Remember the “bug game”? Baseball fans sure do, though perhaps not exactly the way the history is recounted in this very funny spot for ESPN’s Baseball Tonight (via Wieden+Kennedy in New York).
A late-inning Yankees lead over the Indians in a divisional-playoff game last year turned into an extra-inning win for Cleveland after a swarm of bugs descended on Jacobs Field and disrupted play. What caused this plague of midges? At the time, announcers spoke of the effect warm weather was having on the bug-breeding grounds around Lake Erie.
But the real, now-it-can-be-told story (according to this commercial,
anyway) is that it all began when John Kruk, former big-league player and
current ESPN baseball analyst, accidentally unearthed an old briefcase of
his that had somehow been buried alongside the playing field. When Kruk
opens the case, a swarm of bugs rises from the carcass of an egg-salad
sandwich he’d left in there all those years back, and the rest is baseball
The spot works especially well because fans can easily imagine a character
like Kruk doing something of this sort (and, for that matter, eating the
ancient sandwich once he’s reunited with it). He performs his role here with
an admirable deadpan, sustaining the straightfaced tone set by the onscreen
identification of this farce as a “Dramatization.” In the process, ESPN
stamps its wiseacre brand on one of the oddest episodes in baseball history.
OK, maybe the bugs didn’t really emerge from an ESPN analysts’s briefcase,
but fans will take away the point that they haven’t fully experienced a
great moment in baseball if they haven’t seen ESPN’s take on it. And, of
course, the basic concept is highly elastic, allowing ESPN to insert itself
into any number of moments in baseball history if it chooses to do so in
subsequent spots. –Mark Dolliver