July 13, 2011
In an All-Star game that featured overmatched American League hitters melting down at the hands of the powerful National League pitchers, jack-of-all-trades entertainer Justin Timberlake proved to be the most talked-about participant on an otherwise tame broadcast. While being interviewed by Mark Grace to promote his upcoming film "Friends With Benefits," Timberlake went off the reservation just a bit when it came to FOX broadcaster Joe Buck.
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Joe Buck: We go down for a visit with a special guest, here's Mark Grace.
Mark Grace: I'm down here in the pool area, with the star of the upcoming comedy, "Friends With Benefits." Welcome Justin Timberlake, how ya doin' brother?
Justin Timberlake: Joe Buck, you're calling a great game, Joe!
Joe Buck: Thanks, Justin.
Justin Timberlake: Just a classy guy-
Joe Buck: Thanks.
Justin Timberlake: -with a classy voice.
Man, oh, man: If hosting "Saturday Night Live" and starring in "The Social Network" and being part of Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction weren't enough to break Justin Timberlake out of the boy-band stereotype in the eyes of American men, his later praise of beer as the king of baseball concessions during the interview certainly was. We agree with Justin: Beer IS awesome.
You'd have to hear Timberlake's inflection for yourself, but it sure seemed like he was wearing his sarcastic pants when he praised Buck for calling a great game. Why? Because nobody outright praises Joe Buck. There are two types of people in the world: Those who can't stand his unenthusiastic approach to baseball broadcasting and those who reluctantly put up with it because they're too lazy to mute the television.
Here's a few more thoughts on Tuesday night's FOX broadcast:
• As for the scattered interviews during the broadcast, I can at least say that Grace and co-broadcaster Eric Karros were at least good baseball players in their time. They are, however, terrible analysts and even worse interviewers, seemingly leaning on their subjects to provide both the answers and the questions. I cannot believe I am desperately longing to see Ken Rosenthal pop up in the dugouts with his microphone and bow tie instead of those sad ex-players.
• Having Joe Buck and Tim McCarver talk about the players' personal lives and histories. This is a terrible idea. They come off sounding like ninth-grade teachers reading dry copy out of a U.S. history textbook; I'm not quite sure Joe Buck has ever even met half of these guys.
Here's a better idea: Why not let players speak for themselves? There's no need to step on the play-by-play, but there is room in the All-Star game for quick hits from players who are miked up, similar to the creepy interaction Heath Bell(notes) had with those young fans down the left-field line. Just take out the whole Tim McCarver part of the broadcast and boom, the director has freed up a whopping 45 minutes of airtime.
• As for the players putting in effort to win, we certainly don't want to see our team's stars nearly getting hurt just to win an exhibition game. But we do want to see them try and we also want to see them have fun doing it. It's one of the hardest things to suss out while sitting in one's living room: Are the players enjoying themselves? Or is there a fleet of limousines waiting outside the players entrance waiting to whisk away the starters after the fifth inning?
With that in mind, kudos to Blue Jays superstar Jose Bautista(notes) (who somehow doesn't deserve the AL midseason MVP in Tim McCarver's oh-so-analytical eyes) for putting his own health on the line twice in one night. During the second inning, Bautista ran full speed to catch a fly ball off Brian McCann's(notes) bat that was tailing into foul territory, then slid feet first towards the wall to snag it for an out. In the fourth, Bautista killed a two-out AL rally by blowing right through third base on an Adrian Beltre(notes) single and coming face-to-face with McCann at home plate. Although Bautista neglected to go the Pete Rose route, he did make solid contact with McCann.
• Bautista's sliding catch proved to be an important out for Yankees reliever David Roberston. Yes, David Robertson(notes) pitched in the second inning of an All-Star game. Can you believe how odd it must have been for him to enter a scoreless game in the third inning? Is there some sort of psychological barrier for a late-inning guy to come in so early? I always assume that seventh/eighth inning guys have gameday rituals that involve them doing mindless things like sudoku or listening to Nickelback for two hours before they really start to get their head in the game.
• Cheers to Home Run Derby participants Adrian Gonzalez(notes) and Prince Fielder(notes) for saving us from witnessing the third All-Star game in a row without a home run, with Fielder's three-run-dong essentially being the game-winning hit. In a year where everyone is talking about offense being down, it's nice to see some moonshots in a hitter's park. Because gosh, two All-Star games without a home run is like a FOX telecast without inane previews for terrible television shows. Save us, Timberlake!