Thursday, August 2, 2007
Well, It's My Day Off ...
So, of course, I am thinking about work. But being as I work in television and the main topic of this blog is hockey, a concurrence of matters isn't a bad thing.
What is on my mind is the possibility of the NHL picking ESPN to dance with yet again, after spurning it to dance with the ugly new kid in school (Versus). Granted the league is going back on its knees begging, pleading and likely doing more things carnal in nature, it is a good move but there should be some mandated elements to how ESPN can broadcast the game.
First off, hockey broadcasts now are very regimented - open at the top of the hour, commerical breaks soon after the periods' 15 and 5 minute mark (barring delays) and then usually three breaks during the intermission - one going in, one in the middle and one going out. And you know what, that's fine - leave it. Just don't start trying to shoehorn more advertising into the game itself. The score bug doesn't need to include the logo of McDonalds or Michelin or whatever.
And for that matter, the bug should not cover any more than 10% of the screen. Versus had that monstrous bug banner that covered the top, then would plug in lower thirds over score crawls so almost the entire picture was covered with crap that wasn't the game you tuned into (sorry I don't have any pictures but if you watched, you know what I am talking about). Game bugs should have the score and time, and that's it.
As for the actual shots of the game, the standard classic camera is the best. It has worked for all these years so directors with itchy trigger fingers shouldn't feel obligated to show tight shots of defensemen with the puck and then lose the play as he sends a breakout pass up-ice. Goal-cams are great for replays but never, ever should be used for live action. Depth of field is lost and its even harder than normal to follow the puck. Rail cam was a nice experiment but you couldn't really follow the play all that well and it blocked the view of people in the building so toss that away. Its great to have a ton of angles for replays, but don't screw with the game action.
Now for the audio - turn up the mics. The sounds of the game are unique and spectacular. From the scrapes of skates on ice and puck on post to the cursing of the players and the jeers of the crowd, the sounds of the game are unique and spectacular and help give viewers a feeling like they are there and we all know that seeing hockey in person is the quickest way to sell someone on the game. And something I have been advocating is the use of the SAP feature or something of its ilk to allow viewers to just listen to the game and not have to hear the commentary. Most sports should have this ...
To also help get people into the game, ESPN should also be forced to bring back NHL2nite. Versus never properly supported their coverage with nightly highlight shows that package up the magic into a half hour setting. There is no way fans get to see all of the top plays from the games they want in Sportscenter - hockey just isn't the cash cow that football, NASCAR, baseball, basketball is in North America. Plus it would be good to get some opinions and analysis again, rather than just being stuck with Brian Engblom in between periods.
Now some people would advocate for a return of the John Buccigross and Barry Melrose but I don't think so. I want Jeremy Roenick and a straight man who knows something about hockey. Bill Pidto was fine as the original host of the show, why not him again? Bucci is a fan of the game but he inserted himself and his music taste into his work and that was quite annoying. Melrose is a nice guy and at times gives good knowledge but he is very vanilla and I don't care what he has to say about players today - he wasn't the greatest player, he wasn't he greatest coach and he looks the same way he did when Patrick Roy made Gretz his bitch back in '93. Melrose will say whatever the producer tells him to say (I know that for a fact) and rarely steps out on a limb. Roenick is a loose cannon and that makes him exciting. And someone like that paired with a good straight man/foil makes for good tv - look at Hockey Night In Canada.
The league should also require a return of the theme song, which was solid. It stood out and was instantly recognizable, even if a knock off of the greatest. It is all about bringing the brand back and pretending that the lockout never happened (as the owners are already doing, giving these idiotic contracts out left and right - five years to Dustin Penner!).
ESPN has unfortunately become the primary source of sports information in America - beyond the local newspapers and tv stations - and their policy is to promote the hell out of whatever they have their hands in and ignore the rest. When hockey went to Versus they did their best to ignore the league when they couldn't find cause to berate it.
But beyond the huge shadow that the ugly corporate ESPN machine has cast over hockey, we should do our best to get the game back there if only because there were good people there, who did some good work and (occasionally) managed to capture the best the game had to offer, even in the darkest of times: