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Monday, February 4 2013

Sportswriters - out of touch with TV

I woke up this morning to read several columns skewering CBS for not providing adequate entertainment during the Super Bowl blackout. It seems that all of the columnists tried to offer helpful suggestions for what CBS should do the next time the power goes out during the Super Bowl.

I'll run through several of those suggestions and explain why those are impossible at worst, or unhelpful at best.

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth: But never has the vapidity of NFL commentators been more painfully in evidence. It is amazing, in the year 2013, these are the people who are paid to talk live on television. That's their job. Professionally.
They are paid to talk live on television in the same way that Diane Sawyer is paid to talk live on television. Both "The NFL Today" team and Sawyer are mostly reading from a teleprompter, with a couple of bad jokes ad-libbed into the broadcast. You put Diane Sawyer in a scene where she has to run a 30-minute broadcast off the cuff, and the vapidity points will very quickly add up.

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth: Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason just sort of mumbled, confused, which led, lord help me, Shannon Sharpe to fill the void.
Boomer Esiason was not on TV during the blackout. He was seven floors above, sharing a broadcast booth with Kevin Harlan on Dial Global Sports.

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth: I couldn't help but wonder how much better NBC or ESPN would have been with this. They would have at least had a reporter or two hanging around. I guarantee you Michele Tafoya or Sal Paolantonio have at least some information for us there. I guarantee you, they wouldn't have. An honest NFL official would have said "I don't know anything." A slightly more loquacious official would have blamed the utility for cutting off the SuperDome's power. In reality, the problem was a breaker inside the SuperDome, meaning the information Solomon Wilcots would have been sharing would have been wrong.
And, what's more, even though Michele Tafoya and SalPal have "experience" on NFL sidelines, their experience is only as deep as being fed information from a team spokesperson on injuries, and whatever they can observe from their reserved area on the sideline.


You may remember something similar happened on a Monday Night Football game at Candlestick Park earlier this NFL season. Stuart Scott and the rest of the ESPN "MNF" crew were there, and the time-filling was no less inane. There was no explanation for what happened to the power, although ESPN did have video of an explosion from their blimp that they kept showing, and speculating about. Eventually, ESPN did get an estimate of how long the delay would be out of Candlestick Park officials (possibly by the Public Address system). Other than that, they didn't seem to seek any comment or hold the NFL's feet to the fire.

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth: CBS, in an unforeseeable circumstance that you sort of nevertheless have to have a backup plan for (this being the Super Bowl and all), was left without its pants on the biggest sports day of the year.
CBS did have a back-up plan. They had a generator installed to run their equipment (most of it, at least). They had their studio crew on site. The only thing they didn't have on reserve was something to talk about!

Further, the Super Bowl, that happens once every three years, is a special case. During the regular season, CBS and FOX have the ultimate. If there were to be some kind of lengthy delay in one game, they simply switch their stations to another game. No need to fill 30 minutes without any advance warning. Because the Super Bowl is the only game happening, and the final game of the season, there is extremely little that you can talk about other than the mechanics of the game itself.

Finished with Mr. Leitch.

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News: There is a major screwup and the NFL won’t put someone on the air — and CBS won’t push the league — to try to explain what’s going on? That’s mind-boggling.
No, that's what billions of dollars will do. CBS has no incentive to do anything that might upset Roger Goodell, whose enterprise makes CBS billions more than it pays back to the NFL.

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News: Why not take a camera and microphone on the sidelines for an interview [with one of the players who was stretching on the field?
A: The NFL explicitly forbids broadcasters from interviewing players a certain number of hours before, or during, a game.

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News: At one point, CBS had a shot of John Harbaugh screaming at some suit who we assumed worked for the NFL (we take that grand leap because CBS never identified who the gentleman was). Why not stick a microphone in Harbaugh’s face and ask him why he was angry?
A: See above. Coaches are also off-limits. I'm a little surprised that the gentleman from the League wasn't identified, although Dial Global Sports did identify him as "just a messenger."

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News CBS’ inability to report the news, dig into all angles of the story, is a direct result of how the NFL controls the media. If normal coverage is limited and restricted, it stands to reason that league suits would try to black out all coverage of a Super Bowl blackout.
Hey look. Someone finally said something that is true.

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News In the end, the league could have looked even worse -- If CBS had done its job.
This, I truly do not understand. CBS's job is to make the NFL look bad? Moreover, how could the NFL be made to look worse than having its Super Bowl interrupted by 30 minutes of darkness in New Orleans? It seems to me that the reality of the situation, that a breaker in a maintenance room somewhere in the Super Dome opened, makes the NFL look less bad.

I'll quickly summarize my opinions:
1) CBS did the only thing it could with its studio team. It was not good TV, but they had no alternative.
2) The NFL, and most other sports leagues, have quite a bit of leverage over how their league is covered. You may remember some commentators thought the NFL would somehow punish ESPN for its criticism of the TOUCHCEPTION (a.k.a. "Fail Mary") between Seattle and Green Bay this year. That doesn't seem to have happened, but the threat is a big money concern to the media companies that cover the NFL.

Saturday, January 5 2013

On One-Point Safetys

I was looking for an explanation of exactly how a one-point safety is possible in football, and didn't find one. Therefore, I went to the font of all things football, the NFL rule book. (May be harder to read than the baseball rule book, not recommended reading).

Much like Brad Nessler in 2004 during the previous one-point safety (between Texas and Texas A&M), I thought a point-after try could only end in one or two points for the offense, and any possession by the defense would result in a dead ball. This is indeed the rule in the NFL. In the NFL, a one-point safety can be awarded only when the defense "muffs" the ball on its way out of the back of the end zone, and so it has not happened in the modern era.

The NCAA rule is slightly different because the defense can possess the ball without the ball becoming dead. In the NCAA, a point-after try is only a dead ball when "it becomes clear the try has failed." In the Fiesta Bowl, the try was blocked, but there was still some possibility that Oregon could have recovered the ball in the end zone for a two-point conversion, or indeed that K-State could have returned the missed kick for a one-point safety by reaching the other end zone. The officials did not declare it dead until the K-State player was tackled in the end zone.

By the way: go look at the Fiesta Bowl replay. The kick was blocked and recovered in the field of play by K-State. The one-point safety is avoided by simply taking a knee.

Saturday, November 19 2011

End of NEWS25 Sports Channel

Just minutes ago, Mark McVicar said farewell for the final time on the NEWS 25 Sports Channel. As reported by Jacob Newkirk over the last few weeks, McVicar is among those losing their job shortly as Nexstar takes over operation of WEHT December 1, and today's Mater Dei/Guerin Catholic game was the final scheduled local broadcast before the channel shuts down.

During my time in college, I was able to work with several current and former staffers of the NEWS 25 Sports Channel, from McVicar himself to some of the producers, statisticians and camera operators.

I would take the opportunity to work with any of them again if it arose, and I hope everyone lands a position quickly.

Monday, May 2 2011

Final Week: Day 2

Second in a series

There are six days until I graduate college and cease formal education. Four years at UE, and there's a lot I want to say. And above all, a lot of people who have been important along the way. The focus is very sharply on people whom I would have been unlikely to meet away from UE.

Brandon Gaudin

For the second day in a row, I salute a person who has left Evansville to work in a larger city. Brandon Gaudin was the manager at WUEV 91.5 for a shade less than two years.

Gaudin is the kind of professional I wish every professional would imitate, always organized and on time.

The reason he gets a note here is because he was the guy who gave me my first shot broadcasting a live sporting event: softball vs. Southern Illinois. It was in this manner that I began to appreciate diamond sports. I mean really appreciate them.

But it was someone else who I really wanted to imitate: one Dan Egierski. The dude has been a part of Evansville sports since the 80s, broadcasting almost every variety of sport in Evansville. Egierski has a very unique style, one I felt was worth immitating. Did I get there? I don't think so, but the experience was priceless.

Gaudin now works for Butler University, and was able to broadcast the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Championship game on 1070 the Fan in Indianapolis. Egierski works at ESPN 106.7.

Just barely got today's entry in under the daily time limit ... will try to do better tomorrow!

Monday, December 13 2010

Two Anniversaries

Three years ago, I was a little wrapped up in one event to recognize another important anniversary.

On December 13, 2007, Richard Strauss was getting airplay via a Flash ad at phpBB.com. For it was on December the 13th that phpBB 3 was finally released.

I don't remember exactly how I spent the day, but I know a fair chunk of it was devoted to phpBB-ing. So much so that I ignored the other major event of the day, locally at least. The 30 year anniversary of the worst aviation disaster (link to Bill Merkel's blog) to ever happen locally.

Since that date three years ago, I've come to understand far more deeply the impact which that event had on the local area. Bill's blog post links to an inter view that Mike Blake gave at the 30th anniversary.

Blake:

I come back from covering a game at [Roberts] stadium, and as soon as I come in the back door, ... and my boss, the man who ran the station, a man named Conrad Kagel, looks at me and he says 'the Aces.' And when those words were said, everything changed.

It changed the city of Evansville for decades. Everyone I've spoken to who was living in Evansville at the time remembers the event. There was a service in memoriam to that 30th anniversary at 12 noon on December 13, 2007. I remember walking past the crowd gathered on the Memorial Plaza centered on campus. There were several hundred people present, even though the event being remembered took place so long ago.

Thursday, December 9 2010

Producer - Talent confidentiality

Bob Lamey, longtime radio broadcaster for the Indianapolis Colts has been roundly criticized this week for some comments he made off the air last Sunday as the Colts entered their first three-game losing streak in years.

Kent Sterling's Opinions
What he said

I don't have any personal connection to Bob Lamey. Never spoken to him personally or anything. I've also never personally spoken to Kent Sterling, but I disagree with him soundly.

Let's say I'm the producer in question, and let's say that I'm not recording the game. But I do listen to the feed from the stadium during the commercial breaks, and I hear Lamey say that Manning ought to be benched, in favor of Curtis Painter, who looked laughably bad in the pre-season. It seems to me that Kent Sterling would instruct me to bottle that up and never tell anyone about it.

My journalistic senses tell me this story is far too juicy to pass up. I'm hearing the Colts #1 homer tell me that Manning should be benched. I'm pretty likely to at least tell some of my co-workers, my girlfriend, the guys at BW3's what he said.

Of course, in the absence of a recording, the name talent could deny, deny, deny and probably never face consequences. But I don't feel there should be implicit confidentiality just because two guys work together and one of them is famous. There might be some level of understanding if the talent is friendly but gaffe-prone (and in my opinion, Lamey is gaffe-prone even when he's on the air). There might be some level of understanding if the sporting team being broadcast is truly awful. But I can find no reason why Lamey has a legitimate complaint with the team, nor can I see a reason why his comments should have been kept private.

Now, the staff at 1070 the Fan in Indy might need to face some music, because, while I don't necessarily feel that the talent's ramblings should be kept confidential, they probably didn't need to make one of their fellow hosts (the Colts air on 1070) look stupid.

Sunday, November 28 2010

An Early Checkup on College Basketball

At the beginning of the season, I was told that Butler and Purdue would combine for more wins than the other D1 men's basketball programs put together. Here's a look at the status after most teams have played five or six games. (Notably, this post comes on the heels of both Butler and Purdue getting upset on Saturday)

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