Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Memo to Broadcasters: What is the point?

Let's contrast two columns.

The first is by Ken Rosenthal, an appreciation of retiring broadcaster Tim McCarver.  Ken appreciates Tim's preparation, his passion, and his partnership.  (Ken does not appreciate the incessant criticism presented in reaction to Tim's broadcasting.)

The second column is by Joe Posnanski.  It has a misleading title, referring to the meaning of MVP, because Joe gets bored and immediately shifts to what he really wants to talk about:  poor broadcasting.  Joe appreciates stories, like Matt Carpenter's underdog journey to the Major Leagues.  (Joe does not appreciate hearing incessantly about stats, like Matt Carpenter's batting average in his first eight postseason games and his last eight postseason games.)

This is slight paraphrasing, but you understand.

In a sense, both columns are about broadcasting -- what makes a good broadcast and what makes a poor broadcast.

They differ in this respect:  Ken Rosenthal understands everything Tim McCarver does in leading up to a broadcast.  This is what he praises, the act of preparing to go on the air, and all that goes into collecting necessary information.  Joe Posnanski cares about what is actually shared on the air, what the broadcasters are actually saying.

Joe is right.

This is not to slight Ken Rosenthal's central theme; diligent preparation is hugely important.  A good broadcaster must do his/her homework.

But the true point is the broadcast itself.  If the broadcast is not delivered ably, concisely, and entertainingly, the listener is put off.

A broadcast must enhance the game -- dabbing in the context to show why the competition has meaning, spinning the narrative, making the audience feel smarter, telling insightfully what might happen, describing dutifully what is happening, and then artfully and concisely summing up what has just happened and why.  If a statistic is shared, the broadcaster must take pains to explain what that statistic means and why it was important enough to impart.  All of that homework prepared all day (and all week, and all season) long must be developed toward a positive purpose.  If it is not improving the broadcast, the time is being wasted.

These are not new lessons for broadcasters, but it does not hurt to hear them time and again.

It should be pointed out, too, that Joe Posnanski wants stories with his broadcast; other listeners/viewers prefer stats, or opinions, or analysis, or entertainment.  Not every taste can be appeased... but not every taste should be ignored, either.  There is plenty of room for description, analysis, statistics, laughs, and a great anecdote here and there in every broadcast.

Tim McCarver was at one time a terrific broadcaster, analyzing the game to great acclaim.  Not many have the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues.  A far scarcer few will ever come close to compiling his broadcasting resume.  He is now stepping away, and I wish him well.


1 comment:

Ron Kaplan said...

What do you expect from Rosenthal? He's a broadcast colleague of McCarver's, and this, potentially being Tim's last season, deserves a little attention. I'm wondering who came up with the idea for this piece, Rosenthal or Fox?

Posnanski, on the other hand, doesn't have to worry about kissing up to McCarver/Fox/etc.