Last week, I gave you my favorite MLB team radio booths. This included the Indians, Dodgers, Cubs, and Cardinals.
This week, I want to look at what I find to be the two worst MLB team broadcasts. My opinion is based on broadcasts that I have heard myself. I know everyone has their own thoughts but these are mine. In addition to telling you why I feel their broadcasts are terrible, I’m going to give some important suggestions on how they can be fixed.
Washington Nationals-Charlie Slowes (pbp)and Dave Jageler(pbp)
I’m not a big fan of two announcer teams to start with. I feel like if you are going to have a two-person booth, one should be the play by play announcer and the other an analyst who can give some insight as to what’s going to happen and why. So that’s strike one. Strike two is Charlie Slowes announcing. He’s what we used to call a “puker.” He’s someone who is over annunciating every word. Strike Three is the massive amount of stats delivered during the Nationals radio broadcast.
You can’t listen for one batter without hearing a litany of stats and numbers. I’m listening on the radio; please describe the action because I can’t see it. Just because baseball has a million stats now, doesn’t mean you have to use all of them.
Alright, enough of my complaints; easy to do but harder to fix.
In a perfect world you settle on one play by play announcer and one analyst. Really hard to do when the Nats started as the only former players they had then were technically Montreal Expos. Now that the Nationals have just completed their 14th season in DC there are former Nats to pick from to add to the radio booth.
My first choice would be Jayson Werth. An extremely popular player who just had his number retired this season. He still lives in the area and really knows the game. The downside is that he’s very involved with his son’s burgeoning baseball career.
If Werth is not available I would definitely look at Mark DeRosa. DeRosa only spent one year of his major league career with the Nats, but he’s a smart and entertaining analyst for MLB Network. He’s very well thought of around the majors with his name even being mentioned for some managerial openings.
Other Possible Analysts: Adam LaRoche, Nick Johnson or Davey Johnson
Then the question is which of the two play by play guys do you keep? I would keep Jageler as I find him to be more conversational and less stats-crazy than Slowes. Either one would really be helped by better defined roles and a full-time analyst. Having two play by play announcers is like playing two quarterbacks. The old adage is “If you have two quarterbacks you have none. “ I think that applies to this situation. You have to trust either Slowes or Jageler to call your games and give them an analyst so we are not overwhelmed by stats and data listening to your games.
Chicago White Sox-Ed Farmer(pbp) and Darrin Jackson(color)
Having listened to them a couple of weeks ago, I am again surprised at how embarrassingly awful this broadcast is. Trouble in the White Sox radio booth began when John Rooney left the White Sox after the 2005 World Series Championship season to call St. Louis Cardinals games. (The Cards won in 2006 making Rooney the only radio announcer to call his team’s World Series win for two different teams in consecutive seasons.)
Ed Farmer was Rooney’s analyst and the broadcast worked. Farmer moved over to play by play when Rooney went to St. Louis. He wasn’t a play by play man then, and still isn’t one now. He mumbles and stumbles his way through a game with a monotone voice. Additionally, Farmer apparently does little to no prep for his broadcast.
For example, during a weekend series with the Cubs, he was talking about having seen Cubs reliever Steve Cishek when Cishek was in Minnesota and how he’s practically unhittable. Sounds great, except that Cishek has never played for the Twins. Farmer had confused him with former Twins and current Phillies reliever Pat Neshek. Knowing the information is 100% wrong, analyst Darrin Jackson had to correct Farmer on the air.
To add to the fun there is no chemistry between the two, but they both try to be funny or bust each other. It is so dry and contrived and it nearly always falls flat. Jackson’s not going unscathed here as he talked about astronaut and American Hero Jim Lovell as having “intestical fortitude” instead of “intestinal fortitude”. It’s an embarrassment to a storied franchise that has had some great announcers through the years.
There’s good news. This can be fixed and here’s how. First, say goodbye to Farmer and Jackson. Thanks for your time. Next, hire AJ Pierzynski as the new radio analyst. He played for the White Sox for eight seasons including their 2005 World Championship team. He returned to the White Sox as a “Team Ambassador” last December. You hire Pierzynski then just move Andy Masur from Pre and Post game duties with the Sox to the play by play job. Masur has play by play experience with the Padres from 2007-2014 and is a native Chicagoan.
It’s also the perfect time for a major shakeup like this in the Sox radio booth. The team has been going through a rebuild and will bring a number of exciting prospects to the big leagues over the next two years. Additionally, this was the Sox first year on WGN and I know that Todd Manley, WGN’s Station Manager and VP of Content and Programming, has to make this broadcast better.
Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content
Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.
When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.
“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.
Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:
1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”
2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.
The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.
I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.
Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”
There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.
First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.
The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.
The Client Just Said YES, Now What?
We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.
One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!
We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.
When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.
They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.
A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.
Media Noise – Episode 74
This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.