I used to think that the proliferation of live sports programming on TV was a good thing. It wasn't so long ago that all of these pennant chase Brewers games would not have been televised locally--and forget about a home game ever being on TV. Remember when the only way to see a Badgers football game on TV was to wait for the replay on Wisconsin Public Television Saturday night? And being a fan of other "out-of-town" teams in the NFL, NHL and NBA--the more games broadcast, the better the chance of one of my teams being shown here.
But now I'm wondering if maybe it might be time to start scaling back--not because I don't want to watch so many games--but rather because there are clearly not enough quality play-by-play crews to call all of the action. (Why else would the insufferable Gus Johnson be considered a "top-tier" play-by-play guy?) Never was that more evident than in the Badgers and Packers games this weekend.
Thanks to the MAC'S contract arrangement with ESPN, the Wisconsin-Northern Illinois game was relegated to ESPN3--an internet-only channel. I'll give credit to Time Warner Cable for putting the show on one of its sports tier channels (not in HiDef)--so we didn't have to deal with stop-and-go-action and "buffering" messages trying to watch it on-line. But given the production work and the call of the game--I would have rather just been kept in the dark.
The broadcast featured some of the worst camera angles ever, sloppily-edited replays and the worst call of a game I have ever seen outside of public access television. For awhile, I thought maybe the crew was watching the contest on-line as well--and was surfing some other sites during the game. And then Christian Fauria provided insightful color commentary like "Uhhhh" on a long run by Montee Ball.
The Packers were broadcast on FOX Sunday--so you would expect at least a more professional effort (I'll skip the rant about fighting robots this time). But the call from Charles Davis and Jim Mora, Junior made me want to stick meat thermometers in my ears to find some relief from the pain. I've been in TV meetings where the broadcast crew and the producers decide what the "storylines" are going to be coming into the game. Obviously, the "storyline" for the Packers-Panthers game was going to be "Cam Newton is going to be the next big thing in the NFL so we need to be on his bandwagon as soon as possible."
You would have thought it was Tim Tebow at quarterback and Evangelical Christians in the booth the way Davis and Mora were slurping on Newton. He was the greatest runner they'd ever seen, he has the strongest arm, the greatest downfield vision, etc, etc. Mora elicited the biggest groan by blaming the Panthers offensive coordinator for the three interception thrown by Newton in the 2nd half--as it was obvious that a guy sitting in a booth was responsible for overthrowing wide open receivers and throwing into double coverage several times.
Yes, I could have listened to Matt and Mike during the Badgers game--but the stream from our Green Bay sister station would not have matched up with the game action--so it would have sounded like they were doing an old-school recreation of a road game. The Packers game was on the radio as well--but I don't need Wayne Larivee yelling about every three yard run like it just won the Super Bowl in overtime--with color commentary by Chewbacca--I mean Larry McCarren--groaning and grunting in reaction to the play on the field.
So maybe the time has come to admit there is a limited number of quality broadcast crews available for games--and as a service to the fans, the networks will air only the games they can work every week. My intelligence as a sports fan can't take anymore.