Sometimes a man must stand alone, and for the past two days, as I’ve listened to Red Sox Nation’s incredulity and righteous outrage over NESN’s decision to not renew broadcaster Don Orsillo’s contract, I believe I might be the only one in New England who isn’t labeling this is a travesty.
While Orsillo is a decent broadcaster, I’ll admit to muting the sound on occasion to listen to Dave O’Brien, his successor, call the games on the radio instead. In fact, by hiring O’Brien as the new voice of the telecast, I believe NESN made an upgrade.
By all accounts, it seems like Orsillo was the victim of an inside hatchet job by the executive producer at NESN Joseph Maar, which is unfortunate. I’m not persuaded that the team’s low-ratings were the impetus for Orsillo’s dismissal. It likely has more to do with the fact that the team has finished in last place three of the last four seasons, and sans 2013, they haven’t played a meaningful game in August since their epic September collapse in 2011.
As a human being, it is terrible to watch someone railroaded for personal reasons as opposed to professional incompetence. And Don Orsillo is certainly not incompetent. He possesses a buttery voice and the innate sense to modulate it at appropriate times during the games.
Additionally, his rapport in the booth with analyst Jerry Remy has always seemed natural and effortless. But it is this same rapport that had me shrugging with indifference when I first heard the news.
I’m a baseball guy. When I’m listening to a game, I want to hear hard analysis from the experts calling it, and seldom do I get that type of analysis from Orsillo and Remy, who play off like lapdogs for John Henry. I want announcers who are unafraid to be critical when Hanley Ramirez lollygags or Wade Miley lights into his manager in the dugout, like one Orsillo’s predecessors, Sean McDonough.
The “everything is awesome” vibe always coming from the booth grows tiresome.
As do the gags where Orsillo giggles for two innings like a boy in health class learning about boners. I understand that there is an abundance of time kill in blowout or meaningless games, and part of Orsillo’s appeal with listeners has been his infectious laugh at Remy’s broken tooth or some tool tossing pizza at another fan on the third base line.
However, I’ve never found his laugh infectious, rather grating. Admittedly, I’m not sure how to fill those idle hours on air, but I’ve always wished it was with something more baseball-related. Certainly, all of this is subjective, and I understand the reasons for other fans’ lament, particularly the Pink Hats who stumble into a broadcast from time to time.
While I wish the man the best (I’m sure he’ll have no trouble finding work) and appreciate his service, I’m simply not heartbroken that Don Orsillo is leaving. I welcome the Dave O’Brien-era, and if they can get someone like Dennis Eckersley in the booth beside him, someone unafraid of taking the team to task when they deserve it, we’ll all be better for it.
But, so far, I seem to stand alone in my opinion: the cynical ogre who hates laughter.