My strongest memory of listening to Glenn Ordway and the Big Show occurred on October 30 and 31, 2003. On the timeline of Boston sports history, this was two weeks after Grady Little botched Game 7 (so basically, the whole city was still on 24-hour suicide watch). But more importantly for the purpose of this conversation, this was immediately after the Red Sox placed Manny Ramirez on irrevocable waivers.
Irrevocable meant that this wasnt like what we saw in last Augusts Nick Punto trade, when a bunch of players were claimed and then the Sox and Dodgers worked out a deal. No, irrevocable meant that Manny was just out there. Like a puke-stained couch left by the curb on garbage day. If another team agreed to pay the remaining five years and 100M on his contract (OK, so an expensive puke-stained couch) . . . that was it. Manny was gone. The Sox wouldnt even get a chance to counter.
Anyway, like I said, this was 2003. So there was no Twitter. In fact, even though the Internet was already the Internet, there was very little real-time sports reporting. At least compared to where we are today.
If the Sox had put Manny on irrevocable waivers in 2013, wed all jump on online and refresh our fingers off as rumor after rumor made the rounds. Has anyone put a claim in? Who might be thinking about putting a claim in? Who might be starting to think about putting a claim in? Has anyone told Manny? Can anyone find Manny? Are the Sox really about to give away their best player for nothing?
In 2003, if you wanted any of those answers in other words, if you wanted to follow this wildly important story in real time there was only one place to do it . . . the radio.
And on the radio in Boston, there was only one place to even do that: WEEI.
To be honest, I dont remember who else was on with Ordway during the two days Manny sat out on the curb, but I know I didnt miss a second of the eight hours he was on air. From 2-6 pm on Wednesday and Thursday, the Big Show was Manny HQ. They covered the story with the veracity of CNN during the Christopher Dorner stand off. And the Big O was Wolf Blitzer. He orchestrated everything. If there was news to report, he's the one who reported it.
"OK . . . so we've got some new information here."
Every time he said that (or something like it), I'd want to reach through the radio and grab whatever piece of paper he'd just been handed. I could barely wait the five seconds for him to spit it out. He had the entire city hanging on every word. Was Manny already gone?
"The New York Mets might be interested!"
It was like that for two straight days. And it was awesome.
Looking back now, it's also kind of ridiculous. But those were different times. That was back when you could still break news on the radio; back when you'd even want to break news on the radio (as opposed to tweeting it out first).
As crazy as it was, we needed that kind of coverage. We needed sports talk radio. Not for the hours and hours of older white guys arguing in circles, but because if something happened, that was still the first place to hear about it. In many respects, it was the only place. To be honest, I don't know if I ever truly enjoyed listening to the Big Show back then. But I had to listen. We all did. And we all did.
Things began to change in 2006. In March of that year, Twitter was founded. In September, Facebook expanded from only college students to only the entire world. Four months later (January, 2007), Apple announced plans for iPhone 1. Basically, people were changing the way they lived and communicated and among other things, the way they followed sports. But nothing changed on the Big Show. The Internet was still for losers. Bloggers still wore sweatpants in their parents' basement. According to a few of the regulars, anyone who never played in the NFL was a sissy who shouldn't have an opinion about anything. Basically, everyone outside of that studio was a sissy who shouldn't have an opinion about anything.
Still, it was the only place for sports talk; the only one with a consistent signal. That show and station had Boston held hostage, and they knew it. They almost thrived off it. They insulted listeners at a ridiculous rate, but we couldn't stay away. "God! I can't stand it anymore! But I CAN'T STOP LISTENING!" I don't want to get too carried away, but WEEI had an almost tyrannical hold on this market and Ordway was king.
In August of 2009, The Sports Hub arrived and many Boston sports fans were set free. In many ways, it didn't even matter what the other option was. It was another option! It was a new voice. A fresh attitude. A place that not only wanted your attention, but went the extra mile and found interesting, creative ways to earn your attention. They didn't mock fans (not initially, at least) or spend day after day obsessing over the most negative aspect of every single story. Of course, sometimes that was necessary. But just as often, they celebrated sports. It was actually fun.
And at that point, WEEI was done. Not immediately, but the steady, imminent collapse was set in motion. And yesterday, after three and a half years, it's complete. The King is dead. Or just unemployed. The Big O is no mo. And even though it's probably too late, I don't want that to come off as insensitive or disrespectful.
I'm a little young to really remember Ordway on the Celtics broadcasts, but I have the utmost respect for what he accomplished there. I have nothing but respect for his vision as program director at WEEI, and his role for many, many years as the backbone of Boston's sports media landscape. I mean, the guy hosted the same show in a major market, for 17 years. Over that time, he launched the careers of so many other personalities (in some cases, that's "sucked" for the audience, but I'm sure it means the world to those guys). He's helped shape the way we remember so many key moments in this city's sports history.
That's a career.
Is it over? Ordway says no. He says he'll be back, and has bigger and better things in store for everyone. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. But in the meantime, it's at least the end of an era. Ordway's departure from the Big Show is the biggest news to hit the local radio waves since The Sports Hub landed in 2009.
Coincidentally, it's the first sign that WEEI might have finally realized what it will take to start winning some of those old (but younger) listeners back.
I mean, the midday shake up wasn't going to do it. WEEI trying to change their image without losing Ordway and DC is like the Sox trying to do the same without trading Beckett and Lackey. As of today, both organizations are only halfway there, but it's a start. And it will be interesting to see what happens next.
The one thing we know for sure is that the world around sports talk radio will continue to change. In 2013, moments like "The Time Manny Was On Irrevocable Waivers" don't exist anymore. We don't rely on the medium the same way because anything that's on the radio has already be online, or will be less than 10 seconds after it happens.
Twitter is sports talk radio. Every message board and every comment section on every sports website in the world is sports talk radio. As a result, you no longer need the radio to get your fix, especially if that fix is being served up the same way it has for the last 17 years.
And I'm not only talking about Ordway. But the end of his run at WEEI is certainly another clear sign that times are changing . . . and that, who knows, maybe Boston's finally ready to change with it.