Boring sportscasts

Posted: Oct 28, 2002 12:00 AM

There are people who find sports exciting and people who find sports boring. Unfortunately, the latter seem to be the ones in charge of baseball telecasts. And they seem to be trying to make those telecasts boring for the rest of us.

Somehow the people who televise baseball games have become fixated on just one viewpoint for showing a pitcher throwing to a batter. Every pitch, for inning after inning, is shown from just that one angle. It is not a bad angle but there are innumerable other angles from which the same thing could be shown for a little variety.

In years past, pitches were shown from different angles in the course of a ball game. Even today, there are cameras photographing from other angles, as we sometimes see on replays. Are the TV producers just too lazy to change the views they show the audience?

The same rigid formula is applied to other aspects of baseball telecasts. The ultra-closeup is everywhere. What makes television producers think that lo-o-ong closeups of men's faces have any special appeal to predominantly male audiences? After you have seen closeups of the same pitcher's face staring down for the catcher's sign umpteen times, inning after inning, what is there left, except to hope that he gets knocked out of the game, so you can at least see somebody new?

How often do you need to see extreme closeups of Joe Torre's furrowed brow in the dugout or Dusty Baker chewing on a toothpick or Barry Bonds looking bored at everything except hitting home runs? No other sport has such limited and rigidly stereotyped formulas for television.

Boxing takes place in a much smaller space and yet it shows more variety of viewpoints. So does tennis. Even football, which requires a similar lining up of the players for every play, shows more variety than baseball telecasts.

What makes this narrow rigidity so unnecessary is that baseball parks are large, colorful and fascinating places from so many different angles. But you almost never see the whole field with the players in action. TV producers' fixation on closeups shows infield plays as if they were taking place in a parking space.

Seldom is any play shown the way you would see it if you were at the ballpark. The things that real fans enjoy seeing are replaced by facial closeups that might appeal to a soap opera audience or audiences that like scenes in bad western movies where the characters stare long and hard at each other.

Then there are the mindless interviews asking stereotyped questions for which you already know the stereotyped answers. It is like watching old classic movies, where the audience recites the dialogue along with the characters on the screen. These pre-recorded interviews are then played during the game.

It is as if the people who produce baseball telecasts have no idea what real baseball fans want and think they have to come up with gimmicks to supply interest. Baseball is not the only sport in which those who telecast seem to think that the sport itself has little or no appeal, though baseball telecasts are the worst offenders.

In tennis, it is not uncommon for celebrities in the stands to be interviewed while play is going on. Sampras and Agassi may be in the midst of a brilliant rally but the announcer will be quiet while someone with a microphone in the stands is interviewing some Hollywood starlet on how she feels about being at Flushing Meadows.

The same idea that sports are not enough for sports fans seems to have been behind the fiasco of putting Dennis Miller's silly chatter on Monday Night Football. Fortunately, the producers of that program finally got the message that football fans want football. How long will it take producers of baseball telecasts?

The sportscasters themselves are usually much more on the ball than the people who put the TV pictures on the screen. Sportscasters sound like the fans who find the sports themselves interesting. Nor is this the fault of the camera operators, who supply good pictures from many angles. It is the producers who decide which of those pictures the television audience gets to see who are in a rut.

If they don't like sports, why don't they just say so, and leave TV sportscasts to those who do?