The Media Column: Kirk and Mut, two best friends who are now forever linked, headline 2018 Boston sports media awards

Alex Reimer
December 27, 2018 - 2:14 pm

WEEI photo

The Boston sports media underwent more changes this year than the teams it covers. When the calendar flipped to 2018, Kirk Minihane looked like he was just in the beginning stages of his reign atop morning-drive, one of Bill Belichick’s leading antagonists was still filing columns and we had two fully staffed daily newspapers.  

All of this rapid change, filled with salacious tales of infighting and backstabbing, shows we are often more interesting than the actual sports teams in town, which is why talk about ourselves so much. (Most of us are also narcissists. One cannot discount that important attribute when examining the sports media landscape.)

Since it’s the end of the year, it’s only appropriate to recap the last 12 months in the final Media Column of 2018. The inaugural –– and let’s be real, probably only –– edition of the Reimer Boston Sports Media Awards is below:

Martyr of the Year: Kirk Minihane

When Kirk got into a screaming match with Gerry at the start of his final appearance on “Kirk & Callahan” last month, it was difficult to not harken back to John Tomase’s prescient words about how Kirk’s WEEI career would end.

“It will go down in flames, and it will be f’n spectacular,” Tomase said in the middle of a wild confrontation with Minihane. 

As you all know, Kirk left K&C this year and is slated to host his own show on RADIO.COM, Entercom’s national digital platform, in early 2019. Kirk’s departure from K&C was a two-month radio drama, featuring scores of behind-the-scenes meetings, and ultimately, an agreement that set some barriers around show content.  

Kirk opted to not sign the agreement, much to the chagrin of Gerry. As Gerry said on their podcast together last week, he believes they would’ve found a way to make the show work under new parameters, which Gerry is convinced would have been temporary. 

Kirk sees it differently, and as a result, opted to walk away. He did K&C his way for two years, railing against the conventional sports talk formula and deriding some of the city’s most powerful entities, regardless of their connection to the radio station. Kirk says he did not want to surrender an inch of editorial freedom.

It’s hard to call Kirk’s decision reckless, since he’s still getting paid his full salary. But it’s bold, and seemingly one that few would make. Kirk seldom let anything, whether it be internal pressure from management or even relationships with friends and colleagues, get in the way of producing what he thought was the best show possible. He followed through on his word, and it led to his end at WEEI –– at least for now. 

“Fine Host” of the Year: Mike Mutnansky

It has been an earth-shattering year for Mut. Four months ago, he was the lovable third-wheel punching bag, ridiculed for his gambling addiction and balding head. Now he’s Kirk Minihane’s replacement, and one of the most-loathed people in Boston radio, at least judging by his vitriolic Twitter mentions.

If Mut had his way, he would not be sitting next to Gerry Callahan every morning with his name on the show. He would be sitting across from Gerry and Kirk, laughing along as their third voice and primary fill-in. That was the plan if Kirk would’ve returned. 

So next time you get ready to fire off an incendiary tweet towards Mut, keep in mind he probably wants to be in his spot just as much as you want him to be. But in defense of Mut, he was on K&C more than anybody besides Gerry and Kirk, and towards the end, frankly, hosted more than them. Mut was on the show nearly every day in July and August, and K&C finished No. 1 for the summer book. Jim Braude says he’s not ready for primetime, but those ratings numbers show the contrary to be true. 

Nobody affiliated with Kirk & Callahan wanted to see Kirk go. But Mut taking Kirk’s place is the best of an uncomfortable situation. The same tenants of the show are there, with almost all of the same characters. At times, it does seem like we’re doing a junior varsity-level imitation –– hello Peter King Challenge! –– but give it time. “Kirk & Callahan” ended Nov. 15. “Mut & Callahan” started Nov. 16. 

Mut has done more than a “fine” job navigating a rough climate. 

WEEI Rising Stars of the Year: The Real K&C

Last winter, Ken Laird and Chris Curtis would occasionally get together and host novelty weekend shows, where they would play K&C show clips and take calls from K&C super fans.

One year later, Curtis delivered one of the most poignant hours in WEEI history, when he talked about his alcohol addiction in relation to Josh Gordon’s indefinite suspension in a monologue last Friday night. It featured the kind of perspective that is often lacking in talk radio, especially in regards to discussion about addiction and mental illness.

With Kirk sidelined, Ken and Curtis have become even more vital to the morning show, and in some cases, contribute more on-air to the program than the hosts in studio. I have been part of many shows where Ken’s drops –– there’s one for everything –– dictate the direction and tone of the conversation. It is remarkable. 

The beloved Real K&C podcast may no longer be a daily fixture, but Ken and Curtis have graduated well beyond that. 

Stupidest Story of the Year: WEEI wants to turn Red Sox broadcasts into the Morning Zoo

When Tim Neverett left Red Sox Radio this month, the Globe reported WEEI management was thinking about turning Red Sox broadcasts into “more of a talk show.” Those words set off an alarm on social media, prompting disingenuous dweebs to finger wag about how were going to put a Sybian in the booth with Joe Castiglione, or something.

Of course, that was never the case. The job posting stresses the importance of play-by-play experience in any perspective candidate, and yes, the ability to hold a conversation and interact with your partner. There is a happy medium between the “Howard Stern Show” and reading from the media guide verbatim. It looks like almost every other sports broadcast out there, where analysts regularly give their opinions on plays that happen on the field or other league wide issues. This isn’t hard to conceptualize.

Biggest Fumble of the Year: Ron Borges falling for Fake Don Yee

At the start of this year, K&C listener “Nick from Boston” got in touch with Ron Borges and pretended to be Tom Brady’s agent, Don Yee. He told Borges that Brady wouldn’t report to OTAs unless he received a significant raise and got paid like Jimmy Garoppolo, who had just inked a mega-contract with the 49ers. The story ran as the back page of the Herald’s sports section on Feb. 9.

That morning, “Nick from Boston” called into K&C, and revealed he had duped Borges through text messages and one brief phone call. Though Borges has a history of plagiarism, it is hard to believe any able-minded reporter would run with such flimsy info. Perhaps Borges, in an effort to impress the Herald’s new buyers, lost his mind.  

It looks like it was a career-costing mistake. 

The Gerry Callahan “Good Columnist, Should Write More” Award: John Tomase 

It is almost certainly lame for me to award another colleague, but so be it. No other columnist in the city writes more incisive and topical pieces than Tomase, with plenty of gratuitous barbs towards the Trump Administration thrown in.

My favorite line comes from a column filed July 1 about the Celtics’ chances in the East after LeBron had signed for the Lakers: “Boston's path to the Finals just cleared like so many forests in Scott Pruitt's erotic dreams, and all the Celtics must do to ensure they're playing next June is traipse on through.”

Brilliant.

Outside of the occasional Shaughnessy rip job, no other newspaper sports columnist in the city –– Chris Gasper, Tara Sullivan, Tom Keegan (who?) –– moves the needle. There isn’t enough reaction to the day’s events or topic de jour. The model must change. 

Biggest Losers of the Year: Defenders of the Wall

I don’t know which Wall Defenders deny reality more: those who still believe Trump will build his Beautiful Wall –– I’m sorry, “steel slat” –– on the Mexican border, or those who don’t think there’s been any friction at Patriot Place over the last year.

In a series of pieces in late 2017 and early 2018, ESPN’s Seth Wickersham spelled out the apparent friction between Bill Belichick, Brady, Alex Guerrero and the seemingly rushed Jimmy G trade. Wickersham has been proven right almost every step of the way, with Brady and Rob Gronkowski not confirming their returns to the Patriots until springtime. 

Those who denied reality look foolish, though their heads are stuck too far up Pat Patriot’s rectum to notice.

Frauds of the Year: NFL Kneeling Boycotters

NFL ratings are back up this year. All it took was some scoring to bring all of you patriots back, huh?

Punching Bag of the Year: Joe Tessitore

The entire “Monday Night Football” booth has been mocked, especially novice analyst Jason Witten, who routinely messes up words and speaks solely in cliche. But nobody is more fun to rip than Joe Tess, who orders his food in Italian and considers himself to be a “Jazz Riffer” in the booth. 

The commentary might be bad, but the comedy is gold.

Biggest Contributor to the English Language: Yours Truly

Search traffic for “pissant” on Merriam-Webster increased by 115,000-percent this year. You're welcome. 

Related: The Media Column: Ex-Patriots greats have emerged as some of team's sharpest critics