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Sports Media

Felger & Co. get ‘Sports Sunday’ up to speed

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / July 10, 2009
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Last Sunday night marked the 10th episode of Comcast SportsNet’s “Sports Sunday,’’ hosted by Michael Felger. It also may have marked a breakthrough as the premier show of its kind in the market.

The hourlong program, which airs at 10, was particularly insightful and informative this past Sunday, most notably when it came to the breaking news that Rasheed Wallace had decided to sign with the Celtics.

Felger, along with his fellow “Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight’’ host Gary Tanguay (who deserves kudos for being plugged into the Wallace story all week) spoke immediately to Wallace’s agent, Bill Strickland, who detailed why his client chose Boston.

It was a nifty and well-executed juggling act by Felger and the show’s producers, who had been prepared to lead the show with the Red Sox.

“It was a scramble,’’ said Felger. “We had been planning on going with something on the Sox being just a game up on the Yankees. We had to scrap all of that.

“But in a way, that’s the fun part of it, too. You always hope to have a hot topic, and we certainly had one there with the Wallace news.’’

Felger is a ubiquitous presence on the Boston media landscape - he hosts two other programs on Comcast SportsNet, while also serving in a prominent role on sports radio WEEI as well as writing for the station’s website - and is also a polarizing one at times. He’s never shy about sharing his opinion, no matter how well-formed it may or may not be, but he usually pulls it off because of his self-effacing manner.

He knows how to pick an argument, but is willing to admit he’s wrong. The latter is an uncommon characteristic, among local sports radio hosts in particular, and it suits him well in his “Sports Sunday’’ role, in which he is accompanied by a knowledgeable cast of contributors, among them Lou Merloni, WEEI’s Michael Holley, and the Globe’s Bob Ryan and Christopher Gasper this past Sunday.

“I feel like the format really works - hit the relevant topics to Boston fans,’’ said Felger, who thinks the 10 p.m. start time will be of particular benefit during football season, when other networks’ sports wrapup shows typically run later. “Sunday was the Wimbledon final between [Andy] Roddick and [Roger] Federer. Great match. There was golf. Yet we didn’t say a word about those events. That stuff is for ‘SportsCenter.’

“We know what our audience wants, and we give it to them.’’

Flight plans
ESPN plans to unveil a cool piece of technology during the Home Run Derby, one that might be fascinating enough to make host Chris Berman’s relentless “Back! Back! Back!’’ catchphrase almost tolerable.

During the Derby, which airs live at 8 p.m. Monday and leads off Major League Baseball’s All-Star festivities in St. Louis, the network will debut its “Ball Track’’ feature, which utilizes Doppler radar to follow the baseball, while providing a plethora of real-time information.

After the ball is hit, viewers will know virtually instantaneously such pieces of information as the distance the ball is traveling (from the point of impact to its eventual landing spot), the arc and path of the ball as it travels through the air, and an immediate projection as the ball is in midflight whether it will be a home run.

ESPN has displayed home run distances previously, but never has the information been presented in such detail and so quickly.

He’s a character
Chad Ochocinco is one of numerous athletes communicating through the trendy social networking tool Twitter, but the Cincinnati Bengals receiver/goofball plans to make his interaction with fans (in 140 characters or less, of course) even more immediate during the NFL season.

“I’m going to really make it fun. I’m using Twitter during games, during halftime, after the games,’’ Ochocinco told Houston radio station KGOW. “I’m going to take it to a whole new level.’’

No doubt that revelation thrilled Bengals coach Marvin Lewis.

Given that Ochocinco - formerly known as Johnson - recently tweeted that singer Michael Jackson’s death is a tragedy as sad as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he should be an entertaining read. Right up until the inevitable moment when the NFL puts the kibosh on his plans.

Ochocinco’s unique insights can be found at twitter.com/OchoNFLCinco85.

Movie channel
With the Red Sox on a brief hiatus for the All-Star break following Sunday’s game, NESN has come up with at least one creative way to fill its programming schedule. The network will exclusively debut the short film “What About Sal’’ Sunday at approximately 5:30 p.m. following Red Sox postgame coverage. The 30-minute movie, produced and directed by legendary Life and Sports Illustrated photographer Neil Leifer, is touted as a “lighthearted film about a man’s unusual quest to bury his best friend’s ashes at Fenway Park.’’ The film stars Frank Pellegrino and Dominic Chianese. Despite the actors’ previous endeavors - Pellegrino played a supporting role in “GoodFellas,’’ while Chianese portrayed the memorable Uncle Junior on “The Sopranos’’ - it should be noted that no one gets whacked in this film . . . Sincere best wishes to colleague Marc J. Spears, who is departing the Globe next week to join Yahoo! Sports’ impressive roster of NBA writers and analysts. Spears is further proof that being a tenacious reporter and a nice person aren’t mutually exclusive concepts . . . Maybe the shrill punch lines are too complex for my simple mind, but nothing sends me scrambling for the remote faster than these words from Don Orsillo during a Red Sox telecast: “Now joining us in the booth, Lenny Clarke.’’ Click.