There were many word choices by Red Sox chairman Tom Werner in his only public comments thus far regarding the decision to replace popular NESN play-by-play voice Don Orsillo with ESPN and WEEI’s Dave O’Brien next season.
But in that forum — Steve Buckley’s column last Saturday night on the Boston Herald website — there was one word in particular that practically bounded off the screen, leaving me as bewildered with Werner and NESN’s reasoning as I am with the decision itself. Here’s what Werner said: “I understand it has created some controversy. And I also understand that Don is a great broadcaster, but we felt that starting next year it was worth going in a different direction reenergizing the broadcast.”
Reenergizing the broadcast? Reenergizing it? I recognize that a vague verb such as reenergize comes in handy as corporate speak for, “We wanted to make a change, Dave O’Brien is great and his contract at WEEI is up, it’s our prerogative, and you and that little petition isn’t going to change our minds.”
What gets me is that a reenergized broadcast is precisely what NESN has had this year. What it hasn’t had, at least until the last few weeks in this long-lost season, is a particularly energized or effective baseball team, which is why ratings dipped in the second half after being the sixth highest in baseball among regional cable networks at the All-Star break.
None of this is on the broadcasters. In fact, I’d argue that Orsillo and Jerry Remy have had their most energized and enjoyable broadcasts in years. That especially applies to Remy, whose status for next year and beyond has been something of an afterthought amid the backlash regarding the graceless split with Orsillo.
If the banter between Orsillo and Remy — a huge reason for the initial growth of their mutual popularity in their 15 years together — had been minimized in recent years, well, there were understandable reasons. Remy had a recurring battle with lung cancer, which took him away from the broadcast booth for various and often extensive lengths of time. In August 2013, Remy’s son, Jared, was charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel. He pled guilty in August 2014.
Remy took an immediate leave of absence in 2013 after his son was charged. Upon announcing his decision to return last January during a meeting with a small group of reporters at NESN headquarters, he acknowledged how much the job means to him.
“It’s always been my comfort zone, for 40 years. I can’t sit there. I just can’t sit in my chair [at home],’’ he said. “I’ve been there long enough already. I’ve got to be busy. I’ve got to do something to preoccupy myself. I need to do something I enjoy. And this is what I enjoy doing and I always have . . . I still enjoy it. I’m not crazy about the 4 o’clock arrivals, but the game itself I truly love, and I always have and I still do, and that’s not going to go away.”
That enjoyment of the job was not evident last year. But this year has brought back the Remy of old, an incisive, sharp analyst with a knack for recognizing what might or should happen before it does. He is back in that comfort zone, and viewers are back to being comfortable with him. He should be back next year. He deserves to be back, and he is under contract, having signed what he said was a five-year deal in April 2013.
The question remains: Will he be back? When WEEI’s Gerry Callahan broke the news of Orsillo’s departure during last Tuesday’s “Dennis and Callahan” program, he also said that Remy would work a reduced schedule next year, possibly in the range of 40 games.
Reached by phone Thursday, Remy said he could not comment on his status. When asked for comment, NESN spokesman Gary Roy referred to Buckley’s nearly-week-old Herald column. In that piece, NESN president and CEO Sean McGrail said Remy is in the network’s plans for next season, but a role hadn’t been finalized. When asked if the role would be reduced, McGrail said: “We don’t know yet. We’re working through that. We weren’t going to talk about that until October, but he will be with us, for sure.”
To read the rest of the story visit the Boston Globe where it was originally published
Greg Olsen To Partner With Kevin Burkhardt For Super Bowl LVII
“Last season was the first Burkhardt and Olsen worked together. They largely won rave reviews.”
The deal isn’t done yet, but Andrew Marchand of The New York Post reports that Greg Olsen is on his way to joining Kevin Burkhardt in the top NFL booth at FOX. Although Tom Brady will take over that role after he retires and leaves the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Olsen will spend at least this season on FOX’s A-Team.
Last season was the first Burkhardt and Olsen worked together. They largely won rave reviews.
Earlier this year, the former Panther told The Mac Attack on WFNZ in Charlotte that he was disappointed he didn’t get to call a postseason game. He will more than make up for that in 2023. As Burkhardt’s partner, Olsen is in line to be the analyst for Super Bowl LVII.
Marchand writes that we could get a taste of what is to come in February. He speculates that if the Buccaneers are not in the Super Bowl, it is possible Tom Brady could make his FOX debut, either in the booth alongside Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen or as part of the network’s studio show.
Now, FOX has to make a decision about it’s number 2 NFL booth. According to Marchand, Drew Brees is a candidate to be the analyst. Adam Amin and Joe Davis have emerged as candidates for the play-by-play role.
Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX
“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”
FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.
A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.
The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.
Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.
That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.
Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.
FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”
The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.
Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.
Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”
Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.
“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.
FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.