Saturday, October 6, 2007

Insult to Injury

There's been an alarming trend in TV broadcasting over recent years toward programming designed for simpletons with no emotional maturity, no self-censoring capabilities, limited vocabulary and, apparently, no ability to take in information and keep track of it for more than a minute or two. Nowhere is this more evident than in football coverage.

Where once we tuned into football games, now we tune into circuses of inane frenzy, complete with glitzy, seizure-inducing graphics, music of the kind that made for a great sound gag in Broadcast News circa 1987, celebrities of various stripes and species (read on), and announcers who run the gamut from depressed-sounding drones to kewpie dolls on speed. Once, we watched football games interrupted only by commercials (easily bypassed with TiVo or, before TiVo, trips to the kitchen for snacks). Now, we watch little morsels of football games, their flow interrupted by kitschy announcer bits, updates "from New York," asinine sideline reports, and those
redundant game summaries interspersed frequently and annoyingly into the game we're actually trying to watch.

I feel obliged to digress long enough to note the routine mangling of the English language that infects on-air commentary like a medieval plague. Perhaps this game was lost as soon as these people were dubbed "commentators," but in my opinion, their speech should be free from ludicrously misused words ("after their pulsating victory last week") and such gems of oratorical ignorance as "the coach told them they have to take it personal," "he should have went down the field," and "between you and I" (a moronic thing to say into a live microphone even if you say it correctly).
I don't expect all the illustrious journalists and ex-jocks to have actually learned proper English somewhere along their educational paths, but you'd think the networks could hire some head case like me to set out a few basics and coach the on-air folks to avoid particularly grating errors.

It would also be nice if broadcasters knew the rules of the game they were covering, so during those interminable official reviews we wouldn't have to listen to hyped-up discussions about the quarterback's apparent intent as the officials decide whether it was a fumble or an incomplete forward pass (for any of you non-football fans still reading this post, intent is irrelevant to this determination) or about what should happen following a fumble into the end zone. Demonstrating relevant expertise is evidently not one of the hiring criteria for these jokers. With very few exceptions (I love you, John Madden), they're all too busy trying to be colorful and fabricating "human interest" crap that's, first, of little interest and, second, about as likely to be true as their scary hair colors (male & female). The words and anecdotes they put into players' and coaches' mouths would embarrass even the sensitive hero guys in those diamond commercials.

Anyway, last night's game featured a new low. Celebrities have been slipping into football coverage for a while, as if network bosses are worried that without some additional draw people won't tune in. Whole chunks of games have gone un-broadcast and un-commented on while the announcers "interviewed" Spike Lee or Archie Manning about the horrors of Hurricane Katrina, drooled over Geena Davis or Christian Slater as they promoted their new stuff, or let such luminaries as Jim Belushi try to talk about football. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his governor of California role, waxed hilariously enthusiastic last year about what a great team the Raiders were as
they ineptly fumbled the ball on the actual field of play (shown to us on a split screen so small the action was barely discernible).

And last night, Street Sense - yeah, the horse that won the Kentucky Derby - introduced the Louisville players. I'm not kidding: a picture of Street Sense appeared above the pictures of the players while some jocular voice pretended to be said thoroughbred, yukking it up with equine humor and even offering to race one of the Louisville speedsters. I thought it was bad when Ashley Judd introduced Kentucky's players or John Grisham introduced Mississippi's or maybe Mississippi State's, but Street Sense?? I shouldn't be complaining, though. I was too appalled to listen carefully, but I think the horse spoke without any grammatical errors or ignorant malaproprisms. Maybe he could work with John Madden.

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