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.