Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My Monday Night Football message of hope. Or doom. I dunno.

When you name your sports blog "AwfulAnnouncing," you've amply demonstrated both an ability to get to the heart of matters and an understandable propensity for dispair. Indeed, it's surprising that this USAToday column wasn't the final push off the ledge:

"Whether it's hyping Dancing...or having Disney-employed celebs drop by the booth, they aren't catering to the just-give-me-the-game crowd. Those people will watch anyway*: ESPN's game Monday, as a sports-themed TV show accessible to lots of people who've never heard of Billy Kilmer, drew the most households in cable TV history....To all who just want SportsCenter to give scores without catchphrases and games without sideshows, forget it."

Well, shit. "Those people will watch anyway" makes it sound so hopeless. So "Thiesman forever!"

But haven't we heard this kind of talk before? Where was it? Oh yeah: "In the August 5, 1996, issue of the New Yorker, David Remnick interviewed Dick Ebersol, president of NBC Sports, and Nicholas Schiavone, NBC director of research, and explored the psychological underpinnings of NBC's intricate strategy to capture the female audience. Remnick cites what he calls Schiavone's programming 'creed'--five principles for a kinder, gentler Olympics--describing it as 'a highly artificial construct, designed for maximum sentiment and ratings.' The results...indicate that, while men will watch the games no matter what, women, who make up 51 percent of the viewing audience, need stories."

Well, bullshit. Because ten years later, "NBC aired hundreds of hours of prime time coverage of this year's Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, but saw the lowest overall ratings since the 1992 games." Women turned to American Idol for their "stories." And men didn't watch "no matter what." The Olympics are now no longer an automatic ratings and advertising winner. Thank you, Mr Schiavone!

Even if ESPN isn't working off exactly the same brief, I think they face similar results. Aren't they taking a ratings gimme and, with the same blind commitment to an ill-advised "strategy," fucking it up for a future generation? It's Monday Night Football -- an institution! -- and in a few years, no one will sit through a Tirico-Hank Williams Jr interview. I think as soon as you start to assume people will watch "no matter what," you've already lost them. It happened to the Olympics. It can happen to football. Unless the NFL steps in.

* All emphasis mine and added to make it look like I had a point. This marks the first such bolding of type on NotBillable and while it's fun to change things up a bit, I'm never -- never -- going to make things more inviting and readable with a photo or two. Yeah I'm off the hydrocodone. Why do you ask?


Anonymous said...

Yeah - don't "Eggers" your blog up with a bunch of stapler line art and shit. Keep it lean. And mean.

Irene Done said...

Thanks for understanding, man. I'm have to remain true to my ideals...ideas...IDs -- you know, whatever that saying is.

Make the logo bigger said...

"Those people will watch anyway:"

Oh yeah? Guess what. Keep it up, and we won’t.

#1 peeve is the sideline reporting. Jim Gray is the worst offender. I think his attack on Pete Rose at the All-Star game made me hate him forever and start pro sports down this slippery slope.

I’m on a roll.

But this latest crop is too much. Every one of them has to find *drama* or the human interest in a story. Worse, interview players and coaches during the game?

I'm old school like that. I expect my WR's to smoke cigarettes on the sideline and my coaches to talk – AFTER the game. Last thing I need is a distracted coach who could give a shit about talking to Michelle “My hands and jaw are bigger than Dolph Longren’s” Tafoya. Especially when she asks "What happened in the first half?"

Bitch, weren’t you watching the game?*

I also believe in the 'Don't talk to me' jinx that fans of my generation took an oath to uphold. No member of my family can talk to me during a game, even if the comments are positive. That actually leads to worse things happening:

"Hey, they’re up by 21. Looks like they won.”


And someone please, (now, I like Hank Williams Senior actually), but please email ol‘ Hank Jr and tell him syllables match beats in music. That’s how songs work. Ask Sting. He’s really good at it.

And, Tony K. in the booth. Two words: Dennis. Miller. He didn’t work out either.

See, it’s not:

Geek joins cast. Geek tries to start shit every two seconds with Super Bowl QB who knows more than him. Geek keeps poking Super Bowl QB with stick.

Where was I... oh yeah. The Olympics.

NBC did something with Olympic TV coverage I didn’t think was possible: they made it look like print.

It was like watching Chris Schenkel and this 1970's-type ski lodge conservatory.

Two words: Life. Less.

The formula may have worked 15 years ago. But the internet kicked its ass in terms of reporting the results. As for TV, Fox kicked the other half in terms of putting together a lively, engaging show. NFL Sunday and ESPN Game Day are where it needs to be.

They needed something to kick the show in the ass. Short, quick stories. Less Bode, more action.

NBC basically ran the same format it did 25 years ago. And it won’t work anymore because our experiences in all media are now too compressed.

*Sometimes, the use of a sexist remark like Bitch is necessary in a rant.

Irene Done said...

MTLB -- Kudos to you sir! While putting forth an impressive argument, you somehow managed to work in practically all my favorite sports announcing references. However, I must clarify one point: this world was a far better place when Chris Schenkel brought us pro bowling every Saturday afternoon. His was a cool genius and I miss him still.

As for ESPN's MNF presentation: it's a mess. The huge Giants-Cowboys ratings were a result of the teams involved, not ESPN's on-air personalities or production values. I think NBC's Olympics coverage suggests that as soon as a sports programmer thinks the action is secondary to a "story" or a celebrity interview, viewers will turn away. No one "will watch anyway." Fox seems to get the balance right. But if the USA Today columnist is right that ESPN will never present sports without the wackiness, that's a very bad sign. For ESPN. NBC's site was their one Olympic success and, to me, that proves that people really do want the action and scores without the crazy personalities, sideline bullshit and hokey emotionalism.

Finally, "bitch" requires no explanation and its use has become so ubiquitious that I don't even consider it a sexist remark. Anyone disagree? Bring it bitches!