The old adage is, if you go to the ballpark you will see something you have never seen before each and every time you go. That certainly happened to me over the weekend broadcasting the Chico State and San Francisco State series from San Francisco.
As the Chico State Wildcats were playing game two of their double-header on Saturday afternoon, a miniature up-rising of Chico State parents took exception to my descriptions and analysis of what was happening on the field. Let me be clear, it is well within their right to question my descriptions, especially if they are present and disagree. Hell, they can even disagree if they are not present. Momma and poppa can certainly think the radio guy is a horses arse and refuse to give his calls, descriptions and opinions any credence. I have no problem with that. They aren’t the first and they certainly won’t be the last. But, there were some comments that I did take exception to, and feel my role as a play-by-play broadcaster needs to be clarified.
First a little background, I grew up learning the trade listening and admiring the great Bill King. His descriptions and accounts were impeccably on point. His detractors cite his effusive opinions that didn’t pull any punches. He is the guy I admired. He taught me the game. King called a spade a spade and I loved that about him.
In my 19 years behind the microphone I have had several mis-steps during games. It kind of goes with the territory when you broadcast for hours on end. You come to expect the occasional foible, it’s part of the deal. It usually comes when a broadcaster backs themselves into a corner verbally, and they flail to get out. Saturday was not one of those days, which makes the parental outburst all that more confusing.
During the game in question Saturday, the Chico State pitcher was struggling with his command, struggling to find his location and hit his spots. You combine this with a ridiculously small and tight strike zone and you have the makings for some trouble. So, as the pitches continued to be called balls, and the frustration mounted the peanut gallery (Chico State fans) got a little bit perturbed and start voicing their displeasure toward the home plate umpire. Let me add, all well within their right. But, in San Francisco my broadcasting venue is behind the back-stop to the left of home plate. Not directly behind home plate, but to the left. My crowd microphone was picking up everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. There came a point, where those of us behind the dish got a little uncomfortable with the comments, as San Francisco State staff and myself kind of looked around to witness the vociferous reactions. As the broadcaster, knowing listeners at home were hearing this, I felt I needed to expound upon the reactions that were being transmitted through the crowd mic.
As the pitches out of the strike zone mounted, the voices grew louder. My contention on the broadcast was, “if you are a pitcher, and you don’t have any command of the strike zone you should not expect border line pitches to be called strikes from an umpire that has a tight zone and hasn’t seen you establish any of your pitches.” Broadcasting out in the open is never really fun. It’s better to be self-contained in a booth where one can have some semblance of privacy, in this instance I needed it.
Chico State parents took exception to this analysis of the strike zone and where these pitches actually were. Some of the comments that reigned down, “get with it, you are clueless.” (Good One), “you are a Chico State announcer, you shouldn’t be saying these things, you need to be supportive of Chico State” (talk about this in a moment) “I am behind home plate, these pitches are right over the plate, you have no idea what you are talking about.” (LOL)
Love it !!!!
Let me answer a few of these things since I couldn’t answer my “home” fans while on the radio. First, any parent or fan would be hard pressed to find someone who wants Chico State to win more than me. Chico State is my alma mater. I have broadcast Chico State athletics for 23 years dating back to my days as a student. I absolutely want Chico State to win in all athletic endeavors every single time without exception. My competitiveness when it comes to Chico State winning is obsessive. I am happy and gleeful when they win, I am bummed and trudge around the house when they lose. So, this inference that I relish their demise is comical.
My job as a radio broadcaster is to provide, what I believe to be an accurate account of what is taking place for the Chico State fans. It’s not to sugar-coat a sub-par performance from an athlete when he or she isn’t performing. This is not an indictment on that player as a person, it’s just about their performance. I would venture to guess not many of those in attendance on Saturday would agree with the legions around the conference who have asserted that I am the ultimate”homer” in the CCAA. I have never thought of myself as a “homer” where I mask the performance of Chico State athletes with platitudes.
Being called “clueless” been there…..done that. “No idea what I’m talking about” not the first time I”ve heard that. “Being a Chico State announcer, and having to tailor my description a certain way.” Well, I haven’t done that for 23 years and it’s probably not a good idea to start now.
The crux of the problem on Saturday was I simply didn’t think command had been established, so when a pitcher throws some borderline pitches, doesn’t get them, and then complains, he isn’t going to get any calls. The peanut gallery can disagree, heck even Chico State head coach Dave Taylor got ejected for his disgust with the strike zone. I agree, the zone was tiny and it was horrible. How else would a 7-inning game last three hours ? What I was trying to impart, as I usually do during a broadcast is “today, those aren’t strikes, and if you want them to be strikes, you better have command.” If I was an umpire, I wouldn’t have called those strikes either. I can certainly empathize with Chico State fans who thought the San Francisco State pitcher was getting those borderline calls. In fact, he was. He was also getting hit hard by Wildcat hitters. Therefore there weren’t a lot of deep and leveraged counts.
The passion of Chico State fans is unmatched. I am far from perfect. I make mistakes all the time. Heck, I may even be wrong about this. But one thing has always been clear to me, being a Chico State broadcaster shouldn’t blind me to the reality of the action, and Saturday it didn’t.