Saturday, August 14, 2010

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Archer v. Spagnola: Or, a Modest Proposal on What (if Anything) to Do About "The Ranch Report" -- PART 1

[[Confessors:  This article and the one following appeared in slightly different form in February of this year.  At that time, I was laboring in relative obscurity with only a handful of visitors a day.  Since then, you have been kind enough to click over in greatly increased numbers.  I need to take a break for a few days, and when I heard Todd Archer a couple of days ago I thought it might be worthwhile to re-run this.  It is somewhat dated, and I have edited it slightly to bring it up to date.  I apologize to long-time Confessors who have already digested these timeless thoughts.  I'll be back with new material shortly.  Thank you.  -- Plainsman]]

When Mickey Spagnola was doing The Ranch Report, we all knew he was an employee of the Cowboys. So we always kinda didn't know what to make of his reports. Was this the straight stuff or was it the company line? He was always a voice-of-reason kind of guy, seldom had any really serious breaking news unless it was fairly minor – someone held out of practice for one reason or another. He came across as a pretty OK guy, and the Ticket hosts seemed to like him.

But I wonder if anyone had the same feeling I had: The Ranch Report usually brought the Hardline (and other shows it was on) to a gentle stop. The most interesting thing about it was Michael's sing-songy introduction. We'd either heard Mickey's stuff already on a Ticket Ticker, or what we were going to hear was not of much significance. Once in awhile he'd offer a tastier observation, but those instances were few and far between. There was never much banter or warmth between Mickey and the hosts.
Then the Cowboys moved on to a better signal – and perhaps more respectful treatment at the hands of the local hosts, or more money, or who knows why – and Mickey went with them. Todd Archer,  Dallas News Cowboys beat guy, was now reporting from the Ranch. I recall his first few dispatches as pretty good. Good energy, some interesting observations. Seemed to work well with the hosts. Mike seemed excited to have him on.

I would be interested in the observations of fellow Confessors on his performance over the course of the NFL year. I want to be fair. Archer is not a professional broadcaster and should not be held to high standards of audio professionalism. But the tradeoff we’re looking for here is that in return for listening to this press guy’s voice, we’re going to get some shinier nuggets than Spagnola doled out.

Personally, I was disappointed. His reports grew less informative, seldom offering the kind of "inside" stuff that one would expect from an objective report issuing from Valley Ranch. His energy level sank. His radio presence was nowhere near as vibrant as Spagnola's, for about the same amount of not-very-sexy information. Like Spagnola, Archer seems like a real nice guy and a knowledgeable guy, a sense of humor, too, and at least the various hosts didn't show the contempt for him that they sometimes show for third-party participants in the show.  As they had with Spagnola, Archer's Ranch Reports became an opportunity to punch P2 and listen to "All Things Considered."

Upon reflection, the reason for the lack of interesting information conveyed during The Ranch Report was obvious: Just as one could not blame Spagnola for respecting the source of his paycheck, one cannot blame Archer for (and I am speculating here with zero evidence) protecting the trust that gives him access to inside information he needs to do his job. He surely knows (or reasonably suspects) more than he’s giving us on The Ranch Report. But I feel for the guy -- he can't say what he knows, or pretty soon his Cowboy sources (the sources he needs to do his real job of sportswriting) would cut him off. So we probably need to give both Mickey and Todd a break, concede that they’re good at what they do, and regret that there is a price to be paid in the coin of broadcast discretion in return for a continued paycheck and/or continued access.

If you think I’m being too harsh, O my Confessors, let me ask you this: Would you rather listen to Cowboy talk from either of the “insiders” on The Ranch Report, or would you rather listen to Cowboy talk from “outsider” Michael Lombardi on the Musers?

[PART 2 from the archives, with some suggestions for livening up The Ranch Report, will appear in a few days.]

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