BY LORI RAUDIO
Game one of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) between the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers was called by play-by-play announcer Ernie Johnson and analysts Ron Darling and John Smoltz. The dramatic game was filled with fair comments about both teams early on, but as the Yankees struggled, battled back, and eventually lost, the announcers’ comments swayed in favor and in defense of New York.
During the beginning of the game, I was impressed the commentators were equally talking about both teams. They would give a compliment to one team, calling the Yankees’ defense “Fort Knox in the infield,” and seconds later praising the “lumber hitters” of the Tigers. Favorable comments were also made about both starting pitchers, Andy Pettitte and Doug Fister. More examples of equitable coverage included video montages of both teams’ seasons and conversations with a member of both teams’ coaching staff in between innings.
The game was fairly quiet through the first few innings, but as play progressed biases became evident. The Yankees failed to produce a run after loading the bases in three separate innings, which turned the focus to the struggles of the Yankees players in the postseason. The announcers talked at length about their poor performance, discredited the good plays made by the Tigers’ Jhonny Peralta and Fister. While the announcers did mention Fister and Peralta, they seemed to be more concerned with the Yankees lack of production.
A topic that was revisited many times throughout the game was the postseason woes of Yankee Alex Rodriguez. He was benched the previous day against the Baltimore Orioles, and the announcers discussed his situation at seemingly every available moment. The camera frequently followed and zoomed in on him, even while the Tigers were batting and had men on base. Rodriguez seemed to be used as the scapegoat for the Yankees’ problems in the postseason.
Those problems continued as the Tigers took a four run lead, but the announcers kept expecting the Yankees to strike back, saying “this is when the Yankees do their best work against the Tigers.” The Yankees did exactly that, in dramatic fashion, in the bottom of the 9th inning. Tigers’ pitcher Jose Valverde gave up two home runs which tied the game. With the Yankees resurgence, more of the announcers’ biases came out, evident in their excitement. Raul Ibanez’s game-tying home run was even praised by one of the announcers as “the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.” They seemed to think the Yankees then had it in the bag, but the Tigers came back in extra innings to win game one of the ALCS by a score of 6-4.
An interesting note for the rest of the series involves Derek Jeter’s injury in the 12th inning. A broken ankle on a diving play ended Jeter’s postseason, and the announcers seemed very upset by this news. As the series continues, it will be interesting to see the stance the media takes on Jeter and the Yankees. If the Yankees lose, it could easily be blamed on the loss of Jeter. If they win, the team could be celebrated for winning without Jeter’s experience and leadership. Whatever the results may be, the remainder of the ALCS will be worth watching.