Friday, February 15, 2013

Why is Ordway Out and Who's to Blame?

Today is Glenn Ordway's last Big Show.
The PM Drive host of WEEI does his last show this afternoon. Ordway has been on the air in the Boston area since the mid-70's: on the old WMEX, on WRKO, broadcasting Celtics games with Johnny Most, and on WEEI since it was at 590 AM - that was before 850 AM and later 93.7 FM.
The program was originally called The Big Show with the Big O, with Glenn as the main host surrounded by rotating co-hosts: former BC and NFL players Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie during football season, Mike Felger, former Red Sox player Lou Merloni, and Boston Herald columnist Tony Massarotti during baseball season. Pete Sheppard was the Sports Flash guy, constantly derided because he pronounced it like "Sptfsh." Everyone was always fighting to get a word in edgewise. During the Magical season of 2004 WEEI was #1 25-54 for the entire year. With adults, not just men. Ordway was honored with an NAB Marconi Award nomination for Personality of the Year.

So what happened?
In January 2009 Ordway was signed to a new contract for a million dollars per year. This was 2009, remember. Big contracts for radio Talent typically come with ratings incentives, because the correlation between ratings and revenue is very clear. The beginning of that contract coincided with the Red Sox not winning any more playoff games, the economy hitting the bottom and parent company Entercom nearly being delisted from the NYSE because the shares fell to under a dollar, and a new FM sports talk competitor, WBZ-FM, going on the air that summer. Two-and a half years into the contract Ordway's salary was cut in half because ratings incentives were not being met. Still, he was making five large.

And then...
WBZ-FM, known as "98.5 the Sports Hub," surpassed WEEI quickly. They had a younger sound - especially in morning drive. In afternoon drive Ordway's Big Show was competing with WBZ-FM's Felger and Mazz, (Mike Felger and Tony Massarotti, both former co-hosts of Ordway's). In the summer of 2010 WBZ-FM was #1 with Men 25-54 in afternoon drive and WEEI was a close #3, but WEEI was still slightly ahead with all adults. By September of 2011, when the Red Sox fell apart, WBZ-FM was #3 with adults and WEEI had dropped to 14th. Entercom responded by cutting Ordway's salary in half, firing Pete Sheppard, and moving WEEI from 850 AM to 93.7 FM.

Hope springs eternal.
It does, every year. By Opening Day last year Ordway was #6 in afternoon and Felger and Mazz were 8th. We all know what happened in 2012, and by year's end Ordway came in 12th 25-54 and Felger and Mazz were 4th, and #1 with Men.

Who's to blame?
WEEI is the flagship of the Red Sox and Celtics, and WBZ-FM is the flagship of the Patriots and Bruins. Certainly the fortunes of the flagship teams affect ratings, but the primary blame here goes to Entercom. Poor management, poor decisions when it came to teaming co-hosts with Ordway. They should have moved to FM much earlier. They should never have given Ordway that huge contract in the depths of a recession. They should never made made the 50% salary cut public because it made them look scared and Ordway look like a loser.

One good thing I'll say for Entercom.
The announcement of Ordway's firing was made on Tuesday evening, and he has been allowed to stay on the air through this afternoon. That is unheard of in radio. When they decide you're gone, you're gone immediately, like you never existed. Ordway has handled it on the air like a true gentleman. Glenn may be out, but he is not gone.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hope Springs Eternal

Hope springs eternal
Pitchers and catchers open camp today in Fort Myers, and hope springs eternal for a better season in 2013. I mean, could it get any worse than 2012?

Sure it could.
I lived in Baltimore in the late 80's. In 1988 the Orioles were only five years separated from their last World Series win, in 1983. That's the exact same gap as the Red Sox had last year, 2007-2012. The '88 Orioles opened the season by dropping the first 21 games. After the 3rd loss, Bob Rivers, new morning show host on 98 Rock, announced that he'd stay on the air round-the-clock until the team won. And he did. The manager, Cal Ripken, Sr. (father of star shortstop Cal, Jr.) was fired after loss #6. Everyone slumped simultaneously. It was so bad they didn't put batting averages on the scoreboard because they all started with a zero.

The O's finally won a game in Chicago on April 29th, then dropped two more, and returned home for "Fantastic Fans Night" (this was already on the books before the season started) on May 2nd to a sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium. Bob Rivers was given a full Orioles uniform, name on the back and all, and got a standing ovation when he threw out the first pitch, like a girl, as they used to say. (An outdated phrase. I happen to know from experience that girls can throw really well if you show them how.) Baltimore went on to win that game, 9-4. They finished last that year, with a record of 54-107. That's fifteen games worse than the 2012 Red Sox.

So what happened the next year?
In 1989 they improved to 87-75 and finished 2nd, two games behind Toronto and four ahead of the 3rd-place Red Sox. That's a 33-game improvement. If the Red Sox do the same thing in 33 more games than last year...they'll win 102 games, win the AL East and go on to win the World Series. Hopefully, the National League will win the All-Star game, so the Red Sox clinching win in the World Series will come at Fenway Park.

Hope springs eternal.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Movin' on down... the Red Seats!
As soon as the 2012 Red Sox season mercifully ended, I called the Red Sox office and asked of they were getting a barrage of angry STH calls saying they would not renew for 2013. (STH is Sox-speak for season ticket holder.) I said that I'm an STH in Section 29. Great view but the seats themselves are old, small and uncomfortable. Legroom is non-existant. These are the wooden blue ones built after the 1934 fire at Fenway. They're the only wooden seats left in any Major League Baseball park. I told them I'd like to upgrade to the red seats. I'd actually made this same request after the September 2011 meltdown and the year before after the playoff Papelbomb against the Angels. And two years before that when JD Drew took a season-ending bases-loaded called third strike against Tampa Bay in the ALCS. They replied, "We really won't know if anything is available until February, but we'll put you on a waiting list. Send us an email saying what you're looking for." That was more encouraging than the 2008, 2010 and 2011 calls.

Why are the blue seats still there?
When the Henry group took over the Red Sox eleven years ago they did an excellent job of upgrading and modernizing the ballpark. They added the Monster Seats, the right field roof deck, took the glass off of the .406 Club, re-added the National League to the left-field scoreboard, put in high-def video boards, improved access, concourses, concessions, food, you name it. They also replaced a lot of the seats. But not the wooden blue grandstand seats. It was decided that they should remain because they are part of the aesthetic charm of Fenway. Clearly this idea came from someone who is 5' 9" or shorter, skinny and has not spent three or four hours at a time sitting in these seats. Also, the Red Sox have had no problem squeezing people into them.

Fast forward to late January.
I get an email from the Red Sox saying that there are a very few seats that have opened up...full season only, in the EMC Club. $348 each. Minimum of two seats, and it's a multi-year deal. Do the math and that's $56,376 per year, not including parking and food. For three years (isn't "multi" more than two?) it's $169,128. No, thanks. They did say that taking a pass on this offer would not affect my position on the upgrade waiting list.

Then came last Friday.
It's February 1st, and there's story in the Boston Globe - page one, above the fold - saying that Red Sox ticket sales are off by 10%. I called about the upgrade. They said I was definitely on the list, they had my email saying that I like my view from Section 29, but something lower down in the red seats would be ideal, and I would get a callback for sure. And I did. They offered me Loge Box seats one section closer to home with an even better view. The new red seats, sculpted for all your butt comfort needs. Cupholders, more legroom. At the end of the row, next to a railing, so there will be exactly no excuse-me's from other fans heading to concessions. That was an easy yes.

But I'm not changing the name of my blog.
View From Loge Box 155 just doesn't have the regular-guy-at-the-ballgame ring that View From Section 29 has.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A mere 7:28 from Beyonce to a kickoff return

The Superbowl (Pepsi) Half-time Show
We see Beyonce on stage with a gaggle of backup singers and dancers, looking great and sounding great. Who cares if she's singing to track? The Who obviously did in 2010, and this year's theme was actually called "Lipsync." We have huge I-Mag screens, a ring of fire, thousands of fans with All-Access passes on the field surrounding the stage. No wardrobe mishaps (although we didn't miss by much).

In case you missed it, click here.

The show ends, we cut to commercials and get ready for the second half.

How long does that take?
Unlike most normal people, I actually ran a stopwatch on the time it took to take down the concert stage, the I-Mag screens and the backline equipment, clear everyone off the field and get ready for the second-half kickoff. (That may sound anal, but there's a stopwatch on the iPhone, so it's really easy to do.) From the time they cut away from the concert stage to the time they went to live action for the kickoff, it took a total of 7:28. Seven minutes and twenty-eight seconds to clear all that stuff and all those people off the field, get the teams back on the field and lined up for the kickoff, which resulted in a 109-yard return for a touchdown by the Ravens' Jacoby Jones.

That is amazing.
How many people does it take to pull that off?

The ironic asterisk
One play after the huge kickoff return, the New Orleans Superdome experienced a power surge that knocked out the juice to major parts of the stadium and resulted in a 32-minute delay in the game. That's four times as long as it took to clear the stage off the field.