Monday, October 18th, 1999
All season long, Braves fans enjoy games-whether aired on TBS or WUPA/69-presented by announcers we’ve all come to know and (more or less) love: Joe Simpson, Pete Van Wieren, Don Sutton, and Skip Caray. Then, during the now-almost-routine postseason, we find a familiar game in unexpected places-like Fox 5 or WXIA-with other voices not quite as comfortable as an old armchair. In fact, you might hear a discouraging word-or several-out of the mouths of these interlopers.
This can, I suppose, be a good thing. Taken in moderation, a dose of announcers not from ’round here give us a sense of how the rest of the world sees our favorite sons of the diamond. Caray and company are, after all paid by the Atlanta Braves Baseball Club, Inc., which of course is to say-by Ted. Or Time Warner. So although they’re not quite the "homers" some local announcers are, there’s no mistaking their loyalty to the corporation who signs their checks.
Joe Buck and Tim McCarver or Bob Costas and Joe Morgan have no such fealty, of course, so we get their slightly New-York-centric take on the baseball world. In terms of "objectivity" and accuracy-two admittedly hard to pin down characteristics-I’ll take NBC’s Costas and Morgan over the other two, no contest. Costas, the once and always smartest kid in school brims over with facts about every nuance of the contest, and Morgan just plain thinks about the game, and is kind enough to share his thoughts with us. Fox’s Buck does a fine enough play-calling job, but McCarver clearly has no love lost on our Atlanta boys. He’s not pure broadcasting evil, but he has his days.
Speaking of having their days, Skip Caray-in a class of his own as a baseball announcer and especially as a radio baseball announcer-does seem to have those days where he’s just plain pissed off at everything, and more often than not, during the playoffs when big ‘ol NBC or Fox are calling the shots-he’s noticeably grumpier in the announce booth-and on his pre-game talk show. It’s almost reached the point where callers phone in to ask Skip to explain the infield fly rule just to hear him go off on the voice at the other end of the line. (Seems also as if some people put their more naïve friends up to this.) Caray is (okay, like most artists) talented, yet temperamental. Of course, we don’t have to hear most artists host radio call-in shows.
An informal survey of baseball watchers 18-55 who I know indicates that what most Atlantans do is turn the Fox or NBC audio down and listen to Caray and company on the radio, so maybe our familiarity trumps grumpiness.
One strange side-effect of watching NBC’s coverage-where they apparently think they’re doing us a favor by not having the intrusive scorebox in all the darn time-is that I actually end up missing the score. I walk back in the room and I want to see the score right now.
Jeez. Familiarity breeds mindlessness, too.