We sports fans spend an awful lot of time bitching and moaning about the men selected to describe ballgames on TV and radio. Entire websites are now devoted to cataloguing the supposed inadequacies of broadcasters from Joe Morgan to Joe Buck, and no sports blog worth its bandwidth ever seems able to go more than a week without taking at least a casual shot at some play-by-play man or other. Given all that, you would assume that the sporting airwaves must be filled with countless sportscasting fiascos, but in fact, most broadcasters actually manage to pull off a pretty professional show nearly all the time, even if we may hate the manner in which they do it.
Still, everyone can have a bad day, as Bert Blyleven found out at just about 12:03pm Central Time Sunday. For those who missed the beginning of today’s game on WFTC-TV, you may commence kicking yourselves immediately. (Actually, you’ll probably be able to find it on YouTube before too long. And by “before too long,” Intern Sam means “as soon as Intern Sam figures out how his video capture device works.”)
During the opening commentary just after the broadcast went on the air, Bert stumbled a few times while trying to keep up with a montage of video highlights and stats, and eventually fell hopelessly behind the video he was narrating. He then paused, and said, clear as day: “We’re gonna do this f*ckin’ thing over, ‘cause I just f*cked it up.” There was then another longish pause, during which several people in the production van probably went into cardiac arrest, and then Bert was heard to remark, “Oh, we’re live? I did not know that.”
To Bert’s credit, he apologized instantly, and actually apologized again after the next commercial break, explaining that the Twins’ broadcast team tapes many of its opens beforehand, and he had no idea that he was live on the air. (This in itself is a bit odd, since there must be a clock in the announcing booth, and it would stand to reason that if the announcing team is doing the open after the time the broadcast is scheduled to begin, the effing thing must be live. But whatever.) One would assume that Blyleven won’t face any disciplinary action from the team (though he was reprimanded earlier this season for making salacious comments about Paula Abdul) but anyone who knows anything about the television business will tell you that this likely won’t be the last we hear of the episode.
For the last two years, the FCC has been in heavy crackdown mode, issuing major fines against any station that airs indecent language, frequently even handing down fines in clearly accidental situations. Had Sunday’s Twins game been broadcast on FSN North, none of this would matter, since the FCC does not have the power to regulate content on cable networks. But the game aired on over-the-air station WFTC, and that means that the FCC, if it so chooses, could fine the station as much as $650,000 under new obscenity rules approved by Congress earlier this year. (That’s one $325,000 fine for each of Bert’s two derivations of the f-word, a tenfold increase from the old penalty.)
Further complicating the potential FCC situation is the fact that, while any fines would be levied against WFTC, the broadcaster who uttered the offending words works not for the station, but for the Twins. Would WFTC try to force the team to pay the fine? It’s a tough call, and one I’m sure the Twins and WFTC are both hoping they won’t have to make. (While the FCC has been merciless in its treatment of some offending broadcasts, it has also been wildly inconsistent, so it’s always possible that we’ll never hear of this again, particularly if the FCC doesn’t get any viewer complaints about the incident.) Anyway, most of Twins Territory probably doesn’t give a flying leap about any of this, so we’ll move on now, but the point is: Hee. Bert said f*ck. Twice.
- LaVelle Neal thinks Terry Ryan will live to regret not trading a few youngsters for a veteran arm, and makes a pretty good case that acquiring help for the struggling rotation wouldn’t have necessitated the loss of a top prospect. The rotation is now well and truly in the tank, and even with the news that Francisco Liriano might be back as soon as next week, the Twins’ odds of keeping pace in the wild card race are looking pretty long, particularly if they struggle against the Tigers this week.
- There’s been plenty of Morneau-for-MVP talk, but what about Gardy for manager of the year? (Now, there’s a notion sure to be popular with readers of this site.) And how long will it be before baseball just starts letting ESPN hand out all its postseason awards to the Yankees?
- Speaking of ESPN, they’re apparently coming dangerously close to a major crisis…
- In case anyone cares, the St. Paul Saints will be facing the Fort Worth Cats for the American Association championship this week.