Ed Cossette's piece yesterday about Curt Gowdy reminds you why good announcers are hard to find:
Gosh, even at 83 years old he ran circles last night around [Chris] Berman. Well, I take that back. It's not necessarily that he came across as more knowledgeable of the game, just more natural, easy, more reflective of what it feels like (or the way I want it to feel like) watching a game. This is the total opposite of listening to guys like Berman who don't really sound like they are enjoying the game so much as enjoying hearing themselves talk. I always feel like Berman is in a constant mental brain cramp trying to come up with the perfect expression or great turn of phrase. He gives me the sense that the game exists merely as a stage for his performance. And I shouldn't single out Berman, as this is the feeling I get from most the "modern" broadcasters, though Berman is the best example.
While Berman et al make me feel anxious and uptight, Gowdy puts me into a deep trance. My very breaths become the ebb and flow of the game.
Aaron Gleeman added an excellent critique of ESPN's Baseball Tonight crew, espcially his comments regarding Karl Ravech:
Now, all of a sudden, Karl Ravech (the main host) thinks he should be the one dispensing opinions, instead of just hosting the damn show. Karl Ravech!
The other night, when [Doug] Mientkiewicz hurt his ankle, Karl Ravech started talking about how the injury was going to "seriously hurt the Twins because they don't have any depth." I wanted to punch him through my TV set. The Twins don't have any depth?! I don't think it is hyperbole to suggest that the Minnesota Twins have more hitting depth than any team in baseball right now.
...Please, just host the show Karl! If we wanted to hear all of your brilliant comments and opinions, why would ESPN bother with journalists like Gammons and Stark or ex-players like Reynolds and Dibble? Why not just make it "Baseball Tonight with Karl Ravech," since I'm sure everyone is dying to hear what some talking head that is really good at reading a teleprompter thinks.
What both writers point out so convincingly is how many modern announcers (or in-studio hosts) feel as if they are more important than the stories they are covering. I have the same beef with Michael Kay over at the YES network. He thinks he has something to do with the Yankees success, and he forces the issue, trying to make every moment melodramatic and important. The results are as campy as they are infuriating.
This is about the cult of personality. Announcers aren't content letting the action unfold, they want to manufacture the action. Worse, they want to be the action.
Kay came up through the ranks as a beat writer, so he has a knack for stirring the pot. Primarily through his work as John 'Silver Throat' Sterling's straight man on the radio during the Yankees great run, Kay is now a minor celebrity himself. He now calls the games on TV, has his own radio show on ESPN, and his own version of "Inside the Actor's Studio" on the YES network. Like Ravech, his opinion of himself is completely out of whack.
Fortunately for us, Ken Singleton and Jim Kaat (and especially Paul O'Neill) love to rib Kay. As Kaat said the other day when Kay had the day off, "You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him."