Once again Monday night, TBS came through with superior coverage of Baltimore Orioles playoff baseball.
You can read more on what I have said about the broadcast team of Ernie Johnson, Cal Ripken and John Smoltz here. Ripken seemed a little less engaged Monday night, but maybe the grind is getting to him. Kidding -- he's the Iron Man, and all three were again fine in Game 2.
Smoltz was better than fine. He was razor sharp in his analysis, as when he explained what happens when Orioles closer Jim Johnson overthrows.
"At 92 to 94 [m.p.h.], he gets his best sink. At 96, it straightens out a little. This is why ya gotta breathe," he said, explaining the counter-intuitive truth of not trying to throw too hard when you have the kind of heavy sinker Johnson does. That's baseball analysis that the average fan doesn't know -- no matter what the guys who never played anything tougher than beer-league slow-pitch act like they know when they call into radio sports shows and run their mouths.
Ernie Johnson's laidback sense of humor is growing on me. After he read an especially pukey promo for "Cougar Town," he paused just the correct two seconds before saying, "I don't write 'em, I just read 'em."
But what I seriously appreciated about TBS Monday night was the direction, camera work, imagery and energy of the broadcast.
There was no place on the planet that I would rather have been Monday night than Camden Yards. But thousands of us, of course, couldn't be there for one reason or another -- mainly not being able to get a ticket.
While it might be too much to say that TBS transported viewers to the park, the telecast was successful enough that it made me, at least, feel like I was part of that incredible community of long-suffering fans experiencing the Orioles 3-2 victory.
The producers accomplished that mainly through the photography. The cameras never stopped moving during the game -- in a good way. Instead of the locked in place, static, highly limited points of view that MASN offers in its Orioles coverage, TBS kept mixing it up so the fixed shots from first and third to home were constantly surrounded by the movement of in-the-stands imagery.
The visuals absolutely popped off the screen when the producers went to fast-cut montage of images on the field and in the stands: The Bird dancing with a female fan on the dugout, Wei-Yin Chen reaching way back, Matt Wieters trying to tag Ichiro Suzuki at the plate, a Brian Matusz 12-6 curve falling off the table and dipping under a Yankee bat, fans dancing with each other as they held orange T-shirts up at the camera.
Those visuals were complemented and boosted by the sound of a crowd that seemed to be in a roar for several hours straight. The end effect was to make the viewer feel part of that remarkable gathering in downtown Baltimore.
The last montage of fireworks exploding over a scoreboard flashing "O-MAZING" as the Orioles congratulated each other and the fans stood and screamed, was worth sticking with my TV and TBS once again past midnight. I cannot wait for Wednesday.
Thanks TBS for doing your job so well in Baltimore.
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