This (extended) weekend, I watched the US Open and appreciated the brilliance of five greats.
Sunday in dramatic fashion, Serena Williams defeated Victoria Azarenka to win the women’s title and last evening, Rafael Nadal won his second US Open and 13th Grand Slam title beating world number one ranked Novak Djokovic, for the men’s title.
They were four of the magnificent performers on display on CBS, whose coverage was outstanding. Play-by-play announcer Bill Macatee was at his minimalist best. He was joined by two expert analysts: Mary Carillo, who did a fine job and John McEnroe, who was a star to the level of the four athletes on the court.
McEnroe starred on the court, stars behind the mike
For me, tennis has a level of excitement and intensity similar to baseball. Despite the fact that baseball is a team game, there is a one-to-one ferocity as the pitcher battles the batter. Like baseball, there are all sorts of stats to follow or ignore. And like baseball, the game is not managed by the clock but over time fatigue plays a role.
As I watched the matches, I learned so much from McEnroe, who has the credentials to support his contentions and insights. He is forthright and honest about the players and the play in front of him. He comfortable with the compliment and they mean so much because he feels secure enough to criticize. His remarks are peppered with enthusiasm and humor.
As I sat there listening to him, I wished so much that he knew baseball and would be doing the the upcoming postseason. And as my thoughts rounded third base, I thought about Joe Buck, who clearly longs to only do football and to Tim McCarver, who is tired and is finally retiring. Insights from the great Ken Rosenthal, like Carillo, are spot on, but way too infrequent.
I thought about how little we as fans get from these telecasts other than promos for Fox shows and a constant stream of MLB PR. The shilling is endless and they are never curt. Oh how, I wish we had an announcer like McEnroe who could own the telecast.
Then I realize we do.
We have Dennis Eckersley.
Amidst all the joy of the current Red Sox season, Red Sox Nation has had to do without their color commentator, Jerry Remy, who is involved in a family crisis of tragic proportions and has taken leave for the rest of the season.
In his place, the steady voice of the Sox, Don Orsillo, has guided fans with an assortment of replacements, none bad, some better than others. But the telecast shines, like it has at other times when Remy has been out for physical and personal reasons, when Eck is in the booth.
All the characteristics ascribed to McEnroe: insightful, knowledgeable, credible, critical, entertaining, and enthusiastic come to mind when I think of Eckersley in the booth.
Which is why Eck needs to be McCarver’s replacement after this, his final, World Series.
My hope is that Buck will use this opportunity to pass on his reins as well. There are many really qualified replacements for him available for us including Matt Vasgersian MLB Network play-by-play announcer and studio host and Orsillo himself. But they are just two of the many who could do the job well. My hope is that whomever is chosen, if the circumstances arise, will be solely dedicated to baseball. No Jim Nantz-of-all-trades and master of none, please.
But before anyone or anything else, baseball fans deserve a John McEnroe, they deserve Dennis Eckersley.