Williams: Couch fans can learn from broadcasts

Earlier this week, FOX televised a four-and-a-half hour tribute to New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (the broadcast’s official title was the MLB All-Star Game).

I still get a kick out of watching baseball’s All-Star Game, even though the old-school in me remembers when the game was special because it was one of only two times in a season when National League and American League players clashed on the field.

Commissioner Bud Selig will tell you his sport is better with everyday interleague play and extra playoffs, but recent World Series television ratings suggest otherwise.

Still, it’s the one night of the season where the MLB tries to convince us that players are just like the rest of us. But that stopped about 45 years ago when superstars began earning $100,00 paychecks. Then came free agency and huge contracts that ordinary Americans will never be able to fathom.

So what did I learn from this couch session?

It takes about 45 minutes before the first pitch is tossed. The tribute to teachers was a nice touch.

Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci have replaced Tim McCarver as Joe Buck’s sidekicks in the broadcast booth.

Reynolds once was an analyst for ESPN, including coverage of the Little League World Series. After being fired by the World Wide Leader in 2006, Reynolds found work at MLB Network, a channel my cable-TV company only recently added. He must have done well.

For years, I’ve enjoyed Verducci’s work for Sports Illustrated. He’s also been dugout reporter during TBS playoff telecasts in recent seasons.

Their work during the telecast was more than adequate. Unlike when ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” booth included Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden, viewers could immediately tell which baseball analyst was speaking.

They tried to entertain with humor, but Jeter got off the second-best best line of the night.

Say what you will about the Yankees (for instance, how many billions of dollars the Steinbrenner family spent to win five championships from 1996-2009), but their shortstop has performed with class throughout his 20-year career. It was nice to have a deserving athlete get more than his share of the spotlight.

As he was pulled from the game, Jeter’s family was shown reacting to the standing ovation from the fans in Minneapolis. It makes you wonder how fans in Boston and Philadelphia might have reacted if this year’s game had been played in their ballparks. It was a nice, feel-good moment.

Later, while the game was being played, Jeter was miked up to speak with the three FOX broadcasters. Buck asked him if he was going to miss this.

“What, this interview?” Jeter shot back, without an eyeroll.

Buck, who is as good as anyone at responding to awkward moments, acknowledged that interviews on national television aren’t magic moments for the Yankee Captain.

Still, it wasn’t the best line of the night. That came from Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright, the National League starter who gave up a double to Jeter in the first inning.

Before the game ended, Wainwright told reporters that he might have taken something off the pitch, sparking a storm on social media.

FOX dugout reporter Erin Andrews asked Wainwright about it before the game ended. Wainwright suggested he was trying to be funny when he hinted of taking it easy on Jeter and his attempt at humor backfired. Andrews suggested Wainwright was not feeling love right then for Twitter and Facebook. Wainwright replied, “No, I do not love social media.”

To the old school still awake, that was music to our ears.

Tom Williams is a sportswriter at The Vindicator. Write him at williams@vindy.com and follow him on Twitter, @Williams_Vindy.

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