The TV schedule is out and if you’re like me, it really doesn’t matter what channel the games are on since we get shoved the same announcers, same producers, same studio men, same basically everything. Some of the crew is OK, some is downright terrible and this post is going to probably cost me a few podcast guests but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t say what I was thinking. So without further ado, here’s your Raptors TV/Radio crew analysis.
Matt Devlin: He’s boring. I’m not looking for Swirky here but a catch-phrase, some genuine energy and a bucket of Red Bull is desperately needed here. I think we were all sick of Swirsky’s homerism during 30 point blowouts and to Devlin’s credit, he does call the players out. But in general, his play-calling is very generic and it’s almost like he’s reading it of a script which has major grammatical errors and he has to fix those errors on the fly. I don’t want to question his knowledge of the game, instead I feel that he’s lacking the means to communicate what he truly understands and believes. Sometimes he should just come out and say it rather than just thinking of it and dropping mildly coherent phrases which totally obfuscate the original thought. He does have a tendency to point out the obvious which would’ve been acceptable if I didn’t already have trouble staying awake. Is he all there? The drunk from Philthy’s swears that Devlin and Leo do lines before coming on air. I haven’t decided for myself yet. He makes you actually miss Swirsky sometimes, but then I realize that he really doesn’t talk much which is good. How he thought the game was over when it wasn’t last year was just classic. B-.
Leo Rautins: Maybe basketball is a sport where the same situations come up so often that they warrant the same analysis. Or maybe Leo just doesn’t have anything else left to say. I can predict what he’s going to say 15 seconds before he says it. Without fail. Devlin will call out a current player, Leo will only do that once he’s left the Raptors for the Nets. I cringe every time he has to call the game because over the last 14 years, I’ve heard all his jokes, all about his NBA “career”, his tin-canned Syracuse stories, how he shared a cab with Kobe’s dad, and how Dr. J once asked him to pass the towel. I think Leo’s ‘good point’ to ‘obvious bullshit’ ratio has fallen to 1:10. You’d think after all these years he would’ve earned a promotion or something with the Raptors but this guy’s been doing the same job for 14 years on 2% raises. He’s got to stop relying on the stat-sheet to tell him what to say, focus on solely the game at hand without the shenanigans of the cheerleaders, Devlin’s pay cheque and that god-damn stupid mutha f***ing ‘What’s in your wallet?’ jokes. C.
Jack Armstrong: When it comes to criticizing the organization he’s more careful than AltRaps when he’s negotiating extra-curricular activities at the Rail. Last year we saw Jack at his most candid, I remember the game in Milwaukee where he was looking for a stapler to throw at Will Solomon. He gives the best play breakdown and situational analysis out there and does it while keeping things fresh. Unlike Leo, his stories aren’t tin-canned, they’re spur-of-the-moment type stuff which you can sit back to and say, A nice chap that man, wouldn’t mind having him over for a drink. He makes me like Irish people. A-.
Paul Jones: This guy should not be calling games or writing columns. The former because he’s not very good at it and the latter because he doesn’t say much in them. What makes that worse is that he probably has a lot to say given the inside access he’s given. He’s got an opinion and he sticks to it, I called the Fan last year after the Denver game and tried to explain to him that Calderon’s defense was killing us and how Mark Jackson’s criticism of Jose was bang-on. He responded by criticizing Mark Jackson’s play from six years ago. In order to salvage the radio broadcast and put him out of his misery we need to move him to color immediately. If I had to describe his talents using a color I’d go with beige. I’ve seen a fish out of water have more fun than him at the mic. C.
Eric Smith: He should be doing the play-by-play. A nice fellow but his tongue must be bruised, battered and cut to small little pieces given how many times he bites it. I don’t ever remember Smith saying anything negative about anybody in a definite tone. It wouldn’t do him any good in his career so I can understand, but once in a while, he should just speak his mind while leaving organizational affiliation aside. It’ll be therapeutic and earn him more credibility because fans aren’t stupid, they know what’s going on and would like to see the announcers acknowledge it rather than insult their intelligence by pretending otherwise. Having said that, he’s done an alright job as the color guy on the radio and does a good job as the host of the post-game show. Jones just kills the vibe. B-.
Sherman Hamilton: Believe it or not I actually like Droopy. Always have. He weighs his words and provides brief analysis that gets the audience thinking. He doesn’t use stats as a crutch and comments based on flow, feel and the energy in the game. On his rare play-by-play appearances he’s impressed me enough that I’d give him the starting job and Leo the pink slip in two minutes. Of course, having Devlin and him sharing the airwaves for 2.5 hours would be an injustice to the NBA’s commitment to making the games sound exciting. B+.
Paul Johnson: Until somebody proves it otherwise I’m convinced he’s a robot. C’mon man, move a neck muscle or two. This guy’s supposed to be our Ernie Johnson but has trouble spitting out two consecutive sentences without an aaaaa. Not saying I could do better (check my podcasts) but how about we get a professional in there who can crack some jokes, setup the other analysts, come up with creative segments and blink. If you can read this sentence then you can read the teleprompter which means you’re as good as Paul Johnson. D.
That guy with the braids: I’m not wasting my finger strength.
The Production Team: Those “men and women” in the truck who have fought so bravely in order to bring us the freedom of Raptors basketball need to be handed an honorable discharge. It’s obvious that a Humber degree in animation isn’t cutting it. We got to fix a few things. First up, upgrade the version of Adobe Premiere or whatever the hell is used to create the graphics on the broadcast because they’re cheap and lame. Take a page from Fox Sports, TNT or some other unit that hires people with more than 3 years experience. Put the score on the screen at all times unless there’s a cheerleader flashing her pom-poms, in that case zoom-in and play some jazz. Next up, figure out that when somebody hits a three you can just increment the score by three, you don’t have to first add two and then add one. Next, learn to cue up replays in less than five minutes. And by replays I don’t mind Bargnani’s stroke when he makes the three. Show the misses, show the jostling for position, show the controversial minor plays, foul calls etc. In other words, get a real basketball fan in the truck and listen to what he’s saying. Also, don’t make me miss a play because you were showing a close-up of the strength and conditioning coach. You guys have a lot to learn. D.