While many Yanks fans are headed down to Washington, D.C. for the series this weekend, I’m headed in the opposite direction. So while they get to watch the game live from Nationals park, I’m stuck with the two voices that any road tripping Yankees fan has to endure. John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman will be my guides for the weekend’s slate of games.
It’s become popular of late to pile onto this broadcasting team. Some of it is warranted, of course. While Sterling might have a voice made for radio, he fails in so many other aspects of game-calling. It seems as though at least once a game he completely misses a call. As in, he says one thing, when nothing of the sort has taken place on the field. And that’s my biggest complaint.
Sure, there are other annoying aspects of the broadcast. Ralph Nader recently railed against the in-game advertisements Sterling reads. These ads, he says, “disrupt the flow and excitement of the game broadcast and undermine your responsibilities as a guardian of the national pastime.” It makes for nice rhetoric, but radio is still a business that needs to turn a profit. With traditional ad dollars down, they have to recoup somewhere. Sure, I sometimes imagine Sterling doing spots for companies I’m researching. “That’s an energetic blast, and your company can take care of all its energy needs with ABB energy.” But realizing its’ a business, it’s not that bothersome.
And yes, there are the inane conversations between he and Suzyn about seemingly irrelevant topics. But that’s pretty inevitable in any three-hour broadcast. They have so much time to fill, and even more when a pitcher is working slowly. (And they make sure to lament that when it happens.) It’s tough to begrudge them these conversations, though, because they’re impromptu. They’re naturally going to get a detail wrong here, or go off on an unrelated tangent there. Nature of the beast and all.
Of Sterling’s bombastic calls I couldn’t care less. He created his schtick, and he’s going to run with it until the day he retires. Yes, his home run calls have become increasingly pathetic with age. Oh well. He still gets riled up, and it’s not really bothersome. It is, after all, his broadcast, and if he wants to spice it up in some manner that’s his prerogative. But if that’s all they did — have boring conversations, make ostentatious calls, and read advertisements — I wouldn’t mind. It’d be a trade-off for free descriptions of a baseball game I can’t watch.
No, the real issue is with the descriptions themselves. The broadcast team is the eyes and ears for those who have no other means. And in this regard Waldman and Sterling fail us. Again, it’s the call Sterling makes that in no way reflects what happened on the field. It’s getting tuned up for a home run call only to have the ball go 30 feet foul (which we have to learn later). Or worse, an “it is high, it is far” call for a ball that lands comfortably in front of the warning track.
The bare minimum I ask from a broadcast is an accurate description of the game, and I don’t feel as though I’m getting that with Sterling and Waldman. I understand some people enjoy their cooky style. That’s fine; it’s a matter of taste, and it’s not as though I’m immune to accusations of bad taste. But style or not, no one can forgive their play calling mishaps. It’s the very foundation of the broadcast, and yet it’s lacking wildly with the Yankees.
As we’ve learned, the Yankees could be switching broadcast stations next season. There’s a chance that this is the last hurrah for Sterling and Waldman. If so, I’d welcome the new blood. Not because I can’t stand Sterling’s home run calls, not because I’m turned off by in-game ads (the new team will read them, too, just as the teams before Sterling did), and not because I don’t enjoy Waldman’s insights. It’s because they’re failing at the most basic aspect of their jobs. Describe me the game. Even if you do nothing more, add no more personality, at least I’m informed. As a baseball fan with no way to watch the game, that’s all I ask.