I worked a master control shift Sunday, the first time I've run the NFL golden time, and I've got to tell you it was a learning experience. At home, I watch football with a fleeting attention span. I don't have to actually pay attention to the procedure of the broadcast; all I have to do is work the remote and yell at the referees who seem bent on turning the sport into a playground tag football league. If things get boring, I change the channel or get up and eat something. In master control, as I've said before, we can't change the channel, and there's no MUTE button. Like or not, I'm taking the same ride as the entire network.
My first complaint goes out to whomever decides the Lima TV market deserves to see Cleveland lose... again... badly... instead of Cincinnati coming from behind to win again in a game against the Titans that would, along with the Steelers losing that night, put the Bengals atop the AFC North. I know there are a lot of Dawg Pound fans around here, and the Browns have a lot of history, but the Bengals have actually played in a couple of Superbowls and have a small chance at one right now. We know they'll get their helmets handed to them in the first playoff game, and yes last week the cast from "Glee" could've beat the Seahawks, but that's still more fun than being subjected to the Browns. Come on, CBS, cut us a break.
Fortunately, in our facility we run all four networks through one master control, so I had the Packers on the Fox channel. Throughout the day, I noticed a few things about the two competing networks:
The pregame shows start more or less an hour before kickoff. That's a lot of time to kill before anything starts happening, even with 16 minutes of commercials. As a result, the networks put five guys in suits at a desk on a set that costs more than your house and apparently instructs the "talent" to be as goofy as possible. The desk is made up of the following cast members: the ex-coach who's a little addle-minded but a legend so he can say anything, the ex-star player who looks good in Brooks Brothers and knows Payton Manning is gunning for his chair, the "character" ex-player who's meant to stir things up when he goes "off script" and talks smack to the ex-star player, the analyst who makes predictions my cat could've come up with...
"If the Buccaneers hope to beat the Packers, they're going to have to score more points."
and the serious African-American guy in Armani who is acts as the "anchor" of the show and keeps a straight face as best he can while the others make us all wish the network would just fill the time slot with Three Stooges movies.
Once the game starts, we begin the television cycle of break positioning. It goes something like this: kickoff, 3 and out, punt, commercials, run plays, score, extra point, commercials, kickoff, commercials, run plays, review the last play with a commercial break, the touchdown is good, extra point, commercials, network promos for Animation Domination or CSI, kickoff, commercials, 3 and out, punt, commercials, final play of the quarter, commercials... and all the while the "truck" inserts computer graphics to look like there are more commercials actually on the playing field. This practice really bothers me. I wonder of the players down on the field, bruised and sore, really appreciate the fact there's a commercial being electronically painted on the field they're getting beat up on?
CBS is the king of not showing us the game. After a commercial break, they'll show a single play, then go to a promo for the CBS comedy lineup. (On any given shift, I run "How I Met Your Mother" at least twice, sometimes three times. They should give that show it's own channel.) All the while, we're not able to see what's happening on the field. At one point during the Cleveland game CBS went an entire 10 minutes without showing us football. It wasn't halftime, and as far as I could tell nobody was injured. It was just a collection of let's-stand-around-and-not-play-football moments that had CBS running at least two, maybe three commercial breaks, a promo run, and showing us a lot of players standing around not playing football. It's the sort of thing that leads viewers to channel surf or go out and do yard work.
I noticed the NFL is running a public service campaign for young people encouraging them to get up and play for 60 minutes a day. Maybe they should encourage their players to do the same thing.
Thanks, for the inspiration, Andy.