Posts Tagged ‘television’


Why Do Baseball Announcers and Analysts Not Understand Stats?

June 29, 2013

I’m watching the Fox game (Yanks/Orioles–yeah, now it’s OK for me to see the O’s), and Joe Buck is saying his usual silly stuff. Just now: “Lots of people said it was a fluke last year when the Orioles went 29-9 in one-run games, and 16-2 in extra inning games, but they’ve shown that’s not true. Their bullpen is good.”

So I went here, and this year the O’s are 12-11 in one-run games, and 5-3 in extras. So yeah, Joe, last year was a total fluke. They still have a good record, but their bullpen is 14th in ERA and batting average alllowed, and 18th in on-base-plus-slugging allowed. Mediocre at best; not hurting the team, but not a key to their success.

I don’t watch a ton of football or basketball games, but the announcers don’t often strike me as guys who don’t get stats, or who misuse stats. But some baseball announcers seem proud of their inability to understand stats.


A Day (almost) of Watching Baseball

June 29, 2013

Today I am home from a week-long trip to Seattle. No one else is home. Equipped with my Roku box, subscription, and MLB Network on my cable box, I was planning to spend 12 hours watching baseball. But, thanks to MLB’s antedeluvian blackout rules, I was forbidden to watch the first game of the day, the 1 pm Nats/Mets game. That’s because North Carolina lies within both Washington and Baltimore’s blackout territory. This means that not only can no other team try to broadcast its games into NC, but that the O’s and Nats can choose which of their games I can watch. And since the Regional Sports Network for my area (MASN) has not come to terms with my TV provider (AT&T), I don’t get to watch *any* Nats and O’s games. And without any need to worry about competition from other RSN’s or other teams, MASN is in no hurry to negotiate. And that is because of the misguided thinking that lies at the root of the blackout scheme: that showing games on TV reduces interest in attending a team’s games, and thus is bad for the team.

Apparently this reasoning extends to the first days of radio–teams feared that, with the game available at home, no one would want to come to the park. The opposite is true, of course–exposure to the game increases interest in it. Yet here we are, nearly a century later, and teams still think I will want to drive 5 or 6 hours to watch a team because I cannot see them on TV. Further, I am supposed to want to support a team which won’t let me watch their game today … which they are playing in New York. That’s right–my interest in watching a team whose games I can’t see is supposed to compel me to fly to NYC to watch them. All of which is to say that I spent three hours watching Wimbledon–and reminiscing about one of the more amazing days in my life, just 52 Saturdays ago–instead of the Mets and Nats.

The blackout map is ridiculous–fans in Iowa are banned from watching six teams. The Blue Jays get to black out all of Canada, the second-largest country on Earth. And even though I am nearly as close to Atlanta as I am to Baltimore, I can watch the Braves but not the Orioles. Further, the blackout also applies to my subscription–I pay $120+ a year to see my Red Sox play, but the O’s can blackout those games for me too … unless I am traveling to, say, Seattle, where my viewing is not perceived as a threat to the Orioles. The map is finally being challenged in court, and I hope one day that every baseball fan can watch every game made available to them, or for which they pay a premium to see.


50 Years Since a Week That Still Shapes Our Lives

September 27, 2010

According to this morning’s USA Today, yesterday marked 50 years since the first Kennedy-Nixon televised debate. While it would be 26 years until Ford and Carter renewed the tradition, televised debates now occur in every presidential and vice-presidential election, and in many congressional and gubernatorial races too. Along with letting voters size up candidates in the same room at the same time, these debates have given us Nixon’s five o’clock shadow, Ford’s claim that Poland in 1976 was not under Soviet domination, Reagan’s “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”  and “There you go again” in 1980, Lloyd Bentsen’s “I knew Jack Kennedy, and you sir, are no Jack Kennedy” in 1988 (to fellow VP candidate Dan Quayle), Ross Perot’s “I’m all ears” in 1992, and both “Joe the Plumber” and Sarah Palin’s winking “You betcha” in 2008. That’s a lot of history in a handful of televised hours.

One reason there wasn’t another debate until 1976 is that most pundits believe the first Kennedy-Nixon debate swung the election to JFK. He won the popular vote by 0.1%, and his electoral win was the closest in half a century, so small distinctions between the candidates could make a huge difference. Voters who listened to that first debate on the radio thought it was a draw, but those watching on TV gave JFK a significant win. The reasons are now famous: JFK relaxed in Florida for a few days before, and showed up tan and rested; Nixon was recovering from illness, had continued to campaign until just before the debate, wore no makeup (hence the visible five o’clock shadow), and wore a suit nearly the same color as the backdrop behind him–all of which made him look weaker than his rival. And thus was birthed Camelot, the frequent televised presidential press conference (Obama, please, a little more JFK here and a little less Ike), and the modern presidential debate.

According to Saturday’s NY Times, tomorrow will mark 50 years since the event that led to arguably the greatest sports essay ever written, John Updike’s “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.” Updike was one of barely 10,000 fans at Ted Williams’ last game for the Boston Red Sox, the game where Williams used his last at bat famously hit a home run (his 521st; the only reason he didn’t hit 700 was because he gave six years of his prime to serve his country) and even more famously would not tip his cap to the crowd afterward. Updike, who never wrote again about sports, could not have known that he had launched a form of essay, transcending game recaps to place sports in deeper literary and cultural contexts.

That’s one helluva week.

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