I’ve reached a place in my life where the thrill of the buzzer beater just isn’t worth the hour of volume-increased commercials beforehand. The pre-game hype, the incessant analysis, and the onslaught of advertising wearies my soul, to be honest.
A few years back, British humorist David Mitchell did a hilarious skit lampooning the almost cartoonish theatrics that television companies now use to advertise English football.
Filmed as a mock teaser for Sky Sports 2, the sketch shows Mitchell briskly pacing around the field of a football stadium, as with ever-growing fervor he bills the week’s upcoming matches. The video frames change rapidly like karate chops, as a panned-in shot of Mitchell’s almost frantic expression shows him literally spitting in excitement over the “constant, dizzying, 24-hour, yearlong, endless football” available for broadcast in the UK.
“Thousands and thousands of hours of football,” he ardently proclaims, “Each more climatic than the last… every kick of [the ball] massively mattering to someone, presumably!”
The camera zooms in on his crazed eyes as he comes to a frenzied climax. “There is still everything to play for and forever to play it in!” Mitchell shouts, before quickly adding, “It will never stop! The football is officially going on forever!”
Then, as if the universe has reached its peak excitement level where English football is concerned, Mitchell orgasmically cries out, “It’s football!”, and the commercial spontaneously combusts. It almost leaves you wanting a cigarette when it’s over.
The skit works, of course, because art imitates life in this instance, with British TV companies apparently not hyping their constant sports coverage any less than their American counterparts. I have to agree with Mitchell that it’s not only farcical, but may soon burn us all out on televised sports.
Take March Madness for example. There will be 67 NCAA Division 1 basketball games played between March 17 and April 4. Every single game will be broadcast live by CBS Sports — many of them simultaneously — and before you’ll even have a chance to finish watching one game, you’ll be ushered to the finish of another.
This is sports television’s equivalent of speed dating, and it’s really just a microcosm of what happens all year long in broadcasting. No sooner has one season ended than we’re on to the next big thing.
Now, when you’re young and unattached, speed dating is fun for a while, but when you’re finally ready to settle down with a nice girl and enjoy gardening on the weekends, the “thrill of the chase” gets old quickly. Eventually, going for a late sushi meet-up just doesn’t appeal as much as staying in to finish the New York Times crossword puzzle.
But frothing you for the next big thing is how network television works. They need you to constantly feel excited so you’ll “stay tuned for what’s next”. Obviously, with the amount of money that someone like CBS Sports has generated in ad revenue for the NCAA Tournament ($8.2 billion since 2006), it literally pays them to get you excited about watching their product. Broadcast companies don’t want you to forego the 9:50pm game in Oklahoma City because “you’ve got better things to do”, which, metaphorically speaking, is you settling down, selling the motorcycle, and joining a couples Pilates class.
Thankfully for CBS Sports, they have a sure-fire winner for creating viewership excitement with March Madness because the show is that good. Even I’ll admit that, regardless of how they bill it, the NCAA Tournament really is the most entertaining three weeks in the sports calendar. It’s not like they are trying to hype something that’s not a good televised product. March Madness, even without the TV, would probably generate its own excitement.
(I’d be remiss at this point not to mention that the other big thing which gets thousands of otherwise disinterested people interested in watching the NCAA Tournament is the presence of gambling. Nobody outside of Nacogdoches cares much about Stephen F. Austin University basketball in February. But in March, everybody and their brother has a Hamilton or Jackson riding on the Lumberjacks fortunes.)
I don’t want to sound cynical — I’ve always enjoyed watching a good game. But, of course, you can never just “watch the game” on TV.
Just like the Mitchell sketch shows, the camera is always moving, sending your brain into uninterrupted mental gymnastics tumbles. It’s full-court, then zoomed, then the bench, then a close-up, then back to full-court. All the while, you’re being asked to consider purchasing two different products by the play-by-play man, and all this before the quick-fire, 30-second films that are commercials, which try to sell you on four more products before you return to the play-by-play man who wants you to watch two upcoming shows.
I’ve reached a place in my life — and maybe some of my readers have, too — where the thrill of the buzzer beater just isn’t worth the hour of volume-increased commercials beforehand. The pre-game hype, the incessant analysis, and the onslaught of advertising wearies my soul, to be honest.
I confess: I find the slavish devotion of thirty-somethings to the whole thing a bit juvenile — delayed adolescence, and all that. Trying for a state of perpetual excitement is a young peoples’ frame of mind. I don’t have the energy for that anymore. The basketball is “officially going on forever”, you know.
I guess I’m just trying to say that I have sports entertainment exhaustion. Call it “March Madness syndrome”, if you want. Maybe it’s something I should talk to my doctor about. If you happen to see a commercial for a prescription drug that treats that kind of thing, let me know about it. I’m going to bed.