There’s this persistent buzzing in my ears…

June 7th, 2006 → 10:41 am @

It hasn’t been a good year for baseball broadcasters. First there was Keith Hernandez charming his way into our hearts with his pronouncement that “women don’t belong in the dugout.” Then Rick Sutcliffe taught the children of San Diego that if they worked hard and always ate their Wheaties, they could grow up to give drunken, rambling monologues on air.

But broadcasters don’t need to act like buffoons to embarrass themselves. Last Friday night, the Detroit Tigers broadcast team was talking about Curt Schilling’s evolution into one of the premier power pitchers of his generation. Schilling’s career, the broadcasters said, had been turned around after Roger Clemens chewed out the young righty when he was a member of the Baltimore Orioles. It’s a good story, and one that’s been repeated many, many times…and almost every time, the teller has gotten the basic details right: Schilling was with the Astros when the encounter occurred, not the Orioles. (What would Schilling have been doing working out in the Astrodome as a member of the Orioles anyway? At least Roger’s from Houston.) Not a hanging offense, granted, but couldn’t the Tigers broadcasters have done at least a tiny bit of research before a three-game series against (what was at the time) another first-place team?

This kind of careless ignorance is par for the course with baseball broadcasters. During last night’s painful Red Sox-Yankees matchup, Yankees broadcaster Ken Singleton had a weird little tangent about how the Red Sox’s not signing Johnny Damon was the reason why the team’s starting pitching was in trouble. (And here I thought it was the fact that Josh Beckett and Matt Clement were being used for batting practice.) Singleton’s logic, as far as I could tell, went something like this: because Damon left, the Sox had to find a replacement, which resulted in the trade of Bronson Arroyo for former Reds outfielder Wily Mo Pena. Now, never mind that it was Coco Crisp (whom the Yankees cameraman obligingly showed onscreen as Singleton was speaking) and not WMP who was acquired to replace Damon, and never mind that the Sox wanted (and needed) another backup outfielder regardless of whether or not they signed Damon, and never mind that assorted Arroyo deals were being discussed even before Damon decided to put on pinstripes. How about some acknowledgement that what the Red Sox gained in trading for Crisp and Pena was a pair of young, hard-hitting outfielders who still have several years to go before they’re eligible for free agency? Or even a nod to the fact that in a couple of years the Yankees will once again be saddled with a highly-paid center fielder with a poor throwing arm and limited range…and we saw how well that worked out last year. I know there are those folks who have problems with Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy, who broadcast Sox games for NESN. (The inside jokes, the corny puns, etc.) But they know the game, they do their research, and they make incisive, thoughtful, and provocative observations. The more broadcast teams you see during the course of a season, the more you realize just how rare that is.

Post Categories: Broadcasting & Red Sox & Yankees

The first responses to the Da Vinci Code story

June 6th, 2006 → 11:49 pm @

The first copies of the new Vanity Fair with my article on the plagiarism controversies surrounding Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code were distributed to the press today. The piece (which isn’t available online), includes new details and exclusive interviews concerning a number of charges that have been leveled against Brown, including one involving Lewis Perdue’s Daughter of God in which several copyright infringement experts side with Perdue and one in which Brown copied, word for word, from an academic paper written by an expert on Leonardo’s robot. The response thus far has been predictable. Doubleday, Brown’s publisher, once again cited rulings siding with Brown in American and British courts; a spokeswomen told The New York Times, “We have no further comment about the Vanity Fair story.” Of course, it’s no surprise that Doubleday would do whatever it can to convince people the story isn’t worth paying attention to: The Da Vinci Code has been responsible for more revenue than any other hardcover title in publishing history. But coming on the heels of the fabricated James Frey memoir—A Million Little Pieces is another Doubleday title—and coming at a time when accountability and reliability in the information industries are under fire, you’d like to think Doubleday would at least make a show of pretending to care that Brown, at the very least, lifted a passage from the work of a St. Paul robotics expert. (When the expert, Mark Rosheim, contacted Brown’s editor in 2003, Rosheim says the editor essentially told him to buzz off.) What’s a little more surprising is the response I’ve gotten so far from people who’ve written in to my website. Despite the fact that the only people who’ve read the piece are a handful of publishing reporters, Da Vinci Code fans have been sending in their hate mail. “It’s LOSERS like yourself who fail to write good literature and bash others to make yourself look good,” writes Dan from Kalamazoo. Or maybe it’s not so surprising. Just like San Francisco Giants fans who insist that, really, there’s not any proof that Barry Bonds has used steroids, Ted says he doesn’t even want to know if Dan Brown is a plagiarist. “Personally, I wouldn’t care if he copied it word for word from someone else’s work.” Good to know.

(The New York Post‘s Page Six and the Boston Herald‘s Inside Track have also weighed in on the story.)

Post Categories: Dan Brown & James Frey & The Da Vinci Code & Vanity Fair

Albert Pujols, home runs, and steroids

June 5th, 2006 → 8:46 pm @

Albert Pujols, the most exciting player of the 2006 season, is out for at least two weeks and maybe much longer with an oblique strain.
As former Sports Illustrated senior writer Jeff Pearlman points out in a recent Slate article, Pujols’ power surge–after 55 games, he was on pace to hit 74 home runs and rack up 180 RBIs, both of which would be new Major League Baseball records–has gone oddly unquestioned. (Pujols says he’s already passed three drug tests this season, and by all accounts is a great guy.) Pearlman makes an excellent point. After several years in which baseball has been regularly humiliated with steroid revelations, most of the sports media seem to be accepting what many experts call a seriously flawed testing program. Clubhouses, executive suites, and newsrooms alike know that the untraceable human growth hormone (HGH) is the new performance-enhancing drug of choice…not that anyone seems to really care. Jason Giambi’s performance fell off a cliff after he all but admitted using steroids; still, he was wholeheartedly embraced even after he appeared to have gained, lost, and re-gained enormous amounts of muscle. Pearlman’s article lays the blame for the lack of old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting into the performances of people like Pujols (and Roger Clemens and Joe Mauer) at the feet of the country’s sportswriters who fear being shut out by the teams they cover. Fans, who often turn a willfully blind eye to the foibles of their local stars, share in the blame. Sports, like movies, is an escapist pastime; unlike movie fans, however, sports fans often choose to willfully ignore their heroes’ warts.

Post Categories: Albert Pujols & Baseball & Steroids