As someone who spent years watching sports at national and international arenas, initially as a journalist and then as an individual who managed and played key PR roles for many years for some of the most prestigious national and international sporting events, I can truthfully say that I prefer to watch the games from the comfort of my living room for various reasons.
I enjoy not being in traffic jams before and after a game. I enjoy not being subjected to the unruly behavior of many spectators who had one too many. I enjoy not hearing the gutter language of many fans. I enjoy being able to have a snack during the game without having to pay an outlandish price for a bag of peanuts or a soft drink. I enjoy not having disgruntled athletes look at me like I was a piece of dirt when, as a journalist before joining the PR business, I had to ask questions they didn’t like. Importantly, I no longer have to wait out a long delay because of rain, or cover a football game in freezing weather. But most of all, I think the TV camera work of ballgames makes for a better viewing experience than being at the actual event.
Even though I now prefer to watch sporting events from the comfort of my home there are many aspects of TV coverage that bother me: The nonstop commentary of game day play-by- play announcers, who call plays as if they are on radio and provide worthless stats that are interesting only to themselves and sports junkies, former players turned analysts who think that every play by a fielder is outstanding and the propaganda disseminated by home team analysts and play-by-play announcers about the brilliance of team management.
A prime example is the commentary of the New York Mets announcers, who when they stick strictly to baseball are among the best in the business, (Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez). For weeks early in the season, they lauded Mets management for loading the team with subs who had big league experience. But when these experienced pros had to substitute for injured regulars they could not replace their bats. Little was mentioned that the much heralded subs were batting in the very low .200s and when one of them came through they were lauded as sub-heroes. (No pun intended.)
But what I consider the Achilles heel of TV sports coverage are the post game interviews with losing players, coaches and managers. They are nothing more than extraneous programming so additional commercials can be aired.
Among the barrage of commercials during a game, the ones that I find most bothersome are those promoting alcoholic beverages during the afternoon or early evening hours when youngsters are watching, along with the recent ones advocating betting. Advertising people I have discussed this with say the commercials are the price of admission to seeing a sporting event without having to purchase a ticket. But that’s not entirely true. My cable company adds a sports package fee whether I want to watch an event or not.
I realize that the aspects of sports commentary on TV that bother me might seem picky to most of the viewing audience. But as a former reporter and editor, I still have the belief that many TV sports commentators discard the rules of good reporting and live in a fictional world of their own (at least while in the broadcast booth).
Below are several aspects of sports TV commentary that I can do without:
- Play-by-play announcers who continually give meaningless statistics like the speed and launch angle of a batted ball, as if that matters.
- Play-by-play announcers who complain about the inclement weather as if a cold day early in the baseball season or a snowy day during the football season is a once in a decade occurrence.
- Former athletes turned game analysts who whine about how terrible it is for players, because of their traveling schedule. (I’m willing to bet the farm that almost all of the adult viewing audience would gladly put up with the players traveling schedule for their salaries.)
- Commentators who compare present day players to past ones that they never saw play. (The same is true with sportswriters.)
- Post game interviews with losing players, coaches and managers. When was the last time an interviewee said that the poor play of teammates caused a loss? (How they really feel during these interviews is as unlikely to be said as me being 21 again.)
- Sideline football commentators who never report anything newsy, unless you feel that a coach saying, “We have to tackle better in the second half,” deserves page one prominence.
- Both play-by-play announcers and their athlete analysis shilling for their home teams by heralding the play of rookies before they have stepped on a field as if they were the next coming of Babe Ruth or Joe Montana.
- Of course, TV play-by-play announcers who still call the game as if only radio existed.
- And during the coronavirus pandemic, announcers carped about how difficult it is to call a game or get the camera shots they wanted because they couldn’t travel with their teams and had to report on a game while not at the site. (If the number of Americans were vaccinated as often as I heard the “woe is me, we can’t travel with the team,” remarks the U.S would have reached herd immunity weeks ago.)
Actually I can make a case that television has made game day play-by-play announcers unnecessary, since viewers can see what’s going, the score bug is on the screen and the most interesting part of watching a game on TV is the actual action and when the athlete analysts give their honest opinions of what just happened.