A Man Named Fritz Laid Ruin to American Sports Broadcasting

Fritz Huber for the Paris Review, writing about bad sports commentary (or, if you’re British, commmantry) and its assorted inanities:

If you, like me, spend an irrational amount of your fleeting time on Earth watching huge men brutalize each other in hi-def, you’ll know what I’m talking about: “It’s hard to overstate what this win means for this organization”; “He’s got tremendous basketball IQ”; “You can feel the momentum swinging”; “They’re a real Cinderella story”; “They’ve got that championship swagger”; “They stepped up and made plays”; “These guys have to keep their continuity”; “He makes his presence known on the field.” Et cetera. The silliness of these stock phrases becomes more apparent in a nontelevised context. The next time you get into a heated sports debate, try describing your favorite athlete as “an absolute specimen with great physicality.” For maximum effect, keep a serious expression and maintain eye contact.

He’s right. Sports commentary is mostly terrible. That assessment extends to sports discussion, analysis and the endless stream of pre- and post-game shows. But we often blame the people doing the talking rather than the networks, producers and big corporations responsible for their presence in your lives. The fact is, your typical sporting event is difficult to dissect – sometimes teams… just lose – and yet, for almost every professional contest, there’s at least an hour of (profitable!) pre- and post-game packaging that needs to be filled. So, you get clichés. Lots of them. This is why I rarely do game recaps or post useless media scrum and press conference quotes. And it’s why publicly ogling Henrik Lundqvist and Melissa Stark is more interesting and entertaining (to me, at least) than being the 32nd person to tell you that Jeremy Maclin’s little injury is “no big deal.” Often, there’s just nothing to say.

Huber also went in on the utter BS that accompanies most US broadcasts:

After a prolonged TV spectacle like college football’s Bowl Week (whose contests last year included the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and the Taxslayer.com Bowl, the latter being only a slight improvement on the all-time most absurd Galleryfurniture.com Bowl), watching English Premiership matches or Six Nations rugby on BBC feels like a cultural upgrade. There’s less advertising. There’s less analysis of bullshit statistics (“Headed into this matchup, the Kentucky Wildcats are 11-3 in games played within four days of their coach’s annual colonoscopy”). And, on British television, the commentators’ linguistic repertoires don’t feel as inhibited; there’s more room for an occasional flourish. Why can’t we have a color analyst like Ray Hudson, who, in his exuberance, will announce that we’ve just witnessed “a Bernini sculpture of a goal,” or claim that watching Lionel Messi “softens the hard corners of our lives”?

Agreed, with the exception of the British TV thing. Yeah, the phrasing of EPL announcers is eloquent, descriptive and goofily British, but there’s also a lot of grandiose language that would sound positively Gumpish in the far-Westerner’s English. The war metaphors are good the first 7,000 times you hear them, but after a while, not even the English accent can save them from sounding like total BS.

Good article from Huber overall, though.

via Daring Fireball


9 Responses

  1. “This is why I rarely do game recaps or post useless media scrum and press conference quotes. And it’s why publicly ogling Henrik Lundqvist and Melissa Stark is more interesting and entertaining (to me, at least) than being the 32nd person to tell you that Jeremy Maclin’s little injury is “no big deal.””

    You are right kyle, and it’s the only reason i frequent this blog. People want to complain so much about the content but you know what you are getting when you come to the site. This is the TMZ of philly sports and can be entertaining if you take it for what it really is, not more importantly, for what it isn’t.

  2. I actually agree with the article, the Brits are much more colorful in this announcing ,one of the best parts about the world cupp

  3. I believe that the blandness of American television commentary is very much intentional. After spending billions on licensing NFL games, networks don’t dare risk upsetting a single fan. Not one. So they won’t dare risk losing one due to a pointed opinion by an “analyst”. Hard to get pissed when your team isn’t “carrying the momentum”. But its certainly easy to get pissed if your strong safety “apparently slept though his defensive meetings this week as he fell numb on an obvious assignment to check the sprinting tight-end, who was left with an amazing opportunity to score without a defender within a country mile.”

  4. The whole point of pre and post game shows is to inform our sports junkie nerds of all the statistical bull shit that they wanna beat their dicks to… No one is making anyone watch it As vanilla as it may be and as boring as some of our commentators are it’s still better than watching the fucking Big Bang theory…. Fritz can suck my asshole rugby is a bunch of gorillas jumping on top of each other and the epl is full of a bunch of wining diving bitches id prefer to cut to commercial rather than see Louis Suarez lay on the ground holding his vagina for 10 minutes

  5. Since Kyle doesn’t wake up and post until lunch……

    According to Ken Rosenthal, Phillies ace Cole Hamels has been claimed off waivers by an unidentified team. Hamels was claimed on revocable waivers which means the Phillies now have two days to either work out a trade with the team that claimed him, or they can pull him back off waivers.

  6. In fairness to American broadcasters, how many mindless Neanderthal American sports fans would even know who Bernini is?

    Sports commentators appeal to their audiences and sadly ours is not the most intellectually curious bunch.

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