ESPN offers weak telecast of Towson loss in NCAA

I applaud expanded coverage, but this was a seriously flawed effort

June 01, 2013|By David Zurawik | The Baltimore Sun

I love the effort ESPN is making this weekend to give college baseball fanatics like me a chance to see every regional game in some shape or form.

But I have to be honest, the streamed telecast Saturday of Towson University's 8-5 loss to #1 seed North Carolina was weak.

Talk about homers, here's how the game's the play-by-play announcer, Jones Angell, self descibes on Twitter:

"Play-by-play announcer for Carolina football and basketball on the Tar Heel Sports Network. Go Heels! Chapel Hill, NC."

Think there might be a conflict there?

I reached out to ESPN Saturday to get a response on this, but did not immediately hear back.

John Manuel, the analyst for Saturday's game self-describes on Twitter as editor of Baseball America. He's from Cary, NC, and is a UNC graduate.

Angell was too much to bear. He described the performance by North Carolina's starting pitcher, Kent Emanuel as "magnificent" at one point. Granted it was before the big left hander gave up the last four runs that chased him from the mound, but even then, he was nowhere near "magnificent."

Solid and steady, but nothing spectacular.

And if Angell had told me one more time how Tar Heels first baseman Cody Stubbs "smoked" and "scalded" the ball he hit for a home run off Towson starter Brandon Gonnella, I was certain my head would have exploded.

In fact, the only thing that kept it from exploding was the last time Angell said "smoked," Manuel, perhaps trying to mitigate the boosterism in the booth, came back by saying, "How about Gonella keeping Towson in the game?"

Manuel also went out of his way to give credit to Towson for getting to the "magnificent" Emanuel the third time through the order.

But Angell never stopped being in high homer mode. You could hear the joy in his voice when a Tar Heels double play killed a late inning Tigers rally. And, really, Towson fans shouldn't have to deal with that on the top sports channel in the nation.

Really, ESPN, I get it. When you have this many telecasts in this many places, it's financially impossible to have first-rate announcers on every game. And if the regional is in Chapel Hill, of course, you are going to try and find someone who knows the area and the area teams and isn't going to cost you a penny in travel.

But the play-by-play guy for the Tar Heels? And no one is telling him to turn his lovelight for the school down a little? Please.

It's late on a Saturday night and I've kvetched enough.

No, actually I haven't.

Why the hell wasn't there a graphic telling me how hard (or soft) the pitchers are throwing -- especially the magnificent Emanuel?

What, ESPN couldn't afford a JUGS gun for every site? I don't think the magnificent Emauel got over 90 m.p.h., but I have no way of knowing for sure. I was especially interested late in the game to see where the starters' velocity was at. Some telecasts of other games had the number up for every pitch.

Enough complaining. Vanderbilt and Illinois are going at it on ESPN2, and it's a one-run game. I want to get back to that.

And there are the late, late West Coast games. I loved seeing Columbia and Cal State Fullerton Friday at the end of a long, long day. I think heaven's going to be filled with telecasts of late games from the West Coast.

Yes, ESPN, I love the overall effort and I'm mainlining everything you put up on the screen.

But I hate the telecast you did Saturday of Towson. Your viewers and the Towson fans deserved better -- much better.

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