By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Boston – Boston sports anchor Tom Caron speaks fondly of his now longtime employers at the New England Sports Network (NESN).
That’s because, to him, they aren’t just a TV station, but, rather, a lifeline to die-hard working-class Boston sports fans too far from the city to regularly see games in person.
“It’s a very unique region because there are not really other places like this where you have five and a half states all rooting for the same teams,” he said of the broader New England sports scene in a recent interview. “That’s really cool.”
Roots as a New England sports fan in Maine
Caron grew up in Lewiston, Maine. A small city, Lewiston sits roughly halfway between Portland and the state capital of Augusta. The community is set back from the coast but remains closely connected to the old shipbuilding hub that is the town of Bath.
Caron’s father was a blue-collar man and a World War II veteran who worked in one of those shipyards and came home nightly to a house seemingly transplanted from downtown 1980s Boston.
“He was a huge sports fan, and we all grew up in my household with the Red Sox on [TV] every night and football games on [TV on] the weekend,” Caron said of his father. “It was really cool growing up in that environment.”
As much time as they spent watching games, though, Caron says it wasn’t always easy to follow Boston sports on a day to day basis, especially before NESN launched.
Even today, furthermore, Caron says he sees a stark difference in the availability of TV news coverage of Boston teams outside of the 495 corridor, compared to the coverage seen within the immediate Boston metro area.
That, again, is where NESN comes in.
NESN, then and now
Caron graduated from college and then spent a few years bouncing between TV stations in New York, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. He covered minor leagues across all his reporting gigs. In New York, he often then headed south to also cover more obscure sports like luge at the old Lake Placid Olympic Park. For a time, finally, he headed north to broadcast Montreal Expos baseball back to American audiences.
In 1996, though, he finally landed a job in Boston, joining the then upstart NESN team just over 11 years after that company’s founding.
At the time, the station had just over 40 employees and still worked out of a converted parking garage near Fenway Park. This was Caron’s dream come true.
“I was going to Fenway Park every day to work,” he said. “I’d think, ‘The fact that I’m sitting here doing pregame and postgame shows with Jim Rice or Dennis Eckersley…how cool is that?’”
A lifelong fan, Caron says he remains blown away by his vaulted place in the Boston sports world.
Rice, a Hall of Fame slugger who played his entire career with the Red Sox, calls Caron throughout each winter to compare notes on new crops of baseball talent.
Then there’s Eckersley, another Hall of Fame player who pitched his way into baseball history through the 1980s and 90s as one of the most successful relief pitchers to ever take the mound.
These relationships, Caron says, pass on content to viewers.
“That’s what makes the show work,” he said. “It’s the reporter and the fan dynamic [between me and those guys.] A lot of times, they’re so in the weeds in breaking things down from their experience as a pitcher or hitter, I’m the one trying to keep it focused on what people are going to talk about tomorrow morning.”
Sharing love of all sports with fans across New England
Now 40 years removed from those childhood days back in Maine, Tom Caron relishes his chance to share Boston sports with people across New England.
He praises NESN leadership and touts his own network as one of the premier regional sports channels in the country.
Likewise, he’s looking forward to the future.
Caron enjoys covering college hockey, serving as a play-by-play announcer for the Beanpot tournament each spring.
Saturated with big league success, he says, Boston often ignores those college teams.
“I love helping shine a light on those teams and sports that don’t get enough attention,” he said.
As colleges push forward, big-league teams, he acknowledged, do have work to do following disappointing performances in pandemic shortened seasons this year.
Finally, though, he says he’s also looking south to Gillette Stadium and the New England Revolution. Long a supporter of professional soccer in New England, Caron says he’s excited to see New England’s major league team suddenly in contention for a league title that could offer new fame in a sports market that has historically ignored them.
“Over the last five or seven years, Major League Soccer (MLS) has really found its footing here in the US,” he said.
The ongoing pandemic means many things are uncertain. But having had his part in nearly three decades of local media and sports histories alike, Caron says he’s grateful for it all.
“It’s just been amazing to be along for the ride,” he explains.