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4.16.2004

Tenderloin de Elbo 

We're at la Casa de Elbo, who's broasting a pork tenderloin as we watch the Yanks-Sox on primetime Fox. Tim McCarver is in post-season form, which is to say, unlistenable. Bill Mueller is 3 for 3 with a two-run homer. He's better than Edgardo Alfonzo, but I'm not bitter.

Confounding all Malo expectations, the Giants have optioned Kevin Walker to Fresno to make room for Jason Schmidt.

We have a guest commentator tonight: Andrew Morse, Red Sox fan and Wustahmass native. Elbo and I worked with Morse-San for a couple years, and we value and honor his long-sufferingness. He wants to write a few lines about Scooter, Fox's new horrific gimmick:

Tradionalists loathe any attempt to modernize sports. Remember a few years back when Fox introduced the glowing blue puck to its NHL broadcasts? Long-time hockey fans back in Massachusetts, where I grew up, were enraged. It was a gimmick, they railed. It was a way to boost ratings, they conspired. Worst of all, it was a break with the way the game had always been presented, they groused, getting closer to their true feelings. In fact, it was all of those things. But the glowing puck was also something else: a way to make the fast, confusing game they cherished accessible to a new group of potential fans who didn't understand all the shoving going on behind the boards. Was it flashy? Yes. Did it make sense? Absolutely.

There are other examples, like the fading lines used to demark the distance needed to a first down in an NFL broadcast. Tell me you don't appreciate that additional guidance in following a team's progression down field, particularly when it's the Patriots doing the marching. How many people really understand the different lineups employed by the offense and defense and can follow in real-time the ability of an receiver to pull a lineman off his mark? Without John Madden's chalk talk during replays, most of us would be lost.

So when Fox said it was introducing Scooter, an animated character, to its broadcast to help explain the different types of pitches employed by hurlers, I was hopeful. (It was Fox, so I wasn't very hopeful.) If Scooter could tell me the difference in pitches -- the way the ball is gripped, released and used -- I'll be thankful. Explain the thinking behind the distribution of pitches, and how a pitcher and catcher set up a batter for the heat, and I'll be learning something.

Scooter doesn't do any of those things. Shining light on Tim Wakefield's baffling knuckleball, which shut down the Yankees for a good portion of the game tonight, the flying cartoon orb said, "I don't where I'm going. The pitcher doesn't know where I'm going. But neither does the batter." It delivered this explication while flitting along a dotted line that whipped and whirled like a bumblebee's flight path. Even worse, the anthropormorphic rendering of the sphere was creepy, as though Charles Manson had merged with a comic book baseball. The seams on Scooter form malevolent eyebrows, and his smirk suggests he'll be off on a tri-state murder spree as soon as the game is over.

Elbo noticed that Scooter is the baseball broadcast analogue of Clippy, the annoying "assistant" in the Microsoft Word program. I deactivated the Clippy feature on my computer. I wish I could do the same to Scooter.


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