Patrick Reusse: No sugarcoating homerish ways on television

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 15, 2012 - 9:26 AM

Fox Sports North clearly prefers coddling to criticism when it comes to telecasts of Minnesota sports teams.

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Fox Sports North's Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven on the air at Target Field in May 2011.

Frank Mazzocco did the play-by-play and Doug Woog provided the analysis on FSN North's telecasts of Gophers hockey. They didn't quite fit the formula of rampant homerism that had taken over the telecasts of the Wild, the Twins and the Timberwolves on the regional sports network.

The Gophers were having another poor season in 2009-10 and were going through the motions in a mid-February game in Denver. Mazzocco reached his limit and uttered a few blasts toward the Gophers.

This was so far removed from usual comments heard on FSN that I had the thought while watching: "Frank ... this won't be well-received in the Homerville studios. I hope the repercussions are minimal."

They were not.

Mazzocco was not brought back for the 2010-11 season. He was replaced by Anthony LaPanta, a fellow well-trained in FSN's dedication to sugarcoating as the No. 1 option to host pregame and postgame shows.

Woog was shuffled off to studio-type duties, even though FSN still has not found an in-game analyst to provide the insights that the former Gophers coach offered.

The folks at FSN North provided other reasons publicly for replacing the Mazzocco-Woog tandem, but the action had to reinforce this idea for the other announcing teams:

Candor will get you replaced.

It was uncomfortable listening to Twins telecasts last season as Dick Bremer and, to a lesser extent, Bert Blyleven spent most of the three hours nightly trying to explain away the 99 losses as something other than a disaster wrought upon the public by the front office.

Apparently, they did have permission slips to denigrate Kevin Slowey. Injuries and Slowey's attitude -- those were about the only factors that could be identified by the long-serving duo for this fine baseball organization to have fielded the worst team in the American League.

And we can't forget that a Bremer-Blyleven telecast is always rich with the fable that there's a Twins Way of playing baseball: exceptional fielding, being smart and aggressive on the bases, and throwing strikes.

No matter that you have to go back to 2006 to find a Twins team that stuck to those principles ... Dickie B. remains shocked over boots in the field, screwups on the bases and 3-1 cookies from Nick Blackburn.

Try as they might, Bremer and Blyleven have been second-rate homers when compared to Mike Greenlay (analyst) and Dan Terhaar (play-by-play) on Wild telecasts.

I'm not sure which number is consistently higher: Tiger Woods' estimate of his putts that "lipped out" after a poor round of golf, or the total number of penalties per game that Greenlay sees as being missed against an opponent and/or unfairly called against the Wild.

And then there are Timberwolves telecasts, where play-by-play guy Tom Hanneman mostly gets out of the way to make room for analyst Jim Petersen's filibuster of hyperbole.

Petersen got the job in the fall of 2003. The Wolves were very good and he came off as candid. Then, the team's decline started and Jim Pete started working on his homerism. It was soon after a multiplayer trade on Jan. 26, 2006, that he went nuts in that area.

What was the evidence? He offered persistent praise for center Mark Blount, one of those overpaid NBAers who could respond to dog whistles.

Somehow, Jim Pete managed to fill many a night with positives during the recent Kurt Rambis Era, even as the Wolves went 32-132 in two seasons. It's no surprise, then, that we're into gushing now that this team finally has an intriguing product.

"The Wolves just have so much talent," Jim Pete opined recently, sounding as if he felt sorry for rest of the NBA and what it could soon be facing from this budding juggernaut inside Target Center.

Yeah, it's a friendly competition as to which FSN North crew can out-homer the next, but in fact, the announcing tandems do well in research with the public, the teams are happy to be coated in sugar, and the regional sports network sees it as a righteous approach.

Mike Dimond, a vice president and general manager at FSN North, was asked for a response to this opinion piece and presented it succinctly:

"While I respect Patrick's opinion, I feel that his perspective as a columnist is uniquely different than those of the fans."

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays and 10-noon Saturdays on 1500ESPN. • preusse@startribune.com

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