Baseballs and McCarver need to stop talking

by Beacon Staff • October 12, 2005

The baseball postseason arrived in a chaos of potential tiebreaking games, Wild Card match-ups and co-division champions this year. All the while, Fox broadcasting lapped up the excitement since ratings for these sort of games are almost always higher than normal.

And besides, Fox holds the rights to most of the playoff series this year, including the two league Championship Series and the World Series.

This is really too bad, because if you're a person who loves baseball, Fox is probably the bane of your existence.

Fox's motto seems to be, "If it's obvious, let's state it" and "If we state it, let's do it in a really abrasive manner."

The prime example of this is Scooter the Talking Baseball. For those who have thus far been able to avoid this monstrosity, which seemingly was born in between the fourth and fifth layers of Hell, this is Scooter in a nutshell:

Imagine that person you hang out with who screams and yells during inappropriate situation-especially in an instance when everyone already knows what is happening. He probably wears a backwards baseball cap, right? Sometimes he gets so excited by something stupid that he can't even articulate his argument, choosing instead to point at the thing and make noisy, unintelligible sound effects.

Got that? OK, now imagine if this guy was a talking baseball with googly-eyes.

This is Scooter.

Fox will unleash Scooter two or three times a game, which is two or three times too many. Scooter enlightens the viewing audience by making informative observations such as "a slider goes zip-zippity-zowy!!!"

All the small children who stay up until midnight to watch playoff baseball must love this abomination. All six of them.

While Scooter is certainly irritating and ill-advised, ultimately he (it? What pronoun does one even assign an androgynous talking baseball?) does not detract from the overall game.

The stunt Fox pulled during the last weekend of the regular season, however, did.

A Saturday, Sept. 30 game broadcast locally featured a hard-fought battle between the Red Sox and the Yankees. A Red Sox loss meant they would not win the American League East pennant this season.

High drama was unfolding across television sets in New England and New York.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox were playing a game with implications for the Red Sox as well. Had Cleveland lost the game (which they did), they would not have forced a one-game playoff against the Red Sox to decide the fate of both teams.

While Red Sox fans were interested in Cleveland vs. Chicago, certainly they did not want their home game relegated to a small box in the lower-right-hand corner of the TV screen.

Well, I guess they did because, for innings at a time, Fox made the game of local interest a tiny blip in the corner of the screen while Cleveland and Chicago battled it out.

What kind of network employs this sort of reverse-logic? Why, who else but Fox?

There was, however, one positive that came from this particular travesty. It meant that the audio of the Red Sox and Yankees game was muted in favor of the other broadcasters. How could this be a good thing? One simple reason:

Tim McCarver.

Any self-respecting baseball fan looks for an iPod or anything else to listen to whenever McCarver speaks. McCarver is the color analyst for most Fox baseball games, working alongside his play-by-play partner, the decent-if-unspectacular Joe Buck.

McCarver used to play for the Cardinals and the Red Sox primarily as a backup catcher.

And for the uninitiated, McCarver knows everything about baseball, ever.

After all, Red Sox fans always thought pitcher Bronson Arroyo's first name was, indeed, Bronson. But no! The all-seeing McCarver referred to this same man as Brandon Arroyo during last year's ALCS. How could we have been so silly? And it's also not Tim Wakefield. It's Tom Wakefield, so says the great McCarver!

Red Sox pitcher Lenny DiNardo? Just "LiNardo" now, according to McCarver during the aforementioned Sox-Yankees game.

A mistake every now and again is one thing. But when the man is constantly wrong, and never shutting up about ... well ... anything, it is enough to drive a sane man crazy.

Then again, in Fox's world, a sane man would realize that being a former backup catcher entitles him to blather incessantly about, among other things, the greatness of Derek Jeter to a nauseating extent.

McCarver has even been called out by Buck for his incessant Jeter worship. Buck has acknowledged that Jeter is a talented player, but during a midsummer Yankee game against the Chicago Cubs, even he became fed up with McCarver, calling the broadcast booth "The Derek Jeter Fan Club."

Certainly not objective analysis on McCarver's part.

Many have expressed their frustrations over McCarver's continued employment by Fox. There is even a Emerson Facebook group called "Tim McCarver Haters," which has 26 members.

Group member Lucas Einstein, a junior marketing communications major, submitted the following McCarver gem on the Facebook group's message board:

"Francisco Rodriguez against Alex Rodriguez. I guess you can call this Rod-Rod."

This is the level of asinine commentary every baseball fan watching a game on Fox must deal with.

McCarver's reign of terror has become so insidious that there is actually a Web site called www.shutuptimmccarver.com, devoted to, well, shutting this guy up.

ESPN, on the other hand, puts together a credible baseball broadcast. Announcers such as Jon Miller, Chris Berman and Rick Sutcliffe do a solid job narrating the game without distracting from it. Also, there are no computer-generated inanimate objects.

Perhaps when Fox's contract with Major League Baseball expires, ESPN will pick up the rights to all postseason games.

Or maybe the higher-ups at Fox will miraculously come to their senses and ditch the gimmicks, letting the game speak for itself (this would also likely require gagging McCarver, so in this case, everybody wins!)

At the very least, Fox should take a cue from ESPN.

Dave Bartlett is a junior print journalism major and the assistant sports editor for The Beacon. His e-mail address is David_Bartlett@emerson.edu.

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