The video of New Jersey Nets play by play man Ian Eagle hammering broadcast partner Mike Fratello on the air during the 4th quarter of Saturday's New Jersey-Boston game became a viral smash Monday. The unbelievable nature of the video with Eagle calling Fratello "patronizing" and the awkward, uncomfortable nature of it all quickly made its way through the interwebs. In spite of the seemingly tense audio, a YES Network spokesman brushed the incident off to USA Today's Michael McCarthy as "all good-natured kidding." But what about the announcer at the center of this story? Eagle himself spoke on the matter to Bob Raissman of the NY Daily News and said it was all a joke. Here's the word from the Bird...
“People believe this is real? That Mike and I would go off on each other on the air?” Eagle asked Monday over the telephone. “Who in a serious fight would ever use the term gobbledygook?”
Admittedly, gobbledygook is a peculiar choice of words in any circumstance. The tone of the entire clip was rather serious, but Eagle claims it was nothing more than "busting each other's chops" and those outside the local Nets audience merely weren't in on the sarcastic humor...
“Every bit of that was a put-on. Not 40%. Not 70%. It was 100% busting each other’s chops,” Eagle said. “We do it every game. What happens sometimes is the local audience knows what we’re up to, but when something like this goes viral the unfortunate part is the familiarity goes out the window. There are people who just don’t get it, they’re not in on the joke. . . . Sarcasm is hard to comprehend, especially when you can’t see the broadcasters.”
“And that’s when you know you can go to that level of taking your relationship off the air onto the air and having fun with it,” Eagle said. “It’s unfortunate that in today’s world they can take a little snippet of a broadcast and make some grand opinions.”
So both Eagle and YES say that it was all a misunderstanding and a clever bit of deadpan humor that bloggers and other national media just didn't understand.
While that's a good story, and it's nice that Eagle addressed what happened, I'm not buying it...
Do I believe Ian Eagle and Mike Fratello hate each other's guts or Eagle is a bad guy? Of course not, he and Fratello are still two of the best basketball broadcasts in the business. Do I believe Eagle reached a tipping point and let out his frustrations one night on the air? Absolutely. Anyone who listened to the video in question and heard friendly sarcasm is not listening to the actual conversation that takes place. In spite of the video evidence, YES and Eagle and others can easily explain away the footage as much ado about nothing because it fits the pair's motif. That sounds like sensible spin, but it's spin nonetheless.
The explanation doesn't make sense when looking at the actual footage. The vital video is actually the one from the middle of the fourth quarter that shows Eagle and Fratello ribbing each other over the initial exchange. That piece of footage can then be compared to the viral dustup to see if they really are similar in their dry humor. Here they are once again...
First, the two talk about SlipScreenGate midway through the 4th quarter...
Then, later in the period, Eagle returns to the subject with a much different tone...
There's a clear difference in the two videos. The first clip contains the dry, sarcastic humor and ribbing that Eagle and Fratello have made trademarks of their broadcasts with numerous partners (though I still detect a tinge of tension). Conversely, the second clip has a different tone entirely. Several questions arise if we're supposed to believe both clips are truly "good-natured kidding." Why would Eagle revisit slip screens a second time after just bringing it up several minutes earlier? Why interrupt the game to talk about a mundane discussion from nearly a quarter prior?
Eagle's tone is different as well. The first clip sounds more relaxed, the second more serious and tense. Eagle's words are more abrupt. He's less smooth in his delivery. He references the audience to back up his indignation and brings down the fourth wall. (Gasp!) In short, he sounds pissed. In addition, if this was congenial banter, why is Fratello's first instinct to reply in a disbelieving way "I don't think so at all." The spin doesn't make sense.
In the end, this story won't likely haunt Eagle for all eternity (in spite of this second Zapruderesque breakdown, which I promise is the last). He and Fratello can laugh it off and move on just fine. The viral video was an opportunity for fans to have a laugh at the horrifying awkwardness of it all and even share pity for what Nets basketball is capable of doing to professional basketball announcers.
If Eagle is telling the truth though, this is the damndest, most convincing bit of sarcasm ever seen and he and Fratello are playing us all for fools. In fact, it sounds SO sarcastic, it almost seems like he's legitimately upset. About that...
Try living in St Louis! EVERYONE is blacked-out except East & West coast teams.
Yeah, I'll give you $125 to watch... NO GAMES... RIGHT!
Actually I'd like to give a black "eye" to selig and the folks at fox... The black out should be on joe buck announced games. He bores me and mccarver makes me nauseous
I hate when Saturday night games aren't on local tv. My Marlins were never picked by Fox, and that might change now, but no one wants to see the same NE teams all the time. Blackout is fine for the 4pm window, but not the numerous night games after 7.
@davidswinney are you freaking kidding me?? I'm really starting to get angry over this.
@awfulannouncing I'd really love to know why there isn't more restrictive territorial rights on the radio side?
@jonathan_norman Charlotte as you may remember gets blacked out with Braves, Orioles and for some reason Reds.
@kmo11 that is awesome! probably right eh @jonathan_norman?
@jonathan_norman I forgot they added a 4th team in Charlotte. ugh
@awfulannouncing NBA is just as bad; I live in NC, 2 hrs from Charlotte, yet the Bobcats train wreck is blacked out.
@awfulannouncing Here in Charleston on satellite we are blacked out from Bobcats. Have to get NBA package. We get the Hawks instead.
@awfulannouncing I'm blacked out in NYC on MLB.tv from Mets/Yankees but Dish Network doesn't carry the channels their games are on!
@awfulannouncing san diego, just because it's san diego
@awfulannouncing In NBA news, in northern CT, I'm considered part of the Celtics and Nets (??!?!) home markets, but not the Knicks.
@DanSparano That at least makes sense. How is "near Hartford" part of the Nets home market and not the Knicks??
@awfulannouncing I'd have to put Southern Illinois in there as well. Blacked out: White Sox, Cubs, Cardinals, Reds. REDIC
@awfulannouncing Astros (10 hours away) get blackout (along with Rangers), but Rockies (8 hours away) do not get blacked out in Lubbock, Tx
@awfulannouncing vegas is perhaps the worst -- Blacked out by A's, Giants, Dodgers, Angels, Padres and Diamondbacks. Yep. 6 teams.
@NickDevlin that might be worse than vegas- at least in vegas theres an abundance of sports bars /sports books you can go to
@BigTaterz1021 that is terrible. How can that be? MLB needs to take a look at that one. I feel for you
@brianbuck13 fortunately i don't live there; know several that do. they have to pay through the nose to get their tm impossible to get all
@awfulannouncing sure are because must fans can't get to many live games #expensive
@awfulannouncing with the regional sports pack on DirectTv you get around a lot of these blackout rules. & it's cheaper than Extra Innings
RT @awfulannouncing: Are MLB blackout rules one of the worst things in sports? Sadly, they aren't getting any better http://t.co/zeepdlmR
@awfulannouncing are the Indians the only MLB team w/ their own network? (sportstime Ohio?)
@awfulannouncing Greetings from Des Moines, IA...home of the Cubs, White Sox, Twins, Brewers, Royals, and Cardinals.
@awfulannouncing in Buffalo every mets and yanks game is on basic cable (7 hrs away) while jays (1), pirates & indians (3) are blacked out.
@awfulannouncing I'd love to live somewhere where every MLB game is blacked out.
@awfulannouncing 8 hours away in Baton Rouge. I would have paid whatever to get MLB.tv. Instead I was flat out denied access to my team.
@awfulannouncing Indianapolis? Brewers, Cubs, Whitesox, Tigers, Reds, Cardinals, Indians.. i think thats it.. all blacked out