Got a confession to make. Just so you know, this revelation might make you think less of me (even less?) as a sports-media critic:
I don’t despise Tim McCarver.
This is not a popular stance these days, or this millennium. For reasons that still aren’t totally clear, McCarver, the longtime lead MLB analyst for Fox, has been the most reviled commentator in baseball (at least since ESPN parted ways with Joe Morgan). From Sabermetrics snobs to anonymous Internet trolls, no one seems to respect McCarver — even though, in many respects, he’s a pioneer in his field.
The most common complaints about McCarver, 72, who’s leaving Fox after the upcoming World Series, are that he talks too much, that he’s a know-it-all and that his observations are obvious.
While each of those criticisms is valid to some extent, let me ask you: Isn’t it the analyst’s job to talk? Shouldn’t he or she be knowledgeable about the subject matter? And don’t they all deal in the obvious from time to time?
McCarver has a particular point of view — which some would describe as old school — and he doesn’t veer from it. He’s himself. Any broadcaster will tell you that being yourself on air is an essential trait — among the handful of key factors in presenting yourself in a relatable way and connecting with your audience.
It just so happens that a lot of people don’t like who McCarver is. He’s folksy. He’s corny. He’s not going to break down baseball in a new-age, analytic way.
But he is a first-guesser. He knows the game. He does his homework. He’s prepared.
McCarver isn’t the best analyst in the sport anymore — Curt Schilling maybe? John Smoltz? Eric Karros? — but he’s not even close to the worst.
McCarver’s voice is also familiar, and there’s something comforting about that. Part of the reason we adore Vin Scully is that listening to him feels reassuring.
McCarver has, at most, nine games left with Fox. Don’t be surprised if you miss him a little when he’s gone.
Not every analyst can be Cris Collinsworth, who, per usual, had several insightful things to say about Peyton Manning’s upcoming return to Indianapolis.
The Broncos-Colts game on “Sunday Night Football” is such a big deal that NBC took the unusual step of conducting a conference call to preview it. Here’s what Collinsworth said when asked about Manning’s intellect:
“I think the line that I hear the most when talking about Peyton Manning from the players that we interview is he’s playing chess while most of us are playing checkers.
“For example, in the Denver game earlier this year that we did against Baltimore to open the season, there were some players and coaches on Baltimore that had worked with Peyton. And so Peyton knew that they knew some of his calls that he likes, some of the key words that he used to get into certain audibles. And so he used those words to set up the defense so they would think something was coming. He would fake it to what they thought was coming, and then threw a touchdown pass.
“And that sort of advanced chess, if you will, is really what makes it so much fun. I mean, I have to say that I studied harder for an Indy game when he was there or a Denver game now watching Peyton Manning than I do with any quarterback, because I don’t want to look stupid.”
Don’t worry, Cris. You never do.
Bloomberg reported this week that Major League Baseball is close to approving the Dodgers’ new regional sports network, SportsNet LA, which is set to launch next year. “That process is at a point where it’s pretty clear there will be approval of the Dodgers’ arrangement well before the 2014 season starts,” MLB executive Rob Manfred told Bloomberg. … The NFL machine continues to crank out ridiculous ratings. Entering this week, NFL games accounted for the 14 most-watched TV shows since Labor Day, according to the league. No. 15: the season premiere of “The Big Bang Theory” (which, coincidentally, was once the working title for the Fainaru brothers’ book on the concussion crisis). … College football ratings are robust as well. CBS is averaging 7.3 million viewers for its SEC telecasts, a 49 percent increase over 2012 and the network’s highest figure at this point in the season. … Fox Sports goes behind the scenes with baseball’s greatest closer during his final season in “Being: Mariano Rivera,” a 90-minute documentary premiering at 1:30 p.m. PDT on Sunday on Fox. An encore presentation can be seen at 6:30 on Tuesday on Fox Sports 1. … HBO’s “Legendary Nights” boxing documentary series examines the trio of fights between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward. The series debuts at midnight Saturday after the network’s boxing card. … ESPN announced that it will continue its “Nine for IX” series about women in sports with an annual collection of digital short films. The first five will debut next summer. … ESPN personality Kenny Mayne has returned to “SportsCenter” as a part-time anchor for the Los Angeles-based, late-night version of the network’s flagship program. … Broadcasting legend Pat Summerall is the subject of the next episode of NFL Network’s “A Football Life.” The documentary, which chronicles Summerall’s professional achievements and personal battles, debuts at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. … NFLN’s Rich Eisen has launched a free app to help fans find fellow followers of their teams in the areas where they live or hang out. The “Free Agent” app is compatible with iOS and Android devices.
Changes are afoot on the set of ABC/ESPN’s “NBA Countdown,” where Doug Collins officially is in and Magic Johnson and Michael Wilbon are out. Although Magic obviously brings a unique perspective as a three-time NBA MVP and five-time champion, Collins-for-Johnson/Wilbon is a net gain. Collins is the best NBA analyst in the biz.
Johnson’s departure wasn’t without controversy. After he announced via a statement issued through ESPN that he was leaving “due to the nature of my schedule and other commitments,” Deadspin reported that Johnson was irked about Bill Simmons’ growing influence over the show. Simmons vehemently denied those charges to SI.com’s Richard Deitsch.
I tend to believe Simmons on this one, and not just because I’m a fan of his work. Simmons always spoke with reverence about Johnson on his “BS Report” podcast and reiterated those feelings to Deitsch. Simmons also said he had “zero” influence on the show’s personnel decisions. I’m told it’s minimal if anything.