June 8, 2017

Draining A Little More Out Of The Pool: NESN Sinks To A New Low

My list of complaints about NESN's Red Sox broadcasts should be well-known to readers of this blog. (If not, click the nesn tag.)

You probably share at least some of them. Missed pitches during every single game, consistently shoddy camera work, mediocre-to-poor announcers that often will not shut up about absolute nonsense (both game-related and not) while ignoring chances to provide genuine insight, a flood of advertising during the game, guests in the booth promoting other NESN shows ... (And holy shit, remember this?)

In short, NESN has trouble (and has always had trouble, at least since 2003, when I began watching games via MLBTV) performing the most basic tasks involved in broadcasting a baseball game.

On Thursday night, NESN did something that I immediately thought had to be the worst thing the network had ever done during a Red Sox game.*

Starting in the top of the first inning and continuing through almost every half-inning until the final pitch, NESN inserted a column of information on the left-hand side of the screen. This visual distraction served no real purpose, because nothing that was shown added anything meaningful to a fan's enjoyment of the game in progress. NESN ran information that the two announcers were regularly giving anyway (batters due up, upcoming Red Sox games) or was showing non-baseball news: NFL headlines or - and this was the absolute worst - very short recaps of political news.

And as far as I could tell, Dave O'Brien and Jerry Remy never - not even once - made reference to this eyesore that fans were forced to endure.

* My partner Laura quickly reminded me about having Remy and Don Orsillo talk at length during home games about the on-going filming of NESN's dating show in Fenway Park. She pointed out that not only was this stupidity wholly unrelated to the game, it was a sexist attempt to get additional female viewers. (I wondered how many women NESN believed would tune into a three-hour game to see five minutes of forced banter about a show that could be watched at some later date without the distraction of a baseball game.)

Here are some screenshots:

That Michael Pineda information was actually worth sharing. I suppose that's why O'Brien and Remy discussed it a few times during the game, rendering this graphic redundant.

NESN repeated this Yankees graphic in the bottom of the fourth. By that time, Aaron Judge had singled and struck out, so his home slugging stat was no longer accurate. (And David Price is a lefty, so why bother telling us what Gary Sanchez slugs against righties?)

This graphic contains a very large (and obvious) mistake. The Angels are not 6-4 in their last 10 games, they are 4-6.

Oakland also has 105 doubles and is tied with Cleveland for third place in the AL. But they are not included. (I see the little "T-3", but no mention of the A's.)

Bonus commercial emerging from the score bug!

This is a great example of how behind the times NESN is. Telling us a reliever's W-L record (one of which is 0-0)? And why is games played important? NESN showed us AL WHIP Leaders earlier, so why not give the WHIP and K/BB ratios of these relievers?

This is what totally set me off. News headlines? Are you fucking kidding me?

Comey was scheduled to testify? For god's sake, it's after 9:00 PM, why not tell us about the testimony he gave about 12 hours ago (if you really have to tell us something)? Nope, just provide a fact that everyone who gives a shit already knew several days ago. Also, that uncapitalized "had" in the second note bothered me.

What non-baseball stuff will NESN inflict on us tomorrow night? Updates on various Kardashians/Jenners? Summer fashion tips? Top-grossing movies from last week?

What, you weren't begging to know when the last Red Sox pinch-hit grand slam was? ... And there is plenty of empty space to include each player's first name.

NESN Director: "The Red Sox are losing 7-1 in the eighth inning. What important information should we pass along to the fans? Oh, I know! Some stats about our closer - who has about as much chance of pitching in this game as I do."

"Red Sox are 24-1 When [Kimbrel] Pitches" Man, I love this! Well, then, they should let him pitch to one batter every game, right? They'd finish like 157-5! Why doesn't that idiot Farrell do this?

Besides what is shown in the screencaps, here is a partial list of some of the other information NESN shared:

Red Sox Due Up
Yankees Due Up
Injury Latest
AL Runs Leaders (only the top three each time because NESN showed a picture of each player)
AL WHIP Leaders
Red Sox Road Ahead*
AL Triples Leaders
AL Stolen Base Leaders
AL Wins Leaders
AL East Standings
AL Strikeout Leaders
AL Opp. Avg. Leaders
New England Patriots Schedule (first four weeks)
NFL/Patriots News
Red Sox Record On Get Away Days

* Red Sox Road Ahead was shown in the bottom of the third and the bottom of the fourth (when the Yankees, not the Red Sox, were batting). This was in addition to the regular spot about "the road ahead" that Dave O'Brien does during every game at least once, if not twice. I think the graphic was shown a couple more times after the fourth.

NESN also resurrected the lame "Stay At The Park" feature. "See what goes on between innings." And then the commercial takes up 85-90% of the screen. ... So what cool behind-the-scenes stuff do we see? Players on one team standing in the dugout. Players on the other team standing in the field. The pitcher on the mound is throwing warm-up pitches. WOW!

What are the most important things to do when broadcasting a baseball game?

1. Show every pitch.

2. When the ball is hit, show where it goes.

3. When the ball is thrown, show where it goes.

4. When a player catches the ball, show that.

5. When there is a close play at a base, show that.

Re #5, here is an example of what NOT to do: If a baserunner is on third and the batter lines a probable double into the gap, do not cut away from a possible close play at second to show the runner stepping on home plate. The announcer can say that runner has scored (most fans will know he has scored anyway). (NESN has done this more times that I can count - and has missed bangbang plays at second base because of it.)

NESN has shown - night after night after season after season - that it cannot properly broadcast a baseball game. The network often comes back from commercials too late and misses one or two pitches. Its cameramen cannot judge the depth of many fly balls and we are sometimes are shown the bleachers when an outfielder is making a catch in front of the warning track. To compensate, NESN now often tracks fly balls with such a wide shot of the outfield (so they don't focus on the wrong outfielder) that the players look like ants and the ball is very hard to see. (I have a 44-inch TV, by the way.) NESN routinely is caught napping on pickoff attempts to first.

As I said in an email to NESN, sent during the game: "NESN should work on trying to show every pitch of the game - which it consistently fails to do, even tonight - before adding any bells and whistles." Mastering the basics should be the first step. And NESN remains a long way from graduating from that class.

I urge everyone who was bothered by this annoying addition to let NESN know: Click sports@nesn.com.


Unknown said...

Ya those graphics bugged me too. Aside from the irrelevancy that you pointed out or plain and simple is a distraction to the viewer and also decreases the size of the actual game you are watching. So much for that new big screen.

allan said...

It turns out SoSH didn't like it either:

This is the first time I'm seeing the left bar/enhanced stats window on the NESN broadcast. It's horrible. I hope it's also the last time.

So that giant enhanced stats graphic on the left side of the screen is annoying.

What's up with the sidebar on NESN? I feel like I'm watching CNBC edit: now it's gone...hopefully forever

This side bar is incredibly annoying. It's like I'm watching it on my computer. Give me the full view please!

you'd think they'd try fixing their atrocious website first

I do not give a flying fuck who the AL doubles leaders are. Get off my screen.

If only NESN could just emphasize more blue in its graphics!

The O's games were local/blacked out and been watching this series on National TV, so your post made me turn on NESN...and man you weren't kidding. Can't believe they were obstructing that much of the screen to show Team Leaders - Doubles...makes no sense.

If it wasn't the MFY I'd be half tempted to switch to the away feed.

It seems that NESN's attitude is that the game isn't enough

Hey NESN, who are the NL leaders in.... anything.

What genius at NESN thought these graphics were a good idea? The same guy who didn't renew Orsillo's contract?

Gotta hand it to NESN, they're really getting downright creative in finding new ways to fucking suck.

Political news via the NESN sidebar!? I watch baseball to forget about that stuff! [head explodes]

Comfortably Lomb
I want to watch the game, not see what NESN thinks top stories are...

Comfortably Lomb
WHY THE FUCK IS THERE A CRAIG KIMBREL SIDEBAR RIGHT NOW. Now: saves leaders in a game in which the Sox are down by 6.

Comfortably Lomb
The tiny picture in picture is a special kind of hot shit too.

Comfortably Lomb
Sidebar is now babbling about Sandy Leon's walkoff. It's basically having a John McCain moment.

Anyone know which Yankees are due up?

Jere said...

I've been watching on NESNgo.com on the laptop. Last night I did what you did, occasionally noticing these odd stats and WTF-ing them. But here's the thing: I didn't know this was part of the broadcast! I assumed it was to the side of the viewing box in my browser. Like, they knew they had space around the "screen," unlike with TV, so they made use of the space. So while I thought it was dumb, I had no idea this is what people were seeing ON THEIR TVs. That is incredible.

The weird thing is, seeing it tonight it's pretty obvious that it's actually taking up space and then disappearing, giving me the full screen again. (I guess since it was unprecedented, I was just assuming that any screen shrinking was only on the website.)

allan said...

On our screen, the column was actually cut off on the left-hand side, so the information that was being given was difficult to read. I hope it appeared like that on many people's TVs.

Who wants that shit on the screen? No one. Anyone who needs to know who the top 3 leaders are in AL doubles will look it up on whatever device they have with them while they watch the TV.

Casual fans don't care about what's being posted and serious fans hate it. Good work, NESN!

Jere said...

I also hate having "due up" while the inning is in progress. That was the first one I saw and I thought maybe my feed was behind. Then I was still confused because the guy batting wasn't the top guy listed. It was just the "next three." But isn't the point of "due up" to let you know these three batters WILL be up when play starts? I don't mind if they flash who's on deck but using "due up" where people aren't used to seeing it is just confusing and the third guy listed might not bat until the next inning anyway.