Enberg’s Twilight

When Matt Vasgersian left the Padres television crew in 2009, I was pretty upset. In fact, that year it was easily the biggest loss in the entire Padres organization. Matty V. and Mark Grant had a solid chemistry: Grant would be a goofball, and Matty V. would make fun of him. It was like listening to a sequel to the film Tommy Boy every single game. However, Padres fans know first hand that all good things come to an end way sooner that you want them to. Vasgersian was always destined for something better, and we all knew it. Just like watching Adrian Gonzalez or Mat Latos, you knew they’d be gone before it mattered. Matty V. jumped to the MLB Network as a flagship host, and the talk around the camp became, “Who will replace Vasgersian?” It had to be somebody big, and it turned out to be much bigger than any of us ever imagined.

When they announced that broadcasting legend Dick Enberg was coming to our little town to call games for our little baseball team it seemed like we were getting Punk’d or something. Dick Enberg called the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, hundreds of NFL, MLB, and College games. He appeared in Rollerball, Mr. 3000, Heaven Can Wait, and Naked Gun! He was a national treasure, not Mark Grant’s babysitter. Which, is not an insult to Grant. I love that guy and hope he stays with this organization till the end.

Like an odd production of ‘The Sunshine Boys’ (Lou Novick-USA TODAY Sports)

Enberg immediately classed up the booth. Whether it was his decision or not, the days of Tommy Bahama button up’s were gone, and suit jackets became the standard. Mark Grant seemed honored to share the booth with Enberg’s soothing voice, and Tony Gwynn seemed to show up every other game almost out of respect.

Now, I don’t doubt for one second that Enberg signing with a perennial last place organization was more a slow retirement, than a desire to get behind Jorge Cantu. Who wouldn’t want to spend their twilight years in San Diego? Amazing weather, golf, laid back mentality, and a job doing something that’s probably so second-hand to Enberg he’s asleep half the time.

And, herein lies the rub. After the first season people started to wonder if Enberg was in fact asleep during the games. His silky pipes are a bit deceiving that way. He can snooze button his way through a nine-inning affair like nobody’s business. But, I didn’t care. It didn’t bother me one iota that he sounded a tad bored, and started to mess up player’s names. I mean 80% of the fans didn’t know who was on the Padres from week to week, so why should he? Sure, it’s his job, but he’s also DICK ENBERG. As the seasons wore on, so did his mistakes. He seemed to get more and more things wrong, and I believe for a few innings, he forgot who Mark Grant was. But again, I didn’t care, because it’s DICK ENBERG. He was choosing to end his career here, and I could not have been happier.

Sure, I heard the complaints and read the negative reviews, but like I’m sure Enberg does, I tossed them aside like Phil Hughes rookie cards. That is until recently when Padres Public posted an article so ridiculous I just couldn’t shake it. Now, you’re going to have to read at least the first half of that post to understand the rest of this one. I’m sorry to make you read more, but you’re probably supposed to be working right now anyway, so I’m sure you don’t mind.

This article rubs me the wrong way for two reasons:

1) Its title implies it’s going to be a respectful view of Enberg’s slow decline and perhaps his time has come to move on, but it is not.

2) The main complaint of the article is the most mundane non-issue of all time.

Let’s start with number one: You can respectfully ask a legend to pass the torch to a younger guy. Yes, that is something you can do. But, it’s not going to happen, and almost never does, because he is a legend. Unless Fox Sports fires him – which they shouldn’t – he will stay as long as he likes. That’s what happens with legends. Oh well, deal with it.

Which, leads us right in to number two: You should have no problem dealing with it BECAUSE THE CALL WAS ON TELEVISION! That simple fact deflates all the complaints. So what if he waited to make the homerun call? So what if he wasn’t looking at what the cameras were looking at! You saw it. WE ALL SAW IT! Every one of us knew it was a homerun and we didn’t need anyone, let alone Dick Enberg to tell us it was. That’s like a waiter putting your food in front of you, but waiting to eat until he says you can. If this were radio, and Enberg kept messing up calls I would understand the growing frustration. However, in this day and age with five different cameras giving us five different angles we can basically call the games ourselves. Having broadcasters in the booth while were watching it all happen is just fluff. It’s stimulus, exciting all the possible points of electricity one allows under the law. I’m searching and searching through the entire Padres Public article and I can’t seem to find a problem, other than the articles main complaint, which in fact is not a real problem.

It all reminds me of Jerry Coleman. Around 2004, it became pretty apparent that Coleman had seen better days and perhaps it was time to pass the torch. This was a bit more complicated than Enberg’s situation for a few reasons: Coleman is a Padre, he spent decades with the team, and he is considered the voice of the franchise. I mean if Vin Scully calls a game the way Hemingway wrote, then Coleman called a game the way Hemingway drank. But, the biggest difference is Coleman was on the radio. Messing up calls on the radio is a lot harder to get through than television. You’re relying on someone’s verbal description to explain everything. Sure, Leitner could bail him out whenever he needed it, but in the early 2000’s the time was coming to either replace Coleman or add a third person to the team to pick up the slack. The Mighty 1090 wisely chose a third person and lightened Coleman’s load more and more, and now when you get to hear Coleman it’s an utter delight and always a little bit of a surprise. Like I said, Enberg does not mean as much to the Padres organization as Coleman, but Coleman does not mean as much to professional broadcasting as Enberg. As much as San Diego fans probably don’t appreciate that, it’s true. This causes the situation to still demand cautiousness and tact. The Padres Public article does go on to suggest that perhaps Enberg be kept on in some capacity, just not as the everyday play-by-play guy. They could handle it similar to Coleman’s eventual station, which might be the plan. And who knows, this could have also been Enberg’s plan all along; slow retirement ending with him just hosting “A Cup of Coffee with Dick Enberg” (which by the way is an absolute joy of a show).

I think sometimes Padres fans and media alike get a little too big for their britches. We are lucky to have someone of Enberg’s status even sniff our broadcast booth. We don’t deserve anything. We haven’t won anything, our team never spends money on top tier players, and San Diegans barely show up to games. You want to get Enberg to pass the torch? Don’t mask your weak complaints under the banner of a respectful shift. Where does anyone get off complaining that a 78-year old man saw something incorrectly? Get over it, and get on board. How about we worry about fielding teams worth remembering before we do anything else.

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