2023 Super Bowl

Last time for a three man Super Bowl telecast was in 2005; The World Series hasn’t had one since 2015

 

Solomon

It’s been a long time since there was a controversy regarding three men booths vs. two. It’s not that I want to see anyone lose their jobs, but after watching many hundreds of three-men booths, I’ve come to the conclusion that three men in a booth is one too many.

I began to question the format some years ago when watching baseball games. One of the two analysts in the booth was off, leaving the broadcasting chores to one analyst and one play-by-play caller. The brisk and informative dialogue between only two, versus three, convinced me it was a more relaxed format. And ever since, my belief has been strengthened by the often lame coverage of what’s happening on the playing field when there are three men yakking away.

When it’s only one analyst, the sole commentator can catch his breath. On TV, limiting commentary to the minimal, two, sounds nice and relaxed. A third voice hampers and hinders. A solo analyst can set things up cogently and simply.

In football, what will the offense and defense run next? In baseball, the color commentator is able to share the finer points of the game. From my view, more sophisticated fans appreciate Mets telecasts when play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen is out. Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez are then given sufficient time to paint masterful baseball strategies. They’ve convinced me that expert game-day analysts are the true stars of sports television. Not those trained to broadcast.

Three men in baseball and football booths, have little time to casually emit their opinions. They sound rushed while they must be concise.

There’s also little chance that football coaches at halftime will share with reporters how they’ll change their game plans. If viewers think that coaches will say something of substance about their second half strategies, please contact me. I’m putting the Brooklyn Bridge up for sale and I’ll throw in a pair of tickets for the 2024 Giants-Jets Super Bowl game!

Three in the booth during a Super Bowl hasn’t happened often in the last score of years. The last was on Fox in 2005, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Cris Collinsworth. In baseball, it last occurred in 2015 with Buck, Tom Verducci and Harold Reynolds.

Also, providing nothing but meaningless chatter, devoid of news or strategy are participants in frivolous conversation, when and where players, managers and coaches never express any substantive material.

I realize that many viewers enjoy the patter between play-by-play announcers and the two analysts, next to whom they’re sitting. But to some viewers, like me, it’s annoying because most of the chatter is inane. Who cares what one of the trio had for breakfast or how long he was tied up in traffic before getting to the stadium. Viewers are tied up in traffic continuously and most eat breakfast every day.

Yes, during an average baseball and football game, there is more dead time on the field than actual playing activity. And the men in the booth have to entertain those watching. But that doesn’t make for interesting television.

An NFL game is choreographed to last for about three hours. The average play takes about four to 13 seconds. In total, according to a 2010 Wall Street Journal analysis of actual playing time, the aggregate time that the ball is in play is about 11 minutes!

Another story in the WSJ in 2013 published was that during a three hour baseball game, actual playing time is about 18 minutes. This will likely change this coming season with rule changes.

How does this happen? Replaying almost every play; showing fans in the stands and players in the dugouts or benches before, during and after a play; zeroing in on coaches and managers facial reactions while waiting for the next play to begin; telling stories about players they never saw play and ludicrously comparing their records with modern day players.

Of course, televising food venders preparing their wares is a must, as are tail-gating fans, along with so many brand commercials.

In my opinion, the viewing experience could be improved by reversing the roles of the analysts and the play-by-play announcers. The analysts should be the lead broadcasters, infusing a player’s insight into what’s happening on the field after every play. Meanwhile, play-by-play commentator’s role should be limited to story telling and reading commercials. .

A current example of why two men in the booth provide better information for viewers was seen on the Super Bowl. Play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt and analyst Greg Olsen, were insightful from kickoff to the game’s conclusion. Burkhardt, as usual, called a superb game, often handing the mic to Olsen, who put his knowledge and reputation on the line by correctly previewing for viewers what to expect during Kansas City’s winning drive. His analysis was as good as any I’ve ever heard and much better than most. Olsen’s analysis has been excellent all season and it would be a shame if he falls victim to the Tom Brady cult, when the QB joins Fox in 2024.

Also in my opinion, Cris Collinsworth is as good as any of the football commentators. What makes Collinsworth so good is that unlike broadcasters who go gaga over an “outstanding” play that happens several times in every game, Collinsworth expertly tells the audience what happened and why. He’s also not afraid to criticize players who messed up – but always with an explanation that even a novice football viewer can understand. He makes Sunday Night Football commentary on NBC worth listening to. Through the years, I’ve heard many people say that they never missed a Walter Cronkite, Ed Murrow or Walter Winchell Sunday night broadcast. In other words, I go back.

But I’ve never heard a single person say that the reason they watch a sport telecast is because of the game’s announcers. So maybe changing the modus operandi of the play-by-play and analysts roles is not such an outlandish idea. After all, viewers can see plays as they happen, but analysts explaining why they happened, making for a more interesting viewing experience.

 

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Arthur Solomon

Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications and consults on public relations projects. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com.

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Michael Green
1 year ago

I think Lindsey Nelson once said that two men in a booth can be one too many, and three men in a booth can be several too many. Events have proved him right. Monday Night Football worked as “entertainment” when Howard Cosell was there to cause an uproar. When NBC had Bob Costas, Bob Uecker, and Joe Morgan together, it worked all right, but Uecker was there mainly for comedy relief when he is in fact incredibly knowledgeable.