Saturday, September 18, 2010

Color Commentators Are Bleeding Useless

Well, we're three weeks into the College Football season and every BYU fan is ready to jump off a cliff. Myself included. Wipe that smirk off your face, Ute Fans. I predict Air Force rolls you up in a few weeks. Maybe. Who the hell knows. To be honest, I'm too emotionally broken to talk any trash. If you'll excuse me, I'm just going to curl up into the fetal position and quietly hum "It's a Small World" to myself in a vain attempt to hold back the tears of despair.

Two Quarterbacks?!!! Rotating every other series?!?!?!?! Bronco, you are an arrogant fool.

So instead of rehashing an already exhausted subject of BYU's quarterback folly, or the inability of any of their receivers to catch a pass that hits them in the hands, or the inability of any member of their defense to tackle a Florida State running back, or the . . . . hell, I'll just stop there. Instead of that bull crap, I instead choose to illustrate a mild irritant that has accompanied the last two nightmare weeks of my football loving life. I speak of the intolerable nonsense spewing from the mouth of every single College Football Color Commentator. The blathering noise that just compounds my futile anger. It's bad enough watching your beloved team suck it up on a Saturday afternoon. It's so much worse having to do that while listening to Todd Christiansen push self congratulatory excrement from his verbose, leperous mouth and pass it off as insight.

"Did I ever mention that I played for the Raiders?"

Why exactly are they called Color Commentators, anyway? Is it because their witty anecdotes add color to the otherwise drab and monochromatic play by play? Is it due to their propensity to draw yellow lines all over the screen while a key third down is in progress? Is it because many of them are black? Maybe it's one of those old timey terms that just never got updated. Like NAACP. Or the United Negro College Fund. As a squeamishly polite white person, I felt uncomfortable even typing that. It just doesn't sound right to refer to Reggy Miller as the color guy on an NBA broadcast. Of course I know this isn't the reason for the title. If it were it would be Commentators of Color. And that would just be nutty.

Now, I am willing to give the color guys a bit of a break. It's a tough job. At least they find a way to make it a tough job. Their purpose is to restate the obvious events that everyone just witnessed with their own eyes. So leaping to ridiculous conclusions and exaggerating either the success or failure of the players on the field is really just an inevitable outcome of trying to sound interesting. But that's where they all fail. I don't care what sport they are covering. Mark Jackson, Tim McCarver, Booner, Bill Walton. They should all make zero effort to sound interesting. A good Color Commentator isn't an interesting one. It's an invisible one. I'm tuning in to watch the players on the filed. Not to listen to your bull crap, Blayne Fouler. So can it. Provide a counterpoint to the play by play guy so as to create a conversational rhythm. That's your job. That's it. When you try to do more, you make it difficult for me to ignore you. And that's all I want to do.

Take Troy Ainkman as an example. I hate the damn Cowboys with all the energy of my being. And I really hated the Cowboys of the 90's. But I actually like Ainkman as commentator quite a bit. He's so freaking boring, I can tune his voice out like it was a dog whistle. The same cannot be said for Lee Corso. Instead of white noise, I am forced to roll my eyes at all the stupid crap he insists on saying. This is especially true when it's a national broadcast of a local team. Before the opening kickoff it becomes clear that the color guy doesn't know a fraction of what I, a typical fan, know about my beloved team. Don't mispronounce Manumaleuna and tell me about Riley Nelson's year at Utah State. Just blend in with the furniture.

So in an effort to provide a solution to this dilemma, the following is a list of ten things that should never be heard in a football broadcast:

1. Any word uttered by a Sideline Reporter: Color Commentators are irritating but Sideline Reporters are intolerable. Look, I like Erin Andrews in an orange sweater as much as the next guy. But that doesn't mean I'm interested in hearing her bull crap story about the assistant coach's wife during a key play. And just to be clear, they're all key plays. Just because she's an attractive woman, doesn't mean I'm fixated on whatever tangential nonsense she may be blathering about. There's a football game going on here. There's no need to manufacture interest with a bunch of warm fuzzy, human interest stories about Tim Tebow's parents. Just show the game. And since when was there a shortage of hot chicks to film at a college football game anyway? Between the student section and the cheerleaders, I think we have the random eye candy covered without having to invent an entire career. I'm pretty sure Title IX doesn't extend to the broadcast team. I think. But you can never really be sure on that stuff. Litigious business, that Title IX. You know what? I take it all back. Female sideline reporters provide an invaluable insight whose absence would leave any broadcast hopelessly incomplete.

2. "Scamper": Chipmunks scamper. Puppies scamper. My three year old niece scampers. And she's downright adorable when she does it. But a 240 pound fullback does not scamper. An 80 yard touchdown run can in no way be accurately described as a scamper.

3. "Razzle Dazzle": As a general rule, I'm against trick plays in football. I like teams that just pound it. I'm all for misdirection and play action. But end-arounds and half back passes just bug me. As does the inescapable urge commentators have to blurt out the term in question. It conjures up an image involving sequined costumes and theatric magic shows performed to the music of Abba. Which actually sounds pretty damn cool. Don't judge me. Imagine GOB preforming illusions to "Fernando". That's pure entertainment, right there. But this term needs to be retired in the football realm. Especially when it doesn't really apply. Razzle Dazzle is a stripper name. Not an accurate description of a quarterback draw.

4. "Blue Zone": I love you Bronco but that's just stupid as hell. And Greg Wrubell, you don't need to step in line. Red Zone is a universally accepted football term. So say it! Is Utah in your head that much? Sadly, I fear the answer is yes. But it's still just dumber than dirt. Do the London Monarchs of NFL Europe refuse to call a stunting linebacker a blitz due to the German bombing raids on England in World War II? I'm pretty sure they're happy to just call it a blitz. You can call the inside of the 20 yard line the Red Zone, just like everybody else. Blue Zone doesn't make you sound clever, Bronco. It makes you sound petty and weak.

5. "Indisputable Video Evidence": I, like every football fan, have a love hate relationship with instant replay. When it's not in place, then it seems that our team will consistently get dry humped by game changing screw ups made by bumbling incompetents that are wearing ill fitting white knickerbockers. When it is in place, then nineteen times a game we are forced to watch the same replay over and over while screaming the obvious verdict at the TV. It's lose lose. But without question the most intolerable aspect of instant replay is the asinine conversation between the two announcers to which we the viewers are unavoidably subjected. And no matter the scenario, no matter the play in question, that conversation is the exact same every bleeding time. Suddenly I am tuned into an episode of Law and Order and am being educated on the intricacies of the burden of proof. "Now, the review booth upstairs need indisputable video evidence to overturn the ruling on the field. I gotta say, it looks like the knee was down but since the call was a fumble, it'll be hard to overturn. Bla Bla Bling Bling Bla."

Look, instant replay works too well to ever get rid of it just because Kirk Herbstreet can't think of anything original to say. So here's the solution; mic the refs. This way we hear them deliberate. I want to hear their conversation. Make the whole process transparent. That or just cut to commercial. Show the replay from two different angles and then try to sell us some beer. If the ref announced the ruling while I was in can, so be it. At least I won't be forced to hear an announcer backtrack when his predicted verdict was dead wrong.

6. "Penetration": Yeah . . . . There's just got to be a better word to describe a D line getting into the backfield. Especially since it's almost always specifically described as "good penetration". Football has enough homo erotic overtones as it is.

7. "Pitch and Catch or Dinking and Dunking": In an effort to make their job appear to be more difficult than it is, commentators go to some extreme lengths to avoid using normal conversational verbs to describe the action on the field. Instead, they feel compelled to use a really lame thesaurus to spice up their diction. When you are reading a text, the specific words chosen by the author come under an unavoidable scrutiny. The words on the page are the only subject at hand. There are no visual images or sounds to enhance or detract from the experience of reading those words. And so writers need a variety of verbs to propel the events in question. You just can't write the word "pass" fifteen times in a single paragraph to describe a 60 yard touch down drive. It's monotonous. But there is no reason in the world you can't say the word "pass" as much as you feel the need. No ham-fisted synonyms required. If we are hearing a description of events that we are simultaneously witnessing, the value of each individual word is drastically decreased. So using the same word a million times in a row doesn't matter at all. You might as well be saying "the". It sounds right. It fits. There is no need to complicate the obvious. Again, the commentators job is the be easily ignored. And you just can't tune out a term so stupid as "He's just dinkin and dunkin his way down the field."

8. "Pick Six": One advantage that baseball has over football is the variety of cool slang terms for the events of the game. Slammies, taters, knocks, going yard. Those are just plain cool. But unofficial football terms suck. Pick six? I'm not sure why I hate this but I absolutely do. The thing is, it's a massive enough event in a football game that it deserves its own nickname. But a good one. "Interception returned for a touchdown", just doesn't roll of the old tongue. So I say we start calling them Power Pills. You know? From Pac Man? The ghosts turn blue and you get to eat them? The hunter becomes the hunted? It's perfect!

Alright, that's pretty lame. Maybe we should just choose something totally arbitrary like a Meatball Sub. "Champ Baily read the quarterback's eyes perfectly, broke on the ball and BAM! Meatball Sub." I like that one. Or maybe call it a Donkey Punch. Things were going quite well for the offense, until everything suddenly and drastically changed. Didn't see it coming.

9. "Young Man": Look, I get that these are student athletes, living in dorm rooms and taking Sociology 101. But don't describe a 6'5" 280 pound defensive end as a "young man". Even if he is 20 years old. It's inescapably patronizing. Even more so than "kid" or "fella". "Young man" assumes paternal authority on the part of the commentator. Be as complimentary as you want Lou Holtz, but that "young man" could beat you to tears while your family watched in horror. I would avoid any verbal head pats. Not because these athletes should be feared. But because it makes you sound like a condescending ass.

10. "Two Quarterback System": AAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!!!!! (Banging head against brick wall repeatedly.) AAAAAAAAAGGGGHHHH!!!!!!! (Stabs self in eyeball with screwdriver.) NOOOOOO!!!! (Burns effigy of Robert Anae.) WWWWHHHHYYYYYYYYYY???!!! (Finally runs out of energy and cries himself to sleep.)

You know after all of this, I think the real solution for me is to watch the game on mute and play soothing ocean sounds on my iPod. Maybe some Enya. That way when the true freshman Jake Heapes throws another five yard pass into the ground, I can counter with some breathing exercises and relaxation techniques.

"I am safe in my cave. I am going deeper into my cave. And there I will find my power animal."


Chris M. G said...

Bill Simmons calls a pick six a taint (Touchdown After int.) And I hate all color commentators and sideline reporters too.

Jason said...

I feel your pain. I don't care for the color commentators myself. And on the BYU not doing well. It was hard being a Nebraska fan for a few years, but they got a great coach that took them back to basic Huskers football and they are doing well again. It'll happen for BYU soon enough. And I love the Guy Smiley, by the way.

Informant said...

Not to take anything away from your other gayest moments, but point #3 could be the gayest thing you've ever written.

Also, excellent work on the Fight Club reference. We need more of that.

Ramsey said...

A little dink and dunk prior to penetration never hurt anybody! I hate Bronco Mendenhall. His name is Bronco for hell sakes. I hate names like that! Just get to the point and name your kid "Domination Train". That's way cooler.

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