Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 60 vs. the Jazz

Celtics (44-15) vs. Utah (20-42)
February 20, 1980
Salt Palace

The Celtics’ February road trip included a homecoming of sorts for Pete Maravich and Jeff Judkins.

Pistol Pete’s career had been derailed in Utah and nearly ended on an unceremonious note when Jazz coach Tom Nissalke relegated him to the bench for seven weeks and put the basketball in the hands of new star Adrian Dantley.  Judkins grew up in Utah and played his college ball there, too.  Before overpowering the Jazz to the tune of a 105-98 victory, the Celtics were greeted at the airport in Salt Lake City by 30 friends and relatives of Judkins, practiced at his old high school, and ate a dinner served by his mother.  The former University of Utah standout went on to deliver 19 points on 7-9 shooting in his return home, while Maravich’s uneven tenure with the Celtics continued with a DNP-Coach’s Decision.

Pete Maravich_John Havlicek
In an interview conducted last week with Marshall Terrill, a co-author of Pete Maravich: The Authorized Biography of Pistol Pete, Terrill touched on some of the difficulties Maravich encountered at the end of his tenure with the Jazz:

Nissalke felt like he couldn’t build a winning team around Maravich who was 31 at the time.  While his game was still graceful, he no longer was as explosive…. His knee injury from a Jan. 31, 1978 game against the Buffalo Braves never healed properly, and he wasn’t he same player.  Defensively, Maravich had no lateral movement and didn’t pull his weight on that end of the court.  Nissalke felt Maravich, despite the fact that he was still a draw in the league, was a liability and benched him.  That deeply wounded Maravich’s pride.  He said of that period that he was “mentally crippled” and felt like he was wasting away on the bench.

Maravich was a very emotional person where it concerned basketball and took everything personally.  He suffered many sleepless nights (he was a notoriously light sleeper) as a result.  It seemed as if Maravich represented the Jazz’s past while Adrian Dantley, who was averaging 29 points a game, represented its future.  It was a changing of the guard moment for Pete and I think he and the Jazz organization realized he needed a fresh start someplace else.

Dantley poured in 31 points and 8 rebounds against the Celtics while Maravich watched from the bench.

*Maravich and Auerbach really shine after the 2-minute mark*

After the Celtics signed Maravich, the organization opted to have the Pistol train away from the confines of the team.  Terrill continues:

Maravich was very unhappy with the way the Celtics treated him during his rehabilitation and wrote about it extensively in his 1987 autobiography, “Heir to a Dream”.  He felt the only way to get into playing shape was to play.

For the first two weeks he was in Boston, he never saw any of the other players.  He practiced in another gym away from the team with Mike Cole, who worked in the promotions department.  Maravich wrote: “The team’s actions didn’t make any sense to me. When I pressed for an explanation I was told they needed to bring me into the system slowly. That’s when I remember feeling as though I was some kind of alien or a disease for which they needed to find a cure.”

Though Maravich didn’t play, Bird finished with 33 points and Rick Robey scored 20 and pounded the glass for a career-high 21 rebounds.  Behind a 14-point second quarter, the man who stole the show was, per Bob Ryan in the Globe, Jeff Judkins:

The hometown kid, who played his high school ball at Highland High and his college ball five minutes away from his house at the University of Utah, came within a basket of equaling his season’s high as he paced a 34-point Celtic second quarter that turned a 32-24 one-period advantage into a lead that peaked at 60-44 on a Gerld Henderson jumper with 54 seconds remaining in the half.

Even without Dave Cowens, the Celtics never trailed or relinquished their lead after Larry Bird scored to put Boston ahead, 4-2.  Cowens was still recuperating from an injury to the big toe on his left foot, but the Celtics had surprised the Association by playing terrific basketball without their premiere low post defender, winning ten of the thirteen games without Big Red.  Bob Ryan detailed their play without Cowens:

Having lost their best defensive player when Cowens went down, the Celtics have shifted the emphasis to offense in his absence.  The team had outscored opponents by a 119.7-108.2 margin in those 12 games, four times breaking 130 points.  The defense hadn’t been all that bad either, with only Phoenix (135 on 60 percent shooting) breaking 111 against the Green and White.

It helped, of course, that Larry Bird had averaged just under 25 points during Cowens’ absence.  Five months into his rookie season, and Bird had recorded double-doubles in 57 of his first 60 NBA games.  The team stepped up to fill in the holes from the loss Cowens’ production: Rick Robey, averaging thirteen points per game, and Eric Fernsten, who went from nearly but cut to contributing eight points per game, both helped ease the loss of the big man from Florida State.

In other Celtics news, Will McDonough reported that the organization was looking for other alternatives outside of the Boston Garden and beyond the proposed sports complex in East Boston.  The team, he reported, looked into relocating to a city known for its incredible eats at Kelly’s Roast Beef:

The Celtics and the Boston Garden have been involved in very sensitive negotiations in recent weeks concerning a new lease.  The Celtics, whose current lease is up at the end of the year, are trying to build their own arena in Revere.  But it certainly won’t be ready in time for next season, so they are interested in a short- term deal.  The Garden’s management, which is making a legitimate effort of their own to rebuild the arena, wants a long- term arrangement.

The C’s looked to build a new winning streak on Saturday in Denver and go for the series sweep against the Nuggets.  With the Celtics landing in Denver on Friday, there were cheers a good 1800 miles away over in New York — Lake Placid, to be exact — as the United States Olympics hockey team defeated the Russians, 4-3.  To this day, it’s the last tape-delayed American Olympic hockey game ever aired on television.

 

2_20_80

Sports Media Musings: Now And Then, Then & Now

Before You Ask Which Way You’re Going, Remember Where You’ve Been

As Glenn Ordway approached his final hour hosting “The Big Show” last Friday night, the competition and primary parties responsible for his unemployment (well, besides Ordway himself), “Felger and Massarotti,” reflected on his career, his exile, and the business in general. Along with Chris Gasper, Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti gave a very appropriate response to the Guest Street Shakeup that rocked the sports media landscape here in Boston.

Media criticism often becomes problematic. We purvey analysis of other people’s, uh, analysis. And I fear, at times, we obfuscate the truth — that writing and sports commentary is hard. The segment, which was as meta as a Quentin Tarantino film, echoed these sentiments; providing an introspective view of the hopes and fears of two hosts, who, evidently, comprehend the ephemeral nature of success in broadcast media. And from my Ivory Tower, it appeared the salient points were that Ordway’s extraordinary run will likely never be replicated in this — or any — market, and that the profession, in any form, is a tough, unforgiving industry.

Here are highlights from the segment (a friendly hat tip to the guys over at Sports Rantz for the transcription):

Michael Felger: And he’s been on the air with that show almost twenty years? I mean, probably over half of it, he was number one. And, it wasn’t all that long ago that he was still number one. And yes, we’ve had a good run here the last couple of years. But, what are [Ordway and Holley] now, I — you know, second to fourth… third, fourth, second, somewhere in that range. It’s not like they went to last [place]. And I just — from a personal level? Good God, I’m gonna be number one for twenty years, and then I’m third? And that’s tanking? And you’re out of a job? I don’t feel like being congratulated at all. That scares the crap out of me.”

Tony Massarotti: I mean, in this business, to do that, for that length of time, is borderline unheard of, really. It’s extraordinary, and again, the — look, in this business, okay, you’re exposed. On a regular basis, every day, for twenty hours a week, and I’m not making a pity party. That’s the job. That is what the job is. And so, some of you love him, some of you hate him. Fine… but don’t disrespect the ability, is all I’m saying. And that’s how I look at it. So, I have tremendous respect for his talent, and again, I feel indebted.”

 Quick Musings

I hate when people take up two parking spaces! A little consideration please! #unosportstonight

— Gary Tanguay (@Gary_TanguayFebruary 20, 2013

1.) Truth be told, I was going to wait until Friday to post my weekly media column, but then Gary Tanguay practically #begged #me #to #write #something by abusing the hashtag, “#unossportstonight.” Look, I post nonsense all the time on Twitter (sorry!). I get it. But I don’t tweet about Tom Brady then use the #Celtics hashtag. I mean, am I missing something? Will Tanguay’s crusade on double-parking be a topic of conversation on “Sports Tonight?” (Note: I’d thoroughly enjoy it if it was). In the history of social media, I’d argue Tanger needs a Twitter training seminar more than any other user. That said, next to Jose Canseco, Gary’s my favorite follow. (I’m not sure what that says about me.)

2.) I have high hopes. I really do. But I’ve written many press releases in my day, and the transparency oozing in WEEI’s release about the Mike Salk hiring was alarming.

“I’m especially excited to talk Bruins hockey. I grew up a rabid Bruins fan and have great memories from the old Boston Garden. My wife might not know it yet, but our 1-year old daughter will be wearing a lot of black and gold in the future.”

Maybe I’m too cynical and Salk is just ecstatic to talk Bruins. More likely, however, is that the Entercom brass’ mindset is still saturated with paranoia about the backlash caused from their sparse (Read: Awful) coverage of the B’s. (Again, I personally enjoy Michael Holley and have a hopeful outlook about the new program. I think they’ll be a formidable duo that will scare their competition … and sooner rather than later)

3.) Will Leitch had a thoughtful piece about the Bleacher Report, content aggregation (*NESN*) versus real journalism and analysis, over at Sports On Earth. 

What I think really rankles about B/R is that it was a reverse engineering enterprise from the get-go: It was created by business people trying to game the system, the type of people who refer to all work as “content.”

Naturally, the column upset a few of the high-profile writers at Bleacher Report (which Turner Sports recently purchased, and subsequently replaced SI.com as CNN’s primary sports publication partner with). Specifically Dan Levy, who is terrible and can’t comprehend the stigma associated with his employer (even though he would totally take a similar stance if B/R weren’t the ones writing his paycheck). But Leitch is more than fair; in fact, he does well to credit the younger writers who bust their humps to earn “badges” or whatever the hierarchy at Bleacher Report is using to measure productivity. The column is worth your time. 

4.) Speaking of the Bleacher Report, Erik Frenz will be contributing to the Boston.com as a blogger on a part-time basis this offseason (and beyond). Frenz, who is the lead writer for the AFC East Blog at the Bleacher Report, tells me his responsibilities there will remain the same. With the addition of Baxter Holmes to the Celtics beat, it appears the Globe‘s free site is making efforts to bolster their presence on its blogs … A wise move.

5.) ESPN announced it will be launching Nine for IX, a spin off of their critically acclaimed 30 For 30 documentary series, which, will specifically focus on women in sports using in-depth storytelling. The tagline is: “About Women. By Women. For Us All.”

 

WEEI names Mike Salk as new afternoon drive co-host

WEEI sent out the following press release this afternoon, confirming Chad Finn’s report from last week:

BOSTON – WEEI 93.7 FM announced Tuesday that Sudbury native Mike Salk will join Michael Holley in afternoon drive, weekdays from 2-6 p.m., beginning in mid-March. Salk joins WEEI from 710 AM ESPN in Seattle, where he’s co-hosted the midday “Brock and Salk Show” since April 2009.

Salk helped grow the “Brock and Salk Show” exponentially the last four years. As of this past September, the show ranked No. 1 with the station’s core demo of men 25-54. Salk also was a frequent contributor to 710 ESPN’s website and will do the same, in a variety of ways, for WEEI.com. He also has been a part of the ESPN Radio network since 2007, hosting “SportsCenter Saturday” and serving as a regular fill-in host over the past few years.

Salk is no stranger to the Boston sports talk radio scene, having worked at 890 ESPN Radio Boston from 2005 until 2009. He primarily served as co-host of the station’s midday show with Bob Halloran, and he also was the station’s Red Sox beat reporter, covering every game of the team’s run to the 2007 World Series.

“For a kid who grew up rooting for Boston’s sports teams, I can’t wait to get behind that microphone and connect with the most avid sports fans in the country,” Salk said. “From the best play-by-play in radio to their breakthrough work with the Jimmy Fund, WEEI is still the gold standard in sports talk radio.

“I’m especially excited to talk Bruins hockey. I grew up a rabid Bruins fan and have great memories from the old Boston Garden. My wife might not know it yet, but our 1-year old daughter will be wearing a lot of black and gold in the future.”

Added Salk: “Teaming up with someone as hard-working, gifted and passionate about his craft as Michael Holley makes this situation even better for me returning home. I can’t wait to get to work.”

Said Holley: “Mike is energetic, has a tireless work ethic, and believes in having a show that is accessible to all audiences. I’m looking forward to sharing some of the talks we’ve had with our listeners. I think that they’ll find the new show to be fast, fun and smart. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what a tremendous blessing it was to work with Glenn Ordway for nearly three years. It didn’t take us long to develop a bond, and I believe that mutual respect could be detected on the air. I anticipate a similar connection with Mike.”

Said Jason Wolfe, VP of Programming for Entercom Boston: “Mike Salk has a proven record of success, and I couldn’t be more excited to bring him back home to Boston. He’s a very skilled broadcaster, a fun personality and a passionate sports fan. I’m really looking forward to the new dynamic that he and Michael Holley will provide on a daily basis.”

Celtics Get Back To Work With Trade Deadline Fast Approaching

The Celtics begin the post-All Star Break portion of their schedule tonight in Denver. With the NBA trade deadline coming up on Thursday, the Celtics team that next plays in the TD Garden could look a lot different from the one that last took the court there. Then again, it could look just the same.

It’s clear no one really has an idea of what’s going, what with the dozens of reports, rumors and rebuttals out there. Some say a Kevin Garnett for Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan is entirely viable and only needs KG’s approval. Others say the teams haven’t discussed it past casual talks. Another says the Celtics discussed a Rajon Rondo for Dwight Howard deal prior to Rondo’s ACL injury. Some think that one should’ve been made, while others say absolutely not.  A Brandon Bass/Jeff Green for Josh Smith deal has also been floated out there. Others say the Celtics have no pieces to make a major deal.

The Celtics will likely make some sort of move, even if it is minor, just to get some bodies onto the roster. With Rondo, Sullinger and Barbosa out for the season, the team needs players just to practice. They did sign Terrence Williams to a ten-day contract yesterday.

Well-rested Pierce key to a Celtics second-half run – If no major deals are made, A. Sherrod Blakely says that Paul Pierce not playing in the All Star game could be a bonus for the Celtics.

Avery Bradley sets himself apart with defense – Mark Murphy has a nice mini-feature on the Celtics guard and his defensive mentality.

Remember, people – that Rondo guy is pretty good – Ryan Hadfield says that we shouldn’t be so quick to say the Celtics are better off without Rondo.

What will Danny do? – Chris Forsberg says that the Celtics boss has some huge decisions to make this week.

For Mike Napoli, a new outlook at a new position – Alex Speier has the veteran returning to his roots.

Cornerstone at the hot corner? – Joe McDonald has Will Middlebrooks hoping he’ll be a mainstay with the Red Sox for a long time.

Red Sox cast for 2013 assembled with winning personalities – Gerry Callahan loves the new personalities on the team.

Red Sox assign Pedro Martinez to help Felix Doubront, Rubby De La Rosa – More Pedro, please.

Vega’s football journey comes full circle – The Patriots officially announced the signing of defensive end/linebacker Jason Vega from Northeastern and the CFL. Mike Rodak has a feature on Vega’s career path.

Aqib Talib best choice to tag – Ron Borges thinks that if the Patriots use the franchise tag at all, it should be on Talib, not Wes Welker or Sebastian Vollmer.

So what’s the next shoe to drop at WEEI?

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 59 vs. the SuperSonics

Celtics (44-14) vs. Seattle (44-16)
February 17, 1980
King County Domed Stadium

The Seattle SuperSonics reminded a national audience that the defending NBA champions were still the prohibitive favorite to win the championship.  Though it was close, the Sonics fought past the Celtics, 109-108, scoring the final eight points of the game to complete a season sweep of the best team in the Eastern Conference.

Dennis Johnson

Dennis Johnson had another terrific game for Seattle, finishing with 21 points and eight rebounds.  Johnson’s ascent and success in professional basketball was an anomaly.  The NBA was filled with unique stories, but perhaps none more so than the story of Dennis Johnson.  Johnson’s NBA.com Legends page detailed his story:

[Read more...]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 58 vs. the TrailBlazers

Celtics (43-14) vs. Portland (27-32)
February 15, 1980
Memorial Coliseum

The Celtics recovered from a loss in Phoenix with a 106-91 triumph in Portland.  Boston built an 11-point lead by the half and cruised to their eighth win in the previous nine games.  Following up from his 45-point outburst against the Suns, Larry Bird led the C’s with 28 points and 15 rebounds.

Bob Ryan detailed the victory in the February 16, 1980 edition of the Boston Globe:

Piece of cake. Can of corn.  Day at the beach.  Walk in the spring rain.  Day at the office.  Get the idea yet?  The Celtics simply overwhelmed the Portland Trail Blazers last night, giving them too much Larry Bird (28), too much M.L. Carr, too much Tiny Archibald and just too much team before walking off with a 106- 91 victory that ended their losing streak at its customary number – one.

[Read more...]

Sports Media Musings: The Mailbag, Chapter II

Welcome to the Monthly Sports Media Mailbag! Here are comments and emails from you, the readers, and comments from your favorite sports media personalities. To contribute to the mailbag, either shoot me an email at [email protected], hit me up on Twitter, or leave a response in the comments section of any one of my columns.

The last 72 hours have been pretty hectic in this space, so I decided to roll the monthly mailbag out a week early. But before I fire up some commentary, let’s take step back. Bruce Allen has provided end-to-end coverage, and I chimed in myself to answer a few pressing questions in the immediate aftermath. As the kids say in the Twitterverse, “In Case You Missed It” … here’s a rundown of BSMW’s coverage on Glenn Ordway‘s (forced) exodus:

Chad Finn Reports WEEI To Replace Glenn Ordway With Mike Salk

Ordway Confirms Exit On The Air Today

WEEI Statement on Glenn Ordway

Ordway Links

Sports Media Musings: Everything Glenn Ordway

An Appreciation of Glenn Ordway

OK — let’s get to your comments and questions.

***

I enjoyed the background info you provided. I am sorry to see Glen Ordway go but I watch “Felger and Mazz” more often.  I don’t like the yelling and insults aimed at casual sports fans ( i.e. women) that passes for fun on these talk shows,but I’m a long time Red Sox fan so I tune in to hear the latest news.

- Susan

I don’t think misogynist attitudes as a whole are being remedied here. Ordway is pretty harmless, and that’s a problem that goes well beyond the realm of sports talk radio. Though, evidently, WEEI is launching an all ladies show on weekends, featuring Jenn Royle as the primary host with a rotating cast of guests. Also, Chad Finn’s piece in the Boston Globe this morning included the tidbit that WEEI is heavily pursuing Comcast SportsNet reporter and “Quick Slants” personality, Mary Paoletti. Interesting shakeup, and a great opportunity for Paoletti, who is one of the more endearing personalities in the market.

WEEI let its success go to its head and became arrogant and crappy to the audience. I’m glad they are clearing house over there…arrogant hateful jerks. I can hear the Spors Hub going the same way now. Most of them are becoming arrogant and crappy to the audience. Next up will be loooooong monologues from the hosts on all things NON-sports related. The Sports Hub will eventually fall as WEEI rises….this cycle will go on and on.

- Marcellius

The hubris that permeated WEEI is something I don’t think we’ll ever see again. They thought their hold on the market was impenetrable, and honestly believed their “recipe” – the bloated contracts, celebrity callers, and a consistent side of condescending dialect — was acceptable, because there was no challenger. Well, though he’ll never admit it, these days, Gerry Callahan is definitely hiding under his desk.

Listen, success naturally breeds this line of thinking; but success also breeds contempt and complacency. And I’d caution a few personalities over at The Sports Hub check their own egos, specifically the midday hosts, instead of celebrating Ordway’s precipitous fall.

And remember, WEEI is still deep — like Denver Nuggets deep — and The Sports Hub is devoid of a reliable fill-in personality save for, maybe, Rich Keefe. EEI’ has  Kirk Minihane, a rising star on the radio, whose leverage is growing by the nano-second. The dude can write, too; in my opinion, he’s the best columnist in the city. And it’s not even close.

Overall, the dot com side of the business lost Paul Flannery to SB Nation this year, but still includes Minihane, Alex Speier, Chris Price, and Rob Bradford. All of those writers use advanced statistics to, you know, back up their arguments. And it’s telling that two out of the three “Sports Tonight” segments Thursday night featured Michael Felger sparring with two WEEI.com personalities (Speier and Minihane).  So, while WEEI is in a bad place, things may not be as despondent as they appear. (Full disclosure: I used to write for WEEI.com)

Great tribute and history here. Even if you weren’t a fan, it’s always nice to appreciate “how things came to be”.

- bsmfan

@bruceallen‘s rumination on Glenn Ordway’s place in Boston sports media history is respectful and extremely well done.

- Chad Finn, via Twitter

I’d say our coverage culminated with Bruce’s retrospective look at Ordway’s career. It’s an outstanding piece that even Ordway himself probably appreciates. He isn’t Tim Thomas. His legacy is cut and dry: Over time, he’ll be credited for his managerial decisions, such as orchestrating WEEI’s lineup in the mid-90s, and, more specifically, the round-table format he introduced during his own program, “The Big Show.”

That’s underselling it though, right?

As I wrote yesterday, eliminating Ordway’s voice, something that’s been embedded in Boston sports for over two decades, is jarring. It was never going to feel right. Remarkably, the hyperbolic media reaction is simultaneously both overstated and appropriate (does that make sense?). For the majority of his run, Ordway was the voice reacting to whatever was happening in Boston sports (and there was a lot happening). But, as we would later find out, this was largely due to the lack of options, and not Ordway’s own talent. In short, it’s not that we didn’t know any better; it’s that we had no other choice.

Still, Ordway was here, in our lives, talking four hours a day; suddenly, he’s gone. Now what?

Will I miss him? Personally no, not really. It’s as simple as this: I don’t think Ordway was particularly compelling anymore; candidly speaking, I’m still not sure he ever was. I never remember saying, “Hmm. I never thought of it that way” or having an epiphany during his show. If he was, well, he’d still have a job. That’s the truth.

Of course, as we have all learned, these sports talk show guys never die, they just do a little time on the ranch and resurface later on. I expect the same with Ordway.

- Dean Harrington 

I remember writing about how Dale Arnold fared well after his removal from the “Dale and Holley” show. Arnold was doing more television appearances, both on Comcast SportsNet New England and NESN, still doing fill-in spots at WEEI, and eventually landed a job hosting the Bruins pre and post-game show on NESN. Not bad. Ordway isn’t dead. And while I don’t foresee a career revitalization …  I’m not ruling it out, either.  Internet radio? A podcast? Maybe another run at a different station? It’s all in play.

(Side Note: If you have time, check out Will Leitch‘s piece on sports podcasts over at Sports On Earth.)

I think Michael Jordan is slipping a bit. He thinks Kobe has had a better career so far than LeBron?

- Fred Smerlas, via Twitter

Oh, I don’t know, and I’m just spit-balling here, but it could have something to do with the five rings.

(So, uh, remember that legacy I talked about — I won’t miss some of the personalities Ordway continually gave airtime to.)

I hope that Mike Salk brings something to the table and can quickly develop some chemistry with Holley as I don’t want to resort to listening to national sports radio and as JR states, Felger and Mazz are unlistenable.

- Josh Mar

As far as Mike Salk goes, I don’t know anything about him, but I’ll listen to find out — and that’s more than I can say about the current parliamence over at WEEI.

Here’s where I have a few problems, though. It’s a tough business — I get the “Felger and Mazz” hate (trust me, I really do. I’ve run a parody in my column making fun of their interactions, for crying out loud!). Even though I deride them as much as the next guy, I’ve to terms with what they are. I mean, you have to like someone, right? I don’t buy the spin, but, to me, “Felger and Mazz” is an entertaining program.

Sure, perhaps, Felger is too caustic and acerbic, while Tony Massarotti defers almost every chance he gets, and comes off as too self-depreciating at times. But, regardless, I listen. And that says something. I know I get a lot of crap for this, but I still say if there is ever a fictional spin off of Pardon the Interruption, entitled, PTI: Cities, I’m going with Felger to represent Boston.

Look at the bright side, even Felger detractors have to take solace that he’s not Skip Bayless, who, in typical Bayless-fashion, actually accused LeBron James of baiting fans into believing he was going to do the Slam Dunk Contest for attention. Doing something for attention??? That’s rich, coming from a dude like Bayless. I’m not sure what else to say here, but something about stones, glass houses, pots, and kettles.

With that, I’ll close things out here … Thanks for reading and hit me up on Twitter @Hadfield__ or email ([email protected]).

An Appreciation of Glenn Ordway

I’ve had my issues with Glenn Ordway and his show over the years. It’s no secret. But there is another side, which needs to be told as well.

Warning: I’m about to go into “old bastard” mode and reference things that I remember that happened before some current members of the Boston sports media were even born.

I think I’ve also mentioned before that Ordway was the first media person I ever “followed.” I’m dating myself here, but I was kid back in the 1980′s when Ordway was doing the Celtics games with Johnny Most. I listened to just about every single game. My parents didn’t watch sports, so catching the Celtics on TV was a very rare event. Instead, I had to listen to the games on WRKO.

The first season I followed every game was the 1982-83 season. Johnny Most actually missed a chunk of games that season due to illness and Ordway took over the play-by-play. (Chris Ford stepped into the analyst role.) The games with Most and Ordway were true theater. Each night was good vs. evil, a morality play with the Celtics the valiant warriors fighting off their villainous foes. Glenn would attempt some objectivity, but he too would get swept up in the drama. When Larry Bird hit a game-winning buzzer-beater at Phoenix (Celtics down by one, Bird hits a three with one second left) that season (2/26/83 – 30 years ago this month?????) I can still hear Glenn hooting and hollering in my head after that one.

While there has been much talk over the years (which I’m skeptical of) about the relationship between Ordway and Most  – whether they got along, and how things ended -  their chemistry on the air was terrific. As the decade went on, and Johnny’s health went downhill steadily, Glenn picked him up more and more. They had moments of tension, sure, but there moments of complete hilarity. Most catching his pants on fire with a lighted cigarette (a clip that was played yesterday) chief among them. The times Johnny would knock his cup of scalding hot coffee over the edge of the balcony were always good times, too.

During that same period, WRKO having just recently moved into the talk radio format, was experimenting with a number of shows, including a sports call-in show. The show, creatively named “Sports Call,” featured Ordway with Guy Mainella. (Mainella was already a sports talk veteran, having started “Calling All Sports” in 1969.) The show was on generally from 6-8PM and while there was plenty of Celtics talk, I recall possible Red Sox trades being as much a topic as it is now. On nights that the Celtics weren’t playing, I always tried to listen to this program as well.

Early Days of WEEI

The Celtics broadcasts moved to WEEI in 1987 on AM 590. The Celtics bought the station in 1990, and for a time they kept the all-news format. But by September of 1991, WEEI had made the switch to all sports. It might be surprising to learn that Ordway was not the star of the station. Eddie Andelman was the drive-time host from 4-7PM. Ordway, started out as a midday host, paired with Janet Prensky from 1-4PM. Dale Arnold was on from 10AM-1PM and Craig Mustard from 7-11PM. Andy Moes was the morning show.

Ordway’s show with Prensky (Glenn and Janet)  was largely forgettable. The show lasted a year, and Prensky’s contract was not renewed. Ordway then spent time with Dave Shea, among others. By this time, Ordway was also the fulltime play-by-play voice of the Celtics, after Most was forced to retire due to health reasons in 1990. In August of 1994, WEEI moved from 590AM to 850AM.

In early 1995, Ordway agreed to a four-year deal with WEEI to continue as voice of the Celtics. However, the team, which had the right of refusal, declined the contract. (If you wondered why Ordway was so negative about the Celtics for years on WEEI, other than the fact that they were terrible, there you go.) Speculation was that they felt that Ordway and partner Jerry Sichting were too harsh on the team during their broadcasts. Ordway then accepted the position of program manager for WEEI, a move that would change the very shape and direction of sports radio.

Ordway’s Moves Pave Way For Record-Breaking Ratings

In July, Ordway fired Michael Andelman from his weekend show, citing poor ratings. In August, he announced that the station would be radically changing up their lineup. Starting on September 11th of 1995, the WEEI lineup would consist of the Fabulous Sports Babe from 10-12, The A-Team with Eddie Andelman and Dale Arnold from noon to 3PM and The Big Show, featuring Ordway himself, from 3-6PM. Ordway reinvented himself as “The Big O” and thus an 18-year run began.

Among the original co-hosts on The Big Show were Gerry Callahan, Dan Shaughnessy, Steve Nelson, Lyndon Byers, Cedric Maxwell and Fred Smerlas.

WEEI dropped The Fabulous Sports Babe in October 1997, (Jason Wolfe by then had replaced Ordway as Program Director) replacing her in the 10-12 spot with John Dennis and Gerry Callahan. That duo become the 6-10 morning show in September of 1999, and the A-Team moved from 10-2 and The Big Show from 2-6.

In retrospect, the moves by Ordway beginning in 1995 were brilliant. They set up almost 15 years of ratings dominance. The pairing of Arnold and Andelman was one of two diametrically different men who saw eye-to-eye on very little. Ordway saw that the endless debates on all subjects would make for great radio.  The Big Show format, while tough to listen to at times, brought a plethora of different voices together, with Ordway the chuckling ringleader tweaking his co-hosts and pushing the envelope each day.

Ordway made media stars out of pedestrian reporters and personalities. He also could see talent and get the most out of it. While there were some co-hosts who had no business being on the show (Steve Burton, Butch Stearns, Larry Johnson) there were stars like Dennis Eckersley, Dick Radatz, Rico Petrocelli, Bob Ryan, Jackie MacMullan, Michael Holley, Ron Borges (The latter four found themselves on the outs when the Globe infamously banned its reporters from the station.) Michael Felger, Tony Massarotti, Steve Buckley, Steve DeOssie, even Sean McDonough was an earlier mainstay on the show. Ordway even made stars out of flashguys Sean Grande and Pete Sheppard.

The station brought in ratings never seen before. I’m going to sound like a WEEI spokesman here, (imagine that!) but it is true. They weren’t just winning their targeted demo, they were winning all adult demos. They were the top station in the city. No sports station in the country had seen these types of numbers.

Granted, there was an element of good timing associated with this run. Boston sports in the 2000′s, starting with the 2001 Patriots, went on a professional championship run that no city had ever seen before. Three Super Bowl Championships, two World Series Titles, and an NBA Championship had an already sports-crazed city craving more and more. Ordway was the most powerful media personality in Boston.

Competitors Fall and Rise

The station successfully fought off challenges from weaker signaled sports talk efforts from 1510 and 890. Both of those stations attempted to use former Ordway co-hosts to challenge him in his own timeslot, 1510 using McDonough and 890 using Felger. Neither station mounted any sort of lasting challenge.

When 98.5 The Sports Hub launched in August 2009, they too built their programming around people that Ordway had groomed in to the radio business. Former Herald reporters Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti owe their starts in radio to Ordway and The Big Show. Bolstered by a strong FM signal and corporate backing of CBS, The Sports Hub finally knocked Ordway off his ratings throne.

Still, he wasn’t dead yet. Last spring, as the Celtics went on their unexpected run to the Eastern Conference Finals, Ordway’s by-then revamped show beat Felger and Mazz in the ratings, thanks in part to several Red Sox day games, and incessant Celtics-bashing by Felger.

The Legacy, And The Future

While Glenn Ordway certainly didn’t invent sports talk radio in Boston, (Eddie Andelman, among others, can lay claim to making it a viable medium.) he is nonetheless a pioneer and yes, a legend. He saw where sports talk radio was heading, and what it could be. He put the pieces and format in place that has largely endured. He made stars in the local market, and you saw many many people acknowledging this on Twitter and elsewhere yesterday.

What’s next for Ordway? His comments to the Herald today seem to indicate internet radio or something along those lines may be in the offing. Couldn’t you picture Ordway doing a local version of Bill Simmons’ “The BS Report?” A podcast with endless big-name guests, and going after specific topics, no commercials.

Could he surface on another radio station? There have been recent, quiet rumblings that Greater Media might be interested in dipping a toe into the local sports radio market. Their Boston-area stations include 92.9, 96.9, 102.5, 105.7 and 106.7.

Heck, a station could replicate the entire late-1990′s WEEI lineup if they wanted. Imus, Dale Arnold, Ordway and Ted Sarandis are all available! (That’s entirely a joke, by the way.)

Could he be interested in going back to play-by-play and trying out with the Patriots? Seems an unlikely longshot, but you never know.

Ordway turned 62 last month. He’s not done yet. If he wants to work, there will be a job for him. The show yesterday was the best Big Show I’ve heard in a long time, and showed that he still has that sense of taking the right angle on a story, and presenting in a compelling manner.

While I haven’t always been a fan of the Big Show and the “character” of “The Big O,” I’m a fan of Glenn Ordway. I hope to continue hearing and seeing him.

Sports Media Musings: Everything Glenn Ordway

Before we get to everything WEEI and Glenn Ordway, I would like to take a moment to send my thoughts and prayers to Rich Shertenlieb and his wife, Mary, who was diagnosed with leukemia.  As his co-host on the morning drive show, “Toucher and Rich,” Fred Toettcher, pointed out several times, Rich is truly a great person. Most know of his work developing the Miracle League in Massachusetts; but, in my opinion, his involvement isn’t extolled as much as it should be.

On a personal note, next to Rob Bradford, I owe much of my own success to Shertenlieb. Two years ago, shortly after I started writing at BSMW, I reached out to Rich to come on my podcast. There was no benefit to him — no exposure bucks and certainly no financial compensation — yet, without hesitation, he came on and spent an hour talking to me about work ethic, failures, triumphs and how he always tries to raise the bar in sports radio. Since then, even while working with WEEI, I’ve exchanged occasional emails and caught up with him at Celtics games. Rich, as he’s wont to do, is always gregarious toward me, and seems genuinely interested in me “making it.” A good dude in a cynical world. That’s all. And as Toettcher alluded to this morning, he feeds off his listeners; if you have a moment, shoot him an email or a tweet. It will mean a lot to him.

***

As Bruce Allen posted yesterday, Chad Finn reported on Boston.com (and Ordway confirmed on air) WEEI is replacing Glenn Ordway with Mike Salk. “Seismic” is the (appropriate) word Finn used in his report, and, as always, a move of such magnitude creates more questions than answers in the immediacy. Are you shocked at the news? But are you really surprised? How do others in the media feel about the news? How did Ordway handle the news? What was The Sports Hub’s role?

The answers to those questions are as follows: no; somewhat; mixed to lukewarm; well, but we’ll never truthfully know; bigger than Ordway gave credit for on the air.

Good? Wait, why are you shaking your head — OK fine, I’ll expound.

Are we shocked at the news?

The writing was on the wall that WEEI was going to make a move in their lineup. We can all agree conducting focus group studies after ratings continued to sag was as ominous as the word “ominous” can be. Besides Michael Holley and Lou Merloni, I wouldn’t be shocked if anyone is let go from the station (Yes, I’m using present tense. More moves are in play here.). Ordway’s salary cut a year and a half ago set the stage for something like this. A move had to be made in either the morning or afternoon time slots to create a sea of change. Frankly, WEEI waited far too long. I’ve said this numerous times, but I literally don’t know anyone under the age of 45 that listens to its programming. That’s a problem that goes beyond a crappy AM signal.

But are you really surprised?

Not buying that cursory explanation? Fair enough, let’s look further: Ordway, whether you like it or not, was a fixture in this market for 20+ years. So yes, despite all the inkling and rumblings and rightful justification, I’m shocked WEEI is parting ways with him. I guess part of this is because of Kevin Winter‘s recent shady resignation firing from the “Dennis & Callahan” show.

(On Winter: based off correspondences I’ve had, I feel pretty confidently that this was a terribly botched spin job by WEEI; probably to save face. From what I gather, Winter wanted it to work out on Guest Street. Case in point, what other personality was doing a separate podcast on the dot com side to market himself? All the sudden it got too much? Please. But hey, hiring someone then firing him in a few months bleeds transparent volatility. So, I get the chicanery … as ill conceived as it was.)

In the end, the timing of Ordway’s exodus was never going to feel right; because such matters, by nature, never feel right. He’s here, talking four hours a day; suddenly, he’s not — now what? All that said, there is typically a calm before the storm; it appears Winter’s release, meanwhile, was a friendly appetizer, like three inches of snow dropping the day before Nemo.

How do others in the media feel about the news?

The rumors of Mike Salk‘s expected insertion has spawned a ESPN 890 collective high five. The defunct station has seen its former personalities, most notably Michael Felger and Adam Jones and now Salk, commandeer the sports radio landscape in Boston. All that aside, the general take from writers and personalities on Twitter was morbid. You would have thought Ordway was on his death bed. This makes sense, of course. Ordway’s legacy to some (Steve Burton, Steve Buckley, Fred & Steve’s Taco Shack) is forged on being a king maker. He gave them exposure, an outlet, to ultimately talk over them, but that’s semantics.

While covering the Celtics game last night, I got the sense from a few younger writers that Ordway was neither caustic (e.g. he didn’t yell, “HE SUCKSSSSS, MIKE”) nor compelling enough. I fall on the latter side of the fence. We all have access to statistics, post-game quotes, and the like. These days, more than anything else, it’s about formulating and presenting an opinion in an entertaining manner. I can’t remember a time when Ordway espoused a take that made me say, “Hmm, I never thought of it that way.” And that he made so much money didn’t help matters, either.

How did Ordway handle the news?

Pretty well, all things considered. I don’t think he gave enough credit to The Sports Hub (see next question), but then again, I wouldn’t expect him to. He was (understandably) irate that news of his exile was released to Finn. To me, this is curious. Sure, not being able to announce the news himself stinks, especially to a dude who helped WEEI become what it is was. And yeah, it’s crappy whenever someone loses their job. Ordway, like you and me, has a family; for it to get out in that manner, for lack of a better term … sucks.

On the other hand, look at it this way: Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch once told me that the blogosphere exposing an ESPN personality like Chris Berman for any nefarious transgressions is fair game because, at this point, most people recognize Berman’s face more than the right guard for the Washington Redskins. In other words, in some respects, he is bigger than the game he covers (I know, ewww, right?).

Ordway was overpaid and enjoyed the gift of (relative) provincial fame in the hub for over 20 years. He’s not Berman, but I’m willing to bet enough people know Ordway’s likeness over, say, the 11th man on the Celtics bench. (That could be because the Celtics only have 10 players on their active roster, but you get the point) His employment is fixated on human interaction, and his removal from that equation is news. A mole in the organization is an institutional failing, I guess, but not exactly unlikely given his profile.

What was The Sports Hub’s role?

Everything. Weird to think about, but indulge me as we go “Donnie Darko” for a second: In an alternate universe, if CBS never pursues an all sports radio station, Ordway is still making a cool million a year, Jason Wolfe isn’t freaking out, Dale Arnold is complaining about Kevin Garnett‘s on-court language, and Pete Sheppard is still insufferable. Make no mistake about it, WEEI didn’t lose its audience, The Sports Hub took it.

 

Ordway Links

We’ll have more analysis of the Glenn Ordway firing as the days go on, but for right now, here are some other stories on the news:

WEEI ousts longtime host Glenn Ordway – Chad Finn’s story in th Globe also has a video with analysis from Finn.

Glenn Ordway gets ax in sports talk battle – Matt Stout in the Boston Herald has money and youth as big factors in the move.
WEEI fires Glenn Ordway as host of ‘The Big Show’ – Bill Doyle says that these are scary times for WEEI.

Ordway will be missed, but game goes on – Steve Buckley weighs in on his friend.

`Big Show’ bombshell: Ordway out at WEEI – Tom Layman in the Herald talks to Gerry Callahan, Jackie MacMullan and others.

Glenn Ordway out at WEEI – NECN had a segment on the story.

Looking to future 
for next big thing – Gayle Fee has Ordway looking at his future.

Sports radio host Glenn Ordway announces exit from WEEI – Craig Douglas of the Boston Business Journal looks at the impact of the move.

WEEI to Replace Glenn Ordway – Alan Siegal says that this is a step in the right direction for the station.

Was Ordway firing more about ratings — or money? – Dan Kennedy muses on the reasons for the move.