In less than 48 hours, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver will grace millions of homes across the country — OK, just in Philadelphia and the Tampa Bay area — with the dulcet tones of FOX’s annual World Series coverage. I can hardly wait.
For anyone who watches baseball week in and week out during the season, Buck and mcCarver are a familiar pair. The two provide the commentary on FOX’s weekly Saturday broadcast and during the All Star Game. Even after baseball season, it’s impossible to escape Joe Buck as the robotic announcer covers football for Rupert Murdoch’s media empire as well.
Over the years, Buck and McCarver have done little to impress the crowd. Buck often sounds like he’d rather be somewhere else, and McCarver speaks a lot while saying a little. He’s also shown as tenuous a grasp on baseball player names as John Kerry did in 2004. It may even have come as a shock to McCarver than Manny Ortez wasn’t actually a player on the Red Sox.
As time wore on, though, it seemed like the only people complaining were those of us with our own online platforms. Fire Joe Morgan, a site clearly dedicated to the ESPN broadcaster, and Awful Announcing are popular online, but no one is listening. Maybe, just maybe, a Phillies-Rays World Series will spur on some changes.
Last week, Slate columnist Ben Mathis-Lilley started the annual baseball announcer bemoaning, and his cry has been picked up with increasing frequency over the last few days. A Huffington Post writer — not quite a position with high barriers to entry — warns of the impending Buck/McCarver tandem, but more important is Maury Brown’s diatribe about the national media. Brown writes emotionally:
So why, oh why, will the ratings be low? Blame broadcasters, for one.
Low ratings show, in part, that when you spend week after week, year after year showing the Red Sox and the Yankees during the regular season, you brainwash the average fan. If you want to make October something special, no matter who is playing, you better get America to follow all 30 teams.
This requires doing a bit of detox on FOX, ESPN, and TBS’ part. Understandably, you have America hooked on the Red Sox and Yankees, and with that you get your precious regular season ratings. The problem is, if one or the other team isn’t in the World Series and ratings are low, there’s a mountain of articles talking about how it’s a matter of being a “poor Series.”
That’s a load of manure…So, I say, the low ratings do mean something. It means that broadcasters will decide that, in the end, they will get on bended knee and pray for the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Angels or Cubs to make the World Series, and hope that they drew high ratings during the regular season.
Brown is 100 percent correct, no ifs, ands or buts about it. The national TV landscaped for baseball has become so attuned to the weekly ratings that they sacrifice the popularity of the game. Constant attention on the Yankees or Mets, on the Cubs and White Sox, on the Angels, Red Sox and Dodgers isn’t something promoting the best interests of the game.
Rather, the national TV coverage promotes the best interests of ESPN, FOX and TBS. These stations need money; they get money from advertising; they get more advertising from higher ratings. Since there are more fans in New York and Los Angeles and New England, games featuring teams from those areas will attract more eyeballs.
When Major League Baseball has a chance to renegotiate its next media contract — and that date won’t arrive until well into the next decade — it would behoove the game if the Powers That Be urge the networks to show a more distributive sampling of teams and games. After all, these telecasts should be about promoting baseball, and clearly something has gone wrong when a World Series match-up that promises to be as compelling this one is decried as a ratings bust before the games even begin.