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NFL Announcers Just Need to Shut Up


Dan T.

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Sports announcers are paid to talk, and they want to earn their keep. So they talk. And talk. And talk. Even when they don't have much to say, they talk. How much of what they say is really insightful or meaningful? And how much of it justs fills air time?

Just over 30 years ago, NBC sports producer Don Ohlmeyer had a sucky late season NFL game on his hands - Jets-Dolphins...both mediocre teams out of the playoff hunt.

So Ohlmeyer decided to try something radically different for the broadcast. He would air the December 20, 1980 game without a play-by-play crew.

Ohlmeyer had been quoted as saying that he felt announcers and color commentators talked too much. So he concocted this little experiment to prove his point. He was already one of the giants in sports broadcasting (Wide World of Sports, first Monday Night Football producer, producer of three Olympics) so his career could afford it if it flopped.

He helped the game narrative along by using extra mics around the stadium and increasing the use of graphics to give the viewers information. Bryant Gumbel served as sort of a host, introducing the broadcast at the beginning and then cutting in periodically to provide updates. Otheriwise, all that viewers heard were the sounds of the game.

Ohlmeyer deemed it a mixed success. There were many things he would have tweaked if he were ever to do another no-announcer game. They had problems with sound quality. But he did get a bit of a ratings spike on an otherwise blah game from the curious who heard the hype leading up to the broadcast. And he drove home an important point to Dick Enberg, top NBC play-by-play guy at the time. Enberg wasn't thrilled about the experiment.

"It improved me," Enberg allowed. "Consciously, to this day, there are moments in every sport that I do when I kind of throw up my hands as if to say to myself and to my partner, 'Let's not talk. This moment is special, we don't need to talk. Let's let it play.'

Ohlmeyer's idea was a little ahead of it's time, and I would like to see a slightly altered version of it repeated. Free up the announcers from the need to fill every moment with play-by-play or commentary. Cut back their verbal output by 80%. Increase the field microphones and use graphics to narrate the game. Let us hear more of the sounds of the game. Do for football what the British have done for tennis telecasts.

I read that last year the NFL Network repeated the Jets-Bengals Thanksgiving game the following Saturday with no announcers. Did anybody see the rebroadcast? They mic'ed up players and coaches, had extra cameras for the game, and had 48 hours to produce, edit, and re-air the game without announcers. Interesting experiment, but not as bold as Ohlmeyer doing it live.

How much do you get out of play-by-play announcers and color commentators? Would you like to see a repeat of such an experiment?

http://www.nypost.com/p/blogs/backpage/jets_to_play_another_announcer_less_Rei1Id5lXVyHajbsVCoFxJ

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/news/story?id=5906858

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I don't mind some announcers. Some of them stick to things which are happening in the game, some of them explain in detail what is happening on a given play to give a specific result ala the John Madden drawing board. I don't need those announcers but I don't mind them. They aren't drawing conclusions based on their opinions of the teams or Dan Snyder or how badly a city smells, or the bad food they had in NYC that one time. They're giving facts, or thoughts and opinions on the strategic part of the game at hand and basically nothing more. I like those kinds of announcers or at least don't mind them.

The ones I mind are the ones who feel the need to talk about dumb, irrelevant things. Think of Tony Kornheiser. A player will go and make a nice catch and they'll say something like "Oh great catch from Robinson there...SO the other night we were talking with coach Jones and he told us that Robinson's favorite color is blue, and that he once owned a German Shepherd." Then the other announcer chimes in "German Shepherds- those are nice dogs, kind of big for a lot of people and they can get a bit territorial at times but they're extremely loyal and highly intelligent."

What the **** is the purpose of these stupid little anecdotes from announcers? I don't care about player's lives and stories that have to do with something which is completely unrelated to the game. "OH, I'm sure that Hayes is glad he made that catch on this, the anniversary of his father's death." other announcer: "Yes, it must be an emotional day for him and what better way to commemorate your father's life and influence on you than to go out there on Sunday and catch a touchdown pass in a big game?"

What??? Are you ****ing kidding me? Some "tragedy" or hardship that the player must overcome is always some big talking point for announcers. Something that has nothing to do with whats happening on the field. Who the hell needs to know the details of these player's lives? Why can't we just be satisfied knowing that they're grown men who play a sport we enjoy and let that be the end of it. I don't care if the FOX broadcasting crew happens to know that last January Freddy McEveryplayer told them that he enjoys apple strudel. It is inconsequential. Worse are the announcers which constantly talk about their own lives and accomplishments which are unrelated to the events transpiring in the game itself. I don't care about that one time you and "Moose" Johnston pulled a prank on some player and good times were had, Troy Aikman. It has nothing to do with the fact that somebody in a game which involves zero pranksters, and doesn't even have the Cowboys in it just scored a touchdown or got a sack while you were eating up air time reminiscing about things which only you would truly give a **** about.

Certain announcers turn football games into gossip time. I feel like I'm listening to women on the view discussing the latest rumors and life stories of celebrities which were in the latest people magazine publications. Shut the **** up and worry about the task at hand. Jesus, yesterday on a number of occasions I wanted to mute the game and just watch it with the sound off but I wanted to hear the fans cheering in the background, the snap count, guys running into each other, referee calls/whistles blowing, or god forbid one of these idiots like Chris Collinsworth wakes up out of their dazed stupor long enough to wipe the drool off their lips and give us some pertinent information from the game and I missed it because I was trying to dodge listening to him slobber all over the balls of XXXXXX football player who has such a tightly toned and powerful lower body, graceful legs, chiseled arms, and dreamy eyes.

I'd love to have a game run as it is described in the story. God I used to turn off the commentators and turn up the radio when lived back home and it even got annoying listening to Sam Huff's alzheimers slowly kicking in, or listening to Sonny drunkenly stumble through words while Larry Michael talks about how pleased he is to work for Mr. Snyder and how generous Mr. Snyder is, and how good of a friend Mr. Snyder has been to him.

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Rock, I don't mind the non-game commentary - or the game commentary for that matter - as long as it is interesting. Too much of what I hear though is trite or cliche or obvious.

I do appreciate your thoughtful reply.

Who would like to see a repeat of Ohlmeyer's no-announcer broadcast experiment?

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Who would like to see a repeat of Ohlmeyer's no-announcer broadcast experiment?

Yes, I'd love to see it. I know it would fail because the announcers are made to push "storylines" and talk gossip about players even if it means analyzing their personal lives while they're running around on a football field. Those stoylines probably indirectly affect jersey sales or sway opinion for some purpose. Either way I'd like a football game to be only about football. I don't need much explained to me, if anything at all so I'd just sort of like to watch the game and get better sounds from the field/stadium.

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I remember when that happened, and I seem to remember that the PA announcer wasn't able to be heard. I think if you were to do it again, you would have to have the PA mic'd to your sound.

It's interesting-I don't mind the "anecdotes" in baseball, but in football, they do annoy me like The-Rock said.

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I'd love to see someone try this out. With the tech available nowadays in terms of tiny wireless mikes, digital sound and graphics, multiple camera angles readily accessible, you ought to be able to find a format where this works. It gets frustrating to try and find out what actually happened on a play because the boothies were babbling and paying no attention to the game, or interviewing some "WTF is he doing there?" pseudo-celebrity.

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