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.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Fox Sells Baseball to Kids with Drugs, Pregnancy, and Porn Stars

For whatever reason, Saturday was just one of those days for me where I was really looking forward to the “Game of the Week” on Saturday afternoon.  I’d gotten up early (which for me is a rarity on a Saturday), run some errands, and had felt like a somewhat productive adult by the time I got back to the house in the early afternoon.  While I knew that the “Game of the Week” wasn’t starting until 3 PM, I wasn’t sure what game was going to be shown in Miami.  I figured it would either be the Yankees and Red Sox or the Giants and Cardinals.

Well, because of rain in Boston (which led to a delay and nearly calling the game), those of us in Miami were treated to a largely irrelevant (to us at least) matchup between the Cubs and Phillies.  I suppose maybe the Lords at Fox determined that since the Phils game would have an impact on the Marlins in terms of the NL East race (with the Phillies) and the Wild Card race (with the Cubs).  Most of us – well, at least me – would have preferred to see the Cardinals – Giants game, if only because it was Barry Bonds’ 40th birthday.  It was not to be though.  Little did I know that this was only the beginning of where things would start to fall apart for me on Saturday with the “Game of the Week” (which by the way, Fox has one of and ESPN has one of… I think FX has one – or at least used to also… how many “Games of the Week” can there be).

Making matters worse was that the play-by-play of the Cubs – Phillies game was being delivered by none other than Thom Brenneman.  I would link to some of my other ramblings on Thommy, but that would only cause me to scan through some of what I’ve written before and bother me further.  Brenneman is not much of a broadcaster; his style is better suited to the minor leagues, college sports, or a small market because he is a homer without exception.  This is particularly bothersome with something like a national broadcast (like Saturday’s) when Thom is broadcasting for his preferred team – the Chicago Cubs.  However, since Fox has the exclusive rights to my Saturday afternoons, I tried to put up with Brenneman.  Fortunately, the Yankees and Red Sox agreed to play, even though for awhile it appeared that they wouldn’t.

Once the Red Sox and Yankees got under way, I became thankful for the first time ever to hear the dulcet tones of Tim McCarver.  McCarver, who is another announcer I’ve had little good to say about over the years, is a knowledgable baseball man – and certainly less of a homer than Brenneman, but his Morgan-like reminiscensing about  the days of yore and how men were men and baseball was baseball in his day.  At times McCarver provides insight, but on the whole, he’s more often than not a windbag a la Curt Schilling, espousing his views on whatever he deems fit, whether they are informed or not (kind of like I’m doing right now).

Still, McCarver was a significant upgrade over the bantering of Brenneman (and having the non-homer Joe Buck at McCarver’s side certainly helped)… well, at least he was until the “Scooter” episode.  Fox broke out their new animated “Scooter” early on in the game to teach all of us what a slider or a sinker or some pitch is.  Afterwards McCarver commented that Scooter is part of a concerted effort by Major League Baseball to reach out to a younger generation of fans.  McCarver opined that baseball is often ridiculed for not reaching out to kids, and that ultimately, this will have a detrimental effect on the game – particularly as those same kids become attached to football, basketball, snowboarding, and whatever other “sports” debut at the X Games.  I’ve taken McCarver’s point a little further than he developed it on air, but we all got the gist, and it was a good and fair one, as annoying as those of us from an older demographic might find Scooter.

What happened soon thereafter, though no fault of McCarver or Buck’s, was that Fox turned things around 180 degrees and provided us with decidedly kid un-friendly fare (no, not the – Jason Varitek throwdown).  During many of the commercial breaks, Fox aired commercials for “That 70’s Show” where the Kelso character alludes to having sexual relations in a restroom with his girlfriend, another show called “Quintuplets” where a young, pre-teen actor flirts with a porn star in an attempt to land a date (or at least we hope that’s where it will end).  Other commercials included a preview for Saturday night’s edition of “COPS” (where an officer tells the suspect - on the commercial and, presumably, during the show- “when you hand someone your wallet, don’t hand them heroin”), and another commercial, this one for “The Casino,” showed how bikini-contest models were hired to be “hostesses” in half-skirts to lure patrons into the casino’s bowling alley.  Frighteningly, the most family oriented fare of the Fox’s Saturday afternoon commercial enticements was for Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie’s “The Simple Life.”  For anyone who’s seen the show before, that’s simply scary.

I’m usually not the first person to comment on something like this (and maybe I’m not here).  I also wasn’t particularly offended by the commercials, particularly as I was watching the game alone, and there weren’t any children around.  It just struck me as odd how Fox could on the one hand promote selling the game of baseball to children (never mind that World Series games start so late that I’m sure kids on the West Coast have a hard time staying up for the conclusion) and on the other hand promoted some of their more salacious shows throughout the broadcast of the game.

Next time, give us baseball, Barry’s 40th birthday (or at least cut-ins to his at bats) and family friendly promotions.  Some of what I saw on Saturday would make the controversial Miller beer commercials, which were shown during last year’s football season, look tame.


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