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He Long Gone

There is really only one thing that drives me insane about color commentators on television. It isn't when the announcers say silly things because we all say silly things, especially when forced to talk non-stop for about three hours. It isn't when they get stuff wrong because we all make mistakes. It isn't when they constantly tell us about their own careers because, frankly, that's what they know best (If Leo Mazzone ISN'T talking about Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, then why is he talking?). It isn't when they say obvious stuff because, hey, despite what Tony La Russa might tell you the biggest part of sports is the obvious stuff.

I mean, don't get me wrong, ripping announcers is half the fun of sports (ripping the sportswriters the next day is the other half). But let's be honest: Announcing a game these days is a hard job. Fans are so much better informed than ever before. Fans know so much more about the inside stuff than ever before. In 1978, if an announcer told people, "When a linebacker rushes the passer like that, it's called a 'blitz'" ... that was revolutionary stuff. These days, if an announcer says, "The problem here is that the Jets were in Cover 2, and as you can see the corner really doesn't flatten out the receivers route which is his most important responsibility in Cover 2, and by allowing the receiver to go vertically that will stretch the safeties with the deep zone responsibility, which will open up passing lanes HERE and HERE and with the weakside linebacker not getting enough depth, you can see that Brady simply threw the pass there ..." half of America goes, "Uh, no duh there Rufus. Why don't you tell us something we DON'T know."

So, all in all, I think announcers often get a bad rap. I think we should probably give them a break most of the time. There's really only the one thing that sets me off. And that is when an announcer sticks with an idea that is exactly counter to what we actually see on the television in front of us.

Unfortunately, this happens all the time, especially in the NFL. The referee will call pass interference and the announcer will shout, "Oh, that was an awful call. That's good defense. Terrible call." OK, that part's fine. We all have instant reactions.

But then they will show the replay, and it will clearly show that the defensive back grabbed the receiver and twirled him around. At this point, you would hope the announcer might back off. But, as often as not, the announcer will STILL insist "That's good defense."

Then they will show another replay that plainly shows that the defensive back pulled out a knife and stabbed the receiver in four places while the ball was clearly in the air, and the announcer will STILL say, "Well, I don't know what the referee was looking at. I mean, that's a good football play. I mean you have to let the guys play." Then they will show another replay that shows the defensive back go into the crowd, get four of his buddies from the stands, all of them with baseball bats and chains, and they work over the receiver like Gene Hackman in the barbershop in Mississippi Burning, and they announcer will STILL be talking about how, "You have to let the players on the field determine the outcome of the game ..."

I finally found a clip that shows my point. It's not the ideal clip because it features Chicago White Sox announcers who are famously hometown blind. Still, I think it explains what I'm talking about better than the words. This is the A.J. Pierzynski rundown play from the other night in the game between the White Sox and the Rays. You have no doubt seen this already -- A.J., who has to now be considered the King of the Baserunning Con, got caught in a rundown, somehow managed to stay in it for three throws, and then reached out to hit Willy Aybar, took a ridiculous-looking fake dive, and sort of crumpled to the ground. Umpire Doug Eddings, who was apparently looking the other way when the other wrestler rushed into the ring and hit Aybar in the head with a chair, ruled interference and gave Pierzynski third base.

The announcing for the replays is an all-time clinic for the "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" style of announcing. Obviously, the White Sox announcers were thrilled with the call, and they wanted desperately to see interference on the replay, I get that. I even appreciate that. So when the first replay is shown, the announcers go "He's going to run into a defender somewhere. ... Right there. ... That's all it takes." On the first replay, it kind of, sort of, looks like may Aybar brushed A.J. Maybe. If you're squinting.

OK. Then, though, they show the replay from another angle. And in this angle it is become clearer that, in fact, Abyar did not in fact run into Pierzynski. And while the announcer was saying "As a defensive player, it is your job once you get rid of that baseball, you cannot make contact with the baserunner" the replay was showing that Aybar very clearly went out of his way so not to make contact with the baserunner. Now the announcing was getting a bit suspect.

Then, though, they showed another replay ("Take another look,") and this one was the clearest one of all. NOBODY could look at that replay and see interference. It was from third base, and it conclusively showed that Aybar veered to avoid Pierzynski, who was looking RIGHT AT AYBAR and then STUCK OUT HIS LEFT ARM and then TRIED TO TOUCH AYBAR and MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE TOUCHED HIM and then FELL DOWN like he had been shoved to the ground by a tenth grade bully.

"Right ... here." the announcers said just as the video showed Pierzynski flailing to touch Aybar and mostly missing. "That's all it takes. Contact. That's the third baseman's fault for not veering to the left and getting out out of thew way."

Sure, I realize the point of Chicago White Sox announcing -- I even get a kick out of it sometimes. Still, that's the stuff that drives me nuts. It makes you wonder how these guys would announce the film below. I suspect they would say, "I'm sure everybody inside's Okeydokey. Don't forget about the big bobblehead doll promotion we have coming up Saturday night ..."