Big O and the Big Show

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Big O and the Big Show

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.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Dombrowski on trading top prospects: 'You go for it'

Dombrowski on trading top prospects: 'You go for it'

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Red Sox are coming off a 94-win season and a division title.
     
MORE ON THE TRADE

Their starting rotation is solid, if not without some question marks. The team's core of young position players is the envy of the industry.
     
So, why, then, did Dave Dombrowski make the kind of gamble he did when he shipped arguably the best prospect in baseball and the organization's top pitching prospect to land White Sox lefthander Chris Sale?
     
"I think it's a situation where when you have a chance to win,'' explained Dombrowski, "you want to give yourself every opportunity to do so, if you can improve your club. And for us, this deal improved us.

"I'm not sure, for instance, if we didn't get (Drew) Pomeranz that we would have won our division. But any time you get there, short of just a total giveaway of your system or making moves that don't make us smart, I think you go for it.''
     
Dombrowski noted that most of his acquisitions -- Sale, Pomeranz, David Price, Craig Kimbrel -- are under the team's control for another three years.

"In baseball,'' he said, "four years down the road is an eternity in many ways. So you need to take advantage of that opportunity. Nothing's guaranteed in life; if you make these moves, it doesn't guarantee that you're going to win.
     
"But I think you just keep taking a chance. You keep going for it as much as you possibly can and hopefully, it works for you someday.''
     
The moves he's made to date, said Dombrowski, have all made the Red Sox "a little better.''
     
He further noted that with a young core of everyday players and prospects such as Rafael Devers and Sam Travis, "I think we're still strong for many, many years.''

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.