Sunday, February 25, 2007

Boston and Beyond

Kevin John Sowyrda

The golden boy is now the poster boy for bad behavior. And speaking of posters, you should take down those pics of Tom Brady handing in your young daughter or son’s room right about now because Brady represents everything that’s wrong with American sport culture. Think I’m overreacting? Maybe. But I’m not alone in being absolutely fed up with the bad behavior of overpaid jocks.

It would seem that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is having a baby out of wedlock with ex-girlfriend Bridgt Moynahan. Monynahan’s publicist made the announcement Monday and since then, the gossip columns (hello, Page 6 and Track Girls) have had a field day with this story. As of this writing, we have the battling “friends of” giving the backstory — as in friends of Tom claiming that he didn’t know Monynahan was going to go public with the pregnancy when she did and that she got pregnant on purpose because she didn’t want their relationship to end, and friends of Bridget saying that he dumped her after he learned that she was pregnant.

What Brady doesn’t seem to realize is that his sole statement on this issue — “Tom and his family are excited about the pregnancy, and want to thank everyone who has shown support, and particularly for their consideration of Tom’s privacy.” — is, well, disgusting. “Tom’s privacy?” What planet is this guy living on? What about a simple, small expression of support for the woman who will be the mother of his first child? Am I being too harsh? I think not and I promise I’ve never bet money on the Colts.

Here’s what we’ve learned this week, aside from exactly what it takes to bump Anna Nicole Smith from page one. First, Brady has all the sense of a pair of cleats. I know I’m not the only person who believes that Brady forgot to put something important on during one passionate evening. Kevin Mirarchi, owner of the online store, has sent 2000 condoms to Brady free of charge. Second, when every media outlet in the galaxy accuses you of dumping her while pregnant, you can’t afford to jet off to Paris with Leo DeCaprio’s one time fling and overrated model Gisele Bundchen, whose own peculiar claim to fame is that she fits into clothing designed for people who don’t eat enough food. Last, we know that Brady is either being very poorly advised right now, or is simply rejecting the advice of any sensible public relations figure which would be to get in front of the story instead of playing duck and cover.

Brady needs to fly back to quaint, little Boston — I recommend not using Jet Blue — and save his reputation. The rules of Media 101 say that he should simply start this way at a press conference that would attract every camera in town: “I want you all to know how much I still care for Bridget and I’d like to ask you to respect her privacy. I’m the father and I’m going to play an active and loving role in our new child’s life as long as I’m alive.” End of story.

But God forbid that a Boston sports figure be bothered with the mortal responsibilities the rest of us must carry. As we’ve seen so many times before in this business, the perceived nobility and honor and class and good sportsmanship of famous sport figures, when put to the real test, is often found to be exactly that — perception. And perception doesn’t fill the baby’s bottle.

The macro issue here is that we worship the not worthy-to-be-worshiped personages in our society. Their lives are dedicated to frivolous entertainment and the best methods to avoid groin injuries. Somebody who plays football for a living should be lucky to make 30k a year in the better world I envision, which we’ll never see. I’d rather see the millions of greenbacks going to teachers, EMT’s, corrections officers and social workers. But in America we give our loyalty and affection to those with athletic prowess, even when they prove to have no sense of shame and no common sense at all.

A public figure, who knows that’s he’s a role model for millions of kids, should quickly step up to the plate — excuse me, the fifty yard line — and set the record straight, not to mention a good example. Brady doesn’t seem to appreciate the responsibility he has to those kids who emulate him, for reasons I may not agree with but certainly acknowledge.

Every day that Brady ignores this, his golden image dissipates more and more. This was the guy every mother wanted their daughter to come home with. After this mess, those same mothers would prefer their daughters date Pee Wee Herman.

Kevin John Sowyrda is a political writer and commentator. You can reach him at

Friday, February 16, 2007

Finneran's last forum

Issue Date: 2/15/2007, Posted On: 2/14/2007

Political intelligence

by Kevin John Sowyrda |

Does WRKO Radio in Boston have some sort of death wish? Do the folks in charge want to blow up the station once revered for its employment of talk master icons like Gerry Williams and Gene Burns? Unlike the present cast of not-yet-ready-for-prime-timers at 680 AM, the late greats did not spend their valuable mic time beating the LGBT community over its collective head with a baseball bat. Yet that’s the main shtick of this publicly licensed member of the electronic media in the Hub, and the beating goes on this week with one new, though very beleaguered, player at bat.

This week, WRKO introduced its latest impediment to profit making: Tom Finneran, the former House Speaker and former president of the Mass Biotechnology Council who is a convicted felon on five years probation. He may not have his law license anymore, but he does have the coveted drive time slot at Boston’s best known gay-bashing station. We’ve documented many of their worst moments here — the most notorious of which was when mid-morning host John DiPetro called gubernatorial candidate Grace Ross a “fat lesbian.” He lost his job soon thereafter, but any notion that he was canned for having called Ross both “fat” and a “lesbian” is wishful thinking given what else is said on the air about the gays at WRKO. Just take the childish banter of Howie Carr, whose list of anti-gay slurs runs longer than the route of the Boston Marathon.

Finneran was hired to replace Scott Allan Miller, who was the only regularly featured host at WRKO who didn’t engage in anti-gay pejoratives, stereotyping or hysteria. Miller was a distinctly civil voice at a station where livid and obnoxious diatribes are the talk de jour. Why he was replaced by Finneran, whose legislative career was noteworthy for its unwavering commitment to political posturing, shenanigans and a diehard, socially conservative agenda which would have seemed unduly harsh to June and Ward Cleaver is a mystery. But it was one that interested me, so on Monday and Tuesday of this week, I gave the state’s only right-wing Dem a listen.

I’ve suffered through Tom’s radio persona (think blowhard, windy, boring) before; he’s guest hosted in a vagabond way on other Boston stations. I thought he’d be better this time around because the stakes are much higher. Finneran needs this gig to pay his bills (invoices from his defense lawyer alone are probably stacked higher than the Hancock Tower).

I must admit I’ve had a high stakes bet going with a friend of mine, who was willing to put down a C note if Finneran played it safe and avoided “the gay marriage thing” for at least his first week behind the mic. Take a guess at who’s $100 richer today.

Just two days into his new job, Tom came back from the break and welcomed us to “W aaaaah K O.” Apparently no one’s thought to inform this burned out pol from Mattapan that the grating, oh-so-70s Boston accent went out with the Brady Bunch. Nor is he aware of the fact that if you speak like you studied English with Tom Menino, you are not long for the world of radio.
But I digress.

Tom, and his teenage sidekick Holly-something-or-other — who speaks as if she were Lee Atwater reincarnated — are aghast, appalled, perplexed and simply livid at the treatment of poor Republican State Senator Scott Brown who has been vilified for reading obscene emails to about 60 students at Wrentham’s King Philip Regional High School last Thursday, where the senator was fulfilling his constitutional duty to remind Massachusetts voters exactly why they voted for Democrats in November.

Brown had been filleted like a catfish on a website on, created by a student at the high school. The student and some friends were less than diplomatic in some of their web postings about how they felt about Brown’s zealous opposition to civil marriage rights for same-sex couples. Brown read the emails aloud, and in detail (he dropped the f-bomb twice), ignoring the protests of teachers monitoring his guest lecture. It will obviously be his last sojourn to His Majesty’s school.

Finneran had Brown on Tuesday to talk about the incident; it’s about 8:13 a.m. and Finneran is throwing every softball question imaginable to Brown. Brown drowns us with his “who me?” tag line from all his other interviews of the past few days, and then Tom announces: “We’re holding the wrong person accountable,” staunchly defending Brown as an exceptional legislator and a martyr for the cause of protecting the American family, and all that sort of fluffernutter.

Finneran is beginning his media career on the wrong foot, to no surprise. The Brown affair — that has a ring to it, doesn’t it? — should be seen from the macro perspective and not the micro. One would think the public sympathy would first lie with those who continue to be victims of prejudice and discrimination, as opposed to those who must endure a less than gracious web posting from time to time — a rather normal fact of life, one would think, for politicians. Especially one who’s being touted by the state GOP as a potential challenger to U.S. Sen. John Kerry in 2008.

So it only took Finneran two days to bring his 1950s view of America to the airwaves. The next few months will simply solidify the indisputable fact that the once great WRKO has degenerated to a station which doesn’t just lean right, but runs right. You’ve got Rush Limbaugh — enough said — and the work day is finished with Howie, whose often joined by Republicans (like Brown) who make comments and slurs regarding gay families which pale in comparison to anything a couple of students at King Philip Regional High School may have written about the senator.

My research is over. Having gathered my fair share of material by about 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, I turn back to WBUR where Bob Oakes proves there’s some decency left on the Boston airwaves. But let me make one thing clear: Finneran didn’t make me turn the dial just because he’s verbally awkward and tongue tied, or because his presence on the air is college level radio at best, or because his finesse is non existent, or because he couldn’t do a good interview if a gun were held to his head, or because the show’s intros by former Channel 38 “great” Dana Hersey are just plain, old silly. No, Finneran makes me turn the dial simply because he’s the same old Finneran — utterly obsessed and angered by what other consenting adults, different than he, do in their bedrooms.

Let me end with a prediction. Some executive at Entercom, the owners of RKO, won’t tolerate the inevitable ratings slide at the station for long. Finneran loses this gig by Christmas and joins the presidential campaign staff of Mitt Romney. A perfect fit.

Susan Ryan Vollmer, editor of the South End News/Bay Windows, edited and contributed to this column.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A botched response

"Mooninites" don't even like pipe bombs.
by Kevin John Sowyrda

If Ted Turner had any guts - and he has a cargo ship load - he'd personally renege the sham deal with Boston to cough up two million dollars in needless reparations which are intended, in truth, to assuage the embarrassment of political egos and appease constituents who are led by the most vividly incompetent constabulary in the world, second only to the Aruba Police Department, as we all viewed and suffered last week.

The Turner TV Network caved after days of Hellish publicity following the January 31 public safety meltdown in the Hub; when public officials deemed Turner's Cartoon Network advertising gadgets to be a massive terrorist bomb plot. The fourteen devices 'apprehended' by police in Boston depicted something called a "mooninite", who is a character from the cartoon network. Yeah . . . just the symbol the terrorists have been using for years.

So instead of playing kiss-you-love-you with Attorney General Martha Coakley, I think Turner would enhance his cult like status in America - and for once in a positive way - if he jaunted over to the Moakley Federal Court House and turned the tables - filing a federal law suit against Boston for infringement of free speech. It would be nice to have a public, federal trial to find out why Mayor Menino and his Keystone Cops needlessly created a mass hysteria, which is just the mentality the Bush Administration wants us to be exercising these days. And Menino is a Democrat?

The conclusions police officials decided to hastily make last Wednesday were potentially dangerous, and certainly inept and definitely costly. Boston proved that we have the equipment and manpower to respond to emergencies, but that we lack a crucial ingredient to preparedness - the intellectual prowess and the psychological demeanor to discern between a clear and present danger and something purely innocuous.

A pile of blinking signs spread across the Hub to promote another brain numbing cartoon network program was never going to turn Boston into a mushroom cloud. Somebody at Schroeder Plaza has been watching way too many episodes of "24".

Since I'm not Matt Damon I don't break bread with a great many al qaeda members, or even sympathizers thereof, but I dare suggest their incendiary devices of choice are limited to the torsos' of fanatics and very unremarkable containers - which will not likely blink for your attention or give you the finger, as the "mooninites" did. Simply put, there was no 'm.o.' here, indicating a terrorist attack; which is exactly why none of the other cities where the advertising blitz occurred on the same day went to Def con One as we strangely did. If Peter Sellers were still alive he'd resurrect his Dr. Strangelove character and make a movie and a few million out of this.

Of course, Police Commissioner Davis would justify his department's "the sky is falling" mentality by reminding us of the Tufts-New England Medical Center incident. It occurred just as police were panicking about the Turner Broadcasting blinking advertising signs. Two very fake pipe bombs had been discovered at the Longfellow Bridge and in an office at the hospital; allegedly the dirty work of a former hospital employee. Accordingly, the police operated under the false premise that there was a relationship between the fake bombs and the "Mooninites". This argument is sheer sophistry.

First, "Mooninites" don't like pipe bombs. I've asked them. Second, the pipe bombs were very quickly proven to be very "un pipe bombs" and their similarity to the flashing cartoon character is simply nil. Davis lacks a cogent argument that two prank pipe bombs and some blinking boxes spread across the city had any measure of dangerous relationship. The only common denominator is that they posed no real threat. In my opinion Davis was not sufficiently experienced or trained to assess this and needs to quickly recruit some of the real pros at the N.Y.P.D. for his executive staff.

In retrospect, they're calling this the mother of all pranks; guerilla marketing gone a little too wild. And of all the cities where it was implemented on January 31, only Boston's mayor and his Praetorian Guard had a full blown panic attack. What does this say and how should we proceed?

First, Commissioner Davis, if not publicly, should atleast privately consult with the real pros and decide what could have and should have been done differently. Falling prey to very false alerts isn't just costly but dangerous. Second, the mayor was off his game, and that is being overly generous. The only thing more disturbing than his lack of good judgement here was the way he communicated to the national media in the aftermath of the high-octane response. He hardly looked mayoral and he deserved to be the fodder for Jay Leno's monolog, and many others.

Finally, a suggestion to one of the few people at city hall who does not subscribe to the belief that Menino is above the temporal afflictions the rest of us must endure. City Council President Maureen Feeney would be well within her rights to appoint a blue ribbon commission - yes, the council can do this - to find out what medication is best prescribed for a mayor and police department which need to avoid future histrionics. Some say their actions on January 31 were prudent and precautionary. I say it was panic from the top down, and hardly professional.

Kevin John Sowyrda is a political commentator and writer. You can reach him at and read his daily blog at

CORRECTION: In my column last week I wrote that City Councilor John Tobin had called for the resignation of Boston School Committee Chairwoman Dr. Elizabeth Reilinger. In point of fact, the councilor had called for Dr. Reilinger to resign from the superintendent search committee only. Reilinger did resign from the search committee this week. I regret the error and stand corrected.