Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Changing stadiums and uniforms ?

I would like to believe that stadiums and uniforms should be a constant in the world of us sports fans, but it seems more and more as though the media does not. And like ticket prices as well as the cost of watching our respective favorite teams on TV (via cable or satellite), it looks like still more sacred turf is getting out of hand. I don't see why stadiums and uniforms should receive anywhere close to the amount of media time they get these days.

Land Shark Stadium??? I heard about this and I thought about the hysterical sketch on the early (and funny) days of Saturday Night Live with Chevy Chase knocking on apartment doors and "eating" the residents who opened the door for his "Land Shark" costume. Then I saw this in print, and thought that maybe a reputable news operation had picked up a story from The Onion.

But, silly me. This could happen as soon as this coming Friday. It seems that name is now the name of a beer. This could be the name of the same stadium the Miami Dolphins have played in for years. The stadium I still refer to as Joe Robbie Stadium, since that's how it was introduced and Joe Robbie was the Dolphins' owner who got it built.

The same stadium that right now technically isn't named for the team that plays in it (Dolphin Stadium and NOT Dolphins Stadium). The former Underwear Stadium (whatever). The same facility that cuts off beer sales at half-time and had to implement a "family section" so that kids attending a pro football game would have a safe harbor. Let alone that it is not and has never been in Miami.

Yet, the media will accept this and mention the name on any and every report. This could wind up even worse than Enron Stadium in Houston. Or whatever it is called this week.
The same radio and TV stations hard up for advertising revenue won't carry a report "from Miami" or "from Houston" about the Dolphins or Texans games? They act as if there is an obligation to include the corporate stadium name.

What all of these changing stadium and arena names does for the hardcore sports fan is to add distance between us and the teams we follow. Personally, all I need to know is which is the home team when watching or listening to a game or highlights.

Then there is the matter of inside the stadiums and arenas. Telecasts are now littered with advertising on the field (and ice for hockey games) and in almost every shot. Yet, when it comes to uniforms, teams won't allow any advertising on those, such as what NASCAR does. (And I'm not complaining about that!)

Yet, now the NFL announces it will hold a series of "AFL Legacy" games during the coming regular season, to feature the 50th season for many of the old American Football League teams. I'm fine with that. History is a huge part of sports. However, the NFL is making the participating teams wear retro uniforms for the entire game.

Even without advertising on them, these retro uniforms used on occasion by pro teams, are a terrible distraction. The novelty has worn off, if it was even there in the first place. Fans watching the game lose identity for "their" team because it becomes harder to recognize the players.

And what if any of these games has a team or league record broken? Or a significant individual or team achievement on one or a series of plays? The result is that highlights shown for years to come show the player(s) involved in a completely different uniform than all of the other highlights. Again, a terrible distraction. This one has nothing to do with advertising.

My frustration is that both the Miami area stadium and AFL Legacy games are and will get significant media attention this week and beyond. I would much rather hear and see about the teams playing in those games. Maybe THAT would attract more advertisers for the starving radio and TV sales.

NEW YORK - The NHL continues to make decisions which hurt its television exposure even into the playoffs. The league which chose Versus, which many people don't even know where to find, over ESPN two seasons ago, and allows NBC-TV to televise games at staggered times each week, has managed another similar accomplishment.

Ratings were down in New York even though the Rangers and Devils both had 7 game playoff series in the first round. The reason? The 2 game 7's were scheduled to start one hour apart, thus segmenting what might have been a huge audience for either game.

Yet, there is no similar excuse in Buffalo, which only has NHL and NFL as its major league pro teams. Thus far this playoff season, NHL playoff ratings overall have dipped below local NBA playoff ratings. Ouch.

BOSTON - Here's hoping for a full recovery of Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy, who is again sitting out from NESN telecasts this week while trying to shake his bout with pneumonia. Even though Jerry missed much of spring training, it appears he was not yet fully recovered. NESN borrowed Buck Martinez from TBS for the Tampa series this past weekend, and has Dennis Eckersley (also of TBS) working with Don Orsillo during the current Yankees series instead of his NESN studio role. Word is that Remy could return for this upcoming weekend.

HOUSTON - Sorry to hear of the death of McCoy McLemore, the former NBA player who served as analyst on Houston Rockets telecasts on HSE back in the late 1980's. He passed away at age 67 from cancer.

ST. LOUIS - With 3 sports stations now in the St. Louis market the recently released winter ratings book took on additional meaning. Newcomer WXOS 101.1 FM seems to have taken more audience away from perennial sports talk leader KFNS, leaving KSLG 1380 as the leader among men 25-54. WXOS began the sports format (and new call letters) on New Year's Day. Yet, KSLG had its strongest finish, with its addition of Kevin Slaten, now on afternoons, appearing to be making a difference.

WXOS figures to grow later in the year when it begins Rams football broadcasts and coverage.
Meanwhile, 74 year-old Jay Randolph has added co-hosting a horse race handicapping show on KFNS 590 each Saturday at 10 AM that will run through June 6th, the day of the Belmont Stakes. Jay continues his duties on Cardinals telecasts on KSDK-TV this season as well.

ATLANTA - Congrats to Lary Munson on his induction this past Monday night (5/4) into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame. The 86 year-old Munson called U. of Georgia football from 1966 through 2007, and videotaped his acceptance message when health concerns prevented him from traveling to the event.

SEATTLE - University of Washington football for the coming season looks so promising that the TV people are jumping on the bandwagon already. The Huskies' season opener vs. LSU on Sept. 5 will air on ESPN in West Coast prime time (7:30 PT), while the Sept. 19th game against USC will be an ABC-TV afternoon regional telecast. In addition, the Huskies will appear on NBC-TV on Oct. 3rd at Notre Dame, although that is due to Notre Dame and not the Huskies' possible ranking at the time. ESPN still has the option to pick up at least one additional telecast up to 2 weeks before a scheduled game.

COLUMBIA SC: Mike Morgan is out as basketball and baseball play-by-play voice for the University of South Carolina. The school will seek a replacement, but it will not be current and continuing football voice Todd Ellis. Ellis, the former SC quarterback, has held the role (succeeding Charlie Alexander) from the 2003 season. This will keep SC as one of only 2 SEC schools (Alabama is the other) using separate announcers for football and basketball play-by-play.

SOUTH BEND: Here's a different impact for college hockey on local sports radio than usual. WPNT 1620 is now carrying ESPN Radio in South Bend since sister station WDND 1490 has gone dark. The reason? WDND's replacement transmitter tower (built early 2008 after a wind storm knocked down the original one) needs to be moved - because Notre Dame is building its new hockey arena on the same site. WDND could remain dark for the remainder of the year.

SALEM OR: KVXX 1390 is still sports radio, but the language has changed. As of last Friday (5/1), the station now carries ESPN Deportes. The next closest ESPN signal, on KFXX 1080, does not cover the entire market at night and will also make hearing Seattle Mariners games a local challenge. KVXX will carry Spanish broadcasts of the NBA Portland Trailblazers starting next season.

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