Tag Archives: television

New York vs. Boston again – but I’m OK with that

On these posts I’ve complained, whined and kvetched about how America’s major television networks and the media overall are obsessed with the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.

Super Bowl XLVI is upon us, and we have another Boston-New York matchup with the Patriots and Giants. The network executives must be mighty pleased that those two big northeastern markets are reprented, but NFL execs are always  pleased with whatever teams are playing.

The Super Bowl is the biggest thing in sports – in this country, anyway – and it will draw monster ratings even if Tennessee is playing Tampa Bay. The big game rules regardless of the market size of the competing teams.

In the NFL, talent is dispersed, dynasties are rare and most teams have at least a strong  hope every few years at getting a shot at glory. Except maybe the Cleveland Browns.

There’s a lesson for Major League Baseball in the NFL’s universal success. Football has unified national appeal. Baseball, while enjoying broad appeal nationwide, is at heart a region-by-region, market-by-market affair.  And the game pays a price for that.


My TV is too lame, so I can’t host a Super Bowl party

At a measly 36 inches on the diagonal, the low-def television set in our family room  is simply too pathetic for me even to begin thinking about inviting people over to watch the Super Bowl.

Our Toshiba is a hand-me-down from my brother. He gave it to us when he moved overseas back in 2001, when Tom Brady was in his second season with the Patriots and Eli Manning was making his mark at Ole Miss.

The TV darn near broke my back when I hauled it out of my brother’s New York City apartment and ‘rassled it  down the stairs to our family room in New Jersey. Muscle spasms aside, seeing that 36″ screen was a thrill  for somebody whose earliest television memory is of watching a modest black- and-white Admiral catch fire right as Mary Martin came onscreen in “Peter Pan” back in 1960.

The Admiral was replaced by a Zenith (“The quality goes in before the name goes on”), which was to be the set on which I would watch the first football game I can remember. That was the 1964 NFL championship game, in which my Dad and I watched the Cleveland Browns defeat the Baltimore Colts. Even that childhood TV experience was cut short. Electronic “snow” filled the screen late in the fourth quarter as the sun set and we lost the signal from the Toledo station carrying the game.

Although I’m sure it happened a few times, I’m hard pressed to remember watching a Super Bowl in my own home. It seems we’ve always been guests at the home of somebody with a bigger, more manly set. At a co-worker’s place in Omaha as Da Bears won Super Bowl XX. At the home of friends in the Bay Area as the Packers took Super Bowl XXXI. And so on.

This year, we’ll again beg the gracious hospitality of friends across town who have an HD set so big that it’s measured in meters. Wes Welker will appear actual size. And I’ll sit there in a comfy chair, goggle-eyed at the spectacle of punts and pixels, knowing that my TV is today and will be forever too lame to afford me the pleasure of walking over to my own refrigerator for a beer during the big game.

The baseball season ends, and winter begins

It’s no coincidence: The baseball season concluded last night as the Cardinals knocked off the Rangers in St. Louis, and it’s snowing this morning in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New York.

What more do fans of the Phillies, Pirates, Yankees and Mets need to remind them that the 2011 season didn’t go their way?

But what a season it was! The Pirates were winning for most of the first half of the year, while two hours away in Cleveland the Indians were leading the American League Central, and the Tigers eventually won that division.

The Brewers got back to the playoffs for the first time in 29 years, and the Diamondbacks smoked the National League West.  The Red Sox dominated for so long, then fell apart.

The Rangers rolled through the season and the American League playoffs to get another crack at the title. And the Cubs still sucked.

But the best story of all was the Cardinals, coming from way back to sneak into the playoffs as the AL Central Wild Card and ultimately win the World Series in seven games.

The series got better ratings than in previous years, helped by wild and crazy Game 6, which is already a big chapter in more than a century of Major League Baseball lore.

Baseball’s detractors will coldly point out that the playoffs’ and series’ ratings pale in comparison to the ratings the National Football League games get, and there’s no arguing the point.

The NFL has our wallets.

But baseball has our hearts.

In baseball broadcasts, there’s comfort in the home team

Major League Baseball is again offering a free preview of its TV package during April. While I never have the time to watch so much TV that I’d spring for the season-long package, I take advantage of the preview to sample games and see teams from around the American and National leagues.

Last night I caught a couple innings on cable TV of the Pirates-Cardinals game, and MLB carried the TV feed from the St. Louis broadcast team. It was a bit jarring.

While I’m sure the Cardinal announcers are comfortable and familiar to the fans in St. Louis, to a Giants fan like me I found watching the game a bit unsettling, almost as if I were peeking over the fence at a party in which I knew no one.

The Cards team did a fine job (even if they did seem to find too much fault in Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton was mowing down the Cardinals hitters.) But I’m not familiar with these broadcasters, so the game experience wasn’t as intimate and comfortable as it is when I catch a Giants broadcast with its familiar voices of Jon Miller, Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow (and Dave Fleming on radio).

The experience got me to thinking about how important the broadcasters are in our enjoyment of the game. During the Giants’ brilliant post-season run to the world championship last fall, we were forced to watch a lot of network broadcasts. That fundamentally changed the way we experience the games, and many fans griped about it.

I catch many more games on the radio than I do on TV, and the same goes there with announcers. I sample games from other markets on the MLB At Bat app on my iPhone, and some of the “homer” announcers whose style and schtick I don’t get chase me away.

On baseball broadcasts, there’s no place like home.



Thanks to television, the NFL is truly the national sport

Baseball may traditionally be America’s national pastime, but as a spectator sport football is king. That’s a tribute to television broadcasting.

In a continent spanning four time zones (and I’m excluding Alaska and Hawaii), football has an enormous advantage in capturing the attention of the public. Even in an era of Monday night and occasional Thursday night games, most of the matchups are played on Sundays when most Americans are off work. That concentration of games increases the focus on them, and fans immerse themselves in the games.

For example, this weekend has been the pinnacle of the NFL season with eight teams vying to reach the two conference championships. Many of my friends and colleagues blocked out their weekend to watch the games (I dipped in and out and listened a fair amount on radio). Now that the Jets-Patriots game is over, I’m sure many of them are reliving the details on ESPN, the NFL Network and NFL.com.

The conference championships will also be closely and widely watched, followed by the Super Bowl, which will amass a huge audience of fans rabid and casual.

Baseball can’t match that, even if the network executives would get their dream matchup of the Yankees against the Dodgers or Cubs. A Mariners-Pirates World Series would be a network nightmare, but there’d be no dropoff in audience if the Seahawks faced the Steelers in the Super Bowl.

The NFL is huge, while baseball, lived day by day, inning after inning, is merely big. From spring training through a 162-game regular season plus several rounds of playoffs, baseball is seemingly always with us.

So football games seem bigger, more important by comparison.

I’m a baseball fan first and foremost, but I concede I’m in the minority in this 21st century.

Football is America’s sport.

A fond farewell to the Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympics have begun their slow fade into history, and I offer here limited and selective observations. I stress limited and selective because that’s what my experience was with the 2010 Vancouver games. When NBC decided to delay virtually everything to us Americans on the West Coast, I wrote off watching most of the events.

If I couldn’t watch live, I wouldn’t watch.

Had I the scratch, I’d have flown or driven to Vancouver and tried to sit among the hockey- and curling-crazed Canadians, such as this puck-hatted lass.

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So outside of a few minutes of watching some skiing on a Saturday afternoon and the gold medal hockey game on Sunday, I watched nothing on NBC. Not a minute of speedskating or luge or bobsled. None of the tape-delayed dude-in-sweater-by-fireplace chit chat. Not one of the sappy I’m-doing-this-for-my-deformed-brother-in-law profiles.

I did catch parts of several hockey games on NBC’s cable cousin, MSNBC, but I went more often to the Web for live coverage.

I watched a little of one of the Czech games on what may have been a Japanese or Estonian site (seriously, I cannot remember) and I even swallowed down the bile a couple of times to check in on the NBC Web site.

The Web experience was generally excellent, comparable to television but better. I could sneak off to another browser window and research an answer to a question, fire off a tweet on what I was seeing or do whatever else sparked the interest of my short attention span.

The future — the present, actually — of live coverage is on the Web.

God help us if NBC has the contract to broadcast the next set of games from London in 2012.

No standout caps at the Olympics, at least so far

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I was so irritated with NBC’s delay of the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics from Vancouver that I didn’t bother to watch. But I felt it my duty to look for the top caps worn by the athletes. So I cruised through the scores of opening ceremony photos on picapp.com this morning to see if any of the teams’ tuques caught my fancy. My search wasn’t exhaustive, and I didn’t find any particular hat that knocked me out.

So here’s a salute to the RCMP with their wide-brimmed hats, shown as an honor guard brings the Canadian flag into the arena.

p.s.: I’ve really grown to appreciate the service picapp provides here on WordPress. What a wonderful assortment of images we have to choose from for our blogs, all without worry of copyright infringement.