Thoughts on John Dennis/Ryen Russillo

I’m sure you’ve had a chance by now to listen to the infamous John Dennis voicemail left for Ryen Russillo. You’ve probably already read the Inside Track (which has a transcript of the call) and Scott’s Shots (which appears to be on Dennis’ side in this matter).

You no doubt have been able to make your own judgment on the matter. For a guy who has run a Media/PR consulting business, John Dennis seems to need a dose for himself. Unless of course you subscribe to the theory that there is no such thing as bad publicity. In fact, one could see Dennis reveling in the fact that this has come out, because it portrays the image of a tough guy standing up to a younger man who has dishonored his daughter in some way.

Is that really the case? One WEEI staffer says that “one of John Dennis’ favorite hobbies is leaving long-winded, profanity filled messages for co-workers, colleagues, and other people”. Several names at the station were listed as having been the recipients of these messages. Nice hobby.

From what I hear, Dennis left the message at 4:30 AM…on his way into work one morning. Even better. Nice effort gathering the venom needed to leave a message of that caliber at that time of the day. Edit: I’ve got a conflicting time on the original call where the message was left. It might’ve come the night before around 9:00, and then a follow up call came at 4:30 AM.

Is WEEI at all concerned about this incident and voicemail going public? There have reputedly been a few veiled references to it on the 850 airwaves, none of which I’ve heard personally. You would think that this would make fantastic “whiner line” material, but strangely enough the topic has been absent from recent editions. It has made the rounds on the internet, as the fact that the file linked above has been listened to over 10,000 times already. Someone told me that Opie and Anthony made the voicemail a point of discussion on their XM show for some time yesterday.

One reader related that he called the Dennis and Callahan show both yesterday and today about the voicemail and was told yesterday that they weren’t going to talk about it. Today he was put on hold…and never taken off.

Does Dennis have the “juice” to make a phone call and get Russillo kicked off the WBCN Patriots programming? He denies it to the Inside Track, but c’mon. He does have that juice. He’s been jokingly referred to as another one of the Kraft sons, and his relationship with the family goes back to the time when Robert Kraft partially owned Channel 7 when Dennis was the sports anchor/director for the station prior to Kraft buying the Patriots. He has also had some business relationships with the Krafts, and I have no doubt it would take one call to Jonathan Kraft, warning him about this “wild card” Russillo to thus cause WBCN to take him off the programming after he had been announced as being part of it this season. It’s not a giant leap.

This is absurd. Russillo hits on the daughter of another member of the media, who then pulls strings to get him fired from a job? Russillo is a rare species in the Boston sports media, he’s prepared, passionate, knowledgeable and articulate, something that those WBCN broadcasts are in dire need of. We need more like him on the air, not less. So why else would WBCN yank him off the broadcasts? Were they afraid he’d make the rest of them look bad? I don’t think so. What other conclusion can you come to when 1) He crosses someone with connections to the powers that control that broadcast and 2) He suddenly loses that job, just weeks after getting it?

How did the voicemail get out? It seems easy to blame Russillo for this, but a more likely series of events is that John Dennis dropped a dime on him to the Patriots/WBCN, who then confronted Russillo about it. Russillo likely gave his account of the events, adding that Dennis had left him a profane voicemail. He may have offered to forward it to them as evidence. After doing so, someone at either WBCN or the Patriots later leaked the message to the internet where it appeared last week.

Let’s be fair, neither side here covered themselves in glory with this incident, but who comes out looking worse? We don’t know exactly what Russillo said to John Dennis’ daughter. It can’t have been too terribly insulting, since Dennis hardly addresses it in his voicemail. If you listen to/read the voicemail, you see that Dennis is far more incensed that Russillo supposedly accused him of speaking badly of him. Dennis goes to great lengths to say that he knows nothing about Russillo (oldest trick in the book…Dennis knows exactly who Russillo is) and only mentions the incident with his daughter in passing. So he couldn’t have said anything too insulting to Dennis’ daughter…who is a grown woman in her own right by the way. The protective father stuff just doesn’t fly here.

On the other hand, we know exactly what John Dennis said. We have it preserved for posterity. He’s the one who left the profane, threatening voicemail. He doesn’t even deny that it is him. Nothing will happen to him. WEEI will likely even embrace this publicity and over time, Dennis will continue to evolve and benefit from his “tough guy” character on the ongoing soap opera of WEEI programming.

Ryen Russillo on the other hand, is out of job. A job he could’ve used no doubt, as I’m sure 1510 isn’t paying him an exorbitant salary (yet). He clearly got a raw deal on this. He is the recipient of an expletive filled voicemail, and yet he’s the one punished.

Such is the world of the Boston sports radio world.

Edit: This afternoon The Big Show was all over the voicemail today…several references to it, complete with a character skit. No direct mention of Dennis, however. As predicted, they’ve embraced it.