Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my distinct pleasure to welcome you to the widescreen, platinum cover, collector’s edition first installment of my column, Forty’s House o’ Fun. Some of you may recognize me from my other appearances, which include such hits as “Forty the Basketball P.A. Announcer” and “Forty the Football P.A. Announcer.”
All kidding aside, I would like to thank Mark Robertson, one of The Record sports editors, for giving me the opportunity to write a column about a subject dear to the hearts of Williams students: professional sports.
Now, ask yourself, what is the worst part of any televised sporting event? Could it be the meaningless drivel espoused by the network commentators? Perhaps you recall Bob Costas prattling away during the World Series, excitedly describing Paul O’Neill’s chihuahua and how it was far superior to Greg Maddux’s beagle. Maybe you listened intently when CBS cut to its sideline football reporters this fall, who carefully explained why lime Gatorade was far superior to orange Gatorade. Or maybe you’ve ever heard Jerry Glanville work a football game.
This past weekend, I provided color commentary for the Williams women’s basketball game at Amherst. It was not terribly difficult, but it left me with a puzzling question. Why do television networks take the focus away from the field? Why does their sports coverage focus on trivialities, rather than discussing something relevant? Would they lose ratings by explaining the confusing AFC East playoff picture, instead of Dan Marino’s average daily weight loss from sweating?
Admittedly, I am somewhat cynical about our Pokemon buying, Beanie Baby grabbing, Sega Dreamcast playing society. We want colorful graphics and quick, easy consumption. But when we watch sports, are we there for sports or for the pretty colors? Are we there for the Super Bowl or the Kenny G halftime show? Having broadcast a game, I’ll tell you this: giving the audience what it wants is not terribly complicated. People who watch basketball or football watch it for the action. Those of you who heard Williams play on the radio this weekend wanted to know what was happening and why. I am certain that none of you wanted to hear Rebecca Brooks’ favorite color, rather than why she set a pick in the low post.
This is not to say that the networks are completely misguided. Some of the announcers are excellent. John Madden and Pat Summerall do a tremendous job. They clearly know the NFL, and have worked to learn the background for the games they cover. In addition, not all of the graphics and pretty colors are worthless; this season, the networks added the first down stripe. Rather than detract from the game, as Fox’s day-glo hockey puck did, the stripe makes the game easier to see. What frustrates me, however, is that networks attempt to increase ratings with mindless trivia.
Monday Night Football does not get higher ratings because Hank Williams Jr. sings the theme song. It gets higher ratings when it carries games between better teams. The coverage is there to supplement the action, and should attempt to focus the viewers on the field. No one will turn the game off because Costas explains the difference between a curveball and a slider or why a hitter should swing away on a three-and-one count.
Maybe I shouldn’t gripe like this. It is, after all, my first column. But have you ever really thought about how far it actually is when you hit a baseball 400 feet? Or considered the difficulty in blocking a six foot-six-inch, 380-pound man for any length of time? Those amazing feats don’t need fireworks to make them more incredible. Maybe it’s just that someone neglected to explain that to the networks that cover them.
Feel free to email comments or suggestions for next week to me at 01dig.