All sports need die-hard fans. Teams would not be able to survive without those individuals who are with them win or lose, in bad times or good and who complain when the national media ignores their boys and who buy tickets and team gear regardless of the team’s spot in the standings.
Those who are in the business of reporting on sports on radio, television, print or even the professional internet are not the same. Their very job is to report what is going on and to use their years of experience being around the sport to interpret what it all means. Their job is not that of a fan. They are not cheerleaders with the “my team, right or wrong” attitude.
Certainly, if they are game broadcasters or telecasters who are employed to announce the games or it they are members of the team’s media relations staff they are not likely to emphasize what shortcomings the team may have. But if they are good broadcasters they will not totally ignore things either. Some announcers feel they have to do a lot of ignoring for job security. The late Ray Patterson, when he was GM of the Rockets and I was a telecaster over 30 years ago, told me to not ignore mistakes or weaknesses in the team, just don’t beat ’em over the head with them. In other words, make mention that the club was doing something wrong then move on.
Sometimes I feel, since I have been retired from major league broadcasting and do offer some comments on social media, that fans either have forgotten or never knew the role of the broadcaster in the big picture. We are not fans like they are. We certainly want the team to win. But we also, through years of experience and hundreds of conversations with players, coaches, managers and general managers know a lot more than the average fan. Fans generally have opinions. Announcers have informed opinions. There is a difference.
When I was writing pieces on the internet during my broadcasting career I learned to stay away from anything I thought could remotely be considered something ownership–misguided or not–might not like. I wasn’t a cheerleader, but I always tried to find the positive in a situation before commenting on any negatives. But the main goal was to be factually correct and keeping my opinions to those that I knew someone in an official capacity had said in my presence and that I agreed had merit. If I learned something that I felt the fans should know, but would never appear in an official team release, I would find a way to write it without anyone being able to really know the source. I might even make it sound like speculation on my part to keep the individual who may have inadvertently “leaked” the information from facing any problems with his bosses. The bottom line is that my job was to inform…not make everyday sound like candy and roses.
Now, I am writing almost exclusively based on more than 45 years in sports and 30 in the major leagues. A lot of experience is behind my words. I have nearly seen it all. Do I offer comments that die-hard fans think I am doing because I have a grudge against someone now that am not part of the television team? Not at all. For one thing you will never find me critical of a manager, player, general manager or coach as a person, or calling them a dunderhead for making idiotic decisions. Those jobs are too hard and involve too many variables than no one but those directly involve can ever know.
But what I write may be something I could have not done when I was involved in the telecasts. Then I always had to choose my words and topics carefully. I no longer have to do that and can call on my 30 years experience in the major leagues to form my comments and opinions. There are few, if any, from the fan community that have as deep a background. I don’t ask avid fans to agree with everything I write, but only to respect that I am not writing to rip or criticize and that my words are heartfelt and derived from a life of experience in major sports. I have seen a lot, heard a lot and learned a lot. History does repeat itself. Those of us who have been around for a long time have seen it happen.
Sports announcers are fans of their job. They are fans of whichever team they are working with and when that changes they change as well. The avid fan is a different animal. Retired sports announcers or writers are still fans of the games and have great interest in the teams they once covered and those in the city in which they live. However, they will never be hard rooting fans of the teams. They won’ follow every game or even watch or attend that many. They have gone to and watched games all their adult lives. They want the home teams to win, but as a result of their years they will be more tempered in their evaluations. They aren’t being negative. They are just writing or saying what they see. Its nothing more than that.
I hope the Astros pull off a miracle and not only win the ALW wire to wire, but move on to the World Series and win that too. Am I being negative when I point out that even with their great start the odds are long? I don’t think so. I am just being factual based on years and years of baseball history. Could the Astros pull it off? Of course they could. They have played so well during the first 54 games who is to say they couldn’t do it the rest of the year? So when I may write something pointing out the team hitting on the whole is weak EXCEPT the huge HR output is that negative? Absolutely not. It is only a fact. If I write that despite the record there are only two sure fire All Star Game candidates, Jose Altuve and Dallas Keuchel, is that being negative? Again, not at all. More than two could squeeze onto the roster, but the sure-bets are only those two.
I am not nor will ever be a cheer-leader–our team right or wrong. I never was, but now as a free agent I can be even more practical in print…whether that upsets “die-hards” or not.