He is the Rem Dawg. He is the President of Red Sox Nation. He is the man behind the success of Wally the Green Monster, the official mascot of the Boston Red Sox. He owns restaurants named after him. Not bad for a former player who had seven career home runs in ten major league seasons.
Unfortunately, this same person is also the father of a real life monster, Jared Remy.
On Monday, Jerry Remy announced he will be returning to the NESN booth to broadcast Boston Red Sox games. It will be his 27th season broadcasting Red Sox games. It will also be the most difficult season of his broadcasting career.
On August 15, 2013, Jared allegedly stabbed to death the 27-year-old mother of his then four-year-old daughter. I feel obligated to say "allegedly," but there appears to be little doubt Jared committed the crime. A neighbor tried to pry the steroid-enhanced freak off Jennifer Martel. Jared, covered with his victim's blood, was arrested at the scene.
As his father, Jerry, said about the case on Monday, "It's pretty clear what's going to happen."
It's impossible not to feel bad for Jerry Remy. Any parent can relate. It's a parent's worst nightmare. It may even be worse than having your own child die. It brings shame to your family name. How do you live with knowing a child you brought into this world took away the life of another person? Killed some other parents' daughter? Killed the mother of a young little girl-- your own grandchild?
Your own son may not have died, but, for all intensive purposes, he is dead to society. There will be no more Thanksgiving dinners. There will be no more sitting together in front of the TV, downing a beer, watching a Patriots game. There will be no more exchanging birthday gifts, no more birthday cakes. Those birthday candles have been extinguished forever.
No matter how you raise your child, there is no guarantee how they will turn out as adults. Push too hard-- they may rebel. Be too lenient and inattentive-- they may get involved with the wrong crowd. Pamper and coddle them too much-- you may be enabling them.
It would be difficult for any parent to deal with a tragedy like what happened on August 15, nevermind someone who has battled depression issues in the past like Jerry. Remy missed a large portion of the 2009 season dealing with a variety of health issues, including a battle with lung cancer.
In an interview on WEEI's "Dennis and Callahan Show," an emotional Jerry Remy said the decision to return to the booth in 2014 "did not come easy." He said it took a lot of convincing from friends and family to get him to return.
Remy admitted that he has been living as a recluse for the last five and a half months. He has spent days and nights asking the obvious questions. What could he have done differently? Could he have been there more for his son? Did he get him enough help? Did he enable him in some way?
In the D&C interview, Remy said about spending days, weeks, months asking himself these questions, "It drives me crazy."
He goes on to reflect about Jared: "There were steroids involved. He had learning issues as a kid which developed into self confidence issues." But Remy wasn't making excuses.
If parenting was an issue, Remy said Jared's mother is not to blame: "If you want to call someone a bad parent, address it to me." It is a heart-wrenching interview to listen to.
Even all these months later, the pain is still evident in Remy's voice. "Anybody who will tell you that as time goes on things get better are full of baloney." One's heart can't help but ache for Jerry.
At the same time, one's heart cannot help but ache for the Martel family. Jerry, to no one's surprise, has been very deferential to the victim and her family. "She was a very caring, very loving woman."
For all these reasons, Jerry says "the decision (to return to NESN) did not come easy."
But is it the right decision?
I am torn. And for that very reason I have come to believe Jerry Remy should not return to the NESN booth. It pains me to write that. I, like may countless others, have enjoyed the repartee between Don Orsillo and the Rem Dawg. I have laughed at the air guitars. I have chuckled at the stories of what Remy has packed in his luggage. I have grinned at Remy poking fun at Orsillo.
For several years now I have had the MLB Extra Innings package which allows me to view every major league baseball game during the season. I have listened to every other broadcast team. In my unbiased opinion, there is no other broadcast team out there like Orsillo and Remy. Some try to duplicate their chemistry, but no one has come close.
Now, sadly, I don't believe it is possible for Orsillo and Remy to duplicate what they once had. It will be too awkward and uncomfortable. I feel Orsillo will be walking on eggshells. He won't be able to be himself. I, as a viewer, will cringe if Orsillo ever slips up and says something like, "The Red Sox are killing the Yankees tonight."
I understand all the arguments why Jerry Remy should return. He wasn't the one who murdered somebody in cold blood. He did nothing wrong. Jerry has every right to continue to earn a living and support his family.
The problem is that he is in the public eye. He represents the Red Sox brand. Many teams become identifiable with their broadcasters. When I think of listening to Yankees games, I think of Phil Rizzuto. When I think of listening to Dodgers games, I think Vin Scully. Cubs? Harry Carey. Cardinals? Jack Buck.
For me when I think of listening to the Red Sox, I think of the great Ned Martin, first and foremost. Then I think of Ken Coleman and Joe Castiglione. To the younger generation, they think Jerry Remy. For many, Remy is the only TV color analyst they've ever known.
It will be difficult, as a viewer and a baseball aficionado, to not be distracted by Remy's presence. Baseball is an escape for many of us. It is a time for the analytical part of our brains and conscience to shut down temporarily. Sports should be pleasurable. Sports should be fun.
It may not happen the whole time I listen to Remy. It might subside over time. But the time will come during a broadcast that I will think that the son of this person killed an innocent woman. Will it be once, twice, or more times during the broadcast? I don't know. I do suspect it will happen, though. It may be when Remy is laughing with Orsillo about something that happened in the hotel lobby. It might be when Remy is talking to the Red Sox young female dugout reporter, Jenny Dell. It may be when Orsillo and Remy are discussing some news story.
Jerry Remy said that taking a year off from broadcasting was never an option. He was either going to return this season, or he wasn't going to return at all. Jared's trial is scheduled for October-- at a time when fans hope the Red Sox will be playing in the playoffs. How will Jerry hold up over the long summer months as the trial date approaches?
I know it is unfair. Just like it was unfair for Jimmy Carter to be ridiculed during his presidency for the actions of his brother, Billy. Similarly, how many times have we seen other politicians, or celebrities, hurt by the actions of their family members or acquaintances.
Again, it's not fair. I feel bad for Jerry Remy and what his family is going through and will continue to go through for the rest of their lives. I feel worse, however, for the family of Jennifer Martel and the little daughter who will never know her mother. Some things are just more important than sports.