Q&A with WEEI’s The Big Show co-host Glenn Ordway

One of the longest tenured members of the Boston sports media is WEEI’s The Big Show co-host Glenn Ordway. Since 1975 Ordway has been working in the Boston media, working for all four major sports teams in the process. In 1987, when Ordway was a Celtics commentator the team moved their radio programming to WEEI where he became executive sports director. He was later named program director in 1996 and started The Big Show, not looking back since, adding numerous television appearances and even his own show, New England Tailgate on Comcast Sportsnet to his resume.

Boston Sports Media Watch had the chance to sit down and catch up with Ordway to discuss his career, including the changes he’s needed to make over time as well as talking about some of the coaches he interviews on a weekly basis.

Glenn Ordway has been a member of the Boston media since 1975, working with all four major sports teams in that span. (Photo from the Boston Herald)

Over the years what is the biggest thing that has changed in the sports media, especially radio?

A lot has changed. Believe it or not in the old days we didn’t have the internet so you didn’t have the capacity to go and dig out stories else where. You were dealing with the Globe or the Herald and maybe the Worcester Telegram, that’s what you were dealing with years ago. Nowadays everything is instantaneous, the media is immediate. Stories break in 15 seconds on Twitter.

The two things that were key for doing talk shows years ago were the morning newspapers… In other words, you’d wake up at 7 o’clock in the morning and that’s the first time you’d learn about a rumor or trade. There was no at night, there was no SportsCenter, you weren’t getting any other that. The other thing that would happen is every once in awhile, somebody on Ch. 4, 5, or 7 on TV at night would break a story at 11 o’clock and I’d sit there and say, that’s my show tomorrow.

It’s much different. The sound that is out there, every game is either seen, or you record it — you can watch everything. The preperation for one of these shows is so much easier now than it was, and you can absorb and take in so much more.

What was it like transitioning from the two different co-hosts per day to now having one permanent co-host in Michael Holley?

It is a much different formula with three guys and a flash guy in Pete [Sheppard]. You have a lot of people talking. Yes, I know we were interrupting each other all the time, and it was by design, basically four guys sitting in a bar. That is what you do when you’re with your friends at a bar having a sports debate, you start jumping on top of each other.

On the other hand, for me it was a much different role because I was like the moderator and I had to poke at everybody. I had to jump in with an opinion so I could poke to get opposing views to create some type of entertaining confrontation. Because of that I developed that flip flop reputation and I am guilty as charged, no question about it. That was part of the role that I was in.

The role in this show now, is it is a two man team. So you need player A to have a strong opinion and you need player B to have a strong opinion and it comes out with the both of us challenging each other. I happen to have a partner that I have great respect for, and I think he and I really have found that niche in the show to be able to openly throw our opinions out there and not have to worry about it. It is a much different formula, much different.

How much attention do you pay to the ratings?

You have to. They are not everything because if you have ratings and you’re not driving revenue then you’re not really getting your job done. They go hand and hand. You have to watch ratings, and it’s not just ratings looking at the other sports station, the Sports Hub, you’re looking at what the music stations are doing, you’re watching the trends and trends change throughout the year.

Everybody busts us all the time, why do you take all your vacations in the summer? Because listening habits change dramatically in the summer time. People listen to far more music, people get away from sports, they get into nostalgic music, everything changes. Habits change so much so that’s the book that advertising agencies kind of dismiss. Spring and the fall are the two big books that people really pay attention to. You have to watch everything else that is going on.

Was Bobby Valentine one of the most awkward guys you’ve had on for a weekly interview?

I don’t think awkward would be the way I would say it — I would say the most unpredictable. You’d ask him a question and he was the one guy you never knew what the answer was going to be. I think I can ask a lot of people questions, people I interview on a regular basis, and have a decent idea of how they are going to approach the answer. With Bobby I never had an idea of how he was going to answer. That is why he caught me so off guard so many times.

What about Belichick, sort of the opposite?

With Belichick I kind of know the way he is going to approach it. So, you have to phrase the question in a certain way. You have to be ready to come back sometimes with a follow up. But, Bobby was great with follow ups because once you knew he was going to cross the line with the answer, you knew if you threw him a follow up he wasn’t going to stop. Bobby was not one of those to say, that’s it, I’m not going to talk about that anymore, he always wanted to say more about something. Bill wants to say less about something because he wants to protect his team.

On the other hand, if I were to ask a question to Bill about a play they had on Sunday and compare it to a similar play they ran in 2004, Bill would go back to that play in 2004 with tremendous clearity and he would detail every little thing that happened in that play, why it happened, and every player that was involved. When it comes to history and going into the past tense, because Bill doesn’t want to bring up the present or future, he gives you unbelievable stuff.

There are times when you really listen to Bill on Monday, that if you read behind the lines, there is stuff there, but you have to read between the lines. If he is not answering a question a certain way, or if he does, like the way he answered the question this past week on [Aqib] Talib and how much playing time he was going to get, he gave me the answer, but it was reading in between the lines.

What about the future for you personally, you’ve been doing The Dan Patrick Show nationally lately, do you like that?

I love it. Those guys are great — the Danette’s and Dan is a great friend. I like those guys an awful lot, I like doing the show. I love doing what I am doing right now. I’ve got to tell you, this is fun every single day. It’s fun waking up preparing for the show, doing the show, I have no regrets. I could actually have to work someday, this is fun. I have done an awful lot of things in the business, dealing with pre and post with the Red Sox, people forget I worked with the Bruins for two years, and the Celtics for 14. I am having fun right now.

But, there are challenges down the road. There are a couple of projects that I am working on right now that will hopefully come to fruition. So there are a bunch of other things I want to do, you always want to try and find new challenges and things to do. But, this is a blast and working with Michael has been a whole new level of enjoyment for me.

 

  • thehippyhacker

    Q: How are Ordway and those guys who visit the San Francisco bathhouses similar? A: They all blow hard!

  • Will

    Big fan of Glenn, I think he’s still the best at what he does in his time slot. He’s not your new version of Eddie Andelman, Ordway is still relevant, he’s passionate, he’s knowledgable, and you enjoy the shows. He doesn’t have gimmick lines like, cap is crap, fact not opinion, and some other nonsense like some other guy. The guy gives sports talk and when you listen to the Big Show that’s what you get. Does he talk over people? Yes! Does he get on the callers too much sometimes? Yes! but for me it doesn’t take away from the fact that I enjoy the show especially now Holley, I think it works. F&M might have the edge in ratings but I’m okay with that. Glenn Ordway is the best at what he does.

    • Jason W.

      Will, good job. You will be getting a little extra this week with your paycheck, a seat next to Larry Johnson at the Whiney’s. The ticket includes one (1) hor dourve and may spend five (5) minutes in the VIP section, during which you may not speak to the celebrities. Thanks again for the hard work.

      • Will

        No, just a fan of the show. Regular guy who happens to listen to WEEI alot. Is that still allowed “Jason”?

        • http://twitter.com/DryHeave1 DryHeave

          I will say, I’d rather listen to the Big Show than Felger and Mazz….mostly because of Mazz, he’s such a little dipshit…I can’t handle listening to him. Like nails on a chalkboard

        • alex

          Couldn’t agree more.

    • ThePhantomWhoreMay

      Right now, in this town, as the NHL is RUININ’ OUR WINTAH!, we remember that you can never have too much pitching, it’s all about the money, and that Glen Ordway doesn’t have gimmicky lines

      • Will

        Is that a gimmick line? What did I miss?

        • Jason W.

          Will, I know you chose a career in sports radio, so you can’t be too bright, but try to keep up. You’re making us look bad. After all, we’re talking about the guy on the radio you claim to love so much.

        • Will

          I think you need to keep up “Genius Jason”, what I’m basically saying is, when Ordway talks about pitching, it’s not a gimmick line. He’s address a subject of a conversation when he says you can never have too much pitching, as opposed to the other guy who just says cap is crap even when it doesn’t call for him to say it. Are you keeping up with me now “Genius Jason”?

        • Jason W.

          Will, talking to your superiors like that won’t get you ahead in this business. Why don’t you talk to Mutt about how to get my coffee and stay on message?

        • Will

          I take this as flattery that you guys think I work in radio, I really appreciate this. This is great

        • Rick Mc

          I don’t think it is flattery to think that you work in sports radio. More a condemnation of your intelligence.

        • Will

          No I take it as flattery Rick. I’m not ashamed of listening to sports radio, it’s fun for me,and I’m not taking this quite as serious as you guys are. Thanks for chiming in though Rick. :)

        • Glenn’s Awesome

          If you don’t work for them, fine. The fact remains that you’re carrying on a conversation for two days about how great Glenn Ordway is. I feel sorry for you.

        • Will

          No I’m actually just responding to you guys. I’m not carrying on anything.

        • Jason W.

          Will, as you probably are all too well aware, Entercom Boston has had to make some tough financial decisions. Wasting time by posting on BSMW makes one consider whether you are an essential asset. I’m sorry, we’re going to have to let you go.

        • Will

          This is amazing! You guys really think I work in radio and for WEEI. All because I like the station, I wonder what the reaction would be if I said I like Felger. By the way, Jason W. I mean boss, have a happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for the bonus.

        • Jason W.

          Mike T. would have told you to keep up the good work and maybe you will have a shot at taking over for D.A.

        • Will

          Awww! Thanks boss, I mean Jason W.

        • dan

          Does everyone at the station make fun of Ordway’s fat sausage fingers?

      • Brianwaterslocker

        Dont forget “It’s all about the laundry.”

  • latetodinner

    Ryan…nice job with the interview. I still think that Ordway is miscast in a role that forces him to take an opinion. I think he was great when he was the moderator/fence sitter. As an opinion giver he has no real qualifications therefore his opinions are not anything special. I think the Big Show suffers because of that. He now is forced to carry Mike Holley or at least try and make him interesting…which is never going to happen. I think a national show, where there are more interviews and less opinion would be a perfect fit for Ordway. In the current format I don’t see how the Big Show competes with F&M it does not drive nearly as much passion in its fan base.

  • http://twitter.com/DryHeave1 DryHeave

    “I know we were interrupting each other all the time, and it was by design, basically four guys sitting in a bar”

    If I wanted to hear “four guys sitting at a bar” interrupting each other, then I would go down to the local watering hole. (and be one of the 4 guys) I was looking for a little more.

  • Ted Sarandis

    Ryan, you should at least mention that you work for WEEI. Otherwise, good interview.

    • http://bostonsportsmedia.com/ Bruce Allen

      Ryan Hadfield works for WEEI. Ryan Hannable does not. (Though he did intern there in the past)

  • McGillicutty

    I’d like to ask Ordway if he was told by Wolfe or somebody else at the station to pipe-down on the political commentary (my pet-peeve). It seems he has toned-down that nonsense in his last reincarnation with Holley, which makes him more listenable. It was sickening for me to listen to Ordway, Smerlass, and DeAssy back in the day ganging up on people who had different viewpoints. What project is Ordway working on? Keeping his job?

    • dan

      He’s working on getting even more round than he is now.:)

    • Rick Mc

      Finn has stated many times that D&C were told to cut the political talk out completely. It wouldn’t surprise me if Glenn got a similar, if not so strongly worded, memo from the management.

    • http://www.bostonsportsmediawatch.com/ bsmfan

      To be fair here, TSH (2-6 from listening) took the liberty to also do this. Felger spent the better part of 3 days ballwashing the new “God” of the left, Nate Silver, post election. D+C, last week, spent over an hour talking about some Styrofoam cup ban in towns.

      (Sorry, I’m going to call out anyone on politics, regardless of the view. I think it has 0 place in sports talk.)

      Someone must not get the memo or maybe their audience is filling up the inbox with requests to do so (I can’t see this be the case).

      To put it simply: politics has become so toxic that you can’t talk about it in a safe manner. This is unfortunate but reality. If you start to think one side is wrong/its because of this side, you’ve now put yourself into a field of landmines. Why take the risk in alienating parts or all of your listeners? If you want to talk politics that bad, I’m sure you can create a blog or, with some hosts, they can walk right over to another part of the building and host a show.

      Why do national hosts/successful hosts spend 0 time on politics unless they have to, regardless of their views? They’re either smart enough to avoid it or their producers/someone from above clearly issues the “no politics directive”. I’ve yet to see a case it works. The only times I’ve heard it from folks like Mike and Mike is when there was a clear intersection and they spent as little time as possible on it, giving what was needed and moving on.

      • latetodinner

        It could work easily and it does in some of the midwest markets where they have “man shows” rather than “sportstalk” shows. The problem WEEI and TSH have is they advertise all of their shows as “Sportstalk” as such there is a segment of the listening audience that absolutely does not want to listen to political talk. That does not mean a format that included intelligent sports mixed with intelligent politics would not work…it just means the current implementations do not market that way. Remember WFAN made a fortune having Don Imus lead in to the sportstalk at 10:00am for 20 + years. The format was so successful that when WSKO (790 the Score) in Providence first started they used the same format. Others also followed. Politics and sports can be a good partnership…it just has to be marketed correctly.

  • dan

    Ordway has fat sausage fingers.

  • JonFrum

    I missed this one. So Ordway came to talk to the guys in Mom’s basement? Remember how Ordway ridiculed the very concept of the ‘guy on that Internet?’ Internet guy was the guy who couldn’t hold a job – or get a girl. Then, WEEI got themselves a web site, and the ‘guy in Mom’s basement’ talk disappeared. Orders came down from above, no doubt.

    Personally, I listen to Scott Van Pelt in the afternoon – on the Internet. I’m a sports fan, not a ‘who will be the reserve infielder for the Red Sox’ fan.