For the second consecutive year, the morning show on WEEI decided to implement its own spin on the annual NCAA March Madness Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament. Instead of opting for the conventional “Best Athlete in Boston” or “Best College Basketball Player” bracket, Kirk and Callahan producers Chris Curtis and Ken Laird – with the approval of show hosts Kirk Minihane and Gerry Callahan – constructed the “NCAA-Hole Bracket” consisting of 16 media members – both in Boston and national – who are the most-disdained personalities in the media landscape.
Noted horse racing enthusiast and WEEI radio host Mike Mutnansky, host of Mut at Night and Red Sox pre and postgame on the station along with frequenting on K&C, set the odds for his picks in the bracket during his weekly Friday visit to the morning show on WEEI. Here’s how the field breaks down from the oddsmaker’s point of view:
Kirk Minihane (Favorite)
Kirk’s list of enemies across the region and nationally is lengthy. He has been suspended twice for his on-air altercation with WEEI midday co-host and former Patriots tight end Christian Fauria and once more for an off-the-air incident involving the two hosts. His time at Comcast Sports Net and his vocal, public criticism of many other personalities is unprecedented in the market and even expanded the list to include Joe Haggerty, Andy Gresh, Kevin Paul DuPont, Mike Salk, Dan Shaughnessy and even former co-host John Dennis.
Minihane received national attention once again when he jokingly suggested that Patriots owner Robert Kraft hire someone to murder NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after his Deflategate penalty handed down on Tom Brady and Bill Belichick was far too harsh. Then-New York Post columnist Bart Hubbuch called for Kirk to lose his job at CSNNE, which he did for sometime. Shaughnessy even retweeted the tweet, which edited parts of the segment to make Minihane’s intent seem malicious.
Callers disdain Kirk for his attitude toward them. He regularly berates his producers. Co-workers think he’s prickly and easily irritable. He’s as polarizing a figure as there is in Boston sports media, with lovers and defenders of the host labeled “Mini-fans” and the haters like Larry from Newburyport just as vocal on social media, the text line and the airwaves.
The defending NCAA-Hole bracket champion, Kirk easily bested WEEI afternoon co-host Dale Arnold in the 2017 first round match-up, taking 72 percent of the 8,302 votes on the Kirk and Callahan Twitter poll. As polarizing and as hated a figure is Minihane is, it’s easy to figure why he would be the favorite in the bracket. He awaits the winner of No. 2 seed Callahan and No. 3 seed Fauria in the second round.
Alex Reimer (3/1)
Alex Reimer is sort of a dark horse in the tournament, truly emerging on the Boston landscape just a few months ago and is now the No. 1 seed in the Casting Couch region of the bracket. Reimer made the most of his opportunity with Kirk and Callahan, earning a job as a full-time WEEI.com scribe and has been a mainstay on the Casting Couch since his debut a few months ago.
His list of haters has grown in his time with the station. No one hates Alex more than the WEEI callers, and even Kirk thinks his voice is irritable when driving around listening to the show. Reimer’s politics are polarizing – he’s a noted liberal and he and Boston Herald columnist Steve Buckley are the only public homosexual sports media personalities in town. Sports Illustrated media columnist Richard Deitsch thinks he’s writing provocative things to continue to grow his brand and get his name out there. Pete Sheppard battled it out on-air with Alex after Reimer criticized his take on Claude Julien‘s firing and said Alex can say things on air that others can’t because of his sexual orientation.
Reimer called Donald Trump‘s election America’s moral 9/11, has dropped swears on-air and has been eviscerated on the text line, social media and the callers and listeners can’t stand him. The haters far outweigh the “Reim Jobs.” Mut’s 3/1 odds are fairly accurate.
Reimer will take on No. 4 seed Trenni Kusnierek in the first round.
Tony Massarotti (5/1)
If the Felger and Massarotti show was on WEEI, there is no question that Tony Massarotti would be victorious in the NCAA-Hole bracket. Unlike Kirk and much like Reimer, Mazz has far more haters than he does supporters.
The former NESN Insider, Boston Herald and Boston Globe baseball writer, Mazz has been apart of the highly-rated afternoon show on 98.5 the Sports Hub since its origin in 2009. The show has been the most successful show in the market in that time span, but Mazz has his share of critics. Most think of Massarotti as being as negative and contrarian as anyone in Boston. Listeners are critical of his high-pitched, squeaky voice (which the show has made into a bit, but most mock him for it) and for agreeing with co-host Michael Felger far too often. Some believe he is the leader in the clubhouse for faux outrage.
Because Massarotti is on the station across the street and isn’t a day-in, day-out integral part of K&C, which is the show hosting the bracket, I don’t see Mazz upsetting the baseball scribes, Reimer, Minihane or even some ESPN personalities.
Massarotti’s first round opponent in the Writers Region is No. 2 seed Shaughnessy. Mazz may be a bit overpriced at his 5/1 odds, but the No. 3 seed is appropriate for the afternoon radio host.
Pete Abraham (5/1)
Boston Globe Red Sox beat writer Pete Abraham was a late addition to the K&C NCAA-Hole bracket, replacing SB Nation’s Charlotte Wilder.
The hate for Pete Abe has never been as strong as it is right now. He has had public disputes with Barstool Sports’ Jared Carrabis for his reporting on Pablo Sandoval‘s social media activity during a Red Sox game last season, and has targeted Twitter users who criticize David Price as being racists.
Abraham’s mentions have been flooded with comments mocking Pete for his response to a Sox fan, calling him a “grand wizard” for saying Boston is a better team without Price. It’s the talk of town, as writers are blogging about it and it has dominated both the morning and midday shows on WEEI over the past few days:
Pete was even featured in Larry Johnson‘s Friday cartoon:
After the heat in his mentions became too overwhelming, Pete finally tweeted out an apology. It happened to come at 11:46 PM on Friday night when most people were asleep:
Somehow, Pete was bested by the No. 1 seed in the writers region John Tomase (more on him later) by a slight 53-47 percent margin. “Recency,” as Mut put it, is pretty applicable with Pete Abe, as his recent happenings have him as one of the most-hated media members in town, but apparently, and rather surprisingly, not as hated as Tomase.
Dan Shaughnessy (6/1)
The longtime Boston Globe writer turned-columnist and part-time radio host on the station across the street, Shaughnessy has been a pariah in Boston for nearly 40 years. Referred to as “Shank” by those who don’t care for his takes, Shaughnessy has been tormenting the fans of Boston by seemingly always taking the pessimistic or negative stance on everything sports-related going on in the city.
Shaughnessy was quick to criticize “homer” Judge Richard Berman after Berman overturned Brady’s four-game suspension back in the summer of 2015. He constantly gets on players and coaches who he feels underperforms and doesn’t live up to he and the city’s lofty expectations. Some consider Shaughnessy to be one of if not the biggest trolls in town.
When sports aren’t as relevant in town during the late-winter months, Shaughnessy takes more of a backseat and isn’t nearly as disliked as he is during the football and baseball seasons. Because the bracket is running during the dead space of seasons prior to the basketball and hockey playoffs, I’d expect Shaughnessy to get stumped before the final bracket.
Mut placed Dan’s odds at 6/1, which may be a bit overrated due to his lack of “recency” at the current time. It should be a nail-biter between the two seam heads – Mazz and Shaughnessy – in round one of the writers region.
Albert in Rhode Island (8/1)
I’m not sure the hate for Albert from Rhode Island is as strong outside of the P1 Kirk and Callahan listeners as some of the other members of the NCAA-Hole bracket, but there is no question his anti-Brady conspiracy theories and hot takes anger the average listener who flips on the radio on their morning commute just as much as the die-hard K&C fans.
Albert is a soundbite machine, and recently got into a spat with “Pete Sheppard” after he called in thinking Mut was Pete. Ken loaded up some Pete drops to battle with Albert, after he contented he would not be surprised if Brady, who has seemingly defied all odds in performing as well as he has so late into his career, were to pop on a list containing players who have used HGH or steroids to maintain his high-level of play.
A couple weeks later, Albert called and relayed his wife, whom he just married last year, was already divorcing him before calling in a few days later and saying he made it all up. Curtis and Ken had already tried setting Albert up on a WEEI-sponsored date with either Trenni or WEEI.com’s Lucy Burdge, but Albert led everybody on and was briefly banned from K&C by Kirk.
Albert’s lack of name recognition outside of the P1 listeners, despite his Casting Couch appearance, make him a bit overvalued at 8/1. However, his first round match-up is with an equally less recognizable Evan Drellich, who exploded on K&C in Fort Myers after the guys criticized the Red Sox beat writers for not asking tougher questions. The No.2 seed in the Casting Couch region, Albert is expected to advance to the second round.
John Tomase (10/1)
The hate for Tomase is stronger than I would have thought. Patriot fans will never let him live down his story that falsely claimed New England pre-taped the St. Louis Rams’ walkthrough prior to Super Bowl XXXVI – helping fuel to national Patriot-hating fire and feed the narrative that New England is a bunch of cheaters.
Tomase made an enemy of former Red Sox pitcher turned Breitbart staffer Curt Schilling after Schilling went on FOX News and defended Trump for essentially calling a young child a pretty young lady. Tomase said Schilling was unhinged, and an epic battle ensued back in October on K&C. A few weeks later, Tomase, a democrat, had to sit through four hours of Gerry gloating about Trump winning the election in a stunning upset. The “Listen, I love Felger” drop adds some fuel to the fire after Tomase was discussing Felger’s comments suggesting that Celtics forward Al Horford should have missed the birth of his child to play in a regular season game in the middle of the NBA season.
After advancing to the second round of the NCAA-Hole bracket and stomping the red-hot Pete Abe, Tomase’s value at 10/1 is extremely high. He’s ahead of nearly anyone on this list at this point, even Reimer and Minihane.
Bomani Jones (12/1)
When you insinuate that the whole city of Boston is racist, then you’d have to expect that the disdain for you is strong. The No. 2 seed in the ESPN region, Bomani Jones went on Around the Horn and his own radio show on the network, the Right Time, and criticized Celtics’ fans for their cheering of Utah Jazz’ forward Gordon Hayward in hopes he would choose Boston as his free-agent destination this summer. Jones insinuated that Celtics’ fans would welcome Hayward more than they would an African American free-agent because of its history of racism toward athletes like Bill Russell and Jim Rice.
Kirk then tried to confront Bomani on his own show after Jones refused to go on K&C, and “Kevin in Boston” was immediately hung up on after he revealed himself. The dislike for Bomani is similar to the treatment that Pete Abe is experiencing right now, as essentially the whole city flooded his mentions and was blocked by him on Twitter after his notifications became too much to bare.
Mut placed Bomani’s odds of victory at 12/1, which is pretty good value. It would be no surprise if Jones emerged as the eventual victor of the ESPN Region.
Dan Le Batard (12/1)
The No. 1 seed in the ESPN Region, Dan Le Batard is as hated amongst New England faithful is anyone who resides in Bristol, Connecticut. Like Bomani Jones, he has piled on the city of Boston, calling its residents racists. Le Batard thinks Brady should take a stand on his relationship with the President of the United States, and said the five-time Super Bowl champion should be “ashamed of himself” for not speaking out or going all-in on his friendship with Trump.
Prior to Super Bowl LI, Le Batard made it a point to compare the Patriots wide receivers, which consists of three white pass catchers (Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan) to Atlanta’s receiving contingent of Julio Jones, Mohammad Sanu and Taylor Gabriel, all of whom are African American and implied that New England prefers white wide receivers. He went on a social media blocking spree against everyone who questioned his opinion, and failed to back up his assertion on any local forum and called the people of Boston “stupid.” Who could forget him crying on SportsCenter after Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez killed himself and two others in a boating accident after alcohol and drugs were involved? “I’m sorry, this is embarrassing,” Le Batard whimpered on set.
The hate for Le Batard and all those working out of Bristol in Boston is as strong as can be. Mut’s 12/1 odds are pretty spot on, and Le Batard is a shoe-in for the second round after he takes on the beloved Red Sox radio pairing in the opening match-up.
Gerry Callahan (15/1)
The former Sports Illustrated and Boston Herald columnist turned-17-year WEEI morning radio host is the No. 2 seed in the WEEI Region, and Callahan is certain to anger the majority of the Massachusetts listeners who disagree vehemently with Gerry’s conservative political ideology.
Callahan rarely unleashes a hot sports take or takes the pessimistic, contrarian view like some of his counterparts on the other radio station just for reaction. Gerry is a pretty straight-up, call it like I see it kind of host, and doesn’t fain outrage when it’s not necessary. In other words, it’s not like Callahan is playing a role or a character on the show like some criticize Massarotti for doing on the opposing afternoon show. Some rail against him for what they believe is currying favor with Boston athletes like Brady and not going at him hard enough during his weekly Monday morning interview on the show during the football season.
New England is a very liberal region, and Gerry’s love for Trump and anti-PC stance is sure to garner him some votes to advance past his first round opponent in Fauria. It would be a stunner if Callahan advanced to the Final Four and upset his co-host Minihane in the second round. Mut nailed the 15/1 odds, as Gerry is a long shot to take home the title.
Christian Fauria (25/1)
We’re digging deeper and deeper into the long shots here, as Fauria is the No. 3 seed in the WEEI Region simply based on the fact he waged war against the morning show.
As referenced above in Minihane’s section, the two have had multiple incidents both on and off-the-air, and Kirk recently mocked Fauria by impersonating him with a slow voice in trying to mimic how he talks on-air.
The midday co-host has made an enemy out of his producer, Paul Chartier, after he publicly criticized Paul for not being as well prepared for the show because he works a second job as a weekend bartender. Aside from workers at WEEI, the hate for Fauria doesn’t stem very deep. Callahan is a more polarizing figure, and is the favorite to stump Fauria in their first round match-up.
Trenni Kusnierek (75/1)
There really isn’t an in-between position on the No. 2 seed in the Casting Couch Region – you either love or hate Trenni, who has become a staple on K&C and is the highest-rated rotating host on the show.
The CSNNE anchor battled Alexis Dent back in November, after Dent challenged Trenni on her tweets defending the MMQB’s Robert Klemko, who tweeted out a video of Buffalo Bills’ fans tackling a dummy and claiming they yelled,”Tackle the Muslim!” Dent was there and asserted she never heard a thing.
Kusnierek is very outspoken about politics, and is very progressive in lobbying for equal rights and women’s rights – her Twitter bio adds that although she is a sports reporter, she will not stick to sports. As a Milwaukee native, some callers think Trenni doesn’t know enough about the Boston culture to comment on the town’s teams, as she’s been critical of the Patriots in their handling of Deflategate.
The people at Entercom, WEEI’s parent company, love Kusnierek for the female perspective she provides on K&C and her weekend show with Tomase. Unlike Kirk and Gerry, Trenni isn’t nearly as harsh on the ESPNers who have criticized the city. A long shot to win the bracket, Kusnierek’s strong opinions on both politics and sports should place her ahead of Fauria and in the range of about 20/1.
Joe Castiglione/Tim Neverett (99/1)
People like to rag on Red Sox radio booth commentators Joe Castiglione and Tim Neverett. Castiglione is in the Red Sox Hall of Fame and curries favor with the hometown team and some chide on Neverett for his approach to broadcasting.
Minihane’s contention has been that it isn’t that difficult to do play-by-play, and the morning guys have been trying to have a crack at doing a baseball game to prove their point. Many of the P1 WEEI listeners agree with Kirk and Gerry:
The 99/1 odds Mut placed on the pair is an accurate assessment. The Red Sox are as beloved a team in town, and fans will never forget the classic Castiglione calls when Boston won its first World Series in 86 years back in 2004. The duo surely will be booted from the bracket in their first round bout with Le Batard.