Television's intrusion into the integrity of sports reached a new low over the weekend as a cable supporting a zip-line camera at Charlotte Motor Speedway snapped and fell onto the track during the Coca-Cola 600--damaging three cars and injuring ten fans. The incident also red-flagged the race--forcing the drivers to park their cars for nearly a half-hour.
I'm sure when the racers got into their cars Sunday night, they probably thought the main risks to their vehicles would be engine failure, a blown tire or a crash collecting them and knocking them out of the race. I doubt they had much concern about cameras and cables falling out of the sky and hitting their cars. For fans, there is always the danger of debris from crashes flying into the stands--but a cable coming out of nowhere to hit you? But there we were, the leader--Kyle Busch's car--seriously damaged from hitting the cable at about 190-miles an hour. Two other cars damaged--including one that was dragging the cable around the track after it got twisted around the undercarriage. And three people were sent to the hospital after being struck by a section of the cable that was thrown into the stands. All so a TV producer could have a camera move along the front stretch and give us "cool pictures" of the cars driving by.
This isn't the first time one of these "cable cams" has interfered with a sporting event. A couple of college and NFL games have been delayed after the cameras fell off their cables and nearly onto the field--or the drive motor that moves the camera unit along died, leaving it in a spot where it could be hit by a pass or a punt. Maybe we should just rely on the Goodyear Blimp for our overhead shots from now on.
Of course, cable cam isn't the only intrusion that TV has made into the actual playing of sports over the years. The wonderful "TV Timeout" drains all of the flow and energy out of contests--especially basketball and football--where teams sit around for four or five minutes several times a half and just wait for the okay from the producer on the sideline to resume play. I've even seen kickoffs "redone" because TV hadn't come back from commercial yet.
Thanks to TV, we have the "call in violation" in golf, where players who completed their rounds hours ago are penalized and disqualified (except Tiger at the Masters) for something a fan at home saw on the nightly highlight show or that he taped during the afternoon. We now have cameramen on the field of play in the NFL running with players as they head to the huddle and in Major League Baseball as a home run hitter rounds third base and heads for home. And who can forget Fox's "glowing puck" for hockey--which players swore reacted differently than a "regular" puck--and which made the contest look like a cheesy video game on TV.
Is it "neat" to see Aaron Rodgers' face as he runs to the huddle for the opening drive of the game? Maybe. Is it "cool" to travel almost as fast as the cars from above at the race track? I guess. But when those "covering the game" start having an influence on who ends up winning the game--it might to be time to put the electronic toys back in the box.