ABC: Anything but Conventional

By Shaffer, Jeffrey | The Christian Science Monitor, June 3, 2000 | Go to article overview
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ABC: Anything but Conventional

Shaffer, Jeffrey, The Christian Science Monitor

I wouldn't be surprised if the folks at ABC decided to officially change the company name to Anything But Conventional. This is, after all, the network that decided to push the journalistic envelope by having Leonardo DiCaprio interview President Clinton about Earth Day.

And now the sports department has made an end run around standard practices by hiring comedian Dennis Miller for the Monday Night Football broadcast team.

It's hard to step outside these days without bumping into a new media paradigm. ABC Sports president Howard Katz was quoted as saying the changes on Monday night were intended "to remove some of the sameness. We wanted to reinvent a little bit." That's no great revelation. TV viewers have known for years that in sportscasting, the presentation rather than the game is often the real product. Unfortunately for ABC, the presentation of Monday Night Football has been slowly deflating ever since Howard Cosell departed.

My only quibble with Mr. Katz is his use of the terms "reinvent" and "little bit" in the same sentence. There's no reason to open a new door if you're just going to stick one toe across the threshold. Why not take a bolder approach and try to knock the whole barrier into a pile of splinters? That's what "Saturday Night Live" did when it debuted in 1975, and the show ended up transforming the structure of TV comedy.

If ABC wants people talking about Monday Night Football again, I'd suggest a maximalist strategy combined with the voyeuristic aspects of "Survivor." Select a wide range of announcers, each broadcasting directly onto the World Wide Web. Every week, the online audience would vote to pare down the field, with the final winners covering the Super Bowl. Some of the talent on my starting lineup would include:

*Gov. Jesse Ventura and Bobby Knight: Brash, opinionated, and outspoken, both have extensive sports backgrounds and plenty of experience when it comes to shouting into a microphone and tossing chairs around.

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