Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras hit a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning vs the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday at Chase Field… and the television feed cut out right after he hit the ball.
What made the moment even more confusing for viewers was that the ball was hit down the left field line, and the feed returned when the ball landed in toss-up fair-or-foul territory in the left field seats.
Nobody was in a more uncomfortable position for this than Jon “Boog” Sciambi, Cubs play-by-man for Marquee Sports Network. Sciambi and color commentator Rick Sutcliffe (filling in for Jim DeShaies) were calling this Arizona-located game from Chicago, relying on the broadcast feed to see the game. So, Sciambi had to wait to see reaction from those in the ballpark — and Contreras celebrating on the way to to first base — in order to say if it was a home run or foul ball.
The broadcast actually started cutting out right after the Cubs’ Robinson Chirinos hit a game-tying single the batter before Contreras’ plate appearance. The choppy, in-and-out feed kept worsening, before the video completely disappeared for a few seconds right after Contreras hit the ball. On the Marquee broadcast, Sciambi tried to explain what was happening as the screen went black (featuring only the Marquee logo and scorebug).
Here’s how the home run looked on the Marquee broadcast:
Full Cubs feed. pic.twitter.com/vNSPD7JFHA
— Justin Groc (@jgroc) July 17, 2021
The feed looked the same way on the Bally Sports Arizona broadcast (Marquee was using the home team’s cameras), except this one didn’t even feature a scorebug or any graphics when the screen went black. Unlike Sciambi, Arizona play-by-play man Steve Berthiaume was at least in the stadium to see the home run.
Arizona feed pic.twitter.com/QusQiTqgE0
— Justin Groc (@jgroc) July 17, 2021
So, viewers had no idea what was happening in literally the game-deciding moment (the Cubs won by that same score, 4-2), and one of the announcing crews had no idea either.
Marquee actually had sideline reporter Taylor McGregor on-site at Chase Field, despite Sciambi and Sutcliffe calling the game from Chicago.
Poor, Boog. Trying to call a ballgame that he can't see. #Cubs
— Jeff Agrest (@jeffreya22) July 17, 2021
Here’s the problem with the broadcasters not being in Phoenix. These glitches mean he had no idea if it was fair or foul. Ridiculous @WatchMarquee
— #Vaccinated in Chicago (@ChiTownSports) July 17, 2021
It is ridiculous. Yet their sideline reporter is there. Makes no sense.
— Bruce Miles (@BruceMiles2112) July 17, 2021
Boog was flying blind. His feed was bad too. It resulted in a poor viewer experience during the game’s most important moment.
— Matthew Freedman (@FreedmanMatthew) July 17, 2021
Now, Marquee was actually the only regional sports network — amid COVID restrictions and concerns — to send broadcasters on the road in the first half of the season, when they sent crews to Cubs games against the Cincinnati Reds (June) and Milwaukee Brewers (July). And Marquee does intend to travel for “roughly half” of the Cubs’ road games in the second half, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Sciambi told the Sun-Times earlier this week that he wants to travel, and that the broadcasters’ presence in the ballpark “enhances your viewing experience.”
‘‘Whether fans care or not, my being at the ballpark and having access to the players enhances your viewing experience. I’m telling you it does,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m going to deliver — and we as a network are going to deliver — a better product, and ultimately the league needs to get involved because we’re delivering their product.”
Saturday’s game certainly proved Sciambi’s point.
The glitchy experience would’ve had viewers much more annoyed if the game had more significance and interest (or in the Cubs’ case, if it occurred a few weeks ago). The smaller-market Diamondbacks have MLB’s worst record at 26-68, and the Cubs (46-46; 7.5 games back in the NL Central) are officially sellers after an 11-game losing streak earlier this month derailed their realistic playoff chances.