A Gentlemanly Response: Dave O'Brien

Kudos to Quincy’s own Dave O’Brien for his courteous and respectful response to my criticism some days back. Rather than popping off as a national scribe did at one point in response to something written by me, online, O’Brien’s response was measured and considered. I still do not agree with him, but I do understand now where he’s coming from.

My knock on him, as you might recall, centered around his willingness to “jinx” in process events. His pushback included the following:

But more to the point, my job is to tell you what I see, not to worry about what you may hold as a baseball superstition. Let’s say you leave the restraunt, get in the car and turn on the radio, just in time to hear the 3rd out in the top of the 7th … Lester is 6 outs away from a no-hitter … But the play by play guy isn’t TELLING you that, because … he doesn’t want to jinx it for the pitcher? Well, if you are not listening closely, you may not pick up on those preferred “code” phrases, designed to avoid calling it what it is. Now we’ve got a problem. You may not return to the game at all. You may go home and turn on HBO, and then get to read about “John Lester’s No-Hitter” in the Boston Globe the next morning, or catch it on the 8:00 am “SportsCenter.” How would you feel then about the announcer’s reporting skills?

A fair point, and an important consideration for a broadcaster, I’m sure.

I tend to believe that Red Sox fans are, as a rule, clued in enough to pick up the “code phrases” and continue listening to that game, but perhaps that’s an unrealistic expectation on the whole. Even so, I think O’Brien is assuming responsibilities that rightly belong to the listener. I’ve had the good fortune to watch (on TV, not in person) or listen to all four of the recent Red Sox no hitters (Nomo, Lowe, Buchholz and Lester), and I considered it my job to listen to the full game. If I broke off simply because I didn’t hear the magic words of “no hitter,” then I’d consider that my responsibility and my error. Not the broadcast team’s.

But reasonable minds may disagree on that subject, of course.

What I still have a problem with, however, is the lack of usage of conditionals for less-than-exceptional circumstances. Consider an example from today’s broadcast, where after Griffey’s second at bat, O’Brien announced that Griffey hadn’t hurt us at all during the series.

Which was, of course, the case. And didn’t end up costing us. But as a (heavily) superstitious fan, I would prefer not to tempt fate. If, as a broadcaster, you feel obligated to draw fans’ attention to that point, do so with a conditional, or a modifier. Something such as “Griffey hasn’t managed to hurt us yet during this season, but the 600 home run hitter is always dangerous” would have been just fine.

To be clear, I’m not attempting to imply that O’Brien is wrong in his reporting. Nor that he literally has the ability to affect the outcome of the game. I’m not even attempting to defend my own sanity on the subject. Merely to make the point that it would be nice if O’Brien showed some patience with and consideration for the fan base. Even if he is admirably immune from the admitted irrationality of superstition, Red Sox fans by and large are not. And then some.

In any event, however, I do appreciate Dave’s willingness to stop by and explain his position and his tone in doing so.



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