Remember when you were a kid, and your best friend’s mother or father got a new job, forcing the family to move away? It was a really sad moment, one that was made even worse because there was absolutely nothing you could do about it. That’s how I’m feeling about Don Orsillo leaving the NESN broadcast. Part of growing up is learning that life isn’t fair, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be upset about it. I’m losing the background sound of my life, someone whose voice I’ve listened to more than almost everyone on this planet. It’s easy to overreact to something like this — he’s not dead, and we’ll still be able to hear him call baseball games — but this is a really sad moment. There’s legitimate grief here, and with it comes the five stages.
The report first came down Tuesday morning, and there was no way it could’ve been real. I saw a tweet from the Dennis & Callahan account, and my first reaction was that something had been misinterpreted. Maybe they were still negotiating. Maybe Orsillo decided he wanted to try a national gig. That would be tough to swallow, but at least it would’ve been his choice. But there was no way NESN could actually be dumb enough to let Orsillo go, right?
There was legitimate anger from just about every Red Sox fan on Tuesday, and it was totally justified. Orsillo might be the very best play-by-play guy in the sport right now, and he’s certainly one of the best. He mixes humor, calmness and excitement so seamlessly. He had hilarious moments like “Here comes the pizza,” the boob grab, the tooth incident, the guy trying to put on the poncho, and the lamp. At the same time, he had incredible calls, like Daniel Nava’s go-ahead home run after the Marathon bombing and the Mother’s Day miracle. How the hell could the higher-ups at NESN not think this guy was worth the money?
Maybe if we yell at NESN’s twitter account long enough, they’ll change their mind. Maybe if we threaten to boycott the rest of their games, they’ll change their mind. Maybe if we start a petition, they’ll change their mind. We know it’s not going to happen, but we have to try.
Man, this really sucks. Orsillo has been calling every Red Sox game for ten years now, and has been here through one of the most tumultuous eras in the team’s history. For me, personally, he was the voice of my formative years in the game. This was the time I went from a young, casual fan to a slightly older die-hard. It was the time I transformed from the type of fan who would turn off a game during a blowout to the one who still watched every pitch. Orsillo was as big of a part of that as anyone. He still managed to make the game entertaining even when the ending was a foregone conclusion. For a sport that’s losing interest in a world shifting more toward instant gratification, that type of talent will be sorely missed.
In the end, it’s not really as bad as we’re making it seem. Orsillo definitely won’t be out of work for long. If he wants a national gig, someone will almost certainly give that to him. We’ll all be able to hear him on a regular basis in that case. If he’d prefer a local gig, he’ll get that too. In the internet-era, we all have access to any broadcast we want to listen to. Orsillo isn’t leaving the baseball world, just our local world. On top of that, Dave O’Brien, his replacement, is very good at his job.
With that being said, NESN is making a massive mistake here. The Red Sox have had so many huge moments over the last 10-15 years, and Orsillo has been here for almost all of them. He’s the best play-by-play guy in baseball, and as big a part of the franchise as anyone. This is truly the end of a golden era for Red Sox baseball, and it’s an ending that none of us were at all prepared for.
Photo by Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports Images. [Editor’s note: This is the only picture of Orsillo I could find. I looked for 20 minutes.]