Well, no, the two bewildered gentlemen pictured above are not the TBS announcers. In fact, that’s George W. Bush and (no, that’s not a disgruntled Jay from ‘Modern Family) Nolan Ryan — George is wondering if he forgot to close the garage door after he left his house for the evening while Ryan can’t believe the Rangers lost a 5-0 lead in the 8th inning. Yeah, that’s just a great picture and I wanted to post it. I digress.
As for the ‘A’ team that TBS put together for the ALCS, well, most viewers have the same perplexed looks on their faces when having to listen to the broadcast. The general consensus among fans seems to be that Ernie Johnson, Ron Darling and John Smoltz should not be announcing these games, or any for that matter.
To be fair, Ernie Johnson does a great job as the studio host for TNT’s Inside the NBA. However, doing baseball play-by-play is literally a completely different game. For starters, his monotone voice, which works well in-studio, doesn’t really exude playoff-level excitement. Add that to the fact he has no feel whatsoever for the play-by-play action, and it can become mostly unbearable. For example, taking shortcuts when calling a televised game, as opposed to a radio broadcast, is a forgiveable offense, but “[Hit] to _____, Caught. End of inning,” simply isn’t enough as an announcer, no matter the type of broadcast. With Johnson’s voice, that’s as scintillating as Monty What’s His Name in ‘Major League II’ (“Line drive… caught”). You’re going to have to put a little more personality into it than that.
I feel like Johnson gets that sometimes. There are certain plays when you can tell he’s amped up a bit — plays when he tries to sound less like someone holding in their dinner while talking at the same time, and more like someone who’s calling a big play in the freakin’ ALCS. Of course, showing excitement isn’t good for business if you’re only doing it for one team. A lot of the complaints I heard last night were that Johnson was more fond of the Yankees’ big plays, thus leading people to believe he wanted the Yankees to win. (These complaints could’ve been coming from Texas fans, and the telltale sign of a good announcer is having fans of both teams thinking he wants the other team to win. I’ll say, though, I saw a lot more comments reflecting the belief that Johnson was favoring the Yankees. In his defense, a dramatic comeback in the 8th inning is inherently exciting for any baseball fan without a vested interest in either team. I don’t necessarily blame him if he was unintentionally coming off that way).
— John Smoltz is a much different case-study than Ernie Johnson. He clearly knows baseball — you don’t have the success he had on the diamond by not being “baseball smart” — but he seems to have a problem consistently relaying that knowledge coherently. He says things like this, this and this, and it makes you wonder how the hell he ever compiled a 3.33 ERA over 21 seasons with 200-plus wins and 150-plus saves. (Also, an announcer should never be one that repeats the same word or phrase over and over again, unless it’s really awesome. For example, it got weird last year when Chip Caray kept saying, “fisted.” If there was a drinking game for the number of times Smoltzy said “reset,” everyone would be streaking up through the Quad to the gymnasium or needing their stomachs pumped).
— Ron Darling has less excuses for being awful — he’s been in the announcing game much longer than Ernie Johnson and John Smoltz. Yet, he still finds a way to make up pitches (indoor cutter?) and provide the most obvious “insight.” And did you know he sounds like James Woods?
Seriously, look at the Twitter searches for any of these three during the game and you’ll see people constantly bitching. It’s highly entertaining.
Here are the links:
Now, I’m of the belief that if somebody doesn’t have something negative to say with regards to something like announcing (unless you’re Vin Scully and there’s only one Vin Scully) then you probably won’t hear anything about it at all. Therefore, the results could be skewed. It’s similar to what can make looking up, say, apartment reviews on the internet kind of pointless because if somebody enjoyed their living situation just fine, they’re not going to take the time to tell people “yeah, it was fine.” However, if they didn’t have a pleasant stay, they’ll be more inclined to hop on a computer and warn anybody who does search the reviews that it sucked or the floors were really dirty because the previous owner had a lot of cats. You’ll never find a decent place to live if you rely on the reviews. It’s just human nature to complain about something more than praise it (unless, as I said, it’s really great, which is more rare).
Keeping that in mind, TBS has to ask itself — are the 99% negative comments one can find with a simple Twitter search enough to objectively say, these announcers don’t belong in the booth for the ALCS? It seems like a great deal of people are complaining that the announcing has been distractingly bad. And, if it wasn’t, these complainants wouldn’t be tweeting about Smoltz dropping another “reset” or Ron Darling’s lack of insight, they’d be tweeting about the game itself.
[pic via 30fps]