Give The Viewing Audience Some Credit
This past Friday night, I was subjected to one of the biggest of my many pet peeves involving televised sports. There is a racing correlation here, so stay with me. You would think I had had enough football over the past couple of weeks, but I watched the Cotton Bowl featuring LSU and Texas A&M.
Unlike most of the bowl games that were on ESPN, this one was on FOX. I haven’t been very complimentary of ESPN’s coverage of the IZOD IndyCar Series, but I think they do an excellent job with college football. FOX needs to either stick with doing NFL games or get a separate team of announcers for the college game.
The Cotton Bowl announcers were Kenny Albert and Daryl (Moose) Johnston. They normally do a decent job on NFL games, if you can ignore their completely useless cohort, Tony Siragusa – who roams the sideline with an always-live microphone. He brings nothing to each telecast and usually detracts from it. Fortunately, they left him at home for the Cotton Bowl.
So what was my pet-peeve? They constantly felt the need to keep reminding viewers that there were sometimes major differences in rules between the college and pro games. They assumed their viewing audience was too stupid to know this.
Were they arrogant enough to think that their audience was only made up of the announcing team’s loyal following? Did they actually think that they were the stars and the audience constantly needed reminding that this was different than an NFL game? They even went so far as to say they wished that college football would just adopt the NFL rulebook.
LSU and Texas A&M have some of college football’s most loyal fans. I’ll promise you that followers of either school did not need a refresher course in how the college rulebook differs from the pros. I can understand the need to explain once per game that only one foot in-bounds is needed during a catch in the college game, as opposed to two in the NFL – but not on every sideline catch of the game.
I remember the Monday Night Football crew of Al Michaels, Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf doing the Sugar Bowl in the nineties falling into the same trap. I couldn’t tell if they considered covering a college game was beneath them or if they thought that no one watched college football. Whatever the reason, they would spend half the telecast explaining to viewers that there were actually differences between the two games.
This was a perfect example of talking down to the fans and insulting their intelligence. Now that Marty Reid has been the voice of NASCAR at ABC/ESPN; is he going to feel the need to explain the differences between a stock car and an IndyCar to all of his NASCAR fans that he thinks will follow him to the five IndyCar events he will cover? I don’t think even Marty is that egotistical.
I realize broadcasters walk a fine line between sounding too complicated while talking to the hard-core fans of a sport and making things sound simplistic for the casual fan that may have tuned in by accident.
I shudder to think what the NASCAR crew at FOX would sound like if they somehow covered the Indianapolis 500. I like Mike Joy. He has a good delivery and he rarely makes asinine comments. I can’t say the same for his two partners in the booth. Larry McReynolds would butcher every Brazilian name in the media guide, while Darrell Waltrip would fall all over himself trying to explain how much tougher a Cup car is to drive versus an IndyCar.
TV announcing crews have grown tiresome in sports, for the most part. I’ve held rants before how it infuriates me when a TV reporter/announcer thinks he or she is the reason that viewers are tuning in. I thought that Al Michaels and John Madden were one of the best announcing teams, but they got a little full of themselves in the latter years. Dick Vitale thinks he is the only reason to watch a college basketball game. The aforementioned Tony Siragusa grates on my nerves to the point that unless he and his crew are covering a game I am vitally interested in, I’ll tune out.
Give me a style like the understated Pat Summerall any day. He knew when to shut up, step aside and let what was transpiring on-screen do the talking. He knew his role and never once considered himself part of the story
Marty Reid is annoying and Scott Goodyear is as exciting as a forty-pound bag of fertilizer, but they don’t seem to think they are the stars of the show. Jack Arute has come the closest, seeking the spotlight with his props in the pits. Hanging bowling balls on his head, grating cheese to simulate tire wear, etc – it’s all cute, but it is meant to draw attention to Jack “the celebrity” instead of the racing at hand.
Please don’t get me wrong. TV is about entertainment, first and foremost. I understand that. I don’t want a droll, humorless talking head announcing an event. If I did, I’d just watch any game that Sean McDonough was doing. I also know that announcers have to explain things for newer fans. That’s sort of our goal in the IZOD IndyCar Series – to attract newer fans. I just don’t want announcers talking down to me, making the same point over and over like I’m an idiot.
That’s why I like most (not all) of the announcers that have done Indy cars over the past twenty years. Paul Page, Bob Varsha and Bob Jenkins have all mastered the art of making telecasts lively and entertaining, yet maintaining a flow of information to keep the informed fan engaged. If Versus can eventually become the NBC Sports Channel, we can have a wide audience without NASCAR announcers coming in to talk down to us. Unlike what FOX’s NFL announcers did to the viewers of the Cotton Bowl.