Bob Carpenter is a long-time sportscaster and current television play-by-play announcer for the 2019 World Champion: Washington Nationals. Carpenter is in his 15th season with MASN and the Nationals, and his 37th in Major League Baseball. He has also handled a variety of sports for USA Network, including pro soccer, college basketball and football, PGA Golf (including The Masters) and professional tennis (including the U.S. Open). Carpenter announced numerous soccer matches at RFK Stadium, starting as the TV voice of Team America in 1983, and worked several matches in D.C. during the 1994 World Cup.
Follow Carpenter on Twitter here.
FCP: Have you ever broadcast a live event from a remote location?
· If so, what were the challenges and what did you do to overcome them?
· If not, are you preparing for the possibility you’ll have to do remote play-by-play this year, and if so, how? Are you watching the ESPN remote announcing of Korean games?
Carpenter: I announced the 1982 World Cup Soccer games from Spain at the ESPN studios in Bristol, CT, in 1982. Bob Ley was play-by-play and I was analyst. It was challenging because we could only see what the international feed was showing us, so we had to improvise a lot while not being able to see the entire field. We still had to be factually sound and entertaining while working under these unusual circumstances. Evidently, we pulled it off and I considered it a great learning experience on how to improv and handle a different broadcast scenario. When I did the USA-hosted World Cup in ’94 for ESPN at five different venues, it was easier and much more enjoyable.
It should help me in doing the Nationals games because, starting July 23, we’ll be calling all games, home and away, from our TV booth at Nationals Park. We already have had 40” monitors in our booth for several years so we will rely on them when we have to broadcast away games. The absence of crowds and the noise they make will be an unusual hurdle to overcome, in terms of how to provide atmosphere and excitement when our team does highlight-worthy things on the field.
I have not watched any of the ESPN coverage from Korea.
FCP: If remote announcing is used and is considered at least adequate, are you concerned that it will become permanent on road games for the purpose of cost-cutting?
Carpenter: If remote coverage of road games becomes the norm, I’ll have a decision to make on whether I want to participate in that or not. At this late stage of my career, it doesn’t sound appealing at all. ESPN and Fox have, for a few years now, broadcast some college games with announcers in-studio. In my opinion, it’s a travesty and it’s training younger announcers to become robotic, as all they are doing is regurgitating what they’re watching along with the audience at home.
FCP: Have you been hearing much from fans during the COVID shut-down?
· Is it your sense that fans will return to baseball with their pre-COVID level of interest and enthusiasm or will a noticeable proportion lose interest either in part or completely?
· If there is a loss of interest, do you think it will be mainly from irritation at the owners and players for their negotiating positions, or more because fans, especially the more casual fans, simply have found something else to do and keep on doing?
Carpenter: I haven’t really talked to many fans at all during this crisis, and I think it’s foolish to speculate now on what their reaction will be once they’re allowed back in ballparks. Time will tell, but I have to think that during this time, the way owners vs. players went down during their contentious negotiations, some fans will abandon the sport. Baseball seems to be judged more harshly than other sports when work stoppages happen. I worry for the future of the game, especially in attracting younger fans. People have only so much money at their disposal, the pandemic has erased some of that, and I think all sports will pay a price.
FCP: What specific financial ramifications do you see for baseball as a result of COVID?
· For the Nationals as a result of losing most or all of their season as reigning champions?
· Future free agent salaries and bidding interest?
· Trend of broadcast rights fees?
Carpenter: Nationals fans, after suffering for many years (and even more for longtime DC baseball fans going back to the Senators), are still excited about the World Series win, and I would hope they haven’t lost their enthusiasm even though their defense of the title has been interrupted. I have to think that it will be a rougher time for free agents in the immediate future and, with players and owners at such odds recently, they’re in for an even tougher road ahead, especially if players sue owners for bad faith negotiations. Players won a big victory back in the ‘80s over the owners for collusion in holding down free agents’ salaries, but this time owners have the hammer, in my opinion. As far as rights fees, I have no idea, as they seem to go up and up no matter what happens. National and regional sports networks are desperate for live programming and have proven to be willing to pay dearly for it.
FCP: What impacts on baseball, good or bad, do you foresee from the growth of legalized sports betting?
Carpenter: I am against gambling in any shape and form, and don’t even want to think about how it could ooze its way, again, into baseball. Even though the Black Sox scandal was a century ago, greed hasn’t evolved much beyond where it was then, and it could further tarnish any sport.
FCP: A current Forbes magazine list of the 100 top-earning celebrities included 34 athletes:
o 9 NBA players
o 5 NFL quarterbacks and 1 receiver
o 5 tennis players, two of them women
o 5 fighters
o 4 soccer players
o 3 golfers
o 2 auto racers
o 0 baseball players
What does that say about the status and marketing of baseball with respect to visibility and appeal of players to sponsors and the general public?
Carpenter: Baseball is a team sport, with more “skill” positions than football, so I don’t think the Forbes list is a big deal. Football QBs are making most of the money in their sport, like star pitchers and hitters are in baseball. But our game features necessary “skill” at nearly every position (SS-3B-OF-P-C). Basketball teams have fewer players, so there are larger slices of the pie for those stars. Soccer is similar to football, where the goal scorers get the big money but other positions don’t. "Individual sports" athletes are paid equal to how much they win, so I don’t begrudge them their huge earnings. They don’t have long-term lucrative contracts like other sports; they “have to” win.
I think baseball does a good job of marketing itself; if the public wanted to idolize more baseball players, they would and sponsors would go along with that. Remember, baseball players have guaranteed long-term contracts unlike other sports, so they are rewarded for success in pretty spectacular fashion, even though they may not show up on annual lists of money earned.