Thursday, October 18, 2012

Giant Steps For A Buck

Joe Buck calls entire games in two major sports on the same day. Was it a publicity stunt, or did Fox Sports allow it because it was physically possible to do?

Whether you enjoy Joe Buck as a broadcaster or not, you have to give him credit for calling back-to-back games to a large national audience, especially when it involved both football and baseball. This past Sunday, Buck was in San Francisco. First, he called the doubleheader game from San Francisco with the N.Y. Giants playing at the 49ers. Since there was no overtime and the game ended about when it was expected to, Buck was escorted over to the nearby baseball stadium and proceeded to call the entire Giants vs. St. Louis Cardinals NLCS game in prime time. Not only the same city, but both games happened to involve the Giants!

That experience has to be one of Buck's career highlights. It's not the first time an announcer has called two sports on national TV the same day in the same area (Keith Jackson did it), but it appears to be the first with both games in progress within an hour of each other. The preparation is nothing short of amazing. It's not only knowing all of the teams involved, but it's knowing the different production and support personnel on each telecast, and then being able to carry it off so well.

A lot has been written and said about the TBS post-season coverage, with most of it less than positive. I think they have done better than most people. However, they suffer from what seems to be a network "syndrome" with announcers not always being in the exact role they are best suited for.
Ron Darling and John Smoltz are both doing well as analysts. However, why have two pitchers and no position player or manager? Aren't the fans entitled to analysis from a prominent hitter? Shouldn't Cal Ripken (like him or not as an analyst) be in the booth with either Darling OR Smoltz?

Yet, it's not only TBS that does this. I have pointed out numerous times how absurd it is that ESPN has Doris Burke as an analyst sitting courtide during some NBA telecasts, while former players sit in the studio? (And I think Doris does a very good job - it's just that she didn't play in the NBA.)

At least ESPN realizes the error of their ways and is finally (long overdue) assigning a host for the ABC/ESPN studio portion of its NBA telecasts starting this season. Bill Simmons, although more known as a basketball author than a broadcaster, has been named to host. It will still be Jalen Rose and Magic Johnson in the studio. It's not whether or not you enjoy their respective commentary, it's that because there are so many analysts, it seems none of them get the time they need to bring out their complete thoughts. Same with TBS, with Ripken, David Wells, and Dennis Eckersley in the studio. Do we really need what amounts to FOUR pitchers to comment on the same plays?

I suppose this is due in part to the major ratings success of the NFL. The executives who make these decisions see the endless parade of analysts on Fox and CBS, and the parade of hosts and analysts on Sunday Night Football, and seem to think that doing the same for baseball and basketball will make a difference.

At least Fox has done it more sensibly, having a former QB (Bradshaw), former defensive standout (Long), and a former coach (Johnson) on their crew. I'd prefer they each have more individual segments instead of all three seemingly commenting on everything.

Let the viewers enjoy and appreciate each analyst, instead of force-feeding multiple opinions about every play or move.

Meanwhile, auto racing coverage in the news these past few days, as the networks vie for the loyal and consistent audiences it delivers. Fox Sports announced an 8-year extension with NASCAR which will soon include streaming as part of their coverage.

NBC Sports Group has a new 4-year deal, starting in 2013, to cover Formula One races. NBC will show only four of the major races, with as many as 16 others to be shown on NBC Sports Network.

The NBC Sports Network continues to suffer without the NHL to act as its anchor. The filler live programming isn't going to bring in enough viewers. Just putting "any" college football and (soon) basketball games with unfamiliar teams to most isn't going to make a dent.

COLUMBUS: Scott Torgerson has been suspended (as of press time) from WBNS 97.1 The Fan because of a Twitter comment. Normally, I'd be wondering why a comment not made on the air would have such an impact, but I'll go along with this one. Torgerson stated that he wished that ESPN's Desmond Howard "would get fired or die". In this instance, especially with WBNS being the flagship station for Ohio State football, the station had to make this move. It remains to be seen how long the suspension will last, and what will happen to Torgerson's role if and when he returns.

CHICAGO: No word (as of press time) regarding a replacement for Bob Brenly as analyst on Chicago Cubs telecasts starting next season. Brenly left after eight seasons in the role, and is reportedly in line to join the AZ Diamondbacks broadcast team.

CINCINNATI: WQRT-AM 1160 is adding to its sports content, bringing two more hours of afternoon drive sports talk as of this week. Now that the Reds' season is over, WQRT has brought in Jeff Piecoro from Fox Sports Ohio to host from 5-7 PM on weekdays, while Dennis Walker will host sports talk from 3 to 5 PM. The station airs non-sports (talk) programming the rest of the day. This change may or may not continue past next spring when the Reds' 2013 season starts.

CLEVELAND: The biggest competition the Browns may be involved in could be regarding their radio rights after this season. All signs indicate that WTAM 1100 is going to have a bidding war on its hands from the rival sports network groups seeking the most valuable rights in town for themselves.

TAMPA: Sports fans now have plenty of radio choices. WHNZ 1250 has picked up Fox Sports Radio, which was made available when WDAE 620 switched, understandably, to ESPN a few weeks back. In addition, 98.7 The Fan is the local CBS Sports station, while 1010 AM is expected to carry the national CBS Sports feed starting with the new year. WHBO 1040 had chosen to go with NBC Sports. The move by WHNZ gives Fox Sports more coverage, especially south of the Bay, as WTMY 1280 continues to air Fox Sports programming. The end result figures to be a highly saturated audience during the nights when the various games are airing on TV.

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