New-age base­ball broad­cast­ers are a bore

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - CHRIS ERSK­INE FAN OF THE HOUSE chris.ersk­ine@la­times.com Twit­ter: @er­sk­ine­times

Too many of to­day’s sports an­nounc­ers are yakking Yorkies who seem to have learned noth­ing from the Hall of Fame tal­ent in L.A. To a man, Vin Scully, Dick En­berg, Al Michaels and Chick Hearn found the hu­man­ity, mythol­ogy and mirth in the world of sports. By com­par­i­son, to­day’s an­nounc­ers are sta­tis­ti­cal sa­vants. From the net­work level on down, games sound as if they are be­ing called by tech­ni­cally pro­fi­cient ac­coun­tants.

The change in tone is a re­flec­tion of the data anal­y­sis that has taken over sports, par­tic­u­larly base­ball. Per­haps it is also a re­flec­tion of the state-of-the-art cam­era work that leaves lit­tle for the an­nounc­ers to point out be­yond what view­ers can see for them­selves.

As I’ve long said, the most im­por­tant in­di­vid­ual on a base­ball team isn’t the guy hit­ting in the three-hole, or the chee­tah play­ing cen­ter field. It’s not even the man­ager or the gen­eral man­ager. It is the tal­ent be­hind the mi­cro­phone.

Over 162 games, 1,500 in­nings, nearly 600 hours, he is the am­bas­sador to the team. He fills the too-long pauses be­tween pitches and serves as the af­fa­ble drink­ing buddy to the fan at home. The bond is not just a covenant. It’s kismet; it’s ad­vanced chem­istry.

The fran­chises with the deep­est fan loy­alty have been built on the backs of the game’s best an­nounc­ers: Harry Caray and Jack Buck in St. Louis, Jack Brick­house and Caray in Chicago, Red Bar­ber and Mel Allen in New York, Ernie Har­well in Detroit. Ras­cals, some of them; en­ter­tain­ers all.

That makes next year such a sig­nif­i­cant sea­son for the Dodgers. To take Scully’s chair, the Dodgers have tapped Joe Davis, who spent this sea­son au­di­tion­ing for the role. Though the Dodgers haven’t of­fi­cially said, and will make noth­ing of the tran­si­tion, Davis is Scully’s air ap­par­ent, so to speak.

“It's a roll of the dice,” says Daniel T. Durbin, of USC’s In­sti­tute of Sports, Me­dia and So­ci­ety. “Any­thing after Scully is a roll of the dice. And this move makes the team seem as if they are skip­ping the seem­ingly easy path of get­ting name broad­cast­ers from ESPN or Fox who still, of course, would be no Vin Scully in fa­vor of try­ing to grow a new Scully at home.”

As tough acts to fol­low, this might be the tough­est since Moses left Egypt. Davis is a promis­ing young pro, with enough po­ten­tial to de­velop into some­thing bet­ter than just an­other sta­tis­ti­cal sa­vant.

So, good luck, Davis. Here’s hop­ing that in six decades, they’ll be talk­ing about whether any­one can ever fill your shoes.

No Scully soon and still no TV

Tell me, does stem cell ther­apy work on a bro­ken heart? Be­cause that’s what’s go­ing to hap­pen to me if Scully’s fi­nal sea­son blows by with­out him ap­pear­ing on as many TVs as possible.

From all indi­ca­tions, there is still no move­ment on the Dodger TV black­out. Time Warner Ca­ble and Di­rec TV will not dis­cuss whether talks are pro­gress­ing, though the Dodgers re­main hope­ful that the Char­ter-TWC merger will shake things up.

Hang­ing in the bal­ance is a good chunk of Stan Kas­ten’s pro­fes­sional legacy. The Dodgers pres­i­dent came to L.A. with a world-class re­sume. That would be se­verely tar­nished if a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of fans were de­nied the fi­nal three years of Scully, the best base­ball voice of all time.

Most South­land fans will get their first look at the Rams dur­ing Satur­day’s ESPN na­tional tele­cast of their ex­hi­bi­tion de­but.

The re­main­ing three ex­hi­bi­tion games will be on Chan­nel 2 and pro­duced by Al­ti­tude, a re­gional sports net­work also owned by the Rams’ chief check writer, Stan Kroenke. An­drew Si­cil­iano, Eric Dick­er­son and Mar­shall Faulk will han­dle du­ties in the booth. Jill Ar­ring­ton and Dani Klu­penger will work the side­lines. Pro­ducer Mike Rigg and direc­tor Scott Bay will han­dle the cam­era work, com­mer­cial time­outs, re­plays and all the other pro­duc­tion work as­so­ci­ated with a tele­cast.

Al­ti­tude’s ar­se­nal in­cludes 14 cam­eras, in­clud­ing two super-slow-mo­tion units, and two cam­eras mounted on carts for shots up and down the side­lines. With the Rams on the side­line near­est the press box, look for cart cam­era shots to cap­ture much of the side­line ac­tion.

“Com­ing back to L.A., the his­tory of the team will be a fo­cus,” says Ken Miller, the re­gional net­work’s vice pres­i­dent of pro­duc­tion and pro­gram­ming. “You al­ways want to cap­ture the feel of the lo­ca­tion ... the star power. Ob­vi­ously, we’ll be search­ing for that.”

On ra­dio, J.B. Long, Mau­rice Jones-Drew and D’Marco Farr will call Rams’ ex­hi­bi­tion and reg­u­lar-sea­son games, on 710.

By the way, can you name the sportscast­ing le­gend, also re­tir­ing this year, who made a mark early in his ca­reer do­ing Rams’ ra­dio? En­berg, of course. Oh my….

Jayne Kamin-Oncea Getty Im­ages

VIN SCULLY, who is re­tir­ing after this Dodgers sea­son, is among the few rem­nants of an era when broad­cast­ers were real power hit­ters on a team.

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