You might not have known this, but Philadelphia is known for its cheesesteaks.
Obviously, ESPN isn’t the first sports network to succumb to the eye-rolling “Philly = cheesesteaks” cliches during a national broadcast. But during the Phillies’ 5-1 win over the Atlanta Braves, Sunday Night Baseball announcers Matt Vasgersian and Alex Rodriguez drew widespread mockery for their attempt to sound like Philadelphians while downing cheesesteaks on air.
During the fifth inning of Sunday’s game, reporter Buster Olney joked that he was busting his tail running around a freezing Citizens Bank Park while Rodriguez and his broadcast partners — Vasgersian and Jessica Mendoza — were relaxing in the booth enjoying cheesesteaks.
“Alex is out, man. He’s like two sandwiches in at this point,” said Mendoza, who was confused when her cheesesteak was served with marinara sauce.
» READ MORE: How to make a Philly cheesesteak
“This is the greatest cheese sandwich I’ve ever had. It’s amazing.” Rodriguez responded.
“Did Alex Rodriguez just refer to a cheesesteak as a ‘cheese sandwich?’ These rubes are acting like it’s the most exotic thing they ever ate,” 94.1 WIP host Glen Macnow wrote on Twitter, one of many who mocked the former MVP over the remark.
“They just did a bit where the three of them ate Philly Cheesesteaks. So wildly original and cutting edge,” wrote Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina, a frequent critic of Sunday Night Baseball’s broadcast booth last season.
WIP morning show co-host Rhea Hughes called the entire segment “cringeworthy," noting, "It’s a cliche where you immediately go, ‘This next segment is going to suck.' "
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only misstep Rodriguez made during the debut of the 30th season of Sunday Night Baseball. At least twice during the game, Rodriguez referred to Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins as “Haskins,” and drew comparisons to Monday Night Football analyst Jason Witten when discussing how the weather impacted the game.
“Usually, on a cold night like tonight, the two happiest campers are the pitcher and the catcher. One is throwing it, and one is catching it,” Rodriguez said in the second inning.
Rodriguez wasn’t the only broadcaster who appeared to have issues with the names of Phillies players over the weekend. During Saturday’s 8-6 win on NBC Sports Philadelphia+, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt was derided by fans for botching the names of several Phillies players, including shortstop Jean Segura, whom he referred to multiple times as “Juan.”
Rodriguez also wasn’t alone in botching a reference to Philadelphia food. Later in the broadcast, Vasgersian was mocked for unintentionally inventing his own type of cheesesteak.
“If this were summer, the ball would have been out of here and covered in wiz wit’ sauce,” Vasgersian said.
The missteps were unfortunate because the broadcast seemed to go out of its way to praise Philadelphia and its fans. Rodriguez discussed how “electric” Citizens Bank Park felt and referred to the Phillies as a “Goliath” with legitimate World Series hopes, thanks to the signing of superstar Bryce Harper. He even offered a shot at Washington Nationals fans by describing the nation’s capital as something less than a sports town.
"Look, D.C. is about 130 miles down the road. But let’s make it clear: there is a world of difference between markets,” Rodriguez said. “If you’re over there, you’re thinking about politics and what happens in the White House. If you’re over here, this is a sports town and they love their Phillies.”