Location: Iowa, United States

61 years old (pretty old for a blogger) proud to be a grandpa

Monday, June 19, 2006

Baseball on Television

I was going to write something about the bad camera angles that are shown over and over in baseball telecasts and then I found this column by Thomas Sowell, written in 2002 that says pretty much everything. I would only add that the angle I would like to see --the entire field (or at least the entire infield) is rarely if ever shown). Maddening.

"There are people who find sports exciting and people who find sports boring. Unfortunately, the latter seem to be the ones in charge of baseball telecasts. And they seem to be trying to make those telecasts boring for the rest of us.
Somehow the people who televise baseball games have become fixated on just one viewpoint for showing a pitcher throwing to a batter. Every pitch, for inning after inning, is shown from just that one angle. It is not a bad angle but there are innumerable other angles from which the same thing could be shown for a little variety.
In years past, pitches were shown from different angles in the course of a ball game. Even today, there are cameras photographing from other angles, as we sometimes see on replays. Are the TV producers just too lazy to change the views they show the audience?

The same rigid formula is applied to other aspects of baseball telecasts. The ultra-closeup is everywhere. What makes television producers think that lo-o-ong closeups of men's faces have any special appeal to predominantly male audiences? After you have seen closeups of the same pitcher's face staring down for the catcher's sign umpteen times, inning after inning, what is there left, except to hope that he gets knocked out of the game, so you can at least see somebody new?
How often do you need to see extreme closeups of Joe Torre's furrowed brow in the dugout or Dusty Baker chewing on a toothpick or Barry Bonds looking bored at everything except hitting home runs? No other sport has such limited and rigidly stereotyped formulas for television.
Boxing takes place in a much smaller space and yet it shows more variety of viewpoints. So does tennis. Even football, which requires a similar lining up of the players for every play, shows more variety than baseball telecasts.
What makes this narrow rigidity so unnecessary is that baseball parks are large, colorful and fascinating places from so many different angles. But you almost never see the whole field with the players in action. TV producers' fixation on closeups shows infield plays as if they were taking place in a parking space.
Seldom is any play shown the way you would see it if you were at the ballpark. The things that real fans enjoy seeing are replaced by facial closeups that might appeal to a soap opera audience or audiences that like scenes in bad western movies where the characters stare long and hard at each other.
Then there are the mindless interviews asking stereotyped questions for which you already know the stereotyped answers. It is like watching old classic movies, where the audience recites the dialogue along with the characters on the screen. These pre-recorded interviews are then played during the game.
It is as if the people who produce baseball telecasts have no idea what real baseball fans want and think they have to come up with gimmicks to supply interest. Baseball is not the only sport in which those who telecast seem to think that the sport itself has little or no appeal, though baseball telecasts are the worst offenders.
In tennis, it is not uncommon for celebrities in the stands to be interviewed while play is going on. Sampras and Agassi may be in the midst of a brilliant rally but the announcer will be quiet while someone with a microphone in the stands is interviewing some Hollywood starlet on how she feels about being at Flushing Meadows.
The same idea that sports are not enough for sports fans seems to have been behind the fiasco of putting Dennis Miller's silly chatter on Monday Night Football. Fortunately, the producers of that program finally got the message that football fans want football. How long will it take producers of baseball telecasts?
The sportscasters themselves are usually much more on the ball than the people who put the TV pictures on the screen. Sportscasters sound like the fans who find the sports themselves interesting. Nor is this the fault of the camera operators, who supply good pictures from many angles. It is the producers who decide which of those pictures the television audience gets to see who are in a rut.
If they don't like sports, why don't they just say so, and leave TV sportscasts to those who do? "


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said.

I hope a few dozen producers get to read this some day.

6:39 AM  
Anonymous si said...

well, if a player is *cute*, then maybe i don't mind the many close-ups... :-)

i don't mind watching baseball on tv (because it's my favorite sport), but i do agree that the telecasting of the games could be expanded to view the entire field so that one can see the defense get ready to ... um, "defend" the batter. i love going to games and it may be hard to infuse the crowd energy through tv, though the 2 bay area teams (ca) do try to insert crowd shots in their telecasts (tho, sometimes they're pretty silly).

2:35 PM  
Blogger bryan torre said...

hear, hear!
thank you, unca. and thomas.

4:06 PM  
Blogger blogball said...

I think with the increasing advances of digital television it will soon be possible for the normal TV watcher to choose a variety of camera angles (interactive TV) in major sporting events. Wouldn’t that be cool?

5:57 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

My biggest complaint is a ball hit into the gap with a runner on first, instead of showing the play at third, they inevitably show the runner crossing the plate.

As if we won't believe a run has scored unless we see it.

And Joe Morgan of course.

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Funny Video Clip with Mike

5:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I found someone who thinks axactly like I think. I'm tired of the behind the back of pitcher camera angle that's shown exclusively on just about every play. Just to show how rediculous the telecasters are, they might show the view from the mezzenine at the beginning of the play and in the middle of the pitch they will switch back to the outfield view. How can young kids learn the game if the camera men keep playing these tricks with the camera. Now I see why a lot of major leaguers have a hard time catching a fly ball.
I watched a lot of baseball during the 1960's. I watched just about every game the mets played back in the late 60's and I learned a lot about baseball, hitting stances, In field formations, by just watching Baseball on television. During the 1960's the Mets was broadcast on New Yorks WOR Channel 9. There was not that many cameras at Shea Stadium, and you never saw the view from behind the pitchers back angle; the only time you saw that view is when they played at Wrigley Field in Chicago.But there was no camera in the outfield at Shea. I really enjoyed watching the game and had a great understanding of the game as well as the details of shea stadium. Today, sad to say, the kids are missing out of that. The way Baseball is telecast today, I wouldn't be surprised if a person is Totally disoriented by the fancy camera work.
If You're really tired of that kind of telecasting, lets do something to change it. Perhaps everyone could write to the commisioner of baseball: The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball. Maybe he can do something about it.
Allan H. (Bud) Selig, Commissioner
245 Park Avenue, 31st Floor
New York, NY 10167
Phone: (212) 931-7800

7:34 AM  

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