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August 30, 2007

Grading the Voices of the Game

I've been meaning to blog about this for, oh, about forever. But finally Ben took the lead and shared his thoughts on what we're looking for when listening to radio and TV baseball broadcasters. Ben talks about some of the worst of the worst and contrasts them with some decent out-of-town announcers.

What I'd like to do is define some criteria for evaluating broadcasters--both play-by-play men and color commentators. Once we have such a rubric, it will be pretty easy to fill in the details while watching/listening to a game, and eventually build up a portfolio of evaluations for broadcasters around the league. This, in turn, will allow me to pick and choose when to listen to out-of-town broadcasters (either because they're excellent or because I feel the need to raise my ire) and when to avoid them.

So, here's a first stab at criteria. Please share your own in comments or on your own blogs:

  • Homerism. By far the biggest flaw of amateur broadcasters, homerism refers to the practice of openly rooting for the team whose games you announce. There are several degrees of homerism, some more egregious than others:
    • "We." Use of first person plural to describe the team for which a sportscaster broadcasts (sportscasts?). Example: "Gonzalez hits a two-run home run, and we pull within three of the Tigers."
    • Player familiarity. Use of first names and nicknames for the broadcaster's team, but not for the opponent. Example: "J-Ro" for Jimmy Rollins. "The Giambino" for Jason Giambi.
    • Cheerleading. Exclamations of joy (when something good happens) or disgust (when something bad happens) oriented only towards the broadcaster's team. Example: "He gone!" (see Ben's post), "oh no!"
    • Umpire bias. One-sided criticism of umpires' calls in favor of the broadcaster's team. Example: "Ortiz goes down looking at that curveball, which was clearly outside," without an accompanying "And Wakefield gets lucky on a called third strike that really should have been ball four."
    • Uneven excitement. Broadcasters should temper their excitement at plays on the field based on their significance to the game, rather than their benefit to the broadcaster's team. (Ben has an example of this in his post.)
  • Knowledge of the game. This might actually be a sub-category of homerism, but I'll list it on its own for now as a more general phenomenon. Some announcers, while quite familiar with their home team, know very little about the opponent's team. They don't know trends, abilities, and history beyond what the game notes tell them, and this makes their in-game analysis awfully one-sided. Others just don't seem to bring much insight to a baseball game at all: they fail to discuss things like hitting the ball to the right side to advance runners on the base paths or the merits of defensive shifts and positioning or strategic use of a team's bullpen and bench.
  • Accurate depiction of the game. Some play-by-play announcers don't tell the listener what's happening in the game in a timely fashion. Others consistently get it partially or entirely wrong. (Example: "It's a deep fly ball to left field, way back, way back... and it's caught six feet short of the warning track.") For color commentators, this is reflected in mispronouncing players' names and often getting the names wrong altogether. (Hello, Joe Morgan, I'm looking at you.)

Hmm, so it actually looks like most of the criteria do fall pretty broadly under homerism, despite my initial attempts at breaking that out as its own category. There are some other intangibles which make for great announcers, such as the ability to paint a beautifully flowing word picture, a melodic voice and cadence, and a love for the game, but those are a bit harder to evaluate.

What else do you suggest goes into a great or horrible baseball broadcaster?

(Thanks, Ben, for getting me off my ass to write this.)

August 22, 2007

The 2007 Mets: The Steve Bartman Reunion Tour?

I'm sure we all remember the Steve Bartman incident from the 2003 NLCS. Bartman was a Cubs fan that knocked a foul popup away from the pursuing Cubs outfielder, allowing the Marlins to prolong a rally and eventually win the game and the series.

What most people don't remember--I didn't, at least--was who the other key participants in that infamous play were. The batter of the lazy foul ball was the Marlins second baseman, Luis Castillo. The left fielder chasing the ball was Moises Alou. And, of course, with the trade-deadline acquisition of Castillo, both are now key members of the 2007 Mets.

(Thanks to the Wikipedia entry for Luis Castillo for reminding me which players were involved in Bartman-gate. I doubt I'm the first to make this observation about the 2007 Mets, but I haven't seen it anywhere before.)

August 12, 2007

Darts for the Bored

Brian and Marcy were visiting tonight, and after dinner at Tremont 647 (decent, but their Web site tricked us into thinking we could order off of the regular menu rather than the Restaurant Week menu which wasn't the case), we went to our local bar: Costello's (whoa, tripod.com!) on Centre St. There, we followed the lead of the last folks to use the dart board and first played a game of baseball.

Following that game (won by Marcy), we invented two new games of our own:

  1. Golf. Different from other darts games patterned after golf, our game involved writing the hole numbers on the scoreboard, and then shooting progressively at each number. For the first hole, your score is the number of darts that it takes to hit the number 1 on the board. If you hit it on the first dart, you score a 1. If you hit it on the third dart, your score is a 3. If when you hit it you do so with a double or a triple, you get -1 off your score. The best part of the game though, is that if you miss the current hole with all three of your darts, you're forced to experience the walk of shame. Go up to the dartboard, retrieve all three darts, and try again! We capped the scoring after six darts (for a score of 7), but more sadistic (and equally untalented) individuals could go on indefinitely.
  2. HORSE. Just like the playground basketball game, our darts HORSE game involved one player calling an accomplishment (with three darts) and then attempting to make it. If they made it, each of the other players attempted the same feat. Anyone failing it got a letter of HORSE and was eliminated when they received all five letters. The types of feats varied from simple things like "one 18" (out of the three darts) to "a double 14 and a single 18" to "one dart on the white, one on the red, and one on the black", to "three darts forming an acute triangle." (The latter caused Brian to exclaim: "No more of this geography [sic] bullshit!".)

August 11, 2007

Typography and the Open Road

From the NY Times, The Road to Clarity:

What I saw, Pietrucha knew, was what we all may see soon enough as we rush along America’s 46,871 miles of Interstate highways. What I saw was Clearview, the typeface that is poised to replace Highway Gothic, the standard that has been used on signs across the country for more than a half-century. Looking at a sign in Clearview after reading one in Highway Gothic is like putting on a new pair of reading glasses: there’s a sudden lightness, a noticeable crispness to the letters.

August 9, 2007

What I Love about my New Home #5

Weeks after moving in, we discovered a heretofore hidden vanity cabinet in the bathroom. What other secrets does our home hold in store for us?

August 3, 2007

What I Love about my New Home #4

The under-the-counter kitchen cabinet right next to the stove has two pull out drawers rather than regular shelves to make getting at pots and pans quite easy. Fantastic.

August 2, 2007

What I Love about my New Home #3

The fridge has a water dispenser. Goodbye, Brita!

August 1, 2007

What I Love about my New Home #2

It came with a free grill. Grilled food is good.