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Friday, September 24, 2004

Painful Commentary

A reader-comment asked us our opinion on the generally sad state of TV baseball play-by-play and color commentators. It is sad indeed, and yet possibly explainable. Here are a few points to consider:
- unlike baseball fans of earlier generations, today's TV watchers have a wealth of games to view, BBTN and many other sources of information and analysis. Fair to speculate that today's baseball fan is much better informed and more knowledgeable than generations past. Why is that important? Because today's knowledgeable fan demands more from play-by-play and color commentators.
- Play-by-play and color commentators actually have a tough assignment: satisfying two audiences - the casual baseball fan who may happen to tune in, and, the rabid, die-hard team fans who follow things like pitch selection, outfielder placements, and situational hitting decisions. Casual viewers can be easily bored or turned-off by the constant outpouring of baseball minutiae while the knowledgeable fan demands ever more analysis. Tough balancing act folks.
- Unfortunately for announcing crews, baseball is a pastoral game often played at a snails pace. In TV production talk baseball has a lot of "dead spots." Many announcers apparently feel compelled to "fill in" the slow spots with commentary, or their producers are telling them to do so. The best of them, like Jerry Remy, use the time to explore the situation from the point of view of both the casual and knowledgeable fan.

Also unfortunately, the state of announcing is not likely to improve anytime soon. The explosion in overall sports programming, ( number of sports and events - and total programming hours) means announcing talent is spread pretty thin - its is watered down by expansion folks, just like baseball pitching. Further, becoming a baseball announcer means committing to a 170+ game, eight month schedule - not a choice many are willing to make. But it is those with the long and grinding seasons of rich baseball experience who generally make the best commentators. A tough match of skills, experience, sacrifices, and enthusiasm to put together.