In sports announcing, some disagreements between commentators are almost inevitable. Someone’s going to think they’re not getting enough chance to shine, someone’s going to make a point someone else thinks is dumb, or maybe they’ll just drive each other crazy after spending that much time together. What’s not inevitable is one of those disagreements actually making it onto a telecast, since the announcers’ job is to help the viewer along, rather than make them squirm in their seats.
Last night, though, Nets play-by-play man Ian Eagle wasn’t a fan of the way color guy Mike Fratello was explaining the concept of the slip screen – and proceeded to let him know it on the air. And this wasn’t the case of the game going to/coming back from commercial and Eagle not knowing he was miked up. That would be somewhat understandable. Unfortunate for him, but more understandable. But Eagle did this right in the middle of the game, as documented by Deadspin and Awful Announcing. It was not somewhat understandable. It was, however, very, very weird:
We guess it’s possible Eagle was kidding at the beginning, since we couldn’t see his face. But it sure didn’t sound like kidding. When there was laughing toward the end? That sounded like it was getting back to kidding. But Eagle sounded dead serious at the start, which was a bad idea for a whole mess of reasons. There’s the fact that it had to make any viewer uncomfortable and detract from the game. There’s the fact that the best guy to tout your basketball credentials to might not be a guy who won 667 games coaching in the NBA. And there’s also the fact that Fratello didn’t do anything to deserve getting chewed out. Here’s what led to Eagle losing it:
And the issue flared up again later, but at this point, they still sounded like they were kidding around:
We’ll chalk this one up to a misunderstanding, but still, having the misunderstanding play out mid-game is new to us. “You are overly sensitive today,” Fratello said. Eagle said he wasn’t. We’ll let you watch that clip up top and see if you agree.
UPDATE: A YES spokesman called the attention given the above clip “much ado about nothing,” and mere “deadpan humor.” We hear deadpan humor in the original slip screen discussions. We even hear it at the end of the top clip. But the beginning of the top clip, when Eagle’s talking about Fratello’s “patronizing” attitude? That would have to be about the most deadpan “humor” we’d ever heard.