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.