When Don Orsillo signed what would be his final contract with NESN in November 2011, Sean McGrail, then and still the network’s president and chief executive officer, offered heady and accurate praise via a press release confirming the news:
“Don is one of the preeminent play-by-play announcers in the league and one of the reasons NESN’s Red Sox broadcast is considered among the best in the business. He brings passion and meticulous preparation to his work every night, along with a sense of humor that has endeared him to Red Sox Nation.”
The irony of that statement is hard to miss today. NESN’s reasons for retaining him four years ago are the exact same reasons so many fans are outraged that he’s being dumped — thus far without explanation — at the end of this season.
Red Sox fans and NESN viewers have reacted to Tuesday’s news that Orsillo will not be back next year with a relentless outpouring of support. As of early Thursday evening, a change.org petition asking Red Sox owner John Henry (who also owns the Globe) to restore Orsillo to the role he held since 2001 had nearly 37,000 signatures.
At the e-mail address of your faithful sports media columnist, the response has been overwhelming and without a lull since the much-rumored news broke on WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan” show, and the message is virtually the same in each piece of correspondence:
“Why would NESN do this? It makes no sense. If they don’t bring him back, I might be done watching NESN.”
For now, NESN’s approach to the backlash seems to be to wait out the storm and hope it all blows over. Multiple requests to Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and NESN spokesman Gary Roy have gone unanswered. Other than a press release confirming the decision and emphasizing the talents of Dave O’Brien, who is moving over from WEEI’s Red Sox broadcasts next year, NESN has gone into full radio-silence mode.
The approach — confirming the news in the middle of a game that Orsillo was calling — was awkward and insulting, and it does no favors for O’Brien, an outstanding broadcaster who has been put in an uncomfortable position. (According to an industry source, O’Brien has decided to refrain from commenting on the situation for the time being out of respect for Orsillo.)
The optics were awful. It’s understandable to some degree if NESN was caught off-guard that the news got out. Yet it was common knowledge that Orsillo’s contract was up at season’s end, and there’s been industry chatter for at least a year that the network was considering a change.
But it’s not the question of “why now?” that has led to so much backlash.
It’s the simpler question that remains unanswered: Why do it at all?
ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes received the closest thing I’ve seen to an explanation when he cited a source Wednesday saying this: “We wanted to make a change.”
Well, obviously, but Orsillo’s fans aren’t about to relent in their demand for more detail. Here’s how I posed the question to a NESN spokesman in an e-mail:
“One question I still have — and I’ve been hearing over and over from Red Sox fans — is why was the change made? Obviously it’s NESN’s prerogative to do so, and his contract was up, but I figured I’d at least reach out and see if someone there cared to explain it further. O’Brien will be great, but the timing and seemingly callous treatment of Don has people puzzled.”
The response thus far is no response at all. Another irony in all of this is that NESN is entirely responsible for creating the backlash, and not just because of the graceless manner in which the situation has been handled publicly. If the network didn’t entirely create Orsillo and Jerry Remy’s cult of personality, it certainly was happy to emphasize it.
When you consider Orsillo’s most memorable moments in the Red Sox booth, it’s not the calls of big games and big moments that come immediately to mind (mostly because NESN cedes playoff and World Series games to the networks), but the silly moments and often hilarious banter with Remy. Orsillo isn’t just familiar and comfortable to Red Sox fans. It’s more than that. So many laughs have been shared through the years that it feels personal, as if you’re saying goodbye to a friend you wish would stay a little longer.
Barring a highly unlikely reversal of the decision — a reaction to the backlash that would be more shocking than the decision itself — Orsillo’s days and nights as the voice of the Red Sox are dwindling. Thirty-four games remain in the season.
Four years ago, when Orsillo signed what would be his final contract with the Red Sox, the press release touted that he’d called more than 1,400 regular-season games on NESN. Four years later, that number must be in the range of 2,000, a milestone that under most circumstances would be worthy of celebration.
But because of NESN’s bewildering mishandling of the situation, this is no ordinary circumstance. Instead of appreciating all the games Don Orsillo has called, his fans are left wondering, without an answer, why there will be just a few more to enjoy before he’s gone.
Credit to the Boston Globe where this story was originally published
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at [email protected].
The CW to Air 2023 Barstool Arizona Bowl
After going streaming-only last year, the 2023 Barstool Arizona Bowl will also air on the CW.
The Barstool Arizona Bowl just secured an additional broadcast home — The CW.
The news broke earlier today on Twitter from the official Barstool Arizona Bowl account. The 2023 Barstool Arizona Bowl will stream once more on Barstool.TV but can also be found on your local CW affiliate.
Fear not, Stoolies — your favorite Barstool personalities won’t be replaced by The CW’s broadcast teams. Pardon My Take’s Jake Marsh confirmed that he will once again assume play-by-play duties, while his bosses Dan “Big Cat” Katz and Dave Portnoy will join him as color commentators. Caleb Pressley and Adam “Rone” Ferrone will act as sideline reporters.
Last year, Barstool ditched a traditional media platform to air their bowl game after reports surfaced that CBS wouldn’t work with Barstool to broadcast the game. Instead, the company streamed the game direct-to-consumer on Barstool.TV, the company’s streaming platform. Ratings were about on par with a streaming-only event, with 1 million total viewers, 500,000 unique viewers, and a high of 130,000 concurrent viewers according to Front Office Sports.
Last year, Ohio defeated Wyoming 30-27. We’ll find out which two teams will play in this year’s Barstool Arizona Bowl following this weekend’s college football slate.
Jeff Kotuby is a nationally-published journalist with bylines on many popular broadcasting and pop culture sites, including The Streamable, eBaum’s World, Twin Galaxies, and more. Jeff grew up in the shadows of New York City and cultivated his love for sports media with the classic broadcasting voices of the area, like Mike & The Mad Dog, Mike “Doc” Emerick, and Michael Kay. You can reach Jeff on Twitter @JeffKotu3y.
CFP National Championship Game Could Rotate Between Partners in New TV Deal
According to Front Office Sports, ESPN and FOX have already made presentations to the CFP.
Ahead of the College Football Playoff (CFP) expansion to 12 teams in the 2024 season, the playoff could look to have the National Championship Game rotate among its media partners every year.
The goal through the process would be to maximize the scope of the media rights fees and cross-promote the game once the existing 12-year, $5.64 billion rights deal with ESPN expires, sources have told Front Office Sports.
Various media outlets have reportedly expressed interest in acquiring rights to the CFP, including ESPN, FOX Sports, NBC Sports, and Warner Bros. Discovery, along with streaming providers Amazon Prime Video and Apple. Michael McCarthy and Amanda Christovich of Front Office Sports reported the news of the prospective structure, along with several media companies that could be involved in the bidding.
Within the report, it is stated that no structure of a deal has been agreed upon at the moment. Last year’s contest between Georgia and TCU averaged 17.2 million viewers on ABC, which made the contest the least-watched National Championship Game since the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) came into existence in 1999. According to Front Office Sports, ESPN and FOX have already made presentations to the CFP, and ESPN could be reportedly willing to forgo part of the CFP to pay for other rights, such as the National Basketball Association.
The discussion surrounding the CFP comes at a time when NASCAR recently announced seven-year media rights deals with CBS, NBC, Warner Bros. Discovery, and Amazon Prime Video worth a combined $7.7 billion. Moreover, the Big Ten inked a seven-year, $8 billion deal with CBS, NBC, and FOX that began this season and is slated to run through 2029.
ESPN will broadcast the National Championship Game on Jan. 8, 2024 at 7:30 PM ET.
Last year, the network presented an alternate broadcast featuring Pat McAfee and members of his program, The Pat McAfee Show, broadcast on ESPN2 while Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Holly Rowe, and Molly McGrath were on the traditional presentation on ESPN.
Andrew Whitworth: Being on Amazon Prime Video Keeps Me Connected to Football
“I just finished this incredibly long football career, but I feel like I’m 18 years old and I just got a fake ID and I can go to a club.”
After 16 seasons in the NFL, Andrew Whitworth is officially retired from playing the game, but he is still very much around the gridiron as a member of Amazon Prime Video’s Thursday Night Football studio broadcast team.
Whitworth is on-site at the games every week behind the desk as an analyst on TNF Tonight where he provides his insight and expertise regarding the action on the field. The four-time Pro Bowler is situated alongside Tony Gonzalez, Richard Sherman, and Ryan Fitzpatrick, along with host Charissa Thompson.
In a recent interview with Yahoo Sports, Whitworth described how he is looking at the game of football in a different light now that he is retired. Within his remarks, he conveyed that he is not sure if he was necessarily a fan of the sport when he was playing, something he acknowledges is ludicrous to state but a legitimate question he has. Rather than viewing the game as a whole, he was more focused on his role as an offensive tackle and being able to effectuate scoring drives by stopping defenses.
“I just finished this incredibly long football career, but I feel like I’m 18 years old and I just got a fake ID and I can go to a club,” Whitworth said. “That’s how I feel watching football now – I just want to consume everything I can.”
Immediately after the final season of his career – which ended with a Super Bowl championship as a member of the Los Angeles Rams – Andrew Whitworth wanted to discover a way to remain involved in the sport. There were options, he shared, to stay within the Rams organization, along with opportunities to work with other teams. His mindset was focused on the art of storytelling though and how to promulgate and discuss a sport that granted him a successful career.
“Being in these stadiums, it keeps you so connected,” Whitworth said. “And every week it seems, I’ve got players asking me, ‘Hey man, you got any thoughts on my game? Things you could help me with?’ For my last five or six years in the NFL, I was kind of a coach-player, mentoring guys. Now, I’m getting to do that a little bit while also covering the games, which has been great.”
Andrew Whitworth outlined a typical week as a member of the Amazon Prime Video Thursday Night Football broadcast, which begins with a production meeting on Monday mornings and subsequent research and film study. In the afternoon he coaches a junior high basketball team for his son and then proceeds to coach his other son’s football team. The film study continues on Tuesday before traveling to the city where the game is taking place that night.
“As soon as I get to that city, I start putting together a tape to talk about and show the producers,” Whitworth said of his Wednesday routine. “We all get together, usually at the hotel, and spend [four to five] hours having dinner and talking about the game.”
Another production meeting takes place on Thursday morning before touring the city and finding enjoyable things to do throughout the day. The crew then arrives to the stadium to do the broadcast that night – in this case, a matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks, which begins with TNF Tonight at 7 PM ET.