Greetings, and welcome to another edition of PHI. We are again straying from the formula this week due to crazy events in my life that were mostly pretty awesome and included me landing a gig as a 13 and under Little League assistant coach in Boulder. I couldn't be more excited to be coaching baseball, but I was also added on short notice into the middle of their season and have spent the last few days frantically getting acclimated and only ended up with enough time for one idea this week. I've been thinking about this one for a while though so it's wordy at least. Brain half off, eyes fully open, lets get weird.
The Idea: Broadcast Report Card
I've made my feelings on a particular Rockies broadcast well known here, but this idea stems from a more universal impulse to understand how and why some broadcasts work, and some do not. Any time this topic arises, inevitably someone argues (rightfully so) that in many ways the quality of any given broadcast is in the eye of the beholder. But while there are certainly preferences that vary from viewer to viewer, I'm not convinced that this means there are zero measurable aspects of what it means to do a good job of putting sports on TV. Also, this is baseball, we try to measure everything.
This idea began as a seed in my head years ago when I suggested that announcers should have to read their transcripts out loud and highlight three to five worst sentences after every broadcast. Not to us, just to themselves. This isn't a way to be mean, but a way to show, in a clearer context, the ways thoughts and sentences get off track and end up not meaning anything or even being flatly wrong.
Sometimes it can just be mildly annoying listening to someone talk who isn't actually communicating, but other times it leads to confusion or even misunderstanding of the relevant facts. When this happens during the game thread conversations here on Purple Row, there is usually a string of comments posted correcting the announcers mistake, but this correction is rarely made on the air, which brings us to the meat-and-potatoes that is the Broadcast Report Card.
What it is and how it works:
The BRC would be a snapshot of the good, the bad, and the hair-brained of any given broadcast. Rather than point out, then flame, then move on, and then forget the issue (which doesn't help anyone) why not keep some kind of record? The Broadcast Report Card would be a way to look at any given night's, week's, month's, or season's broadcasts in a more complete way.
There is a lot of room for creativity here. As discussed, there could be a few ways to critique the announcers for particular flubs. Maybe a quick list, or a point system that docks them for each confusing or misleading statement. -1 if they say something wrong, +.5 if they correct it. I would love to have a stopwatch record the total cumulative time spent talking about things other than baseball or the amount of pitches missed due tertiary sideline reports, or a raw number of ABs that went un-discussed in favor of a thrilling report on nachos.
The great thing about these particular measurements is that they allow the viewer to draw their own conclusion. Some people might not care about all the extra fluff or the occasional language gaff. But if you do, and you have the option to listen to the game on the radio, or you have another choice of TV broadcast, wouldn't it be nice to compare the numbers at a glance? I love listening to the Cubs broadcast when they play the Rockies and am certain their report card would reflect a difference.
The cool thing is though, it could also end up proving me wrong, at least in relative terms. With the Broadcast Report Card, you can compare and contrast and maybe find out that while it seems like your guys could stay focused more, they are above the league average in terms of TSAG (Time Spent on Actual Game.) The same way looking at their own report card could help a broadcaster minimize mistakes, comparing BRCs could put things in perspective for the jaded fan who simply gets tired of listening her home announcers 162 games a year, every year, in a fashion similar to getting irritated with roommates or family members after extended amounts of time in close quarters.
There could be more subjective individual grades for each broadcaster, the camera crew/production team, the sideline reporters, and of course the Toyota Talk questions. You could keep a jinx stat that would simply show the number of times the play was called in favor of the home team before it happens versus how many times the play unfolded very much not in their favor. Check the BRC and note that Drew Goodman is (for made-up example) 6 for his last 23 on the jinx, "double play ball!" meaning that 6 of the last 23 times he made that call, a double-play was not in fact turned. Give him .5 if the team still gets one out but a full point if they boot the play entirely.
Who is this really for? Most of us are stuck with the broadcast we've got. While it might be interesting, none of us could really do anything with this information, unless maybe you are considering a career as a broadcaster or reporter in your future.
Also, this could be distracting to do during a game, where theoretically, you would (and should) be paying attention to what's happening on the field of play. Keeping tabs, 162 games a year, of everything said and done on your home team's broadcast would likely end up being a lot of work for potentially very little payoff. It could also be infuriating, especially if you are a Nuggets or (for some reason) a White Sox fan. Sometimes the best answer is to just tune it out.
Finally, the main reason I didn't put a sample one together for this piece is that I have zero visual skills and the report cards would need to be very well organized and easy to read while including a lot of different kinds of information.
In baseball, we have stats for everything. Maybe if someone somewhere started keeping some stats on broadcasts, they would get better instead of being able to constantly hide behind the ambiguity of subjectivity. It's perfectly okay if you don't care about, or even actually find charming, long tangents about things not at all related to what's happening or sentences that go nowhere, just as it's perfectly fine to choose your favorite ballplayer based on personality or even great hair.
But when it comes to doing their jobs, we look at the numbers and then debate what they mean. This helps us get past our biases about "favorites" and get into a deeper conversation about "greatest." There will always be room for subjectivity and debate, but it should come after getting a few facts first.
And if there was no such thing as an objective best when it comes to broadcasting, how do you explain the existence of Vin Scully?
In fact, the WAR of great broadcasting would be measured in QBVS - Quality Below Vin Scully. A great broadcast might be about a -1.5 QBVS. There is no limit to how low your QBVS can go if you continue to be terrible all season. You could win back points by correcting mistakes and having clean broadcasts.
I really want to try to put a few together this next week but they may be a bit wonky since I'm bad at math, coming up with point systems and equations that work, and, as mentioned earlier visual organization. I am open to suggestions and help (hint, hint, Rowbots) on the pragmatics, and would love to do a follow up in a week or two with some specific examples.
The idea is definitely still hazy, not fully baked, and, of course, mostly ridiculous.
Let me know. Am I the only person who would read a daily report that included hilarious (purposefully or not) direct quotes from that days game alongside the amount of time spent on hats?