Note: There are many jobs in broadcast journalism. This blog encompasses the person doing play-by-play, color commentator, studio show participants, sideline reporters, anyone who has an on-air position behind a microphone.
Basically, there are two types of sports announcers. One is the former successful player or coach who, while having no formal training or academic background in broadcasting, gives the viewer the inside look on the field of play or in the locker room. The other group is composed of well-educated men or women who probably were the manager or writer for the school paper due to their lack of athletic ability. Naturally, there are others in the field who don’t fall into either category. If you’re interested in those people, this isn’t the place for you. I only include that because it seems people are facing legal action if no such disclaimer is stated.
Listeners are usually split as far as which group they like better. Or, because the world has become so negative, dislike less. However, each has followers from the other’s side. From the “non-jock” organization, many of those fans may have a favorite superstar they loved when they were growing up. On the flip side, the ex-athlete or coach might, especially if he or she is cynical, enjoy the talking heads whose acts are based on sarcasm.
It’s difficult for anyone not to appreciate the skills and delivery of veterans Al Michaels, Bob Costas, James Brown or my favorite of all-time, Vin Scully. Similarly, the ex-jocks/coaches who are unanimously appreciated for their knowledge of explaining the game are Doug Collins, Mike Fratello, Gary Danielson, and in his own way - and no one else has quite the “way” - Charles Barkley.
Where the debate arises is in the presentation strategy of the two groups (excluding the above and selected others), i.e. the manner in which they choose to educate, inform or entertain the listener. It’s appallingly evident that some of the former athletes don’t do their homework, feeling they’re entitled to the job and need only to throw in an occasional comment or relate a story, however meaningful, or not, it might be. Their feeling is they busted their butts for so many years - physically. Nobody out there in the audience has any idea how difficult it was. And because of that sacrifice - and commitment - they should get a pass, i.e. a great paying job (although it’s a major cut for them). Even when told that’s not the way the world works, their response is, “It is for me.” Read Robert Parish’s recent comments as the perfect example.
Then there’s the “new wave” of reporters, i.e. the post-Jim Rome/Keith Olberman era. They have their own set of rules as well. “We went to school to learn our craft, not have it bequeathed to us.” And, with this kind, anything goes. Many are bitter. Maybe because they were cut from their teams, relegated to the scorebook or collecting the equipment, while the jocks got everything they wanted - including girls. This injustice burned inside them. The serious ones went to college to become as good at reporting the game as their prima donna friends were at playing it. Undoubtedly, there are a good number who simply wanted a job in journalism and possessed that same work ethic their athletic friends had. And they have the majority of fans. Those who didn’t want the rigors of school; they just want to bitch.
As has been stated earlier, the world has turned highly cynical, for whatever reason - from pampered athletes to people buying political offices to others stealing money from and bankrupting friends to banks defrauding people while their CEOs walked away with multi-million dollar packages. That would upset most people - and it certainly has. People have become more concerned, not with what they don’t have but with what other people do. Why? How does it help?
Maybe it doesn’t but complaining feels good and if you’re good enough, you can get paid. Except for the slackers (and it’s becoming more and more apparent who they are), it comes down to either knowledgeable people (former player/coach or not) talking their listeners: the ones who understand what’s happening and want to know more, or the guy who comes on, baring his teeth, ready to pounce on whatever story that listener - the one who thrives on other people’s misery - can complain about the rest of the day. Even though it does no one any good.
My main man, the late John Savage’s line was:
“You don’t strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.”