To watch last night’s Sixers-Nets game on TNT, called by the legendarily bad team of Marv Albert and Chris Webber, was to enter a strange dimension in which the divisions of space, time, and individual humanity were all collapsed. As I heard it, Chris Chiozza was Landry Shamet; Tyrese Maxey was Tobias Harris; a travel call on Shake Milton was a foul on Jarrett Allen; and DeAndre Jordan was Taurean Prince, who also happened to be DeMarre Carroll.
By now, even a pretty casual basketball fan is familiar with the agony of a game called by the Albert-Webber pair, but last night’s felt like a new low. Leaving aside that the two are catastrophically boring—I go back and forth on whether they each compound the other’s dullness and ought to be separated to diffuse it, or whether the two are best contained in one unit, like some highly toxic fumes—there’s no real reason for TNT to keep offering its viewers a broadcast team so obviously unwilling or unable to do its job.
No broadcaster will be universally loved, sure. Alchemical things like tone and banter and rapport read differently to different people; what is grating overenthusiasm to one person can be something stultifying to the next. But the stripped-down function of a sports broadcast is information delivery. Someone watching TNT may want to be entertained or charmed, but probably what they value most is the service of knowing simple things like who just scored and who is on these teams and what the heck is actually going on. Evaluated entirely on that lone, minimal criterion, the Albert-Webber broadcast is extremely bad! Whether, say, an encyclopedia entry is written inelegantly might be a debate worth having, but what does it really matter if it’s filled with all the wrong facts?
That Albert and Webber have been forced to call games remotely this season due to COVID-19 protocols can’t be helping matters. TNT has doubtless equipped them with swanky at-home broadcast set-ups, but there’s no good substitute for calling a game up close or for the engaging energy of a fan-filled arena. Watching a game on a small monitor probably makes their problems of misidentifying players and zoning out of games—which both predate this season—more frequent. But their predicament right now is no different from any other NBA broadcaster’s. And like any other broadcaster, Albert and Webber are surely given lists of the players in the game and their numbers and headshots, and ample time to study those in advance. If they aren’t preparing for games, they’re bad at their jobs and should lose them. If they are preparing for these games and this is the result, they’re really bad at their jobs and should lose them.
The good news for the network is that Albert and Webber do not appear particularly attached to what they do and nobody is particularly attached to them at the moment. Therefore, I ask TNT to please take them off air—if not for my sake, then for the sake of Chris Chiozza, a decent man robbed of the valor he has earned.