Magazine article USA TODAY

Sports on TV: Simply Awful. (Sports Scene)

Magazine article USA TODAY

Sports on TV: Simply Awful. (Sports Scene)

Article excerpt

LATER THIS SPRING, the oldest professional team trophy in North American sports will be awarded to the 2002 champions of the National Hockey League. When the Stanley Cup was first presented to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association in 1893, television wasn't there to gum up the works. We should be so lucky today. Rather than allowing the nation to see the winning team celebrate completely unencumbered, there will be a mad rash of media morons slip-sliding onto the ice, dragging cameras, microphones, and, most annoyingly of all, miles and miles of cables and wires that will wind up haphazardly strewn about underfoot. This messy obstacle course will denigrate what used to be a great tradition: players from the victorious club circling the rink, Cup held aloft to the cheers of the crowd (whether home or away), before handing off Lord Stanley's chalice to a deserving teammate, who, in mm, does the same. Instead, viewers will be treated to the sight of hulking hockey players tentatively tip-toeing around, through, and over a labyrinth of wires and media intruders on what should be their private stage.

The worst part is that it's totally unnecessary. Today's technology allows ultra-closeups--from the top of the arena if need be. Why in the world is it de rigueur to take cameras onto the ice? Better yet, why can't this throng of interlopers wait to get into the locker room or postgame press conference before asking their inane questions?

That TV leaves its sticky fingerprints all over a classic comes as no surprise. When it comes to sports coverage, the boob-tube boobs just don't get it. When they're not butchering postseason coverage of hockey, they're making a mess of the regular season, or have you already forgotten the special-effects comet-tail puck of a few seasons ago, which flashed different colors, depending on the puck's speed? Hockey, however, has always been the poor sister of the TV sports world--note the middle-of-the-night start time for a key USA-Russia game during the 2002 Winter Olympics--so its shabby treatment comes as no surprise, but how do you explain the absolutely brutal blunders that have become standard fare for all sports coverage?

Start with the Super Bowl. In case you didn't read it in the next day's newspapers, the National Football League championship contest between the New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams technically hasn't ended yet. You'd never know it from the Fox Network announcers doing the game, who (along with St. Louis coach Mike Martz) didn't even question the fact that, since the go-ahead field goal split the uprights with two seconds remaining on the game clock, the Patriots still had to kick off. This is major stuff. The world's championship was on the line, and history is chock-full of amazing finishes in which a game was decided on some long-shot last-second miracle. Still, not a whisper from the booth about it. Just incredible.

Of course, football has long been mistreated by TV announcers (and, let's be fair, by their radio brethren as well as misguided sportswriters) who don't know the roles or misinterpret or misapply them. Worse, though, is their seeming lack of basic understanding of the game they cover. Football is not played in a vacuum. The game creates statistics, not the other way around. To post a graphic that says "Team A has a 7-0 record when 'Joe Fullback' carries the ball 25 times or more" is ludicrous. If that connection, as stated, were true, then why not just hand him the ball on the first 25 plays from scrimmage? …

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