I don't ask all that much from my national baseball broadcasts. I expect them to show me what's happening on the field. I expect that they will keep me apprised of important developments, such as Roger Clemens' retirements, un-retirements and re-un-retirements. I expect that the announcers will not prompt me to jam Q-tips deep into my ear canals, silencing the world at large and letting me pretend Joe Morgan sounds, thinks and reasons like Vin Scully.
|Here's a simple problem solver: More Ron Darling. Right now. (Getty Images)|
I don't care about the copious ads and sponsorships and such. Hey, everybody's gotta pay the bills. What I do care about is the way that, in their quest to be "innovative" and "cool," national broadcast entities treat the games themselves like an afterthought: "Sure, there might be some unmanufactured drama taking place right there on the screen in front of you, but it's not possible for anybody but the zealots to enjoy it unencumbered. We'll add a soft, distracting sheen of infotainment, just in case."
Naturally, I feel compelled to tell these people how to better do their jobs and suggest eight salves of my own. I'm speaking here on behalf of my fellow fans of televised baseball, otherwise known to the good folks at Sharp and Chevrolet and Subway as "demographic gold." We're dim, enthusiastic and impulsive, and have plenty of disposable income to throw around, which we'll eagerly spend on anything shiny or salty.
You want to keep us happy. Because if we're happy, we keep watching. And if we keep watching, you can take your day-after ratings printouts back to those good folks and say "gimme more money for ads gimme gimme gimme." Everybody wins -- except the book nerds, and it's not like they're spending their cash on anything besides bookmarks and psoriasis balms.
Once again, these handy recommendations are presented with the caveat that it's unfair and dangerous for a guy affiliated with one sports-broadcasting behemoth to cast aspersions on another. In life as in scattershot columns, conflicts of interest abound. Please adjust your expectations accordingly.
1. Ditch the extraneous camera angles: During the first round of the playoffs, we haven't gotten much of a view of the close-call home runs near the foul poles. Even in high definition, the balls have simply disappeared into the televised ether, not unlike an ABC sitcom.
As somebody who considers such events pivotal to my enjoyment and understanding of the game at hand, I often feel as if I've missed the payoff. It's as if I had vigorously perused every word in Books 1 through 7 of the Harry Potter series, then been deprived of the penultimate scene where Harry finally gets into Hermione's magical knickers.
Here's what I want: Multiple views of the first- and third-base lines. Mega-coverage of the fences and corners. A camera positioned over home plate for plays like the one that propelled the Rockies into the playoffs. That's all. A cameraman running alongside a player as he completes his home-run trot? Not necessary, unless the cameraman actively tries to goad the hitter into a fight ("Hey, A-Rod -- Jeter says you smell!").
2. Enough with the crowd shots: We don't need tight closeups on fingernail-nibbling fans to know that a tense game is, in fact, tense. We don't need 48-second montages of bleary, teary Cubs fans to sympathize with the team's plight. Easing off the gas here would render the few money shots cameramen stumble onto -- like the fan with the "now I can die in peace" sign after the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994 -- all the more dramatic.
3. Do not dazzle us with graphics: In fact, do not dazzle me with loud colors, swooshing noises, twitchy split-screens, or anything else. I do not like being dazzled. If I did, I'd have pursued a career in musical theater or glitter application.
This year's innovation on the graphic front is a doohickey in which viewers can discern the precise length of a runner's lead off first base. I can count on one shin the number of times I've found myself wondering about this during a baseball broadcast. Reserve the screen space for stats and the once-a-game trivia question.
4. Forget about appealing to young fans: According to most studies/measures/surveymagig thingies, today's kids are playing a whole lot of baseball. They're not, however, watching the televised playoff games, owing to the late start times on school nights. Hell, even in households helmed by neglectful parents, they're not watching. Rather, they're running down to the 7-Eleven to buy mama some smokes.