Published Sept. 8, 2018
Sometimes, fodder for a weekly column presents itself.
I thought that when the Tigers fired pitching coach Chris Bosio in June for using racially insensitive language toward a clubhouse attendant, we had seen a new bizarre low for the organization.
I was wrong.
Turns out the Bosio thing was merely an appetizer. The full course was the “physical altercation” that TV announcers Mario “Face for Radio” Impemba and Rod “I See You” Allen engaged in following a ballgame in Chicago on Tuesday night.
This was a real knee-slapper, I tell you. And a bottom-feeding blogger’s dream.
The weekly question that I ask myself, “What should I force upon the readers?” was answered in a broadcast booth on the south side of Chicago.
But as usual, the take that I have doesn’t jibe with what I’ve been reading from the mainstream sports media in town.
So let me enlighten you.
Enough with the melancholy take
First, this wasn’t Paul Carey and Ernie Harwell tussling. Impemba and Allen are about as far away from that dynamic duo as you can get. Yet you’d never know it by the coverage this week.
I saw one writer use the term “affectionately known in Detroit as Mario and Rod.”
I’ve been in Detroit throughout the 16-year reign of terror that Impemba and Allen have held over the baseball fans in Motown, and not once have I ever heard any affection in anyone’s voice, or on the Internet, when referring to them as “Mario and Rod.”
Just because we call people by their first name, doesn’t mean we do it with affection. Mario and Rod are their names. In fact, I submit they’ve been called far worse more often than Mario and Rod.
Another lapdog wrote that the scuffle is basically a calamity, because the two announcers have been “in our living rooms” like family for the past 16 years.
Once more, I say, WHAT??!
You know who else have been in our living rooms? Insurance salesmen. And the cable guy.
Now, I might go along with the “family” reference, because many of us have pretty screwed up family members. Who have also been in our living rooms, by the way.
The way I see it, the shameful altercation is actually a gift—like finding a $100 bill on the street. It’s yours, free and clear.
A nifty little tidbit that was mentioned in an “oh, by the way” manner is that the contracts of both Impemba and Allen expire at the end of the 2018 season. Which means that both of them may have broadcast their last game for the Tigers. Already, it has been announced that neither will appear on the air the rest of the season.
That’s the gift I was talking about.
A great chance for a clean slate
The Battle in the Broadcast Booth gives the Tigers and Fox Sports Detroit a golden opportunity to part ways with the two enemies, free and clear. The timing of this couldn’t be better. There are only a few weeks left in a miserable season. How easy is it for the suits at FSD to let the contracts expire into the night?
You can’t bring one back and not the other. And I say that as both a statement of fact and in the same manner that a victim says to his assailant, “You can’t shoot me in front of all these witnesses.”
This is a great chance for the Tigers’ TV booth to be swept clean and end this charade of two men who detest each other, sharing a small space for six months, pretending to be cordial every day.
OK, so maybe it wasn’t overtly evident in the on-air performance. Maybe the two announcers were able to maintain a certain level of professionalism.
But this is hardly the first time that FSD has been faced with internal strife involving the affectionately-known Mario and Rod.
About four years ago, I’m told, and had been reported by Jeff Moss at The Detroit Sports Rag, FSD executives had to call Impemba and Allen in for a counseling session. The announcers’ off-air acrimony, the suits felt, was starting to creep into the broadcasts.
Folks I know who work on the FSD Tigers crew have also confirmed the uneasiness that the two men exude to those around them, because of their contentious relationship—which apparently stems from Impemba being disgusted by Allen’s lack of pre-game preparation.
So if FSD is aghast at the kerfuffle in Chicago, shame on them. You don’t bring a dog into the grocery store and get mad at the dog when he pees in the frozen food aisle. Frankly, I’m surprised that it took 16 years for the two announcers to come to blows.
But it’s happened, and now they should both be released from their duties by way of letting their contracts run out.
When Brent Musburger and Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder physically scuffled in the early-1980s, the two “NFL Today” personalities were able to laugh and joke about it on the air, after it was cleared.
But Impemba and Allen were sent home from Chicago on separate flights after Tuesday night’s incident. Think about that. FSD didn’t even trust the two men to be on the same plane together. Then, each man was called into the vice principal’s office separately.
That’s some serious acrimony.
So how in the world can we expect either announcer to be back with the Tigers in 2019? FSD would be fools to bring one back and not the other. The fans seem to be quite split on the matter. Some hate Impemba and like Rod. Some like Impemba and hate Rod. A lot hate Impemba and hate Rod.
Not too many, judging from the pulse on the Internet, seem to like both of them.
So to bring one back and not the other would create more distraction.
Like it or not, announcers matter
Ultimately, does it matter who broadcasts the games anymore? I think the voices in the booth still resonate with a lot of fans, for good or for bad. True, we’ll never see the days again of Harwell, Carey or George Kell, but fans are still passionate about who calls the games—even if the pickings are slim, as they are in Detroit.
FSD doesn’t—or shouldn’t—want to start answering questions about why they brought one guy back and not the other. They can’t bring both back. You really think that Impemba and Allen are going to patch up differences that have been coming to a boil for 16 years?
So the best, and easiest, thing for FSD and the Tigers to do is bring neither Impemba or Allen back, and start with a fresh look and sound in the TV booth. Sixteen years isn’t a short period of time—especially when neither man brings much to the table.
Which brings me back to the opening part of this diatribe.
This isn’t a time to mourn and weep. It’s not like the Tigers just lost two future Ford C. Frick Award winners.
The product on the field is rebuilding, so why not do so in the broadcast booth on the TV side?
Open up the windows and let the stale, hot air out. You’ll never have a better chance, FSD, to make a decision that will get you almost universal praise and approval.
Broom “Mario and Rod” and start fresh in 2019. If their legacy is that their last game together ended in a physical altercation, tough. They have to own that.
The baseball gods sent a peach here, I’m telling you.