A Sports-Mad City

BostonCity of Boston.
© Denis Tangney
The largest city NECN covered—Boston—was among the country’s biggest sports towns, perhaps surpassing even New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. There was no way to quantify a city’s level of interest in its sports team, but economists at Northeastern University attempted to do just that, comparing Red Sox fans to baseball fans in other cities. Using a formula that measured attendance relative to a team’s position in the standings over a 30-year period, the professors found that Red Sox fans were indeed the most loyal.

Whatever the merits of the study, the interest in Boston’s sports teams was undoubtedly widespread and intense. In the sports realm, NECN could afford to cede little, if any, ground to its better-financed rivals. NECN provided not just scores and updates, but also live reports from games, features, analysis, coverage of press conferences, and post-game interviews with players. One of NECN’s most popular and acclaimed shows in its early years was Mike Adams’ Sportsworld, an hour-long nightly sports talk show. Freewheeling, unscripted, and sometimes crude, it became a favorite of sports fans and stood out on a station whose other programs could be staid by comparison.

In Boston, it was not uncommon for a sports story to lead the news. Sometimes the line between sports and news blurred, especially when athletes attracted attention for off-the-field activity. In 1998, for example, Channel 4 led its noontime news with a report on an incident involving Dave Meggett, a punt returner for the New England Patriots, the professional football team. Visiting Toronto to attend a teammate’s bachelor party, Meggett had been charged with robbery and sexual assault. NECN and Channel 5 also gave the story significant attention, but no station gave the story greater prominence than Channel 7, which cut into regularly scheduled programming to cover the Toronto police detailing the charges against Meggett. “This is a big, local news story,” said Channel 7’s news director. “Certainly in a breaking news situation, when there’s an opportunity like a press conference, we will carry it. It only helps inform viewers.”[27]


[27] Howard Manly, “Ch. 7 in its element with Meggett story; station couldn’t wait to jump on this one,” Boston Globe, March 3, 1998, p. C6.