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Bob Lobel Chat

"The 24-hour sports networks can't get into the fabric of the Boston sports fan. (They) can't get into the mind of this tormented group. But the way to do it is with a sense of humor. We can't take ourselves that seriously. We are the home of the Red Sox, that's a standard no one can live up to. We want to be like the Yankees but Yankee fans want to be more like us. We're much more special than Yankee fans. We've been through fire, we've come out hardened like steel. They're a different way of life. It's too easy for them. And life isn't that easy. We have to embrace the pain. We have to understand this is not a bad thing. It defines us. It's who we are. God help us if we ever won it. Not that it isn't worth rooting for... that's the paradox."

SoSH/BDD chat -- Monday May 12, 2003 - 8:30pm - 10:00pm:

from Red Sox Dirt Dog:  What made you stop Bob Ryan to clarify the smack statement... did you think it might have been picked up by the audience and you wanted to give him a chance to clarify?

Bob Lobel:  This was not any act of heroism on my part, just knowing what's acceptable and not acceptable. He would have probably been better off saying the F word on the air, we would have gotten a few emails and moved on. If you're in that position, you have to know how sensitive that subject is. He had to be given an opportunity to recant. Live TV is a high-wire act with no net. Just a reaction on my part, obviously I kind of laugh when the subject comes up that it's a premeditated way to get ratings or hype the show. I'm just worried about getting out of the segment. A lot less premeditation and a lot more spontaneity which is what you want. He went down a road I didn't think he'd go down. Thought we'd talk about fan behavior, he ignored that went down his own road, which is what I love about him. He and I have had great verbal chess matches on the air. He loves to be challenged. I like to think I bring out the best in him, unfortunately I brought out the worst in him. I'm sorry it happened on my watch. In one way I'm glad I was there because and only because I think in the aftermath I think I could assist in minimizing the damage because he's a dear friend. Had nothing to do with show promotion, sorry to disappoint anybody.

from Red Sox Dirt Dog:  Even though is was loose language hyperbole, do you think people are justified in being upset at the smack statement?

Bob Lobel:  Yeah, it was not OK. To the extent that it was not OK, the Globe thought it was worth a month... it was way too much IMHO.

from Red Sox Dirt Dog:  You seemed quite clear in re-referencing the smack comment to Bob so there is no way he could have thought you meant 'take back everything you said about Joumana', he knew you asked him to take back the smack... why do you think he didn't?

Bob Lobel:  I can't get in his mind. I do know the minute he left the station he knew he made a mistake. To his credit, he didn't try to make excuses. He didn't claim anything but responsibility.

from Red Sox Dirt Dog:  Some are saying 'you smelled blood and went for it' in order to promote Sports Final, what do you say to those people? :-)

Bob Lobel:  You don't have time to smell blood when your sitting there... you don't understand you're just trying to get through the show, wish I had that kind of power. Wish I could go for the jugular, it's not my nature.

from Red Sox Dirt Dog:  Did you think the fallout would be what it turned out to be? From Howard Manley to Howard Stern?

Bob Lobel:  Not in a million years. I've never seen anything like it. It was stunning to me. Two days of constant phone ringing from very corner of the contiguous 48 states. As if there was a void in the world when it came to news this came in and filled the void. Saddam out, Bin Laden out, war seems in control... let's go after Bob Ryan. A total void and Ryan rushed in to fill it. Only a week ago the place was in an uproar!

from Red Sox Dirt Dog:  Will this follow Ryan around when he gets back? If so, for how long? Will he curb his writing style? Will he cut back his appearance on electronic media? Will he be back on Sports Final?

Bob Lobel:  He booked himself on Sports Final on june 8th... we accepted. You know what this is a great country and he's going to be more popular and more visible than ever and in more demand if that's possible. He'll do his mea culpas and get on with his life with little interruption. He'll be able to say it, so literal with writing, that he'll come off as a sympathetic figure, not a victim, not in contrived way... in a natural way, he'll pull this off. It's like being John Malkovich like being Bob Ryan.

from Red Sox Dirt Dog:  The Globe runs a commercial of Bob Ryan on their television station, NESN, making outrageous statements in order to boost ratings. Do you think they're being hypocritical by suspending him for being that same character they endorse on your show?

Bob Lobel:  Kind of what I asked Vince Doria of ESPN last night. Do all these shows contribute to the difficulty of being someone on the air, and being someone off the air, and knowing difference between the two? Ryan himself admitted that he feared he'd say something that he'd regret. The Globe wants it both ways. Controversy, Confrontation. They seem to get attention. And it's now become part of our culture. Still guidelines... can't use George Carlin's seven words although I'll maintain that Ryan would have been better off saying those.

from Cheri:  You were a pioneer when you and Upton Bell hosted the media roundtable, Sportsbeat on TV38. Did you ever in your wildest dreams think the media would someday become media darlings, and at times be the story (i.e., Ryan and Buckley)? Do the fans really care what the writers think about social issues, or what Mike Timlin has in his locker?

Bob Lobel:  Not in any wildest dreams did I think the media would become a cottage industry and at times be the story. No way. I think the fans, I think there's a little voyeurism in all of us and I think the fact that Mike Timlin had something very visible is an item of interest. Not as important as the shape of his arm but it is an item of interest whether we admit it or not. And let's face it, here it's about the media and baseball players: we all want to be them. You can deny it deep down, but we all want to be them. Not sure its case with NFL or hockey players but when it comes to baseball at some basic level... and why wouldn't we? Wouldn't you want to be? Really..

Lanternjaw:  Yeah... to stand on the mound at Fenway!

from InstantKarma:  How has the advent of 24-hour sports networks affected sports programming by local channels?

Bob Lobel:  Local sports will always be covered by local channels. In fact a town as provincial as Boston demands it. The idea is to separate your coverage from the national coverage and make it relevant to your audience. I think the best way to do it is with a sense of humor... after all we are the home of the Red Sox. The 24-hour sports networks can't get into the fabric of the Boston sports fan. (They) can't get into the mind of this tormented group. But the way to do it is with a sense of humor. We can't take ourselves that seriously. We are the home of the Red Sox, that's a standard no one can live up to. We want to be like the Yankees but Yankee fans want to be more like us. We're much more special than Yankee fans. We've been through fire, we've come out hardened like steel. They're a different way of life. It's too easy for them. And life isn't that easy. We have to embrace the pain. We have to understand this is not a bad thing. It defines us. It's who we are. God help us if we ever won it. Not that it isn't worth rooting for... that's the paradox.

Lanternjaw:  And what if we won it all? how would a Red Sox celebration compare, do you think, to a Bruins, Celtics or Pats championship?

Bob Lobel:  This is pure speculation obviously because I still have a bumper sticker that says 'not in our lifetime'... I think this would be one of the great bonding experiences that the entire region will ever share. Followed by the realization that by winning, we've lost something very special followed by a general depression... my opinion only.

Lanternjaw: Fair enough... so how about this feeling....

from Philly Sox Fan:
Were you in the press box during Game 6? What was the mood like in there?

Bob Lobel:   We were all ushered under the stands by the Red Sox locker room where the dugout runway came up. The only way we knew what was going on in the field was because someone had a transistor radio, none of us ever saw it. I got to peek in the Red Sox locker room, they were putting up plastic covering over the lockers to keep the clothes dry from the champagne. I saw them wheel in the champagne. I saw them bring in the championship trophy. I saw Haywood Sullivan and John Harrington walk Mrs. Yawkey into the runway. I saw Bob Costas go in and get ready for the interview. And then... well... let's put it this way, it took 45 seconds to remove all of the above. I have no idea what happened to Mrs. Yawkey. I will never ever forget that surreal experience. I do remember this though, the game was on NBC. We were an NBC affiliate. We were going on live after NBC was done. And I do remember saying, "none of the Red Sox are coming out... and I'm not going in..." this is true.

Lanternjaw:  It was bad enough to witness it at home... can't imagine first hand -- ack!

from possumbait:  Who is your favorite print reporter? Is there anybody out there who you think to yourself "wow, he just gets it right?"

Bob Lobel:  Well, McDonough was... I always considered him the best reporter, he had agendas but I could filter those out pretty well. I think Borges is one of the toughest writers in town now. I miss the humor, I think more than anyone else Ryan still has his fastball and his A game. I miss the humor of Ray Fitzgerald and Leigh Montville... it's what made Jim Murray so great. I just think that for some reason humor is a gift of the Gods and right now I don't see a lot of it... that's why I love Dirt Dog's headlines so much, they make me laugh even through adversity... we just all need to have a better sense of humor.

from Rough Carrigan:  Do you think you and your fellow Boston Media colleagues are more cynical than the press in other markets?

Bob Lobel:  I can't honestly answer that because I don't know a lot about the other markets. Hard to imagine any place else as cynical as the media here. Too much cross pollination. It's come to the place that most of these guys, as valuable and talented as they are, have become cottage industries unto themselves and are vying for appearances and slots... hate to say paychecks but... we've never restricted, we've never said "Steve DeOssie you can't appear on such and such." We've always felt it was a privilege to have them on. I'm really in a quandary now by wondering what we're promoting by having them on. I think they bring a lot to the table but they're on in so many places. It's really gone unchecked. I'd love to get a combination and stick with it. But they're all really good. They all bring different things to the table. I know fans disagree, they send me emails. The most negative emails I got were about Borges, consistently, but I still think he qualifies as one of the best reporters in town now that McDonough is gone and of course Will had his agendas too...

and another from Rough Carrigan:  This off-season, the print and TV media all unquestioningly reported the story when the Sox announced that the price of upper bleacher seats was being reduced from $18 to $10. There were quotes in the papers and on local news sports reports about what a grand gesture this was toward making games affordable. There were inconsistent mentions of the numbers of seats affected. Just a few weeks later, fans learned why. Most all of the upper bleacher seats had not been reduced in price but increased, by redefining them as lower bleacher seats now costing $20 instead of the old $18. The red seat in right field marking Ted Williams' 502 foot homer, for instance, is now a "lower" bleacher seat. So are the several rows of seats behind it which have yet to be reached by a batted ball in 90 years of play. The Red Sox did not give fans a break as the media reported. They instituted a ticket price hike. The only seats for which prices were reduced were a couple hundred seats literally beneath the scoreboard in center field. The media barely, if at all, mentioned this. Does the media not have the attention span necessary to follow stories like this and report what the Sox actually did?

Bob Lobel:  Classic newspaper story, not a television story. Does not lend itself, don't think it's lack of attention span. It's the attention span of the viewer that would come into question.

from Montana Fan:
Did you flyfish with Ted in Maine or Canada? If so on what river? What was his go to fly? What is yours?

Bob Lobel:  I went bass fishing with him as part of shooting a commercial with him in Florida. He was cranky that day. Crankiest I've ever seen him that day. I learned a whole series of words that even would have gotten Bob Ryan into more trouble had he said them.

from PaulM:  Howard Bryant's book, "Shut Out" details some of the animosity between Will McDonough and Peter Gammons over race and its place in Boston Red Sox history. Recently you had Michael Smith of the Globe and Bryant on to talk about race and the media. As you noted, that wouldn't have happened as recently as 1993. In your opinion, is race still a concern for the Boston Red Sox and the way baseball/sports is covered today in Boston?

Bob Lobel:  I think were a prisoner of our heritage. I think only now are the Red Sox emerging from those white Yawkey years. Boston as well is a prisoner of its heritage. And the comments by Byron Scott only prove to me that people outside of the area seem to revel in the fact that Boston has this stereotype. I think we constantly defend ourselves because were constantly attacked by it and it becomes a vicious cycle. To truthfully answer that you have to be a minority or African American living in the area. As a white reporter you really speak with a lack of credentials. It seems to be better but I'm on the outside looking in.

from BigMike:  Have you ever done a story that you wished -- after the fact -- that you didn't? If so what was it?

Bob Lobel:  Believe it or not, this summer will be the tenth anniversary of Reggie Lewis' death. I did a story with Howard Manley who at the time worked for the Globe but was also close to the situation when we went to the cemetery looking for Reggie Lewis' headstone. That was probably three or four years ago. And there was no headstone. While that was a fascinating story to do it wasn't something I was particularly proud of. However without knowing what I would find if I went back I'm betting nothing has changed.

from Lanternjaw:  How about something fun? Tell us something about a Red Sox great that would shock or surprise us... a favorite story.

Bob Lobel:  I interviewed Dom DiMaggio in his home in Florida when his brother Joe was on his death bed. and Dom's wife Emily regaled me with stories about Marilyn Monroe when Joe would bring her to visit. Obviously its pretty fascinating stuff you wouldn't hear anywhere else. There's always the Ted Williams stuff... one other moment I can remember that I can never document on tape but was a great personal memory, I ended up driving Bobby Orr and Carlton Fisk to Nashawtuc Country Club from the Cape thinking almost the entire drive that I was in the presence of two guys that probably gave Boston their two greatest moments in Boston sports at the time. And what would the headline ever be if the car ever crashed? It was a pretty amazing moment having those two guys in the car, but it was just a very personal thing. I remember when i was in Fisk's kitchen when he got the call for the Hall of Fame, that was really a thrill. But there have been so many thrills like that I can't even begin. We were the first ones to interview Don Zimmer after Bucky Dent's home run. Upton Bell was in studio and I put Zimmer on the phone with him from his office, we didn't have cell phones back then . Zimmer happened to like Upton.

from SullySox:  Where do you come down on the Red Sox forward-thinking regime? Gimmicky or trendsetting?

Bob Lobel:  I like these guys. Of course time will tell. I think they're committed to winning and doing it the right way as opposed to the real Evil Empire which was the previous administration. You can tell my personal bias. I think these guys will make some mistakes, they already have. They'll make some good decisions, they already have. As a fan, I just want them to be as competitive as they can be. winning or losing will just happen. i think that's what they're committed to. You're only as good as your players, trite sayings but that's what it is. You can't have enough information its just where you prioritize that information. I call it where the rubber meets the road. Where managing by feel meets the statistical reality. Somewhere in between lies the truth. Unless you have both available the truth will be more elusive. I like information, you can always choose not to use it.

from Morass of Negativity: Watching the interactions between Edes, Buck, Shank, Felger, Cafardo, and Borges often appears very tense. Are these guys actually making it appear more intense for the show or do they really dislike each other? Also, do they simply take the alternate side of an argument b/c they work for competing papers? Curious to know if anything is said or done off the air.

Bob Lobel:  last question first... we basically give them an outline of what we have in mind for the show and where they fit in the show timeline and who they're going to be with. we try to limit discussion about the topic before the show so its as spontaneous as possible no idea where these guys will come down. I wish I had a camera in the sports office before the show started cause we missed a lot of good arguments. some guys truly don't like each other. In some cases its personality issues. in some cases its newspaper loyalty issues. in some cases its jealousy issues. and in some cases its just anger at another writer who took a shot at another guy on the show in a column. I think we've had many serious arguments on the air that have ended peacefully over a beer at the bus stop bar behind the station at 1 o'clock in the morning. i will say this... the guest writers have become increasingly aware that a good argument beats a hug any day on television. I've absolutely noticed that they've learned very quickly... it's not something we tell them to do I promise you that but its not something we discourage either.

I'm up against the 10:00 news... I can do one more... it's an honor to be invited here because this is a very select group and I'm honored to be invited here. I feel like I've been allowed to come into a clubhouse...

Lanternjaw:  Bob, you must have a Bill 'Spaceman' Lee moment... care to share? or have you ever sat down for a few beers with Bill or any of those 70's Sox?

Bob Lobel:  yeah I went to the first fantasy camp in winter haven and Russ Gibson was there... Lee was there... Gary Bell, George Thomas... Lonborg was there.. I spent a lot of time with Yaz. We played a lot of golf in the fantasy camp. We played the St. Louis team and I got a base hit... really very proud moment... Darrell Bucky Brandon was there... pitched to me, had no shot... you see one Bill Lee moment you've seen them all right? Before he became Chairman Mao... he's just... he can't be anymore outrageous than he is... I've seen it all with him.

Lanternjaw:  okay -- heard you'd have some fun with this one: when will you know when to hang it up?

Bob Lobel:  I'll know... I'm not quite ready yet... I'm definitely on the back nine for sure... I cant see ever not working in some capacity, it's just not my nature but i do think there will be some changes in my future and honestly I cant tell you what those changes are. I have a year and a half left on my contract here. I'm not trying to be cute but I have no idea what's going to happen. Anything's possible. To have done this has been a gift. I have a masters in education I wanted to be a college administrator. How did I wind up here? I have no idea. I've seen some of the greatest things. Some of the saddest things. Been in the middle of huge moments, got to know some of the truly great performers and yet it almost seems like it never really happened. seems like it happened to somebody else. Doing this in this city has been well... you fill in the blanks.

Thanks everyone. I hope this was as much fun for you as it was for me. I'd love to repeat it again. It was an honor to be here and I have to thank my personal guru Dirt Dog... who I steal headlines from every night... with his permission of course...

Lanternjaw:  Thanks a bunch for your time, Bob... it was a whole lotta fun. Looking forward to doing it again...


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