Worst Sports Broadcast Ever

Last night's preseason opener between the Dallas Cowboys and the Cincinnati Bengals was the worst sports broadcast I've ever seen, barring any recent Olympics.

Last night’s preseason opener between the Dallas Cowboys and the Cincinnati Bengals was the worst sports broadcast I’ve ever seen, barring any recent Olympics.  But the latter are a two-week extravaganza trying to make people interested in sports they see only every four years, whereas NFL football is the most popular spectator sport in the land.

Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth are above average announcers and they were perfectly fine last night, given what they had to work with.  This isn’t a Dennis Miller or Bryant Gumbel situation.

No, the problem was that — much like the Olympics — the Powers That Be at NBC apparently decided that people who tune in to watch an exhibition football contest aren’t really interested in watching exhibition football.   No, they must be interested in human drama.

So, rather than focusing on what one typically sees in an American football telecast — scenes of men playing football — the producers kept the game action to a minimum and instead spent most of the evening having some old woman interview men who used to play football back when she wasn’t so damn old.

Yes, this was the Hall of Fame Game, which coincides with the enshrinement of this year’s group into Canton.   And I’m happy to reminisce about Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith and some old timers who played before I was watching the game.  But not during game action!   And especially not during the part of the game where the starters — whom we haven’t seen in eight months! –are on the field.

Back in the old days, the announcers would have had them in the booth during halftime.   Because they’re not playing football then!

Now, though, everybody has to have a sideline reporter.  I don’t know why.  Sideline reporters are, without exception, annoying.    A handful of them are at least hot, but they’re dressed conservatively enough that it doesn’t come close to making up for their annoyingness.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave says:

    No, the problem was that — much like the Olympics — the Powers That Be at NBC apparently decided that people who tune in to watch an exhibition football contest aren’t really interested in watching exhibition football.   No, they must be interested in human drama.
    Here’s the thing: These “Power That Be” are absolutely, 100%, without question correct, backed by decades of experience and, quite literally, hundreds of millions of dollars in marketing research. You, the masculine sports fan, may claim to not be interested in “human drama,” but packaging sports in this way is a highly effective ratings strategy.

  2. James Joyner says:

    You, the masculine sports fan, may claim to not be interested in “human drama,” but packaging sports in this way is a highly effective ratings strategy.

    They’re not marketing the telecasts that way.  Hell, they’re hardly marketing them at all.

    I don’t doubt that this is what most people watching the Olympics want. Because they’ve got no interest in the sports aside from whatever human drama and nationalism that can be ginned up.

    It’s not like people who would prefer to watch figure skating or Dancing With The Stars tune into NFL football preseason games out of desperation.  They’re tuning in to watch football.

  3. Dave says:

    NBC doesn’t want the people who are tuning in to watch Football. It already has them. It needs the millions who normally wouldn’t really care about a meaningless exhibition game, and to get them you need some sort of human drama.
    The explosive growth in ratings and popularity of American Football the past couple decades has little to do with anything on the field and everything to do with the Reality TV-ization of American sports and sports culture. You’re talking about a game last night that featured TWO VH1 Reality TV stars.
     

  4. PD Shaw says:

    NBC gets it’s money from advertisers and to the extent sports makes money these days it’s through the ability to reasonably convince Viagra, Coors, and Rogaine that this is the premiere venue to reach the male audience.

    James, were there any Tampax commercials last nite?

  5. sam says:

    Was it worse than the Heidi thing?

  6. James Joyner says:

    NBC doesn’t want the people who are tuning in to watch Football. It already has them. It needs the millions who normally wouldn’t really care about a meaningless exhibition game, and to get them you need some sort of human drama.

    But you’ll lose the football fans if you’re not giving them football.  If Thursday night’s Cowboys-Raider game goes anything like this, I’ll shut it off and wait for the regular season to start.   And I’m just not sure there’s enough entertainment value in the interruptions to get non-fans watching.

    The explosive growth in ratings and popularity of American Football the past couple decades has little to do with anything on the field and everything to do with the Reality TV-ization of American sports and sports culture.

    I don’t think that’s right at all.  It’s a function of many things, including video games (Madden, especially), better marketing of the draft and other non-game activities, and the like.  And also the decline in the patience to watch 162 regular season baseball games.

    You’re talking about a game last night that featured TWO VH1 Reality TV stars.

    But, again, I’m not sure that cameos by Rice and Smith are enough to draw viewers to a three-hour program.

  7. LCB says:

    I loves me some NFL football…but

  8. LCB says:

    I loves me some NFL football…but will NOT waste my time with pre-season.  Even as a Bengal fan, with a best bud that’s a Cowboys fan, I had no interest in the game last night.  Different topic: how can NFL owners get away with charging full price for preseason games?  One of the reasons I will never own season tickets!

  9. Dave says:

    I don’t think that’s right at all.  It’s a function of many things, including video games (Madden, especially), better marketing of the draft and other non-game activities, and the like.  And also the decline in the patience to watch 162 regular season baseball games.
    This is all undoutably true, but it’s far from the whole picture. There’s a reason growth in NFL audience has coincided with a growth in a 24/7, ESPN-fueled interest in the private lives of athletes and their outsized personalities. Audiences gravitate toward human drama and that’s why guys like Terrell Owens, Ocho Cinco, and heck, even Tim Tebow are so important to the league and its broadcast partners.
    NFL football is basically a reality TV show made up of athletic guys who throw and catch a ball and run into each other a whole bunch of times over the course of each episode.

  10. G.A.Phillips says:

     The Packers Family Night scrimmage was much better:)

  11. John Burgess says:

    Hell, all sports broadcasts are now minimizing the sport in preference to ‘human interest’ stories. I’ve completely given up on football. Baseball is still tenable because I can listen to radio broadcasts of the game via MLB.com.

  12. The Q says:

    James,
    I love football too, but as LCB says above, c’mon, the starters played for ONE series, that leaves about 55 minutes of action for scrubs, 4th round draft choices, Canadian and Arena league castoffs et al to fill the rest of the 3 hour telecast.
    Its akin to excoriating Vin Scully while he rhapsodizes about the Brooklyn boys of summer  during the 8th inning of a spring game for not calling out the pitch count.
    FYI, Scully is the LEGENDARY wordsmith/announcer of the LA Dodgers. He is an institution in our fair city.