Editorial: TV sports announcers need to announce

Published 9:56 am Friday, July 6, 2012

What has happened to TV sports announcers? They hardly describe the action anymore.

As you likely know, on most radio and TV broadcasts of sports contests, there is one announcer and one or perhaps two commentators. It is the job of the announcer to describe the action — “and he could go all the way” — and the job of the commentator to offer opinions on the action — “that was a spectacular run, Howard.”

By describing the action, viewers learn here and there about how a sport works. Otherwise, they are left confused by the technical or hyperbolic comments made by the commentator.

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Such was the case last weekend on NBC at the Olympic trials for track and field, swimming and, especially, gymnastics.

Turn the channel to ESPN to see tennis players compete at Wimbledon, and it was the same situation.

Sure, viewers could get loads of noisy opinions about the merits of this or that athlete, but it sure would be helpful if someone, anyone could deftly describe the action.

There were moments during tennis when everyone was cheering and the commentator was blabbing on about what a great shot was made, but the TV audience was left wondering: Which player made a great shot? What exactly did he do? I thought that looked like the other guy made the shot?

That’s the confusion that good play-by-play sports announcers are supposed to clear up. Where are they?

Perhaps the network producers who orchestrate the coverage of sports nowadays assume everyone is watching the contest while sitting about three feet from a 52-inch flatscreen television. And perhaps they assume that all viewers everywhere now know all the rules and procedures of every sport on the planet. And perhaps they assume viewers don’t need to understand the sports they watch because the ratings for live sports already are higher than most other types of shows.

Trust us. Viewers want more description and fewer wordy opinions.