Out of Town, Out of Luck

One of the first things I did when I moved to Los Angeles was to look into the MLB Extra Innings package, to make sure I could watch my Mets games. The first two seasons, DIRECTV only offered one feed of each game, so sometimes I would get the Mets broadcasts, sometimes the out of town team. Then for two seasons I got both feeds, so I always got to watch Gary, Keith and Ron.

GaryKeithRonI moved in the middle of this season from my luxury, celebrity-laden (for example, Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Erin Andrews, the super-hot and super-nice Rebecca Mader, who played Charlotte on “LOST,” and the only celebrity with whom I was actually on speaking terms) apartment complex to a more modest (read: cheaper) building. I am now a Time Warner customer, and it only offers one feed of each game. So half the time I don’t get the Mets broadcasts. I had forgotten just how bad some of those broadcasts are.

Now, I’ll admit, I am a bit of a New York media snob. I am of the opinion that the best TV talent goes to New York, leaving smaller markets with inferior broadcasters. You’d be surprised by the steep drop-off in talent between local news anchors and reporters in New York and Los Angeles, which is still the number two market in the country. You’d think the talent level here would be high. Trust me, it is not.

I didn’t think it would be the same way with baseball. Think about it — there are 30 teams, and with three or four broadcasters per team, there are, what, like 100 of these highly-coveted jobs in the country? You’d think everybody would be of the highest quality, regardless of whether they are are in New York or Cleveland. Alas, I was wrong.

Some of these broadcasters are just horrible. Even now, I am watching the Pirates broadcast — two of the most boring men you’d ever want to listen to. Many of them are just dull as dishwater. Others are just plain bad. Mark Grace, who does color for the Diamondbacks, comes off as just a jerk, which was a bit of a surprise. Steve Lyons, who does some of the road games for the Dodgers, is among the worst. But THE worst is Rob Dibble of the Nationals. He’s just a class-A a-hole.

Aside from the talent level, I was shocked by the homerism of these broadcasts. Growing up in New York, we are used to broadcasters who are objective. They might have a slight bias for the home team — that is to be expected. But they don’t openly root for the team. That is not the case outside of New York. They take no steps to hide their feelings. I’ve heard things like:

— “Cardinals 2, bad guys 1”
— “We’ll be right back — let’s get some runs!”
— “Get out of here!! Go!! Go!!” when their guy hits a long drive.

There is also the constant use of “we” and “us.” I guess this is the norm outside of New York, but it is a little jarring when you’re not used to it.

Which is not to say every broadcast team is horrible. It was a pleasure watching the Baltimore feed of the Mets-Orioles interleague series. Gary Thorne, who was excellent when he worked for the Mets and for my money is the best play-by-play guy in the business, was paired with Jim Palmer, who is just as good doing color. But other than that, no one else really stands out in my mind.

SUNDAY SPECIALWhich brings us to ancient Vin Scully, who on Sunday announced he is coming back for his 272nd season behind the mic for the Dodgers. He is a legend here in Los Angeles, the same way New Yorkers revere Ralph Kiner, Marv Albert, and the late Bob Murphy and Phil Rizzuto. But in my opinion, Scully is horrible.

Perhaps I’ve never forgiven him for his work during the 1988 NLCS, when calling the games for NBC, he was openly hostile towards the Mets and clearly biased for his Dodgers. If the Mets had won that series like they were supposed to, maybe I wouldn’t be so bitter. But they didn’t, so I am.

But I find Scully unlistenable. He works alone, which means he has to keep talking. He’s got “diarrhea of the mouth” syndrome, in which he just spews whatever comes to mind. Much of this is babbling nonsense, stories that Angelenos find charming for some reason. He does have a pretty good sense of humor, though. When he said a player was out with what he thought was a right groin pull, he said, “Well, if I’m wrong, I’m only off by one.” Aside from the occasional humorous comment or anecdote, Scully is way, way overrated. GQ just named him the best baseball broadcaster in an article that had Gary, Keith and Ron number two. I’m sure I’m in the minority when I say this, but don’t believe the Scully hype, folks.

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