Friday, April 18, 2008

 

Viewer mail

Let's get a bit off-topic here: PJ Stock! I'm pretty neutral on the guy. I can see the charm that has led the HNIC braintrust to give him a substantial role in the telecast, and in the category of Saying Ludicrous Things, he's not too bad (probably everyone on the rotating TSN panel with the exception of McKenzie is worse in this regard).

On the other hand... well, let's go to the comment threads. G4, Lowetide:
I'm watching PJ Stock and wondering just how much he can improve. Unable to speak the language, it also sounds like he has a problem with too much spittle after about four words. [...] Bring back Danny Gallivan, please.

G4, Tyler:
...watching PJ Stock do the highlights is starting to remind me of Zach Stortini's early shifts. Completely out of sync with what's going on around him, overwhelmed, constantly a beat behind the play... it's just amazingly familiar.

G5, Dennis:
They've handed the highlight keys to Stock and he's running into lightpoles all over the studio...

G3, Tyler:
Jesus Christ. Stock is presumably reading this off a teleprompter and there's just blood all over the studio.

It might be just me, but I also see Maclean taking him less and less seriously over the past several days... I'm inclined to write it off to the farcical nature of the fishbowl setup, but it seems like there's something there apart from mere jocularity.

I think a good filler post for the summer would be a playoff bracket (voting) for the analysts on the national networks plus Oilers/Flames local TV guys. Simpson, Millen, Galley, Neale, McGuire, Healy, Ferraro, Garrett, Simmer are the 9 colour guys I can think of... then add in Milbury, Pang, Stock, Brophy...

Comments:

P.J. Stock is the living embodiment of one simple truth: those of us (I include myself here) who haven't done it can easily forget how hard it is to look at a camera and talk about game x from now until now.

But you're right. The charm is there, and I do like the guy, which is the hardest step in establishing someone as a broadcaster. He just needs practice, but why the CBC thought he should get that practice in a key role during the playoffs is beyond me.
 


those of us (I include myself here) who haven't done it can easily forget how hard it is to look at a camera and talk about game x from now until now.

No doubt. Which is why none of us do it.

After having let go of Chris Cuthbert, and almost losing MacLean himself a few years back, the CBC's decision to go with PJ Stock almost makes sense.

Seriously, Ferraro is the best in the business: give him a job and make everyone happy.
 


The guy is a bit of a goof, but I find it hard not to like him. Sure he isn't that polished, but that just helps to distinguish him from 99% of the other people doing sports on TV. The guy doesn't take himself too seriously, and seems genuinely excited just to be a part of the broadcast.

In other words, he's the exact opposite of Kelly Hrudy, which can only be interpreted as being a good thing.
 


The Stortini analogy might turn out to be very appropriate... he eventually got his bearings, and was effective in the role he was asked to play (and is suited for).
 


The fishbowl setup isn't doing him any favours... every time he pops up, it get this odd mental image of a yappy, bouncy dog as seen through a living room window. MacLean and Hrudy get to be the "cool kids" live on set, and poor PJ is stuck on the outside looking in, trying to impress.

Having said that, Hrudy took some time to get his bearings as well. I actually quite enjoy Hrudy now.
 


For those who watch The Daily Show, Stock's pop-up's remind me of the old gag where Stewart would throw it to the giant head of some celebrity; most times it was Brian Williams.

I've been all over the place with Stock: at first blush he was calling things down the middle and I told my buddies he was going to bring something new to the Hot Stove but eventually he was trotting out the same old tired bullshit and telling some lies as well.

I think that what I expect is something that you'll rarely see: honesty.

I dunno, maybe Stock is a simpleton that believes in everything he says but I'd like a guy that just shoots straight and doesn't worry about the repercussions. That's probably unrealistic though because these guys need sources so they can's say what's really on their mind and expect to be received warmly the next time they need a piece of news.

I hate that stuff works that way, though.

BTW, I like Matt's idea about rating all the commentators but I don't know if we should list Simpson as a CBC guy or a Flames guy;)

Granted, he was toning it down in G5 but his G3 objectivity was a performance for the ages.
 


I think a good filler post for the summer would be a playoff bracket (voting) for the analysts on the national networks plus Oilers/Flames local TV guys.

Noted.
 


I had to do a similar type video-feed setup speaking at a conference once, and trying to connect with people in another location in a "conversational" manner off a video feed is brutally difficult (if not impossible).

You don't realize how much you rely on contextual senses to determine tone, pace, or even simple things like when to start talking - all of which are critical to allow something resembling a "normal conversation".

There's an animation term called the "uncanny valley" which basically means that something almost human, but slightly off (like their segments) is far more unnerving than something wildly non-human (like Harvey the Hound doing pantomime highlights).

These forced conversation bits, like some of the production design choices on this years HNIC are baffling (Who thought "Canada's most uncomfortable chairs" was a good design concept for the Hot Stove?) There's a reason that you normally just do a "blind throw" to the highlight person (or the floor/sideline/dressing-room reporter/announce team/ or ANYONE WHO IS NOT PHYSICALLY IN THE ROOM WITH YOU) no one could pull that off without coming off like a not-quite-human android.

You'll note that P.J. gets much better as his segments progress and become more traditional "highlight" and less like NASA transmissions with the lunar module.
 


I like Stock, but I really wish he'd stop throwing in the single French phrase when he does the highlights for the Boston/Montreal series. I squirm in my seat when he does that. That's my only real complaint. Oh, and he has this thing where every piece of analysis seems to start and end with how either a penalty or a fight has "set the tone" in the hockey game. That just drives me nuts, but it isn't like Lee or Simpson have been any better. Momentum. Shifting. Tide. Tone. Momentum. Hit heard around the country. Momentum.
 


ferraro is my favorite hands down. sometimes you think he's just one minute away from strapping on his skates and going down there to show the how it's done. the patrick stefan incident was the moment i realized that there was no replacing ray. first he calls out patrick stefan and does everything but call him a first class loser. then he comes on sportsnet the following day to supposedly clear the air and i assume apologize. ray's version of an apology involves going on 5 minute tirade about how stefan is gutless.
 


Interesting MacKinnon post on the Mother Corp.
 


I'll probably be ridiculed for this (deservedly) but I've got to put a vote in for Milbury. The main reason is, he's the only one who says what he really thinks.

Sure, it may be a ridiculous idea/ statement, but at least you know it's his, and not The Company's. :)
 


I hated PJ when I first saw him and could not understand what this kid who seemed to spit while he talked and couldn't keep track of his papers was doing on a national sportscast. But he's grown on me. He's still a bit too spitty for my taste, but I see the potential there, now.

And until he can properly pronounce 'suffering succotash' I still refuse to join in the Ray Ferraro love fest.
 


I'll second the motion on Milbury. I'm waiting for him to take the shoe to McGuire.
 


This wasn't a Mackinnon point but he sorta alluded to it when he mentioned Cole doing the Habs series. I don't think it makes much sense NOT to have Hughson calling the Habs considering they're the best Can team going into the playoffs and should have the best shot to go far; so it only makes sense to use the CBC's #1 guy on their telecasts.

CBC's a mess when it comes the PBP anyway, though. They chose to cheap out on Cuthbert and not keep paying him through the lock-out -- that's how it went, right? -- and then when they came back they really didn't have two guys they could count on.

Mark Lee? Give me a fucking break. He may not stutter and his voice may have the correct timbre but he just doesn't know enough about the league to call a playoff game.

Mackinnon also didn't mention this but yesterday's Globe had a piece on HNIC focusing more on the Habs next year because it's the club's 100th anniversary and the Habs will have a good young team for years to come.

Maybe my memory's clouded by the fact you'd see a lot of them in springtime but growing up in NF in 80's with nothing but the weekly HNIC game, it seems to me I saw mor e Habs games than Leaves. But once TO picked up Gilmour sand started to thrive, that all switched around. I guess that's about to turn around now and who can really complain? I hate the Habs so much that I'll watch Amerk games and just flip back for Cherry and the Hotstove:D

I still appreciate a few Oilers games a year on HNIC but I'm glad that CI's an option and you're not depending on over-the-air options in order to see your favourite team.
 


ferraro is my favorite hands down.

Yeah, ever since his rant at Quinn about saying "shutout" before the game was over, he's been a favorite.

My only problem with him is that he can't seem to say "Dwayne" in less than two syllables.

Someone was talking in another thread about how exciting the Flyers game was last night. I agree, except that I couldn't watch for more than 30 seconds at a time because of the Monster. I await the day that digital TV lets me choose to turn off the commentators but leave the rest of the sound on. (Kind of like a few years back when the CBC-French commentators went on strike, and they just showed the game with ambient noise. It was brilliant.)
 


I am trying to like Stock, he does bring a breath of hot air (I think that's how the saying goes), but all too often he says something mind-numbingly stupid if not wrongheaded. He dropped a couple of bombs on the Oilers one day -- right after that all-time franchise great game that they won 7-5 over the Avs IIRC -- that just had me snarling. Of course I'm defensive about my own team, but it was also apparent that Stock knows much less about my team than I do (or so I would like to think :), and to hear him spouting nonsense on national TV about them just pissed me off.

Again call me a homer, but I just love Ray Ferraro, one of the best coulour guys I have ever heard. I learn a ton about hockey listening to that guy, he can sum up a shift, a game, or an entire season in three or four sentences that each contain a separate gem of wisdom. He's emotional and gets into the game, and sometimes the analysis part comes a little later, but I can respect both of those things since I would describe myself as a fan in the same terms. See red first, black and white later; makes for colourful commentary.

Ferraro isn't afraid to criticize the refs or players on either team, but unlike some guys he's not just a critic who looks for mistakes but will point out the good play (or call) as well, no matter what colour the sweater of the guy hwo made it. He understands the nuts and bolts of the game from the grinders to the scorers to the stoppers, indeed has demonstrated a better understanding of the goaltenders' role than many of the ex-goalies who steal their living as colour "experts". (Are you listening, John Garrett? Nah, you're just talking.)

But if they really want to get a breath of fresh air in the overheated environment that is on-air hockey commentary, I would love-love-LOVE to see somebody hire Paul Stewart. As a colour guy, on a panel, as a stand-alone ranter, whatever, "Stewie" would be great, I just know it. An ex-goon like Stock or the even-worse Tie Domi, he's also an ex-zebra like nobody that I can think of on English language TV. (I've seen Ron Fournier and Denis Morel on RDS from time to time.) An independent thinker and one of the game's true characters, Stewart would provide extraordinary perspective and lots o' laughs.
 


Interesting MacKinnon post on the Mother Corp.

Interesting, yes. Ridiculous, also yes. Any anti-Montreal bias is only in the fact that Lee and Simpson are so busy pleasuring the Flames that you can hardly hear them call the game, and the Habs aren't getting such an aggressive love-in.

Besides, criticising Don Cherry for being "borderline racist" at this point is like criticising water for being "borderline wet".
 


brutally condescending [...] Moore invokes the late, great Danny Gallivan, Montreal's great restaurants, Beliveau, Cournoyer, Richard, blah-blah-blah.

He didn't mention the great 'joie-de-vivre' of Montrealers, but he probably was in a hurry.


Suh-NAP! Nicely done, McKinnon.
 


I don't think it makes much sense NOT to have Hughson calling the Habs considering they're the best Can team going into the playoffs and should have the best shot to go far; so it only makes sense to use the CBC's #1 guy on their telecasts.

You are assuming the CBC doesn't see Cole as the #1 guy, Dennis. Considering he's called the Finals the past 65 years in a row, I'd say they still see him as #1. Of course, contract terms play a part in all this, too.

Of course I'm defensive about my own team, but it was also apparent that Stock knows much less about my team than I do (or so I would like to think :)

This is probably true of most guys out East. They just don't watch the games as much. That being said, my favorite Stock moment was his analysis of the BoA game at the end of March.


It's too bad Vin Scully doesn't do hockey. He's been calling the Dodgers games since they were in Brooklyn (they left in 57), and hasn't skipped a beat. He's 80, and still the best there is.
 


I should have said "an ex-zebra like nobody I can think of currently on English language TV." Years ago CBC used to occasionally unleash another player/ref/iconoclast named Red Storey, who if nothing else was seldom boring.
 


Any anti-Montreal bias is only in the fact that Lee and Simpson are so busy pleasuring the Flames that you can hardly hear them call the game,

Meh. I'm not hearing bias so much as just terrible commentary. It's a Canadian team, so they will play to that audience. I just wish they wouldn't dumb it down so much. Oh wait...Flames...dumb...HA! It all makes sense now!!
 


dennis, funny how you mention the hatred for the Habs and how they are really jammed down your throat growing up in NF. For the longest time, they were the HNIC Saturday game and Bob Cole was all "great gave Roy" one way and "Blistering shot Richer" the other with little mention of the opponent. Since I moved West, my hatred for the Habs has waned a little - it becomes much more focused on Calgary - and Bob's become a Leaf fan. It seems everyone around here has kind of adopted the Habs as their "Canadian" team to cheer for. But even though I like their style of play and that asshole Roy is no longer associated with them, I just can't bring myself to root their way...just can't. Maybe it's a newfie thing. Glad to see I'm not alone.
BTW - I hope Carey Price can't ho hum his way to a cup.....it's like watching Eeyore in goalie pads.
 


(Kind of like a few years back when the CBC-French commentators went on strike, and they just showed the game with ambient noise. It was brilliant.)

Or when CBC's English guys went off during the lockout, and we had a few weeks of no PBP on the football? That wasn't too bad, either. The stadium announcer covered most of it pretty well, anyway, at least for the games I watched.

That's it, I'm sold. They have that special service with Bell, don't they, Hockey Night Plus? Where you can watch different feeds of the same game, or whatever? If they added the option to remove the commentary, I'd be paying for that sucker in a heartbeat.
 


There's a lot of information in crowd noise, as can be heard on any well-mic'd radio broadcast. I used to listen to games in French, a language I understand very imperfectly, especially at speed (although it's simple enough to follow "Savard, à Lapointe, à Lemaire, à Lafleur ... ET LE BUT!!!"). I could always tell if the close chance happened at the home team goal (intake of breath) or the visitor's (ourburst). Or the fact that that there was a penalty being called, and against which team. Or a big hit for or against, or a cheap shot; they are all very distinct sounds. Then there's game action: it's actually possible to hear a deflection if you don't have somebody yapping over it and the sound mix all buggered up.

For sure I can follow a game just fine in person, and don't need a headphone on one (or both! never could understand that) ear to have somebody tell me what's going on. The PA announcer can do that just fine.

So yeah, bring on that optional choice of no commentary, just ambient sound. Surely the technology exists already, as does the market niche judging from this thread. For some games -- e.g. Hughson and Garrett "doing" the Canucks -- it would be an absolute godsend.
 


The only good thing involving McGuire was Gord Miller burying him about mentioning a shut out in progress. Otherwise, calm down a bit, dude.

I kind of like the option of ambient noise for a broadcast. I remember back to the early 70's when I first started watching proper football. Those BBC announcers for the FA Cup final were perfect. They were minimalist, and presumed I didn't need to be bombarded with noise or superfluous "analysis". They presumed the audience knew the game, and that they were paying attention to the action on the pitch.

One final point is the bug, or whatever they call the continuous score/time graphic, has replaced the one thing I absolutely wanted from an announcer. With that bug and other modern graphics, most announcers end up being overkill.
 


It seems everyone around here has kind of adopted the Habs as their "Canadian" team to cheer for.

It sure as hell ain't this guy. I want every Canadian to be eliminated as soon as possible. If they shut down the playoffs right now, it would be fine by me.

Someone mentioned on here a while back--I think it was Sacamano--that in the UK you can turn off the announcers while watching the game. The sooner we get that option here the better.
 


It sure as hell ain't this guy. I want every Canadian to be eliminated as soon as possible. If they shut down the playoffs right now, it would be fine by me.

agreed. i guess great minds think alike. or at least above par ones.
 


P.J. Stock is the living embodiment of one simple truth: those of us (I include myself here) who haven't done it can easily forget how hard it is to look at a camera and talk about game x from now until now.

I always think that its real easy to criticize from behind a computer and I'll leave it at that.

There's only one guy who I really can't stand listening to, but I find lots of them entertaining. People take colour commentary and play by play too seriously methinks.
 


People take colour commentary and play by play too seriously methinks.

I disagree. I think we suffer through so much cliched material that we just tune it out or lower our expectations. That being said, I agree that it's easier said than done. THAT being said, I did deliver a killer play-by-play account of Gretzky burying one over Vernon's shoulder at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Matt can back me up on that. ;)
 


Wait a sec. Who says "Dwayne" necessarily only has one syllable?
 


agreed. i guess great minds think alike. or at least above par ones.

When I say "around here" I mean amongst the rest of the "par" minds in my general community - not the misunderstood geniuses who frequent these pages - my bad
 


Am I the only one who thinks Daryl Reaugh is far and away the best colour guy in the game?

Ferraro is second, but he's a mile back of Reaugh. It's not even close.
 


Daryl Reaugh's pretty good. At times some bat shit crazy goaltender thinking stuff comes out of his mouth, though.
 


Anybody watch the Mandarin feed on Expressvu?

I tried to pay attention to it like Bruce watches French games.

Didn't really ebb and flow as much as French or English.

I still would bet that the announcer would top Scott Oake in this summer's showdown.
 


Am I the only one who thinks Daryl Reaugh is far and away the best colour guy in the game?

RQ: Don't get to hear him much at all. Unfortunately for me, from that recommendation. I know Reaugh does Stars regional games, anything else? I don't have Centre Ice.
 


I think Oil/Flames fans outside AB forget how good we have it here sometimes... we're the only place in Canada, IIRC, that gets two teams' local broadcasts, so that adds a LOT of games on top of the TSN/CBC games. I've still never bought Centre Ice, because I can see an awful lot of hockey without it.

Based on Reaugh's blog, I assume he's fantastic. But you never know...
 


Oilman: "Great save by Roy" from the mouth of Dick Irvin Jr. will haunt me until the day I die.

I see all these Albertans talking about how much they hate the Leaves and like the Habs style of play; let's see how much they like it if Mtl's good for another three years while TO continues to suck.
 


I'm likin Stock, just cause he brings an innocent goofiness to the hi-lights. He'll be better and better as he gets experience.
I dont like Ferraro though, he seems to be angry at all times, and he just seems like one of those unstable small men who are mad that they are short. All of that from hearin him and seein him on Tv. Maybe I should be a psychiatrist :)
 


re: no PBP sound...

Note to self: Try watching a true 5.1 HD broadcast with the centre speaker unplugged. Heard it works well. Game action remains in front (L&R), with crowd noise in the surrounds. Depending on the network and audio mix, there might be a bit (or a lot) of PBP spillover to the L&R speakers. Course I heard about this method a while ago, so things might have changed. Still, it's worth a shot.
 


Checked Caps/Flyers on both NBC and TSN with centre channel unplugged...and...no Pierre! No Eddie O! Game sound and crowd noise coming through the other speakers. It's a beautiful thing. A beautiful thing I tells ya. Crosby.
 


I see all these Albertans talking about how much they hate the Leaves and like the Habs style of play; let's see how much they like it if Mtl's good for another three years while TO continues to suck.

I sure as hell will. My mom's from Montreal, and I'm just the right age to have watched the Oilers fall apart and Habs pull together that WTF run as part of my formative hockey-viewing years -- my Oilers fandom was suppressed early on, only reawakened in '97 during that classic series with the Stars. An awesome Habs team from now 'til all the kids become UFAs in five-ish years is just fine by me.
 


So close and yet so far...

Trying it again for the Habs/Bruins. Success on one hand as Millen has been silenced. Woo hoo. On the other hand, the audio mix by CBC isn't nearly as entertaining as NBC. Crowd noise/game action is constantly fluctuating up and down in volume. Why can't it stay at a constant level? Anyway, it's extremely distracting...to the point I'll probably have to turn Millen back on. Ugh. Scratch that. I'll choose options "c) none of the above". Where's that remote...
 


I see all these Albertans talking about how much they hate the Leaves and like the Habs style of play; let's see how much they like it if Mtl's good for another three years while TO continues to suck.

Montreal being good and Toronto sucking would certainly be a disorienting novelty in NHL hockey. I can't imagine how we'd cope.
 

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