This is a post that has probably been a long time coming, a post that doesn't really demand a surfeit of words to emphasize points that many consumers of the Rangers' telecasts already recognize ... but it is a post that I have felt somewhat compelled to write for a while now, and it concerns something that the fan base has become increasingly vocal about: the television broadcast booth. Or, more specifically, cookie talk. I prefer #cookietalk, of course, but that's a product of the creeping Twitter influence in the blogosphere.
It's a tradition that dates at least as far back as the Josh Lewin era (and rest assured that I'm using 'tradition' in the loosest possible way), where the broadcast booth would use a sliver of its alloted daily airtime to acknowledge those parties that had taken the time to shower them with delicious treats and, more occasionally, handmade gifts (such as the vaguely creepy handmade tissue box that somebody sent to Tom Grieve a few years back). And, to tell you the truth, I don't know that all that many people paid much attention to cookie talk until this year, when it seems that Grieve decided to take the bit to a new, exciting, and far more blatant level -- such as he did last night, when cookie talk spanned three separate half-innings:
Frankly, I try to view these shoutout interludes for what they are, and while I tend to lean towards the camp that finds them a bit hokey and out of place on the telecast for the back-to-back defending American League champions, I'm more interested in using them as a springboard for jokes and bits on Twitter and in the game chats -- hence, the birth of the #cookietalk hash tag. I don't necessarily like them, but I don't over-the-top hate them. Just being honest. Personally, I find the handful of badly botched calls that we've heard lately from Dave Barnett to be more offensive to my baseball sensibilities than Grieve and Barnett using cookie talk to fill up airtime in the middle innings -- airtime that would probably otherwise be dead air, given the now apparent holes in their on-air chemistry.
Last night, however, it spanned 6-7 minutes over a period of three half-innings, which was long enough to cross over into awkward territory -- especially since the game itself takes a backseat to the shoutouts once they really get going. The bit has also taken a turn from mildly annoying to downright aggravating on a few occasions when (a) Grieve rolled into cookie talk at a key high-leverage moment, where Yu Darvish faced a bases-loaded jam against the Yankees in front of a sellout crowd at the Ballpark, and when (b) FSNSW's producers and Grieve decided it would be a good idea to roll into a modified form of cookie talk with the Yankees down to their final strike at the Ballpark and with a capacity crowd roaring for a win. Those, I think, are instances where the bit overtly interfered with the game.
And then there was the occasion back in late April where Grieve acknowledged those who had voiced their displeasure to FOX Sports Southwest and the Rangers about the sometimes lengthy deviations from the actual baseball game, and then passive-aggressively informed everyone who disliked cookie talk that they could kindly screw off, because the shoutouts weren't going to stop coming, and if you had a problem with it, well, that's just too damn bad:
I think that's one of the things that really irks some people over this -- not just baseball taking a back seat to cake balls for minutes at a time, but Barnett, Grieve, and FOX Sports Southwest not caring one whit about your preference as a viewer, because they all know that anyone legitimately hacked off by cookie talk is probably enough of a diehard Rangers fan that they'll still have the channel locked on the game regardless of whatever inane on-air bits they might engage in.
I would also go so far as to suggest that the other irksome thing about cookie talk is the seeming double standard. The Rangers severed ties with Josh Lewin in part -- maybe in large part -- because the people at the top of the food chain, including Nolan Ryan, felt that he went off topic too often, that he would engage in too many bits during the games, and so on. I would have to go back and double-check some old Lewin broadcasts and verify whether my perception matches up with reality ... but was any of the stuff Lewin did ever as grating as Grieve carrying on about food for minutes at a time, or as irritating as Barnett making incorrect calls that Grieve ends up having to awkwardly correct?
Or, for that matter, as uncomfortable as last September's on-air layout?