Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Keele Diary #14

I am fully willing to embrace the rest of the world's major team sports. Based on many years in South Africa, the UK and elsewhere, I have come legitimately to love rugby, to very much like and be intrigued by cricket, and I even have developed a liking for soccer, a sport I once disdained. Sports have a certain universality to them. Anyone who loves American sports would love cricket, soccer, and rugby had they grown up elsewhere.

Nonetheless, when abroad I miss American sports and will go to great lengths to see baseball, football, basketball, and even hockey if it is televised anywhere. Late last night one of the British networks that I can access in my flat (I could probably see every game of all of my sorts were I to own a satellite dish or full cable package) played the live feed of the Nuggets-Lakers game, which I was able to watch until halftime rolled aound at 3 am, and even then I went to bed to avoid seeing the lowlights of the C's-Magic series.

But there is an interesting approach to presenting American sports here in the UK. While they pull in American feeds, either live or tape delayed, they have a British studio show. The same guy does all of the shows for the big three American sports, or at least the weekly games of the week. He's an affable enough fellow and certainly likes and knows the game well. Then he has a sidekick. And the sidekick fits one of two models: He is either an American player drawn from something like the 29th tier of former players -- a guy you've never heard of, or whose four-game cup of coffee with the Reds got him his stint (as former star) -- or else he is a British athlete who played one of the sports with a comparable level of accomplishment. And again, these people are generally fine, know the game, did play the game, and they tend to be good at bringing the games to an audience that might not know it all that well, though something tells me that the huge percentage of the community watching the late-late-late night programming may come from a knowledgeable expat community.

But again, all well and good, and done far better than we do rugby or cricket, and probably not much better than we do soccer.

But then here is the kicker. When they show their highlights packages, rather than simply crib from Sportscenter or from TNT/ABC, the British highlights are put together with what I can only assume is some American expat in his 20s, and the quality is laughably bad, like the substitute local news sports reader for some rural market. He's way too loud and gratingly enthusiastic for the highlights, tries to be hip and colloquial, has lousy timing, and is generally a complete amateur goofball. And I do not mean by the standards of professional broadcasting.

You know how the lowest rung of argumentation is when someone says "who are you to criticize? Could you do that?" It's a dumb argument because it means no one can pass judgment on anything except those in their own professional areas of expertise and that no one thus can have any opinion but to be an accepting automoton. nonetheless, even using that crude measuring stick my answer is: Absolutely. I would do a much, much better job of narrating the sports highlights than this guy. I have a modest but real background in broadcasting sports on the radio, I know the games, I know how to modulate my voice, and I know better than to refer to a dunk as a "flushjob" on two consecutive highlights. Pretty much every time I am here I am tempted to figure out who produces these shows and to add my services -- I have written quite a bit about sports, not many people here could plausibly claim to know all three games better than I do, and I also understand British sporting culture.

In any case, it's still raining off and on here. I. Am. So. Sick. Of. Rain.

Oh, and in case you haven't noticed, British politics are in quite a state.

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