Being fired

It is the summer of being fired.  The man who made the phrase “you’re fired!” was fired from a bunch of stuff:  The Apprentice, Macy’s, NBC, and the list goes on.  But Donald Trump has not been fired by the Republican Party.  There is a way to go before the first caucuses and primaries so there is time, but as long as he stays at 25% of the Republican vote it will be hard to fire him as a candidate.

But there was another Don fired this summer in Boston.  Don Orsillo, the Red Sox television play-by-play announcer.  The public announcement was made in a very ungracious way by NESN and the Red Sox brass while Don was on the air.  We can only suppose that he had been told in advance.  Chad Finn wrote in his column for Boston.com

We’re veteran bickerers and dedicated cynics around here – hell, it’s why two sports radio stations are not just sustainable but successful in Boston. We can’t get a consensus on which glove Hanley Ramirez should take to work each day, and yet the support for Orsillo is overwhelming. It says something about the man, I think. It’s a remarkable tribute.

The genesis of the consensus and the disappointment is fundamental. You feel like you’ve lost a friend.

Orsillo has been a television voice of the Red Sox since 2001 and the sole TV voice since 2005, when the excellent Sean McDonough’s tenurecalling the team’s games met a similarly graceless end.

To add the icing to the not so edible cake was the lack of comment from the Red Sox management.  When Tom Werner finally spoke he basically said nothing.  Steve Buckley wrote in the Boston Herald

It was going to be impossible for the Red Sox and NESN to move the popular and talented Don Orsillo out of the television booth without there being a major public outcry.

Still, the situation could have been handled better — with better timing and a whole lot more candor. But the news of Orsillo’s ouster was leaked out, as often happens in these cases, and then Red Sox/NESN management got quiet instead of getting out in front of the story.

Which brings us to the question of the day: Why, exactly, is Orsillo being replaced?

The answer, in the opinion of Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and NESN president/CEO Sean McGrail, is that they believe Dave O’Brien, currently the play-by-play man on the radio side, will be an upgrade.

Don Orsillo

Don Orsillo

I listen to the radio quite a bit and, yes, Dave O’Brien is good.  But the combination of Orsillo and Jerry Remy is what I call entertainment.  I don’t want to debate the merits of various play-by-play announcers, but to pay tribute to Don Orsillo.

Don Orsillo has stayed on the air without betraying any of the bitterness he has a right to feel.  Unlike the Red Sox owners, he is a consummate professional.  He will land on his feet somewhere and that will be Boston’s loss.  I wish him well.

 

Blaming the victim – and the family

Last August in a Boston suburb, a man stabbed his girlfriend to death in front of their child and other witnesses.  This is an all too familiar occurrence all over the country, all over the world.  What made this especially big news in Boston was that the perpetrator is the son of a former Red Sox second baseman and long time television commentator, Jerry Remy.

Yesterday the son, Jared Remy, pled guilty to first degree murder.  According to the Boston Globe story reported by Eric Moskowitz

Remy’s admission means he will spend life in state prison without the possibility of parole. His plea, entered before Middlesex Superior Court Judge Kathe Tuttman, spares friends and family of Martel and Remy the added anguish of a protracted trial and the airing of even more gruesome details. It also means Remy will forgo what the judge called his possible “partial defense” of anxiety, depression, and steroid and prescription drug use.

“I would like to say, ‘Blame me for this, not my family,’ ” said Remy, the 35-year-old son of Jerry Remy, the celebrated Red Sox infielder-turned-broadcaster.

Rising to speak in handcuffs, Jared Remy delivered in a gravelly voice a two-minute statement in which he called himself a “bad apple” and imagined Martel watching over their daughter from heaven while playing with the couple’s late chihuahua, Buddy.

Though he said he wanted to “take responsibility for what I have done,” he also put some blame on Martel and on his “love for drugs.”

In another part of the proceeding, Remy clearly blamed Jennifer Martel for her own death.

When the prosecutor finished, the judge asked Remy if he understood and admitted to all those facts. “Yes, I do,” he said, before protesting one point. “She had a knife in her hand, and she was threatening me about my daughter,” he said. Authorities have never indicated they had evidence suggesting Martel had a knife.

Yvonne Abraham wrote in her Boston Globe column today

What a bizarre mix of contrition and blame-shifting we saw in Middlesex Superior Court Tuesday. What a spectacle of the depths to which people can sink. What a vividly detailed map of the wasteland brutality leaves behind.

Standing in that low-ceilinged, fluorescent lit courtroom, Jared Remy called Jennifer Martel, the woman he murdered with gruesome force at least partly witnessed by their 4-year-old daughter, “an angel.”

He’s the one at fault for killing her, he said. No share of the blame should go to his parents, who his lawyer said had been unfairly maligned, held partly responsible by some for not doing more to rein in a violent son who had been spiralling blatantly out of control for years.

For a man surrendering to fate, he was maddeningly defiant. He said he murdered Martel after she picked up a knife and violated a clear rule he said he had set.

“I always told Jen she could leave,” he said. “But do not threaten me with my child. That night, Jen had a knife in her hand and threatened me with my daughter, so I killed her. I don’t think it’s right when women use their kids against their fathers.”

Abusers have rules.  We’ve heard about Jared Remy’s need to control Martel just as we’ve heard it countless times about other abusers.  It is one of the primary signs of abuse.  Unfortunately, many women just think it is a sign of “masterfulness” as if we were  living in a novel set Victorian England where women were still property.  Jennifer Martel broke one of Jared Remy’s rules so she had to die.

Jennifer Martel and Arianna Remy

Jennifer Martel and Arianna Remy

 

But there is also the question of the blame which some think rests on father, Jerry Remy’s, shoulders.  Margery Egan wrote this morning another in a series of columns she has written on the subject  in the Boston Herald.

Jared Remy has spared his daughter Arianna and Jennifer Martel’s family the anguish of a gruesome trial. He has also spared his father Jerry and helped him keep his job behind the NESN microphone broadcasting Red Sox games.

Sox fans are clearly divided over whether the sins of the son should be visited upon the father. But they might feel differently about Jerry Remy’s lighthearted banter if they heard Martel’s murder described in stomach-churning testimony by neighbor Kristina Flickinger Hill.

Hill watched Jennifer Martel crawl across her patio pleading for help. Hill paid for her funeral. And she repeatedly said Phoebe Remy texted Martel the day before the killing begging her not to pursue criminal charges against Jared.

I don’t think anyone disputes the fact that the Remys tried to help their son and to help the mother of their grandchild.  It is a matter of record that two of their other children have also had legal problems.  I have read that the Jerry Remy persona we see on TV is very much at odds with who he is in private.  From things said during broadcasts, I believe he is a loner who has suffered from depression as after his bout with lung cancer. He probably was not an easy parent.

According to Egan and at least one woman who called into the radio show Boston Public Radio yesterday, the Red Sox broadcasts are taking a hit because women in particular, don’t want to hear Jerry.  I personally think they are taking a hit because the Red Sox can’t seem to win and it is painful to watch, but I digress.

Egan continues

No one is blaming Jerry and Phoebe Remy for murder. What I’ve blamed them for is enabling their son to evade responsibility for brutalizing five girlfriends over 18 years. And when I’ve written that Jerry should quit his NESN job, it wasn’t about taking away his right to make a living. It was about facing the tragic reality that his jokes in the Red Sox broadcast booth just don’t work anymore.

Let’s be honest. The enduring loyalty to Jerry Remy in this town is about the double standard enjoyed by beloved sports figures and, to a lesser degree, by fathers.

Jerry’s defenders say he did all he could for his son. I don’t think many would say that if it were Phoebe Remy’s career on the line. If a mother spent thousands of days on the road while all three of her children were having run-ins with the law, they’d say she abandoned her children, cruelly and selfishly, when they needed her most. She’d also lose her job in a nanosecond.

There is a lot to think about here.  The image of an admitted killer still blaming his victim.  A famous father with a job that puts him in the public eye almost every night during the baseball season.  A broadcaster who has built his reputation not only on shrewd analysis but his ability to poke fun at himself, the team and his broadcast partner.  I don’t blame him for his son, and Margery may well be right about the sexism that allows him to keep his job, but for me it was just weird to hear him before Jared pled guilty and now that he has it will just be painful to hear Jerry.

Photograph from BostonHerald.com

 

The burden of domestic violence

The news hit Boston like a bombshell:  Jerry Remy‘s son was arrested for murder.  Jerry Remy is the former Red Sox second baseman and long time Sox television commentator.  He is the President of Red Sox Nation.  We have seen him through cancer, depression and a recent reoccurrence – a minor one he told us.  When he is not broadcasting games, we miss him.  So hearing that Jared Remy had been involved in a domestic violence incident that resulted in the stabbing to death of his girlfriend and mother of his child was shocking.

All the facts are not in, but there was a violent incident two days before that resulted in injury and a court appearance for Jared Remy the next day.  Jennifer Martel, for reasons that we really don’t know, did not appear to ask for a retraining order and, even though Massachusetts law allows for it, the district attorney did not request one.  Jared Remy has a history of violence.  A little over 24 hours later, Martel was dead.  She had been stabbed to death on the patio of their home.  Some neighbors tried to intervene and one of them was also injured.

The DA and the state attorney general are both investigating and looking into changes that might prevent similar incidents in the future.

Everyone is wondering why Martel didn’t just leave, but the question I want to ask is why is it always the woman who has to leave?  I’ve been on task forces, on the board of the Richmond, VA. YWCA, and executive director of a women’s commission.  I have supported shelters and hot line and assisted women to leave home and go to a safe place.  I ran a Clothesline Project.  Everyone in the field knows that the most dangerous time for a woman is when she is getting ready to leave her abuser, but we still expect her to be the one who leaves.  When there are school aged children, they are often put in different schools.  The woman is separated often separated from her friends and support system and so are the children.  She bears the burden, not her abuser.  (And yes, men can also be abused.  Gays and lesbians can abuse their partners and spouses.  But the vast majority of those suffering abuse are women.)  Martel’s family says she was also making plans to leave.

Friends and relatives said Martel, 27, an aspiring teacher who worked at a nearby Market Basket to provide for her daughter, had been trying to extricate herself from what she told them had become an abusive relationship with Remy, the son of famed Boston Red Sox player and broadcaster Jerry Remy.

“I talked to her on Wednesday; she said she was planning her escape,” said Patty Martel, who on Friday was driving from her home in Virginia to Massachusetts. “It started off she was very happy with him, but, as time went on, he showed his true colors, and it got worse and worse.”

Right after the murder of Jennifer Martel, I read a story in the New York Times about a new kind of law.  If someone makes too many calls to 911, the law can require the landlord to evict.

The police had warned Lakisha Briggs: one more altercation at her rented row house here, one more call to 911, and they would force her landlord to evict her.

They could do so under the town’s “nuisance property” ordinance, a law intended to protect neighborhoods from seriously disruptive households. Officials can invoke the measure and pressure landlords to act if the police have been called to a rental home three times within four months.

So she faced a fearful dilemma, Ms. Briggs recalled, when her volatile boyfriend showed up last summer, fresh out of a jail stint for their previous fight, and demanded to move in.

“I had no choice but to let him stay,” said Ms. Briggs, 34, a certified nursing assistant, even though, she said in an interview, she worried about the safety of her 3-year-old daughter as well as her own.

“If I called the police to get him out of my house, I’d get evicted,” she said. “If I physically tried to remove him, somebody would call 911 and I’d be evicted.”

This may be an unintended consequence of a law designed to help landlords with squatter and drug dealers, but the burden often falls on women who are victims of domestic violence.

“These laws threaten citizens’ fundamental right to call on the police for help,” said Matthew Desmond, a sociologist at Harvard.

In a study of citations issued to landlords in Milwaukee, conducted with Nicol Valdez of Columbia University, Mr. Desmond found that domestic violence was involved in nearly one-third of the cases and that rentals in largely black areas were disproportionately singled out.

Legal experts say the laws can give tenants the lasting stain of an eviction record without due process.

In a federal lawsuit being watched by legal aid groups elsewhere, Ms. Briggs has challenged the Norristown ordinance as unconstitutional.

She did so after her fears were realized.

In June 2012, days after her ex-boyfriend, Wilbert Bennett, moved into her house in this struggling town northwest of Philadelphia, he started another drunken, late-night argument. Then came his most violent attack yet: an assault with a broken ashtray that left a gash on her head and a four-inch stab wound in her neck.

Before she passed out, Ms. Briggs begged her neighbor not to call 911 because of the eviction threat, according to the suit, which is being argued by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The neighbor called anyway. Ms. Briggs was taken by helicopter to Philadelphia for emergency treatment. Mr. Bennett is now serving a sentence of one to two years for aggravated assault.

The town says she never got a restraining order.  What if she had gotten one when the boyfriend got out of jail?  In all likelihood he would have come around anyway and she would have had to call 911.

I don’t pretend to know what the answer is, but we need to figure out how to deal with men like Wilbert Bennett and Jared Remy.  Putting them in jail is not the entire answer.  That may well work for a while, but they will get out and often turn up again.   There are a few programs for men, but they are very few.  Some prisons have anger management classes which may work for some.  But as long as we continue to think of ending the abuse as the woman’s responsibility, we will never think of any new solutions.

A death from domestic violence leaves families shattered and children anchorless and what happened with Jennifer Martel and Jared Remy is not an exception.