Gregg Zaun ought to retire. But no, not because the long-time catcher is having trouble getting around on the fastball. Zaun hanging up his mitt would allow the former Toronto Blue Jays backstop to do more TV - a guilty pleasure for Usual Suspects. The 39-year-old nephew of long-time Baltimore Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey has become a value-added tradition the past couple of autumns as he goes in-studio during Rogers Sportsnet's coverage of the major-league baseball postseason to do show-and-tell for Canadian fans.
Zaun has a quirky ease in front of the camera. His forte is showing the array of insider dope that makes baseball a wonk's dream. Saturday night, for example, he demonstrated the difference between the grips for the forkball (held further back in the notch between index and middle finger) and the "fosh" (held higher up the same fingers). Good work, although it was hard to get around the nasty big World Series ring on his left hand - courtesy of the Florida Marlins in 1997.
Zaun is also not shy about opinions. Saturday, he dissed Citizens Bank Field in Philadelphia for surrendering "cheap" home runs - such as the opposite-field short fly hit by Carlos Ruiz of the Philadelphia Phillies in the bandbox dimensions. Better yet, he seems to embolden host Jamie Campbell, who thrives next to Zaun. A lack of authenticity hobbled Campbell when he was the Jays' play-by-play voice on Sportsnet. But the pair has developed a nice chemistry that gives Campbell some cred.
Perhaps Zaun should talk to Kevin Weekes of Hockey Night In Canada. It's the second year in the announce booth with Mark Lee for Weekes, the former NHL goalie, and he still sounds as if he's working off cue cards.
There's no doubt Weekes can regurgitate coach-speak from the morning skate. But while Zaun elevates the jargon and bafflegab of his sport for listeners, Weekes seems mired in the pat phrases and chalk talk that players and coaches use to deflect nosy reporters. Plus, he's still recycling the Hockey Night cant about fights creating "momentum" and "firing up teammates."
If that's how Weekes truly feels, he should illustrate points with anecdotes from his own career. His calling card is that he played the game, but nothing Weekes tells us can't be said by some media hack such as yours truly.
At some point people must have stopped being mortified when someone said, "Other than that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?" Is there a statute of limitations governing when a topic leaves the realm of offensiveness and simply becomes historic?
We raise this because Hockey Night referred to the 40th anniversary of the War Measures Act during the Ottawa Senators-Montreal Canadiens tussle on Saturday. Host Ron MacLean was seeking to put the game in some historical perspective from that time in the Montreal-Ottawa axis. Play-by-play man Jim Hughson was making light of a fracas on the ice by airily suggesting they might want to invoke the War Measures Act to calm things down.
If you were raised in Fort St. John, B.C., (Hughson) or Red Deer, Alta., (MacLean), your perspective on said events might be different from those of someone who had an armed soldier on his street (Usual Suspects) or spent the night in jail (hundreds of Quebeckers).
Personally, we've moved on. As such, we were mildly mused by Hughson's boldness and neutral about MacLean's preamble. But others might have a less detached reaction - especially in Quebec, where taking public offence is an art form. (Witness the tempest over the Maclean's Bonhomme cover on the province's legendary corruption.) So, as long as CBC is tethered to federal purse strings -where Quebec's grievance theatre still packs 'em in - it might be wise to steer clear of bulletin-board material for the sovereignty squad.
Finally, we see that Wrangler Jeans is hanging tough with Brett Favre. Despite the, um, controversy about what Favre allegedly does when he drops his Wranglers, the jeans maker is still running ads showing the Vikings quarterback as a swell guy. Hey, their call. Apparently they didn't catch Bill Maher's little rant about Favre's peccadilloes the other night on HBO.
Now, Maher is a self-satisfied liberal punchline. But when even he scores yuks at your pitchman's expense, it might be time to button up for a while.