Category Archives: Pat and Ron Time

To Be or Not to Be? The Homer Announcer

mets broadcast

There’s an obvious difference between a national PxP sports broadcaster working for a big-time network and a local television or radio announcer. The difference, of course, is the fact that the national broadcaster (think Joe Buck, Al Michaels, Marv Albert) is supposed to stay neutral, giving equal time and excitement to both teams during a game.

The local broadcaster, on the other hand, does not hide behind a cloud of objectivity; rather, they make no secret of their hope for their team to win, and, for obvious reasons, devote more time and attention to that team. There are clear reasons behind this. For one, the broadcasters are often employees of the team, so if they are too harsh on their employer, they probably won’t last very long. The broadcasters are also playing to their audience, who is overwhelmingly going to be fans of that team.

For instance, Pat Hughes, radio PxP man for the Chicago Cubs, is going to yell louder when a Cubs player hits a home run as opposed to a Cardinals player because most people listening to the game on WGN are Cub fans.

But there is a line between pulling for a team and being an outright, obnoxious homer. Below are a couple examples of calls from announcers, both national and local. I want to know whether you feel any of them are too over the top in their excitement for the team, and whether the national broadcasters are being too objective (not showing any sort of passion).

John Sterling, Yankees’ Radio PxP Man:

Pat Hughes and Ron Santo during the ’98 season:

Marv Albert’s radio call of David Tyree’s great Super Bowl catch:

Hawk Harrelson’s call of a Mark Buerhle homerun:

A collection of NBA announcer Kevin Harlan’s best calls:

I actually don’t have a problem with a broadcaster favoring the team he announces; in fact, I prefer it when I am watching my local sports teams. As a fan, I want my announcer to share my passion for the team, without taking it too far. But if my team hits a three at the buzzer to win a game or a grand slam in the 11th inning to win, I want the announcer to go crazy just as I am.

But I don’t want the announcer saying “We are winning,” as Harrelson does. The announcer, even if he used to play, is not a member of the team, and thus has no business saying “We need some runs” or “The bad guys are winning.” That’s just plain amateurish.

My favorite broadcast team, though, might be what the New York Observer aptly named “The Anti Homers” crew of New York Mets’ television broadcasters. I have listened to these three a lot this summer, and find myself laughing out loud throughout the entire game. I highly recommend this article, which highlights all the reasons Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling make such a great team (hat tip: Whitehead).

The problem I have with some local announcers, such as Hawk Harrelson of the White Sox and John Sterling of the Yankees, is not their fanaticism for the team they broadcast; instead, it’s their gimmicks. I can’t stand “You can put it on the boaaarrrddd….YES!” I cringe when John Sterling goes into his “It is high, it is far” routine, only for the ball to land on the warning track. And, like everyone else, I can’t stand Chris Berman’s “Back, back, back.”

Genuine excitement is one thing. Gimmicks are another. Something simple like Marv Albert’s “Yes!” is fine with me, because it’s simple and pure and doesn’t sound forced.

Announcers don’t have to reinvent the wheel or spend their nights coming up with a catchphrase. I just want them to show some passion and let their calls come to them. Is that too much to ask?

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Back when SNL was Awesome…

…skits like these came out on the reg. One of Will Ferrell’s best characters, and one of my favorite bits from SNL:

And here is my favorite Goulet impression: The Coconut Bangers’ Ball: It’s a Wrap (you should be able to hold your mouse over the link and watch it on this page).

Mad Dog loses it…AGAIN

I’m not the first person to link to this audio, but if you haven’t heard it yet, you must. My good friend Will Cinelli pointed it out to me, though I had heard grumblings of it before.

Mad Dog, now on SiriusXM radio, is not happy. His ratings are in the garbage, and he felt it was time for a change. So what does he do? He flips out on his staff LIVE ON THE AIR. Don’t take my word for it…watch it here (and watch all the way to the end…the last two minutes are pure gold.)

Unreal. I mean, wow. The man is completely unhinged, yet so great. How would you like to be in the room while the Dog is ripping you live on the air? Isn’t that a good way for Dog to get punched? Should he be worried that someone is going to be waiting  for him with a weapon as he’s walking to his car at night?

SOMEONE WHO’S HEARD OF RUSSEL! WHO CAN TALK ABOUT THE 58 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME! BEN HOGAN!

Steroids Poker

poker table

It’s tough to get major league baseball players to talk about steroids these days. Particularly the ones who have been caught with PED’s or who are under intense scrutiny. Fortunately, I used my Between the Headset press credential to sit in on a high-stakes, no-limit poker game, and took some notes about the stuff the guys talked about.* Here’s how some of it went down:

Narrator: A dark, smoky room in in the basement of Manny’s house. I was surprised by how dumpy this basement was, but Manny assured me that the carpenter was coming to finish the basement on Monday. Apparently, these poker games have been going on for some time now, and they used to take place at A-Rod’s house, but they kept having to free Derek Jeter from bondage in the basement, and all of A-Rod’s cups were smeared with lip gloss.

On this particular night, the attendees were: Manny, Jose Canseco, A-Rod, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. An all-star cast, to be sure, with only half confirmed of taking steroids, and the other half being guilty in the court of public opinion.

The game was Texas Hold’Em, but the conversation soon turned away from cards and, as could be expected with this group, onto other things.The following conversations are as I remember them:

Clemens: Hey Big Mac, you remember that time I struck you out 4 times and you had to buy me all those shots after the game?

McGwire: I’m not here to talk about the past, bro.

Bonds: Come on Mark, stop doing that. The last time Sosa asked you about about your 70th homerun, you started crying. Get over it already.

A-Rod: Easy there, Bondsy. Let the man be. Some of us, er, some people are just sensitive.

Canseco: Hey man, if you’re upset I’ve got some stuff for you. In fact, I think I brought some with me in the car. We can go take care of it later if you want…

A-Rod: I’m not trying to end up like Manny with one of those 50 gamers. Manny, how’d that work out for you?

Manny: I didn’t have to play left field for like, 2 months man. You know how many errors that’s gonna save me this season? Like 35 or something.

Narrator: Not surprisingly, Manny was the first one to go all-in and lose. He bought back in a couple of times before giving up. Apparently, hitting a baseball really is the only thing he does well. Of course, the conversation eventually turned to steroids again, with Bonds being the center of attention:

A-Rod: Barry, how’d you keep all of that proof hidden all this time? How come your name never came out on any lists?

Bonds: I don’t know man, I really don’t. My lawyer told me to use that cream and clear excuse, like I didn’t know what they are. People didn’t believe it, but it kept them off my case. Cream and the clear? What kind of idiotic thing is that? That’s almost as dumb as Manny using that estrogen stuff.

Manny: Hey man, why are you attacking me like that? I’ve won a World Series, and people don’t hate me. And I somehow convinced people that whenever I do something dumb, it’s just Manny being Manny. I couldn’t have paid people to make that up.

Clemens: Everyone just thinks I’m a jerk because I’ve lied to every media organization out there. I lied on 60 minutes! That’s badass! But what those pricks don’t understand is that I’m the king of the strikeout. I party on the reg. Yachts on the reg. Good times on the reg. I’ve got the Dinali, and I’m not turning back. Who cares if I took some of that HGH stuff? It made my pecs look bigger when I wear tight shirts.

McGwire: Rog, what are you talking about? I’m the king…remember, King McGwire? I hit 70 homeruns one year. Tearing: It was a year that baseball fans will never forget. It saved baseball after the strike. Fans came back. People cared again. I saved baseball…

Bonds: You idiot, people hate you because you tainted the game even further. People cared until your whole steroids thing. Remember? Or can your mind not go back that far?

McGwire: Shut up, man. You’re the most hated guy in baseball.

A-Rod. Guys, guys, stop fighting. We’ve all taken steroids, there’s no need to for the bickering. By the way, Jose, I’ve been tired lately. You got anything that could pick me up?

Canseco: Boy, do I ever. It’s called JOOSE and it is awesome. Energy drink and malt liquor together in one can! Ever want to know what it’s like to have a heart attack before you get one from all the steroids later in life? Try some of this stuff. You’ll be reaching balls in the hole that Jeter could never dream of getting.

joose

Manny: Do you think it’ll make me a better fielder?

Clemens: Remember that time you cut off a throw from the outfield as an outfielder? You’re a lost cause, bro.

Narrator: At this point, tensions are high between the normally friendly ballplayers. The poker has ceased and the guys are all having a beer and arguing. Some of the topics they argued about:

  • Hot or not: Meryl Streep
  • The fastest way to drive from Long Island to Brooklyn
  • Is Jerry Garcia a descendant of Ghandi?
  • Favorite Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor
  • Does the move in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall in which Woody’s character kisses Diane Keaton before dinner actually work in real life?
  • Favorite sausage in the Brewers’ sausage race

sausage race

As the night wore on and the players passed the point of tipsy and crossed into drunk-land, they became more reflective. Well, McGwire and A-Rod did. The rest just became belligerent. But inevitably, the conversation turned to steroids once more, and it seemed that the players were genuinely remorseful.

McGwire: Do you guys think we ruined baseball? I mean, will the sport ever recover from what we did to it?

A-Rod: I might break Barry’s home run record one day, but I’ll always have this steroid thing hanging over me. Why did we do it?

Canseco: Chellooooo…you made millions of dollars. You’re world famous. Celebrities. Big time. TMZ puts you on their website. I call TMZ every day trying to get the paparazzi out here. What do I need to do, invite Hannah Montana over for brunch?

McGwire: It’s not about the money, man. It’s about the integrity of the game. We all grew up loving baseball. It’s been in our blood since birth. And we may have had a part in destroying an entire era of the game. Why should I feel good about that for a little bit of celebrity?

Bonds: For me, when I get off my high horse and actually think about it, it’s not about the game. It’s about my own legacy, which is forever tarnished. And that sucks. A lot. Willie Mays publicly stands by me, but deep down the dude hates me. I cheated. He never would’ve done that. That’s what hurts me the most.

Manny: You guys see that ESPN piece about me where they interviewed people in my hometown about their reactions to my suspension? Made me cry, man. Made me cry. They didn’t even say it was just Manny being Manny. It was Manny being a cheater.

Clemens: But what can we do? Some of us are out of the game, some of us haven’t even been officially caught. You think the Mitchell Report is gonna keep me from Cooperstown? Think again.

Canseco: What if I inject every baseball fan with some of that stuff that makes them forget? Then we’ll all be clean.

A-Rod: Do you actually have some of that stuff? I’d be down for that plan. Actually, could you get me a supply? That way I wouldn’t be lying with the media when I say I don’t remember my bad games…

McGwire: OK, so here’s the plan. Jose injects everyone at parks across the country with that forgetful juice. Meanwhile, we start a public campaign against steroids. That way, we look like we’re ahead of the curve on the issue.

Bonds: I like it. Let’s put our hands together. Balco on three…one, two, three…

Everyone: BALCO!

balco

Narrator: And so that was how the night concluded. The personal drivers came to take everyone home, the poker chips were put away, Manny’s basement was finished that Monday just as he promised me, and I left that night thoroughly confused. Just when it seemed there would be a breakthrough in these guys coming clean and taking an initiative to fix what they messed up, something got the better of them. Thus, we are all still left in a cloud of uncertainty, weighing the steroids issue in baseball, without knowing exactly what happened.

Perhaps one day these men will sit around the poker table and decide to admit their flaws. Maybe one day they’ll all come completely clean. Perhaps David Frost needs to conduct interviews with all of them. Until then, we can all only speculate, just as I have, about what goes through the minds of some of baseball’s cheaters.

I doubt they are spending a whole lot of time debating whether Meryl Streep is hot or not.

*Because I don’t know what the libel laws are, this is satire and fiction and not true and I’m making all of this up. Not trying to get sued.

Not another Michael Jackson post: Analyzing Media Coverage

jackson hospital

It’s been well over a week since the death of entertainment superstar Michael Jackson. In terms of the 24-hour new cycle, a week is about 3 years. News turns over so quickly because it has to, since viewers now get their news outside of the morning newspaper and the evening newscast. Websites need to be constantly updated, cable news needs fresh subjects to beat to death and reporters need new things to tweet. Thus, it’s not surprising that the media bombarded our senses with coverage of Jackson’s death when the news first broke.

It didn’t even surprise me that the next day or two were devoted to coverage of the events surrounding the pop star’s death and to putting his life in perspective. For a star of his magnitude, I would expect this kind of coverage. After all, news of Jackson’s death affected most people in the Western world in some way. I could not, however, have predicted that Jackson would still be making front-page headlines.

Some people are starting to grow annoyed with the coverage. Here are some examples:

From Mark Knoller, CBS White House Correspondent, Twitter: “Who had a more consequential impact on the world: Michael Jackson or Robert McNamara. Who will we hear more about today & tomorrow.?” “What do you think the networks will lead with this evening? Obama in Russia, or preps for Michael Jackson memorial tomrrow?”

From Jake Tapper, Reporter, ABC News, Twitter: “remember how right after 9/11 all those media muckety-mucks said they wouldnt over-cover fluff and celebrity stuff anymore?”

Those are two pretty prestigious reporters throwing not-so-subtle hints to their employers to lay off the Michael Jackson coverage (this may also be so that they can move their own coverage up in the program, since both are covering President Obama’s visit to Russia). Since both are reputable reporters, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt in suggesting that they actually are fed up with the amount of Jackson coverage still being thrown our way by the media.

Then there is this video, which seems to sum up how some are beginning to feel about all of the coverage. It gets credence because it is from a Congressman:

I’m not sure the Congressman offered the most politically correct message in the video, but I think his point is clear: there are a lot of terrible things going on in the world that warrant media coverage, so why is one man, albeit an important one in the entertainment world, garnering so much attention?

Below is a a response from Don Lemon, an anchor for CNN (via Huffington Post):

don lemon

HOWARD KURTZ: Don’t you feel deep down that this is overdoing it?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: No, I don’t feel it’s overdoing it. And I don’t — and when I hear people say that, I have to be very honest with you, Howie, I think it’s elitist. I don’t remember — I’m sure there was some criticism when there was the coverage of Princess Diana’s death, but I don’t think that there was this sort of criticism that we’re having with Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson is an accidental civil rights leader, an accidental pioneer. He broke ground and barriers in so many different realms in artistry, in pictures, in movies, in music, you name it. So, no, I don’t think it’s overkill.

KURTZ: Okay. He did all of those things. He also was accused of child molestation, and was a seriously weird person. But he has been dead for more than a week and we are still going almost wall-to-wall.

LEMON: Well, he has been dead for more than a week, yes, but Michael Jackson twice — well, once, I should say, he was acquitted of child molestation. The other time it was settled out of court.

KURTZ: Right.

LEMON: And if you talk to people who were involved in those cases, they don’t believe that he did it. So let’s put that aside.

The Huffington Post entry points to a Pew Research Center Study that found nearly two-in-three Americans felt that the media covered the story too much. But at the same time, 58% of those surveyed said they followed the Michael Jackson coverage either very closely or fairly closely. Furthermore, half of those surveyed said they thought the media struck the right balance between covering Jackson’s career and his scandal-filled life.

But there’s another reason that the media is covering Jackson so much, beyond the reasons Lemon stated above. Those reasons all come down to ratings and money. All one has to do is take a look at Twitter’s “Trending Topics,” which follows the subjects that are most tweeted. Two of the top subjects most-tweeted about are “Michael Jackson” and “MJ.” Nowhere on the list is President Obama, Russia, healthcare, etc. Clearly, Michael Jackson is still on the minds of the masses. People are tweeting about him at a rapid pace, with dozens of tweets coming down per minute.

Is this the most scientific way of finding out whether people are annoyed with the coverage? It definitely isn’t, but in my opinion, it’s a great indicator that news of the King of Pop is still intriguing to a lot of people, which is what, at the end of the day, the news organizations will want to deliver. Ratings=advertising dollars, so why would news organizations barrage its consumers with coverage of Obama in Russia when it’s a subject that won’t gain much traction? Over a million people registered for Jackson’s funeral, which is probably double the amount of people who even know Obama is in Russia.

Thus, it makes perfect sense to me that the media keeps churning out stories about Jackson. It’s an intriguing story that has a huge following. One of my journalism professors once told me that “sex, murder and food sell.”

I’m not sure which of those categories MJ fits into; perhaps all three. Or, maybe he belongs in a category all to himself, a category where the word “celebrity” is a vast understatement.

Happy 4th of July!

4th of july

Have a safe holiday. Back tomorrow.

The Cloudy Crystal Ball of Media

Reporter

This summer, I am interning at two companies: The first is Buddy Media, a start-up company focused on helping companies successfully market themselves in the realm of social media. The second is NY1 television, a more traditional news station. Working for these two companies brought me to think about the future of media, and where the two companies may someday intersect.

I’m not breaking any news when I write that the state of media is, to say the least, in a state of flux. Newspapers are struggling across the board, television ratings, particularly network newscasts, are a fraction of what they once were, and the Internet is a giant vat of news in which the user is responsible for picking out what is credible and what is junk.

This isn’t new. The writing has been on the wall for traditional media outlets for years now, as they struggled to adapt to the changing climate of consumer-produced and consumer-controlled content. The problem is not necessarily that the climate has changed. That was inevitable as technology evolved. The problem with the established media was the hesitation, reluctance and downright stubbornness of the old guard to roll with the punches. It was always assumed that profit margins would continue to be ridiculously high, because, after all, where else would people find out about the war overseas, the state of the economy or that creepy woman down the street who actually donates all of her money to homeless shelters?

But then Al Gore invented the Internet, and soon enough, every news outlet had a website, blogs were breaking news and reporters were tweeting out info on their stories long before it was published in any traditional news outlet. But profit margins are still down across the board for the old guard.

Which brings us to today. Traditional journalism jobs are dwindling, journalists are being asked to do more with less, and companies are struggling just to stay afloat. The Internet isn’t just hurting media companies, though. Many companies are struggling to figure out how to tap into the 24/7 connectivity that iPhones, laptops and blackberries provide.

Enter: Buddy Media. Rather than shamelessly plug the company that is helping to subsidize the cost of my living in the most ridiculously high-priced city in the country, let me just say this: Buddy Media gets it when it comes to brand promotion online. They have created Facebook fan pages and applications for companies interested in stepping outside the box of traditional advertising.

buddy media

Is it effective? Consider tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people that have signed up for a company’s fan page like Bud Light. Then consider the ways that a company can use this Facebook page to communicate directly with Facebook users. It’s a priceless tool that, in the age of Tivo, can be invaluable for companies trying to get the word out about a new product, new marketing campaign, or new location.

So the question then becomes, how can a company like Buddy Media help save journalism? While it might not be Buddy Media that helps make online journalism profitable, it will be a company with a similar mindset and skill set that does so. The problem with online content is that advertising space is much cheaper than in newspapers or on television. Thus, posting a newscast online won’t garner as much in the way of profit as that same newscast during the 6 o’clock time slot. It would be very, very hard for these companies to survive solely online, though some companies are going that route anyways.

And the traditional news outlets have already proven that they can’t figure it out themsleves. They seemingly have tried everything at this point: their reporters tweet, their stories appear in print and in video form on their websites, and they try to incorporate user-created content as best they can. But it’s still not working, because news outlets keep cutting jobs and consolidating newsgathering sources. The audience keeps fragmenting into smaller and smallers segments, with more and more specialized interests. Hyper-local reporting is in. People are just as interested in the job fair going on down the street as they are with North Korea’s latest craziness.

Companies like Buddy Media can help bring together these traditional journalism outlets with advertisers who know how to promote themselves online. There needs to be a complete integration of news content with Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc. As it stands now, news outlets find the online part nice, but they still devote most of their resources to the traditional product. This attitude needs to change. News outlets need to get people to want to watch this:

As much as, if not more than, this:

Maybe the hampster is an unfair competitor for the news outlets (that little fellow is cute), but you get the idea. Somehow, news needs to become exciting again. When it reaches that point, advertisers will come flocking back. And to make that happen, a company like Buddy Media will facilitate it, through iPhone applications and facebook pages.

Imagine getting breaking news videos while on the bus to work. But, in order for you to watch them, you need to download an application from Six Flags onto your iPhone that allows you to build your own roller coaster and then send it to a friend on Facebook. It’s advertising that is interactive and fun, and also allows you access to great traditional news content. That’s the future of journalism, in my opinion.

Is journalism worth saving? That’s a discussion for another blog post. But does it have a future? I hope so.

I have a very expensive degree riding on it.

Leave your thoughts below on where you think journalism and advertising is headed.