The Half-Hour of Our Discontent
By Jim Cheney -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/23/2005 8:00:00 PM
If the post-season brings out the best in baseball teams, it brings out the worst in broadcasting crews. Every game has been molded into a blow-out event, each a statistic fire sale where everything the viewer never cared about is force-fed to them like they're an unfortunate foie gras goose. Cockamamie graphics displays and talking animated baseballs fill the eye and dull the senses. Active players, such as Mike Piazza and Al Leiter, delay their proverbial off-season hunting and fishing trips to add their hard-earned wisdom to the mix.
While the dog-and-pony–ness of post-season broadcasts can be grating, it is simply a fact of the modern televised game. The pre-game show, however, occupies a realm beyond the viewer's already stretched tolerance.
During the regular season, Fox presents some form of prelude to its Saturday-afternoon games, a standard mélange of controversy, human-interest stories and blooper montages. Once October rolls around, though, it is a wholly superfluous display. Aside from an extra helping of sumptuous prime time advertising space, this third nipple of sports broadcasting adds remarkably little.
As the playoffs progress, the number of games is halved, and halved again, further denting the possibility of vital content. With much of the compelling color material already tapped during seven months of regular-season play, broadcasters are forced to rehash storylines again and again.
Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski's strike-three dash for first in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the ALCS made good fodder for the next night's pre-game. But after its fourth retelling, the luster was gone. The thrice-told story of the Li'l Shortstop That Could, St. Louis Cardinal David Eckstein, is another fully flogged yarn. He has more than proven himself on both sides of the ball, and his unimposing stature is no longer of any relevance.
It is likely that a certain section of the population tunes in to the pre-game to catch a glimpse of Jeanne Zelasko's flowing locks or to expand their knowledge of managerial failure compliments of the musings of Kevin Kennedy. But shut-ins and mental patients aside, the pre-game is a roadblock, a pile of broken glass that dissuades fans from gnawing on a good meaty main course.
So those who happen to be blowing out birthday candles, tossing pennies into wells or coming out on the winning end of a battle for a wishbone, please use your good fortune to wish for an end to the extension of this circus. Should your wish come true, fans across the country will thank you.
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