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WEEI’s Meghan Ottolini Is Used to Adapting

“I loved the show that we were doing previously — the show that I joined with Lou and Christian — but at the same time, I feel like there’s a great opportunity ahead with Adam.”

Brady Farkas

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After only eight months as a full-time host at WEEI in Boston, Meghan Ottolini is going to have to adapt again.

Luckily for her, that’s a strength. Even Chad Finn, who covers Boston media for the Boston Globe, praised her for that trait in an article that came out January 14th.

“I feel like that’s something, with the time that I entered my career in media, you kind of have to be ready to roll with the punches,” Ottolini told BSM this week.

A relentless worker, she was previously at the Boston Herald, making an impact doing through both written and multimedia stories. She gained further popularity and exposure when she partnered with Patriots Insider Tom Curran for the QuickSlants program on NBC Sports Boston television and continued her ascent by doing fill-in work for WEEI, impressing management enough to earn a full-time opportunity last May, pairing with with Lou Merloni and Christian Fauria in afternoon drive.

Then, a station restructuring just before the New Year paired her with new afternoon producer Christian Arcand — and then it was announced that Adam Jones of 98.5 The Sports Hub would be joining the team in February.

“I loved the show that we were doing previously — the show that I joined with Lou and Christian — but at the same time, I feel like there’s a great opportunity ahead with Adam,” she said. “I was a fan of his work well before I was in radio, and I think he is whip-smart and very funny. And so while I anticipate that our opinions are going to be different, I think we’re going to have a great time.”

The new show, Jones and Mego (with Arcand), begins January 30th and will air from 2:00-6:00 PM ET. It will continue to battle the Sports Hub’s Felger and Mazz, which has dominated the market.

Finn reports that that show has finished No. 1 among men 25-54 in every ratings period since 2012. Ottolini says she’s acutely aware of the ratings battle and certainly pays attention to it.

“Absolutely. I think anybody who says that they don’t is lying,” Ottolini said. “I have only gotten into radio in the last couple years, so it’s been a lesson for me understanding how all of those metrics work behind the scenes…It’s something that I’m constantly learning about, so when people are measuring your performance, I’m always going to pay attention to that. I consider myself a very competitive person, so as much data as I can get to reflect how the show is performing, of course, I care about that, and I focus on that.”

In addition to adjusting to a new career, and new partners, the transition to full-time radio has caused Ottolini to adjust her routine, as she always needs to be connected to the vibrant Boston sports scene.

“In a market like Boston, every team has a really, really dedicated fan base, so they can tell when you’re not clued in,” she said. “If you’re trying to talk about something and you haven’t been watching the games, you haven’t been reading all the clippings, if you haven’t been seeing all the clips, even following post-game press conferences, locker room bytes, anything like that. So it’s definitely an around-the-clock job.

“I will say… I started during a Celtics playoff run that went very deep and that was kind of a really nice on-ramp for me because I’ve always been a huge NBA person. So while previously I covered all four teams for a newspaper, the NBA was already something that I watched kind of around the clock anyway, so it was a nice entry point last spring to have that as a springboard.”

She watches the games. She knows the teams. She understands the fan bases — and after being in Boston for more than a decade because of college and career — she knows the neighborhoods too.

But that doesn’t mean that Ottolini is trying to pawn herself off as something she’s not. She’s trying to remain authentic and true to herself.

“I think one thing that’s important for me is that I never want to pretend to be something that I’m not or someone that I’m not,” she said. “So I’m very transparent. I grew up in the Washington D.C. area. I’m very proudly from Maryland. I’m a tortured Washington football fan. So I’m not going to pretend like some of the moments in Boston sports history have been tear-jerkers for me or really painful, or glorious moments.

“But I will say that I consider myself a Bostonian. I’ve been here over a decade. I’ve lived in this city and nearly every neighborhood for over a decade. I love the people here. I consider this my home.”

With her work ethic, sports smarts, conversational nature, and ability to adapt? WEEI just might be her home for a long time, too.

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BSM Writers

How Beau Bishop Does Two Different Shows, On Two Different Stations, In Two Different Markets

“I don’t ever turn it off and I’m probably on my phone way too much. I just keep a constant running diary of things that are interesting to me.”

Tyler McComas

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A familiar voice and a close friend was on the other end of the phone when Beau Bishop answered a call on a random spring day in 2018. At the moment he saw Todd Markiewicz pop on the screen of his phone, he probably thought it was a call from a friend to check in on how he was doing. But Markiewicz was calling with a purpose.

He had heard rumors about a competing station in Columbus trying to talk him back into sports radio. So Markiewicz, the Vice President and Station Manager of 97.1 The Fan, called Bishop with a simple question: What would it take to get him back to The Fan?

Bishop is known today for his successful radio career, but his story begins in Montana where he grew up and also found his first media job at the CBS affiliate in Billings. He later took a job in Tallahassee, where he met his wife.

As things go, she was a Cleveland girl so the couple eventually moved to Ohio to work in Columbus. It was 2007 and Bishop landed at the CBS affiliate in town that was owned by The Dispatch Broadcast Group. The group owned The Columbus Dispatch, along with the television and radio station. It was there, when Bishop really started thinking about sports radio. 

“From the moment I got to Columbus, I would look out of the corner of my eye at radio and I just thought ‘Gah, that seems like a lot of fun’,” said Bishop. “In TV, we were so restricted during sportscasts. We had an incredible department and I traveled with Ohio State for three or four years and they treated us awesome. Television certainly had some glamor to it but in the back of my head I always thought the radio guys were having more fun.”

Finally, in 2011, he got his wish when he was asked to do a show with Bobby Carpenter. No, this wasn’t a full-time gig that allowed him to focus solely on sports radio, rather a show once a week with the former Buckeye called The Offseason with Bobby Carpenter. However, management liked what they heard and the journey into a full-time sports radio gig came soon after.

“They must have liked what they heard, because the opportunity came for me to do it on a regular basis on a show called Bishop and Rothman,” said Bishop. “Anthony (Rothman) is still there, he follows our show now. I really enjoyed doing that show and we did it from 2011-2015.”

Bishop was excelling in sports radio. Sure, he cut his teeth on the TV side, but he was a natural at doing sports radio. Plus, he really enjoyed being at The Fan and talking about Ohio State everyday. But then an opportunity came open in the private sector for Bishop to move to Cleveland in his wife’s family business. So for a few years, he pursued another venture in life away from sports radio.   

But in the spring of 2018, Bishop felt himself being pulled back in by the sports radio universe. Around the same time, a competitor of The Fan started to try and talk him back into sports radio. Markiewicz caught wind of this and called Bishop. 

“Todd had since become the GM at The Fan and he is a dear friend and one of the real bright spots in our industry,” said Bishop. “He got wind that this other station was trying to woo me back and he called me back and said ‘What would it take? I think we need to get the band back together’. I remember having the conversation with him asking, what do you have in mind? He said, well, what do you think about doing something with James Laurinaitis”

Just like his first show in sports radio, Bishop was being pitched on doing a show with a former Buckeye. He loved the idea of teaming up with Laurinaitis for a show, and even covered him at Ohio State during his playing days, but he hadn’t seen him since he left college football. The opportunity to return to a job he was passionate about at a station he loved and a boss he considered a friend was too good to pass up. Shortly after Markiewicz’ phone call, Bishop was back at 97.1 The Fan alongside Laurinaitis. 

The duo developed an incredible chemistry together. So much so, Bishop considers Laurinaitis a dear friend. From the spring of 2018 until January of 2022 the two co-hosted a show at The Fan until Laurinaitis left the show to become the Linebackers Coach at Notre Dame under longtime friend and former teammate Marcus Freeman.

The interesting catch is that Bishop was living in northeast Ohio when he was initially offered to come back to The Fan. Meaning, he wasn’t able to be in the studio in Columbus for most shows. 

“I had done some TV stuff with the Browns and they said ‘Hey, we have a studio,” said Bishop. “They said ‘If you want, you can do the show from here’. So I did. I did the Columbus show out of the Cleveland Browns facility for three months.” 

Soon after that, an opening came open on Cleveland Browns Daily and the team asked Bishop if he would be interested in it. All of a sudden, it felt like he went from no job in radio, to now two different shows throughout the day. 

“On that show, which is Good Karma Brands and on ESPN Cleveland, I’m blessed to work with Jason Gibbs, who’s just one of all-time best,” said Bishop. “He’s the producer of the show and the Browns Radio Network. And then Nathan Zegura, who’s become one of my very dear friends. His grace allowed for a lot of this, because he drove the show before I got there.

“When they approached me about doing the show I said, I was concerned about the chemistry of it all. He and I did one show together and I said ‘Oh, this is going to be easy’. He’s the expert on that show. He does the color commentary for the Browns and on that show I’m very much the Ernie Johnson and he’s Shaq, Kenny, Charles, all of them. My job is to steer it and set up his incredible knowledge of the Cleveland Browns.”

Hosting two shows requires a lot from Bishop on a daily basis. From 9:00 to Noon, he’s hosting Bishop and Friends on The Fan. From 1:00 to 3:00, he’s co-hosting Cleveland Browns Daily. It’s a full day with a lot of prep. 

“I don’t ever not prep,” said Bishop. “My wife gets on me, she says ‘Can’t you ever turn it off?’ I’m like, no not really. Not when you’re responsible for five hours of content and you’re trying to come up with stuff that’s new and inventive. I don’t ever turn it off and I’m probably on my phone way too much. I just keep a constant running diary of things that are interesting to me.”

The day begins at 6:00 AM when Bishop wakes up and starts prep work for his show in Columbus. It’s been a year this month since Laurinaitis left the show, but they’ve found their new identity. 

“What we attempt to do with that show is The Dan Patrick Show of Columbus,” said Bishop. “When James (Laurinaitis) left, we tried to understand there was no way to duplicate the relationship he and I had. He ended up being one of my best friends and we had a chemistry that was unmatched. I said to Todd (Markiewicz), maybe we don’t try to duplicate this, maybe we just go in another direction.

“He and I were talking about possible co-hosts and I said ‘What if we try this model and bet on us?’ There were a couple of producers I had worked with for a long time that are talented, young up and comers in the business and I said ‘I think if I have these two guys, because they’re young and hungry, I think we can do it’. Todd said I believe in you man. If you want to do it, let’s do it.”

Bishop and Friends features Marc Finch and Eric Reiser. Along with his co-hosts at Cleveland Browns Daily, Bishop will be the first to tell you how blessed he is to be surrounded by incredible talent. It’s something he never takes for granted, especially since he has the unique task of co-hosting two different shows in two different cities every weekday. 

“My Columbus prep starts at 6:00 AM and I send my guys the rundown around 7:15,” said Bishop. “The prep doesn’t stop there. I continue to prep right up until the show starts at 9:00. We do the show from 9 to noon and then my focus shifts to the Browns.”

Bishop is right where he’s intended to be, which is covering the two-biggest sports entities in all of Ohio. The grind is real, but he wouldn’t change this life for anything. For five hours a day he gets to talk about the Buckeyes and Browns to a state that’s constantly craving content from the local sports teams. 

“Columbus and Cleveland are sister cities in every sense,” said Bishop. “The Browns are probably the second biggest thing in Columbus behind Ohio State football and Ohio State football is second to only the Browns in Cleveland. They overlap a lot.”

Bishop takes his daily duties seriously. He has both understanding and deep respect for the way people in Ohio feel about football. It’s just one of the many reasons he comes into each show prepared and ready to give topics and opinions that will best-serve his listener. 

“Sports is the warm blanket over the state,” said Bishop. “Whatever is going on in the economy, the weather is dingy. We don’t see the sun for January, February, and most of March. But damn it, if we have our Buckeyes, if we have our Browns, if we have football, that gets us through.

“If you think about the state’s love affair with football it’s probably as unique as any. I say all the time, there could be some states that do Friday night’s better, Buckeye fans would dispute you and fight you to the death on this one, but maybe some do Saturday’s better, there might be states that do Sunday’s better. But there’s not a state that does Friday night lights, Saturday’s at The Shoe, Sunday, whether it’s on the banks of Lake Erie or the Ohio River in Cincinnati better than the state of Ohio. It just loves its football. I take that seriously and I’m so glad to be a part of it.”

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BSM Writers

Anatomy of a Broadcaster: Mark Jones

“My early memory of Jones is when he hosted the weekly NBA show, The NBA Today on ESPN. He would end the show by shooting an imaginary basketball and holding the pose of the follow through as the studio lights went down.”

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A fixture around ESPN and now ABC since the early 1990’s, Mark Jones is still going strong at the “World Wide Leader”. Recently the Toronto native signed a multi-year contract extension, which will keep him calling a variety of sports, including the NBA and College Football, for the network. Jones was named as the Sacramento Kings main television play-by-play announcer in 2020 and calls games on NBC Sports California. 

Mark Jones is a former basketball player himself. He attended York University and led the school to three Ontario Universities Athletics Association (OUAA) Championships. York won the title in 1981, 1984 and 1985. During his career, Jones was one of the top players in the OUAA, earning conference second-team all-star honors in 1984 and 1985. In 1986, he finished his career with a first-team all-star nod. Jones still ranks in the program’s top five all-time in total assists and steals. He was inducted into York’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2016. 

ROAD TO ESPN AND LIFE AT ESPN

Jones’ broadcasting career began at TSN, which is basically Canada’s ESPN. How he got there had everything to do with his own basketball career. His final collegiate game was televised on TSN and he was interviewed after the game by Peter Watts. Jones tells the story during a chat with The Basketball Writers in 2020. 

“I asked Mr. Watts, the guy who interviewed me, “Do you have any jobs for students or soon to be grads? Because I’m pretty well versed in sports, and I’ll do anything you need me to do.”

He said, ‘Young Mr. Jones, call me on Monday morning.’ So, Monday morning at nine o’clock. I called Peter Watts.” Jones recalled.  

“He arranged an interview with one of the producers who was doing the hiring, and literally a week later, they told me to show up and I had my first job in television, right after stepping off the basketball court. So, a week after finishing my basketball career at York I was working at TSN as an editorial assistant. That meant watching as many as two or three games at once—whether it was an NBA game, a baseball game or a hockey game—and logging all the crucial points in those respective games. I was then making up a highlight package when the night was done, writing a script to each package and giving it to the anchor.”

After rising from editorial assistant to field reporter to hosting a Blue Jays magazine show to the main anchor, Jones wanted more. He put together a tape, hired an agent and got offers from a few places.  After getting a contract offer from the NBC affiliate in Chicago, he flew to the Windy City ready to finalize a deal with WMAQ-TV. 

“The next morning my agent calls me and says, ‘Mark, we’re not going to sign with Chicago.’ And I thought, ‘Wow, what happened? Did they pull the deal, Lou, what’s going on?’ And he said, ‘No, ESPN and ABC want to talk to you before you sign anything. They’ve seen your tape too.’ Jones started at ESPN in 1990 and is still there, going strong. 

AS A BROADCASTER

My early memory of Jones is when he hosted the weekly NBA show, The NBA Today on ESPN. He would end the show by shooting an imaginary basketball and holding the pose of the follow through as the studio lights went down. It always struck me has hokey, I’m not sure why. But I guess it makes sense now realizing that he was a good basketball player in his college days. 

I have to admit, Mark Jones isn’t one of my favorite announcers on ESPN/ABC. There is something about his style that just doesn’t register with me. Sometimes I feel like he tries to be too cool, too smooth, too caught up in catchphrases instead of the game. 

“He’s hotter than fish grease”, “He’s deep in his bag” and “put some muscle on the hustle” are just some of the phrases he’ll yell out. Maybe I’m old school (that hurts to even say) and would be fine with just a person that calls the game at a high level. 

To be fair to Mark Jones, this is where I tell you to remember that this business we’ve chosen is highly subjective. 

Jones, though will come up with a one-liner from time to time that makes everyone smile. Usually the reference is pop-culture related. Case in point during a recent Kings/Spurs game, he witnessed a tremendous layup by Kevin Huerter, faking out two Spurs defenders out of their shorts. Upon seeing the play, he blurted out: 

“Oh, Huerter put them on a flight like an IG model. Kevin Huerter with a fake of all fakes.”

Even Huerter himself didn’t really get the reference, judging by his Tweet, he may not have understood, but he liked it. 

Look, you don’t last as long as he has at ESPN, if he didn’t have talent. I’m not really debating that. I’m simply saying I would rather hear the game called, with the proper amount of excitement, which he provides, without all the extra. In listening back to a few halves of some NBA games from last season, it’s clear that Jones calls a good game. I know that he knows what he’s doing. Again, the word “solid” comes to mind. 

DID YOU KNOW?

Mark Jones is the younger brother of Paul Jones, the radio play-by-play voice of the Toronto Raptors.

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BSM Writers

Hall of Fame Voters Are Still Wrapped Up In a Crusade Fans Aren’t Interested In

“Put in the monsters genetically engineered to hit nothing but dingers!”

Demetri Ravanos

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Scandal, like taste in music or film, is subjective. Tolerances change based on generations, geography, and any number of other cultural factors. Every year at this time, we are reminded that there is a group of people dead set on defining scandal for sports fans everywhere. That group is the baseball writers casting their ballots each year for who gets into the sport’s Hall of Fame.

The 2023 class is solidified after Tuesday’s announcement. MLB Network devoted nine hours of live television to read one name – Scott Rolen, a perfectly fine and unobjectionable, although uninteresting choice. He is the only modern player that will join Fred McGriff for induction this summer in Cooperstown.

It’s not that there weren’t other, more qualified candidates on the ballot. It is that the majority of voters are operating under the delusion that they are protecting baseball by punishing cheaters.

Every year when the voting results are revealed the same debate rages – do some of the most accomplished players of the steroid era warrant inclusion?

How many more times do these voters have to hear that the majority of sports fans have not thought about Barry Bonds’s head size in a decade? What will it take to get them to realize that most of us do not care what Alex Rodriguez or Roger Clemens were putting in their bodies?

We came for the dingers. All we cared about (for the most part) were the dingers. Put in the monsters genetically engineered to hit nothing but dingers!

As a sport, baseball has a problem with time. The people that cover it revere its past and complain openly about the present state of the game. When the people that the general public relies on to follow the game are married to the idea that we will never see anything as good as what happened 75 to 100 years ago again, you’ve created a real problem for your future.

I am not going to argue that steroid users have been punished enough. I am here to tell you that punishing them in the first place is another example of baseball’s misguided priorities. Steroid use, while illegal, was only ever a scandal because baseball insisted it was.

Let’s cut the bullshit. Steroids saved baseball. Pretending to abhor them and the numbers they created is hypocritical and childish.

I was a huge baseball fan in my youth. I lived through all of the steroid era. I remember being on the phone with my high school girlfriend the night that Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run. As he and Sammy Sosa embraced, I wasn’t thinking about all of the horse hormones coursing through their veins. I was thinking “this is f***ing awesome!”.

Now at 41, I couldn’t give less of a rat’s ass about baseball. Why? Because the people that hold the game sacred have bent over backward to tell me that I should be ashamed of the era that made me fall in love with the game.

The day the newest Hall of Fame class is revealed should be a celebration for any sport. For baseball, it always ends up turning into a day where we wonder if the voters, the media that tell the sport’s story to the public, are living in the same reality we are.

They are married to a scandal that time hasn’t forgotten. Time has decided it was incredibly stupid. Barry Bonds was good for baseball. Roger Clemens was good for baseball. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were Godsends for baseball. In 2023, most sports fans acknowledge that is true.

I genuinely feel bad for Fred McGriff and Scott Rolen. Baseball writers (not all of them, but enough of them) have wielded their power and influence in a way that has turned what should be one of the best days of their professional lives into a day when plenty of us Gen Xers and elder millennials are wondering why we are supposed to ashamed of the stars we grew up watching.

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