All Things Bubba

Because how can you not love a baseball player named "Bubba"?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

What a fan wants

Someone sent me this article by Joe Posnanski. Great stuff.

Football season has started, which means that for the next four months or so, many of us spend a lot of time talking to televisions. Some of the time, we will talk to the players behind the screen or the coaches or the guys doing those ridiculous fake news conference Coors commercials. No. Mostly, though, we'll talk to announcers.

"That is not a fumble!"

"The quarterback is not having a good game! Quit saying that!"

"Why don't you tell us something - anything - we didn't know?"

And so on. Every year, I talk more to the TV. It may be because announcing has gone downhill. It may be because I'm growing grumpier as I get older. Personally, I think it's the announcing - I'm not grumpy at all. And I don't appreciate you saying that.

No, I think it's more or less a consensus that announcing has, on the whole, gone bad. Color commentators these days are almost all former stars who know 100 times more about sports than we do. But you could never tell by their announcing. They yell at us. They repeat obvious stuff. They defend players who are having bad games. They speak in cliches. More than anything, they won't just talk to us.

This really hit me Wednesday night, while I was watching - of all things - the Roger Federer-Andy Roddick match at the U.S. Open. I don't watch much tennis these days, but Federer is a genius, and Roddick hits his serve about a million miles an hour, and night tennis at the U.S. Open is still one of the great shows around.

Anyway, eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi was in the booth as a special guest announcer. Now, special guest announcers are almost always a disaster.

As far as I know, this was Agassi's first time in the booth.

And he was great.

No, I mean he was great. Thoughtful. Fascinating. Incisive. For two-plus hours, I sat mesmerized in a recliner and listened to Agassi talk about tennis and sports. He offered his theory that speed is the most underrated skill in tennis (and sports). He explained why Federer always seemed to have more time to hit his shot (it has to do with his movement before the opponent even hits his shot). He said one of the hard parts of growing older as a great athlete is that you stop to appreciate the moment more; when you're young you just play without nostalgia.

He talked a little about his own career. He talked about the differences between Federer and Pete Sampras. He encouraged Roddick to hit the ball as hard as he could, impose his will, because, "as an athlete that's really all you can do." He even explained how he could anticipate which way Boris Becker would serve based on whether or not he was sticking out his tongue.

What was Agassi doing that made him so great? Well, it might be easier to say what he wasn't doing. For one, he wasn't screaming. He wasn't trying hard to be funny. He wasn't trying to be hip or controversial or glib or silly. He didn't try any goofy gimmicks. He did not talk down to us.

I think this is what's missing most. Look, we as fans know more about football than ever before. We've seen enough football and played enough video games that we don't need announcers to tell us about stunts and blitzes like we've never heard the term before. We've watched enough replays that we can make up our own minds about whether or not a call will be reversed. We've seen enough touchdowns that we don't need sound effects. We've heard the cliches.

We really don't want all that. Just talk to us. Tell us what it's like. Be honest. Share your experiences. Stop screaming. Agassi made it simple: We just want to get closer to the game.

Agassi has always been one of my favorites, and I'd be glad to see him as a broadcaster now that his playing days are over. Interesting that he thinks speed is the most underrated skill in all sports. He was always known for his wheels, but at one point his career, he really bulked up. Worked out with weights and put on about 20 pounds of solid muscle. He was stronger...but slower. Being so much heavier, he just couldn't move as fast. He ended up cutting back on the weight training and going back to his skinny physique. The extra strength just wasn't worth the loss of speed.

Anyway, the last line of that article is spot-on. That is what fans want: to get closer to the game.

That's why Dirk Hayhurst's prospect diary is such a delight. Actually, Hayhurst is 26 and still in AA, so he's not really a prospect any more. He knows this, and has changed the name of his blog to "Non-Prospect Diary."

He writes extremely well, and if his dream of playing in the big leagues never comes true, he could probably go into journalism or something. But it's what he writes about that makes his blog so appealing. Some of his subjects are trivial: the rules of claiming seats on a minor league bus trip, how you never put your hand in another player's glove. Others are more profound, like the sacrifices made for baseball, and his doubts about whether it's worth it. I enjoy reading it all. Probably the closest I'll ever get to knowing what it's like to be a pro baseball player.

If you only read one of Hayhurst's articles, read this one.

posted by BubbaFan, 6:48 AM


Bubba would make a great tennis player!... though he may kill himself from diving after everything: into the pavement, grandstands, umpire chairs, etc.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, September 09, 2007 7:57 PM  
Andy's now on the 60-day DL, which kills any potential postseason return.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, September 10, 2007 5:48 PM  
Poor Andy. I was afraid they were going to do that.

Looks like they've activated Villone.

I'm kind of surprised they only have two catchers on the roster. Most teams seem to like to carry three after the rosters expand. They don't even have emergency catcher Miguel Cairo any more.
commented by Blogger BubbaFan, September 10, 2007 8:02 PM  
I think they are just hard set against putting Nieves back on the active roster (which is dumb).
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, September 10, 2007 8:21 PM  

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