Tuesday, November 01, 2016
Here’s the truth: National announcers don’t hate your local team. They have no vendettas. They carry no billy goats.
But you don’t get to that level of national broadcaster without displaying extreme professionalism. You have an obligation to serve fans of all teams along with people who don’t give a shit either way.
Hometown announcers can be more partial and in some cases they’re ridiculous. “Phil Rizzuto was doing a Yankees postgame show when his broadcast was interrupted with a bulletin that Pope John Paul I died. Phil went back on the air and said, “Wow, news like that can spoil even a Yankees win.”
But even local announcers tend to be at least fair. They have to be if they want to preserve any credibility. Hawk Harrelson of the White Sox even once said something nice about an opponent. I think it was in 1993.
Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s the lead announcer from each team participating in that year’s World Series got to call the games on NBC. It was really a treat – the only time we’d get a chance to hear other teams’ mouthpieces.
Even big homers like Harry Caray (St. Louis) and Bob Prince (Pittsburgh) toned down their cheering during the Fall Classic. They were on the air coast-to-coast. They realized they had to be more neutral.
And something else to consider. National announcers have directors talking into their ears the entire game, steering them towards topics. Joe might hear “We’re putting up a graphic on how many errors the Cubs have made this postseason.” So Joe has to discuss that on the air. And some Cubs fans will then think he’s got it out for their beloved team.
You can’t win.
So Joe Buck or Jim Nantz or Mike Breen or Sean McDonough or Doc Emrick does not hate your team.
Here’s what they do hate:
Bad games. Blowouts. Lopsided affairs. Garbage time. Rain delays. When you’re calling a 10-2 game in the third inning you can almost hear America click off your broadcast. And then it’s just dragging a dead horse across the finish line to shoot it.
Announcers root for exciting games. Nail biters. Extraordinary feats. High emotional drama. A great storyline. Thrilling come-from-behind charges. Records being challenged. Sudden death. Decent eyelines from the booth.
If they’re calling a “Best-of” series they’re rooting for it to go down to the final game. So tonight, in the back of his mind, Joe might be hoping the Cubs win, but only so there will be a game seven. But more than that, he’s rooting for game six to be one for the ages no matter who wins.
If anyone roots for one team over another it’s the networks. Look, Fox is THRILLED the Cubs are in the World Series. They haven’t won since 1908. Fox is enjoying the best WS ratings since 2004 – when the Boston Red Sox won for the first time in like a hundred years. Networks want big market teams with national fan bases. The Cubs, Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Cardinals. Joe Buck may not hate the Giants but Fox sure did when they played the Cubs in the NLDS. For Fox the ultimate nightmare might be Houston vs. San Diego. Or Tampa Bay vs. Arizona.
One of the most exciting World Series in the last twenty years was 2002 – the Angels vs. the Giants. No one watched. Two west coast teams. America yawned, despite the thrilling games themselves. Don’t you think ABC would rather the Celtics and Lakers in the NBA Finals rather than Oklahoma City or San Antonio? Don't you think CBS would prefer a Super Bowl of Dallas vs. New England?
Networks also root hard for series going six or seven games. They lose money on four-game sweeps.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM