2018-09-07 / Commentary

Sports Technology Gone Mad

It’s not a criticism; It’s an observation

Television sports viewing changed drastically in 1998, on September 27, during a professional football game between Baltimore and Cincinnati. I wasn’t watching. Neither team was very good, and professional football didn’t appeal to me. College was, as it has always been, my sports religion, even though Alabama was going through tough times.

That was the night the Yellow First Down Line initially appeared in a football game. I was blissfully unaware of this until I was exposed to the technology while watching a long since forgotten game on a Saturday afternoon several years later.

There was a yellow line stretched across the playing field. I saw no use for it and assumed it would disappear quickly. Instead, the annoying line moved to a different spot after one team made a first down. I initially thought my television was dying. But I used a little common sense and quickly figured things out and didn’t approve. I’m not a Bells and Whistles guy when it comes to football. I understand the game, I know what is happening even if some fetching young lady doesn’t explain it to me during the huddle. I’ve even watched games without the sound; listening to music rather than blather. And it really bothers me when I’m treated as stupid. Captain Obvious I can do without.

But as the years have passed and more and more and more things have been added to the screen to help marginal fans understand football’s complicated intricacies, I’ve surrendered. If football wants to give us first down lines, sideline reporters, in game interviews, drone cameras, more screen information than Wikipedia, and adorable mascots, I can live with that. I still ignore it but can survive without whining.

I live in the greatest country in the world and my football team has celebrated way more success than anyone deserves in a lifetime. And I’m still pretty young. Not much is going to piss me off. Except losing to Auburn. Or Tennessee.

Then I tuned in to a preseason game last weekend and saw the latest NBC innovation. A shaded field ten yards deep so anyone can tell how many yards are needed for a first down. I have officially had enough. This is not only stupid, it is desperate.

I realize television networks are scrambling to change the downward trend of television viewing. They are trying everything possible to turn things around. Problem is, nothing will save them.

TV viewership is trending downward because people who watch cable TV night after night are dying of old age or boredom. Modern viewers do things the rest of us don’t understand to enjoy home entertainment. And changes are happening faster than creaky old executives can invent new ideas.

Streaming, binge watching, cherry picking, Roku, Hulu, You Tube, Watusi; there are ways to capture TV episodes and movies, old and new that require more youthful expertise than programming a smart TV does.

Old Geezers won’t understand the new ways and won’t be willing to try them anyway. I know for a fact. I suggest heads of entertainment conglomerates ask one of the grandchildren to explain the problem and offer a solution.

Always works for me.

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