Eagles' ouster of Dan Baker as PA announcer is cause for reflection

Posted: May 09, 2014

SOMETIMES, change just feels like something that is routine - a necessary evolution to adapt to the times.

Then there are changes that make you look inward and think about your position in the status quo.

Yesterday, to me, the Eagles made a change like that when they announced that they were letting go of longtime public address announcer Dan Baker after 29 seasons, during which he never missed a game at Veterans Stadium or Lincoln Financial Field.

"Dan is the ultimate profession and even though he was disappointed with the direction we are heading, he was accepting of our decision to make the change," Eagles president Don Smolenski said in a release. "We are very appreciative of his dedication and service.

Through the Eagles, Baker thanked the organization and the fans for the "privilege of announcing 29 great years of Eagles football." He is too classy an individual to have done anything less.

It's not that Baker did anything wrong or slipped up. There was no fan outcry for the Eagles to replace him.

His performance is still solid enough that he remains the Phillies' PA announcer, a position he's held since 1972. He is the longest-tenured PA announcer in major league baseball.

But the NFL game-day experience in 2014 is light-years from the experience in 1985 when Baker began his Eagles tenure at the Vet.

"As the game-day experience continues to evolve with expanded audio and visual enhancements, the game-telling experience is no longer the responsibility of a single person," Smolenski said. "It is a true multimedia experience."

The Eagles did not say why Baker could not have been a part of the multimedia mix. He was just a victim of the changing times.

The reasoning seems similar to why the Phillies abruptly pulled the microphone from TV announcer and color commentator Chris Wheeler after nearly 4 decades.

As someone who also works in the sports industry, I am aware, after the departures of Wheeler and now Baker, of my mortality as a sports columnist in Philadelphia.

It doesn't feel as if it's been nearly 2 decades, but for confirmation, all I have to do is compare the picture running with this column to the one that ran with my first column in 1995.

Some days, I feel old.

When I entered this profession in 1988, I wasn't that much older than the high school athletes I covered in Howard County, Md.

I could relate on their level. Many of their interests were the same as mine.

Now, there are athletes I covered in high school, such as NFL players Tiki and Ronde Barber, former Eagles return man Vaughn Hebron, NBA player Sam Cassell and NHL player Marty Reasoner whose professional careers are over or soon to conclude.

On Monday, I covered a news conference for Sixers point guard and 2013-14 NBA rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams, who was born almost 4 years after I got my first newspaper job.

I can't imagine how a conversation between Carter-Williams and me on anything besides the Sixers or the NBA would go. He would likely find my 9-year-old daughter a more engaging conversationalist than me.

With Baker and Wheeler being fired for no apparent reason except they got too old, something I started thinking about when Tiki Barber retired in 2006 hits home again.

Everybody in sports, except for owners, has a limited shelf life.

That time frame is a lot quicker with athletes because the nature of what they do is so connected to their bodies' breaking down.

But while the process is slower for the periphery people in sports such as a broadcaster, a PA announcer and, yes, even a columnist, it ultimately will play out the same way.

Sooner or later, and I know some of you would prefer sooner, the sports world will move past my capability to perform my job adequately for the Daily News.

Each new generation of athletes pushes me a bit further out of my comfort zones.

I'll know and understand the games well enough to write about them until I'm in my grave.

But I've never thought of sports as the games. I've always believed sports were about the people involved in the games, from the players to the fans.

To effectively write about people, I believe you have to understand people, and, realistically, each year more people I understand are leaving sports and being replaced by people with whom I have less and less in common.

It is the nature of this business, but really, it is the nature of life. The next generation can be held off for only so long.

Eventually, the landscape will change so much, I will not be able to relate enough to write to the standards I expect of myself.

It's inevitable.

Each day, the road gets shorter to the moment when someone at the Daily News tells me, as the Eagles told Baker, that they've decided to go in another direction.


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|