Jenny Dell has joined the CBS stable as a sideline reporter for its NFL coverage. But it's doubtful Boston will ever take its eye off Dell.
Especially if she's ever in Foxborough and happens to pull off a pre-game show interview with Mr. and Mrs. Tom Brady.
That has the potential to take down the internet quicker than an nuclear electromagnetic pulse or China's best hackers.
There's been a natural but obsessive-at-times via on-line and social-media fascination with the recent run of Red Sox female sideline reporters. One reason beyond the obvious is the fact that Red Sox fans watch them 150-something times a year, a few times each night, in their living rooms. When you watch someone on TV each night you tend to create a connection, real or imagined. It's the same with the announcers. The ones who call the games for years or decades end up offering a background soundtrack to important moments in our lives.
Dell captured that "sideline reporter" digital buzz better than most of her predecessors. A debate triggered over "journalistic conflict of interest" became inflamed once Dell's relationship with once-upon-a-time, third baseman Will Middlebrooks was shared photographically on Twitter [see above]. Even it was perhaps the most laughable of all the team's conflicts in the offseason.
There were other reasons why Dell lost her slideline reporter job. Issues of the Red Sox and NESN being upset with her trying to break her contract did not capture the public's imagination as much as her romance with one of the team's players.
Dell will certainly face a greater journalistic challenge reporting on the NFL on a national network than she did covering the Red Sox on a network owned by the Red Sox and run by Red Sox chieftain Tom Werner. The Red Sox telecasts are as much a marketing arm of the Red Sox as they are a conduit of information.
John W. Henry owns The Parent Company of This Blog, The Local Broadsheet and the Red Sox. The primary difference is that there's no institutional and structural relationship between the media entities and the baseball team in that case. They sit in different pockets.
Network telecasts certainly serve an important marketing role for the NFL. Pete Rozelle was brilliant enough to realize that fact 50 years ago. That is one reason why every NFL team works from the same national TV contract. But that marketing role promotes the entire league and not a specific team [unless its quarterback happens to be Peyton Manning.]
The NFL's broadcast partners also know that fans don't want to see anyone talking to the pizza guy or tour state-of-the-art, eco-friendly stadium bathrooms during a game. Once the game starts, there will be no room for the same fluff Dell became accustomed to during Red Sox games. She will get the chance to demonstrate her interviewing and journalist chops in front of an unforgiving national audience.
"NFL sideline reporter" and "Red Sox sideline reporter" are two different kinds of reporters. The "news" brought to us from the sidelines in the NFL usually carries a bit more throw-weight and ingame relevance than breaking into the telecast to deliver news about the time and location for the latest #NESNTweetUp.
News of season-ending injuries is often delivered live from the sidelines. CBS sideline reporter Steve Tasker had the unenviable task of informing the nation that Super Bowl XLVII was halted to a blackout. Same with the latest on Tom Brady yelling at his receivers. Serious stuff for sure.
While Dell reportedly tried to get out from under her contract, it strains credibility to think that news of her relationship with Middlebrooks going public via photos on Twitter played zero role in the decision by NESN and the Red Sox to push her away from her primary job.
She was dating Middlebrooks last year. The fact that they were living together was noted by the Boston Globe in a brief item about her new NESN contract last December. Her job was never publicly at issue at that time, especially considering NESN was giving her a new contract.
But then she and Middlebrooks posted photos of themselves together on social media on Dec. 31. A month later NESN sort of announced after much prodding that she was no longer their Red Sox sideline reporter.
Mere coincidence? Perhaps. And Clay Buchholz is going to turn it around real soon.
The Red Sox, NESN and about half the team's fan base stood firm on the point that Jerry Remy should keep his job despite the legal problems faced by his son. Dell wasn't given such leeway.
The irony in all that "conflict of interest talk" was that Middlebrooks has played in only 21 games this season. The only conflict of interest Dell would have presented for two-thirds of the season thus far would have been if she was phoning it in from Pawtucket or the rehab room. If NESN had followed our suggestion and produced a show called "At Home With Will And Jenny," its viewers might have reason to watch the Red Sox past Aug. 1 this season, the opiate of the "second wild-card" notwithstanding.
The attraction to Dell felt by many Red Sox fans was obvious and stereotypical. But looks weren't everything. The Red Sox were interesting, if nothing else, during her two years with NESN. She won the respect of many viewers for being able to simply hang in there throughout the calamity that was 2012 and smile through it all.
She was there to grab the impromptu interviews on Main Street of #WalkoffCity after so many of those exciting wins in 2013.
Dell interviewing Jonny Gomes after the first-place Red Sox scored six runs in the ninth inning to beat Seattle last Aug. 1. That seems like 1,000 years ago, as opposed to 10 months ago.
The "Curse of Jenny Dell" continues to grow as the Red Sox have yet to win a World Series without her as a sideline reporter.
Good news for the Dell-lites, the Patriots will be on CBS nine times this season. Dell will be paired with one the secondary announcing teams. The Patriots haven't signed Middlebrooks. So it's likely she'll get the call to handle a few of those Patriots games that don't merit the voices of Jim Nantz and Phil Sims.
No matter how well Dell does patrolling the NFL sidelines, she'll never be able to match the magic of moments like this.
Watch as she drops a Death Stare on "Tommy Two-Franks" during a Red Sox-Astros game on Apr. 28, 2013.
Tremendous on so many fronts.
She even responded to those ever-attentive NESN viewers who seem to miss nothing.
Sensitive subject & interview. Before intv, politely asked fan not to walk into the shot when we were live. RT @ajjenks_: shows sassy side— Jenny Dell (@JennyDell_) April 28, 2013
She certainly can't do any worse when Bill Belichick tells her "we have to execute better in all phases of the game during the second half. "
If she can get Belichick to smile during a game all of this would have been worth it.
Just another reason why football season can't start soon enough.
Best of luck.
The OBF Column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
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