More on Reghi, commentators in general
Posted by disappointmentzone on 3 August 2006
Terry Pluto of the Akron Beacon Journal wrote his column today about the Cavs unfairly (or so it seems) firing Michael Reghi, who had been the play-by-play man for Cavs games on FSN Ohio. I think Pluto captures the unfortunate timing (for Reghi) of the decision and suspicious Detroit-ification that has happened to the Cavs since Detroit native Dan Gilbert bought the franchise. If anything, it’s a good read. [Thanks Hornless Rhino for the tip]
One thing should be noted. Michael Reghi grew up in Detroit. For of his professional career he’s worked mostly in Ohio (Toledo and Cleveland) and he’s been with the Cavs for the last 12 years. If a set of circumstances would allow for loyalty to a basketball team to be cultivated as an adult, certainly working closely with one team and one city for so long are those circumstances. But fandom is usually forged at a young age and it probably isn’t a stretch to think that some small portion of Reghi still pulls for the Pistons.
Now, I have no problem with this. Reghi was a professional and part of being a professional is knowing how to separate one’s personal life from one’s professional life. If every night Reghi went home, fired up his TiVo, and watched the FSN Detroit broadcast of the Pistons while rooting wildly and passionately, as long as it didn’t affect his on-air broadcasts of Cavs games I would have no problem with it.
Which is not to say that other fans wouldn’t have a problem. Reghi was effective as the voice of the Cavs in part because he summoned what sounded like great affection and genuine interest in the team and the outcome of each game. This, in turn, made Reghi into a figure whose life, perhaps more than anybody except the players, rode the crest of the team’s success, reaching magnificent heights in victory and unthinkably deep valleys in defeat (I’m thinking of the post-Price, pre-James years). How could he not pull for a team under such circumstances? Reghi was successful because he was able to capture and express how a lot of fans felt, both in the moment (his long, mostly ridiculous attempts at rendering verbally a LBJ breakaway dunk) and in general (his sunny optimism before each game always lent credence to the optimism fans felt prior to each game). He never sounded glib or insincere.
But that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t insincere, or that he life didn’t follow the rollercoaster of the team. All along Reghi could have been a Pistons fan doing a great performance of a Cavs fan. But would this change anything? Probably only in hindsight. If one day everyone found out that Reghi actually rooted for the Pistons I think his legacy as the voice of the Cavs would be tarnished. If we never found out which team he pulled for–Pistons, Cavs, or otherwise–we would all assume it was the Cavs, and we’d be happy.
I think being a play-by-play man for a team (and not for ESPN or TNT) involves a pact–implicitly or explicit–between the play-by-play man and the fan that the play-by-play man is actually a fan himself. This is why teams often hire old stars to do the color commentary. We assume they are fans as well, and their level of commitment to the team is in proportion to their level of superstardom. This is a primary reason why Austin Carr is allowed to do color commentary in Cleveland. If he weren’t a star the Cavs would find an articulate, thoughtful, interesting former player to do color commentary for the local broadcasts on WUAB (there is still hope for Steve Williams on FSN Ohio). So of the two men working the broadcast, one is typecast as a person with a personal rooting interest in the home team (the former player) and the other does what he can to create the appearance–sincere or not–that he also pulls for the home team.
Which is the problem with bringing in a guy from Detroit to replace Reghi. Those people who thought Reghi rooted for the Cavs are going to assume–fairly, I would add–that McLeod, who has spent the last 22 years as a broadcaster in Detroit, is Pistons fan. It can be no other way. The first time McLeod says anything these fans are going to feel the pinch of disingenuousness. Which is a problem. If the new guy were coming in from Boise, Idaho, fans would feel less apprehension. Bringing a guy from the town of the team’s biggest rivals was not a smart decision irrespective of whether firing Michael Reghi was.
UPDATE: In an interesting twist, McLeod is actually from Strongsville, Ohio. He’s like the photo-negative image of Reghi.