With the great Cardinals/Rangers World Series in the books, it’s time to take a look at Fox’s coverage of the World Series with The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. Believe it or not, this was year number 14 that Fox has had the World Series and the 12th consecutive since 2000. With that in mind, Fox had some new elements for this year that stood out, but there was also a lot of the same ol’ same ol’ that has grown tiresome over the years.
Is the 2011 World Series the moment we’ll look back on as when the blogosphere and baseball fans tuned into the internet and Twitter turned in favor of Joe Buck? Yes, Joe Buck, in the good section looking at MLB on Fox. I can’t believe it either. For whatever reason (maybe it was his hometown team in the World Series), Buck brought his “A” game throughout the series and actually seemed interested. For as much as the blogs pound Buck for his disinterested and dispassionate announcing, he was on top of the big moments when it counted. His call in Game 6 was great and the channeling of his father was appropriate and memorable. Also, Buck, perhaps more than any other announcer, knows when to step away and let the moment speak for itself. If Joe continues to keep up this level of enthusiasm on every telecast and leaves behind some of the smugness and lame jokes, he could actually (gasp!!!) continue to win fans over.
Fox has always pushed the envelope in terms of game production and this year was no different. Sometimes it leads to embarrassments to our democracy like Scooter, but other times it works. Although Fox gets a little crazy some times with the crowd shots (thank God there are no marching bands in baseball), their folks are usually on top of everything that happens on the field. The fancy element added this year was an infrared camera coming from overseas and used on cricket coverage. Even though the infrared camera was laughed at by most people, it actually turned out to be useful on a couple key plays in the World Series. While it is far from the most efficient technological advance in baseball coverage, it at least shows that Fox is trying to push new boundaries on at least one aspect of their baseball coverage (we’ll get to where they aren’t in a second).
For those of you that may have wondered, “why is that dork Ken Rosenthal wearing a bowtie” during the World Series… it was actually a season long initiative from the Fox reporter to benefit charity. Sideline reporters may or may not add much in terms of game broadcasts (NFL on CBS has ditched them completely), but it’s always nice to see someone in the business do something for a good cause – fashionable or not. And, Rosenthal is one of the best at what he does. Bravo, Ken.
And finally, the World Series itself was a classic. Even outside of an epic Game 6, the series produced several enthralling games and moments. It wasn’t the best played baseball at times, but there’s no doubting the drama this seven game series produced. The story of the Cardinals even making the playoffs was stunning enough, but then winning the World Series, especially coming back in Games 6 & 7, was incredible. And then there’s that Game 6, which may be the most exciting baseball game of our lifetimes.
Whenever there was a big strikeout, a double play, or a remarkable highlight shown heading to a commercial break, there was always just one question on my mind… why the $*#& are they playing the NFL on Fox theme??? The Fox NFL theme hasn’t just infiltrated their MLB coverage, but their NASCAR coverage as well! Are we going to hear it in the Octagon too? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great theme – for the NFL on Fox. It’s a football theme. There was nothing wrong with the old MLB on Fox theme, so why get rid of it in the name of corporate branding? It just doesn’t make sense.
Fox must do something with their pre and postgame coverage that actually makes it worth watching. AJ Pierzynski added some fresh value and insight, but couldn’t they have found a more likeable player to fill that role? Someone that’s not a better fit as a professional wrestling villain? And Chris Rose, yipes. Shouldn’t he be hosting some Top 50 countdown or be stuck for eternity with Tom Arnold?
Although the numbers for the World Series picked up as expected for Games 6 & 7, the early ratings were once again abysmal. A Game 7 is always a television winner, even if the Bad News Bears are playing the Washington Generals. But, it’s those ratings that began the series and their evergreen audience which should most trouble MLB. The median age for a World Series viewer is over the age of 50. Alarm bells should be going off at that fact. They have to find some way to market the sport to get younger fans to care and get people to watch teams outside New York, Boston, Chicago, and LA.
And, although not directly tied to Fox, another element of baseball’s aging audience and their inability to reach younger fans is their idiotic and out-of-touch online video policy. Ben wrote about this last week, but it’s a shame that MLB would want to make it so hard for fans to watch the historic events of Game 6 online. A backwards, inept, heavyhanded policy that hurts the sport.
And finally, we come to Tim McCarver. Remember this from Game 1…
Timmy had his moments (his Game 6 “how did this happen” line was somehow perfect), but it’s clear after Terry Francona joined the booth during the ALCS that McCarver’s time as the top analyst in the sport has come and gone. I don’t think Tim’s going anywhere from the Fox booth anytime soon, so we may have to endure his failed Scrabble ramblings for another couple years until the MLB/Fox contract expires in 2013. And perhaps that’s part of the issue for Fox – 12 straight years is a long time for one network and one braodcast pairing to exclusively announce the World Series. At least Fox could add someone like Francona next year to the World Series and give viewers something new and relevant. But in the end, maybe the only way to truly makeover MLB coverage in a postitive way is for a new network to step in for the World Series.