Monday, July 20, 2009

Old School

I didn't have a lot of time to watch sports on television this past weekend, but a couple of observations from what little I did get to see--

*It will be interesting to see what kind of ratings the British Open got on ABC. Typically, tournaments without Tiger Woods do poorly in the ratings. Tiger missed the cut this weekend; perhaps the compelling story of 59-year-old Tom Watson leading going to the final hole was enough to overcome that. The Open usually suffers from the time disparity and the fact that sometimes the drama is already over by mid-morning U.S. time.

*As soon as Watson missed a putt on 18 that forced a playoff ABC put up a watermark in the upper left hand corner for the rest of the telecast. That's not unusual, but the watermark said "ESPN." It seems that ESPN now has more branding cache than it's big brother.

MLBN continued with its replays of All-Star games past (although I hardly think the 1995 game counts as an all-time classic). I caught some of the 1971 game, which was a home-run fest won by the American League (including Reggie Jackson hitting a home run that would have completely left Tiger Stadium if not for hitting a light tower). Several things jump out at you after watching a 38-year old telecast--

*Obviously, the technology was not as developed, but NBC still managed to catch all the important plays. The viewer really didn't miss anything (maybe except for Jackson's home run hitting the light tower, but that was more the fault of the cameraman who underestimated just how far Jackson had hit the ball) and there were some good closeups of the action. Today's technology is almost overkill, with its constant search for new camera angles and fly-in graphics.

*The game moved incredibly fast. As soon as the catcher caught the pitch he threw it back to the pitcher who then pitched it right back. Batters didn't step out of the box on every pitch and the game moved at a brisk pace. I think the slowness of the game today is almost directly attributable to television. Every pitch today is analyzed with several sl0-mo replays, while in the '71 game only the hits and good fielding plays were replayed. Over the course of the last 30 years players have become accustomed to this slower pace. Pitchers step off the mound as regularly as batters step out of the box.

*Another thing that seemed to keep the game moving--the lack of in-game ads and promotions. Incredibly, the announcers talked about the game and not an upcoming show on NBC or some product placement.

Call me sentimental, but watching that type of game on television made me yearn for the good 'ol days.


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