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Please Go Away, Joe!

October 25, 2014

Imagine that you have a standing restaurant date with a friend or family member to stay in touch. You meet regularly and can quickly pick up the conversation from the last visit. Maybe you have a favorite restaurant, where there’s a steady diet and reliable menu. It makes planning for your meet-up easy and it feels good to be recognized and served by the same wait staff. Or perhaps you bounce around and experience new restaurants and menus. No matter, the important thing is the connection that you nurtured and keep. This steady schedule ensures that you’ll share the highs and lows. You can enjoy the moments, because you are together. Dad used to meet his mother for lunch in Chicago’s loop every Wednesday. At the dinner table that night, Mom would ask Dad, “What’s new with Mom?” And then, we’d hear about Dad’s lunch with Grandma. I learned today that one of their favorite lunch spots was Hoe Sai Gai, a Chinese restaurant on Randolph Street. With regret and sorrow, due to proximity, I’ve never been able to set a routine lunch schedule with my parents.

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Dad and Grandma met for Wednesday lunches at Hoe Sai Gai.

Imagine that you’ve grown accustomed to these regular meals with your friend or family member and they’re meaningful to the both of you. You like that the communication is easy and flows without effort through the starters, the entrees and desert. All the activity that happens in a restaurant meal goes on around you and doesn’t affect the easy conversation.

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Randolph Street looking east. Circa 1950s. Hoe Sai Gai is three doors in on south side of the street. http://chuckmanchicagonostalgia.wordpress.com/

Now imagine that you are looking forward to one of those standing meal dates because it falls on a day to commemorate. Perhaps your friend’s or family member’s birthday. You can’t wait for dessert and coffee, because you’ve secretly ordered a piece of favorite birthday cake for your loved one. When your friend or family member leaves the table for a moment after the main meal, you connect with the waiter and make sure that the cake has been sliced, the coffee is hot and everything is set for a nice celebration.

MENU - CHICAGO - HOE SAI GAI RESTAURANT - 75 W RANDOLPH - 1940s

Circa 1940s. This is from another of Chuckman’s photo collection. http://chuckmancollectionvolume13.blogspot.com/

But you get a little uneasy when your friend or family member doesn’t return to the table as soon as you expected. You look at your watch, ask the waiter if he can give you any assurances and when he has nothing to offer, you’re not sure what to do. It’s been ten minutes and this has you worried. You take a deep breath, decide to pull out your cellphone to check the lineup cards for the World Series and try to shut down any worries. You take a few sips of your coffee and get yourself up to speed with the upcoming game. You’re so engrossed that at first, you barely notice that someone is approaching the table. Good. Let’s get on with that birthday cake celebration. But when you hear the waiter talking to the on comer, you quickly notice that something has gone terribly wrong.

Everything is off. You recognize this feeling, but can’t place it in your current environment. It’s weird. Frightening, even. Your body tenses up. The room is spinning and you can’t believe what has just happened. This just can’t be true. Hope that it’s nothing but a bad dream. When you look across the table, you don’t want to believe your eyes and more so, your ears. All the moments leading up to the time you can share a special moment with your loved one don’t mean anything now. All the vulnerabilities and anxieties that the two of you have shared. It’s all lost. All the jokes, joy, pleasures and smiles that were yours together during that stretch of time have no purpose. All of it has gone up in smoke, because your loved one hasn’t returned to the table for coffee and desert. Someone has taken their place. It’s an interloper. It’s Joe Buck!! Of all people, Joe Buck is sitting on the other side of the restaurant table.

Now imagine that you and a special person in your life have always wanted to take a road trip together to a destination you’ve never been. Perhaps you’ve never been to Mt. Rainier. You’ve seen it out of a window from a commercial jet liner, heard people talk about it, seen photos and read about it, but never been there. The two of you have now seen some photos over at Curt’s Wandering through Time and Place and that’s it! You must absolutely take action and get there yourselves! Bound and determined to touch, smell, see, hear and relish in the marvels of that glorious volcanic mountain, you and yours pack up the car and take a long road trip. You go through it all together. That’s the point. You relax as you drive through the lengthy stretches of smooth freeway with the scenery all around, patiently grind out the unfortunate backups that couldn’t be avoided when you hit the metropolitan rush hours, endure a little lousy road food and coffee together and can’t imagine anything better than the quiet and peace that you felt that night when you drove deep into the night with a starry sky above you and the music playing softly on the car stereo. You went through it together, the good and the bad, which was of course the real purpose, even more than the spectacular natural beauty.

One of Curt Mekemson's lovely Mt. Rainier photos. Used here without explicit permission. (I just assumed it'd be okay, Curt.)

One of Curt Mekemson’s lovely Mt. Rainier photos. Used here without explicit permission. (I just assumed it’d be okay, Curt.) http://wandering-through-time-and-place.me/

After one thousand miles in a car ride with your loved one that you wouldn’t give up for the world, you’re at the foot of Mt. Rainier. You step into the convenience store at the Chevron station while the car is being fueled and dead bugs are being soaped and scraped from the windshield. You’ve finally made it and anticipate the pleasure of the sight, sounds and smells of the glorious nature just down the road. You buckle up in the passenger seat and look over to your loved one to say, “Here we are. Let’s go!” You hear the car door locks snapping shut and then see a series of slow motion replays of the car windows closing that seems to go on forever. You can’t make sense of why anyone would show you so many slow motion shots of something so uninteresting. You look up and it gets worse. There’s Joe Buck behind the driver’s wheel! How could this happen? You didn’t travel one thousand miles to experience Mt. Rainier with Joe Buck. You want the person you traveled with, not Joe Buck. “Go away, Joe Buck. Please go away,” you scream. But your pleas are met withimgres just another long set of slow motion replays, this time of the door locks closing and the flashing hazard light signal.

You’re trapped in a Twilight Zone and there’s no remote control to shut it off.

Jon Miller is one of the best baseball broadcasters in the business. Pair him in the booth with Dave Fleming and you have the very best tandem around. How good is Miller? He’s a member of the Ford C. Frick Baseball Announcer Hall of Fame. He’s so good that he almost made the ESPN games with the unbearable Joe Morgan bearable.  Giants fans listen to Miller, Fleming, Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper the entire season. These guys were all part of a season-long journey. They were our storytellers from start to finish. From the hot start in April and May, through the long mid-season slump, when we saw the Dodgers overtake and then build a big lead over the Giants, and then through the last exciting days of September, when the Giants squeaked into the playoffs by beating the Pirates in the final game of the season. During the season and the playoffs, I could listen to their radio broadcasts on local radio and on the MLB.com TV feed. But I can’t do that for the World Series games. I’ve been blocked. I can’t listen to the  Kansas City Royals radio broadcasts on MLB.com either. It’s “Watch on Fox Sports” or nothing. For most innings of this 2014 World Series, it’s been nothing. Fox Sports has ruined this for many of us. Giants fans and Royals fans, alike.

Sometimes you need to lay your money down to escape. Photo here from FB page of Joe Burker, our steady hand weekday mornings at KALW public radio.

Sometimes you need to lay your money down to escape. Photo here from FB page of Joe Burke, our steady hand weekday mornings at KALW public radio.

Of course it’s not just Joe Buck. For me, it’s the entire production that takes the joy out of watching the game. The never-ending slow-motion replays of everything. A stolen base, or a failed attempt, is shown six or seven times. A wild pitch, hustle down the line, diving catch, or even a swing and a miss gets lots of views too. A home run? Forget it. You’ll see that swing throughout the broadcast. If you walk into the room mid-game, you don’t know if the play that they just showed three times in a row just happened or was the thrilling play from three innings earlier.

But the plays on the field are just a minor part of their “show.” It seems they really want to show us the reaction from the batters, pitchers, fans and congregation of guys on the benches. They love the demonstrative people – the players who look up into the sky a lot or point hand signals to their teammates after one of them hits the baseball. But they have to get to all the stars, even if they are more reserved. Saturday night, when the Giants were losing 4-1, rather than keeping the camera pointed on the field, they showed a slow motion film of Buster Posey rubbing his hands through his hair and spitting on the dugout floor. They just go on and on and on… It’s all a nice match with the incessant drivel from Joe Buck and the others in the broadcast booth.

And then there’s the constant attempt to manipulate viewers’ emotions. The film of the fans wringing their hands with their rally caps, the fans’ waiving their pom poms and towels, players celebrating animatedly and managers taking off their cap and looking for something to chew. With Fox Sports, it’s either a kinetic bounce from one scene to the other or lots of slow-motion replays. Joe Buck and Fox Sports were made for one another. Just not for me.

MLB is culpable also. They never miss an opportunity to create the fans’ experience. The games aren’t enough anymore and it’s reached a point where they don’t even hide that anymore. The entire game is bloated with orchestrated interludes to make a game out at the yard an event and to keep the shiny objects in front of the fans’ eyes at all times. Like Joe Buck and the others over at Fox Sports, MLB  also has someone working overtime to create moments when we are supposed to suspend our interest in the game and replace it with emotions and thoughts that have nothing whatsoever to do with the box score. There’s the National Anthem, sometimes with a fly over by very fast military jets. I’ve forgotten what this has to do with a baseball game.

Since the terrorists from Saudi Arabia murdered people in the United States with the four planes in September 2001, Irving Berlin’s prayerful song, God Bless America, has been a big production during the seventh inning of these national broadcasts and many other baseball games. Again, I don’t get it. If it’s important for Americans to sing this song, why is it only imposed upon us during expensive and high-profile past times such as World Series games? Why not insist that everyone walking through the crowded BART station or those studying for finals in the student union stop and take off their hats and stand up to listen to someone sing, “Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer. God bless America…” Don’t you think that they too want to take a break in their activities to,”Swear allegiance to a land that’s free?” I love this country as much as anyone. End of story. But I don’t see why we’re mixing these patriotic demonstrations with a baseball game.

Kansas City Royals fans, who have waited for their team to reach the World Series for almost thirty years, made it here with Denny Matthews, the “voice of the Royals, himself a Hall of Fame announcer. They made it here together, without Joe Buck. Giants fans didn’t want to listen to Joe Buck during the season and they don’t want to hear him now. I’ve said for a long time that the World Series broadcasts should be called by the announcers who know the teams and are known by the fans of the teams who are playing. That’s what I’ll describe when I find the MLB’s suggestion box.

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My position during Friday night’s game, when the Giants lost 3-2. There is a ten-second delay between the ball park and the TVs on the boats in McCovey Cove. If you hear the fans roar in the stadium, get to the TV screen to see what happened. If you don’t get there in time, don’t worry. Fox Sports has you covered with four more slow motion replays.

 

 

 

 

 

28 Comments
  1. Seems to me that as we get older we have less and less patience for the devices used by entertainers in order to keep us connected to the action. TV has become a lot less attractive. Radio too. I’ve even become more choosy about the performances and concerts I go to.

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  2. Standing and applauding!
    Bruce, there are so many things I could say, but I’ll sum it up with Bravo!
    (and … I do agree that it would be great to hear the “home” announcers call the games)

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  3. You should have Sirius Radio … I’m here in Virginia … and I get to hear Kruk & Kuip & John & Dave calling the World Series games. The Royals local broadcasters are also available on Sirius. TV on, sound off. Radio on. Bliss!

    Jon Miller wrote a very interesting book in the late 1990s, right after he left Baltimore for San Francisco. He devotes an entire chapter to Joe Morgan … and he makes a compelling case that Joe was one of the best baseball analysts on broadcasts ever. He also offers a quote from Roger Angell from The New Yorker who called Morgan: “an eminence — perhaps the eminence — in his field [of broadcasting]. … He talks less than his comperes, I notice, and instinctively avoids the … bonhomie that so afflicts the trade.”

    Miller’s response to the Angell quote: “Well, yes. My thoughts exactly.” 🙂

    I’m no Morgan apologist … I’m no fan of the Big Red Machine. But, if Miller says he’s the best, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.

    As for the post-season, I have always thought that local broadcasters should get to air the post-season games — home team = home broadcasters. They’ve earned it. These folks know the game better than anyone. They know their team better than anyone. And, having just slogged through a 162 game season, they benefit from the ease that comes from calling games day after day after day.

    Plus, no Nick Swisher. So everyone wins.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I absolutely agree with your rotation of WS announcers. Been yakking about it for years. We should start a campaign. Easy to find supporters, but not so easy to accomplish end goal.

      Now I am in awkward spot of different point of view from my favorite announcer. Maybe Miller can’t hear the broadcast the way the listening audience can, since ge is in the dialogue. I always thought it was better when Morgan remained quiet, because he seemed so sour. Too much of a contrast with sunny Jon. And what abour Roger Angell? Disregard his statement too? I can deal with that. But here’s the Baseball Blogess suggesting they may be right and now I will really have to to reconsider.

      Btw, I am in Baltimore today. There was supposed to be a baseball game here tomorrow. I’m sorry that’s not the case.

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      • “Sour.” That’s an excellent description of Joe Morgan! I think you’ve nailed it and yes, I softened on Joe when I read about how much Jon loved him and his analyses.

        Jon is my favorite, too. I’ve been sad since the Orioles let him go (read: silently fired him) in 1996. But, now that I can hear him doing Giants games, I realize he found his perfect fit. The Giants are truly blessed … they have the best broadcasters in the game (and they have Madison Bumgarner and Hunter Pence … an embarrassment of riches!)

        Yes, it’s a beautiful day for baseball in Baltimore. Sigh.

        Since my broken heart can’t say, “Go O’s” today, let me just say this … “Go Giants.”

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  4. Joe Buck is truly the abyss – in baseball AND football. Of course, there was also the lame stylings of Tim “I Always Pull for the NL” McCarver as well.

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    • I can’t figure out why Buck gets the assignments. McCarver was good ballplayer, but I never cared for him in the booth.

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  5. I blame the over-commercialization and over-corporatization of not just sports, but most other industries as well. There’s too much control in too few hands. Joe Buck is an ass, but his father was pretty good – legendary, actually.

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  6. What a great story about the Wednesday lunches! You must cherish the idea of that, and I can see you are sorry not to be able to duplicate it. Me too. Also, thanks for the tip on another volcano blog. I’m sad that the romantic days of baseball seem to be gone. There were frequent silent moments in baseball of the past, on TV, on radio, at the ballpark. And the fans loved the game. There is no public service reason to fill all those moments because there has never been a popularity problem with the sport. You are being taken advantage of because you love the game, and that grates.

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    • You are right about that, Crystal. If we want to watch the game, we have nowhere else to go, but Fox or ESPN, whoever has the nationwide contracts. We are their captive audience, so we have to sit through it and write blog posts about it.

      Tonight, I listened to most of the game on the radio while driving. It made a very long and slow commute almost enjoyable.

      Check out Curt’s wanderings if you haven’t already. He’s up there by you, so some of the local scenery will be familiar.

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  7. Sorry to hear these fellows are having such a negative effect on your enjoyment of the games. While not the fan I once was, for some reason I have no trouble tuning them out. Same with all the technological wizardry, although I admit to liking the replay of a nice cutter “splitting the corner” on the superimposed strike zone box. Kinda reminds me of playing fast pitch with this tall fellow back in the day…complete with the chalked strike zone on the side of the grade school across the street. Must be the old catcher in me…

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    • It’s funny to think about the gear we carried over: gloves, bats, balls that bounce, but aren’t torn, maybe some water. And chalk.

      Man, those were great days. Amazing. Simply amazing.

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  8. Clay permalink

    I stumbled upon your blog last spring when doing a Google search for Vince Scully, I’ve enjoyed it ever since The distractions that you speak of also extend to being in the stadium itself. Hockey has always been the big vice in my life, and now the “show” that you speak of no longer allows one to chat about the game with your friends during a timeout. The Chicago Stadium Barton pipe organ has been replaced with ear splitting renditions of Twisted Sister or Thank God I’m a Country Boy! But still, being the fans we are prevents us from jettisoning the game itself.

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    • Hello Clay, thank you for your kind words. I haven’t been to an ice hockey game, but can tell from the tv that they too seem to cram in lots of noise and stuff to keep the crowd on edge. There never seems enough time for them and their “fillers.”

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  9. We were wondering where this was going, loved every bit of it – especially your view of the home games Apologies that game six gave you no cause to run to the TV 😦

    We could relate to so much here. You also bring up some excellent points we’ve never explored or thought about. True, why do we only sing religious patriotic songs as a group at sporting events??
    We hope game 7 goes to SF, xo LMA

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  10. Joe Buck is the worst broadcasters in sports. He just comes across as a pompous ass. He loves his own voice and it shows. I would bet the people he works with can’t stand him either. Baseball on Fox Sports is unwatchable with him.

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  11. Excellent! Now I want to hear Joe Buck and find out what all the hubbub is about!
    Thanks for bringing this to the party! Have fun clicking on links! Tell them, “Susie sent me,” and they should click back here!

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  12. As a former Bay Area resident now living in exile, I loved this post.

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  13. Thank you for your kind words, John. Sorry about the exile, but there are silver linings to that, I think.

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  14. I suppose broadcasting assignments work on the same premise as other forms of entertainment–the larger the audience, the lower the least common denominator. A local audience begets Bob Prince or Ernie Harwell or the quirks of Herb Score. A national telelcast gets you Joe Buck.

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    • Some great names. Very good at their craft. As you say, the guys in the national booth do serve a different purpose.

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