Do the people who produce television sports actually watch the broadcasts, or are they too busy in the sky box sucking up to sponsors and sexually harassing the hostesses?

    Or vice versa.

   Between the yukking-it-up announcers, sideline reporting on yesterday’s news, and the graphics and audio overload, watching a football game on TV these days is like trying to follow the main act in a three ring circus while a five year old screams for cotton candy on your left side, a two year old on your other side just made kaka in her Huggies, and a calliope plays directly into your left ear while a trained seal holds a kaleidoscope up to your right eye.

    It’s hard in general to figure out what’s on television these days.

    Sometimes I think I’m watching a drama targeted to dysfunctional teenagers and it turns out to be a reality show. 

    Sometimes I think I’m watching a reality show and it turns out to be a game show designed to embarrass contestants who have no chance of winning anything. 

    Sometimes I think I’m watching a game show where contestants have to outdo each other by making ever more outrageous statements and it turns out to be another Fox News roundtable on why the wealthiest Americans should be paying lower taxes.

    One time I thought I was watching a program about lifetime sports and it turned out to be an infomercial for a multifunction personal grooming device with an ambiguous vibrating “massager” on one end.

    Cutting your fingernails is pretty much a lifetime sport. 

    You can play almost anywhere, you don’t have to keep score, and it’s low impact as long as you don’t drop the nail clipper on your foot.

    Sports program productions used to be low impact, simple affairs. 

    Visuals were restricted to showing the action on the field.

    Today, you’re lucky if you can see the field at all through the on-screen information boxes and promos for--what else?--the network’s newest reality shows.

    In days gone by, whether it was football or baseball, most of the time there was one genuinely professional announcer per game.  He would tell you the names of the players, and if something exciting happened, the announcer would cheer just like a real fan. 

    Not like he was auditioning for agitated sportscaster of the year: like a real fan.

    Now we get a half dozen retired players and fired coaches in a studio before the game, giggling like someone just said “who cut the cheese” off camera, then one or two “analysts” and a cheerleading play-by-play man in the booth during the game, plus sideline reporters who provide up to the minute information throughout the broadcast on what the coaches and players told them sometime between yesterday and two hours before the game started.

    When something exciting happens, the guys in the booth are usually derisively discussing player salaries or interviewing the star of their network’s latest struggling police drama or providing hilarious details of the announcer’s most embarrassing moment at a celebrity golf tournament, and you can’t even hear the sounds of the game...or see it at the most critical moment, because they’ll cut to a shot of the booth so we can see the actor who plays Detective Shadowbeard while the rest of the booth gazes at him adoringly instead of at the game.

    Then there’s the general know-it-all pretension and second guessing that seem to just suck the air out of a game.  I may as well be at wedding sitting next to Aunt Earline while she does a running play-by-play as the bridal procession makes its way down the aisle.

    For example: When a team scores in a close football game any time in the final three minutes of a half, an “analyst” tells us that the coach should have waited a little longer before letting his team score so he could manage the clock better, as if a team can pretty much score any time it wants to.

    Even Aunt Earline knows that no matter how hard a stare the father-of-the-bride aims at the groom in the moment he gives his daughter away: from that point onward, dad has no control over who scores when.

    And then there’s the sports program producers’ apparently morbid fear of what tragedy might occur if there would ever be a moment of silence in the booth.

    The announcers never, ever, ever, ever shut up.

    I recently saw a replay of Don Larsen’s perfect World Series game.  I couldn’t believe how refreshing it was to frequently hear nothing but crowd noise while Red Barber remained silent until he felt there was actually something worth saying.  It made me feel like I was actually at the game, instead of at a rehearsal for “The Real Housewives of Yenta Falls” or at a party with a bunch of jocks competing for the attention of the blond with the big gauzy smile.

    Overall viewership of TV sports has been trending downward, and the producers blame everything from the Internet, to the gosh-darned increasing intelligence of young adults, to 60-packs of Twinkies at Costco.

    The one thing they never blame is the overall quality and presentation of their broadcasts, because they cannot imagine that anyone just wants to watch the game and receive straight-forward information about what’s happening.  And, anyway, if  TV producers started letting fans simply enjoy what they came to watch, what would the networks do with all of their expensive computer graphics equipment and multi-million dollar contracts with aging athletes who all seem to wear badly pinstriped suits and enormous shirt collars that scream, “Help me, I’m being choked by a neck!”

    If television sports producers hired announcers who would just report what’s going on instead of criticizing every possible mistake the players make and second guessing every coaching decision and trying to show us how smart they are by incorrectly predicting what’s going to happen or telling us “what you have to do” in some situation when clearly there are other options; and if the networks wouldn’t use sports programs to promote every other program on the network; and if they’d stop showing close-ups of coaches and faces of spectators right before a play begins instead of showing us what’s happening on the field; and if they’d stop missing the start of plays because the director is delighting himself with the eleventh angle of an instant replay or the network is coming back late from cramming in yet another commercial…I’d watch more often. 

    It may sound like I’m asking for a lot. 

    But what I’m really asking for is a lot less.


Dear Major Ashpole,

   If a baby sitting next to you making kaka at the circus were wearing Pampers instead of Huggies, you would never know it was happening, due to Pampers’ exceptional fit and seal.

   I don’t know if that would help you enjoy sports on television any better, but at least when you go to the circus, now you can ask mommies what diapers their babies are wearing and then make an informed seating decision.

  Please find enclosed a coupon for Pringles.  I wanted to send something, but I didn’t think you’d have any use for diapers, and Pringles fit right into each other and the cans are well sealed, so they’re kind of like Pampers.

Abel Muckman

V.P. Marketing, Disposable Diapers

Proctor & Gamble

Dear Mr. Muckman,

   I’m tempted to say that from now on I’ll always associate Pringles with kaka, but the truth is, I already do.

   Not that I don’t appreciate the thought, so thanks anyway.

   I’ll give the coupon to someone who doesn’t associate Pringles with kaka, assuming I can find such a person.   

Dear Major Ashpole,

   Everyone in the sports broadcasting business knows that we’re doing everything perfectly, and we remind each other of it every day.

   In fact, the sports broadcasting industry pretty much defines “incest.”

   The fact that viewership is down is due to the Internet and the increasing intelligence of young adults and 60-packs of Twinkies at Costco. 

   Also, it might have something to do with aliens.

   Anyway, I don’t have time to write any more because I have to screen more athlete profiles for the 2012 Summer Olympics, otherwise we could end up having to show too much actual competition and viewers might realize that most of my special features are crap.

Dick Ebersol

NBC Programming Genius

Dear Dick,

   I guess inbreeding is inbreeding, no matter where or how it happens, and the results are always pretty much the same.

Dear Major Ashpole,

   As the most honored sportscaster on television (and don’t I know it!), I can tell you that what goes on in our broadcast booth is all business, not “yukking it up.”

   Do we run promos for non-sports programming? 


   Do we interview network stars and politicians during crucial parts of games and miss key action?


   Do we make a big deal about player salaries even though we’re more overpaid than they’ll ever be?


   Do I often start sentences during games without knowing how I’m going to finish them because I think I have a great point to make but it turns out I don’t?

   All the time, but...wait a minute, that’s Tim McCarver, not me.

   Anyway, you have to understand:

   My commentary may seem to wander aimlessly at times, but that’s because the sound of my own voice is so pleasing to me, it’s all I can do to keep my pants on when I speak.

   I was going to make a point here genuinely in my favor and in support of the true geniuses at CBS Sports (kiss kiss, smoochie smoochie), but I realized I don’t really have to.   

   Heck, I make $4 mil a year just being “The Voice of Titleist,” so who cares what you (or any viewer, for that matter) think?

   BTW, that is not a rhetorical question:  

   If you find someone in the sports broadcasting business who does care what outsiders think, let me know, and I’ll have him blackballed so fast it’ll make him drop his intern’s bra.

Jim Nance, CBS Sports

God’s Gift to Sports Broadcasting

Formerly of Westport, CT

(it’s my former wife’s house now, ever since I started dating that young...oh, whatever, so wifey got the house: I’ve still got my voice!)

Dear Major Ashpole,

   They have 60-packs of Twinkies at Costco? Are you sure? 

   I go to Costco all the time so people can recognize me, and I’ve never seen one.

   Are you sure you weren’t thinking of 50 packs of two-blade disposable razors?  I mean, if you’re shaving all the time, that’s going to cut down on your time available to watch sports on TV, and two blade razors must make it take longer to shave than 4 or 5 blade razors.

   I’m not sure if that’s actually true, because my underarms and legs are waxed by a team of female Russian bodybuilders, so I’m not all that familiar with shaving, but as you know, I don’t think you have to actually know anything, like facts, or have any real world experience doing something in order to express an opinion in no uncertain terms.

Joy Behar

Now Doing Another Single Since My Show On HLN Failed, So My Fellow “The View” Bitches Know

Who Really Carries Her Own Weight

Dear Joy,

   It is so tempting to say something about who on The View carries her own weight, but since I never watch, I can’t express an informed opinion, and in my case, that means I keep my thoughts to myself.

Dear Major Ashpole,

   I don’t understand why 60-packs of Twinkies would make someone watch sports on TV less.

   I mean, unless you put the entire pack in front of the screen, which could make it so hard to see what’s going on that you might give up and do something crazy, like read a book, I don’t see why Twinkies would create a problem.

   In fact, I keep my 60-pack right next to my side of the couch, and I don’t miss a play.

Oprah Winfrey

No Job Description Could Really Do Me Justice

P.S. Please watch OWN.  It’s getting pretty desperate around here.

Dear Major Ashpole,

   Your circus analogy is certainly on target, yet you apparently have no idea how difficult it truly is to seamlessly present an NFL football game in real time, while keeping both viewers and advertisers happy, not to mention the empty shirts in promotion at the network.

   What appears to you as an effortless, and indeed seamless, presentation of action and features actually requires a series of split-second decisions and perfect execution at every point along the way.

   Do we occasionally miss a shot? 

   Sure, it’s bound to happen.

   But I invite you to spend a couple of days with us as we prepare for a game, and then spend an entire game in the control room with us, so you can see first hand what it takes to do a proper job of preventing a great athletic event from being seen in its entirety.

Berry Tyrd, Director


P.S. If you do come, make sure you get a shot of gamma globulin and a few other goodies your doctor will know about: the unfortunate truth is, monkeys sometimes do bite.

P.P.S. Don’t blame me for the game announcers or the idiots on the pre-game show: I don’t choose the talent, I just put the show on the air and make sure the monkeys don’t start

playing tricks with the replay decks every time I turn my back.

P.P.P.S. Rupert Murdoch likes close-ups of girls with big you-know-what’s, so don’t blame me for all of the crowd shots, either.

Dear Berry,

   For the record: I have always thought that of all the networks, Fox has the most intelligent monkeys in the production truck.

Dear Major Ashpole,

   You’re silly!

   Cutting your fingernails isn’t a lifetime sport, it’s not a sport at all!

   Although I think manicuring should be an Olympic sport.  It really takes skill and there’s a lot of action.

   If cross-country skiing and then shooting a gun and then skiing some more is a sport, cleaning nails and cutting them and polishing them and then buffing them and polishing them some more is a sport.

   But we need to start some kind of training so more Americans will be able to compete, otherwise the Koreans will win all the medals.

Sarah Palin

Sports Mom for Joe Sixpack’s Kids All Over America (and Russia, too!)


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