Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

How to make TV sports announcers shut up

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

Fox TV booth

Every year during the baseball playoffs, fans who spend the regular season with radio and TV broadcasts that are aimed directly at them end up being appalled by what a baseball telecast sounds like when it’s being broadcast to the entire nation. Even if the part of Joe Buck1 was being played by Vin Scully or Jon Miller, fans of the local team would still be pining for their local announcers.

But if you have access to a surround-sound system, you can silence those announcers. The 5.1 surround mix of most sports broadcasts2 sends all announcer voices to the center channel—in other words, front and center.

If you have a 5.1 speaker system, as I do, the next step is relatively simple: Unplug the center speaker. If it’s wired into a wall or ceiling you may have to unplug it at your amplifier, though mine’s right above my TV so I can yank the speaker wires out with ease. On some systems, this might not be possible, but you may be able to use your sound system’s remote control to lower the volume on just your center channel.

What you’re left with is the sound of the event, fans and field noises and the rest, but no words from the announcers in the booth or the reports on the field. (I’m also happy to report that this approach also tends to dramatically squelch audio from the most annoying commercials, too.) The result is, essentially, your own version of the Announcerless Game—it’s just you, the sport, and the crowd.

MLB At Bat
I streamed local radio via the MLB At Bat app.

Now that you’ve removed the announcers, you can opt to replace them with announcers of your own choice. The problem here is that in many cases, local radio broadcasts are ahead of what you’re seeing on your TV, so if you flip on a radio to watch the game, the announcers may be describing events that haven’t yet happened on screen. This was my experience during the baseball playoffs, for instance.

Fortunately, I have a DVR (a TiVo Roamio, in my case) and access to game audio via an Internet stream (MLB At Bat, in the case of the baseball playoffs). Due to buffering, Internet audio is always behind local radio and often behind local TV. During the entire baseball postseason, I plugged my iPhone into an external speaker and streamed game audio via the MLB At Bat app. (Another approach would be to connect a transistor radio to your Mac and use an app such as BatCrack to build in a slight delay.)

Generally MLB At Bat audio was actually behind game video on my TV, but that was an easy problem to fix: I’d wait for a pitch to be caught by the catcher, then press pause on my DVR. Once I heard the pop of the catcher’s glove on the radio broadcast, I’d press play. Sometimes I’d need to try this a couple of times, but in short order the two sources were synced up, and would remain so for the rest of the night.

With this approach, I could crank up the rich, surround-sound crowd noise if I wished, while also hearing the voices of my beloved home-team announcers3 describing the action. The only issues: Touching any DVR controls would cause everything to get back out of sync, so I generally avoided the DVR remote entirely; listening to radio commercials while watching TV commercials can be quite surreal and also quite cacophonous, so I used an external speaker that I could mute via remote control; and of course any shots of the announcers in the booth or interviews with people down on the field would be empty lip-flapping, as I couldn’t hear a word they were saying.

So the next time you’re watching a sporting event and hating the announcers, don’t get mad. Turn down or unplug your center channel and see if everything suddenly seems a little bit better.

  1. I think Buck is a competent announcer whose aggressively conservative style of play-calling will never satisfy ardent fans. He’s an excellent, intelligent killjoy. Who else would punctuate a dramatic NFL touchdown with the phrase, “No flags!”, tearing us away from the fun on the football field in order to note that evil exists in the world?
  2. The only exception I noticed during the recently concluded baseball postseason was MLB Network itself.
  3. I discovered that Giants announcer Jon Miller, a longtime ESPN TV broadcaster, often refers to what he’s seeing on his TV monitor, even when working on radio. Miller’s descriptions of the game matched the TV visuals far better than you might imagine.

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