Ed Note: The following occurs courtesy Bloguin's new pop culture blog The AP Party and Ben Heisler. Ben works for MLB Network Radio and hosts The AP Party Podcast.
With Keith Olbermann away in Atlanta moderating the trapezoidal shaped “roundtable” over at TBS for postseason baseball coverage, someone needed to step up and show up by Tuesday to ESPN’s Times Square studios to fill in on Olbermann. Now hosted for the next three weeks by? “Not Keith Olbermann.”
ACT I: Larry Enters Your Living Room
“Good evening. I’m Larry King…”
Holy shit! Larry King? I thought the enjoyment of Ora TV was that I’d never have to actually watch it on real television? I must be on the wrong channel. Nope… the description actually says Larry King is in for Keith Olbermann. I guess he’ll have something to say.
He did… Surprised yet?
After a quick resume reminder of King’s 56-year career, (you know he was the guy who hosted Larry King Live, right?) the royalty of talk show hosts recaps his conversation with ESPN Executive John Walsh from last week explaining his reasoning for being here.
John Walsh: “We’re having a problem with Keith Olbermann.
Larry King: “You fired him again?”
John Walsh: “No, no, no. He’s got a commitment somewhere else. Can you sit in for him?”
Larry: Can I sit in for him? I’ll be there tomarrah.
ACT II: The Rant - “The Strike Zone”
Larry channels his inner-Dennis Miller with his views about the differentiating of the strike zone according to home plate umpires. He was always taught a strike is from the letters on the uniform to the knees. So then if that’s the case, how come different umpires have their own variations for the strike zone?
He then goes on exemplify this rule being varied through other sports. In basketball, a ball bounces in and out a few times before rolling out, but the ref calls the basket good. A hockey puck being swatted away by a diving defenseman before inching over the line, only to have it called a good goal by a ref on the far side. He then argues for an electronic strike zone similar to what tennis has for borderline in-or-out calls.
The robotic strike zone isn’t an original concept, but this idea isn’t terrible. It would need to be refined and determined when a player or manager can challenge a ball or strike call or if they would simply replace home plate umpires all together, but if every other sport can get the call right through a replay system, there’s no reason baseball should be left in the dust. Plus TV executives can sell more ad time; sometimes taking two commercial breaks so Bud Light can tell us how we’re not complete psychopaths for opening up beer bottles with our eyeballs so long as our team keeps winning, it’s ok!
We did get a great Earl Weaver story out of it, with Larry making reference to the potential lack of umpire/manager confrontations as a result of an electronic strike zone. I’d summarize it, but Larry told it so well that I’m hoping they put the video up at some point. If you’re desperate to know, google “Earl Weaver mad at myself” and you’ll get a variation of Larry’s story.
ACT III: Joe Maddon: Tampa Bay Rays Manager
The skipper of the Rays joins Larry to give his perspective on the current state of umpires, preview their starter Alex Cobb who he considers to be one of the best in the American League, and assess their unique clubhouse structure. Any time one gets to hear from Joe Maddon is always a treat.
Larry also had one of his “I wish I had that question back” type of moments during the interview, as evidenced by Jimmy Traina of Sports Illustrated.
This is high comedy. Larry King asked Joe Maddon if he has a game plan for tomorrow. Maddon said "absolutely" in a "are you insane" tone.
— Jimmy Traina (@JimmyTraina) October 2, 2013
ACT IV: Nick Swisher: Cleveland Indians Manager
Really not much to report here, other than Bro-Hio cracking up after every question he’s asked, referring to Larry as “man” the whole time and smiling and giggling his way through every generic, rehearsed, high-energy response. Nobody gives less with more effort than Swisher.
ACT V: Larry Likes
It’s like Oprah’s favorite things… except suspenders hold them up and you’re far less motivated to share them with your friends.
Also, if you’ve ever wanted “Lessons in Yiddish 101 with your host Larry Zeiger, (King’s original last name before he changed it in Miami Beach), he takes you on a journey to find out the origin of chutzpah.
ACT V: Colin Cowherd: National ESPN Radio & TV Personality
As a radio guy, I really enjoyed this conversation. Both of these men always have something to say, so Cowherd keeping quiet while Larry went on about his start in broadcasting stunned me. He ultimately was looking to set up Colin to hear his story, but watching Larry wax poetic about being thrust into the spotlight in his early to mid-20s, changing his name from Zieger to King before his first on-air gig in Miami Beach was more amusing than an observation of an uncomfortably long TV story.
They also both discussed their feelings when the on-air light is on and how they’re both at peace in that moment. For someone like me, that’s the mental place to strive to arrive at. I still get excited and get a fistful of butterflies when I’m ready to do a show or podcast, but I’m still searching for my voice to the point where on-air peace will hopefully come. You have to know yourself inside and out and truly determine what you do well before you reach that state of tranquility.
ACT VI: Time Marches On
Larry reacts on the fly to highlights of dogs surfing in Huntington Beach, a marvelous “Delorian” out in McCovey Cove at AT&T Park in San Francisco, and the great sousaphone collapse in West Texas.
I found it to be an amusing first show from “Legendary Larry” (guess Larry Legend is already taken by that Bird guy). At this point, one has a general idea of what to expect out of Larry King and that authenticity was there throughout. He still kept a few of the good Olbermann shtick but made them his own, not trying to impersonate or replicate how KO does his bits. The best part of it all is that the whole time, you’re just waiting on Larry to accidentally blurt out something you never saw coming… kind of what inspired “The Larry King Game” on Kevin Pollak's Chat Show.
There were plenty of examples… I just think Harry Shearer nailed it better than anyone else.