate that word ďformer.Ē For your information, I did not suck for 29 years. Twenty-five or 26, maybe, but I did not suck for the whole body of work. Itís just not true. I also object to being accused of just mailing it in for the past 15 years. Iíll admit to maybe seven or eight, but not the last eight, what with all of the titles that were taking the town by storm.

Suck, yes, but not for the decades of which you accuse me. Mail it in, yes, but not for the amount of time of which you accuse me.

Here is my unsolicited opinion of what that camera does to the people at whom it points. This isnít a broadcasting school lecture. Itís just reality. That camera, pre-high-definition, makes everything it focuses on appear average. Greatness is reduced to average. Less than mediocre is elevated to average. It works both ways. Thatís my answer. No matter how creative you try to be, the work comes out looking average. Itís just the nature of the beast.

Basically, this former TV sportscaster could have been really lights out, or totally out of his league, and it all came out as average. That, of course, is what enables one to survive.

What actually made it special for me were the players, the teams, and the moments we covered. In this town, anyone could mail it in at any time and still win. OK, enough of that. E-mail at your own peril. I am out of that game.

No increase equals an increase

Now for a couple of observations. Red Sox ownershipís decision not to increase ticket prices in this economy was noble. But in reality, staying at the same level when everything else is sinking, by its very nature, means rising. Youíre at the same level, but everything else is going south. Even if you do stay the same, youíre rising because the economy around you is the catalyst. Itís not your fault, but itís not the solution either.

It is presumptuous of me to say this, but you have to believe that my heart is in the right place. That place is Red Sox public relations and the general fan experience. Ticket prices remain the same, but I say try this: Why not pass out vouchers or coupons to fans to receive a reduction on the prices inside the park? Hand out a coupon to fans and say, ďHereís 10 percent off your large Diet Coke or 20 percent off your hot dog.Ē Or, ďHereís 15 percent off your nachos or popcorn.Ē

You name it. Just give the fans a real, tangible break in the wallet when they come to your games. Itís a home run. They may use the coupons. They may not. And they may buy more because they have them. Anything is possible. But itís a tangible cost adjustment where it can be used and appreciated. Ask the fans to pay the same ticket prices. Give íem a break once they get in.

How much would that cost? I have no idea. But youíre probably going to pay more for some utility infielder who is not going to play, or is going to fill the 24th or 25th spot on the roster, than you would to actually help out someone who came to see your team play.

OK, Iíll shut up about that.

NFL games won, lost on injury list

How did the Giants and the NFC become the power, and the Patriots and the AFC become so downtrodden, in less than a year?

Maybe it was too many players getting hurt. There is something inherently wrong with a sport, clearly our most popular sport, when physical survival determines success or failure. Just ask the eminently beatable Patriots.

I have no idea what can be done about it. But it seems true that the dark force in the NFL is all about who gets hurt and who doesn't. It's getting beyond acceptable. As long as people watch, not much will be done about it. What can be done? Total body armor would have to be the rule.

OK, enough of that.

Letís get back to the Red Sox for a moment. In this free-agent frenzy, I am totally confident they will do the right thing. Their reality is this: They canít get any more people into the ballpark to watch in person, so the Sox need to get more people watching on NESN. Their growth potential lies in getting more people to watch outside of the park.

They are a high-octane operation based upon winning and competing. Thereís only one way in this day and age to do that, and that is to spend. Hopefully, they will spend smartly. But as a fan, I consider how they spend their money their problem. After all, itís their money. We really, really spend far too much time worrying about how much they spend and on what and whom. It is their problem.

Veteran TV personality Bob Lobel is an OT columnist and can be reached at otfeedback@globe.com

3 comments so far...
  1. Nice idea with the tangible coupons for inside the park. I find it amazing that Boston fans consider the Yankees to be a team that "buys championships" but the Red Sox to be the good guys still in touch with their team. Sox PR has done an impressive job in the past decade or so.

    Also, I can't fathom what motivation a human being would have for sending an e-mail like that. What could possibly be accomplished? Anyways, I know my family practically mourned the departures of the veterans of WBZ-TV!

    Posted by R.T. December 11, 08 11:39 AM
  1. You tell 'em, Bob-O!

    Posted by A. Nadelspoon December 11, 08 12:26 PM
  1. Bob, for nearly 3 decades you made watching and following the Boston sports scene even more fun than it already was in my book. So many great moments (Teddy Ballgame -Bird-Orr on Sports Final stands out as a real highlight) over the years, and you were front and center coming into people's living rooms all over the Boston area in those moments to help describe and put them in proper perspective. I'm glad you got a chance to anchor these past 8 years of Boston sports' return to glory, and only wish you were still there on the 5th Quarter, Sports Final, and behind the desk at 'BZ to help us make sense of it all. My Dad and I still get excited over the phone when talking about the Bruins resurgence this season, the Celtics historic start in the quest to repeat as NBA champs, the Patriots push to make the playoffs with Matt Cassel running the show in place of the injured Tom Brady, and how the Sox wisely wrapped up the scrappy reigning AL MVP Dustin Pedroia for years to come - but we both agree that the conversation would be a lot more fitting if we had just gotten through watching and listening to you give us your unique perspective on all things related to the Boston sports of the day. All the greats make it seem easy - no matter what their profession - and you made going on TV and talking sports seem effortless no matter how many hours you had logged behind the camera. The best compliment I can give you is that you felt like part of the family; it was comforting to turn on the TV and hear you talk about the sports news of the day. Of course I still watch Steve Burton and Dan Roache, and those guys do a nice job. Even the other local channels have guys that are pretty decent - but inevitably I can't help and think back to the glory days of Bob Lobel and wonder, "why can't we get Sports Achors like that"?!

    Posted by KOD December 16, 08 02:47 PM
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Charles P. Pierce writes for the Boston Globe Magazine. A long-time sportswriter and columnist, Pierce is a frequent guest on national TV and radio.
Tony Massarotti is a Boston Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. He is currently spotlighted as a featured columnist on Boston.com.
Tom Caron serves as studio host for NESN's Boston Red Sox coverage.
Bob Lobel was a WBZ-TV sportscaster for 29 years, anchoring more than 10,000 sports reports.
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