Sports Telecasts In Covid-19 Times

Over the weekend, I was grazing through the channels on my cable subscription and happened across the PGA event of the week.  I did not linger awfully long because golf on TV is not a way that I spend a lot of my time, but I was immediately aware of something “new” in the telecast.  There were real live fans in attendance, and I could hear them.  It was not a soundtrack pumped into the telecast; these were reactions from actual human beings on site at the event.  That got me to thinking about other sports on TV and how their telecasts have been altered by the COVID-19 pandemic.  So, in no particular order:

  • Golf:  I have never thought that the goofs who yell “Get in the hole!” on every drive off the tee added much to the telecast, but the polite applause accompanying routine shots gave a sense of reality to the contest last weekend.
  • NHL:  I do not watch as much hockey as I do many other sports, but the telecasts seemed pretty much the same with soundtracks as opposed to live fans in the arena.
  • NFL:  The absence of dozens of gratuitous crowd shots and minimized sideline reporting made the games more enjoyable; the soundtracks were so obviously phony that they detracted from the presentation.  The net change here is a wash…
  • College Football:  Frankly, seeing the way some games had fans in the stands without masks and clearly not exhibiting social distancing made me feel uncomfortable given the COVID-19 situation in the Fall of 2020.  I found myself wanting to avert my eyes during the crowd shots with fans jamming together to cheer for their team on camera and on cue.  Not a good look there…
  • MLB:  The telecasts last year were not significantly different with empty stands and/or cardboard cutouts.  The piped in audio was not nearly as artificial in baseball telecasts as it was in other sports.  I must admit that having seen a few innings of some Spring Training games this last week has given me the urge to go and see a baseball game live this year.  The presence of live folks on the camera shots makes me envious; I did not have that feeling last season.
  • NBA:  The most glaring change in the telecasts to me was the absence of celebrities in their courtside seats behaving in ways to draw attention to themselves as if they were part of the game itself.  The audio soundtracks were often handled clumsily so there was a feeling that what I was watching was not “real”.
  • College Basketball:  This is the sport where the biggest difference existed for me.  Watching Duke play a home game without the “Cameron Crazies” packed into the stands screaming and jumping up and down for the entirety of the action just seemed wrong.  However, limiting crowds was/is the right thing to do…
  • Tennis:  The little of it that I did watch seemed to be pretty much the same presentation without fans as it was with fans in the stands.
  • Horse Racing:  Other than crowd shots during Triple Crown events or the Breeders’ Cup races, TV cameras do not focus on fans in attendance.  [Aside:  As a denizen of the grandstand and “down by the rail” at many racetracks, I can assure you that there are good reasons for the cameras to focus attention elsewhere.]  The typical race telecasts on TVG looked the same in 2020 as they have for as long as horse racing has been on TV.
  • English Premier League:  I missed the fans singing their traditional songs.  I had never realized that I had paid attention to that part of the telecast before until it was not part of the telecast and I wondered where it had gone.
  • Australian Rules Football:  I did not notice any difference in the telecasts here.  The thing that I would hate to see happen in this sport is if they change the “costumes” of the guys at the goal who signal with their hands if there is a goal or a behind.

With increasing availability – and administration – of COVID-19 vaccines, the television presentations of sports going forward will likely drift back to what they were prior to 2020.  On balance, that is probably a good thing.

The Dallas Cowboys and Dak Prescott reached a “long-term deal” yesterday.  I put quotation marks here because the deal is for 4 years and many contracts for NFL franchise QBs extend well beyond that term.  Notwithstanding the relative brevity of the deal, there are some big numbers and restrictive covenants associated with it:

  • Total contract value with the attainment of all incentives could be as high as $164M.
  • Guaranteed money comes to $126M.
  • Signing bonus is $66M.
  • There is a no-trade clause.
  • There is a clause that prevents the Cowboys from using the franchise tag on Prescott at the end of this contract.

Looking at the max value of the deal, Dak Prescott will make $41M per year on average; looking only at the guaranteed money, he will average out to $31.5M per year.  Either way, that is a whole lot of cheese AND at the end of this deal, Dak Prescott will be only 31 years old and can take another bite of the “free agency apple” at that time.  My first reaction to reading about this deal was that Prescott and his people made Jerry Jones blink in their game of chicken over a long-term deal.  Indeed, the Cowboys get some QB stability here – – but not for long.  And then this free agency/new contract opera will fire up again.

Then, I thought again.  Jerry Jones has demonstrated two things over the 30+ years he has owned the Cowboys:

  1. He seems to over-value his football personnel expertise just a bit; his role as the team’s GM has been spotty in terms of roster building.
  2. His financial performance is anything but spotty; Jerry Jones takes large financial gambles inside football and outside football and he wins an inordinate fraction of those financial bets.

So, when I look at this as a “financial risk” taken by Jerry Jones, I have to think he has an angle on it.  Maybe he already knows how big the next set of TV rights deals are going to be for the NFL and where the salary cap is heading?

Finally, since I began today with comments on telecasts, let me close with this item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Sure sign we’ve been in lockdown too long: The Milwaukee Bucks unveiled a  ‘Hand Sanitizer Cam’ featuring a superimposed bottle ‘squirting’ fans in the stands.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



4 thoughts on “Sports Telecasts In Covid-19 Times”

  1. I agree about college basketball. Duke’s home court record since 2004-05 is 179-12. Coach K is 474–59 at Cameron. This year, without fans, Duke 8-5 at home. Those Crazies are an important part of the game.

    1. Doug:

      Indeed they are AND they are part of the atmosphere of a telecast from Cameron. I missed that element of the telecast.

  2. Call me old. I like Texas and I like Texans. Dak Prescott is guaranteed $126 million. Didn’t he get injured last season?

    Best of luck to Dak Prescott in 2021.

    1. TenaciousP:

      Dak Prescott needed surgery after about 4 games to repair a badly damaged ankle. According to reports, his rehab is all positive and he is on schedule for OTAs.

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