A few months ago Daron Sutton, the play-by-play announcer for the Arizona D-backs and son of Hall of Famer Don Sutton, suddenly stopped calling games. No explanation was given on the broadcast, as on TV news when the regular anchor is away and someone is filling in. No “Daron is on assignment and will be back next week” from Greg Schulte, the longtime radio man called upon to take Sutton’s spot. I actually prefer Schulte’s play-by-play.
The D-backs had only existed as a professional team for three seasons before we moved to the Midwest, where I was no longer able to watch them, except for the occasional game on TBS when they played the Braves or WGN when they were at Chicago. I couldn’t see them play, but I could hear them, since I subscribed to MLB’s streaming radio, which may have been $15 for the entire season. I would listen to the home radio broadcast archive from the previous night’s game, since West Coast games always ended too late, and very often I would score the game on paper because I needed a visual. In those early years thousands of miles from Arizona, Schulte’s cadence and the local commercials sounded like home to me.
Back to Sutton … When several days had passed with no explanation from the D-backs booth, I scoured the Internet for the reason for Sutton’s absence. I happened upon a few stories that were mostly speculative. Something about his wanting to wear a tie and jacket instead of the team polo shirts, which sounds ludicrous to me and must be false, since I don’t know why anyone would want a tie over a polo shirt. Eventually, the D-backs front office provided a statement on Sutton’s suspension and indeterminate return, though it provided little in the way of explanation.
Recently, Mark Grace, former Cubs and D-backs first baseman and current color commentary guy, requested and was granted a personal leave of absence. I didn’t have to search long to find the reason, which I will not post here. So, the D-backs booth is a makeshift team of Schulte and whoever else they can get, including Hall of Fame broadcaster Joe Garagiola Sr., about whom I wrote a year ago, and Luis Gonzalez, fan favorite and the one who got the Game 7-winning, broken-bat hit off Mariano Rivera in 2001, when they still wore purple. Honestly, I prefer those teams over Sutton and Grace, though the latter was more palatable after Sutton was sent packing.
Something disturbed me about this whole thing with commentators. First, why do I care who’s calling the game? Second, is it any of my business what happened anyway?
The first point is easier. Talk to any baseball fan, especially one over forty, and they’ll tell you about their team’s voices. The D-backs haven’t existed long as a team, but their first set of commentators included Thom Brennaman, son of Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman and voice of the Reds, and Bob Brenly, before he stepped out of the booth and into the dugout in 2001 to manage the team to that World Series championship. Brennaman eventually moved on to Cincinnati to team up with his father. That Thom & Bob team had been my favorite, when the D-backs in a dismal freshman campaign won the heart of this fan in 1998. I’d never cared much for baseball prior to then.
When we were kids, Mom liked baseball, just as her mother, who grew up in Arkansas and may have been a Cardinals fan, though I’ve never asked. When I was a kid, before Arizona had a team, it was the San Diego Padres, since they trained in the spring in Yuma, but more often it was the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose broadcast on KCAL-9 we could get on cable. Becky and I didn’t care for baseball then, so we would flip through the channels with the VCR remote we had. It was a small remote that featured no numbered buttons. Just as if you were standing at the dial, you had to scroll through all the channels to get to the one you wanted. The VCR, with its slow-as-a-sloth computer in it, was a bit sluggish, so each passing channel would appear on the TV for a good second or more. I believe KCAL-9 may have been channel 23 in Yuma then. Invariably, as we trudged through the channels, Mom, who had been reading on the loveseat, would set her paper down and say, “Stop. Is that the ball game?” — as in the ball game I didn’t even know was on and wouldn’t have if not for our slow-as-molasses VCR but I must now watch, or at least listen to as I read the paper. The voice of the incomparable Vin Scully, unmistakably recognizable even if for only a passing second, ruined for Becky and me any plans of a show we wanted to watch. We’d set down the dilatory remote and be off to find something else to do.
As a subscriber to MLB.TV, I have the option to listen to the opposing team’s broadcast, which didn’t used to be an option. I’ve heard other team’s commentators, and while they might be good — some were awful — there’s still nothing like the home team’s broadcast. So, it’s hard when one or both moves on — or is asked to move on.
The matter of why I concerned myself with knowing the details of what happened is more upsetting. Why do I feel compelled to know what is clearly none of my business?
Sadly, I’ve been a part, in one way or another, of churches that have gone through various kinds of splits. They’ve all been different, but one thing has remained constant: most everyone wants to know everything. But there is perception and there is truth. Even those involved find it impossible to determine which is which. In most cases, it takes years to really understand, and even then, it’s typically only among those involved, as they’ve had time to process and examine their own hearts.
We live among a culture that is fascinated with its celebrities, and even more, to learn that the beautiful people don’t have their lives together quite as much as would appear. Recently, I listened to a Stuff You Should Know podcast on tabloids, where they mentioned that many of these rag papers are struggling financially and even closing down, ones like Star and National Enquirer, whose byline I stole for the title of this post, because the mainline news agencies have picked up the stories only the tabloids used to cover. I’ve found, anecdotally, that half the articles featured lately on USA Today’s iPad app fall into this category.
Our girls, at thirteen and twelve, are moving into, if they haven’t already, the years where they will be drawn into gossip. Whenever they mention something negative about someone at school, we remind them that we are to refuse to gossip and further perceptions about other people that may or may not be true. “How does it involve you?” Cindy and I will ask on those occasions. “Do you know the person? Are you concerned for them? Would you want others speaking about you the way you’re talking about them?”
Paul addressed this issue with the Christians at the church in Thessalonica:
2 Thessalonians 3:11-12 (NLT)
Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living.
Basically: “Nun-ya!” as we say in our home. Don’t concern yourself when it’s none of your business.
Whether it’s baseball commentators or something that hits closer to home in the church, we’re better off praying for the involved parties than furthering speculation. We ought to examine the plank in our own eye before pointing out others’ specks.