Sports Media

Cervasio at home back in New York

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / April 22, 2011

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They recall her face from her two years as the sunny on-field reporter during NESN’s Red Sox telecasts. But when Tina Cervasio returned to Boston this week as the sideline reporter for Knicks telecasts on the Madison Square Garden network, it became apparent that her professional destination wasn’t quite so familiar to local sports fans.

“It’s so funny, because I ran into a lot of people before the game, even as I was walking off the court [Tuesday] after the game, who said, ‘Hey, Tina! Where have you been?,’ ’’ said Cervasio, who left NESN in March 2008. “It’s not like I’m sitting in a little cubbyhole in Boston. I went somewhere else for a job.’’

Where she went was home.

Cervasio grew up in Nutley, N.J., and was raised “8 miles from New York City,’’ she says. Her and husband Kevin McKearney’s extended families both live in the area. She cited her desire to be closer to family when she left NESN, but her departure also led to a dream realized. When she was hired by MSG, it fulfilled a goal of becoming a New York sportscaster she’d had since she was a teenager.

Fans at this week’s Celtics games may not have remembered where she went. But Red Sox fans five years ago sure knew where she came from.

Cervasio is quick to rattle off her favorite moments from covering the Red Sox, running from the obvious (the 2007 World Series) to the surprising (tracking Daisuke Matsuzaka’s flight from Japan in December 2007). But that doesn’t mean her memories are all nostalgic postcards tucked away in her mind. Cervasio said her first season in Boston, 2006, was challenging in part because of the perception that she was an outsider — and worse, an outsider from (gasp) Yankees territory.

“There were points where I know the fans did not like me because I was from New York,’’ she said. “They were dead set on believing I was a ‘Yankees fan,’ ’’ said Cervasio. “I wasn’t. That was difficult and it was annoying, frankly, when you’re sitting in a canvas alley trying to do a report on Jonathan Papelbon’s shoulder and how it popped out, and you’re giving information on what just happened to your star-uber-closer, and you’ve got people yelling at you, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re a Yankees fan, you’re an idiot.’ No, I’m a journalist, buddy, and I’m doing my job.

“It could get pretty vulgar, and sometimes I wondered when they’d look at the job I did rather than the address. Even now, when people here tell me they miss me, I catch myself wondering, ‘Where were all these people in my first year?’ ’’

Among her peers on the Red Sox beat, Cervasio was regarded as a consummate pro and tireless worker who took her job seriously, but not herself. It’s an approach that continues to serve her well, though she said the 82-game NBA schedule suits her better than the daily — and year-round, really — grind of covering the Red Sox.

The Knicks are down, 2-0, having lost the first two games in Boston by a total of 5 points. But New York’s reputation as a basketball mecca is long established, and Cervasio said that the buzz that has accompanied the remodeled Knicks has been something to behold.

“Now it’s so exciting, so electric. It really started when Amar’e [Stoudemire] signed with the team, and then the trade for Carmelo [Anthony] put it over the top,’’ she said. “Now, I’m like, ‘This is familiar. I’ve been here before.’ People are like, ‘Can you believe how exciting this is?’ and I’m like, ‘This is just like how it was up in Boston. I’m used to this.’ This is why I’m in the business. This is fun.’’

Dialed in Setting aside the vague temptation to recap a morning of Twitter battles, rhetoric, spin, and boasting, here is how the Arbitron winter ratings book (Jan. 6-March 30) broke down between WEEI (850) and WBZ (98.5) in the men 25-54 demographic:

■Overall, WEEI was fourth (5.4 share) while the Sports Hub tied for fifth (5.1). In morning drive, WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan’’ program finished first (7.7), while the “Toucher and Rich’’ program was tied for second (7.4).

■In afternoon drive (2-6 p.m.), WEEI’s “The Big Show’’ — which was revamped to the “The Big Show with Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley’’ beginning Feb. 28 — was fourth (6.1), while “Felger and Massarotti’’ was a spot behind (5.9).

■WEEI’s midday programming — first “Dale and Holley,’’ then “Mut and Merloni’’ starting March 7 — was fourth (5.2). The Sports Hub’s “Gresh and Zo’’ was fifth (4.9).

■At night (6-11 p.m.), WEEI’s programming, which includes “The Planet Mikey Show’’ and Red Sox and Celtics broadcasts, was eighth (4.3). The Sports Hub, which airs the “D.A. Show’’ and Bruins games, was tied for ninth (4.1).

A couple of other notes that might help clear some static:

■The numbers above do not include the boost in share WEEI gets from its Providence-based FM station. For instance, “Dennis and Callahan’’ totals a 7.9 with the FM share included.

■The men 25-54 demo is essentially the meeting point for listeners of “Dennis and Callahan’’ and “Toucher and Rich,’’ with the former winning the 35-44, 35-49, and 35-54 demos by large margins, just as the latter convincingly takes the younger (18-34, 18-49) categories.

■With the caveat that the monthly reports are considerably less significant than the quarterlies, it bears mentioning that the Sports Hub edged WEEI in March overall as well as during morning drive, middays, and afternoon drive, while tying for evenings.

Chad Finn can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @globechadfinn.