One of Our Beloved Founder’s first ventures onto the national stage was early in Braves Journal when he invented the Bad Announcer Tournament, or as he dubbed it, the “Road from Bristol.” It started with Mac’s annoyance with the ESPN zoomates in general but Stu Whatzhisname in particular. So he decided he would make a 64 man tournament bracket to select, by popular vote, head to head, the worst announcer on ESPN. It got picked up by someone on ESPN radio, who clearly did have a sense of humor, and Mac was interviewed on their show. Anyhoo, Stuart Scott won in a walk.
It was so successful and so popular that he started another one for non-ESPN announcers. The final came down to Tim McCarver vs. Hawk Harrelson. In an upset that caused accusations of cheating, bribery, and stupidity, Hawk Harrelson was declared the worst sports announcer in the world. (Ten years later, I am still upset about this: Ken Harrelson couldn’t carry Tim McCarver’s cliché bag. Seriously, it was fixed. Seriously.)
I wish Mac were still around and could run another one, because I’ve got the leadpipe cinch winner: F.P. Santangelo, the Nats’ color guy. And he is Reason Number Two why I learned to hate the Nats.
Where do I possibly begin to tell the story of How Bad? Shall I compare thee to a winter’s night?
Johnny Most called from the afterlife, F.P., and he said you might want to take it down a couple of notches.
The Nats are blessed with an abundance of homers. Not only F.P., but his play by play partner, Bob Carpenter, blow so much smoke up the Nats’ derrieres that the Surgeon General ought to warn somebody. Tom Boswell, the highly regarded Washington Post baseball writer, is one of the worst offenders. I like Boz, but his decades spent writing about baseball, in a town without baseball, only to one day have a real team to write about has, I fear, caused him to lose his mind.
For years, in spring training, as the Nats would run out the usual suspects, another sad group of Double-A players and cast-off dregs they had recruited from their recliners, Boswell would write the following column: “This year will be different. No longer do we have to rely on the shaky rotation with [dead-armed pitcher] and [minor league player washout]; now the skipper can call on [obese guy cut by Royals] and [different and older dead-armed pitcher].”
The next year, he’d write the exact same column, only explaining how the Nats had cagily replaced the guys he’d raved about just last year with new, equally pathetic horseflesh no-names that no other team wanted. His predictions of imminent glory became so routine and over the top that even the other Post sportswriters started poking fun at him.
But no one can touch F.P in the bootlicking department. To him, every Nats scrub is just this far away from becoming an All-Star, if he can just fix this one little issue. Every game F.P. sees a Nat make a play (usually, a routine play that every big leaguer should make, like making a throw from the hole or running down a liner in the gap) and declares it the most amazing play he’s ever seen. EVERY GAME. Heck, sometimes he sees the most amazing play he’s ever seen SEVERAL TIMES IN THE SAME GAME. It must be nice to be so full of childlike wonder at the world.
The tonguebath never ceases. All last year he described the Nats infield of Zimmerman, Desmond, Rendon/Espinosa and LaRoche as “the Gold Glove infield.” Must have said it 200 times — no exaggerating. All the while, the Nats were literally leading the National League in infield errors. Don’t try pointing this out to F.P. Like Bluto Blutarsky, he’s on a roll.
Any misplay that occurs in the game, any error, or any baserunner against the Nats is due to a single cause: the umpires are cheating. Which deserves its own night, and I will explore at length in the next chapter.
The promotion of routine plays, even routine outs, to epic levels of hysteria is a favorite of Bob Carpenter, the play by play guy, as well. A medium deep fly ball, 25 feet shy of the warning track, becomes, inevitably, “He JUST missed hitting that ball out of here.” Or “a home run in any other park.” I am waiting for one of them to blame global warming or the Coriolis effect for holding up a flyball that Harper hits.
The adrenaline rush that these guys pump out on a routine can of corn to left sounds like they are auditioning for a Mountain Dew commercial voiceover. The major flaw in this approach is that this ain’t radio: the viewers of course see the play being described, and notice that the “near home run” required Justin Upton to walk in six steps for the catch. But that’s doesn’t stop these toadies. It’s like they did their training at Pravda.