Jerry Remy was a former player and Boston Red Sox broadcaster who died of cancer on August 16th after a long battle with the disease. He played for the team from 1973 to 1988 as an infielder and first baseman, later becoming a commentator on NESN where he spent 27 years before his retirement in 2014 due to health reasons. The news came just days after another announcer for the team, Don Orsillo had left amid contract negotiations that weren’t going well with management.
On August 18th, NESN resumed their sports broadcasting for the first time since Remy’s death. They opened with a video montage of clips from his career, ending with him wishing viewers a good evening before disappearing into the darkness to the sound of Johnny Cash singing Folsom Prison Blues. The show abruptly ended and immediately after, the network began to air a tribute video of Remy’s life under the song Baba O’Riley by The Who.
The response was immediate and negative from local fans who were upset that they paid for an hour of baseball but got two minutes of eulogy. They were especially angry because many of them had nothing to do with his career as a broadcaster but paid for the product regardless. NESN was bombarded with criticism and one person even started a petition on Change.org asking to stop playing Jerry Remy’s eulogy during every Red Sox broadcast which only reached 28 signatures, likely due to apathy towards Jerry Remy.
The incident is a prime example of the disconnect between those who create and consume media in the tri-state area. While many were annoyed by Remy’s popularity because it meant that they had to hear about him more than they wanted, few seemed to bother trying to understand why he was so popular.
Remy was a beloved figure in New England and one of the few people who can claim to be more famous than Curt Schilling. He had an easy-going demeanor that made him seem like he wasn’t trying hard, but anyone who listened to him knew that there were other reasons why he connected with fans. His nonchalant style made it seem like he wasn’t taking things too seriously, but his professionalism prevented him from crossing the line into disrespecting players or the game.
His ability to be so personable and professional was a key component of NESN broadcasts for years, but there were signs that Remy was considering giving it up several times before this year.
The first was after the death of his son Jared in 2007, just a few months before he was diagnosed with cancer. Rumors were flying around that Remy would resign and leave the broadcast booth behind due to the stress from those events taking their toll on him. Remy announced during a meeting with staff members at NESN that they would discuss his future at the end of the season, but there is no mention of this event in any official news stories. It was likely swept under the rug with Remy deciding to continue on as he always did.
Another example came in 2010 when NESN approached ESPN about hiring Remy for their Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts. While nothing ever came of that meeting, it showed that Remy had some interest in branching out on his own. He was approached about the opportunity to be on the program only five years after he retired from playing, so he must have wanted to stay involved with baseball or at least working in an analyst role. It’s unknown whether NESN decided not to let him leave, but it’s likely that they preferred him staying as an announcer instead of having him move on to another network.
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