It’s been quite a few years since the St. Louis Blues had a run of poor luck and results like we’ve seen through the month of March. The losses have piled up and the style of play has become so distant from what we saw just two seasons ago that we wonder if this team can even make the playoffs, let alone contend.
Frustration has built up among much of the fan base. Things have gotten bad enough that a certain segment of the fan population has begun to turn on the broadcasters as well.
I’ve had different conversations with different fans, but most of them went along the same line of questioning. Many of the questions were wondering if John Kelly saw the same game as the fan or what Darren Pang was smoking to keep so positive.
I won’t lie that the consistent positivity from the announcers doesn’t wear thin. My own particular bone to pick is Bernie Federko‘s constant claims that the team is fatigued. The first home after a road trip is tough because you’re tired, but the third game out of four on a road trip is tiring.
Nobody wants to hear how the team will win plenty of games if they keep playing the way they did in two of the last three losses of March. They lost and they lost points to teams they should be wiping the ice with.
But, for a broadcaster, it’s not that simple. While I don’t have the opportunity to call games on the absolute highest level, I thought I’d explain at least part of the thought process as to why broadcasters tend to focus on the positive.
Nobody likes negativity
This one is the most simple. Nobody likes negativity.
You can share an opinion with someone, but if they take an overly negative slant on it, it takes away your enjoyment of even discussing it. We’ve all gone through that.
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Whether with friends or family, you’re all just sour about a loss and how the team played. Then, you’ve got that one person that automatically jumps to the team not making the playoffs or even blowing up the roster. There’s a reason everyone is down, but not everyone automatically thinks it’s the end of the world.
Even if a broadcaster, especially on the TV side more than radio, thinks those “extra” thoughts, they cannot voice them (or should not). You’re more likely to turn listeners or viewers off than having them say you’re telling it like it is.
Friends and family watch the game
Many broadcasters have a background in journalism, so you’d think they would just tell it like it is. While that is always the goal while calling the action, you walk a thinner line than a regular journalist.
If a news reporter does a piece on your family member and you don’t like it, they can say they simply reported the facts. If a broadcaster stops just short of saying your family member is the reason the team is awful and should be traded, they’ve ventured into the area of opinion and you’re going to upset people.
I distinctly remember calling a St. Louis Bandits game when they played in the NAHL. This was a championship caliber team, but being junior hockey, was made up of guys that were between 17-22. Due to the volatility of youth, they were making foolish mistakes and taking dumb penalties. I stayed professional, but voiced dissatisfaction with their play and there were several comments on social media wondering why I was being so negative.
The truth of it is a family member won’t see it your way. Even if you’re a homer, if you’re not related or not good friends with a player away from hockey, you’re just going to see it differently.
As a broadcaster, you never want to slant anything you say if it’s the truth. Nevertheless, you still think about someone’s mom or dad or grandparent watching and might ease up.
Tying into the friends and family part, broadcasters work with these players. It’s hard to keep a positive working relationship if you’re ripping someone.
Imagine a work scenario in an office. You’re all working for the same company and trying to achieve the same goals for the name on the building. Yet, if the team in marketing is constantly saying the people in sales could not sell water to a man dying of thirst, you’ll have dissent.
They work in different departments and are technically free to critique a different sector if they choose. Come meeting time, it’s harder to sit with those same people and not feel bitter though.
The broadcasters are in a similar boat. Pang can’t exactly just say Jordan Binnington had a terrible game and let in some softies and expect Binnington to talk to him in the hallway prior to the next game like nothing happened.
I’m 100% sure there are nights that JK and Panger, and the radio crew too, want to call it like it is and say the Blues have no energy and guys are doggin’ it, etc. That’s not how it works, unless you’re in sports talk and you only need an interview once every month or two.
It is the broadcaster’s job to describe and give their take. They also know they’re going to run into these guys plenty of times over the course of a season and you don’t want there to be tension.
Power of Positivity
Whether it’s true or something we make up in our own heads, we believe that people want to hear good things. When the camera is on or the mic is hot, you feel this odd sense of duty to be a comfort and not let people think the sky is falling.
Sometimes, you go overboard. Maybe there’s no need to point out that good string of passes prior to the shot being air-mailed or there’s no need to discuss the 50 saves made when the one that went in was a bad goal. However, whether it’s a learned skill or something inside us as humans, we often feel the need to be slightly protective if you work for a team.
That’s often why national broadcasters get roasted. They have a difficult job anyway, trying to learn two new teams every time out, but they also have no connection.
The national team, if you watch a game you have no investment in, often is neutral. However, when they call your team and the call isn’t slanted your way, you take it as being slanted the other way. There are exceptions, like NBC constantly talking everything Chicago, but that’s another topic.
Nevertheless, that’s why broadcaster’s don’t just go off. Some have and it’s often not seen as a good thing by the majority of fans.
If nothing else, it’s down to personality. Pang and Federko are naturally positive people – Pang especially.
They’re jovial and like to make a broadcast fun, if possible. They’re also trying to keep it fun for themselves.
When your team is getting thwomped, it’s no fun to broadcast. Many times, you’re actually trying to be positive for the challenge of not sounding too negative, to keep yourself mentally in the game.
Admittedly, the whole thing is a fine line. You don’t want to be overly critical and you can’t just say whatever you want. You try to make all listeners happy, which often makes nobody happy. But, that’s the job.