Sunday, October 08, 2006

Watch the Watchers

I read the New York Post sports section for its train wreck value. I like it on days like today when the back page says "Disgrace" in large letters, referring to the Yanks losing to the Tigers and getting cancelled out of the baseball season.

But today, in amongst the anguish over the Yanks and swooning admiration of the Mets, is Phil Mushnick's sports media column. Today's headline is "JUST SHOW US THE DAMN GAME!"

So I was watching the last half-inning of Dodgers-Mets on Fox, Thursday ... Check that. I was watching the fans in Shea watching - every postseason Fox figures that rather than the game, we prefer to watch people watching the game - when it struck me:

All of these networks, no matter how different they may look and sound, are essentially the same; they work off a copy of the same stupefying plan. They all do whatever it takes - spend a ton of money and energy - to prevent us from watching the game.

It's an indisputable fact: Among ESPN/ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox not one them has clearly established itself as the one that actually let's you watch the game.

I couldn't agree more. As Mushnick says, if it isn't Tim Robbins visiting the booth to flack his latest movie, it's endless inane network promos. And of course the countless crowd shots between pitches. If one is good, five are better.

It took me a while to figure out why I like to attend baseball games but almost never watch them on TV. It's all the garbage attached to the broadcast. When I do watch I make liberal use of the mute button, which suffices for most regular season baseball games. But of course during the post-season, that's not nearly enough to keep Fox from embarrassing itself. I would pay extra for a video feed with no announcers, no crowd shots (except for a wide shot between innings so we can see if there are empty seats), no Tim Robbins interviews, and minimal on-screen stats (limited to numbers that actually appear in the record book).

Oct. 15 update: Fox has fired analyst Steve Lyons for making allegedly insensitive comments on air. After hearing the comments I would conclude, “insensitive,” no, but “nonsensical, annoying gibberish,” yes. So perhaps Fox was just looking for an excuse to dump Lyons for conduct detrimental to the English language. Now if they could just come up with an excuse to dump the rest of their commentators....

Oct. 23 update: More proof that it's not just me. Today's Toronto Star:

But there are times when you wonder if the guy directing Fox's coverage forgot to take his Ritalin. Fox tries so hard to jam every second with replays, shots of dugouts, shots of fans that you wonder if you're watching a video game instead of a baseball game. While this no doubt serves fans with the attention span of your average 4-year-old, it often works against good baseball coverage.

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