Tuesday, September 22, 2009

You Can't Always Get What You Want, Part One

Sports fans are a fickle bunch. Tony LaRussa gets railed for swapping pitchers too much, but Grady Little was run out of Boston for leaving his pitcher in too long. Fans boo when the home team punts on fourth-and-one, but become Monday Morning Quarterbacks when their team goes for it and fails. Even when changed is called upon for decades, once the real change happens, they panic like rednecks when Obama was elected.

For as long as I can remember, fans have berated announcers for their lack of knowledge and insight. Don't get me wrong, most arguments against announcers are based in fact. John Madden couldn't tell you anything about a play that a thirteen year old couldn't point out. Same goes with Tim McCarver, Rich Gannon, and well, just about every color guy. The only purpose they serve is to explain plays to people who know nothing about the game, which is something around 3% of the viewing audience. They are, in fact, worthless.

ESPN's season opening Monday Night Football double header provided fans with a different audio experience. The network's Mike & Mike, teamed with Steve Young, gave us a new angle. No, it wasn't Dennis Miller new, but it wasn't the same old "analysis" we usually get. These guys knew and worked with each other before the pairing, and it showed. They bantered, they talked over each other. The trio sounded like any three guys watching a football game. And people hated them for it.

Immediately after the game, I tuned to two different national sports radio shows to hear the same thing: Mike & Mike & Steve sucked. The next day at the water cooler (or more aptly in the 21st century, the ashtray outside), the talk was the same; the broadcast was unprofessional, unpolished and unlistenable. Message boards around the net resonated the same. But what is it that fans want? Do they even know?

Fact is, we have been conditioned to the polished, unintruding ways of Madden and McCarver. As much as people bash them, they at the same time can;t stand anything but. Dennis Miller was chased out like Frankenstein's monster because his humor wasn't mindless and fake like the kind you see on pregame telecasts. Young and Golic's banter was deemed annoying because it wasn't scripted like Buck and McCarver's. And Greenberg's play-by-play is denounced as boring because he doesn't have an on-air orgasm after every first down like Gus Johnson.

Already the abuse is being directed towards the regular MNF crew and newbie Jon Gruden. My favorite sportswriter, Joe Posnanski, even repeatedly Tweeted during tonight's game about the awful announcing. Well, what do we want? If we can't stand more of the same, maybe we should not be so quick to overreact to a new formula. You can't bitch about everything all the time. We need a little Steve Young and Dennis Miller. Or if not, we need to stop whining about the status quo that we refuse to change.


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