Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Televised Sports Angles

John McEnroe spoke with President Bill Clinton after the French Open live telecast, and asked him "what should tennis do to become a more popular sport?"

Mr. Clinton gave what I felt was a thoughtful answer. He said that "like tennis and ice hockey, television producers should strive to make the telecasts look as if you were there." Mr. Clinton went on to say that both tennis and ice hockey were unique in that television cannot properly convey the true speed and action of the sport, no matter how good the camera operators are.

As I thought about it more, I think television enhances every sport, with the replays, and unique camera angles. This year's Stanley Cup finals introduced sychronized cameras to provide the ability to rotate around a replay, allowing for better angles.

'Continuous flow' sports, sports with little or no interruption, like ice hockey and tennis, are better 'live', when you can properly take in all the action. I spent many college ice hockey games watching just one player skate their shift. Soccer fits into this 'continuous flow' sports category as well. These games are just better 'live' because you choose the action you want to watch, plus you can watch all the action.

Another sport that television doesn't properly do justice for is golf. Television 'flattens' the course, and you rarely get a feel for the undulation of a green or fairway. But the worst part is that the flight of the ball is hidden. TV has to follow the ball using a close-up or tight shot, because a golf ball quickly disappears on the television screen if you stay focused with the golfer. When you watch golf 'live', you can see just how far away the 'target' is, in relation to the golfer. Morever, you can often follow the flight of the ball. Seeing a struck golf ball fly towards sky has to be one of the best sights in sports.

The best television angle I can remember in golf was the 1999 Ryder Cup, held at the Country Club (Brookline, MA). The players were teeing off a par-three, and the camera was somehow placed at the same level as the tee. The lens captured the arc of the ball, as it shot straight up and curved onto the tricky green. As all the players lined up to take this shot, you could see that each player produced similar ball flights, a testament to their talent.

Limitations such as these won't stop me from watching sports on television. But having attended a number of sporting events 'live' makes me realize that television provides only the limited view of the camera.

No comments:

Post a Comment