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Barrett is another unsung local talent courtesy of Bill Simmons


Media

Bill Simmons, pictured here in 2015, retains an uncanny knack for identifying talent in Boston’s sports media. Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Bill Simmons left Boston for Los Angeles 20 years ago, embarking on what would become one of the most influential and successful media careers of a generation.

But all these years later and from this opposite coast, Simmons retains an uncanny knack for identifying unadvertised talent in Boston’s sports media and providing an opportunity to thrive.

One example is Kevin O’Connor, a trusted NBA writer and podcaster for The Ringer, the podcast and media company of which Simmons is founder and CEO.

Brian Barrett is about to be another.

Barrett, most often heard on weekends and as the Red Sox pregame and postgame host on WEEI in recent years, has been hired by Simmons to host a new Boston-specific podcast on The Ringer (now owned by Spotify.)

He gave his opinion to WEEI on Friday and will dive headlong into his new concert. The plan is to launch the podcast later this month, before the Patriots begin their season.

“It’s crazy. I’ve known Bill Simmons for a long time…I grew up wanting to be in sports media,” said Barrett, 34. “And now they’re asking me to come work for them. It’s amazing I can’t tell you how excited I am about this.

Barrett isn’t a household name in Boston media circles, but make no mistake, he’s a terrific rookie. The Peabody native and Syracuse graduate has earned numerous reps in various time slots on WEEI since joining the station in early 2019 (his first show was in the 2-6 a.m. window after the Patriots beat the Rams in Super Bowl LIII), and it turned out to be entertaining and informative without having to dabble in that scourge of sports radio, insincere hot takes. In short, he was a revelation.

He’s also the only sports radio host I can think of who uses analytics in engaging ways to improve his opinions, such as pointing out that Franchy Cordero had an absurd 52% one-month dropout rate.

Barrett was often on air at WEEI, but his name recognition and profile were still in their infancy. That’s a credit to Simmons, whose origin story began when he built his own following as The Boston Sports Guy on the now-defunct Digital Cities site in the late ’90s, for to have recognized the talent from afar in a relative upstart.

“Obviously this is an important podcast for me because it’s all my teams in the city that I’m interested in,” Simmons said. “I really wanted to find the right person and someone who thought about their angles but didn’t do the kind of negative stuff just to stir the pot and get a reaction.

“Could it be someone I’m learning from?” Could it be someone having fun? Could it be someone who can get in touch with the right guests?

“I heard a lot this summer. I was watching everyone in Boston and he kept jumping. He could do things on his own, which is really valuable for us, but he’s also really good with guests. The way it uses advanced metrics is really accessible and smart. It saves every stitch it makes with data, but not in a super cheesy way. It had everything we were looking for.

The Ringer previously launched successful city-specific podcasts for New York City (hosted by John Jastremski) and Chicago (hosted by Jason Goff) in 2021. The Boston Podcast will follow the fundamental parameters set by those programs. There will be a minimum of three shows per week, including one taped after each Patriots game.

There will also be “emergency” podcasts during the news or a big story. The podcasts will last about an hour, with Barrett doing an opener before bringing in guests, who will include Simmons, O’Connor and Ryen Russillo, all of whom have deep Boston roots.

“I’m excited because it’s going to allow me to focus on certain things, and you don’t have to focus on four hours of content,” Barrett said. “You just have to get one thing and make sure an hour is really, really good.”

It’s also possible to deliver near-immediate quality content to an audience while they’re still buzzing from a big game or event and interest is peaking. This is perhaps the biggest advantage of podcasts over conventional sports radio.

“I think the advantage we have with pods is that the reaction time can be really quick, whereas on the radio often their best bits aren’t on after a Pats game,” Simmons said. . “Or they’re not on after a huge Celtics game on Tuesday night, are they? They’ll break it down the next day on the station’s best show, but not at 11 p.m.

“Part of the opportunity for us is being there immediately when things happen, combined with the guests, combined with a host like Brian who is really smart about the Boston sports scene and has good angles and you can just say [cares a lot.]

“One thing I noticed while scouting him was that some of his angles on slow sports days were really good. I remember on one of those weekend shows they had a debate on who was most important to the Patriots’ second of three Super Bowl champions, Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] Where [Julian] Edelman. It was the perfect subject in a situation like that, it didn’t get hot, and it was really nice.

It was around this time that Simmons made an offhand comment on his own podcast about how much he enjoyed that weekend WEEI show, which featured Barrett, Khari Thompson and Nick “Fitzy” Stevens that day- the.

The show’s hosts enthusiastically noted Simmons’ praise the next time they were on the air.

Barrett didn’t know then…

“When I heard that, I didn’t think it meant they were interested in me or anything like that,” Barrett said. “At the time, I just thought it was a really cool compliment, to hear Bill Simmons say that.

“And now there’s this opportunity that I’m working for, working with a Bill Simmons company, it’s amazing. It’s what I’ve been trying to get throughout my career. I can’t tell you how happy and excited I am. It’s amazing to think about.



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