From My Perspective: Time For A Change In NESN Booth
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BOSTON (CBS) – Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy is living his worst nightmare right now. His son, Jared has been charged with murder after allegedly stabbing his girlfriend to death last week in Waltham. Understandably, Remy has taken a leave of absence from his job at NESN to deal with this unthinkable tragedy. But, if he’s contemplating a return to the booth, he should think again. It’s time for a permanent change behind the microphone.
“The RemDawg” has spent the last 25 years calling Red Sox games and in that time, he’s become one of Boston’s most beloved figures. His sharp commentary and dry wit has won him legions of fans. He’s profited greatly as well, helping companies sell cars, banks, you name it. He even opened his very own restaurant, “Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar & Grill” behind Fenway Park. It’s been so successful he’s opened two more since.
However, the 60-year-old has undergone a series of difficult challenges over the past several years. A long-time smoker, Remy missed a significant portion of the 2009 season recovering from lung cancer and a subsequent bout with depression. He had a relapse in 2012 and was treated with radiation. He also missed time this year with a bout of pneumonia.
Now there’s his son’s grim situation. Since Jared’s arrest, we’ve come to find out the 34-year-old has a long rap sheet, including allegations of violence against two other women. Also, Remy’s daughter Jenna was arrested last month on a slew of charges including disorderly conduct, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and misdemeanor breaking and entering after she broke into her ex-boyfriend’s home.
Then there’s Remy’s shtick behind the microphone. For years now Remy can’t wait to veer away from the game to goof off or poke fun at his sidekick, Don Orsillo. In fact, the game doesn’t need to be a blowout for this tired act to begin. Even a tight ballgame is fair game for Remy’s antics. It all started back in the late 90’s when former Sox play-by-play man, Sean McDonough started peeling away at Remy’s stiff persona and unearthing his subtle humor. At first it was hilarious. Now it’s just old and tedious.
There’s no question Remy is an excellent, in-game broadcaster. He notices all the little things. He can sniff out a squeeze play. He’ll tell you what pitch is coming next. He’ll even criticize a player if warranted. However, he often leaves Orsillo on an island. Remy isn’t interested in having a back-and-forth conversation during the game. If you listen closely there’s usually three or four times during a broadcast where you won’t hear from Remy for several minutes. He leaves Orsillo to fend for himself. Unless of course it’s time for the Jerry Remy Comedy Hour to begin, then he’s a chatterbox.
Listening to Dennis Eckersley fill in for Remy this week has been a gigantic breath of fresh air. Eck’s energy and enthusiasm alone is light years ahead of Remy’s. He genuinely sounds like he’s having a great time. He also knows his stuff, especially when it comes to pitching. And his unique phrases like “cheese”, “salad” and “iron” never get old. Meanwhile, Orsillo sounds rejuvenated. He finally has someone who wants to have an actual back-and-forth conversation during the broadcast. Go figure. Over the past few games the two have discussed the devastating earthquake of 1989, the main differences between pitching in the AL and NL, and what it’s like for a pitcher to hit. They’ve had plenty of light moments as well, especially when Eck pokes fun at himself. He really is a pleasure to listen to.
It’s hard to say if Eckersley has any interest in the gig, but if he does, NESN should open up their notoriously tight purse strings, and pay Eck whatever he wants. Sure, Remy’s fans will be bummed at first, but Eckersley is the perfect replacement. His humor and charm would be an easy transition for Red Sox fans to digest.
Remy’s had a great ride at NESN and profited handsomely from it. But the party’s over. It’s time for him to announce his retirement and go home to his family. Red Sox fans will understand.
Scott Sullivan has been a sports producer at WBZ-TV since 2003, producing nightly sportscasts and Sunday night’s Sports Final. The opinions expressed here are his own, and not those of WBZ-TV. You can follow Scott on Twitter @SullyWBZ.