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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Onion AV Club: Murray: Sunday Night Baseball, reviewed

B-: Better than Damnation Alley, worse than Beirut. Time to get out the pitchforks?

There are some fundamental aspects of the ESPN Sunday baseball broadcast that work. They look good, with minimal frippery, aside from the live K-Zone (which I could certainly do without). I do miss Jon Miller—who has a way of making even routine fly balls sound like a wondrous surprise—but Shulman has a rich, Al Michaels-like voice, and a refreshingly professional demeanor. In tonight’s game, he peppered his call of the action with updates of what happened around the league this afternoon and tidbits about the historic importance of Wrigley Field. He did what a good play-by-play man is supposed to do: provide context for the game, both for this day and in general. About all I can fault him on is a lack of camaraderie with his partner. I rarely get the sense that Shulman and Valentine are having a great time together. There’s no apparent animosity, just very little… ease. ...

Sunday Night Baseball did have reporters Buster Olney and Pedro Gomez hustling around the park. Olney provided some actual value, suggesting some possible candidates for the now-vacant Cubs GM position and breaking the news that the Angels’ Jered Weaver has signed a five-year contract. Gomez’s main contribution, on the other hand, was an innocuous in-game interview with Cardinals’ manager Tony LaRussa, in which Gomez asked, “How important is it to get out of here without being swept?” (Um… very?)

Greg Franklin Posted: August 25, 2011 at 07:20 PM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: announcers, business, media, reviews, television

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   1. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: August 25, 2011 at 08:29 PM (#3908974)
There’s no apparent animosity

Disagree. Bobby V refuses to address Shulman, directing all of his answers at Orel, even when Shulman asks the question.
   2. KJOK Posted: August 25, 2011 at 08:45 PM (#3908990)
Gomez’s main contribution, on the other hand, was an innocuous in-game interview with Cardinals’ manager Tony LaRussa, in which Gomez asked, “How important is it to get out of here without being swept?” (Um… very?)


And Tony is certainly not the right guy to ask a question like this, especially in game. Gomez is lucky he didn't get a much less pleasant answer.
   3. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: August 25, 2011 at 08:49 PM (#3908997)
I thought this was a good piece, and touched on a lot of the points which annoy me about baseball coverage. And this--Bobby Valentine, who’s not as bad as Morgan or Sutcliffe but still has the habit of getting mired in complicated sentences which ultimately end with him delivering judgments based strictly on what’s happening in the moment--is easily the best one-sentence description of Bobby V's problems as a broadcaster I've read.
   4. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: August 25, 2011 at 08:50 PM (#3909000)
Maybe it’s just that I have almost no interest in the event, but it seems to me that ESPN is way overselling the Little League World Series. It’s one of those cases where I feel like ESPN is trying to make the LLWS a bigger story because the network is airing so many of the games.


See also: World Cup, FIFA.
   5. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: August 25, 2011 at 08:56 PM (#3909005)
I thought this was going to be a review of the Curb Your Enthusiam episode.
   6. UCCF Posted: August 25, 2011 at 09:02 PM (#3909013)
Disagree. Bobby V refuses to address Shulman, directing all of his answers at Orel, even when Shulman asks the question.

What is it about ESPN booths that end up this way? This was the same complaint that Kornheiser had about working in the MNF booth. Too many egos fighting for attention?
   7. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: August 25, 2011 at 09:13 PM (#3909025)
What is it about ESPN booths that end up this way?
Funnily enough, I've always assumed it wasn't aggression, it was the way they were told to do it. So Schulman asks Bobby V., he weighs in, then segues to Orel giving his opinion. Perhaps I'm just naïve.

Full Disclosure: I never saw--or don't remember--the days when Kornheiser did MNF.
   8. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 25, 2011 at 09:17 PM (#3909028)
This was the same complaint that Kornheiser had about working in the MNF booth.


Tony Kornheiser complaining about anything in the Monday Night Football booth is like Adam Eaton complaining about being in a team's starting rotation.
   9. Greg K Posted: August 25, 2011 at 09:23 PM (#3909033)
See also: World Cup, FIFA.

I get what you mean, but in the global sense ESPN couldn't make the World Cup a bigger story than it is if they devoted 24 hours a day to advertising it.
   10. bigglou115 Posted: August 25, 2011 at 09:25 PM (#3909036)
Tony Kornheiser complaining about anything in the Monday Night Football booth is like Adam Eaton complaining about being in a team's starting rotation.


In fairness to Kornheiser, he had no reason to be there. He's a very good writer who's only TV time comes in the form of a very good show driven by chemistry with a true TV personality. He readily admitted he wasn't really a 'football guy' and wouldn't be able to offer any real insight. To make matters worse it seemed like he was always cranky from flying. I don't know if he looked for the job, or if ESPN tapped him for it, but he should never have been there to begin with.

I would argue with you though that his narrative openings to the game were relatively good, if a little wasted on a football game's typical audience.
   11. Greg K Posted: August 25, 2011 at 09:30 PM (#3909040)
I would argue with him though that his narrative openings to the game were relatively good, if a little wasted on a football game's typical audience.

Maybe I'm just a sucker, but Ron MacLean's narrative openings to playoff games (working together with the opening song and the sadly departed theme music) are just about the perfect way to set up a game.

If you want perfection in sports broadcasting you really don't need to look any further than CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, (at least before they lost their theme song...and though I haven't seen it in a year I imagine Don Cherry's senility hasn't improved matters on that front)
   12. Greg Franklin Posted: August 25, 2011 at 09:33 PM (#3909043)
Jon Miller gave an off-season interview in which he said the main objection he had with the SNB production was the storylines, which I understand is a standard PBP feature for every big-name property sport they do. (These are separate from the promos which are just SOP.)

Eager beavers and assistant producers crammed the baseball news of the day, video highlights, and statistical findings into discrete packages destined for SNB, and the main producer's job is to order the talent to discuss these "storylines" during the broadcast, regardless of what was going on in the game. Any slow time during the game was a cue to insert a new storyline and fill the silence, but they were also shoehorned into clutch times as well. If Jon and Joe disagreed about a topic relating to the storyline, it was a bonus. (Hey, steroids!) From Jon's POV it was the opposite of his day gig with the Giants, which was a more traditional broadcast meant to let the game breathe.

A criticism (mild) I have of Shulman is that he is seemingly overprepared for all these storylines, and can transition at any time from action on the field to a deep, deep dive into this amazing hitting streak, or that controversial managerial quote, or an analysis of the other contenders in the division. It's unnerving.
   13. Flynn Posted: August 25, 2011 at 10:35 PM (#3909083)
See also: World Cup, FIFA.


The dog is wagging the tail with the World Cup, not the other way around. ESPN got big ratings for the 2006 World Cup and did even better in 2010. The USA-England group game beat a couple NBA Finals/Stanley Cup games that year. And it was Lakers-Celtics/Chicago-Philly in those finals.

It'll be interesting to see how ESPN does in 2014 when the World Cup is just 2 hours ahead of EDT instead of 5.
   14. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: August 25, 2011 at 10:50 PM (#3909092)
In fairness to Kornheiser, he had no reason to be there.

Surely. As the years pass, what is more unbelievable that they asked Dennis Miller to be in the booth to call games or that they asked Rush Limbaugh to contribute to the pregame countdown show? They are both such horrible ideas, it just makes you understand that the producers of these shows have no idea what they are doing.
   15. ?Donde esta Dagoberto Campaneris? Posted: August 25, 2011 at 11:07 PM (#3909105)
it just makes you understand that the producers of these shows have no idea what they are doing.

As I understand it, Miller and Kornheiser were both brought in an effort to replicate Cosell's appeal. Which was, in part, that he gave non-football fans something to tune in for due to his "non-football guy" perspective. Of course, Cosell was a really unique figure (particularly in the sports world) so trying to replicate his appeal is going to fail most times. In fairness to Miller- though I wasn't a big fan of his- the Miller/Fouts/Michaels team got along really well and seemed to really enjoy calling the games together. Almost as if sporting events were supposed to be fun or something. Since actual football insight is pretty hard to come by in a football broadcast, I thought that their general attitude made them a pretty decent team.

Kornheiser, however, sucked rancid monkey dong.
   16. Baseballs Most Beloved Figure Posted: August 25, 2011 at 11:31 PM (#3909122)
I thought Miller, Fouts and Michaels were pretty good as well but every ESPN SNF and MNF booth has been horrid.
   17. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 25, 2011 at 11:37 PM (#3909128)
I agree with No. 15: While Miller wasn't completely successful in the booth, he was much better than Kornheiser. Not only was Miller actually funny, but he proved to know more about pro football than the sportswriter Kornheiser. Miller was obviously having the time of his life up there, and Fouts (who I think is a very good analyst) really enjoyed being around him; their game calls were genuinely fun.

Kornheiser, as No. 10 points out, had no idea what he was supposed to be doing in the booth, so he decided he'd be the voice of the regular guy. Well, I'm already a regular guy, and I know what my voice sounds like, and I don't need Tony Kornheiser replicating that. And apparently, Kornheiser thinks regular guys talk about their fantasy football teams all the time, but even if my best friend started talking about his fantasy football team, I'd find an excuse to leave the room.

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