Tonight, after having watched several playoff games that, for the first time in two years, I don't care about, I feel the need to share some observations with you after this relatively new experience.
Basically? You just, flat out suck at baseball. I've been over this before, but I can see now that the problem is even worse than I thought.
This year, the ALCS broadcast is subjecting its audience to the broadcast tag team from hell: Tim McCarver, and Lou Piniella.
Equally useless in terms of actual commentary, the two doddering old has-beens slump in their used car salesman suits and mutter inanities until I begin to wonder what sin I committed in a past life to be sitting here, right now, listening to this.
And guys? I like baseball. I like baseball and I know what's going on--unlike your average American who long since abandoned MLB for the NFL, I need little coaxing to watch a game.
That average American, meanwhile, needs baseball to be sold to him properly--he or she needs incentive to sit through nine innings, even in the playoffs, and if I have to sit here, grit my teeth and perhaps think of something else for a minute to keep watching, I can only imagine that this average viewer, suddenly encountering baseball on national television on a weeknight, has already changed the channel so fast it'd make your head spin. Not because the game's not interesting--because there is no one on earth who wants to listen to Tim McCarver. No matter what he's talking about.
Baseball's going the way of hockey, especially among people in my age group nationwide. It has been saddled in this country with a reputation as a dry, dusty, boring game, a game for old people--one big, multi-billion-dollar irrelevancy. And when you put two guys in the booth who gaze vacuously through bifocals and speak gibberish as if they've just been woken from a nice nap, you're helping that image every step of the way.
If your other analysts know much of anything about baseball, meanwhile, they sure don't let on--they almost never offer useful information to the viewers, which is surprising, considering that's their whole job. Example? In the bottom of the second inning of Game 1 of the NLCS tonight, the Cardinals put on a suicide squeeze.
Being a Boston Red Sox fan, I had never seen such a thing. I would have killed for Jerry Remy in the booth right then, to explain the strategies on both sides in enacting such a play, but instead, Thom Brennaman and Steve Lyons seemed engrossed in a contest to determine who could sound dumber talking about Game 5 of the NLDS between Atlanta and the Astros. A game worth revisiting, sure, in the pregame report, or, at the very least, between pitches with the bases empty. But just after an incredible small-ball play by what looks to be a well-oiled juggernaut of a Cardinals baseball team? WTF?
Meanwhile, your average person, tuning in out of curiosity (which is exactly the demographic FOX, and baseball, need so desperately to keep), thinks to themselves, what's a squeeze? What just happened? When there is no explanation, bing. Channel changed again, and America's former pastime takes another slide down the tubes.
The one time your commentators do explain anything whatsover, it's in the most insulting manner possible: a cartoon character named Scooter, whom I can only imagine tested well only with under-60-IQ market segment.
Know what Scooter does (besides annoy the living crap out of me)? It makes that average person feel stupid for wanting an explanation. It says, if you're needing to know the difference between a curveball and a cutter, you're obviously either a very small child or an idiotic adult. Not a perfectly smart person who has avoided baseball or who has never been exposed to it for several very good reasons, much of it having to do with intelligence-insulting dreck like Scooter being within 50 miles of the production studio.
Just explain the difference--in 50 words or less, none of which, Tim McCarver, should include "The Yankees", "Joe Torre", "Derek Jeter", or "calm eyes"--and if you need a visual representation, show the path of the ball in time-lapse video. I know you can do it. I've seen it before. Barring that, draw something with the light pen. Anything but Scooter. No one likes Scooter. I promise you. I bet you a million gazillion dollars.
Here's another thing: nobody but your commentators really gives a crap about the managers, or what they're thinking, or if one of them is picking his nose. Nor do they really give a crap about Roger Clemens' mom or how Andy Pettitte used to be with the Yankees or what Orlando Cabrera did with the Red Sox.
This is where, once again, Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy broadcast circles around any of your guys (whom I'm sure are paid circles around them): they mostly talk about what the players are doing on the field. Numbers in this series, sure, but they actually tell you what the batter is trying to do in this very at-bat, and not a Tim-McCarver truism, but something that's actually interesting. Like, "he's thinking opposite field here..." Or, "[Pitcher's] fastball location has been a bit shaky so far, and he's been leaning on his other pitches, but facing [batter], he may be caught in a tough spot. He needs to be careful not to go [part of the strike zone] to [batter]."
Instead...we get remarks like Tim McCarver's observation during last year's World Series Game 2 that Curt Schilling's sock's bloodstain was "in the exact shape of Oklahoma," or tonight's factoid from one of the announcers on tonight's NLCS game that "players use black bats because they're harder to see at night," both of which frankly make me want to scrub out my frontal lobe with steel wool. Worse, that useless prattling never lets up until the commercial break.
This is the real crux of the matter, the ultimate thing that sticks in my craw: not only do your commentators have nothing to say, but they use a glut of words to let us know that. Shutting the hell up is allowed sometimes, you know. A couple seconds of silence will actually probably do more to keep your audience watching than further verbal diarrhea from your announcers.
Once again, studying videotape of the Rem-Dawg and Orsillo might help. You may notice long stretches of five to ten seconds (an eon in TV time) pass without them saying anything at all. And yet, the world continues to turn.
I'm trying to be helpful here, FOX. I might even considering giving up Remy and Orsillo to the national circuit, if only because NESN has a proven track record of hiring broadcasters I can stand to watch, and have more of a likelihood of adequately replacing them than you have of finding broadcasters who know their asses from a hole in the ground on your own.
Really, I'm that desperate. Who can I talk to about this? Help me, FOX. Help me...help you.
P.S. Dear Sports Illustrated,
The Colts? They suck. No, listen, and don't interrupt. The Colts suck. They have always sucked, and they will always suck. They are 5-0 thanks to one of the cushiest opening schedules in the NFL--their first 6 opponents, the Ravens, Jaguars, Browns, Titans and Rams, averaged 6 wins last year--and if they end up in the Super Bowl this year, I will personally eat all your back issues. That's right--every single one of them. Bring 'em in on a forklift. I'm not kidding.
P.P.S. Dear Improper Bostonian,