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What Started On Video Games Are Now Staples Of Sports TV

“The younger generation of fans grew up playing these games and it looks like the natural progression was to include these numbers and graphics into baseball telecasts. It’s genius.”

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MLB

While watching the home run derby Monday Night, I started thinking about how the competition looked like the video games so many baseball fans love. The way balls were flying out of Coors Field, it was the stuff of Play Station or Nintendo. In other words, not real. It was ridiculous how strong some of these players are and what a show they put on for the fans in Denver. It reminded me of playing MLB The Show in one of its incarnations. I remember firing it up on my PSP (yes I had one) and more recently on my iPad just to see how far my player could hit a ball. 

Pete Alonso Wins Second Straight Home Run Derby - The New York Times
Courtesy: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

I think I started playing that particular game in 2008 and it’s amazing to me now, how much a regular normal baseball telecast looks like that game did. Could it be that the success of the franchise (MLB The Show) led to some imitation in a real broadcast? There are a lot of similarities in the presentation. There are some things that started in the video game realm and made their way into the broadcasts. 

With all the new numbers in the game of baseball, I get the impression that StatCast was tested during some of the editions of the MLB video game. Launch angle, distance and exit velocity are featured in MLB Home Run Derby editions. The game helped to introduce the latest way to measure how well a ball is hit. The younger generation of fans grew up playing these games and it looks like the natural progression was to include these numbers and graphics into baseball telecasts. It’s genius. Baseball for years has been called a sport for the “older” generations. Catering to a younger audience hopefully will drum up more interest in the game. 

The ways those stats come to life during games now is pretty cool. The little vignettes used to show how far an outfielder ranged to make a catch are easy on the eyes. It’s one thing to be able to say that Player X traveled 100.5 feet to make a catch that had a catch probability of 12.4 percent. To show it, increases the impact of the play. The manner in which other elements are telecast make me wonder sometimes how we survived watching a game without them? 

Home run distances, launch angles, exit velocities, have become a normal part of game broadcasts. The little “vapor trails” to show the height and location of the homer, along with the distance counters remind me very much of video games. Plus, with every pitch over 95 miles an hour, the MPH indicator on the screen goes to a “fire color” to indicate the zip on the fastball. 

Video games have also changed the way directors and producers bring you, the viewing audience, the game. It’s a trend that’s been going on for a few years now, especially in the NFL.  New innovations like the overhead “sky cam” setting the stage after a change of possession and looking over both team’s huddles – video games did that first, especially at the start of the “e” games. There are other things that have been “leaking” into network NFL broadcasts as both the video game and telecast evolve. 

A 2015 article published in “The Atlantic” featured a conversation with “Madden NFL 15’s” creative director, Mike Young, and its presentation director, Brian Murray. They’ve been making game directors and producers jealous over time, because on the video game there are no real constraints. 

Murray and Young “allow” their simulated camera people and directors take more risks than they would in a broadcast. Obviously because they aren’t real. In “Madden 15”, the Steadicam operator follows the quarterback from the sidelines, then on to the field, and enters a huddle. Only as he begins to take his place on the field will the cameraman finally back off. That was supposed to be something that could only appear in the game. But now several years later we see this happening on TV. 

“I’m not saying there’s any confirmation they did it [because of us], but I did it with Mike and now I’m seeing it in the broadcast,” said Murray. Just watch a game and you’ll get that actual confirmation. 

Madden NFL 15 Gameplay - Seattle Seahawks vs San Francisco 49ers - YouTube
Courtesy: EA Sports

Both men also said live-game producers and directors are often jealous of them based on their creative freedom when it comes to the video game.  

“We’ll meet with the producer and director for Monday Night Football and they’ll ask us what we do. There’s some jealousy with our freedom to put a camera anywhere and do it cheaply,” Young said to “The Atlantic”.

Another innovated idea introduced by the gentlemen was to add a player icon. That can either be the little animated circle under the player you’re controlling, or the graphic you see on the screen that’s attached to a player. The player’s name, position and jersey number are “pinned” to him/her as they move around the field. You see that a lot now on NFL broadcasts and college football games. You also see it during baseball telecasts to indicate which runners are on base, or where the infielders are located during a shift. It’s truly amazing to think about that technology and how it aids in watching a game. 

Over the years, as I wrote about a few weeks ago, Score Bugs seem to have been a biproduct of video game influence. I know that the first one here in the United States debuted in 1994 with the NFL on Fox, but it was a very basic and boring version of what it is today. It seems like several networks, including ESPN, have used their video games to “test” what graphics may look like on tv. That including the score, timeouts, teams, clock and play clock. 

Thinking about other innovations from a couple of other sports that are video game-ish. Let’s not forget the 1st and 10-line, showing the viewer how far a team needs to go to gain a first down. How did we EVER survive without that? How about the glowing puck in the old Fox NHL broadcasts? It made it easier for the non-hockey fan to follow the action, but of course this was before HDTV. Also thinking about golf and it’s shot tracer technology. Your favorite golfer gets on the tee and hits, you see the shape of their shot, the apex of the ball and to the right of the screen, where it will likely land on an animated view of the golf course. Amazing stuff. 

British Open Championship Golf - Wikiwand
Courtesy: Looking Glass Technologies

In general, things on a broadcast that were probably influenced by a video game are numerous. The overall presentation. That includes multiple replays and angles on crucial plays in a game. The sound effects you hear when going to a replay or coming out of one. The enhanced sound overall on the field with the use of skillfully placed microphones were likely instituted after someone played a video game. It’s a flashy production and presentation, which can be received differently based on how big a fan you are of the game or sport you’re watching. 

These innovations and technologies make it so great to watch a game at home. It’s definitely viewer friendly these days and has everything for a casual fan or a crazed fan. While the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball love when viewership is up there could be an inherent problem. The game on your TV makes you feel like you’re at the stadium, hockey rink or ballpark, why would you even bother going to one of their games? You already have the best seat in the house and the beer is definitely cheaper. 

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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