Sunday night was such a game.
Yankees-Red Sox. Pettitte-Beckett. Chance for the sweep. Yanks peaking at just the right moment.
Astro-Girl added to the ambience with her superb grilled salmon, supplemented with a Greek salad, squash, and a choice, ice-cold bottle of Chardonnay, all designed to be placed on the table 'round the anthem.
Then, ten minutes before first pitch, it hit me. No, really, I entered the kitchen feeling as if my horse had finished with a view of the field.
"Oh, man," I said, "I forgot. Sunday night ESPN."
"Oh," Astro-Girl said. "Right. Morgan."
If Mike Judge or Judd Apatow were to craft a film detailing one baseball announcer's preening sense of self, one announcer's ability to simply rip up and destroy what we were watching, they could scarcely do worse than last Sunday.
After the game I talked the whole grevious affair over with Sun Devil Joe. But, really--and SDJ saw this coming--who could improve on Phil Mushnick? His comments are reprinted here in full:
SINCE 2003, when this column began to include an e-mail address, two regularly scheduled live game telecasts have provoked the most infuriated feedback: ESPN's Monday Night Football and ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.
But Sunday's Red Sox-Yankees broke the data bank.
By now, you and ESPN know the gripes: The telecasts are drowned in visual and verbal overload. They often become ESPN/ABC infomercials, designed to have you watch the next thing, not this one. The productions assault and insult all the good senses.
But ESPN long ago determined that it doesn't care what anyone writes or what you think. It doesn't care that we watch events on ESPN only because we have to, not because we want to. As long as ESPN owns exclusive rights it can continue to make jerks of us all.
Sunday's Red Sox-Yanks was so junked up with every-pitch over-analysis, banal conversation, Joe Morgan's short-story-made-long nonsense, mindless graphics and an endless, forget-the-game interview with Luis Tiant -- ESPN had a documentary about him the next night -- that my e-mail box, by Monday afternoon, three times had maxed out. I couldn't clear space fast enough. Impossible to gauge exactly how many were sent, at least 200 made it through.
And among those read, all complained that ESPN had destroyed another telecast that viewers were eager to watch.
Perhaps most remarkable is that scores of these missives were sent during the game, meaning ESPN so aggravated viewers that many couldn't contain themselves; on a Sunday night they arose and steamed to their computers.
One missive suggested that Sunday's telecast be shown to terrorism suspects -- a means to force them to talk -- before the next Geneva Convention could act. Others needed to rhetorically ask how America's sports network could continue to vandalize America's most attractive games. And several recognized that MLB doesn't care, as long as ESPN's checks clear.
One of the more sedate e-mails (sent at 8:53, during the game) was from Fred Rosen, Boynton Beach, Fla. He acknowledged that he was left to choose between listening to Morgan or John Sterling -- "What a choice!" -- but admitted to being fascinated by ESPN's non-stop stat graphics. He accurately noted two in particular:
"I am now aware that after a 2-1 count Alex Rodriguez bats .300. However, his average dips to .174 when the count is 3-1. Therefore, it should be a no-brainer that managers instruct their pitchers to throw a ball when the count is 2-1."
Meanwhile, the "ESPN Wrecks Red Sox-Yanks" missives are still stacked up. Lot of good they'll do either of us. "SportsCenter is next! SportsCenter is next! SportsCenter is next! . . ."
I only conclude with:
1. In over forty years of living in this country, Luis Tiant has steadfastly refused to learn how to speak understandable English. Neither here nor there. In twenty years of living in Houston (twenty years next week, actually) I've never learned how to speak Spanish. The point is: there was no excuse for having him in the booth, to answer every two-minute question with twenty seconds of mumble-grumble-mumble. Get and interpreter, interview the producer of the thing, whatever.
2. What if, during the half-hour or so of Miller's & Co.'s interview, a fantastic play had taken place? "Oh, uh, A-Rod hits a three-run shot to, um, Monument Park. Now, Luis, back to when you pitched to Joe in Game Four . . ."
3. SDJ called it: An infomercial. A butchery of what's on to show us what's on next. Aeey.