Friday, June 13, 2008


Wayne's World: Musings on the Media

by Wayne, our boy from the South


Last week, in USA TODAY's TV sports section, there was a brief item about several current NFL players going to a TV "Boot Camp" at the NFL Network run by the sainted NFL Films (cue up symphonic warrior-type music). The seminar was to see if these players had what it took to move on to the commentary booth and/or wear the TV blazer when their playing days were over.

I'd like to see the NHL do something similar, but with a twist: have ALL players AND executives (league and team) attend a PR "Boot Camp" run by PR and media-types where they'll all learn how to be a little more media friendly. The instructors should come from both Madison Avenue and TV execs, with the latter not coming from Versus, but from other entertainment channels (E!, Spike TV, VH1) with the idea of getting all involved with the league to loosen up a bit, "let their hair down a little", stop delivering stock answers ("We have a real good organ-eye-zation"), and just get their faces out a little more. (And English lessons for those coming from Europe.)

Last Saturday, Jim McKay died. He was before your time; I wish you were able to see ABC's Wide World of Sports back when it was really good (early 60's-mid 70's). The show broadcast events no one (other than the partcipants) knew existed: Acupulco cliff-diving, demolition derby, sumo wrestling, and other stuff. But McKay (and others) made it so compelling, you couldn't turn away. (That, and there were only THREE networks then).

McKay was also ABC's lead announcer for the Olympic telecasts (ABC WAS the network of the Olympics up to Calgary in Winter '88), which pioneered a feature, first innovative, then later parodied and ridiculed: a feature called "Up Close & Personal", showcasing the athletes from other countries and their personal stories: The gymnast from Romania who was a product of the Communist system, the swimmer from Austria swimming for the memory of his brother dying of cancer, the barefoot track star from Kenya, etc. During the packaged TV obituary on The Worldwide Leader in Sports, Roone Arledge (the Godfather of what we see on sports television today) made a great comment: "You had to know who the people were, so you'd know who to root for."

I mention this because, as I've said too often in these emails, the NHL has no damn clue on how to reach the casual viewer. If pro sports had to depend on the casual fan, the NBA and NHL would've closed up shop years ago. There are way too many announcers who can X-and-O you to death (true for the NFL and NBA as well), but give you no reason to not to change the channel.

Remember that story about Georges Laraque visiting the sick boy? How come you never hear more stories like that? Why can't Versus, NBC, TSN, CBC, and the regional sports nets pool resources to interview players off the ice and tell their stories? Not only that, with more and more players coming from Europe, get on a damn plane and interview Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Ovechkin, et al, during the off season in their native lands?

We can't give charisma transplants to people born without, but the league and broadcast partners need to do something fast if they want to capitalize on the buzz after last week's Cup final...

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i dissagree, the lastthing we need are MORE talking heads on sports broadcasts!!! Those "Olympic moments" have destroyed Olympic telecasts as you now can sit for 2 hours, and see 1/3 of one event and 25 athlete profiles...I TUNE IN TO SEE THE EVENTS, not to hear how Chris Chelios butters the bread at his restaurant, Chelli's Chilli!
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