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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Storyteller of the White Sox

“OK,” he says. “This is years ago — maybe 2011, I think — and I’m doing a double-header of high school basketball games in East Syracuse.” (Jason triple majored in broadcasting, economics, and psychology at Syracuse University and got his start in sports broadcasting there.) “It’s toward the end of the first game, and a kid gets off the bench wearing big plastic protective goggles, like lab safety goggles, and me and my partner — he was actually the mayor of East Syracuse — we joke about it, saying things like, ‘Hey, looks like that kid knows his way around a Bunsen burner.’

“Soon as that first game is over, my producer comes over to me and says, ‘There’s a parent here who wants to talk to you, but I told him I was going to talk to you myself about it. He’s the father of the kid with the goggles, and he wants you to know his son lost an eye in an accident months ago, and it’s taken him this long to get his confidence back to get on the court, and that’s why he’s wearing those goggles.’ ”

Something has changed in Jason while he’s telling the story. He’s no longer killing time during a rain delay. He is trying to get us to understand something: namely, why Jason Benetti is so hard on himself.

“So I ask him where the father is, and he points him out, and I get up and I walk across the court to him, and he tells me he talked to his daughter at home who’s crying because I made fun of her brother’s goggles after all he’s been through. And I say to the father, ‘Did you see me walk across the court? Did you watch how I walk? Now, can you imagine how bad I feel right now because I stupidly and without thinking made a joke about how somebody else looked?’ ”

The fact that Jason Benetti was born with cerebral palsy, or CP, and thus limps quite noticeably is usually the first thing mentioned in stories about him — for example, the Washington Post headline “Jason Benetti Refuses to Let Cerebral Palsy Affect His Game” — and I had intended to get it out of the way early in this profile and then never mention it again. Jason has become a friend of mine in the last few years, and I assumed he was deeply tired of being held up as an Inspirational Story. He is — sort of. And yet his disability is a significant part of what drives him, what obsesses him, and what has shaped his life — not so much in how it has limited his physical activities but in how it has suffused his sense of self.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 15, 2021 at 04:11 PM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: jason benetti, white sox

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   1. Harmon "Thread Killer" Microbrew Posted: September 15, 2021 at 05:24 PM (#6039857)
Not familiar with this gent but sounds like a hell of a broadcaster.
   2. Perry Posted: September 15, 2021 at 05:28 PM (#6039859)
He's a great one. There are 3 teams in whom I have no particular interest whose games I sometimes tune in just because I so enjoy their broadcast teams -- the Giants, the Mets, and the White Sox.
   3. Tom Nawrocki Posted: September 15, 2021 at 05:39 PM (#6039860)
Steve Stone has a great rapport with Benetti, and it's easy to tell what good friends they are. It struck me that Stone has had three primary broadcasting partners in his career - Harry Caray, Ken Harrelson, and Jason Benetti, and they couldn't be more different from each other. As much as I love Harry, Stoney must be so relieved to be working with someone who has Benetti's professionalism.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: September 15, 2021 at 07:09 PM (#6039872)
Stone spent several years with Chip Caray as well -- 7 seasons although Stone missed a big chunk of time due to health. That was OK, Stone largely carried Chip who came across as not really caring about baseball all that much. (which makes him another different type) Hard to believe but this is Stone's 13th season with the Sox. (22 with the Cubs)

Not to hijack but I'd say Harry and Hawk weren't that different, especially Harry when he was with the Sox. Harry with the Sox was a cranky homer then, I think knowing that wouldn't go well with the Cubs' audience (including me), became a happy-go-lucky homer. Hawk was just as cranky though I suppose an even bigger homer so his crankiness was mostly reserved for the umpires and the other forces conspiring against the Sox rather than the Sox themselves. I recall (not in detail obviously) several games where Harry was heavily critical of the Sox players.

I dreaded it when Harry came to the Cubs because I had hated him on the Sox games I'd watched but he changed his tone and was an enjoyable ignoramus not an obnoxious one. He and Stone were well-matched because Stone was the more objective, insightful guy and, whether real or not, they came across as liking each other. So you got a bit of everything in the Cubs booth in those days. Chip couldn't provide enough counter-weight to Stone's dryness. What little I caught of Hawk and Stone was terrible -- not only have I long despised Hawk's broadcasting but he seemed to bring out Stone's touchy side as well ... but that's based on just a few games because I pretty much refused to listen to Hawk. I've heard little of Stone and Benetti but in what little I've heard, Stone seemed back to his less-touchy self.
   5. Mayor Blomberg Posted: September 15, 2021 at 07:21 PM (#6039875)
Harry with the Cubs was like watching a game with commentary from the drunk next to you in the bar.
   6. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 15, 2021 at 07:40 PM (#6039878)
Huh. I’ve watched dozens of games broadcast by Benetti and had absolutely zero idea that he has CP. He’s an excellent broadcaster.
   7. McCoy Posted: September 15, 2021 at 07:58 PM (#6039881)
Stone and Harry were friends or at least acquaintances for a long time. They had a bit of falling out over a business partnership in Arizona that didn't do well. Steve bought out Harry's investment to save the relationship.
Stevee always knew that deifying Harry was about the only way to talk about Harry so his criticisms of Harry have generally been very mild.

   8. The Honorable Ardo Posted: September 15, 2021 at 09:59 PM (#6039901)
Benetti is fantastic - the best young broadcaster in all of MLB.
   9. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 15, 2021 at 10:18 PM (#6039905)
My first exposure to him was the Statcast game he did with Mike Petriello. He is fantastic.
   10. Walt Davis Posted: September 15, 2021 at 11:31 PM (#6039927)
Harry with the Cubs was like watching a game with commentary from the drunk next to you in the bar.

But, usually, an entertaining drunk who could hold his liquor well enough to not start slurring. Unless there was a rain delay or the game went extras.
   11. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: September 15, 2021 at 11:38 PM (#6039929)
One of the nice things this year about accidentally signing up for MLB.tv for a whole year instead of just MLB audio, is that I got to watch a lot of out-of-market TV, though oftentimes I would switch the audio over to the radio broadcast. But sometimes I wouldn't for White Sox games because of Steve Stone, and Jason Benetti as I got to know him.
   12. Howie Menckel Posted: September 16, 2021 at 12:54 AM (#6039937)
the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets for many years have had an excellent radio broadcaster in Chris Carrino.

Chris has "facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), a disease the causes progressive weakening of the muscles."

back in the roaring '90s, I spent an entire season doing 82 pre-game segments with him - and did not know of this challenge, exactly. he walked a bit stiffly, but he's a tall and lanky guy and he never made an issue of it.

even then, though, going up stairs was difficult and he needed to do that and he did. it only got more difficult over the years.

the excerpt is spot on re Benitti, and Chris: "I assumed he was deeply tired of being held up as an Inspirational Story. He is — sort of. And yet his disability is a significant part of what drives him, what obsesses him, and what has shaped his life  —  not so much in how it has limited his physical activities but in how it has suffused his sense of self."

Chris has a foundation that raises a lot of money, so at times he addresses his challenges. otherwise, he just works his ass off and succeeds.

I think maybe any article that aims to be inspirational similarly should address the "elephant in the room."

all schmaltz is compelling and emotional and it's so feel-good. but it would be wrong to turn a person into a cartoon character solely so everyone else gets to shed a nice tear. for me, that's just disrespectful.
   13. Traderdave Posted: September 16, 2021 at 10:36 AM (#6039954)
Semi off topic, but this article brings to mind an old story. I want to recognize Jim Mecir for a kind act he performed for my family. I've noted this on BTF before but that was well over a decade ago, seemed time to say this again:

You may be aware that Jim was born with 2 club feet. John Kruk infamously made noise about this during a broadcast, which was discussed on this page.

I have a nephew, Evan, who has no feet. He gets around on prostheses and courage.

Back in '03 a buddy and I flew to Seattle to watch a few A's/Mariners games. It was the final weekend of the season and the AL West was close. By sheer chance we ended up at same hotel as A's players & staff. (Had a couple beers with Bill King and bullshat for a glorious half hour, another story).

I left a note at the front desk for Mecir, explaining my nephew's situation and asking him if he had any words for Evan. A little while later he returned a very nice, downright eloquent letter of encouragement. I thanked Jim in person later that day and sent the note to my nephew right away.

-----

Fast forward many years: Evan grew up to be a successful athlete. He was a league champion wrestler and -- on prosthetics! -- a varsity placekicker.

All this to say, both sports and words matter. Sometimes they matter a lot.

Thank you, Jim.

   14. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: September 16, 2021 at 11:50 AM (#6039962)
Benetti is a great announcer, and I also love him doing college football. Hopefully he is the Sox guy for another 30 years.

   15. Itchy Row Posted: September 16, 2021 at 01:40 PM (#6039987)
Steve Stone is funnier, smarter, more engaged, and simply happier than he ever was during his long years trying to get a word in edgewise with Hawk Harrelson.
The world is smarter, more engaged, and happier without Hawk announcing.

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