It was in a crowded student union in Rexburg, Idaho when I first saw what we as Mountain West football fans were in store for with the new television deal with CSTV. It was the first football broadcast of the new station, BYU at Stanford. As a show of good faith CSTV was sending the game via closed circuit to the student Union at BYU-Idaho.(by the way that was the last time that anyone on either side of the negotiating table has done anything that benefited the fan) Everyone in the room was waiting for the broadcast and curious about what the quality would be like.
Everyone was very forgiving during the game about the picture quality and poor graphics, seeing this was the first time that they televised a game. Yet, the one thing that no one was forgiving was the terrible sideline reporter. Why? Due to the fact that we were watching a closed feed of the game instead of getting commercials we were able to hear the behind the scene comments between the commentors both in the both and on the field. Which was very interesting, because we were able to get the true opinions of what they were really thinking about the game. The problem with this was the sideline reporters comments during the break. What me and my wife (who I was watching the game with as one of our first dates, which by the way ladies is an extreme plus in the eyes of a sports guy) called the "Love Affair with Matt Berry."
Yes, for the next two and a half hours of the game we were forced to listen to this sideline reporter recount, in a very play by play manner, every movement and action in full gushing detail of Matt Berry. This was especially painful because Berry had started the game for the Cougars and broke his hand during the first drive. A fact we didn't find out about until mid way through the third quarter, because our young harlot couldn't muster the courage to talk to the hunk of Matt Berry until then. Instead it was a continual expression of what features made him great eye candy for this blonde on the sideline.
Problems??? YES! No insight, no effort, and no intelligence. Yet, I gave the situation a gimme in the end, because it was their first broadcast. Fast forward to this season. Do they have timely information on injuries or good insight into why a team is using a certain strategy? NO! During interviews do they ask informed questions? (I define that as questions that I would want answered if I, as a fan of the team, had a chance to ask the coach) NO! Halftime interviews, which are already awkward because coaches are trying to get to the locker room to make changes for the second half and really don't want to be bothered, have now turned into something on pair with pulling your own tooth with pliers on a scale of awkward painful energy.
The interviews on the Mtn. do follow a pattern:
1) Stupid Question from reporter
2) Pause from coach (as all viewers can see them try to control their tongue and not tell the reporter what they really think of them and the question they just asked)
3) Coach talk response (Usually four words or less)
4) Reporter realizing that they didn't get a good answer (not because as the rest of us they are reading the reaction of the coach, but they are referring to a spoken law that answers of less then a sentence is a bad response.)
5) They ask some type of follow up question, but not about the stupid first question, or the
obvious question a fan would have. No, they follow up on the coach speak they were just given.
6) The coaches shifts his weight and starts to move away ending the pointless interview, and spews out some more coach speak right from his wheel house.
7) The reporter confident and happy as always that they got a "quality" follow up response sends it back up to the booth.
Since the launch has the sideline reporting improved? No, in fact I would argue that it has gotten worse. It is to bad that the management on the Mtn. hasn't realized that little changes make huge differences. Good sideline reporting is crucial to a good telecast. Timely information lets the viewing audience focus on what is most important, the game they are watching at the time. There is more to being a good sideline reporter then being easy on the eyes.
What do I want from a sideline reporter?
1) Insight that isn't obvious. Give me information I don't know, things that will make me better understand what I am seeing.
2) During a good game don't do cheesy side note stories. Example, I don't care if the coaches family comes to every game, because that means that the camera crew feels obligated to cut to shots of them during the whole game. I like stories about players/coaches overcoming obstacles to reach the level they are at. Why? It might force the Mtn. to actually show the game being played. (Although, they would rather usually show the random player on the sideline then the actual game)
3) Good information about injuries. Dig a little bit. Don't just repeat the lines given you by the trainer. You can look and tell many things by just observing that people at home would like to know.
4) If the game is good just let the game speak for itself. Don't just jump on to say a stupid comment for the sake of saying something. It is better not to do anything, unless there is an injury.
5)Don't just throw up softballs to the coaches when you interview them, ask good questions.
What can the Mtn. do about this problem. Talent would be a nice start. Training would be a nice follow up. Then seeing it during a telecast would be the perfect finish.
Next Time: Picture Quality