Football Studio Programming

I know the football season is just beginning and any comment about the status of the game or the future of the game is subject to the limitations of “small sample size”.  Nonetheless, I want to make a couple of definitive statements about football coverage on TV at the macro level:

  1. Pre-game shows are too long and too formulaic.
  2. Halftime shows are chaotic.

For college football, a pre-game studio show could easily be done well in 30 minutes; and if you want to stretch a point and have the show deal with the five best games of the day, make the show an hour long.  The cast need not be large; it merely needs to be prepared and it needs to be knowledgeable.  Please note: I did not say there needs to be comedic skill to be part of the program.  Put the program in a studio with an engaging and competent cast and move on from showing a bunch of half-inebriated children screaming and holding up ever-so-clever signs about their team and their opponents’ teams.  The tone of the program should be informative discussion among people who know what they are talking about with a moderator who simply facilitates that sort of exchange.

For the NFL, the same situation is obtained.  The first thing that should happen is that anyone who tries to make a lame joke about any game or team on the docket gets fired on the spot AND if any other cast member gives out a faux belly-laugh at said lame joke, he or she will be fired on the spot and placed in the stocks in the town square for 8 hours.  If for some reason the producers of NFL pre-game shows think that comedy is a sine qua non for their telecasts, they need to hire a professional comedian to provide that element.  Think about it; the producers do not hire comedians to be the “expert panelists” for these programs simply because comedians are not “football people” any more than Joe Flabeetz tailgating in the stadium parking lot is a “football person”.  Well, here is some cold hard truth for those same producers:

  • Former NFL players and/or coaches are not comedians and when they try to be “the funny guy” on the program they embarrass themselves and the program itself.

The chaos of halftime shows is understandable to some degree, but it should be minimized not enhanced.  The cast for the halftime show do not have several days of preparation time to come up with insightful things to say about the game; they must prepare and create commentary on the fly.  In a college telecast, that is a bounded situation because that crew is only focused on that game itself and not the panoply of more than a hundred games around the country.

In the NFL, halftimes come and go at about the same time for as many as 8 games at a time.  No one could make that into an orderly process, but it might be less chaotic with a couple of deep breaths on the part of the producers and the cast.

  • Do they really need to show a highlight from all the other games of the day given that most of those highlights have already been shown during “Game Breaks” in the individual games?
  • Do they really need to have a sideline reporter ask the coach who is losing at halftime one or two inane questions?

Q:  Coach, you are trailing by 10 points at halftime.  What are you going to tell your team to do in the second half?

A: [The ONLY logical answer] We need to score 11 more points than they do in the second half.

            Now, do some math on the timing of halftime at an NFL game.  NFL halftimes are 12 minutes long – – until you get to the Super Bowl when halftime is measured in geologic eras.  Subtract 30 seconds for the inane sideline interview of a coach and another 2 minutes for commercials.  That leaves 9 and a half minutes for the cast to say something cogent about a whole bunch of ongoing games.  If the unnecessary highlights remain in the program, that cuts another 90 seconds out of the “discussion time” leaving the guys with 8 minutes to fill.  So, that leads to a simple question:

  • Do we really need FIVE commentators – – as on CBS this year – – to fill 8 minutes?

Actually, I think having more than two commentators – or three at the most – adds to the chaos.  Please do not mistake chaos for “energy” on the program.  The folks on the set are speaking loudly and quickly because they are competing for scarce audio seconds; they are not doing so because they are fully engaged with their fellow commentators.

Are any of my suggested changes going to happen?  Of course not.  Network producers have either convinced themselves or have been convinced by communications gurus that the current formula is “The One”.  If there are to be any changes at all, my fear is that the change(s) will be in the direction of creating more bombast not less and enhancing the chaos rather than restricting it.

So, I will return to my behavior from last season and minimize the time I spend watching pre-game and halftime nonsense.  I gave it a try early this year; it has not gotten any better.

Finally, let me close today with this advice from Warren Buffet:

“You should invest in a business that even a fool can run, because someday a fool will.”

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



6 thoughts on “Football Studio Programming”

  1. That’s why Howard Cosell and his halftime monologue was so incredible. John Madden and staff broke from their meetings just to watch him go.

    1. GRL:

      I tried to watch Pat McAfee earlier this week. I lasted about 10-12 minutes and could not take it any more. His is an acquired taste that I will not bother to acquire.

    1. CJD:

      Welcome aboard.

      Your “additional comment” is a bulls-eye. It should be a conversation and not a shouting match…

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