Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Listening and Learning

Listening to a San Francisco Giants game on the radio is a tradition that has maintained the highest level of standards for as long as I have been a fan of the orange and black.  Or as long as I have owned a transistor radio.  You only need to hear the play-by-play of another team's broadcast crew to know just how good the Giant's fans have it.

There are the occasional times when a Giant's announcer will stray from the details and listeners have to fuss with the dial.  Static versus clarity.  It is during these rare occasions when the listener has to use imagery to fill-in-the-blanks.  When you can picture (in your mind's eye) what is taking place your grasp of the game elevates to a new level of competence.

This happens because when you have the privilege of listening to announcers, who are adept at painting the brilliant word picture, you are being taught from pitch-to-pitch how to identify the game as it develops between the foul lines.

You learn to anticipate the next move only by experiencing the situation before (at another time). And if you are truly locked in you will get a rhythm that will keep the progression of the game in an almost serendipitous groove.

This is the same rhythm a pitcher can get into when he has the benefit of a generous strike zone (from the man stationed behind the catcher whose job it is to call balls and strikes).  In the July 20, 2012 game with the Giants at Philadelphia, Phillies starting pitcher, Vance Worley, must have looked like Jim Bunning and Tom Seaver rolled up into one stud hurler.  

But as I began to read between the lines I could see that the Giant announcers were calling the game like they saw it but that also they were spelling it out to the listener that Worley was the benefactor of an unseen before strike zone.  Something the Giant pitcher (Tim Lincecum) wasn't receiving.

Then about the sixth inning the strike zone changed.  The home plate umpire (we'll call him Laz Diaz) seemed to have lost the luster on Worley's fastball or slider that was freezing Giant batters.  Next thing you know the wide strike was a ball.  Just as it is defined in the baseball rulebook.

When an umpire is incapable of maintaining a consistent strike zone inevitably the team leading will sputter (especially if their opponent hangs in there and keeps them from breaking the game wide open by scoring an insurmountable number of runs).  Suddenly the team that was once leading has to make the adjustments and those conformities aren't adaptations easily made.  Depending on when the game turns, say after the 7th inning, it just may be too late to re-capture the momentum.  (Note:  In games where the umpire gives you the momentum he can just as easily taketh away. Never forget this, as a player or listener.) 

Kevin J. Marquez