Al Michaels worked a total of thirteen regular season games as lead broadcaster of the NBA on ABC (out of a possible twenty-six). All but two of those games were broadcast from Los Angeles or Sacramento (Michaels lives in Los Angeles). And while Michaels worked the majority of playoff games aired on ABC during his tenure, and while he recently told TV Week he “really got to love [the NBA]” and “was ready to reup for a while“, it was fairly obvious to most NBA fans that his dedication to — and knowledge of — the sport was lacking.
But Michaels and the NBA were never a comfortable fit. After all, Michaels did not have much of an NBA background; he almost could not be blamed for lacking the same kind of interest he had for NFL games.
By contrast to Michaels, Joe Buck has been a baseball broadcaster for well over a decade. He was the youngest play-by-play man ever for the World Series. He comes from a baseball pedigree and broadcasts select St. Louis Cardinals games locally. And yet, his regular season on FOX is over, according to Richard Sandomir of the New York Times. Buck called eight games for the network this season, out of a possible twenty six.
“If you or the casual fan doesn?t want to consider me the No. 1 baseball announcer at Fox, it?s not my concern … I don?t know why it would matter,” Buck told Sandomir in a telephone interview, “I don?t know who had a more tiresome, wall-to-wall schedule than my father, and I know what it?s like to be a kid in that situation … He was gone a lot. He needed to be. I understood it. So did my mom. Because my career has gone the way it?s gone, I don?t have to go wall to wall. …While I?m deathly afraid of overexposure, I?m more afraid of underexposure at home with my wife and girls.”
That is completely understandable. So why not have FOX move someone with more interest in working the Game of the Week to the booth full time?
Consider this: ABC lead NBA broadcaster Mike Breen may not be the most established voice, or the most well known play-by-play man. However, he shows up every week, which is far more important than one might imagine. It sends a message to the viewers when the lead play-by-play man simply does not show up; it tells those watching that the game is not quite important enough to warrant an appearance. Especially when that lead voice is quoted as saying “I don’t think I”m destined for more than 10 more years in baseball … I’m enjoying football. The ‘Game of the Week’ isn’t what it was. I put a lot of work into those games, but you don’t get the same payoff as you get from a great football game.”
With ratings having fallen each of the last seven weeks, one would imagine that diminishing the importance of the games, and the sport as a whole, is the last thing FOX wants to do with Major League Baseball. So perhaps the network should put Buck on the NFL full time and leave baseball to someone with more than a passing interest.
Link to New York Times article courtesy Fang’s Bites.