How John DeMarsico made SNY shows go viral

On a sticky August night at Citi Field, near the end of a crucial Mets victory over division rival Atlanta, closest Edwin Díaz threw his...


On a sticky August night at Citi Field, near the end of a crucial Mets victory over division rival Atlanta, closest Edwin Díaz threw his final warm-up pitch and began his long journey. familiar from the right field to the mound for the top of the ninth inning. But something unusual happened: the TV show didn’t get a commercial cut.

Instead, the camera trailed behind Díaz as he walked through the bullpen door, jogged, and crossed the grass of the outfield. The trumpets of “Narco,” Díaz’s beloved entrance song, were piped directly from the stadium’s PA system to the broadcast, giving fans at home the feeling of watching it all happen in person. Or maybe they were in a bullfighting arena in Spain. Either way, there were chills.

The broadcast flourish was conceived and executed by John DeMarsico, 35, director of gaming for SNY, the Mets’ regional sports network.

“We’ve covered it before, but we never skipped a commercial break to show the whole thing,” DeMarsico said. “And we never sent the camera crew over there to do the back shot. I had it in my back pocket all year and was waiting for the right game to do it.

That same game featured Jacob deGrom’s return to Citi Field after more than a year lost to serious arm and shoulder injuries. DeMarsico gave Mets co-ace deGrom his own star moment, skipping a commercial break to show off his first-inning warm-up pitches. This time, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” aired.

In both cases, the embellishments had been discussed earlier in the season but decided on the spot, with DeMarsico sensing the mood in the stadium and improvising a cinematic response.

Regional sports networks are taking their share of abuse, with complaints of streaming blackouts from fans and frequent attempts by Major League Baseball to grow its viewership through other alternatives, be it Apple TV+; NBC’s Peacock streaming service; or other platforms. But in a medium that seems antiquated to some, SNY’s theme all year has been innovation.

In this case, the network builds on what was already a strength. The chemistry of the network’s broadcast team — play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen and analysts Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez — has long made viewing the SNY destination even when the team on the ground wasn’t in command. sometimes not that level of attention.

“The team has always been experimental,” said Darling, who along with Cohen and Hernandez have held court for shows full of goofy tangents, movie recommendations and inside jokes that have been unfolding since 2006. Darling sees their interactions as a sign of respect for the viewer. “I think there’s a fear with some shows not trusting their fan base to be smart enough to see something different. Many broadcast teams are afraid of alienating their fan base who will criticize anything out of the ordinary, especially when criticism in today’s world is so instantaneous.

As comedian Jerry Seinfeld said during one of his many booth visits, “It’s a TV show, it’s not just a game.”

DeMarsico, with the support of producer Gregg Picker, has quietly helped their shows’ visuals catch up with storytelling quality and innovation. And like a cunning reliever, he did it with a formidable bag of tricks.

He uses unusual camera angles, forgoing the typical center field shot at crucial moments, instead filming the action behind the right fielder or near the circle on the visitor’s bridge.

It uses split screens to highlight matchups between pitcher and batter. In a tense battle between Díaz and Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich earlier this season, DeMarsico started the shot with Díaz’s face on the left side of the frame. It then faded into Yelich’s face on the right side, gradually fading Díaz. Fans got to really see the pitcher and batter stare at each other.

These techniques are attempts to unravel the drama that already exists in the game but was previously difficult to visualize.

“Baseball is inherently cinematic, more so than other sports,” DeMarsico said. “In football and basketball, there is so much speed. In baseball, there is no clock. The geography of the domain is very structured. You are able to set the scene, and establish the clashes between hitter and pitcher like a duel in a western.

After decades of baseball games looking almost identical from network to network, these plans can seem incredibly original.

For DeMarsico, it’s a natural collision of his two passions: baseball and movies. Before beginning his career at SNY with an internship in 2009, he studied film at North Carolina State University. Conversations about his work are peppered with the names of directors, famous and obscure. He models his methods of creating suspense on the work of Brian De Palma, and quotes the famous of Martin Scorsese tracking shot at the Copacabana in “Goodfellas” as inspiration for Díaz’s bullpen moment. He also cites Nicolas Winding Refn – the Díaz-Yelich moment was inspired by Refn’s 2009 Viking epic “Valhalla Rising” – and Sergio Corbucci, who directed some of the most violent spaghetti westerns.

In Saturday night’s win over the Philadelphia Phillies, DeMarsico repeated Díaz’s bullpen shot, but this time he started it in black and white, then switched to color when the pitcher entered the field, a clear nod to “The Wizard of Oz”.

Then there’s Quentin Tarantino, who influenced perhaps the slightest of DeMarsico’s innovations: the “Kill Bill” filter. The Mets lead the hit batsman majors this year, and Showalter’s growing irritation has been a running joke among Mets fans. The broadcast team ran with it, using the same effect employed by Tarantino in the “Kill Bill” films whenever their protagonist’s thirst for revenge is triggered: a red hue, a sound known as “Ironside Siren” and a double exposure of her. face and a memory of the traumatic event.

DeMarsico used sound and color a few times, but knew something was still missing. So he had his team put together a montage of this year’s most egregious blows and superimpose them over Showalter’s face, implying the manager was reliving a season of insults every time a Met was bitten.

Some baseball purists might object to such shenanigans, but it certainly draws attention to the network. The clip of Díaz’s entrance has gone viral and has now been viewed on Twitter over 8 million times.

For a sport that has long struggled with traditionalism in its efforts to attract young fans, these innovations may come across as cutting edge. But they could also give some sort of roadmap for how baseball could modernize its other shows — a process that began almost immediately when Apple TV+ recreated Díaz’s entry, almost shot for shot, in its presentation. of a Mets game.

But with the Mets on pace for more than 100 wins this regular season and DeMarsico leading their shows, a little competition is nothing to worry about. “I still have a few tricks up my sleeve,” he said.

That kind of confidence might explain why the SNY production team had so much leeway to experiment, even sacrificing a few advertising dollars along the way.

“It’s not something we want to do a lot because the ads obviously pay the bills,” DeMarsico said of the times they stuck with the action on the court. “But there is a trust factor with SNY. We choose our places and choose wisely, and as long as it doesn’t become an everyday thing, we can do things like that and create special moments for the people back home.

He smiled and added, “Maybe 8 million views are worth a commercial break.”

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