Preface I haven’t posted a word in over two years. It became a second job I didn’t need. But my mind has been leaking out opinions and judgments recently and I just have to get them out of my head and into sports space.
Philadelphia Sports fans are lucky to root for our teams. Win or lose, the players and coaches are almost always worth loving or loathing. They are hardly ever dull. But those mouths that report, comment upon, broadcast or otherwise pontificate upon our teams are, mostly, world class wonderful or dumpster horrid. Let me tell you what I think.
Back in the day when the Phillies were hopelessly rotten, we’d tune in to the games just to enjoy the repartee between Harry and Whitey. Oh, how much fun they were. Listening to them made you (almost) Von Hayes, Juan Bell, or Steve Jeltz. Now that the Fightin’s have the hammer, now that the home town boys are a powerful, cohesive team, a team we can love, the broadcasting is mostly hideous. Here’s my take on those voices:
Tom McCarthy Average. Competent. But just doesn’t have the juice to make me care. He’s not quite on key. He makes occasional, silly, factual mistakes. Small errors, but mistakes unworthy of a true lead #1 announcer. For instance, he reported that Ryan Howard was “6’6″, 260 pounds.” It’s an insignificantly wrong statement, but it bothers me. Still, it’s clear he’s done his homework (as opposed to Gary Matthews who never resorts to such frivolous stuff as “facts”), but it’s hard to fall in love with him. Probably his greatest accomplishment is spoon-feeding Matthews for 3 innings every game, or for nearly 500 innings over the course of a(regular) season. “Hey Sarge,” he’ll ask, “what do you think about growing onions on your bunions?” Just listen to the difference between how McCarthy runs a game when he works with Chris Wheeler or Matthews. In the first case, he’s an announcer calling a game. in the second, he is a high paid baby sitter.
Gary Matthews Rotten. Just horrible. The most apt adjective for his painful mutterings: ponderous! His mouth was made for mute. I grudgingly admit he’s gotten better over his four years on the air. He has almost dropped his “As well’s” completely, and I’d guess his “Actually’s” have been reduced by a full 50%. But, Lordy, he remains dense. His grasp of the obvious is so obvious that he puts “obvious” in a chokehold. He belabors, no crushes, the most obvious plays or situations, just sits on top of them and destroys them with his endless, idiotic ramblings. Has Matthews ever studied his craft? The evidence is “obvious” – he has not. The fool.
WAIT! FLASH!! THIS JUST IN!!! Last night (Sat., May 7 v. Braves) Matthews proved for all time that he is the dumbest of the dumb. Here are two quotes proving my thesis beyond any Einsteinian doubt … are you ready? Here they are: “It’s no fun watching games when you’re wet. You’d rather be dry.” Oh my God, this is so unbelievable. Next: “They’ve got different sized umbrellas. Some of them are smaller than others.” Do you realize how smart this makes Yogi Berra look? Maybe we need to appoint Matthews to the post of United Nations Ambassador. He’d be our ace in the hole on the Security Council. All those wise heads would nod in unanimous agreement that no, you cannot dispute the wisdom, the insight of Ambassador Mathews.
My Name is JJ and I’m a Matthews Junkie My God, I just realized I’m a Matthews junkie. Oh, please help me. I try really really hard NOT to watch the middle three Matthews innings on TV. Every now and then my resolve weakens, and I’ll turn-on the sound. The latest bit of idiocy concerns a Matthews statement he knew to be without merit. It’s like when a little kid tells a lie. We know he’s lying. The kid even knows he’s lying. He just hopes we adults won’t notice. So get this. It’s the day game following Wilson Valdez’ et al amazing 19 inning victory. Both managers have replaced some of their everyday players for the day game. For the locals, Michael Martinez took shortstop for J-Roll. For the visiting Reds, Miguel Cairo replaced Scott (Booooo!) Rolen at third. When Tom McCarthy tossed yet another softball Matthews’ way, asking, “Sarge, how does a manager decide who to rest after such a long night game?” Well, the keenly observant Matthews reported that “Cairo replaced Rolen because Cairo’s younger.” Sure, that’s the reason. No doubt. Except that Cairo is OLDER than Rolen. What’s so sickeningly obvious is you could tell Matthews knew he was guessing. He was so clearly hoping and praying no one would notice that he was clueless. But in a way, this represents an upgrade for the Ignorant One. This time he KNEW he was full of crap. That’s a clear signal of growth, because typically, he has no idea that he’s so ridiculously, so relentlessly, stupid. HOW DOES HE KEEP HIS JOB??
Whoops – Just have to add a new one. “Reporting” on Ryan Howard swinging at bad pitches, the grand orator said, “When he learns to not swing at balls that are balls, he’ll do better.” Oh, my. Where is the Rhodes Scholar committee?
Chris Wheeler It’s well know that many folks despise him. I like him. He’s into the game and reports with insight and passion. He’s also fun. You know how very much he loves our home town boys and that makes Wheeler one of us.
Scott Franske and Larry Andersen This pair is this millennium’s Harry and Whitey. These guys know how to tell a story and how to make it entertaining at the same time. Franske’s pacing is, to me, reminiscent of Vin Skully’s. In fact, to my ears, he sounds a little like the Dodgers’ beloved broadcaster. As for L.A., there is no better wit sitting in any broadcasting booth in Philadelphia. Best of all is the genuine rapport, even affection, they share. Just listen to how they needle each other. They’re sharp and fun and should be on television. By the way, do you know why L.A. was bumped from the TV booth? I have it on good authority that he didn’t always refer to the graphics on screen. Sometimes, he’d simply ignore them. For shame, Larry. Bad Boy.
Jim Jackson No, not the splendid play-by-play Flyers announcer, but the middle three innings baseball broadcaster. He does not belong in the booth. Yes, he is a competent professional, but it’s an insult to have Jackson announcing Phillies games. He’s a carpetbagger. He’s an outsider. He’s a part-timer. He doesn’t hang with the team. He doesn’t dream, eat, or sleep Phillies baseball. How could he? He’s the Flyers play-by-play announcer. Counting pre- and post-season he broadcasts in the realm of 100 games per season. From October through most of June, he’s at his real job. Everyday. With the Flyers. That’s his gig. We trust him. He’s good at it. But put him in our radio booth and he instantly loses any credibility. When he’s got time off from hockey, here he comes to ruin the game. Oh, he is just awful. He’s even got his very own trademark home run call. I mean, wow. ” It’s outta here. Goodbye.” I have to pause now because I’m shivering with excitement. But the problem runs deeper than Jackson. It’s not his fault that was offered a second pay check. Whoever is in charge of broadcasting decisions is incompetent. Shoving the maddening mutterings of Matthews down our throats is merely bad judgment. But destroying the rhythms of Franske and Andersen is a felony offense against all of us who follow the team. I mean, here the Phils finally have a duo worthy of succeeding Harry and Whitey. Instead, they shove the banal, white bread reporting of JJ down our throats. It makes me gag. It makes me sad. In fact, it’s infuriating. Someone should be fired for that decision.
MICHAEL BARKANN I’M WRITING THIS IN A FONT CALLED, “BARKANNMEE,” WHERE EVERY WORD IS IN CAPS, BOLD AND IN CAPS, ALL THE TIME, DAY AND NIGHT, 24-7, KNOW WHAT I MEAN? THERE IS NO MODULATION IN THE BARKANN UNIVERSE, ONLY THAT SELF-PROMOTIONAL SHOUTING, THAT PERPETUAL CONCEITED LOOK-AT-ME WINK WINK AIN’T I THE GREATEST?! IN THAT GALAXY THERE IS ONLY ROOM FOR THE GLORIOUS GREATNESS THAT IS MICHAEL, MIKEY B, THE BARK, THE BROADCASTER EXTRODINAIRE: MICHAEL THE B GIVING A PERPETUAL SHOUT OUT TO HIS OWN ASTONISHING MAGNIFICENCE. HE’S MICHAEL BARKANNBARKANNBARKANN LOOK AT ME I’M MICHAEL BARKANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!! SAY IT AGAIN: BARKANNBARKANNBARKANNNNN LOOK AT ME I’M MICHAEL BARKANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
HEY, EVERYBODY, LOOK: YES, IT’S MICHAEL BARKANN, WHERE EVERY WORD IS EAR-BUSTING, WHERE EVERY WORD IS DESIGNED TO DESPERATELY DRAW CONTINUOUS ATTENTION TO HIS OWN WONDERDOUS WONDERIFFIC WONDERFULNESS. EVERYBODY LOOK SOME MORE. IT’S MIKEY THE B IN ALL HIS PERPETUAL GLORY. AND YO, KEEP ON LOOKING AT OUR OWN MICHAEL B EXTRAORDINAIRE, THE VOICE OF HIS OWN GRANDIOSITY, THE MAN, THE MYTH, THE LEGEND, THE STAR OF STARS. HEH HEH HEH. HEH. HEH. TWITCH. TWITCH. YAKNOWWHATIMEAN? THIS JUST IN! AIN’T I GREAT?
Amy Fadool The questions must be asked: Has Amy Fadool ever gotten through one segment of a telecast without getting lost, getting stuck, or mispronouncing a word? Has Amy Fadool ever gotten through a segment without the need of a translator, having “marble-mouthed” her way through the English language with a machete? Huh? What? Really, if you can’t get a United Nations official translator to interpret her garbled narration, you could be cruel, and hire a lip reader. Imagine the psychological damage you could do? I mean, folks, just how did Fadool get this gig? Did she win a middle-school sports readers tournament? Did she win a “cone-to-work-with your mom/dad day?” Is she Barkann’s love child? Actually, what’s unfathomable is not HOW she got the job, but how she KEEPS the job? And please, please, spare me the cutie-cuteness. Arrgh.
Lisa Hillary Finally, a substantial new reporter was recently added to the Comcast Sports crew. Lisa Hillary knows her Flyers, reports with authority and without affectation. And, not only can I actually understand her verbiage, I want to listen to her reporting. She knows her stuff.
Ron Burke I really like Ron Burke. Why isn’t he in the mix more often? Maybe he’s not cute enough? Maybe he’s not enough of a self-promoter. A lot more Burke and a lot less Barkann, Fadool, et al, would brighten the Comcast sports landscape significantly. Burke is affable, well-informd, not stuck on himself and can be relied on for solid reporting …. all with a twinkle in his eye. He doesn’t make himself the center of all things glorious and wonderful.
….. which reminds me of Barkan …. again I’ve written Barkann a number of times, telling him how his blatant self-promotion, self-pretention, self-glorification is particularly odorous, and I signed by name to each mail. Well, the GREAT BARKANN must have been particularly affected by my (witty, stinging) barbs that he Googled me, made a few unpleasant remarks in return, and wrote, “You really must like me to write so often.” I replied, “NO, Barkann, you’re the price I pay for liking Philly sports.” It’s so rewarding when your TV icons turn out to be exactly as they pretend to be on air.
John Clark – NBC10 He’s got the doofus market cornered. A rah-rah, sophomoric jock sniffer, I still grudgingly admire him because he seems to outwork every other pretty-faced TV sports announcer. He’ll stake out Philly International all day long waiting for some high profile sports figure to touch down. Still, when he reports, more than once, with a straight face that he’s learned “Placido” Polanco’s first name is actually pronounced, PLACEEEEDO, and not “PLAH-cee-doh” as is de rigueur, well, you just can’t take the boy seriously now, can you?
Howard Eskin WIP The man has lost his mojo and has been weighted-down with a weak sidekick (Ike Reese). Sadly, for me, anyway, Eskin’s become a bit of a caricature of himself. Still, I admit that in some very real ways, I admire him more than any of the sports talking head fraternity. He get’s down in the trenches. He goes into locker rooms to get the word. He seems to have great contacts in every of the major professional sports teams’ front offices; he breaks many a a story before any of his competitors. And get this: he actually goes to games, to press conferences and generally does the kind of stuff an actual reporter would do. The King is dead. Long live the King!
Marc Zumoff You do understand, don’t you, the labor Zumoff puts in thinking up his dozens of “spontaneous” sayings, and then his protracted practice in making them sound authentic in front of a mirror? Marv Albert is happy with one catch-saying,” YES!” And Dick Enberg has two, “Oh, my!” But the faux extemporaneously clever Zumoff has more than “doubled up” their paltry numbers. Zu has sayings for all occasions. He’s “turning gold into garbage” all the time. He’s taking his cleverness to “the weight room” and “lacing” three from deep. By the way, when’s the last time they made basketballs with laces? Last year he was fond of calling jams by the term, “heaving it down,” until he realized that heaves go UP not down. Maybe it’s just a case of “double vision.” Or maybe Zumoff is “just having his way” with us. Or perhaps he expects us to “pick-up the change” for him. But still, you have to say “he’s working hard for the money,” even as he “locks horns” with his listeners.
A player never scores a basket and has 17 points, no. Instead, he either “drops” or Zu will “give him 17.” And when Zumoff is on a homemade cliche roll, he is “putting the pedal to the metal.” Uh oh, wait just a minute. We can’t credit him for that one. Nope, that’s not a Zumoffism. That’s taken from the mouths of hundreds of other sportscasters. All we can do is “T him up.” And here’s the thing: the 76ers have never led a game all year. They might be ahead by 10 points, but they’re not “leading.” No, they’re “holding” 10. Imagine if they were ahead by 25 and how heavy it would be to “hold” all 25.
In the end, while Zumoff is super sharp-witted and astonishingly astute, while Zumoff is so fastidiously “busting a move,” we, the listeners, are busting our eardrums. Yesssssssssssss, oh Yessssssssssssssssss he is!!!!!
Dei Lynam and Kate Fagan The two sharpest basektball commentaors in town. Love listening to the first and love reading the second. They obviously know the game, respect the game, and can translate the game for their audience. And oh, Bob Cooney needs to sharpen-up his game. But I fear ‘ordinary’ is as high as he’ll fly. He gets out-scooped regularly by Fagan.
Anthony Gargano The loudest voice with the most blustery laugh on WIP radio. Not just loud and often obnoxious, Gargano steals the show from Glen Macnow for five hours every day. IOt should be called the Gargano show, with Glen Macnow now and then. If you’d dare to compare, just listen to the easy repartee shared between Glen and Ray Didinger on Saturdays. There is a shared broadcast, a wonderful rapport that simply swifts through the airways.
We love our Fightin’ Phils. But here we are in November, with Christmas wrapping paper and candy canes already in stores, and we’re not quite ready to wrap up the season. No, not yet, not for two more games, both ending in “W’s.” But, there’s still plenty of annoying stuff going on.
One Vulgar New Yorker
Unlike many locals, I harbor no particular disgust for New York fandom. Ok, I lied, I despise them just like all of us.
During Game 3 of the World Series, I had great seats, six rows behind the Homie’s dugout. And it was great fun for three innings as the boyz led and Cole Hamels was in control. But then, calamity struck, the Yankees pulled ahead, and all the fun was sucked out of the ball yard.
At the exact time that the Yankees took the lead, I became aware of a horrible-sounding voice behind me. I turned around and saw what I can only describe as a truly ugly man wearing a faded blue ball cap, with white “NY” emnbroidered on it, shouting profanities in the general direction of the Phils dugout, and yucking it up.
Where did he come from? He hadn’t been there before. He was the living, breathing caricature of the prototypical New York fan. Obnoxious with a capital “O.” He was full of himself, loud and vulgar, and was rubbing the Yankees sudden success in our faces. I took it for awhile, but when he began making cell phone calls, bragging that he had “snuck into an empty seat in row 7,” I flipped. I jumped from my seat, found an usher, reported the dude, and within minutes, whimpering like a girlie man, he was removed from the district. See ya,twerp. Buh-bye.
Championship Team, Expansion Team Cheerleading
It all started, I think, with the founding of the American Football League. When the league was formed and had second rate players and third rate stadiums, they introduced the clarion”Charge” call, to alert the unknowing local yokels of when to cheer. Fifty years later, the poison has spread throughout sportsdom like swine flu. Now, scoreboard operators and their staffs have become glorified, cheerleading DJ’s. Where I find this most objectionable is when they find the fans too dumb, or apathetic, at least, to know when to cheer. Scoreboards light up with instructions to “Get Loud,” or “Make Noise.”
It’s the kind of thing you’d expect to find in an expansion town, or at the least, San Diego, but certainly not on the east coast. That’s why I was horrified to see the Citizen’s Bank scoreboard explode with directions to GET LOUD, and to MAKE NOISE at Game 3 of the Series. All the theatrics of modern faux extravaganza’s came into play: flashing lights, changing colors, exploding stars, all urging us, the ignorant masses, to cheer – as if we were too dumb to know, or maybe too passive to care. Insulting, unnecsssary, putrid theatrics, and at the core, disrespectful of the gathered faithful.
I only want two things from scoreboards: easily accessible, useful information, and as many replays as possible. Oh, a third desire is to be entertained before the game with highlight packages and mini-documentaries of great Phillies accomplishments.
Instead, what we get in Philly is a scoreboard whose graphics are poorly designed and inaccessible at a glance. It’s busy, confusing and disconcerting. Where is the pitch count? Oh, now I see it, over there. Where are balls and strikes? Uh oh, no time to look the ball’s in play. There are a lot of lousy graphic designers out there in the world who have no sense of order or proportion, and apparently we’ve got a contingent of them at the Bank.
One More Thing
A lot of fans got to the ball park early. I was with a huge crowd waiting for the gates to open at 5:05 P.M. on Saturday afternoon. For the next two hours, the Phillies Jumbotron featured a swirling mess of incomprehensible activity which, after intense scrutiny, could be deciphered as a kind of space station featuring moving Phillies and Yankees logos. Around and around they moved, over and over again, ad nauseum. I’ve posted a picture. Take a look.
WIP’s Howard Eskin and Ike Reese Show
This is painful. It is not going to last. We were told that Eskin’s ratings had dropped and that he’d need to have a sidekick to bolster his afternoon drive-time standing. And so Reese won the prize. To my way of thinking this was no prize, it was a demotion. After all, Reese had his own show at 7P.M.
So what have we now? A mismatch of sub-epic proportions. Eskin completely dominates Reese making Reese an afterthought to the proceedings. Eskin is all too obvious in his contempt for the situation and, instead of inviting Reese’s participation, ices him out. Reese tries and tries to jump in, kind of like Celine Dion trying to upstage Aretha Franklin, but guess what? It ain’t gonna happen. Not now, not later, not ever.
And worse, in a vainglorious attempt to get his foot in the door of Eskin’s superiority, Reese has rendered himself an idiot. Yesterday, he aimed his full quiver of arrows at Jimmy Rollins, condemning Rollins at length for his poor performance. It was small minded, self aggrandizing, and a pathetic effort to find footing on Eskin’s stage. It was a hollow attempt and it failed. It made Reese all the smaller.
Eskin obviously resents the situation. He sees Reese as an intruder and because of this, Eskin will torpedo the show. This show will not survive. Something must change. But Eskin is too smart and too clever to go down with the ship. I’m betting Eskin has his agent out there right now, scouring TV and radio stations, for a new gig. He surely knows his show is going down and he is going to bail as soon as he can. Vai Sikehema, watch your back.
The Top Nine Most Annoying Philadelphia Sports Personalities
What is it about the number 10? I’m tired of it; it’s so predictable. So, I’m going with my Top Nine Most Annoying Philadelphia Sports Media Personalities.
#1 – Barkann, Michael. Comcast SportsNet
By acclimation, Barkann could sweep all nine spots for himself. No one in the Philadelphia sports media community is more of a huckster, so tirelessly, so aggressively, so LOUDLY in love with his own wonderfulness. Michael B. – The Barkmeister! The Barkenenema! The Barkann’t Stop Talking About Me, Mister! Look at me, look at me, oh please, please, please look at me. Love me. Love me. Love me.
#2 – Fadool, Amy. Comcast SportsNet
OK, camp tryouts are over. She did her best. Fadool tried really, really hard. But if viewers need subtitles to understand her marble-mouthed utterances, and if she mis-speaks on every single broadcast, then it’s time to go. I mean I have seen her stop in mid-sentence –more than once – to try a second time to say what she wanted to say the first time. It’s an insult to sports fans to have to wade through such annoying, incompetent work. One more note about Fadool. She needs to hire a fact checker. On the night of September 3rd, when Ryan Howard drove in his 113th run of the season, Fadool reported he had driven in his ‘112th.’ This kind of error is like a print journalist not using spell-check; there’s no excuse for getting it wrong. That’s just bad work. Fadool needs to leave the yard. She’s gotta be OUTTA HERE!!!!!!!!!
#3 – Matthews, Gary. Comcast SportsNet
How painfully bad is this dude? I’ve chronicled his awful-awful-awful work in other posts. What makes Matthews so horrible, and his horrible work so unforgiveable, is that he doesn’t improve. He wallows in the ooze of the pathetically bad, Ad infinitum. His grasp of the obvious is so strong that he chokes ‘obvious’ to death. Bring in the coroner for “The Sarge.” And, Dear Lord, he never stops talking. He goes on and on and on and on babbling about nothing, tell us nothing, making sense of nothing. And so, I am denied the pleasure of watching the Phillies broadcasts with sound for one-third of every game. I have to ‘mute’ the television for my emotional well-being. But, in the interests of making an up-to-date report, I forced myself to watch the middle-three of last night’s game against the Giants – a Phillies 1-0 victory, a gem of a game pitched by Cole Hamels.
Here are three of Matthews’ more memorably stupid, incomprehensible babblings:
1. On Ryan Howard running the bases: “He should be able to move with his feet.” I suppose moving with your elbows didn’t occur to the Sarge.
2. On the work of shortstops: “Shortstop is the busiest position. You have line drives. You have grounders. You have pop-ups.” Now that’s deep. That’s incisive commentary. That’s analysis of the highest order.
3. On Winning Road Games: “In most cases, it’s always difficult to win on the road.” Golly, I’d sure like to know those cases where it’s sometimes easy to win on the road.
Lastly, I’ve (sadly) memorized a beauty of a Raul Ibanez home run call by Matthews. It went like this: “That’ got a little more distance than it’s goin’.” Just a little more, indeed.
#4 – Gudel, Leslie. Comcast SportsNet
It would seem to me, outsider that I am, that the first rule of broadcasting is to have a pleasing voice. But our Leslie’s voice could make serene the sound of group blackboard scratching by the entire population of South Philadelphia. Turning down the volume doesn’t help, at least not much. If you simply must listen, then it’s crucial to put away your china and glassware.
#5 – Missanelli, Mike. ESPN Radio
He’s our Mikey of Eternal Anger. Missanelli must be so unhappy. Maybe his daddy was mean to him. Missanelli is a tireless bore who, by definition, is totally predictable.The only question is when he’ll get fired. The over/under is six months.
#6 – Charry, Rob. WIP Radio
I just went online to have a first look at this guy. You know how radio personalities never look like you think they will? Well, here’s a notable exception. He looks crazed and upset. Angry Rob is second only to Missanelli because he gets so much less air time. But this dude is perpetually pissed-off, and equally perpetually dull, hollow and humdrum. A nasty man.
That’s it. I’m done. I will not continue my self-flagellation with three more paragraphs. But I will honor my commitment by filling out the roster.
#7 – Kram, Mark. Philadelphia Daily News – Does this man have a pulse?
# 8 – Spadaro, Dave. Eagles Digest – His cloyingly transparent kiss-ass defense of everything Eagles, no matter how smelly rotten it is, would make syrup angry. Have you ever witnessed a more pathetic wannabe jock sniffer? Oh you have?
Well, then, that would be Mr. High School Harry, aka #9 – Clark, John. NBC10-TV
There you have it: the nine most annoying sports personalities in Philly. Bring me some Maalox. Hurry.
P.S. I know. I know. No Eskin. No Cataldi. Cataldi deserves his very own slap-him-upside-the-head page, all by himself. On the other hand, many of you love to hate Eskin. I understand. His arrogance, his condescending in your face superior mien, is hard to take. No, it’s often impossible to take. But compare him to the other radio sports talkers, and I think you must agree: no one gets more scoops, no one gets better guests, no one does better interviews, no one goes into the clubhouses and locker rooms, no one does his homework like H. Eskin. Irascible Howie delivers the goods.