Neil Best recently interviewed Yankees radio voice John Sterling, and there were some interesting quotes:
In his 21st season as the Yankees’ voice, Sterling remains perhaps the most polarizing figure in New York sports media, a hot-button topic both loved and loathed – sometimes by the same people.
What does the man himself have to say about the phenomenon?
“What am I going to do?” he said, sitting in an auxiliary booth before Tuesday’s game. “The first time it happens in your life, it hurts. The second time, it hurts a little less.
“Now, after the 150,000th time, it hurts even less. So basically that’s it. It’s just a matter of pragmatism. Why bother? Why stew over that?”
Later, he added, “You’d like everyone to like you, but I don’t think it’s possible.”
The most frequent complaint is his anticipating of plays, often wrongly. There even is a blog dedicated to him under the banner, “It is high, it is far, it is . . . caught.”
Valid criticism? “Yes, very much so,” Sterling said. Yet he made no apologies…..
“There are people who broadcast play-by-play who do it behind, so they’re never wrong,” Sterling said. “If that’s a knock, that I try to be ahead of the play, well, maybe it’s like ‘A-bomb from A-Rod.’ I can find a hundred people who hate it, then I can find a thousand people who like it.”
At times, though, Sterling misjudges so spectacularly that it appears he is having trouble seeing the ball. Is his eyesight an issue? “No, no,” he said.
Sterling also takes an unconventional, uneven approach to mundane parts of the job, such as updating the score and describing action.
“Look, you always want to improve, always want to get better,” he said. “When you get knocked for saying something wrong, I mean, I do something wrong every game! Are you kidding? You’re speaking extemporaneously for four hours.”
I happen to like Sterling, although his mistakes do grate on my nerves. I find that his cadence and voice raise the excitement level late in games, and would not trade that for someone a bit more accurate. However, I do understand the complaint about his weakness in describing the game sometimes, and thought of a solution.
I am not the biggest Michael Kay fan, being that I think he does too much talking for television. Sometimes, the picture should do the talking, and Kay never allows for that. Hmm, so we have a TV guy who taks too much and a radio guy who is not great with description. Why not flip them? As a commenter at BBTF noted:
I heard Michael Kay do the play-by-play for Sunday night’s Red Sox/Yankees game for ESPN Radio, and he was fantastic. He filled the dead time with details on the field, the way you would hope a broadcaster would. He described the uniforms, the batting stances, facial expressions, postures, everything you could want to visualize what was going on.
Kay’s hyper-descriptiveness would play better on the radio, while Sterling’s lack of description would be mitigated if you could actually see the play. Flipping them would play directly into their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses. What do you think?