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Take It To the Next Level

Sports broadcasting gripes

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What is it about January that gets me on my high horse about TV and radio sports? Maybe it's just that, as a sports fan, I've been watching college bowl games and NFL playoffs and listening to the occasional sports talk radio as football ends and college hoops begin.Gripe number 1: Famous jocks as "announcers." The men who do the hiring at cable and broadcast sports operations have been hiring former jocks and coaches for years. Sometimes it works (Kirk Herbstreit, Chris Collinsworth, John Madden) but often, it doesn't (Eric Dickerson, Troy Aikman, Bill Parcells). The thought is that the famous names draw viewers. What networks apparently don't think about is that more often that not, an empty helmet has nothing to say, has no television experience, will not offend his old boys' club, and Lord forbid, has no relationship with sports journalism, a genre that has already disappeared from local TV and radio. The sports nuts I know care what's being said, and bells and whistles aside, they're reaching for the remote.

Gripe number 2: Andy Rooney was a little bit right. When the 60 Minutes curmudgeon made his sexist remark that women don't belong on football sidelines as reporters, the expected howl was justified. For reporters like Andrea Joyce, Melissa Stark, and Michele Tafoya, his remark is just plain wrong. But for a parade of no-names hired for assets based on appearance and not sports smarts, crusty Andy is right. Women who have worked too long in a tough business to get the plum assignments alongside male colleagues are done a disservice by Miss Hair Extension of the Moment.

Gripe number 3: Announcers trying to be bigger than the game. OK, I'll say it: how many of you have to hit the mute button when Dick Vitale calls a game? His bombastic BS overshadows a good game. Then again, I'm a purist who hates basketball sideline guys, as well. Vitale's yelling and personal babbling about his friends and "diaper dandies" and all that... what was the score of the game again? I'm all for opinion in the Billy Packer mode, but when you're babbling about yourself more than what's on the floor... who won the game again?

Gripe number 4: Newspaper guys as broadcasters. Whether looking for bigger bucks, a bigger ego stroke, or PR for their paper or magazine, there are one too many print boys babbling in their erudite but geeky way out there. I can handle a Mike Lupica in print, but the whine and the "I'm always right" play better in print. In radio, newspaper writers seem to fill out the roster on many sports talk stations, but I'll spot them the knowledge of beat reportage over ex-jocks any day (see gripe number 1).

Gripe number 5: The BIG voice. You've heard it. Like no other broadcasters I know, too many sportsies try to coax a baritone boom out of average pipes, and talk too loud. Call it Ted Baxter Syndrome or Tank McNamara Disease. I know two sportscasters who've had throat nodule surgeries to correct the way they've abused their throats with faux voices all these years.

True story: I knew a sportscaster a few years back who got phone calls from a fan who always said that his mother liked when the sportscaster came on their local news: "Mama's hard of hearing, but we don't have to turn up the TV when you come on!"

Gripe number 6: Kill the cliches. The movie Bull Durham showed us the uselessness of the sports cliche the best, but there are a few that sportsies must retire (not to mention the coaches and players who regurgitate them): "shock the world," "take our game to the next level," "110 percent," "intensity," and "stud." And they aren't talking retired race horses, dawg.

AND ANOTHER THING OR TWO... Longtime radio and TV traffic guru Brian Stickley begins the New Year looking for a new gig, as Infinity Broadcasting cuts his job to do traffic business with sister biz Metro traffic... There'll be shades of the Today show, as WBTV refits a street level space at Founders Hall with a news studio, moving from their current interior location by summertime... Moving in and out at WCNC these days: new reporter Tim Knol will man their Rock Hill Bureau, assistant news director Anzio Williams heads to Orlando for a new job, and Brad Panovich is on board as a new meteorologist... Despite on-air rhetoric and a long holiday vacation, did anyone think that Mark Packer wasn't renewing his deal with WFNZ-AM?... And wonder how many Charlotte TV reporters took umbrage with the Observer's Ed Williams who said that said Channel 3 reporter Mike Cozza's retirement is "reducing by about 90 percent the store of local knowledge among Charlotte's TV reporters."?

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