The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

John Kruk: Blubbering Fool

I was appalled the other day at what I read in John Kruk’s most recent ESPN column. Now I know that I am not the first to knock Kruk the broadcaster, heck, they might even have to get a bigger bandwagon to make room for me on it, but this article is just pitiful on many levels. Let’s start from the top and work our way through…

I have to tell you, I couldn't name even one of the big summer movies coming out, and I'm sure that comes as bad news to all the actors and actresses out there.

That’s the opening line of Kruk’s article, which is entitled “Actors really can’t complain.” I’ll stay away from this being a non-issue – particularly when Kruk’s point is to make a non-issue of a non-issue – and I will try to stay on the topic of Kruk’s content as much as possible.

With his opening salvo, I believe Kruk is trying to say that he doesn’t care about movies and that this is a bad thing to movie stars because it means John isn’t spending his discretionary dollars at the local Cineplex. (I’ll also try my best to avoid the snippy comments about John being oblivious to the likely fact that movie stars do not get a cut of the popcorn, soda, and candy sales – where the big bucks off of Mr. Kruk are most likely to be made) Instead Kruk just throws that out to us and leaves it out there and then digresses onto something else – something totally unrelated.

Later Kruk goes on to say:

Yeah, well there's no way I could be an actor. I could never sit around for months and do nothing.

This is simply silliness and evidence of Kruk’s naivete about acting. Granted, I’m pretty naïve about acting too. I took one acting class in college, so I know just enough to know that I know nothing. Kruk’s second sentence though is what kills me. Wouldn’t just about every actor or non-baseball fan in the world say that last sentence could apply to John Kruk the ballplayer, or any other baseball player for that matter? Surely they would.

Kruk would likely counter that although it may have looked like he was standing in the field for hours each year doing nothing, he was really mentally preparing himself for each pitch. Thinking about what his pitcher was about to throw, what the hitter was likely to do with such a pitch, what he would do if the ball was hit to him, etc, etc. You know – the mental portion of the game. All of those things that the casual fan isn’t aware of and since they don’t know what’s going on, tends to think nothing’s going on (since that’s the action on the field) and says that they are bored, that baseball is boring, and doesn't really require much talent anyway.

Essentially that’s the point that Kruk is trying to make here about acting. Except that Kruk doesn’t know enough about the craft to understand that what really looks like nothing, really can be something. (And, at least in my opinion, part of the skill of acting is making something very difficult look natural – or as if you’re not acting at all)

Kruk eventually digresses, mercifully, into baseball talk, although he somehow makes himself seem out of place, even with this topic. His first subject is baseball, where he talks about Josh Beckett and his blister issues. Kruk makes some decent points here, particularly regarding the possible disharmony in the Marlins clubhouse, but the wheels quickly come off again here:

As far as calling someone up, yeah, I know their Class Triple-A team is in Calgary, but you still have to think ahead. And while you're at it, try moving your Triple-A team a little closer to Florida. Is there a farther place from Miami than Calgary? Why don't they just put the team in Japan?

Calgary? Where does that come from? The Marlins Triple-A team is in Albuquerque. This is the second year the team has been affiliated with New Mexico’s Isotopes. Maybe Kruk doesn’t keep up with the minor leagues, I suppose it is and it isn’t his job to do so. But I wonder if Kruk wondered why the Marlins sent A.J. Burnett to Albuquerque recently for a rehab start? The thought never probably occurred to Kruk.

Albuquerque is still far away from Miami and that's really Kruk's point, but I don't think it would have been all that difficult for him to figure out where the Marlins Triple-A team actually calls home. It would have been FAR too much to hope for to expect Kruk to understand that the locations of Triple-A teams are somewhat limited by the number of cities that are willing to fund stadiums, cities where there's sufficient interest, as well as a variety of other issues.

What makes this even more spectactularly amazing to me, is that it’s nearly impossible to provide a correction or a suggestion to Kruk or ESPN via their website. Go back and look at the article. There’s no closing or solicitation to comment. Sure, you could send the article to a friend or someone else, but you’d be passing on mis-information. This is one of my biggest gripes with ESPN today – not that they hire incompetent “analysts” like Kruk and Harold Reynolds, both of whom do a dis-service to the English language each time they open their mouths – but that they are largely unaccountable for the information they provide. Whatever is said by ESPN is taken as truth and gospel, when in fact, it often is not. Whoever ESPN decides to hype for the Heisman trophy, will likely be the season long front-runner, regardless of on the field performance. Lately we’ve become subjected to “ESPN Shorts” which are really commercials without the courtesy of acknowledging a commercial break. There are also the self-serving pieces on things like a number of Astros being robbed at gunpoint a few years back. A harrowing story no doubt, but also not timely or relevant to most viewers. Instead, it’s something that’s done to help ensure that ESPN wins its share of awards at the end of the year. They’re not trying to bring you news people, they’re trying to sell advertising and win awards, because ultimately both of those things help them to make money.

Well, I’m done now because I’m probably doing what the fine folks at ESPN want us all to do anyway – to get all worked up about their senselessness and consequently tune-in and gripe about it some more later (for another example, see Lee Corso’s Saturday college football picks). If we could only just figure out a way to live without ESPN and their overwhelming presence in the world of sports.

On a loosely related rant, did anyone check out the draft coverage on I'm evisioning that one of Bud Selig's relatives, who simply owns a camcorder, approached Bud with something like this for a proposal, "Uncle Bud - can me and my buddies 'broadcast' the draft from the garage? Please? Puh-lease?"

I understand the logic of not hyping the baseball draft like it's football and basketball counterparts. Most of the players drafted this week will never play in the Major Leagues and even fewer will become household names. But to go to a semi-professional looking webcast is demeaning to the event. A more thorough data driven analysis would be more appropriate - as the folks who are most closely following the draft (other than the draftees themselves) are likely stat-nicks.

Post-script: For further evidence of ESPN's ineptitude, go to this page and scroll down to the "New Wave" section in the middle. There's a link to an article about Arizona reaching the Super Regional which says "The Wildcats reached their first Super Regional in 11 years..." This is incorrect and misleading. Super Regional play has only existed since 1999. Arizona last won a regional 11 years ago, but by doing so back then, they advanced to the College World Series. Apparently no one at ESPN knows enough about what's going on to understand the difference here, as the mistake has been up on their page for more than 24 hours.


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