Here's something none of you ever think about, something we take for granted in this cyber-age we live in. It's the lovely disclaimer you hear during a sporting event (on TV or radio), usually late in the game. What is it, you ask?? Just this:
"The announcers for this game have been approved and contracted for by (fill in the blank)".
We hear this all the time. But, what's the reason for it? Ah, fellow FanNationers, that is a mystery. That is, until now. I'm about to tell you the REAL backstory behind this. And it starts with a bald-faced lie...
(At this point, I should tell you much of what I'm about to write comes from a Sports Illustrated article written in 1974. I remember seeing the article, but I've forgotten what issue it appeared. Since Time Warner owns SI--and also owns FanNation as well--perhaps they can help me by researching the SI archives. I'm NOT making any of this up. The article does exist. Anyway, to our story...)
Shelby Whitfield works for Westwood One today, but back in the Sixties he was the radio play-by-play voice of the "expansion" Washington Senators. (If you ever read my Nationals blog, you'll note the message board there is named for Frank Howard, who once played for the Senators.) Now, those Senators were owned by one Robert Short, former treasurer of the Democratic Party...and the same Bob Short who moved the Lakers from Minneapolis to L.A. in the late '50s. (This is called "background", folks. It's important to our story.)
So anyway, Bob Short was a tight-fisted prick when it came to money. He didn't want to lose any, period. And this leads us back to the aforementioned Mr. Whitfield. As he would later tell a Congressional committee investigating the FCC, he was instructed by Short to lie on the air in order to get people to come to a Senators game. One notable example (laid out before the committee) involved a rainstorm. Whitfield was told, in no uncertain terms, to say on the radio that "It's a beautiful, moon-lit night here at RFK Stadium as the Senators prepare to meet..."--whoever it was they played that night.
You read that correctly. Using the airwaves for propaganda. This is how morally bankrupt Bob Short was. As I'm sure you know, the Senators were hijacked after the '71 season to Arlington, TX (to become the Texas Rangers). Short's justification for this?? "Lack of crowds". Gee, ya THINK, Bob?? But, let's be fair. He's not here to defend himself. He's been dead for quite some time. How convenient.
Long story made short: after the hearings concluded, and (partially) thanks to Shelby Whitfield's testimony, the FCC mandated new rules to go into effect. Simply put, the rules state that announcers MUST state on-air if they're paid by the team(s) they cover--as is the case with the Orioles--or by the broadcast outlet covering the team(s).
So, the next time you watch a sporting event, pay attention to that "little" disclaimer during the game. Or better still, ask yourself: Are the announcers being easy on the team's problems?? Chances are, they're under orders to be that way. You're not so sure, are you??