A play in Saturday night’s White Sox-A’s game perfectly illustrated the problem with so many broadcasters these days. Chicago’s Avasail Garcia was on first base when the batter hit a line drive that was caught by Oakland first baseman Mark Canha. Despite the bang-bang nature of the play, Garcia was able to get back to the bag and avoid being doubled up by Canha.
Eric Chavez, who has joined the A’s broadcast team as a commentator on a part-time basis this season, dutifully described the play to the viewers, telling the audience that Canha snagged the ball and dove back to try to tag Garcia, but Garcia was able to scramble back and avoid the out. Which is the problem: we know all that. You see, Chavvy, it’s called television; we can see the play as it happens, and on replay, too. That’s why everyone who is tuned in is called a viewer; because it’s a visual medium that shows you everything that happens in the game (barring awful camera work, which does occasionally happen). As an analyst, you’re there to tell us not what happened, but WHY it happened. Don’t just describe the play that we just watched; analyze the play and tell us something about why it all worked out that way.
This is not to pick on Chavez; the just retired ex-player is new to the job, and undoubtedly there’s a steep learning curve. But a lot of broadcast analysts do this very same thing: describing the action the viewer is seeing instead of providing insights on why that action is taking place. This is known in the wider world, of course, as Joe Morgan Syndrome. Morgan spent the better part of two decades on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball performing this disservice for viewers. (To be fair, Morgan did also provide the occasional insight beyond what the viewer could see with his own eyes. Just not often enough.) It must be an easy trap to fall into, because a lot of other broadcast analysts do the same thing. But it’s bad broadcasting, plain and simple.
So, if you’re in the business and you want to be good at your job, be careful not to slip into that habit. It’s not about “show, don’t tell.” Television already has the show and the tell covered–you need to “tell us more,” every time you choose to offer something to the broadcast.