06 August 2005

Anything is Possible.

Leave it to big media to just not get it: KMOX is dropping the Cardinals after 52 years. I don't live in Missouri, nor am I necessarily a Cardinals fan, but I do have reverence for American Heritage.

For much of the 20th century, and long before there the Royals, Twins, Rangers or Rockies, a Cardinals game on AM 1120 WAS major league baseball for an enormous part of the central United States. At night, when they turned the wick up, you could get the Red Birds from north Texas to southern Minnesota, and from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians.

I can't think of a much more romantic notion that a ball game on AM radio. Whether you're a farmer in a tractor all day, a trucker crossing the plains, or a traveler on a train with a transistor radio pressed to an ear, a ball game on the radio lets you know that no matter where you are, you're not alone. You are here at the park, and part of America.

Baseball on radio is the epitome of theater of the mind, and that's why the great radio announcers, like Jack Buck pictured above, were such artists. They understood the precious balance of what needed to be related and what had to be left to the imagination.

But to hell with all that. Infinity Broadcasting, who owns KMOX (and Twins broadcaster WCCO in Minneapolis) has no interests beyond the pennies they pinch. More big media clenching tighter to every little scrap, only to have more audience slipping away. And the frauds in the MLB office in New York don't care either. If the Cards aren't on KMOX's flamethrower (the station they will likely move to has a much weaker pattern) that just means more people will buy satellite radio solutions, in which MLB has a vested interest.

The bottom line is that the bigger and fatter and cushier and more self-important you become, the more impossible and unlikely it is that you will retain a connection with, or relate to, the very audience you are charged with serving.

It'd be easy to hang all this on Clinton-era F.C.C. lunacy, but I'm so tired of Bubba and his non-legacy that I'm loathe to have brought it up. Sorta.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The loss of Cardinals games from KMOX is a reflection of the state of baseball itself. The problem is not just how the game is distributed to the audience. The problem begins with the product on the field. Although the overall player talent is probably higher than ever, we also have huge player salaries, drug use, slow play, teams holding cities hostage for new stadiums, players beating up fans and camarea men. Aside from die hard fans, why should anyone care about baseball? And the same question could be asked of most professional sports.

That's why I don't often go to games or watch baseball on TV. However, the sound of the game narrated over AM radio is something special. And it harkens to a time not that long ago when baseball was a game that the average guy could relate to and root for.