Broadcast Review: Braves Television

Note: this now features a poll at the bottom. Rate the Braves’ broadcast team yourself.

Chip Caray is the handsomest of the Carays.

On Friday, I submitted for the readership’s consideration, some basic criteria by which one might assess the quality of an MLB broadcast. In what follows, I attempt — perhaps with less modesty than I ought — to apply that criteria to the Atlanta Braves’ television broadcast.

Over the past week, I watched (most of) a pair of Braves games on Atlanta’s SportSouth — first, Julio Teheran‘s debut at Philadelphia on May 7th, and then Friday night’s contest against those same Phillies, but this time at Turner Field.

The broadcast team is composed of play-by-play man Chip Caray and color commentator Joe Simpson. Former Brave Brian Jordan joined the telecast on Friday night, as well.

Simpson is the stronger/-est member of this broadcast team (depending on whether you consider Brian Jordan part of said “team.”) He demonstrates little understanding of statistical analysis — he and Caray made unqualified references, for example, to how many RBIs Brian McCann had at Citizens Bank Ballpark and how Joe Mather was “batting .500″ against Cole Hamels (in six at-bats) — but he was helpful, I thought, when discussing pitchers.

In the first game I saw, Simpson made some interesting comments on Julio Teheran and Kyle Kendrick‘s respective arsenals. (I’ll admit now, I don’t have specifics to support this, but it says in my notes “good with pitchers” so I trust that’s how I felt.) In the second game, Simpson had some smart comments on Cristhian Martinez, regarding the quality of that pitcher’s changeup and how he (i.e. Martinez) was able to feature the changeup more in an extended appearance (such as this one, where he was relieving an injured Brandon Beachy).

Simpson and Caray both have nothing but great, almost pornographic-level enthusiasm for sacrifice bunting. Brian Jordan joined them in praise of same.

My friend Madeline will occasionally use the word handsome in a derisive way to describe a type of man who’s superficially handsome but also derives an undeservedly high amount of satisfaction from the words coming out of his mouth. Though she’s almost definitely never seen or heard or knows anything about Chip Caray, she’d very likely describe him as handsome.

So far as Charm goes, he and Simpson are the broadcasting equivalent of Two and a Half Men, making tired, facile jokes that apparently a majority of Americans love. The second of the games I saw, for example, was Girls Night Out at Turner Field, for which promotion (per the Braves’ website), “The Atlanta Braves… donate $5 of every… ticket to the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research.” No problems there, obviously. The package, however, also included a pink feather boa, which Caray made a show of wearing for the in-booth camera.

There’s a way this joke — a broadcaster wearing a pink boa, I mean — there’s a way it could work, I think. I don’t possess the exact vocabulary for describing what needs to happen for it to work, but it could. In any case, it didn’t work with Caray. “Look at me, I’m a heterosexual man wearing a woman’s garment” was either what he said aloud or in his head. Either way, that’s what I heard. And that’s not comedy. Vin Scully has too much class to make that joke. Boston’s Jerry Remy might make it — and would make it work, somehow, if he did.

A final note: Caray (and maybe Simpson, too — I don’t remember) refer to a number of players by their first name. This is an acceptable practice when the player in question is Chipper Jones. But Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward — whom Caray referred to as “Dan” and “Jason,” respectively — ought to be “Uggla” and “Heyward,” in that order. The discerning reader will regard this as the Inalienable Truth.

Regional Flavor
MLB.TV broadcsts, as the reader will know, omit local commercials, so there’s little to say here. There was some dicussion of the Civil Rights Game Weekend taking place at Turner Field over (duh) the weekend, and all three members of the broadcast team had something notable to say about that. It was also during this broadcast that I learned about the Negro League team known as the Atlanta Black Crackers.

Final Thoughts
As noted in these same pages, the Turner Field center-field camera is the best in baseball for getting a sense of a pitcher’s entire repertoire. Accordingly, there will always be reasons for watching games at Turner Field. Play-by-play man Caray, however, lacks the charisma of his grandfather Harry. Simpson seems to share Caray’s bland sense of humor, but also provides able analysis of pitchers.

Grade: 2 (out of possible 5)

Image courtesy the Columbia Missourian.

Thanks to Peter Hjort and Sandlapper Spike for their input on Braves’ telecast.

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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

35 Responses to “Broadcast Review: Braves Television”

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  1. SJ says:

    Please keep doing these. Would love to have opinion supported that some broadcast teams out there are absolutely horrible.

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  2. Transmission says:

    Chip was awful in his tenure as a Cubs broadcaster. He used what sounded like some sort of focus group-tested catch phrases, like “gloves, grabs, guns” to describe the act of fielding and throwing a ground ball. He called Mickey Morandini “the dandy little glove man.” And he demonstrated precious little knowledge of the game of baseball. I think the first time I heard someone describe a broadcaster as “prefabricated” or sounding like they came out of a FOX two-week how-to-be-a-broadcaster correspondence course, the person was referring to Chip.

    Having listened to a recent broadcast, I was struck by how much dead air there was on the broadcast – something referred to in an earlier post. This is a new feature of the Braves incarnation of Chip. I’d be a fan of the dead time, if I thought it was a pregnant pause between thoughtful words. It isn’t.

    Agreed, Joe Simpson is useful… when discussing pitchers.

    One of the weakest crews around.

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  3. Transmission says:

    Also, spot-on, in the comments about Caray being “handsome” in how his voice registers. It always struck me as a deal where he was slightly too impressed with the selection and enunciation of his words.

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  4. glassSheets says:

    My wife is a big Brave’s fan, so I end up watching this broadcast team as much as any other. Pretty accurate analysis. The Larry Boa comment was the worst part of that segment. I liked Smoltz when he was the third member last year. Brian Jordan is pretty new and hopefully just finding a rhythm; I was nonplussed by his efforts. Simpson is definately the stronger of the two members despite the mentioned lack of statistical appreciation provides good “scout based” insight. They also have dead air too often in the middle innings.

    The best part of Braves telecast on DirectTv extra innings package is when the game is on Peachtree they don’t actually show the commercials. So you see the camera guy zooming in and out on the crowd, players running onto the field and warming up, etc. The booth is quiet but the background noise is still picked up.

    Regional commercials (from a person outside the region): the Jerry Lee Lewis and Ludacris commercials get old fast.

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  5. glassSheets says:

    Can we get a poll attached to these for others to vote?

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  6. Temo says:

    If only you watched as often as I do, you’d have also picked up on Joe Simpson’s love of the opposite field single.

    If you ever get a chance to check out the Braves radio broadcast, featuring Jim Powell and Don Sutton, you’ll be much more impressed. MLB TV’s overlay option is the best thing to happen for me since Boog left for ESPN.

    Down with Chip Caray.

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  7. Ben says:

    Caray is just awful. His rise in inflection on anything hard hit grates at my nerves. Its almost like he is screaming at the viewer. Simpson is okay, the booth they had a few nights back with him and Glavine was pretty good, but maybe I think that because Caray was not there.

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    • Did Simpson take the play-by-play in that case? How’d he do?

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      • Temo says:

        Simpson’s better than Carey in play by play, but that’s not saying much.

        Glavine is very soft-spoken, to the point where you miss like 30% of the stuff he says, but what you do hear is often top-notch analysis.

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      • Temo says:

        FYI, Chip’s only under contract with Fox I think, so when Braves games are on Peachtree TV (there’s some weird split there, not sure how/why it works) you’ll get Joe and Glavine rather than Joe and Chip.

        Last year Glavine only worked Sunday games, in a 3 man booth with Chip and Joe, not sure if he still that now.

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  8. atoms says:

    i really enjoyed the pairing of joe simpson and john smoltz in the booth last year. simpson seems to rise or fall to the level of his cohort, and chip caray and brian jordan comprise a pretty mindless cohort. brian jordan doesn’t really contribute a lot to the conversation, but since he cut his teeth on the field rather than in the booth and comes across as a decent guy, it’s forgivable (smoltz was more or less a natural at color commentary; his pitching analysis was fantastic, as you might expect). caray, on the other hand, is just stilted, self-aware, and artificial, which is why i tend to favor the radio broadcast — jim powell is everything chip caray is not, and don sutton is always wry and insightful.

    also, powell has mentioned fangraphs during the broadcast on a few occasions and seems pretty open to sabermetric ideas, so probably has a slightly less emphatic orgasmic reaction to the sacrifice bunt. particularly one in the bottom of the first in a three-run ballgame.

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    • Temo says:

      Yea, Powell reads Fangraphs and Talking Chop, which is pretty cool. Braves radio guys are awesome. The TV guys were awesome too when Boog was there being all sabremetrical and stuff (and funny, to boot).

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  9. JunkStats says:

    Joe Simpson is a good announcer, though as you noted, his disdain for statistics that don’t involve the letters “RISP”, “RBI”, or “SAC” is a bit off-putting. He was excellent when teamed with Boog Sciambi; their old school vs. new school discussions were very enlightening. He seems to alter his sense of humor to fit his play-by-play guy, because he was less punny and more goofy with Boog in the booth.

    Chip is, well… Chip. If you’re looking for content, there isn’t any. His one big plus is that, since he is so excitable, he doesn’t have far to rise when he needs to rise to the occasion of an exciting moment. Witness, for example, his call of Heyward’s debut HR last year, which was brilliant. Other than that, he’s pretty irritating.

    Brian Jordan is not a permanent member of the team, but I loathe him in the booth. His analysis is shallow, trite, and (of course) wrong. Today, he advocated for the Braves to steal more often. Anyone who has seen that team on the bases knows the lunacy of that statement.

    Glavine is OK when he’s there. Nothing flashy, but an occasional interesting nugget of analysis. Overall, it’s not a good broadcast, but it’s better than FOX and many ESPN teams. 2.5 / 5

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  10. v says:

    The most apt quote I’ve read about Chip: “He’s like an interpreter who can speak with a French accent but doesn’t know French.”

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  11. Bronnt says:

    It’s a bit disconcerting to see that picture of Skip Caray while you’re discussing the quality of the Braves broadcast team. Before Skip passed, and when he and Pete Van Wiered (along with Don Sutton and Joe Simpson) were the Braves’ rotation for a broadcast team, I’d easily have taken them over other broadcast team in the league.

    It’s sad when your own broadcasters grate on you. Brian Jordan is pretty horrible. He doesn’t call many games, and you get the sense that he’s not watching many games except when he’s actually in the booth. There were times in Spring Training when he’d try to comment about some of the Braves minor leaguers in camp, and he’d be completely wrong, or have absolutely no idea who they were-when he actually was on the broadcast team for at least 20 televised games from the AAA affiliate just last year.

    Chip Caray is very excitable, which is a blessing and a curse. His failings in that area are well documented: “Base hit into left! Caught!” He also keeps trying to use colorful language or catch phrases that don’t always quite fit, notably “fisted.”

    Joe Simpson is the savior, and does two things very well. 1) He uses his access to team very fruitfully and gives viewers information we just wouldn’t have without him telling us, ie “Chipper told me that he’s still not feeling comfortable with his left-handed swing, so he’s spent more time in the batter’s box” or “Derek Lowe has reworked his slider after having a bullpen session with Roger McDowell.” The other thing is that he pays attention and knows the players very well, in that he can talk intelligently about any player’s abilities or a pitcher’s repertoire without sounding like he’s narrating his notes. Plus, whenever he gives insights as a former MLB player, they’re relevant and concise-basically the opposite of Jordan.

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  12. Bronnt says:

    Also, I feel ashamed at my team to know that people who aren’t Braves or Phillies fans watched that orgy of sacrifice bunting Friday night.

    Seriously, bottom of the first, no outs, and down three runs, and Nate McLouth is bunting? Bottom of the fifth, no outs, after four straight players have reached base, runners on second and third, and you have your #2 hitter (with a .353 OBP) sacrifice again? Tie game, bottom of the 7th, runner on second, and a pitcher who historically has problems throwing strikes (J.C. Romero), and McLouth is again bunting.

    It was an embarrassing night to be a Braves fan. Also, the umpiring sucked.

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  13. eric says:

    Great work here

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  14. Bobby Mueller says:

    Simpson may be the best of the group, but it jarred me when the Phillies brought in Kyle Kendrick on Saturday and his numbers were shown on the screen and Simpson said something like, “Kendrick is having a terrific season.”

    He must have been looking at ERA (1.83 currently), because Kendrick’s 5 strikeouts and 10 walks in 19 innings was just ugly. Someday I hope to hear an announcer point out the walks and strikeouts per inning BEFORE they look at ERA (or, in my dream world, maybe throw in a bit of FIP, xFIP, tERA, BABIP, or LOB%).

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  15. Bobby Mueller says:

    Now that I think about it, I’d love to see an entire broadcast down with announcers who were fluent in advanced statistical analysis. Maybe MLB Network could throw us a bone and do one game like this.

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  16. Anon21 says:

    Carson, you’ve summed up some of the reasons why I watch with the volume muted and the radio feed playing. Jim Powell and Don Sutton are an excellent broadcast team, though not super statistically-inclined. Anytime I take a notion to give Caray and Simpson another shot, they drive me away within an inning why making every other sentence about meaningless, infinitesimal sample size batter/pitcher matchup stats. Bizarrely, Simpson even brought up “day game ERA” for the respective starters earlier in today’s game.

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  17. Ak50 says:

    It’s stronger of two…. strongest of three.

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  18. Bryz says:

    “Base hit! Caught!”

    That and “fisted” are what I know about Caray from when he did the playoffs in 2009. Fortunately I was actually at Game 163, so I didn’t know about his follies until I talked with friends once I returned home.

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    • Anon21 says:

      If it were just occasional gaffes, it would be easier to take. Endearing, even. Carson gets at the real problem with having Chip as your everyday announcer: relentless mediocrity.

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  19. joedubatl says:

    I watch the Braves regularly. Both of the guys are real homers, which I’m okay with since I’m a Braves fan too. Joe Simpson has interesting things to say and I like him, but he likes his standard stats. Glavine works home games on the local channel. He’s has great baseball knowledge so he’s good to listen to.

    Brian Jordan is not well-spoken, but he’s miles ahead of when he first started doing this. Smoltz is a gift from god. He always lines up one really corny joke per broadcast, but I haven’t seen him do a Braves game this season yet.

    Chip Caray is no Skip Caray, who was the best. RIP. In fact, he’s a big douche most of the time.

    Chip is most likely to say things like: “THERE’S A DRIVE TO LEFT!!! ….and the shortstop gathers it in for the second out.”

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  20. The Ted, Section 437 says:

    Great feature; keep doing these.

    Skip and Pete on the radio was one of the best things a young fan could experience: they were great at providing a good play-by-play narrative while having insightful commentary and wry observations about the ballgame atmosphere.

    Chip really annoys me, as noted by others. It astounds me that even after 30 years around the game he can’t read a ball off of a bat well enough to know how far it’s going. Unfortunately, I suspect that being Skip’s boy will keep him around a long time. He and Joe also have the bad tendency of fellating average defenders. Alex Gonzalez is good, but he’s Ozzie if you tune in after a play (any play!) in the hole. Nate McLouth is below average, but they really compliment his effort every time a catchable ball falls in because Nate got a bad jump or took a bad angle. It’s not the degree of Fox never saying anything bad, but it’s not homerism in the mild-rooting sense… it’s far worse. Overall, neither of them really have the player’s chops to understand why some plays are good (i.e. why patience and drawing walks helps this team), and why others are bad (aggressive base-running, sac-bunts).

    And I really must echo the value of having Smoltz and Glavine around. Glavine’s been calling quite a few games this year (maybe half the home games) and he describes pitchers and their tendencies well without resorting to “what I’d do” or throwing out stories about his playing days. He’s funny without being forced. Smoltz is in another world as guest broadcasters go. I would love to see either of them in the future (even for another team) as a full-time member of the TV booth.

    Brian Jordan… well, let’s just say he’s a meathead and always has been. He wasn’t a smart or fundamental player, and that’s carried over into his (how-did-he-get-this-) broadcasting career. I think he allows his judgments of players’ personalities determine what he thinks of them. And with regard to the bunting and steals… he ends up thinking of the positives (free 90 feet!) without thinking of the negatives. Last year he criticized Chipper and a couple other Braves, and the AJC got a hold of it… basically the players he called out gave a “what does he know?” response. And when current players don’t really give a rip about an observer’s opinion, it doesn’t bode well for their insights to a larger audience.

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    • HRB says:

      I would say most players don’t give a rip what an outside observer thinks about them, and that’s not necessarily a criticism of Jordan (not disputing his other failings.)

      For example, Mike Schmidt has been getting on Jimmy Rollins, publicly, for years, about how Jimmy should use his speed more, make more of a level swing, try to line drive the ball instead of hitting fly balls, etc. (Which, incidentally, is what many other reasonable people think Rollins should do.)

      Does Jimmy Rollins give a hoot? Obviously not. Is that a criticism of Mike Schmidt? In my opinion, no.

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  21. Jaik Jarrkjens says:

    Ahahaha, “fisted.” I’ve never thought about hilarious it is that Chip Caray says that on air, perhaps because I was too busy being embarrassed that Chip Caray says that on the air.

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  22. Ken Bland says:

    I caught some Braves radio and television this weekend. Having enjoyed Skip Caray, Don Sutton (for the most part) and Pete Van Wieren (sic?), and Joe Simpson, actually, my adjusted standards were still untouched. Joe, who again, I’ve liked over the years made an outrageous comment about Kyle Kendrick “having enjoyed success as a spot starter this year”. He might even have said a great deal of same, but I may be wrong. Kendrick has started once. Today’s radio broadcast, between Jim Powell and Sutton was out of line. I appreciate Tim Hudson’s career, and maybe was a little winded from the fair buildup of Halladay-Johnson last week, but there were too many references to the headline status of Halladay-Hudson. Sure, it’s a very good matchup, but they made it seem like Hudson was as qualified to co-star as Lincecum or Johnson against Doc.

    But the thing I found most troubling was the quickness and narrow mindedness of Saturday’s telecast. Civil Rights talk was fine, being the theme of the weekend, but I wasn’t too keen on the gist of the discussion. Brian Jordan, 2 sport participant that he was may have some unique perspective, but he went on with a somewhat tired subject of African Americans in the bigs, lamenting the 8% rate that is. I figure there are 2 other angles to have been played. One, the greatness of the melting pot that MLB has become, or if they wanted to choose a problematic angle, the lack of African Americans isn’t meritous of monopoly of the discussion. I haven’t the numbers to accompany this, but it sure seems like White Americans are a lessening breed too, as international players, particularly Hispanics have come to be a very growing population. Perhaps I’m wrong, but the game is not as white as it used to be, just like it’s not as black as could be. Without data, I may be off base, but assuming my assessment is valid, Mr. Jordan went too far on a provincial trail.

    I can’t wait to see if a review of the Phillies telecast crew is on tap. Let’s just say, “Oh, Brother”.

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    • HRB says:

      As a Phillies fan, I can honestly say I mute the TV and put on the radio. The TV broadcast can only be appreciated as a form of (unintentional) comedy. If it’s not THE worst, it’s definitely one of the worst in all of baseball.

      The radio broadcast, OTOH, I would easily put in the top 3 of MLB.

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  23. Me says:

    Very entertaining article. Here a request, please do a review of the White Sox broadcast team. I genuinely feel like Hawk Harrelson is the worst thing to ever happen to sports broadcasting, in any sport, anywhere, ever. Ever… And I may be a homer, but I feel like Remy and Orsillo for Boston are in the top, if not at the top, of the class in MLB. Granted, I get much more exposure to them (though at least twice a month, by rule, I watch the opposing team’s broadcast), but they seem to understand the pace of the game and work very well together (though apparently Orsillo works well with anyone you put in the booth with him). They are not overly biased, which is something I appreciate. They give credit to opposing players, managers, etc. Anyhow, PUT ON THE BOOOOOOAAAAAAARRRRDDD, YES! HE GONE! I hate you Hawk Harrelson…

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    • Me says:

      Hahaha, I’m relatively new here. Didn’t realize there is a long a documented hatred for Hawk Harrelson among the community. Way to go Fangraphs.

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  24. Mike says:

    We should put together an All Star Team of highest rated announcers, as well as the Announcing Team from Hell.

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  25. Brad says:

    Love this article. As a long time Braves fan growing up with Skip, Pete, Don, and Joe, I think may have been spoiled. As others have noted, Chip is just frustrating and often wrong. And, the author does a great job of noting Chip’s infatuation with his own voice and commentary…among other things, his pronunciation of “Chicago” (and need to work it into every broadcast) and over excitement are very frustrating.

    Joe is Joe…he’s a great broadcast partner when paired with another talented announcer, but he’s not meant to carry the broadcast on his own. Plus, the combination with Chip just seems to go for the easy jokes and comments without much analysis or thought (e.g. dismissing advanced stats as being nerdy, feather boa jokes, etc.).

    I will say Chip’s one saving grace is his impression of his father. He definitely does it too much, but it still makes me remember the good old days of Skip and Pete providing effortless commentary with great subtle jokes and banter worked in without seeming forced (e.g. on foul balls in stands, he’d always say “a fan from [insert random GA or southern town] comes away with that one” with no basis). Plus, Skip’s pre-game radio Q&A show was hilarious…he’d get so frustrated getting asked the same questions over and over again. Awesome

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  26. Matt says:

    At least we don’t have JOE MORGAN!

    I wish they would let Don Sutton and Joe Simpson do the TV games.

    Sometimes I’ll just mute the game and turn the radio up and listen to the radio announcers. Unfortunately, there is usually a 2 second delay and I hear about the play before I can see it on TV and that gets annoying after a while.

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  27. Hello My name is Richard ,I am supposed to be a tea nut, enjoy the aroma & the tingling sensation of tea as the primary thing after waking up. I Gulp atleast eight glasses every 24 hours. By the way wonderful blog, Have a pleasant day.

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