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5 Ways Sports TV Sucks

by Jon Stonger on 23 July 2009

college-gameday-500

Watching sports is a yearly cycle for me.  The year starts in January with the bowl games and the Super Bowl, which I will watch from anywhere on Earth.  February is a cold and dreary come down after football season.  For three weeks every March, I become an obsessive basketball fan, filling out an unhealthy number of brackets.  Summer is a lull for me, since I never got into baseball.  August brings the bittersweet tease of preseason football, and September explodes with both college and professional football, meaning leaving the house on weekends is a thing of the past.

Despite the joyous yearly ritual of athletics, there are still several things about watching sports on TV that bother me. Some of them occur in basketball, some in football, but all of them should be stopped immediately.

1. Interviews with Players and Coaches

I’ve been watching sports for most of my life, and I can’t recall ever hearing a coach say anything interesting before, during, or after the game. The responses could all be delivered off of notecards. In fact, I think most coaches probably do have scripts they’ve memorized. The interview always goes like this:

Reporter: Coach, your team won. Tell us about your victory. Coach: Well, our team played really hard and showed good determination. The other team gave good effort and we just managed to make a few plays and were lucky enough to come out on top.

Or

Reporter: Coach, your team lost. Tell us about your loss.

Coach: Well, our team played really hard and showed good determination. The other team played well, and we just didn’t make the plays we needed to come out on top.

That’s the way it goes every single time. I don’t think I’ve learned one piece of information about anything whatsoever from listening to a coach’s interview.

The players are even worse. They deliver the same tired clichés, only they haven’t had as many years to memorize them, so they come out with a lot more ‘ums’ and ‘you knows’.

Reporter: Player, your team won. How do you feel?

Player: Well, you know, um, we played well as a team, even though I had 5 touchdowns and no one else scored, it was still a team effort. I feel, um, good, that we won, and Coach told me not to say anything bad about the other team.

Or

Reporter: Player, your team lost. How do you feel?

Player: Well, you know, um, we played well as a team and gave tremendous effort, but it just wasn’t enough. The other team played good too, and we have, um, a lot of respect for them, even if we did have 4 bench-clearing brawls during the game.

Every once in a while, a player will slip and say what he’s really thinking. Then
the media has something to chatter about for a few days. For the most part, players have learned to give stock answers by the time they reach the pros.

(As an aside, and this has been commented on by many others, players should not thank God for their victory. God clearly does not care about sports. If he did, he would be a Notre Dame fan, and Notre Dame sucks right now.)

I can’t think of anything more pointless than the coach and player interview (except for #2 below), yet sports broadcasts continue to do them as if they were an untouchable integral part of the game.

(As another aside, when a hot sideline reporter is asking an ugly coach a question, why to they zoom in on the coach?)

2. Parent Interviews

Sometimes a sports broadcast will feel that they haven’t annoyed their viewers enough just by filling air time with inane comments from players and coaches. That’s when they bring in the most dreaded weapon in the sports broadcast arsenal: the interview with the parents.

I don’t know how they find the parents of athletes, but find them they do. It’s bad enough when they cut away from the action to show the expression on some kid’s mother’s face.

Actually cutting away from the game to watch a sideline reporter interview a parent is too much. I tend to leave the room screaming when this happens. At least the players and coaches are participating in the game. All the parents did was raise a kid who happened to be able to run and jump. Why does that mean I have to listen to their addled babbling?

3. Soft Focus Human Interest Stories

The Olympics are the worst about this, but it manages to creep into football and basketball as well. There are always athletes who have faced hardship while growing up. A few stories are truly impressive. Those rare engaging stories are not enough, however, to satisfy the ravenous need of networks for background pieces.

[Cue soft piano music]

“Beavis Johnson was only three years old when tragedy struck. His uncle’s cousin’s friend’s former college roommate was killed in a badminton accident. Left without a potential mentor, Beavis Johnson struggled with the reality of growing up bigger and stronger than everyone else. He felt outcast by his incredible size  and athletic ability. Slowly, though, Beavis has come to accept his future making jillions of dollars as a professional athlete and banging incredible women while the rest of us slave away in cubicles for $12.50 an hour and go on blind dates with professional gerbil groomers.”

[Slowly build triumphant music. Fade shot into blurry soft focus. Give everyone a few seconds to wipe away tears.]

If there’s a story worth telling, just tell it. Leave the soft focus and emotionally manipulative musical backgrounds for soap operas and Lifetime movies.

4. Scheduling

There are several small pet peeves in this category. First, if you say the game starts at 7:00, start the game at 7:00. This does not mean start talking about the game at 7:00 and actually start at 7:07 or 7:17 after gobs of commercials (see #5). If the game starts at 7:21, list it as 7:21 so I don’t have to waste my time listening to interviews with the coaches and players (see #1).

It also bothers me when networks buy games just so viewers can’t watch them. ABC does this in football. They will have 4 regional games on at 3:30 EST. Now, it could be #1 vs. #2 on the coast, but if you don’t live in that region, you can’t watch that game. Admittedly, this has gotten better since they added a national night game.

CBS did a similar thing by stacking the NCAA games. If they had spaced the games throughout the day, then a viewer could watch one game, and still finish in time to watch the second half of another, and so on. Instead, it started all four games at nearly the same time, so that there were two different games coming down to the wire  at the same time.  Then the games all ended so that 60 Minutes (which is not watched by anyone under the age of 103) could air.

At least they have streaming video.

5. Commercials

As a male between the ages of 18 and 34, I am in the stereotypical sports-viewer age bracket. As such, commercials should be for things that I want to buy.

They’re not. Realizing that the 18-34 demographic doesn’t have any money, advertisers aim most of their ads at the 45-65 age group. I’m therefore stuck watching spot after spot for investment banks, luxury cars and boner pills.

There are also commercials for beer, soda and fast food. What they fail to realize, however, is that I’ve already tried Bud Lite and Diet Coke and Sonic and all the pizza places on earth. I don’t need to be reminded of their pitiful existences.

Meanwhile, there are things I might be in the market for (e.g. hovercars or sexbots) that I never see advertised at all.

Despite all of the annoyances in sports broadcast, I, and many other brave people of all ages, manage to fight through the distractions, overcome the adversity of inane and distracting babble, and devote ourselves to spending dozens of hours a week, on our ass, in front of the television, persevering, watching sports.

Image Credit: One Click Sports Blog

This article appeared previously on Heretical Ideas.

About Jon Stonger

Jon Stonger is a novelist and short story writer. His first book, The Adventures of the Delineator: The Slimy and the Sentient, is now available. He currently resides in Suwon City, Korea.

{ 1 comment }

1 Redman 3 August 2009 at 19:45

I agree with all this. And, I will add that I’ve never heard a sideline reporter at a football game say anything that was of any importance to any member of the human race at any location on the planet at any time since the dawn of creation.

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