I’m a big fan of our national pastime. It’s the only sport that I follow on a daily basis. I consider the game one of America’s greatest inventions. It’s a beautiful thing, to quote Bob Costas.
It’s not for everyone. Fine. You think it’s too slow. Fine. Not enough action. Fine. Whatever. I’m not going to point out just how little “action” takes place in the course of a typical football game. (Because the Wall Street Journal already did.) I’m not going to point out that in 95% of NBA games nothing but the last four minutes or so matters in determining the winner. (And that four minutes typically takes three times as long as that to actually play, with all the timeouts and fouls and whatnot.) Â Those games have their charms. I can enjoy them. I just don’t love them. And maybe you don’t love baseball. Fine.
The problem isn’t necessarily the announcer; the problem is the game of baseball is inherently slow moving and this generation of viewers requires constant stimulation. Baseball is not a product of constant stimulation. Hell, it’s a game that could go weeks without anything interesting happening. There is nothing any announcer can do to make the game what it isn’t.
All of our great American games – baseball, football, and basketball – play out in spasms of action. There’s a lot of preparing for the next play through which fans have to sit. Broadcasters in all sports have a lot of dead time to fill. However, I don’t think Rhadigan’s filling of dead time was what got people so upset. It was his lack of knowledge of the game.
Just one example: He didn’t seem to know whether a ball was going fair or foul until it had landed in the stands. When the TV camera doesn’t have the ball in its sights, viewers count on broadcasters to offer some clue as to what’s happening. On Sunday, I watched Adrian Beltre smoke a ball into the left-field corner. Rhadigan said, barely above a whisper, “He hits it down the left field line,” then absolute silence until the ball had actually hit off the wall, clearly in fair territory, and bounced onto the field. Only then did Rhadigan say, “It’s fair.” In those long moments of silence, I was utterly confused. I thought maybe my eyes had been playing tricks on me, that it wasn’t actually fair. But no. He just wasn’t very good at that job. And, yes, it’s entirely the Rangers’ fault for hiring someone with no play-by-play experience to sit in the booth for the American League champions.