Monday, October 11, 2010

The Sounds of Silence

During the Georgia-Tennessee football game Saturday, the sound from the announcers' microphones went out for a significant length of time in the second half. You could still hear the field audio--cheering crowds, players calling signals, coaches yelling--but that's all. The problem was eventually fixed and the game ended with no other technical problems.

Listening to a game with just field audio and no announcers reminded me of NBC's bold experiment in 1980, when the network televised the Jets-Dolphins NFL game with no announcers at all. An entire game with no commentary, or as legendary sports writer Red Smith wrote at the time, "no banalities, no pseudo-expert profundities phrased in coachly patois, no giggles, no inside jokes, no second-guessing, no numbing prattle."

In some ways, the experiment was in response to Monday Night Football's Howard Cosell, who at the time was one of the most recognizable, and disliked, football announcers on television. NBC's Don Ohlmeyer was the one who made the decision:

Ohlmeyer was right, and the experiment did not really work. There was no ensuing outcry to get rid of announcers, and the idea was not repeated (although the NFL Network did experiment with it for a preseason game in 2004). But given the growth in new technologies and channels, it's somewhat surprising that an announcer-less channel isn't an option for say, the NFL Sunday Ticket package or NCAA football.

And think of the cost savings not having to pay announcers ...


Blogger sportsbabel said...

A similar thing happened in Canada five years ago when the nation's public broadcaster CBC was involved in a labour dispute with employees. Football games were still broadcast, with no announcers and cameras operated by management. It didn't hurt ratings too badly:

5:59 PM  
Blogger Brad Schultz said...

Thanks for the comment. I actually enjoyed the silence, and I think if you had enough accompanying graphics--down and distance/statistics/clock--people wouldn't miss the announcers as much as they think.

7:20 AM  

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