Root Sports

Dejan Kovacevic has an excellent piece at the Post-Gazette today about the first six weeks of Root Sports Pittsburgh. It’s worth reading in its entirety, but there was one quote from Root GM Steve McClintock, in response to a missed goal during the Penguins’ playoff run, that really rubbed me the wrong way: 

“Even the most skilled director is going to miss a goal once in a while,” McClintock said. “I still think there’s a way to bring other angles to the game.”


“I’ve heard that more than once, and I know we have a lot of diehards in Pittsburgh,” McClintock said. “But I also don’t see Pittsburgh as the traditional CBC market. Their fan base is younger, more tech-savvy, and I think they appreciate some of the different angles we bring to the game. I think that applies to the casual, moderate fan, too. We’re always trying to educate and grow our audience.”

The Pensblog nails it: no one watches a sports game on TV so that they can see new camera views or crowd shots or pictures of Billy the Marlin playing with himself or Uncle Mike’s Peninsula or a Yinzer Proposal any of the other stuff that’s more prevelant on the Root broadcasts than the games themselves. Baseball is full of downtime and it’s fine to pepper the broadcast with some of those sorts of snips to liven things up, but so far the Root broadcasts are an all-out assault on attention span. They hop from the game to the crowd shots to Lacee Collins or Dan Potash to the mascots and then back to the game. There are a lot of nights where I turn the game on my TV or computer and within an hour, find myself reading or cleaning or doing something entirely unrelated to the game because the broadcast has no focus and as a result, I have no focus on the game. 

I gave up thinking that sports broadcasts were for fans like me a long time. Major League Baseball knows I’ll buy the package every year that I live out of the Pirates’ broadcast range and Root Sports knows that Pirate fans like me will tune in more often than not during the summer. For quite some time now, broadcasts have pandered to the casual fan. Root is taking this to a new level now; they all but admitted to DK that that’s their goal without saying so in so many words. Their problem is that they’re so openly pandering to a different audience that on most nights, they’re actually hostile to real sports fans.

I watch the Root broadcast on almost every night, but it’s not out of loyalty to my hometown network nor is it because I love the Pirates’ announcers. It’s because most other teams have announcers that are so condescending and dismissive of the Pirates that by the end of a broadcast, I’m ten times madder than I get after Clint Hurdle’s worst bunting decisions. If Root can’t put together a baseball broadcast that actual baseball fans want to watch soon, though, I’m going to be going with the opposing feed every night. I doubt that means much to them since I don’t watch their commercials when I view the games through, but I can’t imagine I’m the only Pirate fan that feels this way. 

Pat Lackey

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.