Friday, August 04, 2006

Weighing in on Reghi

Michael Reghi was canned as the Cavaliers TV announcer this week, to be replaced by longtime Pistons voice Fred McLeod. And, boy has there been hell to pay since.
Never in my recent recollection has the dismissal of a TV play-by-play man created so much static among a fan base. Even the media is getting in on the act, as The Plain Dealer's Bill Livingston devoted an entire column to panning the move Friday.
Overnight, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert went from trustworthy keeper of the LeBron flame to insufferable Pistons sycophant who wants to turn Cleveland into a far southeastern suburb of Detroit.
It's so Cleveland to immediately start vilifying owners and front office pillars the instant something undesirable happens. Like elephants, we don't remember all the peanuts we were thrown, we just remember the mouse that scared the legs out from under us.
Reghi didn't deserve the boot, certainly not with less than two months before the start of training camp. But it's a sad fact of life in sports television.
The sports TV scene, I think, is filled with very solid sports broadcasters who can't find stable work. Competent mike-men like Andy Baskin and Les Levine are sent scrambling for work while we continue to be subjected to the "Leave It To Beaver" antics of the terminally hokey Matt Underwood on Indians radio broadcasts.
Reghi now joins the list of sportscasters looking for a game day gig. There just aren't that many to go around, and while he waits, he offers his natural exuberance to the nightly Browns training camp show on SportsTime Ohio.
But the Reghi move isn't totally a shoulder-shrug "whaddya gonna do?" moment. The Cavs certainly did not handle it in the best way. They should have announced it early in the offseason to give Reghi time to line up another play-by-play job. Now, he'll likely have to do fill-in work in other cities and on regional ESPN broadcasts.
Adding fuel to the anti-Gilbert sentiment that followed the move is the knowledge of what Cleveland is losing, and what they are gaining in McLeod.
Reghi was enthusiastic without being a homer. He was knowledgeable without being a know-it-all. He teamed well with old-school ex-players (Austin Carr), new-school ex-players (Mark Price, Scott Williams) and ex-coaches (Matt Guokas) equally well.
For my money, the Reghi-Guokas tandem was as good a TV broadcast duo as Cleveland sports has ever had. Too bad they covered some unbelievably bad Cavs teams.
Above all, Reghi genuinely cared about the Cavs, and loved his job. Even when the Cavs were the armpit of the NBA, he never viewed the job as beneath his excellent talent. You can't say that for every broadcaster who has come through these parts (anybody remember the ill-fated Jim Gray experiment?)
Meanwhile, McLeod arrives in town with an accomplished resume that includes 22 years behind the microphone for the Pistons. No doubt he'll be able to do the job with style. There's also no doubt that his tone is far more that of a team PR mouthpiece than Reghi's was. Even though Reghi loved his job, and considered the Cavs his number one team, he still didn't back away from criticizing the team when needed.
McLeod comes in with a reputation that would appear to be far more team management-pleasing than colleague-pleasing. Unfortunately, mouthpieces cleverly disguised as impartial media members is nothing new.
We all wish Casey Coleman the best as he continues to battle cancer, but let's be honest about why he succeeded Nev Chandler as the Browns' play-by-play man in the 1990s. It sure wasn't his deft playcalling skills.
As the years pass by, I even think Tom Hamilton is starting to resemble an Indians mouthpiece far more than an impartial observer.
In an era where players routinely get arrested for everything from punching their wives to smoking weed, in an era when media saturation is omnipresent and media criticism comes from all directions, the defense mechanism of pro sports teams has been to control whatever media dissemination they can. Call it the "Butch Davis factor." The former Browns coach saw to it that he was surrounded by yes-men and that his weekly television show was an endless parade of back-scratching and softball questions, regardless of the previous game's outcome.
Objectivity makes team leaders itch. Cheerleaders -- the kind with big breasts and skimpy outfits, and the kind with microphones and five o'clock shadow -- are far more comforting when you have an image to protect.
Dan Gilbert is apparently buying into that notion, hook, line and sinker. Lost in the shuffle is the game experience of the fans who want to know what's really going on, not just how great the team is or how bad the refs are.
Unfortunately, that is what we are losing in Reghi, and that's what we are gaining in McLeod.
Reghi will land on his feet. I'd love to see him take over the Cavs radio duties when Joe Tait retires. But that will require Gilbert to back off his PR-heavy attitude.
In the meantime, Gilbert has clutched the Cavs' TV broadcasts close to his chest. Along with everything at The Q, the Cavs TV broadcasts are now going to become a part of the "Cavs experience." That means lots of excitement, but little in the way of objective analysis.

1 comment:

Zach said...

Your comment about Hamilton is well-taken. Tonight he said the Indians were the team "no contender wanted to face." I waited for the remark that qualified this remark as sarcasm. It never came.
Why has Joe Tait been so popular? Because he calls it like it is. Jim Donavon (with the Browns) calls it like it is. Having honesty and accountability goes a long way.
And fans are a lot more perceptive then owners think. PR guys like Underwood do nothing but irritate real fans. We know when we are being patronized, and guys like Underwood and Hamilton (who is critical of everyone and everything not Indians-related)hurt the Indians. Reghi and Carr were great. Yes Carr is a Cavs fan. But he doesn't sugarcoat it when the team blows a game. Reghi was exciting, but not above knocking the Cavs.
That's honesty. That's what is needed.