Behind the Mic: Announcing the Masters

As I hope you may have noticed, I have been away from my blog for a bit.  April is a quiet sports month for us here at RCN so it is a good time for me to reunite with my wife and with my golf game.  I managed to do both this past month – I went on a cruise and followed that up with a five-day golf trip.  Those obviously made the month fly by, but it is good to be back at the computer and looking towards the baseball championships coming up this month.

The last major sporting event that I watched prior to vacation was the Masters.  I have always been intrigued by the reverence that the announcers seem to pay to this event.  So I did some research and found that, in 1979, the radio and television announcers were given rules and a terminology guide from the Masters committee that they must follow.  Some have lost their job by not obeying the edict.  Here are a few of the rules:

  • Never refer to the gallery or patrons as a mob or crowd.
  • Never estimate the size of the gallery.
  • Never refer to players’ earnings.
  • Never refer to Masters prize money.
  • De-emphasize the players’ antics.
  • Do not compare any holes at Augusta National with those at another golf course.
  • The water in front of the 13th green is not to be called Rae’s Creek, but a tributary of Rae’s Creek.
  • Make no reference to Masters tickets having been sold out.
  • Make frequent mention of the presentation ceremony to be conducted at the end of the final round.
  • Do not guess where a ball might be.
  • Do not estimate the length of a putt.

 In addition, there is a Terminology and Style Guide which includes the following:

  • Augusta National Golf Club – not Country Club or Golf Course.
  • Patrons – the people in attendance are patrons, not fans or spectators.
  • Second Cut – there is no rough; the higher grass should be referred to as the second cut.
  • Bunkers – they are not sand traps.
  • First nine/Second nine – not front nine and back nine.
  • Groupings – not “threesomes” for rounds one and two.
  • Hole number 1 – not 1st
  • 1st round – preferred term for rounds and Final round for 4th

There are more rules and more terminologies, but you get the idea.  And… if you announce the Masters, you BETTER get the idea.  Gary McCord was fired in 1994 for saying that “bikini wax” was used on the Augusta greens to make them slick and that some of the bunkers around the course looked like “body bags”.  He has not been asked back.  Long-time announcer Jack Whitaker once referred to the gallery as a “mob scene” and the Augusta committee got him removed from the broadcast.

This Masters will be remembered for the collapse of Jordan Spieth in the final round, but I, for one, paid a bit more attention to every word that was spoken during the broadcast.  And, I am quite sure, so did every one of the announcers (if they wanted to keep the job).

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Some good news out of Philadelphia – a new Eagles’ quarterback, the Flyers made the playoffs, and, better yet, the Phillies are winning. Light at the end of what has been a very dark tunnel.
  1. Speaking of Eagles’ football, Carson Wentz played for North Dakota State. I did a Lafayette-North Dakota State game in Fargo, North Dakota, back in 2011.  Boy, do they love their football.  It was a packed house at the indoor stadium with the loudest crowd I have experienced.  Lafayette lost 42-6.  There is not much else to do out there.  In the local pub the night before the game, dogs sat on the bar stools and they had a meat raffle!  What?
  1. I mentioned Bourjos, Hernandez, Herrera, Franco, Howard, Galvis, Rupp, and Goedel as the Phillies position players to start the season. However, it has been the pitching staff, both starters and relievers, who have been responsible for the success of the team so far.
  1. As I write this, every team in the National League East, except the Braves, is at .500 or better. The Phillies have the fourth best record in the National League and third best in the NL East.
  1. Jim Best will offer up his blog on this site next week. Thanks to him, John Leone, and Scott Barr filling in for me.

Behind the Mic: Free Admittance is so Much Cheaper

 

One of the really nice perks about my job is the free admittance to sporting events. Granted, I have to “work” once I get there, but purchasing a ticket to an event is pretty foreign to me. Add to that the fact that I have a good seat; I get to talk to the players and the coaches; I can converse with the fans; and, sometimes, I even get free food. It’s all good.

There are some sporting events, however, I would like to attend ONCE in my life and to do that, I would probably have to buy a ticket like any other fan. So I investigated the price (in 2013) to attend some of the events on my list (obviously, in the manner I am accustomed to):

1. The Masters golf tournament – a four-day pass would cost me $4,486. I would need to travel to Augusta, Georgia, find lodging, eat for four days, and pay exorbitant prices on the grounds. I am guessing a total price around $6,000.

2. The Super Bowl – the average face-value price for a ticket for the Ravens vs the 49ers in 2013 was $1,210. Tickets were sold, it was reported, for as much as $316,000.

3. The BCS College football championship – For this one, I think I would like to sit in a luxury box suite. After all, I am used to broadcasting college football from a nice suite with free food and drink available. The best price I could find was $250,000 for the accommodations. I would be able to invite some friends – maybe I could get a half dozen to kick in $50,000 each. I am not against making a profit here.

4. Game 7 of the NBA Championship – that happened in 2010 when the Lakers met the Celtics. To sit at courtside (why would I want to sit anywhere else?) required that I purchase two tickets minimum for a cost of $115,000.

5. Major League Baseball’s All-Star game – Another event where if you wanted to sit behind home plate, you needed to purchase two tickets. That would set you back $7,200. I wonder what a hot dog and soda would cost me. Maybe I could sneak in my own peanuts.

My list may differ greatly from yours. So allow me to quickly give you some “ballpark” figures for some other major events:

Championship boxing – ringside – $30,940.
Stanley Cup Final – average price in 2013 – $1,380.
Wimbledon Championship Finals – If you are “unfortunate” to have a British finalist
(Andy Murray in 2013), and decided to buy a ticket the day of the final, it would set you back $65,000.
Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics – only $4,000.

AND, if you got caught up in the World Cup this year and were wondering what it cost to attend the championship final – a mere $990. The problem here is you have to get to Brazil – from my house, it was @$3,000 for flight and hotel!

My top five would cost me around $375,000 or so just for the tickets. My air-conditioned house, comfortable recliner, hi-def TV, and easy access to snacks and drinks have me reconsidering attendance. With the money I’ll save, I think I’ll Google the nearest Porsche dealership.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. The Derek Jeter All-Star salute last Tuesday night was very special. I particularly loved the late Yankee PA announcer Bob Sheppard’s introduction of Jeter. It was the perfect touch, along with allowing Jeter to run off the field in the fourth inning.

2. An interesting side note on Jeter’s career. Dan Szymborski of ESPN has created a formula called ZiPS (sZymborski Projection System) which takes the first three years of a player’s career and projects his career numbers (here are Jeter’s projection numbers followed by his actual numbers as of July 19 in parentheses). For Jeter, he would have projected a .289 batting average (.311); 2,947 hits (3,411); 418 doubles (534); 114 triples (66); 263 HR (258); 1,287 RBIs (1,287); 336 SB (355). Very impressive projection system if you ask me.

3. I love the British Open. Links golf is just different; the TV time is done to allow you to do other things on the weekend; and it is a Major. It was great to see Rory McIlroy play so well again and even his fellow players were happy for him. Sergio Garcia finished second, but now has played in 64 majors without a win. He and Lee Westwood (66 majors) endure the title of “best players to never win a Major”.

4. It was a sponsor’s dream on Sunday at the British Open when the top three golf corporations were so visibly represented – Rory McIlroy represents NIKE; Sergio Garcia represents Adidas; and Ricky Fowler represents Puma. Pretty much equal time for all.

5. Two more interesting British Open tidbits – 1) McIlroy’s former fiancée, Caroline Wozniacki, also won her WTA tennis championship in Istanbul on Saturday. They were to be married in November. Rory broke off the engagement with a three-minute phone call. 2) A fan kept yelling “Sergio is going to catch you” at McIlroy after every shot. McIlroy had a fan removed by security at the 15th hole. No one was sure if it was the same fan.

 

Behind the Mic: Two Weeks of Baseball Instant Replay

 

Instant replay in baseball was first implemented in 2008 for three reasons: 1) to determine if a home run was fair or foul; 2) did a batted ball actually leave the playing field; 3) did a spectator interfere with a batted ball.

The use of replay was greatly expanded for this season to include the following:

• Ground-rule doubles
• Fan interference calls
• Boundary calls (managers may not, however, challenge home run or potential home run calls)
• Force plays at all bases, except whether a middle infielder touched second base during the attempt to “turn” a double play
• Tag plays on the base paths—whether a runner was tagged or whether the runner touched a base (an appeal is still required ahead of the latter)
• Fair/foul calls on balls hit into the outfield
• Catch/trap calls on balls hit into the outfield
• Time plays (whether or not a run scored prior to the third out)
• Whether a runner passed a preceding runner
• Scorekeeping issues, including the count, number of outs, score or substitutions

Judgment calls not specified above, including, but not limited to, pitches called ball or strike, obstruction, interference, infield fly rule and check swings are not.

All games are monitored in New York City by a former umpire or umpire supervisor. Much like the NFL, if a replay is warranted, the crew chief at the game will go to a special monitor to view the disputed play. The umpire must see “clear and convincing” evidence to reverse the call. All of this is supposed to happen in 60 to 90 seconds.

So how is it working? The first challenge occurred March 31, when the Cubs disputed a double play call that their player was safe at first. The Cubs lost the challenge. The decision took 100 seconds. That same day, the first successful challenge was made when an initial single call was changed to an out when the Braves challenged. The first umpire-initiated review took place to determine if a catcher unnecessarily blocked the plate on an attempted score.

In the first 14 days of the season, there have been 21 overturned calls out of 64 challenges in 141 games. The average time is two minutes and 14 seconds. Missed calls are rare, but in a Yankees-Boston game this past week, a call was missed even after it was challenged.

So, after two weeks what can we conclude? Umpires make a wrong call every 6.7 games (not bad). For the most part, the right calls are made so the umpires do not adversely affect the outcome. There are many fewer old-fashioned manager-umpire confrontations.

Sounds good, right? Uh, not quite. I used to like the manager-umpire confrontations – dirt kicked on shoes, spit in face, baseball cap turned around for face-to-face jawing, etc. It’s a bit too civil now for my taste!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. One of the great stories (and more interesting ones) to come out of the Masters this past weekend concerned Jeff Knox. You see, Rory McIlroy, one of the favorites to win the Masters when the week started, was dead last after the cut going into Saturday. He was 51st and since players go out in twosomes, Rory needed a marker (normally their professional playing partner) to go around the course with him. Jeff Knox, a club member, was chosen to be the marker and had the option of walking with McIlroy or playing with him. Since Jeff held the course record of 11-under 61, playing from the members’ tees, he decided to tee it up. They were the first ones out, played in three hours and five minutes before a huge gallery. Jeff played very, very well. He finished with a two-under 70 and beat McIlroy by one stroke! Now, that’s cool!

2. Speaking of golf, statistics say that every year, around one million golfers stop playing. The reasons given are that it is too expensive, too hard, and too elitist. I love golf, but I have to say the quitters are right on all three accounts. The lords of golf (primarily rich, white guys) need to find a way to make the game more enjoyable and more affordable to more people.

3. If you need help in your NCAA bracket next year and if Villanova makes the tournament, choose a team that is in the Wildcats’ bracket. In the last 10 years, the NCAA champion beat Villanova five times.

4. Lafayette held their Football Banquet this past Saturday to honor the 2013 Patriot League champions. Each player received a championship ring. I have to mention Mark Ross, a senior wide receiver. Mark caught 198 passes for 2811 yards and 27 TD’s in his career and was the team MVP. In addition, Mark was on the PL Academic Honor Roll, the Dean’s List, and was the PL Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year. He had a perfect 4.0 GPA. He garnered a great deal of well-deserved hardware on Saturday. He is a true scholar-athlete!

5. I hope you did well on your NCAA Frozen Four brackets office pool this year. You mean you didn’t fill out your hockey brackets? Obviously, there is a significant difference in national interest between the basketball and hockey championships. Union College beat the University of Minnesota 7-4 in the final. Union College has NO athletic scholarships and only 2,241 students. Union College is located in Schenectady, New York….but you probably knew that.