Announcers

Some problems I have with today’s play-by-play sports announcers; A continuingly changing business

Solomon

One of many problems that I have with slow moving sports events like baseball, my favorite sport, and football is that the great majority of play-by-play announcers I’ve heard still call the plays as if television was not yet invented. Most think that they have to adhere to the old radio dictum: “Keep talking without taking a breath. Nothing is worse than dead air time.”

Certainly the dead air time dictum does not apply to television because viewers can see where a batted ball is heading or if a running back has broken through the defensive line for a big gain. There’s no need for the play callers excitedly announcing what everyone can clearly see; analyst’s explaining what happened is called for.

Here are several other play-by-play announcers’ shticks that annoy me:

  • Making a big deal of player’s introduction songs.
  • Playing up players nicknames like “Polar Bear,” “Sir Charles,” “The Grim Reaper,” “The Squirrel,” and “Thor.” Do announcers use nicknames to make the games sound like fun? If so, they’re acting like PR arms of the leagues, which tries to play down the sordid history of some athletes, team owners, and yes, some announcers, and promote sports events as fun, when in reality it’s a big business, played for big money by the athletes and team owners.
  • Announcers “Godding up” players and managers. “Godding up” is a term used by the great New York Herald Tribune sports editor Stanley Woodward, referring to a sports columnist who wrote glowingly about baseball players.
  • Voices who continually say that pitches “jussst missed,” when in reality most pitches that are not strikes “just missed.”
  • Dramatizing a ball hit down the foul line by saying “it jussst went foul,” when a viewer can see that the ball was trending foul from the moment the ball was picked up by the TV camera.
  • Repeating the same comments multiple times during a game and game after game. (Known as the “no dead airtime” routine, even thought the cameras are still working?)
  • Announcing teams that seemingly are not listening to each others comments, resulting in echo remarks.
  • Talking about teams uniforms as if they really mattered.
  • Announcers who feel that they just have to inform the viewers of personal non-sports related problems they faced in order to get to the announcer’s booth on time.

These include:

  • Telling the fans of the traffic tie-ups they endured while getting to the stadium. (Good gosh! Are sports announcers the only drivers who get tied up in traffic jams? News to me. Happens to me all the time on New York’s Belt and Hutchinson River Parkways. Maybe I should have been a sports announcer instead of deciding to join the public relations business when papers I worked for ceased publication.)
  • Complaining about how cold it is in the announcer’s booth. (At least they’re indoors, unlike workers whose jobs require them to work outdoors in frigid weather, at a tiny fraction of the announcer’s salary.)
  • Complaining about broadcasting equipment failures.
  • Complementing each other on how they are dressed.
  • Announcers assuming that everyone tuning into a game is familiar with “inside baseball” talk and use expressions like “squaring up the baseball,” “the nickel defense” and describing a baseball player being in the Major Leagues because of Rule 5. (Long gone are the days when announcers would describe the action so a person tuning in for the first time would understand what was being said.)

Of course, as any viewer knows in addition to butchering the English language and using “inside baseball” code words, sycophants among sports announcers are as common as commercials during a telecast.

This is especially true when baseball announcer’s talk about current stars and those of the past whose careers ended before the announcers were born or were in grade school, and football commentators talk about “gentlemen” team owners (who didn’t care about players’ brains being turned to mush).

But without a doubt the thing that annoys me the most about sports announcers is their censorship of history. Player’s disgraceful actions are seldom if ever mentioned when discussing an idol. Nether are the past unsportsmanlike and criminal conduct of some of today’s most famous broadcasters, whose behind the mike jobs proves that if you can hit a baseball, sink a three-pointer or toss a football  there might be a job in the sports broadcasting business for you.

In a Sept. 23, 2019 article in the Sports Business Journal, Brad Horn, a public relations professor at Syracuse University wrote in the article “Disgraced stars on the air a disservice to fans.” In the article, he decried the hiring of “bad boy athletes,” …who have been hired as sportscasters, despite their “criminal records and social transgressions.”

In his play “Julius Caesar,” William Shakespeare wrote, “The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.” The opposite is most often true when listening to the commentary of some sports broadcasters talking about players: “The good lives on; the evil is buried.”

Mets’ TV play-by-player Gary Cohen, 65

Some Problems I Have With Today’s Play by Play Sports Announcers. For many years during my long career in the sports marketing business, I’ve worked with several sports announcers of the past who were well known – eight years with Marty Glickman, Win Elliot and Fred Capossela on The Schaefer Circle of Sports live TV events programs. Also with Ralph Kiner for several years, when I was honchoing Gillette’s fan balloting program for Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game.  All were easy to work with, conversed in proper English and didn’t need sports jargon to make their commentary interesting. (Missing from their commentary, thankfully, was the continual trite jargon and describing the terrible working conditions they have to endure – too cold, not enough room in the broadcast booth, bad line of vision – that is so often part of New York Met’s broadcaster’s Gary Cohen’s schtick, while his analysts Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling, if bothered by the booth conditions, don’t complain about them.)

I know my next comment about today’s announcers will be sacrilege to many viewers who grew up listening to game day commentators on the radio before the broadcasters switched to TV:  I find it much more enjoyable to listen to “newbie” announcers who don’t talk as much as the “oldies” and don’t make every play seem like the “play of the year.”

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Arthur Solomon

Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications and consults on public relations projects. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com.

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Michael Green
9 months ago

Amen. I’d also fire any announcer who mentions golf or lunch unless it’s relevant to the game. Same with broadcast equipment–I remember years ago a game where the Dodgers had an issue and Vin said something like, we had an equipment problem so this is over the phone, and our apologies if it sounds weird. That was it. Merle Harmon told the story of broadcasting his first games (a doubleheader) and apologizing because he was sick and had a fever. He got one letter, and it said, don’t tell us about your troubles, we want to listen to the game.… Read more »

Myron Rushetzky
Editor
Myron Rushetzky
9 months ago

I have heard New York Yankee radio PBPer John Sterling announce “Strike Three!” without telling the listener whether it was a swinging strike or a called strike. I have heard him do it multiple times.