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“Weekends with Schmidt” Shows Political Side of Sports Broadcasting

schmidtI remember sitting in the second row of a science lecture, completely lost in the discussion.  The professor kept rambling, but to me it sounded like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons.  The professor was a genius.  He probably knew anything and everything about science.  But after being in his class for a full semester, I could not tell you one thing I learned about biology.  He was not a good teacher.

Teaching requires a certain craft.  You can be the smartest person on planet earth, but be a horrible teacher.  This brings us to the Phillies’ broadcast booth.

Michael Jack Schmidt is the greatest Phillie of all-time, and arguably the greatest third-basemen to ever play the game; however, this does not make him a good broadcaster or someone who is skilled at advising game viewers about the ins and outs of a game by any means.  Because of his legacy, the Phillies slated him for “Weekends with Schmidt,” a collection of televised weekend home games heavily advertised as featuring his color commentary and insight on the game.  Like teaching, announcing requires a certain craft, and I don’t believe Schmidt has those skills.

The Phillies were probably thinking that adding Schmidt to the booth would bring back an old-time feel — something in the realm of Richie Ashburn’s color commentary days.  Schmidt would tell the stories of his glory days on the field, and connect today’s game to the older generations and previous decades.  So far, it surely doesn’t have that feel.  Schmidt doesn’t seem to go into stories, and if he does, they are over in five seconds.  The Phillies brought him in for the story-telling, but he is lacking in quality accounts of his hey day.

In addition, the Phillies probably hoped that Schmidt’s knowledge of the game would translate into in-depth analysis.  To be honest, I don’t think Schmidt’s commentary adds a whole lot to the break downs of the game.  Frankly, I feel like most of the time he is just stating the obvious.  I have yet to hear brilliant insight or a can’t-get-that-from-anyone-else point of view from the three-time MVP.

I also noticed that Schmidt violates the number one rule of broadcasting: referring to the team as “we.”  Yes, Mike Schmidt once played a pivotal role on the Fightin’ Phillies, but he is no longer on the field, nor in the dugout.  I understand the argument that he is a Hall of Fame player and will forever be associated with the Phillies, but he is not currently on the field hitting dingers or scooping up grounders.  There is professionalism that comes with the position he is in right now, and saying “we” breaks that a bit.  Sure, many of us are guilty of doing this as fans, but as professional broadcaster, this is a huge mistake.

It is safe to say that Schmidt is in the booth because of his legacy.  It would be truly shocking if he had to interview for the gig.  Fans can continue to complain on Twitter, but I don’t think “Weekends with Schmidt” will go anywhere.  An experienced broadcaster with twenty degrees in communications and the voice of an angel would still get the boot because Mike Schmidt has a legacy in Philadelphia.

Being the greatest Phillie of all time does not automatically make him as an amazing broadcaster.  Terrible players can be amazing broadcasters.

Sports broadcasting is very political, and it is not going to change.  They will always go with the star player over the hard-working no-name who spent years trying to land a spot in the booth.  There will be many talented broadcasters, who are able to enlighten their audience the way a skilled professor can, that may never get a chance because there will be “Mike Schmidt’s” in the way. And if “Mike Schmidt” no longer wants to do it, they’ll go with “Steve Carlton”, or whoever is the next biggest name.

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