I’ll admit it: Sometimes I don’t watch football purely for the love of the game. In fact, a lot of the time, I just want to hear ESPN commentator Chris Berman yell that someone just got “jacked up!” Or I’m listening for the ever-popular “He could … go … all … the … way!” that signals a big play. Lately, though, it seems like I could just as easily watch football with the mute button on.
I’ll admit it: Sometimes I don’t watch football purely for the love of the game.
In fact, a lot of the time, I just want to hear ESPN commentator Chris Berman yell that someone just got “jacked up!” Or I’m listening for the ever-popular “He could … go … all … the … way!” that signals a big play.
Lately, though, it seems like I could just as easily watch football with the mute button on. Far too often, the comments being made from the booth are downright dumb. They’re trying too hard to be witty (a challenge plaguing everyday columnists as well) and it just doesn’t work.
A few times, those attempts to be clever have gotten the sportscasters into hot water. Consider Bob Griese, who was flamed for his comment that race car driver Juan Pablo Montoya had “stepped out for a taco.”
Then there was Gus Johnson, who described a Tennessee running back as having “getting-
Clever? Not quite.
Offensive? You bet.
Perhaps one of the underlying problems is that there are just a lot of former coaches and players working as commentators — without the training or natural ability to do the job.
Certainly, players and coaches can provide valuable insight to the game. But statements made on the field or in the locker room aren’t always going to sound the same when they’re broadcast into living rooms across the country.
Another issue is that there’s just a lot of sports being broadcast on TV. There are 32 National Football League teams, most of whom play on Sunday, Monday or Thursday throughout the fall and winter. Saturday is packed with back-to-back college games. Cable shows are dedicated to analyzing each detail of those games.
Now, I’m sure many guys would say that’s not a problem at all. But at some point, these commentators have to run out of unique ways to say things. Not everyone has Berman’s gift for gab. They can’t all come up with catch phrases or put their own spin on an everyday play.
Maybe we expect too much from sports commentators. Perhaps there are too many people like me: We want them to entertain us just as much as the game itself.
Sometimes commentators don’t need to fill the empty air. Every so often, the sound of the cheering crowd is enough. On big plays, the outstanding athleticism on display speaks for itself.
Let it be known, sports commentators serve a universally valid purpose: To help ignorant viewers like me know what’s going on in the game. They explain complicated rules, discuss questionable calls and give background about standout players.
And the banter? Perfectly fine. It can be informative and entertaining, to say the least.
But it may be time for a little more schooling among commentators who weren’t trained as broadcasters. Charm can only get you so far during a three-hour football game.
At least until someone gets jacked up.
Elizabeth Davies writes for the Rockford Register Star in Rockford, Ill.