Glenn Ordway Ready to Throw His Last Punch in WEEI Return
It’s a frigid afternoon in late January, and Glenn Ordway is shaking his head as the two men who now own the time slot he dominated for nearly 20 hours, Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti, caterwaul about the Patriots allegedly deflating footballs in the AFC Championship Game. Felger and Massarotti both think Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are in on it, and the only question about the scandal is how deep it runs.
Ordway thinks they’re full of crap, and has the note-filled yellow legal pads to prove it. The only problem is, he’s going to have to wait to serve up his rebuttal. The Internet connection in Ordway’s home office is spotty, and he can’t get on the air. If he talks into the microphone sitting in front of him, his words will literally travel into the abyss.
After more than two years away from WEEI—one of which was spent hosting a glorified Internet radio program, Big Show Unfiltered—Ordway, 64, makes his full-time return Tuesday to the station he helped build. He’s the third midday host on WEEI in 16 months, teaming up with former Red Sox infielder Lou Merloni and Patriots tight end Christian Fauria.
“At my age right now, I don’t give a shit,” Ordway says to me on the phone just days before his comeback. “I’ll throw it all out on the line. I’ve got a resume that says that, and there aren’t a lot of guys who have done that over the years. They like to pound their chest, and say they’re ‘willing to say anything,’ but trust me, when they’re dealing with contracts and everything else, they’re not playing the same game.”
I guess this is the point in the piece where I should reveal I was a co-host on Ordway’s short-lived Internet show from its hyped beginnings to quiet death. Each time I made the seemingly interminable drive from Boston to Ordway’s vast South Shore home, I couldn’t help but get the impression he was getting increasingly restless. The former king of Boston sports media hosted a ratings powerhouse for well over a decade, and was now sparring with a college-aged Red Sox podcaster and standup comedian Graig Murphy in his home office each afternoon. It was a far cry from broadcasting live from the Super Bowl, that’s for sure.
When WEEI fired Ordway in February 2013 after an 18-year run in afternoon drive, he left without a peep of dissension.
“They made a decision that they feel is in the best interest of the company, and they’re entitled to that,” Ordway said on his first show after news of his ousting broke. “It’s obvious that we are not getting the ratings that we need to get on this program.”
In a cruel twist of fate—or a delicious example of comeuppance, depending on your feelings about Ordway’s brash on-air style—Ordway had consistently been beaten in the ratings over his last two years by Felger and Massarotti, two of his disciples. The two former Boston Herald sports scribes launched their radio careers on Ordway’s Big Show, and perfected their contrarian acts that eventually took Ordway down.
But if you ask Ordway now, they had some help. He blames a general manager who was hired to “whittle some people out,” and says he was at the top of the list due to his gargantuan salary, which ballooned to more than $1 million per year in his heyday.
“I wasn’t fired because of ratings,” Ordway says. “In my last year, in spring 2012 when [WEEI] switched to FM and paired me with Michael Holley, we beat Felger in the ratings book. They would die right now to beat Felger and Mazz. I did it.”
WEEI’s afternoon show, which has been captained by the overmatched Mike Salk and even-tempered Dale Arnold—whose 24-year run at the station nearly came to an end when he was abruptly removed from the midday program in 2011—in Ordway’s absence hasn’t come close to beating Felger and Mazz since. Just ask Ordway; he keeps a spreadsheet of EEI’s ratings on his home computer.
“Eighteen years is a long time,” Ordway says. “How do you stay at that level for 18 years? Let’s see if Felger and Mazz have 18 years of this. They have what? Four? Five? Let’s see if they have 18 years. It’s not easy to do this. ”
These self-defensive comments may create the impression Ordway is a bitter man, but though his career had just been ripped out from under him, he was beyond amicable to me. Not everyone in Ordway’s situation would’ve been able to act the same way.
It didn’t matter if only a couple dozen people were listening or if we hadn’t gotten a caller in days, Ordway approached every show like we were broadcasting before millions. He reamed me out about my misguided support for the Red Sox’s offseason moves, and we went to battle over whether the Patriots should’ve let Darrelle Revis go. Ordway treated my high-pitched squeal as an equal on the air; I will always respect him for that.
Ordway isn’t just obsessed with the business, he’s consumed by it. He would quiz me during commercial breaks about whether I had heard a segment on Dennis & Callahan that caught his ear, or if I thought Marc Bertrand’s cerebral approach would mesh with the high-octane Scott Zolak on “The Sports Hub’s” new midday show. He would also often rant and rave about what he considers to be an increasingly volatile media world, in which provocateurs are shamed rather than celebrated in our politically correct culture.
“Everybody can be offended by something,” Ordway says. What’s going on right now is dangerous for everybody, no matter what your political persuasion or thought process is. To suddenly silence people—we’re going to have a bunch of robots here in five years.
“In most cases, ‘offensive’ means ‘I don’t agree with you.'”
Ordway doesn’t seem to have any plans to tone it down. The ringleader of the Big Show, which incessantly mocked athletes, celebrities, and other media members with pre-produced comedic bits all the way to the top of the ratings, told me he used to sometimes “play the careful game.”
Yes, the same man who’s made a career out of turning countless Boston sports greats into punching bags says he used to occasionally hold back. But apparently he won’t any more.
“If we continue to play this game where we don’t want to offend anybody out there—are you kidding me?,” Ordway says. “Everybody is going walking around and saying the exact same thing. We got to get away from silencing everything.”
Ordway knows what that’s like, as he was silenced more than two years ago. If he goes down again, it will almost assuredly be swinging.
The Big O never got to throw his last punch.