Print Columns   |   Web Chats   |   Blog Archives   |  

Why Baseball Is Losing a Generation: Fox

In the ongoing analysis of the sticky mess that developed in Game 2 of the World Series, we're reading lots of very smart stuff about how the code of baseball inhibited Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa from getting the umpires to go after Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers for apparently using pine tar to alter the action of his pitches.

But what got me about the pine tar incident was how it was discovered: Through the maniacal devotion of Fox Sports to the extreme close-up. The network's camerafolk see the World Series as a chance to provide American viewers with a lengthy course on the shaving habits, twitches, grooming and emotions of the pitchers and batters who happen to be playing for the championship of baseball.

My son and I happened upon an ESPN Classic broadcast of the 1988 Series game in which Kirk Gibson hit his famous walk-off home run. What was remarkable about watching that NBC telecast was the lame graphics, the gentle pace of the broadcast (which happened, miraculously enough, to match the pace of the game itself), and, above all, camerawork that enabled the fan to understand what was going on in the game.

Ever since Fox took control of postseason coverage in 1996, we've become accustomed to that network's obsession with whooshing sound effects, gimmicky camera placement, and a fevered passion to show anything but the actual game of baseball. Some of the Fox silliness is just good fun: The camera placed in the dirt adds nothing to an understanding of the game, but it's fine once or twice a game. The mid-game interviews with the managers reveal nothing, but they're cute and alluring. The graphics are generally terrific, though why they insist on using postseason stats to the exclusion of actual season stats is mystifying.

But what makes Fox almost unwatchable, and what is having a terribly corrosive impact on the popularity of the game among the younger set, is the incessant display of extreme facial close-ups at every possible opportunity, right up to the moment when the next pitch leaves the hurler's hand. Any fan who doesn't know the game intimately--any child who is attempting to learn baseball on television--can only be at sea. Fox provides none of the context--none of the wider shots that establish who's playing where in a given situation. So, as splendid a play by play man as Joe Buck is, and as smart as Tim McCarver is (even if he does say so himself), it hardly matters, because the direction and camerawork deprive viewers of any sense of the wider game. Baseball is not simply a face-off between pitcher and batter. The other players in the field are in motion on every pitch; there are strategies and styles based on each batter's record and manner. But you'd never have any idea of this from Fox's facial obsessions.

The primary result for most casual viewers is that baseball comes off as a long series of duels between pitcher and batter, both of whom seem to be unusually trapped in their own freakish set of gestures and tics.

ESPN, in its coverage of the division series and the regular season, spares viewers this facial freak show, and shows the actual action on the field. The result is a far superior broadcast, but more important, a real education for new fans. Most local team coverage of games during the regular season also takes a calmer and wider view, making those telecasts slower and more in tune with the sport itself. It is only in the most important, final days of baseball's season that Fox's frantic folly takes over.

That, combined with the shamefully late start of World Series games, virtually squelches any chance for young kids to get into the game in any meaningful way. That is the ultimate tragedy of Fox's contempt for baseball.

By Marc Fisher |  October 26, 2006; 7:05 AM ET
Previous: Bobby Haircut and the WashPost | Next: Going After the Wrong Guy: The Jemal Case


Please email us to report offensive comments.


Is this tongue-in-cheek like that brilliant World Cup post you did last summer?

Don't you think the loss of a generation might have a bit more to do with the product baseball puts on the field than the way it is televised? This generation is wired differently from you and me. The slow pace which you (in your nostalgia mode) admire is just not 21st Century.

Poor Fox is trying to breathe life into a cadaver.

Posted by: KK | October 26, 2006 7:48 AM

Marc is correct when he wrote that "Fox provides none of the context--none of the wider shots that establish who's playing where in a given situation." I've always felt that baseball is much easier to follow when you see the game in person, because of the nature of the game. You can shift your attention instantly to any player. Even if you're watching the pitcher, you can notice if a base runner is trying to steal. With TV games, you're at the mercy of the camera crew and the director. The Fox strategy simply exacerbates that inherent flaw.

Posted by: Tonio | October 26, 2006 7:51 AM

I certainly hope Marc was being sarcastic about Joe Buck being a great play by play man, his father must be turning over in his grave.
I won't get into the meat of the post since I don't really care for the slew of articles that come out every year this time of year to decry how the way Fox is covering the game and the late start times are causing baseball to lose a generation of fans. I remember reading these stories in 1990, and they haven't changed a bit since.

Posted by: Chris | October 26, 2006 8:18 AM

While I agree that FOX Sports is awful at whatever sporting event they televise from baseball to football to NASCAR your complaints are misdirected. Don't blame FOX for doing their job which is to attract the largest audience possible to jack up ad rates. Blame MLB, specifically used car salesman turned Commissioner Bud Selig, for the late start times and overblown FOX production. The World Series is not owned or produced by FOX. It's the product of baseball which allows FOX to put our such a poor broadcast.

By the way, Joe Buck is a mediocre play-by-play man compared to the greats such as his father, Jack Buck, Vin Scully, and Mel Allen. Those men had great voices, knowledge of the game, and the ability to know when to allow a moment to happen and keep quiet. Joe Buck likes to hear the sound of his own voice. Much like Tim McCarver who also should never be allowed to speak into an open microphone.

Posted by: Give me a break | October 26, 2006 8:32 AM

Thanks Marc. As a lifelong baseball fan, it irritates me to no end that all one gets to see on Fox is the pitcher's head (clearly, one of the least important parts of the pitcher that the batter sees), and fans praying, bouncing, crying, or wearing something ridiculous. I hate not being able to see the entire field at least once in a while, to see the fielders move and the base coaches signal, to see the twitches of the man on first trying to distract the pitcher and where Pujols or Delgado plays to try to foil him, to see the strategy that is an essential part of the game.

Given that they insist on trying to make this an emotional appeal, it's pretty clear they fail even in that. As a Mets fan far from Flushing, I was awfully disappointed in Fox's complete inability to capture the atmosphere and feel of a game in that stadium. The apple for two seconds isn't quite the whole deal. If they insist on showing the fans, for instance, where was Cow Bell Man?? Whither Mr. Met? Why not the joy of 60,000 clapping along to Lou Monte in the stretch?

Posted by: JJ | October 26, 2006 8:50 AM

Please never, ever say that Joe Buck is a good play-by-play man. He is, at best, mediocre, and often much worse than terrible. I watch the game, and listen to Jon Miller on call the game on the radio. It's the only way that I can make it through all 9 innings.

Posted by: Chip | October 26, 2006 9:07 AM

Well, at least they're not endlessly showing the video of insurgent snipers killing an American soldier. I think CNN needs to worry about losing a generation of viewers, not FOX.

Posted by: Oh, come on. | October 26, 2006 9:08 AM

Excellent post, Marc. Baseball needs to be shown with some perspective of the field, notably when a ball is hit to the outfield. We don't need a close-up of an outfielder chasing the ball; we need to see how fast he's running, and where he is in the outfield, to give us an idea if he'll get there or not.

Once the ball hits the ground, just tell us where the runners are; show us the ball. We don't have to see the runner from third touch home plate on a ball in the corner. It wold be nice to see the ball skittering away from the outfielder so we'd see a triple might be in the offing.

Seeing whether the infield is up or back with a runner on third is always nice, too. I agree 100% that ESPN's coverage surpasses Fox in every way. Too bad they don't get to show the Division Series any more.

I must disagree about McCarver. He is an affront to not just baseball fans, but to thinking people. Witness his endless telling of Scott Rolen's inability to turn on a high fastball during the NLCS. Only in Game 3 of the World Series did a Fox graphic show that since Game 2 of the LCS, Rolen was on a 7 game hitting streak, batting .324. Maybe he wasn't as helpless as McCarver thought.

Posted by: dlk11756 | October 26, 2006 9:08 AM

While baseball, at it's core, is a struggle of pitcher v. batter, I completely agree with Marc that the Xtreme Close-ups of both are distracting and take away from the understanding of the game.

I'm 28 and remember at time in the not to distant past where you could see the whole field and my Dad was able to explain the nuances how the shortstop and second baseman were positioning themselves.

The other thing killing baseball for the younger generation is the late start times. While most kids can hang with 8 30, once the game reaches the crucial later innings, most have gone to bed. I've had to will myself to stay up to catch the exciting conclusions of many of the games over the past couple of years. Baseball cannot expect to build on their seemingly aging fan base simply on nostalgia. Especially if the fans their counting on in the coming years weren't awake to share in the memories.

p.s. -- McCarver is insufferable.

Posted by: Let's Go Bucs | October 26, 2006 9:12 AM

The real irony, here, is that Fox manages to get the key graphic wrong, every time.

Their pitch trak shows the strike zone as a flat 2 dimensional plane. The strike zone is , of course, a 3 dimensional construct. Until they get this straight, there will be, forever, a true misunderstanding of what is and what is not a strike.

Posted by: Catcher50 | October 26, 2006 9:17 AM

After the first World Series game this year I sent an e-mail to Fox that was remarkable similar to Mr. Fisher's - I congratulated Fox for their really great camera - that allowed us to count the nose hairs on the pitchers, but of course excluded any view of his teamates. I suppose Fox is really proud of their technology, since that's all they seem to show. The graphics are sophomoric, contrived and are merely yet another Fox distraction. I guess they have decided that plain baseball isn't cool enough.

Posted by: chuck pettry | October 26, 2006 9:19 AM

Right on the dime; except the Buck and McCarver sentence, but everyone's ripped that. Buck is riding his dad's coat tails. Granted, he does do multiple sports, which is impressive in itself. But, if it were AL Michaels v. Joe Buck...guess who wins.

Anyway, we're in the 21st century, yeah. But this doesn't mean everything has to have an ADD tinge on it, does it? SOme pacing is ok; it's ok to see the play occur, and to show something other than sweat dripping from a pitcher's bill. How could kids know what a "Ted Williams shift" is without seeing it? Where should infielder's be in a bunt situation? And where's a center fielder playing when it's a right or left handed hitter?

Kids are learning about how to be anal retentive and obsessive compulsive, not baseball.

Posted by: Indeed | October 26, 2006 9:21 AM

Can we get rid of the robot football player thing too? I wanted to watch the NFL this Sunday, not Transformers.

Posted by: not just baseball | October 26, 2006 9:23 AM

Oh, If Fox was only just ruining the next generation of baseball fans... Look at the ruin their right wing news reporting is doing to our Political environment.

I noted that during the weekend Redskins game "News Break" the FOX opening breaking news story was "good news to all about gas prices." No war, no crime, just Bush/Rove type feel-good propaganda. No more 'fighting the terrorists in Iraq" stories because that wasn't working for the election. What ever happened to objective news reporting?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 26, 2006 9:25 AM

I am a lifelong baseball fan and have had to admit to myself this postseason that baseball is DEAD in this country. Look at the ratings, more people watched the second season of Dancing With the Stars than the World Series. If your team is not in the WS, you are not watching every pitch unless you are a huge baseball fan, and there just arent many left. Baseball runs from February to November now.

Contrast that to the NFL Playoffs and Superbowl. Often the most watched show of the year. Fans and nonfans alike. Is it the length of the season? Is it the medicority of teams in baseball? I dont know, but baseball (at least ratings wise) is dead in this country. Hey the #s dont lie.

Posted by: jc | October 26, 2006 9:29 AM

And that repeat of every pitch, with the two dimensional display is totally useless - yeah, it's partially dead time as the batter spits, scratches his butt or some other body parts(haven't seen that at all lately), or what a base runner might be doing, or the pitcher gripping or doctoring the ball. TV coverage has gotten worse, but what does one expect from the combination of MLB and Fox? Certainly not a classy and thoughtful product.

Posted by: mhk19 | October 26, 2006 9:37 AM

I think baseball is losing a generation of fans because of its slow, boring pace, not because of anything Fox does. Kids play video games these days. They like fast action sports like basketball and football. They play soccer, they go skateboarding.

Posted by: Glenn | October 26, 2006 9:38 AM

Excellent post, Marc. I completely agree with your comparison of Fox's broadcasts to ESPN.

I feel bad that your excellent observations have digressed into a "We hate Joe Buck and Tim McCarver" bashing though.

I think Joe Buck is a solid play-by-play guy and while Vin Scully is one of a kind and remains the "best ever", people need to wake up! Isn't Buck in his 30s? Sooner or later, all of the legends will be gone. Baseball purists--and I am one, at the ripe old age of 34--need to get off the high horse about the good ol' days. I agree the game was better, the announcers were better, the fans were better...but if something isn't done, even more fans are going to leave.

(And yes, Tim Mac is insufferable...)

Posted by: Jen | October 26, 2006 9:40 AM

I don't know what games were like when they broadcast them in black and white, Marc, but there's more reasons baseball is losing a generation than just Fox's method of televising the games.

And anyone that has watched a Red Sox-Yankees game on Fox, which they show at every opportunity, knows exactly what a "Ted Williams shift" is because McCarver insists on explaining it every time Papi or Giambi comes up to bat -- and then Fox shows a wide-screen shot of the field.

There's a lot of problems with Fox, but I think anyone who watches more than just a handful of games realizes that they do a decent job of showing more than just close-ups of the pitchers and crowd shots.

Posted by: OD | October 26, 2006 9:45 AM

Fox's endless use of replays also hurts the pacing and enjoyment of the broadcasts. A viewer who looks away for a moment and then looks back can be easily fooled, thinking the home run is live when it's actually from the previous game. And showing a pitch 3-4 times just isn't necessary. Those are times the wider shots should be used....

Posted by: csb | October 26, 2006 9:47 AM

Baseball is a game to be watched in person, not over the tube. Tube can never capture angles and depth of hits, nor even incredible balletic moves of infielders. I mostly go to Durham Bulls games, or even better UNC Tarheels' games for a wonderful afternoon, evening's entertainment. TV baseball now is pallid imitation (especially with WS being played in arctic conditions; in case anyone's forgotten, it's called the summer game for a reason).

Posted by: jib | October 26, 2006 9:48 AM

Baseball has painted itself into a corner. This time with the crown jewel of the sport: the World Series. All for a longer season with more teams and games in TV's prime time.

Once *the* pre-eminent sporting event, it is now played later and later
in the year, later and later at night, in colder and wetter conditions
- exactly the elements to enliven all aspects of the game...except
hitting, pitching and fielding.

In 1968 the Series had been *over* for
3 weeks by now.

Football, to it's credit, at least plays its championship game in a
warm, sunny (or indoor) environment.

Baseball, however, takes a game played at it's best in the heat and
humidity of summer and drags it's season out until practically
Thanksgiving. The players play in foreign conditions with cold
baseballs, waterlogged bats and slippery footing. Whoever looks at a
rainy, cold October day and says: "ah, perfect baseball weather'
(no one ever wrote a baseball book called 'The Boys of Autumn').
Many players haven't broken a sweat in 3 weeks.

Seeing the weather forecast for the next few days, the winner's
parade may be competition for Macy's...

Posted by: Anonymous | October 26, 2006 9:52 AM

Joe Buck isn't much of an announcer, to be sure (although Budweiser loves him), and Tim McCarver is still relying on his press clippings from Mike Lupica in the '80s. (If I had my way, I'd steal Harry Kalas from his post-Phillies NFL Films work and team him with the perceptive Jim Kaat, who, lest we forget, was the last of the original AL Senators to play in the majors.)

The incessant close-ups are indicative of the problem with televised sports these days. Watch any NFL game, for example, and you see way too many reaction shots of quarterbacks -- even when they're on the bench or NOT involved in the play! (Heaven forbid they show linemen, except when they're called for a penalty.) Perhaps the NFL should ditch the football aspect and just make the games a passing skills competition. After all, quarterbacks are seemingly all people are interested in.

Posted by: Vincent | October 26, 2006 9:55 AM

The broadcasts aren't all that bad. All the outfield shifting is important but is lost on most viewers and really isn't as interesting as many people think. Baseball is at its core the battle between the pitcher and the batter - "here it comes I bet you can't hit it." That's what makes the game great and focusing on that struggle is probably not a bad approach to televising a game.
One thing though I second the comment about the strike zone thing - it is junk. They are wrong about 30% of the time. For the record it's not where the catchers glove ends on a play but where the ball crosses the plate - which is often very different.

Posted by: Kenny | October 26, 2006 10:19 AM

On the bright side, at least Fox has toned down or eliminated that "Woooosh" sound that used to be played at the beginning and end of every replay.
Every. Dang. Replay.
I used to get so sick of that sound that I had to completely mute the TV while watching the Series.

Posted by: Apikoros | October 26, 2006 10:28 AM

Fox loves the fans in the stands with their fingers crossed or appearing to pray. Show the game and stop the incessant multiple split second shots of fans, managers, etc.

And as for Fox and football, what is with the idiotic robot jumping around when they are coming from and going to breaks?

You are right Marc, stop with the gimmicks and show the games.

As for Joe Buck, he is Mr. Obvious who will work his pre-determined "story lines" into the game whether or not they are relevant.

Posted by: Phil | October 26, 2006 10:47 AM

Instead of emailing Fox and complaining, perhaps just send them the link to the Post story today reporting that the World Series Broadcast on Fox drew lower ratings than Dancing With the Stars. On second thought, bad idea, next year instead of a broadcasting the games, Fox would bring us "Dancing With the MLB Stars".

Posted by: BILLMCL | October 26, 2006 10:51 AM

As a former TV director, I find Fox's game coverage lacking. The shots that gets me is the clasped hands of as fans. It is always late in the game with the game on the line. The meaning is obvious and it is so red state. Boring.

Posted by: Charles | October 26, 2006 10:52 AM

What PO's me the most is the fact that the game plays to the Advertisers first and the actual game second. How many times have we come back from a commercial break and had the pitcher pitching the ball or already had thrown the ball. And FOX, get rid of the talking baseball, PLEASE!

Posted by: Joe D. | October 26, 2006 10:59 AM

Amen to the anonymous poster who pegged baseball losing a generation to the length of the season and the ridiculous length of the playoffs and the Series.

The weather in Detroit, St. Louis and numerous other cities without domed stadia is very iffy by late October. And, to appease the ratings gods, all games must be played at night now, making the weather even more miserable.

What night games do, more than anything, is make it impossible for kids 7, 8 and 9 years old to stay up and watch the damn things, whether they are on the weekends or weeknights.

I think the answer is to cut back the regular season to no more than 150 games and cut the playoffs (even the league championships) to 5 game series. And to bring back day games to the Series on the weekend.

Of course, MLB would never do this because of lost revenue. But one day, they will find themselves trying to get in Game 7 of the Series in a November blizzard.

Posted by: Jack | October 26, 2006 11:05 AM

Thanks for the article. I think the real reason baseball is losing a generation of fans is because the games start after the children have gone to bed. I'd love to sit and watch a World Series game with my boys but they're asleep.

Posted by: Jonathan Lash | October 26, 2006 11:17 AM

"Baseball is not simply a face-off between pitcher and batter." I agree with a lot of the article, but this comment is flat our wrong. While we may like to glorify all the little "nuances" of the game, it basically does come down to a face-off between pitcher and batter.

Posted by: AK | October 26, 2006 11:19 AM

I couldn't agree more -- the constant, inane facial closeups is confusing and, frankly, pointlessly annoying. Have you ever tried to watch one of these games in a bar with the sound off? I hope the clubhouse equipment guys have a ready supply of nose hair trimmers.

Some years ago, at least, Fox (I dimly recall) only used the silly extreme closeups late in games when situations grew tense. Now it seems to start with the Anthem.

Finally, when commenting on the start times for games please lets not forget all of us out here in the remote outposts on the West Coast. I don't now when your work day ends, but a 5:30 first pitch makes it tough for the grown ups to catch the first couple of innings.

Posted by: Bob | October 26, 2006 11:26 AM

FOX will see the low ratings and respond, "Next year, more graphics and close-ups!" Seriously, having the Series covered by FOX is a lost cause. Hyper-active is all they know how to do.

But the larger problem with baseball losing it's fans has to do It's now the third sport in America, well behind football and basketball, and maybe dropping behind NASCAR. Having the season last so long is a problem. We're now in last week of October, and only part of the way through the Series. If baseball insists on keeping its expanded playoff structure, fine, but it needs to cut two weeks out of the regular season. Having a Series game played in a snow flurry is ridiculous.

But the big trend working against baseball is cultural, and I don't see a fix. It's a deliberate game with pastoral roots in a nation that has emphatically left those roots behind. A lot of people decry this development, but cultures change. When baseball was king, boxing and horseracing were America's other passions, and today horseracing is a shadow of its former self, while boxing isn't even on the national radar anymore.

Baseball will live on, and you will see popularity spikes when a team from one of the sport's enclaves of fandom, like NYC, Boston, or Chicago makes it all the way. But the best case scenario is to maintain support levels, and the way you do that is by investing in the game at the micro level, like the youth leagues and farm teams.

Posted by: CooperstownNYite | October 26, 2006 11:30 AM

My baseball TV experience goes back to the mid-1950's in the NYC when NY had 3 major league teams.
I pretty much agree with Marc and most of the others that Fox's coverage could be greatly improved. I find the contrast with ESPN both in video coverage and announcers to be significant. Give me Dave O'Brien or Jon Miller with Joe Morgan and Bruce Sutter anytime over Fox.
I've gone to 50" HD TV this year and the ESPN HD coverage is spectacular in my opinion.

Posted by: John Merz | October 26, 2006 11:34 AM

A few points:

--I second Joe D. The advertising is driving me nuts--the same ads shown over and over, and the intrusive 5-second ads slipped in by the announcers throughout the game. ENOUGH!!! (I really can't stand the sound of John Cougar Mellencamp's voice anymore--what a shill.)
--Jon Miller is as good as any announcer who ever called a game. Buck's not there, but he calls a very steady game. And the past always takes on a rosy hue: at one point, Mel Allen was calling games drunk. (But what a great voice!)
--Baseball seems fairly healthy to me based on attendance, TV contracts, etc., but come on, unless a big market team makes it through, the viewing numbers are going to be down. It's always been that way.
--Forget about the games being on too late for the kids--I'm concking out in front of the set by the 6th or 7th inning these days.
--Go Nats! (Maybe someday we will be unfortunate enough to share some of these post-season blues.)

Posted by: Forest B. | October 26, 2006 11:54 AM

Baseball games may be too late on the East coast, but if they were at the ideal time for the East coast, they would be too early for the West coast.

It doesn't really matter what time they start or end. They're just too boring.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 26, 2006 12:15 PM

"Fox's contempt for baseball," if it exists is a by-product of MLB's contempt for the game of baseball as Marc both remembers and wishes it to be. MLB decided they wanted more money from TV auctions so they let the networks run the game. Televison to a large extent controls everything people complain about because to get maximum dollars MLB ceded control. The schedule, the convulted playoff system, the cold late October games, everyuthing that may be hurting the game long term are the result of MLB's scramble for TV dollars. If the soul of the game has changed, examine the pockets of MLB for the answer.

If MLB had bothered to hire a David Stern/Pete Rozelle/Paul Taligube as Commissioner none of this would have been an issue.

Posted by: CW | October 26, 2006 12:18 PM

The fact that idiot East-coast-centric sportswriters decried the STL-DET series as "the series no one wanted" or "the most boring series ever" for days on end probably did not help convince people to watch, either.

Posted by: SleepyCA | October 26, 2006 12:23 PM

I am currently a college baseball player, and the first issue I take with the preceding article is the fact that you called Tim McCarver a "smart commentator." He is full of innane and bothersome comments such as "there was a fifty-six-foot curve that hit under the plate" and we all remember his likening the shape of the blood on Curt Schilling's ankle to the state of Omaha...need I say more? Moreover, innovations like the high speed camera on batter's swings gives unprecedented and amazing details on the mechanics of the swing that any young kid learning baseball should pay attention to (I learned to pitch by copying my favorite MLB pitcher's mechanics). while the close-up face camera can get mildly annoying, it does emphasize the heart of the baseball game; namely, the pitcher versus hitter matchup. Everything that goes on in a game hinges on the pitcher and the hitter--the average fan isn't too intersted in defenseve allignments unless it's some wierd Barry Bonds shift. What other things would you like the camera to pan to in between pitches: a fat guy stuffing his face with hot dogs in the front row?
Also, I have a younger brother and there is no such generational loss when it comes to baseball going on anywhere, as the little league fields and camps are still thriving with young T-Ballers--how can you even back up a dramatic blanket statement like "a generational loss" (by taking polls of little league membership across the country?)
In the end, I have never commentated on an article like this before, but this one was especially weak and just not factually correct.

Posted by: Dan | October 26, 2006 12:30 PM

Can everyone who has already posted a comment write back with their age, so we can get the average age of the grumpy people posting here? And if some of you are actually under 50, please just admit to having an overall negative personality.

Most of these gripes are all over the place -- you can't tell if it's live or a replay; I hate the sound they use to let you know it's not live, it's a replay. The rest are just useless complaining -- Joe Buck is Fox's number one play-by-play guy. They're not changing him anytime soon, so deal with it, watch it on mute, or go try to find the game on the radio or Internet.

As for the graphics, I love them. It drives me crazy to watch old games on ESPN Classic without the scoreboard up at all times. Seriously, how many of you would complain if RFK had one scoreboard that was dark the entire game except for immediately after a score? Complaints about the size or the colors or the placement are petty; the number of times a scoreboard has gotten in the way of my appreciating or understanding a play are far fewer than the number of times I have been unable to see a hit ball because of obstructed view seats at a statium.

Again, baseball might be losing a generation, but it's not TV's fault (wasn't baseball really popular before TV?), it's baseball's fault.

Posted by: OD | October 26, 2006 12:39 PM

One last thing: for those of you complaining about the weather, you are all required to support dome stadiums for every baseball team. That's the only logical solution to your complaints.

Uh-oh, you're not such a purist anymore, are you?

Posted by: OD | October 26, 2006 12:40 PM

Three comments:
1. If you want baseball broadcast rightm, two words: Vin Scully
2. Geez, does EVERYTHING have to be political to the hatemongers? "red state" gestures, etc. It's baseball people -- lighten up
3. Baseball should not accommodate itself to the video game generation . . . it may be headed for being an "elite" sport, in the sense that reading a book is an "elite" activity, but so what? I'll still go and watch. They don't call this the sport for intellects for nothing!

Posted by: MikeB | October 26, 2006 12:44 PM

I am a baseball fan and have been since I was seven years old. I love to watch the Nationals and Pirates. I just can not get into the Series this year and this column makes me wonder why. A few things come to mind:

Tim McCarver
Tim McCarver
Tim McCarver
Tim McCarver
Tim McCarver
Tim McCarver
Tim McCarver
Tim McCarver
Tim McCarver

I know, I repeat myself. Much like Tim McCarver. This is a family newspaper so I will not say what I really think of him.

The close-ups are disgusting.

As is Tim McCarver.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 26, 2006 1:10 PM

The problems with Fox's coverage go far beyond the poor camera work. The idiotic pregame is another problematic aspect.

As for the announcers, I can't think of a single thing I've learned from Fox. ESPN really isn't that much better though - they think its all diving catches, home runs, and strike outs. Baseball isn't about the few seconds each play takes so much as the cumulative effect of play and pause building the tension. Reading a book like George Will's Men at Work shows you how much you're really missing if you don't understand the inside game. Let's get someone who really understands and loves the game to broadcast it instead of those who think the game isn't exciting or interesting to stand on its own.

Posted by: adr | October 26, 2006 1:29 PM

I'll be a contrarian and posit that Joe Buck is among the better of the next generation of announcers and since he's going to be with us for awhile, you'll be happier if you learn to love him. Far better than Kenny Albert. McCarver is hard to swallow, I know, but he seldom is wrong when he predicts what the next pitch or play will be. Maybe I'm just dumb, but the game strategy is complex enough that this pretty cool to me. (And, hint-hint, since I normally don't watch baseball, Fox is doing a good job of getting me to watch the game, so in that sense, their production is working.) Finally, the tight close-ups on the pitcher are good - and they're never better than when you get a screenful of Mike Mussina's tough-as-nails scowl that makes it seem like he's going to throw that baseball into your family room. THAT'S Playoff baseball, and it beats a snooze-inducing centerfield camera any day of the week.

Posted by: Chambs | October 26, 2006 1:32 PM

Baseball is Booooooooooooooring!

I'd rather watch paint dry.

Who watches this stuff?

Baseball, boxing, horse racing. All dead sports (I mean businesses).

In 20 years they will be an oddity that we show our grand children in re-runs much like what can be seen on Turner Classic Movies when they show the old "shorts" clips.

Posted by: Chuck | October 26, 2006 2:23 PM

My problem with Fox's coverage of the WS comes down to two words - Joe Buck. He is a master of stating the obvious again and again. He is also such a "homer" for the Cardinals and National League in general, that it makes the game unwatchable. Give me Al Michaels or Bob Costas.

Posted by: Kyle | October 26, 2006 2:32 PM

Baseball is losing a generation cause the product is bad.

Half the teams start the season with no chance to compete, if by some fluke a team is close to making it, they get blown out at the end. If your team isn't one of about 6 or 7 in the league it has only a one year wonder chance, and what fun is that to watch for 200 or so games.

Posted by: Tim Springfield | October 26, 2006 2:34 PM

Chuck: The revenue numbers are saying Baseball is anything but dead.
As a coach I used to tell my kids "anyone can kick a soccerball around but it takes a man to walk away from a stike out with your chin up"
The poster that commented on our helicopter parenting style prventing our kids from enjoying one of life's true pleasures was on the money

Posted by: Kenny | October 26, 2006 2:43 PM

Baseball is a dead business? 2006- highest attendance ever, for the 4th year in a row ... revenue of $5.2 Billion, four times the amount from 1992. Sure, the games should start a bit earlier, and the season should be a bit shorter, but I wish I invested in a MLB franchise 20 years ago...........

Posted by: bill | October 26, 2006 2:51 PM

Please, PLEASE stop using the term "Walk-off home run". It's this type of flashy pop-culture terminology coined by loud-mouthed talking heads like Chris Berman that trivialize the history of the game and undermine its American cultural integrity.

Posted by: Digger | October 26, 2006 2:52 PM

Yes, "walk off home run" is overused. But the term was coined by the great reliever Dennis Eckersley, not by a sports commentator. Eckersley, a colorful,gabby interviewee, once said that the last thing a pitcher wants to do is give up a WOHR and the sports commentariat picked it up and ran with it.

Posted by: Jack | October 26, 2006 2:59 PM

Non-baseball fans like Chuck - we get it. You don't like or get the sport. Or whatever. Why do WE have to be subjected to your obnoxious opinion, which by the way only demonstrates your lack of knowledge regarding the sport?

There are plenty of baseball fans around that enjoy the game and hope that the game and its presentation improve. You my friend are no help, so move on.

Posted by: Baseball Fan | October 26, 2006 3:11 PM

Haven't had a TV in years, but I love to listen to the games (Nats, as well as the Series) on the radio -- rarely miss one all season. Now THAT'S the old-fashioned way; I still remember all us kids with our little transistors listening to the weekday games of the Series during recess and on the trip home from school. Sometimes you don't need to "SEE" any of it if you've got a good enough broadcaster and a vivid imagination.

But then again, I also became a hockey fan by listening to the late evening AM broadcasts from Buffalo and Boston when I was in junior high ! (By the way, I'm female...and learned enough about hockey that way to be a sports reporter, and fill-in team statitician, for college hockey in New England only 5 years later !)

Posted by: Anonymous | October 26, 2006 3:18 PM

Thank GOD. I can't STAND baseball. I've played allot of sports in my life, including 1 year of college basketball. I think baseball is a useless boring sport that's plastered all over tv FAR too much because of the 500 games a year each team plays. I wish the thing would just die and go away.

Posted by: Shannon | October 26, 2006 3:47 PM

Sure, Fox's camera work during this baseball playoff season is too close and generally sucks, but watch any football lately? I can't stop laughing the way the commentator talks about some player as they show him running off the field after making his play. Can't see his face, don't know why I'm forced to look at him.

Hey, directors! Helmets mean long shots are better!

And those announcers! I generally watch football with the sound off and a Bruckner symphony on the stereo -- just the thing for a good march down the field.

Posted by: Gene | October 26, 2006 4:12 PM

Agree with the column. To see a baseball or football game these days, get the play by play on the radio and mute the TV -- you'll get a lot more substance.

Fox overdoes special FX, a little is okay but we don't see the GAME, only a few players, who aren't very interesting, few are. I tried to take my wife to O's games and explain to her what's happening on each pitch, ploys, strategies, rules, etc, but couldn't. Seems most teams put on loud rock music between batters, even if only for 2-6 seconds, and also between innings. Volume is so loud that I need to shout for her to hear. It ruined the experience as much as walking a mile from parking, $6 beer that's half flat & half warm, and the overpriced food. Won't ever go see the O's again, nor can I recommend the experience of major league baseball/sports to anyone.

I now live in Colorado Springs. We have AAA ball, best seat $9, get front row tix on game day, park at door, talk with players & coaches, foul balls and freebies are widespread, a GREAT fan experience. This I recommend to anyone. I won't drive an hour to Denver to see the Rockies and pay those prices and put up with what passes for major league sports these days.

They hurt the game many years ago when they added 30 seconds to between innings to sell more advertising time. The game is now so slow that it's painful to sit and watch, best I do is channel surf these days, esp between innings. Do the people paying for all those car/truck ads know that we never watch them and when I do buy a new vehicle I strictly go by what I read in Consumer's Report and The Car Book?

I love my remote control.

Posted by: Mike from back east | October 26, 2006 4:33 PM

In addition to Jack Buck, Vince Scully and Mel Allen, the wonderful baseball broadcasters, such as Red Barber, Ernie Harwell, Harry Caray, and even Dizzy Dean and Phil Rizzuto made the interesting in their own ways. They all knew how to tell the story and when to let the story speak for itself. Sometimes, just watching the movement of infielders, or the setting into position and non-movement is a picture in itself. Yes, the single-focused determination of the pitcher may be of interest, but not continually; sometimes the field as a whole, the game itself is more interesting than the continual close-up.

The World Series, like the Superbowl, brings in viewers who otherwise wouldn't watch the game; the show, the broadcast, television and radio, needs to speak to that audience, as well as to the die-hard fan who already knows each and every part of the game, it's strategy, it's conduct of play, it's history.

Fox, to me, doesn't do anything to engage my interest as a fan.

But, since the World Series is here, now's the time to remind everyone of Tom Boswell's great 1987 column on why baseball is better than football. Check it out at:

Posted by: Jeff | October 26, 2006 4:45 PM

Doesn't everybody realize that Fox isn't trying to attract baseball lovers with its gimmicks? They know that baseball fans will watch. They're trying to attract the folks who don't care what the "Ted Williams shift" is. They are following the pattern that has worked for NASCAR coverage. Make it more interesting for the casual viewer by adding lots of visually-interesting images and graphics.

Posted by: Joe | October 26, 2006 6:28 PM

Michael Fox is responsible for a lot of problems, but you're going to far when you blame him for the sorry state that baseball put itself into.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 27, 2006 4:53 AM

My wife, the casual baseball fan, noted that she prefers the ESPN crew of Joe Morgan and John Miller. I the life long baseball fan, would add, the sound of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver actually makes me subliminally upset. (And I grew up watching the team that McCarver cut his broadcast teeth on: the Phillies). I know there is no accounting for taste, but I felt the same way about Buck's late Dad. They seem to represent some sort off mid-west cult of stating the obvious over and over. And yeah, Tony Larussa is completely un-likable and the Tigers played like a little league team, a bad one. So, one of the worst series in recent years.

Posted by: Bob | October 30, 2006 10:05 AM

I don't think the Fox telecast has anything to do with the decreasing popularity of baseball. The game is TOO SLOW! Between television and game "strategy", the average game is far longer than a generation ago. Why does a batter have to step out and adjust his gloves after every pitch? Too many conferences on the mound and pitching changes. That's going to be Tony Larussa's lasting legacy: Using 6 pitchers in a 3-2 game. I think that the remote control is also leading to the decline. I can flip through all 300 of my channels and linger on some and when I return, the same batter is still up.

Posted by: Dan | October 31, 2006 2:21 PM

Networks cover baseball with the premise that it's boring. So they add entertaining features like annoying graphics and endless reaction shots.

They never show the entire field of play, reserving half of the air time to ridiculous close-ups. You'd think baseball is all about squinting and spitting. Even when the ball is in play, they stay close enough to the action so you're clueless about what's going on elsewhere.

They don't understand what baseball fans want to see, and they try to draw in people who don't understand baseball to begin with. No wonder their ratings are terrible.

Instead of spectacular overkill and hyped drama, they should just park the cameras with a wide field of view. Give baseball fans what they want: the ability to watch the GAME.

Posted by: Douglas Findlay | November 2, 2006 1:59 PM

Clearly, Fox hates baseball and wants to turn it into something else: something as much like MTV as possible. The producer himself has been quoted as saying that baseball is too slow, hence the need to speed it up to fever pitch by constant camera cuts, nonstop whooshing (even the sound of a thrown ball is artificially enhanced), and endless flashing graphics. What gets lost in all this is the essence of the game. Yes, baseball does hark back to an age when life was slower and attention spans were longer. That's why some of us like it. But for the first time this year, I was unable to watch more than an inning of the World Series, just because I found the TV coverage so annoying -- no, more than that, offensive.

Posted by: SkookumPete | November 9, 2006 4:58 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company