If it’s not the ump, it’s the announcers. If it’s not the announcers, it’s the managers.
More than the Supreme Court — more than even marriage — baseball has been built on the sort of high-pitched debate that scares the cats. For the game of baseball to be any more personal, you’d have to wear it as an undergarment.
Add to this the 24-hour-a-day melee that is known as social media — Twitter puts any baseball brawl to shame — and a toxic political environment where all sense of civility seems to be lost.
Into this troubled American milieu, I give you the Fox TV coverage of the current World Series. Oh, what a spectacle it should be. Cue Grantland Rice. Revive Murray.
On one side, the apple-cheeked fans of Boston, bundled and beery. They look like October. Heck, they look like they’re about to go Christmas shopping.
In the other corner, the blue bloods of the West Coast, perpetually tan and so often late. Not this weekend. The Series is coming here now, for a three-night trifecta starting Friday, and I predict serious consequences.
Guess what, the announcers don’t like the Dodgers. Breaking news: Network announcers never like L.A. teams.
“Smoltz and Buck should have to wear Red Sox hats if they are going to so openly root for for them….” said one typical tweet, referring to play-by-play guy Joe Buck and analyst John Smoltz.
This may be something to which we must get accustomed. Think of how you regard the New York teams, then extrapolate that to us. In the nation’s eyes, we are the big, blue, blusterous Dodgers. We step on people’s ankles. We swing for the fences. We have a lot of fun.
This offends many people, and I have grown numb to it. You should too.
I am more troubled by the wall-to-wall jabbering from Buck and Smoltz. Just as managers over-manage big games, announcers over-announce. Poor Dodger fans. They are unaccustomed to televised baseball in the first place, then they have Buck and Smoltz yammering on about this or that stupid stat.
Boys, take a breath already.
Baseball telecasts have become like math class. The broadcasters barely utter a sentence without a number in it. The geekification of a once-grand sport seems complete.
This may be reflected in the early ratings. Two of the game’s top franchises squaring off should generate epic viewership. Instead, the total audience in Game 1 was down 8% over last year, when one of the teams was from (gasp) Houston.
But a bigger beef, more annoying than the favoritism and the constant chatter, is that playoff announcers don’t allow for their expanded audience.
For once, they have a chance to reel in the folks who don’t follow baseball religiously. Instead of broadening the strike zone, the telecasts become even more “inside baseball.”
In fact, if you mention “expanding the strike zone,” explain what that means. And leave alone the agonizing explanations of two-seam vs. four-seam fastballs or whether the Dodgers have enough lefties in the pen.
No one cares, other than the stat geeks who are already ruining baseball. Let them suffer.
I’ve been following baseball for 55 years, and I don’t understand half the stuff they’re talking about, nor do I care. Imagine how the casual fan feels. Waiter, bring me a glossary.
At least one of the four Fox announcers should not be allowed to utter a single stat. I nominate Tom Verducci, the John Updike of baseball writers. In his writing, he shows more soul than a country pastor.
So turn Verducci loose in the stands. I want texture. I want the vendor shouting “Bee-year heeeeeeere!” I want to talk to the guy putting up the numbers in the scoreboard to find out what he does during the rest of his day.
I want to know who this elk in left field is, this Andrew Benintendi, and what his daddy did for a living. I want to know how Mookie Betts got his glorious first name. Other fans are probably equally perplexed about Yasiel Puig.
Look, I am troubled by a lot of things in these telecasts, including those quick commercials during live action. In the industry, they are sometimes dubbed “in-game ad insertions,” which are as painful as they sound, and not covered by most medical plans.
I am also troubled by all the commercials featuring babies and bearded hipster dads, a troubling new genre that might signal the end of our species, I don’t know. But they could.
Mostly, I am troubled by broadcast teams that treat our finest sport like some sort of accounting exercise.
Unlike many, I like Buck and Smoltz, respect their knowledge, appreciate the difficulty of what they do.
I just want more poetry and less numbers. Did we learn nothing from Vin Scully? Oh where is Vin Scully when you need him?