An ESPN graphic for SportsCenter on an Oregon State-Stanford game. An ESPN graphic for SportsCenter on an Oregon State-Stanford game.

Live sports broadcasts of any kind come with challenges. Live sports broadcasts on a national cable network come with further challenges still. One of those involves promo ad reads for other network content. This is an expected part of any national announcer’s job, but it can sometimes go wrong. And that often has more to do with the system providing the copy to that announcer than the announcer who actually reads it.

A notable recent case of that came with ESPN’s Mark Jones Saturday. Jones was calling a #Pac12AfterDark Oregon StateStanford game (an eventual 28-27 win for the Beavers) on the main ESPN network alongside analyst Robert Griffin III. At one point in the final three minutes there, he went into an in-house ad-read for a Dodgers-Giants Sunday Night Baseball game that took place three weeks ago, on Sept. 18. (The Dodgers won 4-3, for the record.)

There are many lobbing criticisms at Jones over that, and that is understandable from a perspective of “Why would you not know that baseball is already in its playoffs?” However, that’s not necessarily reflective of the realities of broadcasting a game. That requires a lot of preparation on that specific game, a little preparation on the wider context of that particular sport, and not much at all on anything else in the sports world.

And there’s also a default for an announcer, especially with in-house promos, to rely on the information they’re presented being correct. And that’s especially true in a short time window. There’s a potential alternative universe where Jones fully recognizes this is wrong and doesn’t read this promo as presented. But it’s not entirely clear how that would shake out.

And it’s not entirely clear there’s a great alternative. The apparent alternative critics would seemingly argue for is for Jones to use his own knowledge, override his broadcast team, and not talk about the card he was presented to promote this weeks-old game. And there’s merit to that on some level.

But it’s a huge ask to ask an announcer in one sport to use their own personal knowledge to override the information they’re given from their team, who supposedly is there to support them and to deliver relevant promos for the network. The failing here should be far from on Jones as an individual, even though he’s the one who read this bad copy on air. And it’s notable that the on-screen graphic here did not align with the copy Jones read; there was clearly some level of network preparation about what was actually coming up on SportsCenter, but Jones instead was given something to read to promote an upcoming a weeks-old game.

With all that said, it is interesting that a couple of minutes later, there was another promo read about baseball. And this time, Jones was presenting accurate information on where the MLB playoffs are currently at.

Reactions to this whole thing can vary, and will vary depending on perspective. People who go to “Oh, he said something dumb on air!” are not entirely wrong. The end result here was a bad one for Jones and for ESPN.

But critics here should be cognizant that it’s highly unlikely this was copy Jones came up with himself on the spur of the moment, or copy that he had prewritten. That’s seemingly not his job, and it takes a great suspension of disbelief to have him as the originator of this bad copy. That’s not how most in-house ad reads work. Someone absolutely screwed up here, and Jones was the public face of that. But from this corner, it’s a wider ESPN screwup that led to this error.

[Awful Announcing on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.