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Here’s a suggestion when sports return: Wire everything for sound



I have one request for all of the sports television executives who are sorting through the complex logistics and trying to figure out how to make their broadcasts as compelling as possible when our favorite sports return.

Give us that authentic audio, all of it. Give us the real in-game candor. Give us the real sounds of the game, and especially give us the trashiest of trash-talk, even if it requires a 10-second delay to filter out all of the four-letter words.

Mike up everything and everyone — the players, the referees, the coaches, and anyone else who happens to be inside the almost certainly fan- and broadcaster-free venues.

Mike up the inanimate things too, especially on those NBA broadcasts, like the court (more ambient noise of squeaking sneakers, please), the rim, and even the Lopez twins.

The television networks that hold the broadcast rights to the major professional sports leagues — as well as golf, tennis, and many other sports — have an opportunity worth seizing here.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the lingering uncertainty of what’s to come guarantees that sports broadcasts will be different. How different depends on how creative the various networks want to get to make them appealing at a time when there will be no cheering crowds to spark emotions and set the mood.

From this vantage point, miking up as many people as possible is the most obvious way to add some intrigue and flavor to the broadcasts. I think sometimes we forget how much talking is actually going on during the game, especially in the NFL, where we almost never get to hear what one player says to another after a big hit or important play.

But that’s not the only way to enhance the broadcasts. During a recent conversation, Jack Edwards, the Bruins play-by-play voice on NESN, suggested having mobile cameras connected to cables tracking players up and down the ice, almost as if the viewer is part of the play with them. That’s something that wouldn’t be possible with fans in, say, the Garden, because the cameras would constantly interfere with the sight lines in the lower bowl.

Mike Gorman, the Celtics play-by-play voice on NBC Sports Boston, suggested something similar for NBA broadcasts, noting that the networks can put cameras anywhere since there will be no fans to block. “You could put one in [Celtics co-owner] Steve Pagliuca’s seat and let people see the game from that vantage point for a while,’’ said Gorman. “There are a lot of possibilities.”

The XFL, in its apparently short-lived sequel, had players and coaches miked up, and it enhanced the broadcasts, though there was some consternation when Seattle’s Dillon Day became the first player caught swearing on live TV. The in-game interviews of players didn’t work quite as well, but those have always felt obtrusive across all sports, particularly the often useless manager interviews during baseball games.

Curious what fans want to see and hear — how about the return of the glowing puck in hockey? Cameras in the huddle in the NBA, as they were in CBS’s late ‘70s and early ‘80s broadcasts? A tracer on every golf shot? — I decided to do a little crowdsourcing. I went to the occasionally helpful cesspool called Twitter and asked a simple question: What changes do you want to see on sports broadcasts when they return?

I probably should have said innovations or alterations there, but the open-ended question led to an interesting discovery. The 100 or so fans who responded preferred changes that simplified the broadcasts rather than anything that added more bells and whistles.

A sampling:

▪ Unless they have something real to report, less of the sideline reporters. —@IbeNEB

(Note: There probably will not be sideline reporters at the venues, so you may get your wish with that one.)

▪ The camera angle from [NBA2k20, which is above the action at midcourt] has to make its way into reality. It would be so easy to make this the norm. — @benjaminmurph55

▪ Stop the incessant scrolling stats, scores, etc. — focus on the game at hand. — @Sportstuff11

▪ Broadcasters that present a joy and enthusiasm for what they are watching. Not saying they can’t be critical. But contrast too many grumpy baseball announcers with Tony Romo. Be excited, break it down, act like you actually enjoy the game. — @SonsoLouBrown

▪ I think a combination of mic’ed players and a more causal take on play by play. I think the best games are ones where it feels like your listening to your friends talking about the game instead of calling it. — @johnorlandella

And finally, one I suspect most Patriots fans can agree on, and one that isn’t about miking people up, but wishing certain microphones had been taken away:

▪ Every CBS NFL broadcast should begin with an apology for ever thrusting Phil Simms and Dan Fouts upon us. — @TLazarczykMTM.



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