The Unexamined Game Is Not Worth Watching

The stadium scene.
May 11 1997 3:30 AM

The Unexamined Game Is Not Worth Watching

Toward a philosophy of viewing sports on television.

(Continued from Page 1)

So that's the next tip:

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2. Get more, and bigger, televisions.

If you have only a single 19-inch television and you can't afford to upgrade, just sit a lot closer. If you get close enough to the set, it's almost as good as going out and buying a multi-thousand-dollar "home theater."

Sabol said he has to take the occasional pit stop, but even that is conveniently arranged.

"The bathroom's right by the set. If I have to take a piss I can still see the screen."

3. Keep your eye on the screen at all times, even when you are trying to trim a child's toenails.

Sabol said he sits in a "Relax-a-back" chair, a kind of recliner, but cautions that this is not for the novice. The worst-case scenario for the sports viewer is the unplanned nap. "Those are dangerous. I only recommend those for the more experienced viewers. You need stamina to do this. You need a good night's sleep. You have to be careful about having too big a breakfast, because that will put you to sleep. The trick is to have a series of small snacks for a 10-hour period."

Illustration by Keith Seidel

4. Come to the television rested. Don't eat meals--graze.

(Sabol reckons that on a given Sunday he starts watching at 11 a.m. and doesn't stop until 11 p.m., at the end of the cable-TV broadcast. Before his divorce, his wife didn't quite understand that this was work, he says.)

Now comes the harder stuff, the actual watching--the seeing, if you will--of the actions on the screen. You must keep in mind that you are not directly watching an event, but rather are watching a produced and directed telecast of an event, manipulated by talented but not infallible professionals. To better understand how a sports program is put together, I called Rudy Martzke, the TV sports columnist for USA Today, who watches between 40 and 60 hours of TV sports a week on the 60-inch Pioneer screen in his family room.

Martzke is full of facts and well-educated opinions: The typical Monday Night Football broadcast uses about 13 cameras, compared with only about eight for Fox's primary game Sunday afternoon; Goodyear's Steadycam allows sharp-focus blimp shots even when the blimp is being blown all over the sky; the glowing puck used on Fox hockey games is officially called Fox Trax; Bob Costas at NBC is the best host in the business; and Al Michaels at ABC is the best play-by-play guy.

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