Tuesday, July 27, 2004

It's the TV Announcers' Fault

You watch the millionaires who play baseball for the Chicago Cubs.

You might get to Wrigley Field for an occasional game, but most of the time you watch the Cubs on TV.

They’re on TV a lot around here. So that means we all get to see how poorly they hit, how poorly they run the bases, how poorly they bunt, how badly they need someone who can pitch in the ninth inning when they have a one-run lead, and the lousy attitudes a lot of them have.

The Cubs aren’t going to win the National League Central this season and, if things don’t improve soon, they’ll be out of the wild-card race, too.

So whose fault is it that the Cubs have fallen 10 or so games behind the St. Louis Cardinals?

It must be the fault of Chip Caray, the play-by-play TV announcer, and Steve Stone, the TV analyst.

Then again, maybe it’s the fault of the newspaper reporters. It’s probably time to blame them, too.

But we’ll worry about the guys from the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times another day. Today, let’s pinpoint the TV announcers as being the bad guys.

At least outfielder Moises Alou thinks Caray and Stone need an attitude adjustment. And Manager Dusty Baker might think so, too.

Alou told Sun-Times and Tribune reporters that Stone and Caray often accentuate the negatives about the Cubs during their broadcasts on WGN-TV and Fox Sports Net.

Tribune reporter Paul Sullivan said Alou’s “characterization of Caray and Stone as negative reverberated through the Cubs’ clubhouse.”

Said Baker: “Sometimes you can get annoyed by what the announcers say. We think we’re all on the same side. That’s where the divisiveness comes in. We refuse to let anything divisive creep in here on us.”

Sullivan said Caray and Stone have ruffled feathers in the clubhouse with criticism of the Cubs’ sometimes sloppy play. Stone has built his reputation in Chicago as an analyst who speaks his mind.

“That doesn’t mean I have to agree with them,” Baker said.

Stone, a former outstanding major league pitcher, told Mike Kiley of the Sun-Times that he knows he has complimented Alou on telecasts. Then Stone detailed the problem he has with Alou saying he and Caray dwell on the negatives.

“If you don’t come to me and tell me how good it is, then don’t come to me and tell me how bad it is,” Stone said.

Has Stone been negative?

“Of course,” he told Kiley.

In telling fans what is happening on the field, he stressed there has been no choice over the years.

“I have said some things that haven’t gone well,” Stone told Kiley. “On the other side of the coin, I have been exceptionally positive.”

Stone said the fact that players “rarely thank him for praise,” so he wonders why they are critical of him when he talks about their poor play.

Stone said only one player—relief pitcher Joe Borowski, who now is injured—has come up to him in the last 1 ½ years and said, “I really appreciate what you said in some very trying times.”

The comments by Alou and Baker aren’t new. Many professional athletes and many professional managers—not just those with the Cubs--are overpaid, spoiled people who have been handed everything for so long that they’ve lost touch with reality.

Many of them think reporters should be fans just like the people sitting in the bleachers.

Some college athletes and coaches are the same way. There are plenty of football and basketball players who don’t understand it when, say, Gary Dolphin and John Walters tell it like it is during Iowa and Iowa State radio broadcasts.

Many think they’ve been betrayed when a TV announcer such as Larry Morgan makes a comment during a game that indicates clearly that he’s not a cheerleader. Morgan doing the play-by-play of a game should be no different than Keith Murphy doing the 10:20 sports on WHO-TV. Not all the news at 10:20 is positive, either, and Murphy lets you know when it isn’t. That’s his job.

TV, radio and newspaper reporters are paid to tell the story of a game, and sometimes that story must include negative comments. If the players, managers and coaches don’t like it, they should get a real job.


Speaking of TV, it looks like the Iowa-Arizona State football game at 9:05 p.m. (Iowa time) Sept. 18 at Tempe, AZ, won’t be televised.

It was earlier thought that Fox Sports Net would carry the game, but an Arizona State spokesman told the Iowa City Press-Citizen that’s not the case.

“All TV windows are full,” Mark Brands told the newspaper.

There was some thought that maybe the game could be moved to the afternoon so it could be on TV, but Brands said it will be too hot in Tempe to play in the afternoon.

Well, Gary Dolphin, I can say right now that a helluva lot of people are going to be listening to you on the radio Sept. 18.


It won’t be long before two-a-day football practices at Iowa State and Iowa start. The Cyclones hold their media day Aug. 9 and the Hawkeyes will meet reporters Aug. 10. Iowa opens its season Sept. 4 against Kent State, and Iowa State starts the same day against Northern Iowa.


Jack Tiong, my Singapore Connection, is a sharp young guy. Lately, he’s been getting sharper while reading on the Internet about Christie Vilsack, the wife of Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.

Tiong has read about the column Vilsack wrote for the Mt. Pleasant News 10 years ago in which she said she was “fascinated at the way some African-Americans speak to each other in an English I struggle to understand, then switch to a standard English when the situation requires.”

Boston reporters have been having fun with Christie this week in stories in which they said she “slammed blacks, easterners and southerners as bad speakers.”
Tiong can’t figure all of this out.

“I think Mrs. Vilsack was trying to be humorous more than anything else,” he tells me in an e-mail. “This was more mischievous than malicious. Reminds me of what Bill Cosby said about black families not bringing up children who speak proper English.

“Cosby was serious and that sparked a debate in the media. But I think the First Lady was mainly kidding.”

Vol. 4, No. 245
July 27, 2004