Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - April 20th update

The media winner of Jackie Robinson Day - radio. That was probably the best tribute to the never-ending salute of Jackie Robinson. Having the games set aside to honor him being on the radio. The one place fans could enjoy the game without having to suffer through every player wearing the same uniform number.

Don't get me wrong. I admire Jackie Robinson and his influence on baseball, pro sports, and society as much as anyone. However, the day to pay tribute has become the opposite of the punishment not fitting the crime. Have a pre-game ceremony in every major league park. Have the players wear a special uniform patch throughout the game. Show films of Robinson in action between innings on the big screens.

Please stop this crap of every player wearing the same number for an entire game, no matter whose it is. This makes a game telecast near impossible to watch. Fans lose the instant recognition of who is pitching or involved in a play. Showing game highlights on TV sportscasts becomes almost worthless for the same reason. Baseball loses a day in that regard. But nothing as bad as this past week. Now, this "salute" is going on forever. Not every MLB team was scheduled for last Thursday, April 15th, even though that (used to be) the day set aside to honor Robinson.

Imagine my frustration to be watching the TV pre-game show before the Tigers vs. Mariners game on Friday night (April 16) to find out that every player was wearing #42 since the teams did not play on Thursday, and that the same thing was taking place in the Padres game and other teams which did not play the day before. Where did it say that EVERY team has to do this, even if it means a different day? On Friday we had most teams wearing regular uniforms and others with all players wearing #42. Come on!

Then, on Monday (Apriol 19), the Mets hosted "Jackie Robinson Day" at home. Guess what. Every player for both teams wearing #42 - AGAIN. And this while the game was televised on SNY in New York and Comcast SportsNet in Chicago, along with being nationally televised on ESPN. A national TV game with fans' enjoyment spoiled by not knowing who they are watching. If the date was so important for the Mets, why weren't they scheduled at home on April 15th?

Teams not playing at home on July 4th don't have a fireworks display on July 10th. How and why did this happen?

All of a sudden we see things like red caps on Memorial Day, even for teams whose colors have nothing to do with red, confusing new and casual fans. Maybe the TV people can put a stop to this.

Now you are thinking, "But, Dave, this is a media column". I know that. To me, this has plenty to do with media. I'm calling for the TV stations and networks which televise the games during the regular season to call for an end to this "everybody wears the same uniform" bit.

They shouldn't want even one telecast which turns off viewers. The TV stations and networks spend millions and millions of our dollars to pay for the rights to show these games. They are counting on fans being interested enough to watch. Whether you like to think about it or not, we the fans are paying for this as well. Some of the dollars we are "forced" to cough up for cable or satellite each month are going to these networks and ultimately to these teams. As I see it, we fans are really paying for these game telecasts. And for my few bucks, I'm entitled to be able to easily identify who is pitching and who is involved in every play - every time.

Getting back to my original point. Listening to games on the radio that day, it didn't matter that every player was wearing the same uniform number. I'm sure it was a challenge for the announcers, but radio was the one way the game remained what it is supposed to be. The one time radio doesn't do anything special, it offers the best product out there.

On the NBA side, what happened with TNT's package? In past years, TNT has routinely placed overflow first round NBA playoff games on TBS, along with the start of "new" games when a telecast runs over. Yet, this week, NBA-TV is showing overflow games not airing on TNT, including a couple of doubleheaders.

TBS is available in many more homes than NBA-TV. As a result, millions of people cannot get NBA playoff games that they have been able to in past seasons. Again, some fans lose, have no say in the matter, and still have to pay the full amount for this month of their cable or satellite bill.

Two of the big names in sports reporting have made news within the week, one for staying in place and the other for adding on. Baseball analyst deluxe Peter Gammons has added some CBS Radio sports stations to his analyst schedule, along with MLB Network and NESN.

Gammons now appears once per week on WSCR "The Score" Chicago, WIP Philadelphia, WBZ-FM Boston, KDKA-FM Pittsburgh, and WJZ-FM Baltimore. The most significant of those stations is The Score in Chicago, where Peter will have his segment on the "Mully & Hanley" Morning Show. The Score 670 is still battling against rival WMVP, which is ESPN 1000. I can't help but wonder how much (or how little) of a factor it is in Gammons' decision to take this on that he could help knock off the ESPN station in Chicago. He, of course, paved the way for writers to become the "baseball analyst" on a sports outlet on ESPN for seemingly hundreds of years before leaving for MLB Network just a few months ago.

Chris Berman stays put at EPSN, extending his contract into his 4th decade with the network. I now believe that he will go all-----------the---------way to retirement in his current position. He has been and will continue to be a fixture on the Sunday pre and post-game NFL programming, where he has been since the mid-80's, even before ESPN was showing NFL games.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how much or how little the TV networks will play a role in how the NHL handles the next Winter Olympics. Following rumors that the NHL was not looking toward continuing to participate and interrupt its season for future winter games, along comes word that TV ratings for the finish of its regular season were up across the board.

NBC's "Game of the Week" package reportedly had a 13% increase this season, even more amazing when you consider the network did not always have consistent start times for each Sunday. Versus reported that during the final four weeks of the recently concluded regular season there was a 28% increase in ratings compared with the same 4-week period last season.

Given the ratings score that NBC gained for its Olympic telecast, and the U.S. team getting to the hockey finals, the belief is that from a marketing standpoint, the NHL did benefit from interrupting its regular season. Might make the NHL change its tune. Then again, the next round of TV negotiations, for both the over-the-air and cable packages for the NHL will take place during 2011, well in advance of the next winter games.

Back to MLB Network. They seem to come up with one great innovation after another. Just when you think they can't keep improving, along comes their announcement that the Network will show some minor league games, and it starts next week.

Next Monday (April 26) MLB Network shows AAA Gwinnett (Braves) at Durham Bulls (Rays) starting at 11 AM ET, with the Class A Quad Cities (Cardinals) vs. Burlington (Royals) at Noon ET on May 3rd.

More weekday afternoon telecasts, most picked up with local announcers, will be announced. Great idea!

St. LOUIS: ESPN 101 has signed former Cardinal Jack Clark an an analyst for its "St. Louis Baseball Tonight" show which airs on Friday nights and is hosted by Bob Ramsey. In addition, Clark will appear on the "Fast Lane" show at 4:30 each Tuesday afternoon.

Finally, a word of support for two sports voices now fighting a bigger battle than the games they cover. Cancer.

Jim Mandich, the former tight end who has been a part of the Miami sports radio scene continues to battle bile-duct cancer, and only recently returned to the air after roughly 3 months away. Mandich will co-host WINZ 940's NFL Draft coverage starting this Thursday (April 22) night. The show is also scheduled to be streamed via MiamiDolphins.com. Still no word as to whether or not Mandich will remain on Dolphins radio (with Jimmy Cefalo on play-by-play) for the upcoming season when the team moves to WINZ from WQAM.

Meanwhile, any sports fan over the age of 20 undoubtedly got hooked on cable TV sportscasts in part due to "Nick and Hick" (Nick Charles and Fred Hickman) from their years of co-hosting CNN Sports Tonight. Their show drew higher ratings than ESPN SportsCenter for years at 11 PM ET. Sorry to report that Nick Charles has a serious battle against cancer, as indicated in this story from Atlanta:


Our best wishes to Nick and his family. As an alum of the same school, Columbia College Chicago, which Nick attended, I am especially sorry to learn of this. Word is that the school is looking in to honoring him in the near future for all that he has accomplished.

Here's hoping we hear a lot more of Mandich and Charles for a long time to come!

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