Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pre-tentious

With the football season nearly over, I decided to decompress a little and take a break from blogging. Too many numbers running through my head and not enough brainpower to try and work through all of them, I guess, so I figured you'd be better off not reading anything from me than my trying to string together coherent thoughts linking a running back's skill to where his name comes in the alphabet (Adrian and Emmitt concur, though Walter disagrees) or about how penalties have little to no effect on how much a team wins.

Wait, that one's actually true. But I'll get into it tomorrow.

What I'd rather talk about right now, with the Super Bowl media frenzy in full force, is how little I care about said media frenzy these days. Apart from an occasional glance at Awful Announcing, I haven't paid any attention to the interviews, quotes, or special interest stories regarding the players and teams in Super Bowl XLIII. Hey, did you know Ken Whisenhunt used to be an assistant coach for the Steelers or that Kurt Warner used to stock grocery shelves? If you didn't, you've only had 8,671 chances to pick up on that information the last week and a half. It reminds me of the Chicago/Indianapolis Super Bowl a few years ago where we heard so many times that two black head coaches were in the Super Bowl that I half-wished Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith would have quit the week before the game and given way to white assistants.

On a broader note, though, it occurs to me that I've watched (and read) very little pre-game media coverage at all this year, and somewhat less post-game, as well. There was a time, back in high school and college, where I'd sit my butt down in front of the TV at 10 or 11 a.m. on Sunday (this was Central time) and not move for at least 10 hours, devouring ESPN's and the other networks' coverage of upcoming matchups, the games themselves, and the post-game shows. I'd plan my schedule around NFL 2Night (I didn't have much of a life; actually, that hasn't really changed) and would watch the full hour of SportsCenter just to catch whatever NFL-related tidbits it was pumping out, even if it meant suffering through NBA highlights in the offseason. I even used to watch upwards of three to four hours of pre-game stuff leading up to the Super Bowl.

This year, I was lucky if I caught 15 minutes of any pre-game show any week. I still like watching post-game highlights, but all the talk about why a team won or why a team lost (especially when it devolves into mindless claptrap about one team just "wanting it more") from the commentators bores me. As for the Super Bowl pre-game, I'll probably be playing video games and stuffing my face -- oh wait, I always did that second part on Super Bowl Sunday. No change there!

ESPN's fall from grace as a "catch-all" for sports information is well documented (as is SportsCenter's fall from grace as anything remotely watchable). But even if the quality was unchanged, I don't think I'd watch it as much any more because, quite simply, pre-game shows rarely tell me anything I don't already know. The Sunday morning shows just rehash news that I've either been reading about on the Internet all week or even have seen on other TV shows. Running Back X has an ankle injury and might not play? I've heard about that from PTI, NFL 2Night, Inside the NFL, ESPN's morning shows, and at least half a dozen web sites all week long. Player Y is unhappy with his contract? So what? Even when a halfway intelligent commentator wants to get up on his soapbox and foster halfway intelligent discussion about a topic, he'll either be drowned out by the other idiots on the show (who think all a team needs to do to win is "run the ball and stop the run") or will echo what the other 46 talking heads have been saying all week.

The Internet, of course, is partially to blame for this information devaulation, but it's not the only culprit. In their haste to duplicate the success of Pardon the Interruption -- which has been only barely watchable since Tony Kornheiser became self-aware a couple years ago -- ESPN launched Rome is Burning and Around the Horn to fill the timeslots immediately preceding PTI on weekdays, giving us three half-hour talk shows, all in a row, that usually cover the exact same topics. How can that be a good programming decision? I don't watch RIB and ATH except in extremely small doses, and I can't imagine anyone could watch all three without wanting to commit hari-kiri. And no, that's not the former Cubs broadcaster. Sports opinion shows are the reality TV of the sporting world, with PTI as its Survivor. They're cheap, get good ratings, and the cast is essentially replaceable. What's not to love, from a network's point of view?

So you can take your Media Day, your 13.5 hours of pre-game coverage (no idea if that's the actual amount, but it seems like it), and your endless stream of uninteresting (and frequently uninformed) opinions and stuff them where the sun don't shine -- a difficult task in Tampa, admittedly. I'll save my emotion and interest for, you know, the actual game. Or at least the commercials.

1 comment:

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