WEEI's Arnold discusses diminished role

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  February 16, 2011 11:07 AM

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Dale Arnold, the 20-year veteran of sports radio WEEI's airwaves, was the host most affected by the stunning shakeup yesterday that saw his current midday co-host, Michael Holley, land a higher-profile gig alongside Glenn Ordway on the station's afternoon drive program, "The Big Show."

Today, a few minutes after the 10 a.m. start of "The Dale and Holley Show," Arnold explained, graciously and with obvious disappointment in his voice, how he learned about the change, which goes into effect Feb. 28, and what his diminished role at the station will entail.

He did not confirm the Boston Herald's report that former Red Sox player Lou Merloni and current fill-in and weekend host Mike Mutnansky would take over the midday slot, though an announcement regarding the program's status is expected in the next day or two.

Arnold said that after hosting Monday's program with fill-in Kirk Minihane, program director Jason Wolfe asked to speak with him and told him that there would be some changes.

"The first was that Michael was going to become the permanent co-host of "The Big Show,'' would be moving into afternoon drive, and would be working full-time with Glenn Ordway," Arnold said. "I understood completely. I thought it was a brilliant move. I think Michael is one of the most talented people I've ever worked with . . . I think it's a great pairing, and I understood completely why they would want to do that."

"The question then became, what's going to happen to the midday show. I thought was they were going to say to me is that we're going to pair you with X. What they said was they wanted to revise my role here at sports radio, that I was not going to be doing middays going forward."

Arnold said he would be sliding into a jack-of-all trades role, which would include doing play by play on Celtics games when Sean Grande had college hockey commitments, filling in for Dave O'Brien 25-30 times this season on Red Sox broadcasts (O'Brien misses Wednesday games because of his ESPN commitment), serving as "the designated vacation fill-in host" for about 100 days a year, and hosting weekend program similar to its popular "NFL Sunday" show during Patriots season.

"The only part of the proposal that was palatable at all was that I'm going to be doing a bit more play by play," Arnold said. "Which truly is my first love anyway, play by play. It's the thing that I miss the most."

Arnold acknowledged regret that he gave up his role as NESN's play-by-play voice of the Bruins for home games after the 2007 season because of his commitment to WEEI. NESN wanted him to go on the road as well.

" When NESN asked me four years ago if I wanted to become the full-time play-by-play announcer for the Bruins, I fell back on my professional ethics and said that I was one-month into a new five-year deal at WEEI and couldn't do that to the people that employed me," Arnold said. "Hindsight is always 20/20. Now, I wish I had the job that Jack Edwards does such a great job at. I don't, he does, and he's great at it."

Arnold praised likely successors Merloni and Mutnansky, though also emphasizing his belief that he remains the most qualified person to host of the midday show.

"Based on what I read in the newspapers, Mike Mutnansky and Lou Merloni will take over the midday show. . . . I like both Mike Mutnansky and Lou Merloni. I think they're both professionals," Arnold said. "But I don't think the powers that be who made the decision here were right. What a shock, right? What a shock that I think I probably could have helped out in the middays here.

"They have offered me a role that at least to a small degree helps mitigate the disappointment that I feel in stepping away from doing this show day to day."

Arnold, who has been at WEEI since its inception on Sept. 1, 1991, praised his three permanent co-hosts over the years -- Eddie Andelman, Bob Neumeier, and Holley.

"The people who run the radio station want to give someone else another try at it," Arnold said. "This is their radio station. I just work here. The play-by-play portion of this is exciting for me. The loss of a more permanent talk show post is disappointing, because I loved this part of it as well."

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