"Oday Otnay Aysay Onay Itterhay" The Art Of Broadcasting

dan SmithContributor IApril 27, 2009

Or Lack There Of...............


Last week David Bush of the Milwaukee Brewers took a No Hitter into the 8th inning against the Philadelphia Phillies, when it was broken up by a pinch-hit home run off the right field foul pole.

There were 2 local Milwaukee Broadcasts of this game - Radio and Television.  The Radio Team did not use the phrase "No-Hitter" at all up until this point, however one of the two TV announcers, was using the term like a child who just found out what the "baddest word" in the world was during a family reunion.

Immediately a debate broke out on the local airwaves regarding his repetitive use of the words "No Hitter", and the superstition that it will jinx the pitcher and break up the no hitter.  This seemed to be the "hot point" of the discussion was simplistic enough to get Joe Talk Radio guy impassioned - and lit up the call in lines. Unfortunately both callers and radio professionals missed the point.  Instead of focusing on the tradition of not doing it - they focused on the cause and effect of it.  One station actually ran a poll asking if the mentioning of the phrase - was the cause of the outcome.  I think this weeks poll is on "Mothers with Broken Backs and the Children Who Stepped on Cracks"

What got lost in the conversation - was the lack of respect for the tradition.

Now the broadcaster we are referring to here is a very good broadcaster - a bit 'cookie cutterish' - but very good at what he does. If I were hiring a broadcaster I wouldn't hesitate to hire him.

With  the deluge of criticisms that came forward, was an equally loud defending of the announcer  - by others in the local media that the most important part of the announcers responsibility was to let the fans know what was going on, and Fair Play to that.

I think we all would agree that it was imperative for anyone calling the game to call attention- rather - scream attention to what was going on, to the fact that it is a major deal, and the fact that anyone within listening or viewing distance of the broadcast should stop what they were doing and alert everyone they know to tune in. Alert them to the fact that through X innings that the only 2 or so runners to reach were by a walk and a hit batter. Alert them to the fact Bush is doing something that hasn't been done by a Brewer pitcher in 22 years, or perhaps do just as I did by telling everyone I know to "Stop what you are Doing and Turn on the Brewers Game and witness something special." - he obviously has to talk about it. I just did and you know what - I did it without using THE PHRASE.

It was his choice to use THE PHRASE. I believe it was a poor choice. I do not believe that Fox Sports Wisconsin directed the announcer to actually use THE PHRASE or any variant of it. And if they did - I would suggest to them they should spend more time getting every game on the Air in HD and less time censoring - or I suppose reverse censoring their broadcasters.

The bottom line for me: there is a tradition, you don't "change" tradition you only either honor it or you don't. It is a relatively innocuous -tradition surrounding the game - the game that is our national past time, the game which was put into perspective by Darth Vader - er James Earl Jones in the Movie Field of Dreams -

"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again....."

It is a tradition that it woven into the fabric of the game, that tradition does not stop when you yourself stop playing the game. It's a tradition whether you ever played the game. It's a tradition that doesn't impede progress, it doesn't hurt anyone, and has no cost. So you either honor that tradition or you don't.

As far as the responsibility of the announcers to the audience - well you tell me - "At the MLB level Should the on Air Talent have the skills to communicate a No Hitter is in progress - without actually saying "No Hitter"?

I would say the answer is a resounding Yes!

Whether they choose to is a different question. The announcers who respect the tradition and have the ability to convey the meaning of a no-hitter without saying it earn the respect of the people who follow the tradition. The announcers who don't respect or are not aware of the tradition, or don't have the ability, or choose not to honor the tradition earn the ire of those same people

Recently I have listened to 2 no hitters called on TV and Radio

Clay Buchholz 2007

John Lester 2008

In neither of those did the Announcers use "The Phrase"

Last week I listened to the 6 7 and 8th Innings on Radio of the Bush game and Bob Uecker, didn't use the "The Phrase"

Judging by the response on local radio - excluding the idiots who actually think there is a cause and effect - I am glad to see that there are a still a few people who respect the tradition - even if some announcers don't.