Thursday, July 31, 2008

TBG's Sounds of Summer – Introduction

Growing up in the 1980s as an Oakland A's fan – and living in Southern California –meant that the only times I could see my team were:

1.) On KTLA Channel 5 when they played the California Angels. And, almost exclusively when the games were in Oakland as Angels home games were rarely televised.

2.) On NBC's "Saturday Afternoon Game of the Week". For those too young to remember, this concept was a lot like ESPN's "Sunday Night Yankees, Red Sox or Cubs Game of the Week", but with a few dozen less appearances from the Yankees, Red Sox or Cubs each season.

3.) During the postseason. This was fine and dandy when the A's won it all in 1989…less dandy and fine in 1988.

In 1990, ESPN began airing Major League Baseball games four nights a week, including doubleheaders on Tuesdays and Fridays with single games on Wednesdays and Sundays. In fact, for several years, the Sunday Night edict from the network was to showcase every team at least once. Including the 1992-93 Mets!

My A's were at the apex of their popularity in the early '90s and, as a result, were often part of the featured game at least twice a week. Throughout the rest of the decade, however, ESPN slowly scaled back their baseball broadcasting and Oakland baseball went from awesome to awful to almost.

By the start of this decade, all-access season-long innovations such as NFL's Sunday Ticket were providing fans with a means to decide for themselves which games they wanted to watch. Major League Baseball soon followed suit with their MLB Extra Innings package.

I've been a subscriber since 2002. I'd estimate that over the past six and half seasons I've watched all or part of 80% of the games, home and road, that the A's have played. Of course, my wife – Mrs. Bootleg – has been insanely understanding about all this. And, since I'm already watching around 130 games per season, what's 30 or so more?

That's right, kids…from the Bootleg Guy who brought you the five-part Worst Fans in Sports series and the ten-part Hall of Fame 100 feature comes the biggest multi-part endeavor I've ever done! Everyday throughout the month of August, I'll be reviewing, rating and ranking all 30 Major League Baseball local broadcast teams.

From Michael Kay and Harry Kalas to Hawk Harrelson and Vin Scully, everyone will get the opportunity to impress me. The broadcasts will be graded on the criteria that I deem most important to my viewing experience:

Chemistry - How well does the play-by-play guy mesh with the color commentator? Does each one know his role and not intrude on the other's turf? Hell, does it sound like they even like each other? (10 points maximum)

Knowledge - Am I learning something new or are the broadcasters just reading from the media guide? I can see that lazy flyball to left as well as the next guy. I want to know why Bobby Crosby swung at the first offering after this same pitcher had just walked the bases loaded. (10 points maximum)

Enthusiasm - A good broadcaster lends the proper amount of urgency to a dramatic moment. I want the guys in the booth to enjoy an exciting play as much as I do and not be afraid to let their love of the game show. (10 points maximum)

Bar Stool Quotient - Baseball's languid pace leads to extended periods where it's just me, the broadcasters and a 13-pitch at-bat from some scrub in the sixth inning of a late April blowout. It's a lot easier to sit through when I can imagine myself tipping back Fat Tires with these guys, talking baseball and swapping stories. (10 points maximum)

Camera/Production - Give me timely, relevant replays; some interesting, yet non-intrusive graphics; an occasional peek into the dugouts and an emphasis on not missing anything that happens between the white lines. I don't ask for much. (10 points maximum)

Homerism - Enthusiasm is one thing…cheerleading is quite another. If your local broadcaster has a dozen ridiculous nicknames for everyone on the team or if he verbally urges batted balls to STAY FAIR, STAY FAIR or if he truly believes that every umpire is against them, then they'll pay for it here. (-10 points maximum)

That all adds up to a maximum possible score of 50. Within the individual categories, a score of 5 is considered "average" and 10/-10s will only be doled out in the most extreme examples.

I'll also have some fun with the litany of local commercials airing during each game and keep a running tally of the silly little trivia questions that pop up around the fourth or fifth inning.

The one caveat I'll add is that each broadcast team only gets one time to shine. If a member of the local TV team is off that night, then it's the fill-in(s) who'll get graded.

So, settle in, place your bets and try'n guess where your local baseball broadcast crew will finish when sized up against every other team in the league.


throwdini said...

As a White Sox fan, this won't be pretty. Now, I'm actually a big defender of homerism--from "The Giants win the penant, the Giants win the penant. Oh my god" to "just a bit outside." Thank god you are not deducting for dumb catch phrases--"He gone" or "you can put it on the board, yes." At least they are better than harry Carey.

Now, if you were giving points for pregame intros, this would seriously help the Sox in the rankings.

thatnicka said...

Please include the Remy Wachovia?Bank commerical on NESN. He's absolutely ghastly and maybe the scariest looking pitch man, ever.

ALso note the matching "casual" blue button down shirts KAy, O'Neill and SIngelton wear untucked during the pre-game. Ridiculous. Please pay attention - no t-shirts underneath...tufts of chest hair and gold necklaces clearly visible in HD.

Yankees and Red Sox right? You haven't seen enough of them?

That Bootleg Guy said...

The Remy spot where he "walks thru" the cartoon door of the bank always kills me. As does his "buenos noches, amigos" to all of the Hispanic members of Red Sox Nation listening on their SAP buttons. All of them.

Tom said...

Ron Darling has the exact same Soverign Bank commercial and they air like 10 times per game! And I do so hope you enjoy Giuseppe Franco. He's not putting his name on the line for just anything, you know.

I would also suggest you try to catch a Mets game that features all three broadcasters.

thatnicka said...

red sox are now fielding an all white team in the field - every bostonian's wet dream.

Papi at DH = affirmitive action

That Bootleg Guy said...

TOM - I was lucky enough to get a Mets game with all three guys in the booth. It was the game *after* Santana was pulled in the eighth and the bullpen blew it. It was also the game that Reyes hit the 3 run bomb and was retroactively labeled a "showboat" for his run around the bases.

Darling and Hernandez make for quite the contrast in, uhh, how much they have to say.

thatnicka said...

Kay and Sterling really low keyed the intros at OTD at Yankee Stadium. No mention of Reggie Jackson's World Series' appearances with Oakland.

WHo can forget Pat Kelly's HR that propelled the Yankees into the wild card in 1995? Pretty much everyone except Pat Kelly.

Johnny said...

When are you getting around to the Atlanta Braves? I think you'll enjoy their duo. Sciambi is a decent up-and-comer, and Joe Simpson always has some good insight, and isn't afraid to question Bobby Cox's moves or home-players' bad habits. Looking forward to it. This is a great blog!

That Bootleg Guy said...

I still don't have a Braves game in the queue, but I'll almost certainly have one recorded this week. I'll try'n get them in during the week of the 18th.