dumbing down sports for network TV

I’ll admit it, I’m not a huge fan of the typical popular sports in the U.S. I love watching the Trailblazers play basketball, but with other teams playing I lose interest. I’ll watch football…only if there’s nothing better on. I enjoy watching the Twins and Brewers in baseball; other than that I get bored quickly. And you won’t ever catch me watching NASCAR because I just plain hate it.

Sports I really enjoy watching include rugby, Formula 1 racing, and soccer/football/whatever you want to call it.

Soccer has become more common to see on TV in the U.S. thanks to the MLS. Most of the MLS games though are on cable channels, with ABC occasionally showing a game here and there. I have no problem with these games.

This year marked a first as Fox Sports took the plunge and showed the Champions League final. I thought it was terrific that such a big event was available to such a wide audience in the U.S. Sadly, not many people in the U.S. are familiar with the European clubs, which sadly Fox realized. Problems started in the pregame show with the commentators continuously pointing out how big the Champions League final match is. The commentators spent alot of time talking about how popular and great the players are. Thankfully soccer is popular enough that they didn’t feel the need to explain the rules of the game.

But it bothered the hell out of me listening the commentators bringing up how big the match was, how great the players were etc etc over and over. The majority of the audience were probably the big fans of the sport, and they already knew this. Fox knew that to make this work, they needed to get the people wondering what Champions League is all about, people that haven’t really ever paid attention to it. Once they tune in, the commentators had to remind these viewers how great it was so that the viewers kept watching.

This happens with Formula 1 racing also. SpeedTV carries the races in the U.S. and to be honest their coverage is great fun. Bob, Steve, and Dave are both know their stuff, and keep it funny at the same time. A car as a technical problem, Steve can give the viewers a pretty good guess as to what the problem is within a few seconds. If the team finds new parts on the cars (which happens throughout the season), the commentating team sees them and explains how it will make things better. They educate the viewer keeping in mind that the viewers already know the basics. They aren’t going to waste our time explaining why the steering wheel isn’t round…we know that already. They will tell us if Mercedes GP are running a longer wheel-base car, which is something F1 fans find interesting.

I bring F1 up now because this coming weekend is the Canadian GP and Fox is airing it. The SpeedTV commentator team will have the call, but it’s on Fox. Traditionally when F1 is on network TV, whether it be CBS (a few years ago) or Fox, they always dumb it down. Once again, trying explain what’s happening, give the viewer history of the sport, in the hopes of bringing in new fans. On the flip side, while chatting about the basics, it bores me to death, and I’m sure other regular F1 fans feel the same. I can only hope the same doesn’t happen this year, but it always has in the past, so I’m not betting on change.

Finally, I love rugby. I watch rugby online, I tune into Australian ABC radio to listen to NRL games, it’s great. This last weekend NBC decided to give rugby a try. They aired Rugby Sevens with college teams. I’m not familiar with Sevens other than the fact that they play with 7 players instead of the usual 15 and the games are much shorter. There were a few rules changes from what I’m used to, but picked up on them quickly, and I enjoyed the matches. But NBC hit a new low with their attempt to introduce the sport to new fans…new low for me anyways.

Rugby has positions like “prop”, “fly-half”, and “wing”…or “the flyer”. What was NBC’s way of describing them? Football. They actually used a graphic listing the football position equivalent like “quarterback” “running back”. Wow! Once again, to the majority of the audience watching, they probably liked that. Viewers that enjoy rugby already probably hated it, like me.

This whole thing leaves me between a rock and a hard place. On one side I’d love to see the sports I’ve grown to love get bigger in the U.S. and receive more coverage. On the other side, I don’t want to sit through games, matches, and races listening to commentators tell me the basics I already know. Part of me wishes network TV would give up on these sports and leave it to the specialty channels that know their audience to broadcast. (ah hem F1 races…Fox, give up…keep them on SpeedTV and let Steve, Dave, and Bob do their thing.)

I wonder if people in England have the same problem when it comes to NFL games that air there. Do the few die-hard fans have to sit through basic rules (the yellow flag means a penalty) and history (the Packers won the first two Super Bowls) the whole time? And if you don’t understand what I’m complaining about, aren’t you annoyed just a little bit that I told you what a penalty flag is and about the Packers’ SB I & II wins? You know that, I know that, but this is the bs the networks feel they need to point out with new sports. ugh.

Written by majafa