One of the longest tenured members of the Boston sports media is WEEI’s The Big Show co-host Glenn Ordway. Since 1975 Ordway has been working in the Boston media, working for all four major sports teams in the process. In 1987, when Ordway was a Celtics commentator the team moved their radio programming to WEEI where he became executive sports director. He was later named program director in 1996 and started The Big Show, not looking back since, adding numerous television appearances and even his own show, New England Tailgate on Comcast Sportsnet to his resume.
Boston Sports Media Watch had the chance to sit down and catch up with Ordway to discuss his career, including the changes he’s needed to make over time as well as talking about some of the coaches he interviews on a weekly basis.
Over the years what is the biggest thing that has changed in the sports media, especially radio?
A lot has changed. Believe it or not in the old days we didn’t have the internet so you didn’t have the capacity to go and dig out stories else where. You were dealing with the Globe or the Herald and maybe the Worcester Telegram, that’s what you were dealing with years ago. Nowadays everything is instantaneous, the media is immediate. Stories break in 15 seconds on Twitter.
The two things that were key for doing talk shows years ago were the morning newspapers… In other words, you’d wake up at 7 o’clock in the morning and that’s the first time you’d learn about a rumor or trade. There was no at night, there was no SportsCenter, you weren’t getting any other that. The other thing that would happen is every once in awhile, somebody on Ch. 4, 5, or 7 on TV at night would break a story at 11 o’clock and I’d sit there and say, that’s my show tomorrow.
It’s much different. The sound that is out there, every game is either seen, or you record it — you can watch everything. The preperation for one of these shows is so much easier now than it was, and you can absorb and take in so much more.
What was it like transitioning from the two different co-hosts per day to now having one permanent co-host in Michael Holley?
It is a much different formula with three guys and a flash guy in Pete [Sheppard]. You have a lot of people talking. Yes, I know we were interrupting each other all the time, and it was by design, basically four guys sitting in a bar. That is what you do when you’re with your friends at a bar having a sports debate, you start jumping on top of each other.
On the other hand, for me it was a much different role because I was like the moderator and I had to poke at everybody. I had to jump in with an opinion so I could poke to get opposing views to create some type of entertaining confrontation. Because of that I developed that flip flop reputation and I am guilty as charged, no question about it. That was part of the role that I was in.
The role in this show now, is it is a two man team. So you need player A to have a strong opinion and you need player B to have a strong opinion and it comes out with the both of us challenging each other. I happen to have a partner that I have great respect for, and I think he and I really have found that niche in the show to be able to openly throw our opinions out there and not have to worry about it. It is a much different formula, much different.
How much attention do you pay to the ratings?
You have to. They are not everything because if you have ratings and you’re not driving revenue then you’re not really getting your job done. They go hand and hand. You have to watch ratings, and it’s not just ratings looking at the other sports station, the Sports Hub, you’re looking at what the music stations are doing, you’re watching the trends and trends change throughout the year.
Everybody busts us all the time, why do you take all your vacations in the summer? Because listening habits change dramatically in the summer time. People listen to far more music, people get away from sports, they get into nostalgic music, everything changes. Habits change so much so that’s the book that advertising agencies kind of dismiss. Spring and the fall are the two big books that people really pay attention to. You have to watch everything else that is going on.
Was Bobby Valentine one of the most awkward guys you’ve had on for a weekly interview?
I don’t think awkward would be the way I would say it — I would say the most unpredictable. You’d ask him a question and he was the one guy you never knew what the answer was going to be. I think I can ask a lot of people questions, people I interview on a regular basis, and have a decent idea of how they are going to approach the answer. With Bobby I never had an idea of how he was going to answer. That is why he caught me so off guard so many times.
What about Belichick, sort of the opposite?
With Belichick I kind of know the way he is going to approach it. So, you have to phrase the question in a certain way. You have to be ready to come back sometimes with a follow up. But, Bobby was great with follow ups because once you knew he was going to cross the line with the answer, you knew if you threw him a follow up he wasn’t going to stop. Bobby was not one of those to say, that’s it, I’m not going to talk about that anymore, he always wanted to say more about something. Bill wants to say less about something because he wants to protect his team.
On the other hand, if I were to ask a question to Bill about a play they had on Sunday and compare it to a similar play they ran in 2004, Bill would go back to that play in 2004 with tremendous clearity and he would detail every little thing that happened in that play, why it happened, and every player that was involved. When it comes to history and going into the past tense, because Bill doesn’t want to bring up the present or future, he gives you unbelievable stuff.
There are times when you really listen to Bill on Monday, that if you read behind the lines, there is stuff there, but you have to read between the lines. If he is not answering a question a certain way, or if he does, like the way he answered the question this past week on [Aqib] Talib and how much playing time he was going to get, he gave me the answer, but it was reading in between the lines.
What about the future for you personally, you’ve been doing The Dan Patrick Show nationally lately, do you like that?
I love it. Those guys are great — the Danette’s and Dan is a great friend. I like those guys an awful lot, I like doing the show. I love doing what I am doing right now. I’ve got to tell you, this is fun every single day. It’s fun waking up preparing for the show, doing the show, I have no regrets. I could actually have to work someday, this is fun. I have done an awful lot of things in the business, dealing with pre and post with the Red Sox, people forget I worked with the Bruins for two years, and the Celtics for 14. I am having fun right now.
But, there are challenges down the road. There are a couple of projects that I am working on right now that will hopefully come to fruition. So there are a bunch of other things I want to do, you always want to try and find new challenges and things to do. But, this is a blast and working with Michael has been a whole new level of enjoyment for me.