Monday, March 11, 2013

No speaka da English

Earlier, yours truly tuned into a baseball game on ESPN's flagship station to watch a contest between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. This was just one game in the on-going World Baseball Classic. The WBC is like an Olympic style competition, in that it brings teams from countries all over the world together in a tournament to slug it out for nationalistic pride, bragging rights, and a bunch of medals.

But something immediately struck me as quite different about this particular game. The announcers were calling it in Spanish. Now, it didn't take a heavyweight rocket brain genius to figure out what the 4-letter network was up to. Like so many others, they were attempting to reach out to a certain demographic in their never-ending quest for the Holy Grail -- sometimes referred to as "ratings".

Problem was, I don't speak Spanish, so I had no idea what they were saying. Yet I still wanted to watch the game. What to do? There was only one logical solution. Hit the "mute" button and watch it anyway.

For a while it seemed strange, not having the running commentary we've all become so accustomed to. Then something even stranger happened. Even without the play-by-play audio, I quickly got used to it and quite enjoyed the remainder of the contest. After all, most anybody that's watching a baseball game knows what's going on. They don't need to be told by someone else.

On that note, consider -- where's the absolute best place to watch a game at? Most would likely agree it's in the stadium itself. You're there. The players are real and not pixels on a TV screen. Standing up for the national anthem(s). The programs, the atmosphere of the crowd, screaming at umpires, the 7th inning stretch, $8 ball-park hot dogs, $10 beers, gas, tickets, parking, watching your favorite hitter strike out 3 times while making more money doing so then you'll make in the next 3 years, and waking up the next day facing the decision of whether to keep the lights on in your home in the near future, or eat nothing but ramen noodles for a few weeks. Hmm. It does seem to have it's drawbacks, but dammit, you were THERE.

Thing is, even at the ballpark, there's nobody providing you with running commentary as to what's going on. The guy on the public address system will announce each player by name as they come up to bat, or enter the game for another reason. That's it. The rest of the action is left up to you to watch, understand, and appreciate. The same applies to contests in football, basketball, hockey, tennis, golf, you name it. Even auto racing. Be it Indy or NASCAR, it's quite a thrill to be at the track while they're zooming around. But after the "field" gets jumbled through such things as pit stop strategies, nobody really knows who's what and where until the final few laps. Sitting at home watching TV, this is all explained to us. At that, the home viewers have the added advantage of countless replays, shown by umpteen cameras covering the action, and know EXACTLY what has gone on. But where would you rather be? At the action in person with nobody explaining it to you, or watching it on TV where every minor detail and trivia from hell are offered up for your consideration by a rotating team of hyperventilating announcers?

A few days ago, yours truly happened upon an old-time boxing match in black and white. At first, I thought my sound system had gone kaput. Nobody was calling the action -- at least for a little while. Turned out, the announcers were indeed there but, for the most part, let the fight speak for itself. I didn't need somebody telling me a left hook had been thrown. I saw it. And I sure as hell didn't need somebody screaming the likes of "Down Goes Frazier/Foreman/Pacquiao" repeatedly, or otherwise berating the obvious. The dude just got clocked and he's on the canvas. No explanation was necessary.

Perhaps that's what it's come to. We've been conditioned over the years to depend on somebody else telling us what's happening in a particular sporting contest, even though we're looking at it with our own eyes. Sure, I can see the need for this as regards blind people who want to be kept abreast of the sporting contests they enjoy, but the rest of us really have no excuse. We've been brainwashed over the years into depending on those announcers. Scary.

Depending on how the aforementioned World Baseball Classic works out -- it would be interesting if a predominantly Spanish speaking country (or Japanese, Chinese, Italian, etc., take your pick) eventually made it to the finals to face the US. I wonder what language that would be broadcast in to viewers in the US?

Tell ya what. If that happens, and there's two announcers -- one speaking English and the other another language -- at the same time -- forget the mute button. I'm going back to the black and white boxing channel.

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