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 2)

Unseen to viewers, but extremely important, are the producers and directors.

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"The director is the guy who calls the shots you see on the screen. He's the one who inserts the graphics," says Martzke. "Got a guy sitting next to him who's called the technical director. The director, when he yells out the instructions, 'cut to this picture, that picture, this camera, that camera,' the guy who follows him up, physically, is the technical director. The producer sits to the left of the director. The producer is the one who gets in the replays, the one who's in charge of the format of the show. He makes sure all those commercial breaks get in, so they're paid."

Obviously only Rudy Martzke ever thinks twice about these people, but this creates a chance for you to sound authoritative when someone challenges you on your sports-viewership expertise. Let other people talk about who caught what pass or made what tackle; you can say things like, "Sandy Grossman uses down-and-yardage graphics better than any director in the game."

The point of all this is:

5. Never let anyone know that you've forgotten thename of the "announcer."

The hardest part of all is knowing what to look for when you watch television. In basketball, for example, the referee will often blow the whistle and call "illegal defense," which few viewers ever see in advance. This is because they are only watching the ball. Illegal defense occurs when a defender plays zone rather than man-to-man. Thus you should always look for someone who's just guarding a patch of the court, standing around looking suspicious. When you detect an illegal defense before the referee makes the call, you have completely arrived as a TV sports viewer.

In baseball, don't just watch the flight of the ball from the pitcher's hand toward the batter. Look directly at the pitcher's hand and see if you can see what kind of grip he's using--that will tell you whether it's a curve, slider, fastball, splitter, knuckleball, or whatever.

In golf, look at the wrists and elbows of the golfer as he or she putts. The great ones have almost no movement in their arms, wrists, and hands other than the gentlest of pendulum swings.

In hockey, change channels. You will never see the puck.

When Sabol watches a football game, he scrutinizes an area in front of the runner and including the runner. "It's a semicircle with a radius of about 3 yards," he estimates.

6. Expand your zone of attention.