I used to enjoy ballgames on the radio. I loved the murmur of the crowd and the soothing play-by-play of the broadcaster, who often told stories during lulls in the game. Commercials were safely tucked away between innings. Now the enjoyment is gone, along with the stories. Ball clubs must feed the corporate monster with a continual diet of obnoxious ads during the game, doled out between batters—and even between pitches, the pitch between pitches, so to speak!
During a Yankee game, I took notes to see how bad this trend has become. I won’t repeat all the ads but offer a few to express my unmitigated irritation. Keep in mind they average three per inning. Yup, that’s a whopping 27 per game! And, piling on the annoyance, they’re presented as a public service as if they’re doing us a favor.
The first ad came immediately as John Sterling, the play-by-play man, announced, “The first pitch is brought to you by Time Warner—Enjoy Better!” Two minutes later Sterling said that he and his broadcast partner, Suzyn Waldman, “are bringing the game to you from the Lowe’s broadcast booth. Lowe’s: Let’s build something together.” This message is repeated throughout the game.
During the third inning, the 15th batter of the game came to the plate, allowing Sterling to say, “GEICO wants you to know that a 15-minute phone call could save you 15 percent on your car insurance.” Honest to God, it’s a good thing no one is getting close to Dimaggio’s 56-game hitting streak or we’d have to listen to Heinz 57 ads every damn time the guy came to the plate.
The seventh inning brought a clever twist when a pitcher was removed. Waldman: “This call to the bullpen is brought to you by A.T. & T.” Then, after a break and a legitimate commercial: “This pitching change was brought to you by the New York State Lottery.”
In the eighth inning, Sterling gives the Yankee Power Report (a summary of who’s been hitting homers), “brought to you by Indian Point Energy Center—Safe, Secure, Vital.” Indian Point is a nuclear power plant, but the word “nuclear” is never used.
Other companies that interrupted the game were Winthrop Hospital, Jeep, Tri-State Ford, Sapporo Beer, and The New York Daily News. I doubt anything can be done about this desecration of my beloved baseball, but one could only hope for boycotts of the companies vulnerable to boycott: It’s hard to boycott a nuclear power plant . . .