Ratcliffe: ESPN has gone too far - The Daily Progress: Sports

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Ratcliffe: ESPN has gone too far

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Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2011 8:54 pm | Updated: 3:58 pm, Thu Jan 31, 2013.

Have you noticed the expression on coach’s faces when they’re walking off the court or field at halftime and are suddenly confronted by a TV reporter asking for a first-half analysis in 60 seconds or less?

They all have the same look on their face as the poor dog that just learned Michael Vick had adopted it.

The last thing on earth coaches want to do is talk to a media person during a game, and personally, I don’t blame them.

I mean, really, do we truly gain any knowledge that enhances our viewing experience enough to bother a coach, who needs to get to the locker room?

If the halftime interviews weren’t intrusive enough, then what about the latest trend in the “In Your Face” world of TV game reporting? That’s right, now those annoying sideline reporters are interviewing coaches during time outs.

One of my pet peeves about college basketball for the last several years is that there’s too many time outs to begin with, and now they are even more annoying with sideline reporters doing interviews during those time outs.

Give me a break.

Coach K doesn’t like it either

That’s why I was glad to hear Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski say Wednesday night that he’s as sick of this silliness as I am. When he was asked about coaches being interviewed during time outs, he didn’t hold back.

“That stinks,” Krzyzewski said. “That shouldn’t be. It’s horrible … horrible.”

Agreed.

Personally, I don’t think coaches should be talking to TV reporters or print reporters (not that we ask) before a game or during a game.

After is fine, except not immediately after as one TV reporter found out after a Final Four game a few years ago when she asked then-Kansas coach Roy Williams immediately after a loss about rumors linking him to the Carolina job. The network and a national TV audience got Williams’ raw emotions as an answer.

For once, I would like to see coaches reject some of these lame reasons for more TV access. And, I would like to see ADs stand behind the coaches instead of bowing to TV money.

“A coach’s responsibility,” Krzyzewski said, “from the time [we] talk to [our players] in the locker room before the game, until [we] talk to them in the locker room after the game, is sacred for [us] and our team.

“Anything you do outside of that in college sports, I think is wrong,” Coack K said. “I think it takes away from your responsibility.”

Amen.

“My responsibility is to my kids, to my team,” the Duke coach continued. “You shouldn’t be distracted. You don’t owe anything to anyone else. That’s why I never do halftime interviews.”

Viewers notice the problems

I received an e-mail today from a Georgetown grad, who watched Duke’s low-scoring win over Virginia, his point being how UVa botched ESPN’s halftime interview with Cavaliers’ coach Tony Bennett. The sportswriters weren’t aware of what happened because we aren’t close to TV monitors at basketball games like we are in football press boxes, but apparently as soon as the sideline reporter asked one question to Bennett, who started his answer, the arena lights were turned off and Bennett finished his answer in the dark.

Apparently the reporter gave up and play-by-play guy Mike Patrick said something like, ‘the lights are going off for Tony Bennett in more ways than one,’ the e-mailer said.

If we and the coaches could all be so lucky as to turn off the lights on these needless halftime interviews, not to mention the time out interviews.

Oh, and apparently one of UVa’s seemingly endless strings of assistant athletic directors and the TV people must have gotten their wires crossed, turning out the lights so that Seven Society could present crossed sabres to honor the success of the school’s non-revenue sports last year.

Back to the point, Krzyzewski, who often displays a hilarious sense of humor in lighter moments, such as after the Wednesday night win, wasn’t through.

“The only people I’m talking to from start to finish is [his players] … sometimes to referees,” Coach K grinned. “Maybe we should interview [referees]. We’re trying all kinds of things on ESPN this week, we might as well try that.

“Why don’t you have a coach interview the ref,” Coach K suggested. “Like, ‘Was that really traveling? Did you not see his fee the time before?’ It would be a civil way. But, I wouldn’t want to do that either.”

Krzyzewski said he had seen a couple of the games where time out interviews with coaches were conducted.

“I said, ‘What are we doing? What are we doing to our sport to have that?’ It’s just wrong,” the coach said. “What, are we going to tweet somebody in the middle of [a game]? By that time, I’m out and I’ll remember the good old days when men were men and basketball players were basketball players (long pause), and women were women. I have three daughters, so I don’t want letters from that stuff.”

While Krzyzewski poked fun of the process, his point was serious. I wish all coaches would take it as seriously because TV has gone too far.

By the way, did you see the sideline reporters asking star NFL players and the head coaches a quick question or two just before the kickoffs of games?

I mean, is that really necessary? And, did you get a load of the answers? All we need is a little more coach-speak, like “As long as we stick to the game plan we feel confident that we’ll be all right.”

Please.

Other than an injury update, I’ve seldom heard anything from a TV sideline reporter that really added much to a telecast. If TV hasn’t been invasive enough, ESPN has been experimenting with all sorts of things this week in basketball, for instance:

A SkyCam hovering over the court giving us a view as if we were suspended in mid-air over the court; a miced referee during a game

(I don’t want to hear this unless I can hear the really good stuff when a player and ref really get into one another); Placing Jay Bilas and Bill Raftery on opposite ends of the court (Why?) during one broadcast while the play-by-play guy stayed courtside; an all- female announcing crew; and one camera devoted solely to Duke’s Nolan Smith during the UVa game.

ESPN needn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to televising a basketball game.

As Coach K said, “Just show the kids playing. The game is a great game.”

Let’s keep it that way.

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