Nice to be agreed with, sports media edition

Ed Sherman agrees with me about having more than one choice of sports announcer, specifically Saturday’s Final Four:

Perhaps due to being a serial channel flipper, but I enjoyed having more options Saturday than the conventional national call. It was refreshing to hear different perspectives and see different presentations.

When Florida went down in the second half, I turned over to the Gator Teamcast to see how their announcers were handling the situation. I liked being able to listen to old pal Wayne Larrivee, one of the true pros in the business, being all-in with Wisconsin. …

The bottom line: Innovation is good. Thinking out of the box is good.

It’s 2014, and TV executives know they can’t give viewers the same old thing. They have the platforms and resources to give viewers something different.

Whether it is Teamcast or ESPN’s Megacast for the BCS title game, or something else, the days of one game-one network, at least for the big games, are likely done.

Larrivee did an excellent job on Saturday’s game, but Packer fans have come to expect that. It was obvious he wanted Wisconsin to win, but he treated Kentucky fairly. I wouldn’t even call Larrivee a homer in the sense of seeing no wrong by the home team. If the Packers play poorly, he certainly makes that clear, and if the Packers’ opponent plays well, he says that too.

The New York Times’ Richard Sandomir preferred Kentucky’s analyst, former Wildcat Rex Chapman, but adds:

The only other broadcaster to approach Chapman’s unrestrained joy was Wayne Larrivee, the play-by-play voice on TruTV’s Wisconsin telecast. He was loud in service of Wisconsin. He used “we” a lot. When Traevon Jackson scored on a layup to put the Badgers ahead of the Wildcats, 66-62, Larrivee shouted, “Yes, and a foul!” You sensed, in nearly every phrase, a Badgers lover. Mike Kelley, an ex-Badger who was Larrivee’s partner in the booth, was a rooter, just not one who was histrionic enough. …

I hope there is more teamcasting to come. Maybe Fox will use its cable channels to carry the local voices of the World Series teams. Still, no matter which league pursues this, it will need to be certain that the homers are real homers, modern-day Harry Carays who are capable of stirring fans into a partisan frenzy and making casual viewers smile at the craziness of it all.

Maybe the lesson of the teamcasts for, say, Major League Baseball is to return to the days when the World Series networks used a local announcer from each of the participating teams. That would be fun.

Again, I really wouldn’t call Larrivee “histrionic” compared to, say, the White Sox’s Ken Harrelson. (Who remains employed to broadcast baseball, for some reason.) I thought Larrivee was more restrained Saturday (in part because TV broadcasts usually feature less screaming than radio) than he usually is on a Packer game. Kelley, for his part, did very well in what apparently was his last telecast, for now.

Sandomir’s suggestion of using participating-team broadcasters for the World Series hasn’t been done since 1976, when NBC used the Reds’ Marty Brennaman and the Yankees’ Phil Rizzuto. Brennaman has always been great. As for Rizzuto, well, the rest of the U.S. got to watch the experience that Rizzuto must have been for three decades of Yankees games. What made it less fun, based on the YouTube clips I’ve seen, is that some of the wilder announcers — notably Harry Caray, who broadcasted the 1964, 1967 and 1968 World Series for NBC when the Cardinals played, and Bob Prince, who broadcasted the 1971 World Series featuring the Pirates — toned down their respective shtick for a nationwide audience.

The other thing using the local announcers did was put a few announcers in places viewers weren’t used to seeing them. Ray Scott called the 1965 World Series for NBC because he was broadcasting the Minnesota Twins. He was also, however, broadcasting the Packers for CBS at the time. Lindsey Nelson was known for broadcasting football for CBS when he showed up on NBC (a former employer, it should be pointed out) to broadcast the 1969 and 1973 World Series, since he was also working for the Mets.

The ultimate in announcer arrangements may have been the 1975 World Series, the last broadcasted by NBC TV and radio. (CBS got the radio contract the next year.) NBC was in the position of phasing out its number one announcer, Curt Gowdy, on baseball, to replace him with Joe Garagiola. The Red Sox (for whom Gowdy used to announce) wanted to use their radio and TV announcers, Ned Martin and Dick Stockton. (Yes, that Dick Stockton.) So here was the broadcast lineup for the 1975 World Series, listed by game:

  1. Gowdy and Stockton splitting TV play-by-play with Tony Kubek on color; Garagiola and Brennaman on radio.
  2. Garagiola and Martin splitting TV play-by-play with Kubek on color; Gowdy and Brennaman on radio.
  3. Gowdy and Brennaman splitting TV play-by-play with Kubek; Garagiola and Martin on radio.
  4. Garagiola and Brennaman splitting TV play-by-play with Kubek; Gowdy and Stockton on radio.
  5. Gowdy and Brennaman splitting TV play-by-play with Kubek; Garagiola and Martin on radio.
  6. Garagiola and Stockton splitting TV play-by-play with Kubek; Gowdy and Brennaman on radio, joined by Martin when Brennaman went to the locker room for what everyone thought would be the World Series trophy ceremony. (Listen and watch for yourself.)
  7. Gowdy and Martin splitting TV play-by-play with Kubek; Garagiola, Brennaman and Stockton on radio.

You’ve heard the phrase “you can’t tell the players without a program”? Imagine trying to keep who is supposed to broadcast in which booth straight. In game 6 I imagine some assistant director yelling “Ned! Ned! Get in here!”

 

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