I was visibly pissed when Eurosport kept on showing a mediocre long jump competition at the New York Diamon League coverage. Save for the Australian duo of Mitchell Watt and Fabrice Lapierre, the rest of the field looked like last minute replacements. Aside from the aforesaid two, the rest of the competitors notched mundanely mediocre long jump marks more akin to low-level Philippine athletics than to the big-money Diamond League meetings.
Click here to view the New York Diamond League Results
To make matters worse, there were three field events that featured superior athletes and performances. The women’s triple jump field, led by Olga Rypakova, featured near-15 meter jumps. In the women’s pole vault, 2011 World Champion leaped to a new season’s best of 4.77m. The men’s high jump was even more exciting, as World Champion Jesse Williams squared off with the vastly-improved Robbie Grabarz.
And the producers of the telecast only showed snippets of these events. In contrast, they aired each and every sub-par round of the friggin’ long jump. Even the announcers were subtly disappointed, apologizing to the audience for not showing more of the aforesaid events.
Since I live in the Philippines, I’m only exposed to a handful of cable channels that feature regular athletics coverage: Eurosport and Star Sports. The latter is not even worth mentioning. It employs a lone announcer/commentator that is akin to Mr. Sandman himself. If I were not so interested in the sport, I would have fallen asleep.
Eurosport fares much better. It employs a knowledgeable British commentating/announcing duo. However, it needs a fresh dose of energy – and producers who employ common sense. I have yet to watch other broadcasting outfits, but the French guys and Ato Boldon look entertaining. To the guys over at Eurosport and Star Sports, here are a few suggestions:
1.) Please tell your producers to feature the most gripping of events, not the pedestrian ones. C’mon! Picking a long jump competition where most of the field jumped in the mid-7 meters over a high jump event featuring an unknown athlete leaping 2.36m? Get real.
2.) Air the post-race interviews. If the program is hard-pressed for time, you can always insert a small box at the bottom of the screen during those long-drawn distance races.
3.) Show the faces of the announcers for crying out loud! Put faces to the voices! The names of these guys are not even shown on TV.
4.) Employ some retired athletes or established event experts to give their thoughts. Don’t just friggin’ rely on jacks-of-all-trades doing all the commentating. And for the nth time, put their faces on a small box beneath the screen.
5.) Put a ticker at the bottom of the screen informing the TV audience of the current standings.
6.) Show more clips of the athletes warming-up, celebrating or interacting with the crowd.
I’ve accepted the fact that athletics shall remain second fiddle to football and basketball in terms of popularity. The nature of the sport is not spectator friendly. If the sports fan is not well-versed in the basics of athletics, he/she will be hard-pressed to appreciate the events. It helps the sport a lot when larger-than-life characters like Usain Bolt take center stage. But then again, Bolt is one-of-a-kind.
Inutile television coverage such as this only worsens this inherent disadvantage. It takes away the awe factor of a grossly-underrated sport.