Friday, June 13, 2008
As the Euro Cup plays out in the upcoming weeks, I have once again had to live through those agonizing moments that crop up during every sportscast and put an absolute damper on my viewing pleasure. I can guarantee whether it is the NBA Playoffs, Euro Cup, Track and Field Trials, Kentucky Derby, or Little League World Series each of these pet peeves will erupt with painful regularity.
While I consider myself a moderately intelligent woman, apparently NBC and ABC have higher expectations for me and other viewers. Both networks have instituted what I call the ""Abstract Flag"" designation. When athletes are ready to compete they are recognized on the screen with a flag next to their name. Obviously I recognize the United States, Canada, and Japan. I saw ""Cool Runnings"" and love Bob Marley, so I also recognize the Jamaican flag. After that it gets a bit fuzzy. The problem is that the flags aren't full flags, merely representations. So England, New Zealand, and Australia appear interchangeable. Central American countries are a blur of yellow, green, and red with tiny, indistinguishable emblems. I have a 52"" TV so I can't imagine how these mini-flags come across on a 17"" TV. Although I can probably survive without knowing if the runner on lane four is from Kenya or Ethiopia, I am nonetheless peeved that the networks taunt me with my lack of diplomatic knowledge. At the bare minimum I wish they would provide the three letter country code like Fox Soccer Channel wisely does. After watching the Prefontaine Classic last weekend, I awoke in a panic that night with the realization that I had less than eight weeks to study up on and learn the world's national flags before the Summer Olympics. Then I have to further prepare in order to recognize them in miniature, abstract forms. I've already got an appointment with my ophthalmologist.
Without exception, every network wallows in my next pet peeve. I'm convinced that announcers either believe every viewer is a novice to the sport or commentators just don't have the expository speech skills that actually justify a six figure income. Why educated, experienced, professional announcers, coaches, and players can't avoid these flat out obvious statements continues to amaze and frustrate me. ""If this team expects to win, they'll have to put some points up on the scoreboard."" ""Big Brown has to outrun his competition in order to win this race."" ""The young Kenyan has the talent to succeed. All he has to do is be first across the finish line."" ""Down three games to nothing, the Boston Red Sox have to win or the series is over."" ""It's not enough to have talent; you also need to score some goals."" I would think even ET arriving on earth and just learning the language and customs of America would wince at these banal profundities. ""Both teams are hoping for the best."" Yeah, well so am I – but it never happens.
I'm a mom, so I have seen my share of bloody noses, broken bones, and split tongues. However, I don't need to immortalize these moments. Sports program directors disagree. They command their cameras to linger on every disgusting player activity. I don't need to watch players spit, blow their noses onto the grass, adjust their cups, or cough up something left over from The Exorcism. My full sports experience will not be diminished if I miss the bazillion close-up of a leg breaking or a head wound flailed open to the bone. I especially do not need a slow-motion replay every time some player receives a blow to the ""sweets"". Suffice it to say, even as a woman I can imagine the pain, so watching it over and over doesn't help enhance my understanding of the agony. I will admit that my husband, a physician, seems to derive some perverse pleasure from the injury replays, since he uses them to confirm his original diagnosis of the injury as it occurred. But I have to believe that's a rather select segment of the population. It's even more fun when these visuals are coupled with inane commentary. ""That's gotta hurt"" seems redundant given the slow motion close-up image of a fibula cracking backwards across my television screen as my husband shouts, ""See, I told you!""
Luckily, when I go to watch my kids play I can avoid all of this. I know where the teams come from, I make my own commentary, and I can limit the visuals to a single viewing. I'll get the opportunity to continue my unsullied soccer experience this June at the Region II competition in Rockford, IL as Bryce's U-19 team competes. It's his first visit to Regionals, so he's extremely excited to be participating. I'm just happy to have the opportunity to immerse myself again in this great youth soccer event. Next week I'll begin blogging about the preparations, what Regionals mean to a player, a team, and a family, and the little moments that enrich the week. I promise not to refer to teams by cryptic, abstract designations, avoid clichés, and refrain from lingering on anything gross. Now if I can just get that six-figure income.