On Heidi

Heidi Watney - Oct. 2, 2010

Oct. 2, 2010 - Playing out the string against the Yankees. (Julie Couture photo)

In the pantheon of Heidi Watney photos available on the Internet, this has to be one of the worst. And yet, it is the one I think of as she departs for her native California, her inevitable and long-discussed departure somehow making the Red Sox fallout hurt all over again.

Last summer, Julie won an incredible package in a charity auction: two field-box seats for a Red Sox-Yankees game during the final series of the regular season, limo transportation to and from the game, and $200. She was downright giddy. Of course, the Red Sox spent the last three months of the season treading water, rendering the game largely meaningless. Then, the day of said game, it poured.

Julie and her running buddy Dione ended up taking the limo up to the city anyway. Based on photos, it looks like they went to dinner. Also, this happened:

Julie, to the unaware, is one of the few people in the Commonwealth whiter than me.

The game got rescheduled as the back end of a double-header the next night, with Boston’s starting lineup literally featuring all of the following players: Eric Patterson, Felipe Lopez, Lars Anderson, Daniel Nava, Yamaico Navarro and Kevin Cash. Still, she had sweet seats right behind the Yankee dugout, and the lack of a crowd meant she could move around.

About midway through the game, Julie decided to start snapping photos of Watney, who was stationed in the nearby camera well. (I may have expressed some fondness for Heidi through the years that led to this photography attempt, but that’s neither here nor there.) There’s three photos from the exercise: one’s the top half of Watney’s head staring out at the field, the second is Watney starting to turn toward Julie and the third is the above.

“She caught me,” Julie said later. She’d been trying to surreptitiously snap some shots, only to have Heidi notice and basically say, “well, if you’re going to take my picture on this crappy night, the least I can do is smile for it.”

I really shouldn’t be as impressed with this as I am, given Watney’s history as a beauty queen. And yet, I am. It’s just such a nice little gesture that I have no doubt she did hundreds of times in her stretch with NESN, and fits completely with everything I ever witnessed. For the first three of Watney’s four years covering the Red Sox, I was still full-time on the beat for the S-T. (“Full-time” being a very relative term.) At no point did I ever see her be anything but genuinely gracious and approachable and nice. To everybody.

Given how easy (and consequence free) it would have been to not be, that says something pretty good about her.

For what it’s worth, Heidi and I may have spoken twice during those four years, and it was in the most basic of forms. This should surprise no one who knows me, since I’m frequently unable to handle even basic social situations with people I know, never mind ones with sharp-dressed beauty queens whom I may have referred to as “the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in person.” Watney responded to a tweet I wrote once and I almost blacked out.

Perhaps this simply amazes me because I’m not pretty people, meaning I look upon their world with slack-jawed amazement (when the brightness doesn’t force me to avert my eyes). But I can’t even count the number of times I recall people shouting stuff at her of various taste levels, or taking her picture from afar, or taking a dozen pictures of her while she waited outside the clubhouse trying to work. It made me uncomfortable, and I’m sure I was only seeing a sliver of the worst of it.

To say nothing about her being romantically linked with basically every member of the organization at one time or another. (Something Watney probably didn’t help when she appeared about town with utility man Nick Green a couple years back, and something — if the most persistent rumor is true — that punches a bit of a hole in my thesis about her being a thoroughly decent person.) I’m sure, just that I didn’t see the worst, that she didn’t handle it all with aplomb.

But she did more than a lot of people probably deserved. And you know, she did make an effort to do her job well, though that requires a qualification. This past season, you could basically be guaranteed that almost every Red Sox broadcast would feature Heidi Watney talking to the opposing team’s pitching coach and/or manager, Heidi Watney finishing every one of her reports by kicking it back up to the booth with a flat “Don,” and Heidi Watney eating some sort of ridiculous ballpark concession. (OK, the last was more of a once-per-series thing.) She was not, on the whole, going to tell a reasonably informed New England baseball fan something they didn’t know.

Just bear in mind we’re talking about someone who, in her first days on the job, asked Terry Francona about “double balls” when she was trying to ask about “double-play balls.” Her job was to not ruin and occasionally enhance the broadcast. Unless you’re a real stick in the mud, we can agree she absolutely did that, and she heads to the Lakers sidelines or whatever she’ll be doing in L.A. infinitely more qualified than she was when she got here.

Life will certainly go on without her for the same reason that NESN continues to exist at all: They have the Red Sox and Bruins games. No matter who they staff or what strange coverage decisions they make or what awful show they put on to fill time, if you want to watch the games, they’re the only place to turn. The Internet is already rife with articles pondering possible replacements, if only because it’s a good excuse to post cheesecake shots of other beauty queens*. I would do that if I was any good at the Internet.

But since I’m not, I’m simply close with this: Heidi, fare thee well. You were overwhelmingly decent in everything that entails, and you made my wife smile. I could not reasonably ask for anything more.

* — The past couple days, I’ve started to become more aware of the fact that TV stations sure do hire an awful lot of beauty pageant girls for on-air jobs. Not that I’ve ever not known, it’s just one of those things that’s come up a couple times of late, most recently in the case of Jackie Bruno. She’s working at the NBC affiliate that used to employ the Mrs., and I ended up on her Twitter page (which includes a rundown of her pageant history) after the beloved Falcons tweeted about Bruno covering one of their games.

I’ve seen Jackie anchor the news a handful of times when I’ve been home, and could never place why she looked familiar. Well, that triggered it … she’s a SouthCoaster and a BU alum, and the S-T’s full-court press coverage of her through the years led to a blog post on Aug. 12, 2003. (It’s about three-quarters of the way down the page. Along the way, you’ll pass the Kelly Osbourne photo and caption that I think of absolutely any time I see Kelly Osbourne.)

If I only could get this place back to the magic of something like semi-live blogging the Miss Teen USA pageant.