As ESPN’s Gordon Edes points out, of all the seismic shifts, nothing seems to have rocked Red Sox Nation more than the dismissal by New England Sports Network (NESN) of longtime announcer Don Orsillo.
Not Shane Victorino, not Mike Napoli, not Larry Lucchino, not Ben Cherington, not even Dave Dombrowski or John Farrell—with all due respect to each of those formidable men—have generated this kind of response.
After the steady drip of change, is the outpouring of support for Orsillo just a case of “enough’s enough,” or is it something more?
No Red Sox fan could reasonably expect status quo after the years we’ve endured following this team. Frankly, no true fan should want status quo.
And while the prospect of yet another offseason more exciting than the season it follows is unfortunate, it’s also exhilarating. Without change we’re stuck where we are, and no one wants to be where we are.
I don’t think the support for Orsillo was a straw that broke the camel’s back. I think fans, while perhaps quibbling over one particular change or another, are generally supportive of change, writ large, for the Boston Red Sox. Big, clear, obvious change to fix what is broken.
But changing the television announcer? I suspect that wasn’t on most fans’ radar.
What can I do?
There’s no way to know if NESN or the Red Sox, which owns 80% of the network, will bow to public pressure on Orsillo, but that shouldn’t stop you from voicing your opinion none the less. As Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch tweeted about the matter, “You have more power than your realize. Suits are afraid of a mass PR backlash.”
As of this writing nearly 45,000 people have signed a petition at change.org to save Orsillo’s job.
There’s no harm in speaking your mind. Tell NESN what you think by tweeting them at @NESN. You can also call them at 617-536-9233. The Globe reported that the Orsillo decision was made by NESN executive Joseph Marr. Let him know what you think at @JMaar. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NESN relies on subscriber fees but also on advertising, and advertisers want your business. If you’re thinking of changing your buying habits as a result of the decision, let them know. Here are some major NESN sponsors:
- East Boston Savings Bank (Facebook)
- @PeoplesUnited Bank
- @Pizzaria Uno
- @TDBank Ameritrade
- By now, you surely know how to reach Giant Glass: 1 800 54 GIANT.
Just about none of these companies, except for NESN, have an exclusive on their products. I can buy tickets, furniture, cars, office supplies, and insurance anywhere. I can bank anywhere. I say register a complaint, shop elsewhere.
No explanations, no accountability
Media accounts agree that Orsillo knew his contract wouldn’t be extended past 2015 a few days ago, but the news wasn’t supposed to be public until January. When WEEI leaked it Tuesday morning (and got over 300 negative responses in reply), you’d have thought NESN would be forced to confront the news head on. But instead, NESN and Red Sox ownership said nothing until issuing a terse press release minutes before the Sox game in Chicago.
And since then, nothing. No explanation, no accountability for the unpopular decision to the paying customers known as fans.
What happened to the smooth, analytical, intelligent, professionally run Red Sox organization? How can a business as big as this one bungle so many personnel decisions in such a short time?
Most of us won’t know Don Orsillo personally, so we rely on people closer to the game to tell us about him—and just look at the stories we’ve heard in just the past day and a half.
Boston’s Channel 5 sports anchor Mike Lynch said, “Orsillo is family.”
The Boston Herald’s John Tomase said Orsillo’s likability is genuine, not an act.
The Boston Globe’s Chad Finn tweeted a warning that any attempt at character assassination (think back to Terry Francona‘s departure) would be trumped-up nonsense, “If NESN ever tries to claim Orsillo did something wrong, don’t believe it. It’ll be a crafted response to your backlash. He didn’t, ever.”
Even Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay joined the fray tweeting that if Orsillo wasn’t leaving on his own, “this decision baffles me,” calling Orsillo a “class man, awesome announcer and respect throughout the sport.”
And Jerry Remy, well, it was tough to hear him talk about it after Tuesday’s game. He summed it up well, though. “I love him,” Remy said, openly emotional.
Orsillo has received support from celebrities like late night comedian Seth Myers, Ken Casey of the Dropkick Murphys, Steven King and, late Wednesday, the Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported that baseball’s former commissioner Bud Selig had reached out to Orsillo with well wishes.
But it has been the outpouring of support from everyday fans, the real denizens of Red Sox Nation, that has been the loudest.
It would be impossible to capture all of the sentiments here, but suffice it to say, Orsillo is, as Lynch said, part of the family. Someone we’ve welcomed into our homes countless times. Someone who helped us make the best of a bad situation, but who joined with us in celebration quite a few times, too.
Don seems a good man and the people who know him seem unanimous that his is, both on-screen and off.
And so, while the Nation endures many changes, it can’t wrap its collective head around how a cherished member of the family can be so carelessly cast aside.
Actions do speak louder than words, and unfortunately what we’re witnessing from the Red Sox and NESN is worse than inept, it’s disgraceful.