Although the show is unrehearsed, considerable planning precedes each broadcast from the Huddle's studio on the 44th floor of the Prudential Insurance Building. There the three sit at a five-sided black-topped table armed with sheaves of commercials, newspapers and notes about gags and topics they expect to plunge into, or at. During breaks in the program for world news, the Huddlers drift out of their room to the wire machines to read the latest sports results. Back on the air, Andelman is apt to light a match to a commercial that McCarthy is frantically trying to finish before the flames do.
On the other side of their glass-enclosed studio are two men—one to handle the calls, the other the engineer who plays tapes of outrageous sounds: the bomb, a creaky Inner Sanctum-type door, a big wet kiss for female callers and yelping dogs or clippity-clopping horses for calls about dogs or horses.
"We pitch our ads," says McCarthy enthusiastically about the show's commercials. What McCarthy means is that they often add their own embellishments to a stilted commercial. For one sponsor, an ice cream company, the Huddle concocts a "flavor of the week," such as cherry salami or pigeon pecan. The Huddle also lends its support to the Sam Huff School of Piling On. A plug for pro wrestling, delivered sotto voce, calls it "the only major sport without a scandal in the last 40 years." For the uninitiated, separating spoof from truth is the most puzzling part of the program. Stranger-than-life tales go something as follows: "This is the story of a famous home run that landed in a kid's pocket. He sold the ball for $12 and invested the money in the stock market. Three years later he was hit by a streetcar."
Among the Huddle's favorite targets, other than the Bruins and the Garden, are Carl Yastrzemski ("Ever notice that as his batting average goes up the Red Sox go down?"); Red Sox Manager Eddie Kasko ("A mealymouthed marsh-mallow who once brought his lineup card to the plate and bumped into the other manager headfirst"); Bobby Orr of the Bruins ("He's not the humble, gracious, Bible-touting kid everyone says he is"); and Orr's teammate Derek Sanderson ("overrated and oversexed").
At the mere mention of Sports Huddle, Sanderson now says "S&X%*?!" It was not always so. Relations were first strained slightly by the Huddle's Date Derek contest. There were 10,000 entrants and the winner was Mabel Hodgkins, age 73. Things got tougher after the Huddlers upstaged Sanderson on his own TV show. The three brought along Miss Sports Huddle, Paula Newman (later to become Mrs. Witkin); while they were on the air, Andelman would snap his fingers and she would walk by and drop a grape into his mouth. Sanderson had no idea what was going on. Every time he tried to make a point, Andelman would snap his fingers again, Paula would drop another grape and Sanderson lost track of what he was doing.
The Huddlers also give Fenway Park a hot time, which they claim is something the hamburgers there don't get. Information was passed along to the Huddle by a spy working at one of the concession counters: the reason why the hamburgers were as tough as Louisville Sluggers, he reported, was that they were cooked before the game and reheated. Unfortunately, his cover blown, the 007 of Fenway Park was demoted from hamburgers to French fries.
The Huddle can throw bouquets as well as uppercuts, and the Celtics get most of the posies. Though the Celtics have seldom drawn well in Boston, the Huddle is fond of them. Despite this, they did rip Bill Russell when he refused to acknowledge an ovation from the fans the day his uniform number was retired. "I don't go for that fanfare," was Russell's explanation, but the Huddle didn't buy it. Said McCarthy, "The fans gave him a four-minute standing O and he never stood, never raised an arm. People say he's his own man. Yes, but fans were saying thanks and the least he could've done was to say, 'You're welcome.' "
But no one has taken the broadsides the Bruin management has. Never at a loss for new Bruin shortcomings, the Huddle accuses the organization of being lax in curbing ticket scalpers and of failing to cope with the parking problem. More specifically, last year Sports Huddle sponsored a tour for some 250 fans so they could see their beloved Bruins play on the West Coast, where it is easier to come by tickets than in Boston. When the group showed up at the San Francisco airport to welcome the Bruins, the players snubbed them. The Bruins continued to ignore the Boston contingent at the Oakland Coliseum, skating to the other side of the rink to sign autographs for local fans only. Goalie Eddie Johnston, the team player representative, said later that the players were retaliating for Huddle comments they didn't particularly care for. Retaliating themselves, the three Huddlers predicted the Bruins would not win the Stanley Cup because they lacked maturity. When the Bruins lost in the playoffs, the Huddle played taps and a funeral dirge.
Sitting in his well-appointed office in Boston Garden, the Bruins' Adams talked about the Huddle. "When they first went on the air they were the freshest, most alive thing to come on radio in a long time," he said, "but I think they are now biased and have lost their objectivity. It takes little talent to knock. I think their show appeals to high school kids now, to the lunatic fringe.
"After McCarthy called me a jerk I checked with a lawyer to see if that wasn't libel or slander. Next thing you know, the Huddle says I was going to sue them. I had no such intention. I just wanted to find out what was what. I was 25 years old at the time and I was frosted. Andelman said the Bruins were having him followed and were checking into his high school background. Why would we follow him or check up on him? He's got to be psychotic. We have a rule in our house against listening to them anymore. Since we stopped listening I've quit yelling at my wife and she has stopped crying over what they say."