I’m a bad basketball fan.
Duke played North Carolina last night, and I didn’t watch. The Blue Devils are the #2 ranked team in the nation, the Tar Heels are the defending national champions, it was a back-and-forth game that went down to the wire, and I didn’t watch any of it, other than a short stretch of the first half, to get the Maryland score from the crawl on the bottom of the screen.
There are lots of reasons I could give for this– yesterday was a particularly difficult day at work, I’m still behind on grading from a couple of weeks ago when I was sick, I’m in the middle of a very good book that I’d like to finish before Boskone… But the real reason can be summed up in two words:
I just can’t take him any more. The shrieking, the shtick, the sucking up to top programs, the way he waxes rhapsodic about JJ Redick eight times a game while calling a game between two Big Ten teams. He’s the most annoying color guy in sports, and it’s gotten to the point where I can barely stand to watch when he does games where I have a rooting interest, let alone games between two other teams in the league.
It was a lot easier to be an ACC fan when I was in grad school. The ACC, for those who don’t know, has a broadcast deal going back decades with Raycom/ Jefferson Pilot sports. Every game is televised, at least locally, and if you’re in an ACC market, even a national game like Duke-UNC will usually be pre-empted by the Raycom coverage. That means that, for the six years I was in the DC area, I got to watch every Maryland game, and I only got stuck with Vitale for a handful of non-conference games, and the occasional event that was outside the Raycom deal.
Now, granted, back when I was watching those games, I used to joke that the broadcast was like Amateur Night on the cable system. The production values were a little better than the late local news, the camera work was kind of shaky, and the play-by-play were mostly journeymen on their way up or out of the business, while the color guys were former second-tier stars from the league.
But you know what? They did their job. They had a game in front of them, and by God, they talked about the game in front of them. When a whistle blew, they told you what the call was, and didn’t use the break in the action as an excuse to talk about Kentucky’s recruiting class for next year, or how hot Jim Boeheim’s wife is. The analysis usually left a lot to be desired in basketball terms, but it was at least halfway relevant.
I miss those broadcasts, since moving back to the Northeast. Not only do I not get to see most of Maryland’s league games (unless I want to shell out $100 for ESPN’s pay-per-view package), when they are on TV, I’m stuck with ESPN’s stable of announcers, most of whom have such overdeveloped shtick that they’ve become bigger than the game. Or, God help me, the staggeringly incompetent crews Fox puts on their Sunday night broadcasts– these guys make Raycom look like Hollywood.
So I hardly watch any more. I hear Vitale (or pretty much anyone on ESPN other than Len Elmore or Jay Bilas), and I change the channel. I end up following my teams via highlights on SportsCenter (including this morning’s great shot of Gary Williams being presented with the game ball, and grabbing it like it was the Precious), and articles on the Web.
I miss Amateur Night.