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Jewish World ReviewOct. 21,1999 /11 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell
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Anti-sports sportscasts -- TOO MANY SPORTS BROADCASTS seem to be run by people who don't like sports themselves and don't understand that sports fans do.

The worst are the Fox Sports Network broadcasts of baseball games. Fans who watch are shown much less baseball than they are shown extreme close-ups of the faces of guys in the dugout or on the field.

The people who control the cameras may think that this is Deep Stuff, but how many times do you want to see lo-o-ong and bo-o-ring close-ups of the faces of Joe Torre or Don Zimmer, with their deadpan expressions? How many times during the game do you want to see taped interviews with players about what they think is going to happen or how they feel?

Whatever happened to the ball game? When most fans go to the ball park, they don't usually spend their time staring into the dugouts. They want to see what happens on the field.

Not only do these pretentious new sportscasts seem to show as little as possible of what is happening on the field, they show it in completely stereotyped and repetitious ways. The pitch is almost invariably shown from an angle off to the right of the pitcher and behind him, and it includes just the pitcher, the batter, the catcher and the umpire.

That picture is not bad in itself. But it keeps getting repeated so many times in a row and becomes so tedious that you wonder if the people who control these broadcasts ever realized that this is just one of innumerable angles from which a pitch has been covered over the years.

In the past, it was common to also show pitchers from in front and overhead, often including the infielders in the picture. There were pictures taken from the third base side and pictures taken from the first base side.

Sometimes there were pictures that included all nine players and showed how they shifted around in the field to play different batters.

The ball parks themselves look interesting from different angles. Certainly they are a lot more interesting than extreme close-ups that seem to go on forever, as if this were a soap opera or a bad western. It never seems to occur to some of the people who produce these gimmicky sportscasts that fans actually want to see the game itself.

While baseball coverage is the worst, there have also been tennis matches where there were interviews with celebrities in the stands being broadcast while the ball was in play, even during crucial points in the match.

On the screen you see the players scrambling back and forth and hitting the ball, while what you hear is some movie actress being asked how she feels about tennis or about the resort where the match is being played.

If the people who run these sports broadcasts don't find sports interesting, maybe they should go into some other line of work. Do they think we tune in to watch Wimbledon or the U. S. Open because we want to know who Alexandra Stevens' father is? Or about the tax problems of Steffi Graf's father?

Football and basketball broadcasts are not nearly as bad as some of the baseball and tennis broadcasts. Or maybe it is just the particular networks who broadcast different sports that handle things differently.

Whatever the reason, most football games are about football. You get the occasional glimpses of players close up, but it is not a constant obsession the way it is in some baseball telecasts. You see the formations from different angles, the plays from different angles and the stadium from different angles.

It seems to work. Monday Night Football has been getting top ratings for more than 20 years. Sports fans like sports -- even if Deep Stuff producers don't.

You can watch a basketball game from start to finish and never hear about Charles Barkley's relatives or any tax problems they might have. When soccer players are kicking the ball around the field, you don't hear some visiting musician being interviewed about how he feels or how tough it was to get tickets to the match.

Not only can hokey camera work and constantly distracting snippets of interviews spoil the enjoyment of a sport itself, it fails to get the kind of mileage that you could get out of savvy sportscasters like Bob Costas or Joe Morgan. These broadcasters can explain a lot of interesting things about the game itself, but they are not shrinks who can give you psychobabble about the expressions -- or lack of expression -- of the guys in the dugouts.


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©1999, Creators Syndicate