We all have our guilty pleasures. Mine remains the NFL. Although I’ve painfully extricated myself from fantasy; am annoyed for various reasons by the kneeling debate; think the sport is destructive to the minds and bodies of human beings; loathe the league’s “farm system,” big-time college Football; and cannot generate a whit of interest among my kids, there I am on a Thursday night, all alone, watching the Ravens and Texans game.
But the prime-time announcing – oh, it’s terrible. An exemplar of our culture of noise, the Announcers talk incessantly from the moment you tune in to the moment you tune out. Everything is covered with jabber and blather.
For one, how do these prime-time announcers get evaluated? I mean, if people are watching a football game, won’t they watch even if there isn’t some dope talking about every play with idiotic hyperbole or goofy erudition? These “analysts” describe nuances of each play in ways that almost no one — and I’ve watched football with a lot of people — care about or appreciate. And there’s almost no one to falsify their statements.
You see this when they talk about an instant replay play. One bad-tie wearing guy in the booth thinks one thing. Another bad-tie guy thinks another. And the evidence that they’re both wrong is right on the screen.
There’s no escaping it. Now I’ve got Tony Romo warbling at me. (And don’t think it’s just because I’m a Cowboy hater, which I admit I am, because of all of these booth guys, the one I do kind of like is Troy Aikman.)
Those wishing for some assessment might recall Paul Zimmerman, the great football writer Dr. Z. Until he suffered a stroke, documented heartbreakingly in an NFL Films Presents short, Yours Truly, Dr Z, Dr. Z covered the game like no one else (he covered football in fact like few cover anything), enjoying it while not being a sycophant. In particular, he drilled the game’s announcers year after year for their vapidness (see this 2008 column, in which he uses the word “crapola” right from the go).
But now I have nowhere to turn. Many people complain about the announcers, but when I begin one of several well-rehearsed rants about this important topic, they look all superior like, “It’s a football game. Loosen up.” As if we must be the victims we are, and just take it. Then I see one of these pseudo-celebrity announcers selling some product on a commercial… Oh, the rage. Yeah, I’ll loosen up, pal.
Some people offer me the simple solution of turning down the volume. While I often do indeed engage in something else while indulging my football watching, part of the experience is lost when there’s utter silence — or acontextualized racket.
One night, in the throes of Chris Collingsworth-induced anomie, I may have stumbled upon a solution, thanks to one of those many little accidents I have because I can’t work our basic household technologies. I occasionally find, as I did that night, that my Comcast-driven TV is inexplicably talking to me in Spanish. Sometimes there’s even a narrative voice (the latter is actually called Video Description and it’s a great access feature, but it goes on and off and I don’t know why. That’s a story for another day).
I don’t know. But when I watched football in Spanish, it was weirdly freeing. I could hear the enthusiasm and flow of the game, but I didn’t have to hear micro “analysis” about everything (one channel even has a kicking “expert” on the sideline). I learn things too: The word “touchdown,” it turns out, is part of a universal lingua franca.
I thought, “Hey, maybe this is a way to get the boys interested.” Maybe linguistic novelty would lead them to finally watch some football with their old man.
Nope. Spanish? They’re having none of learning any extracurricular Spanish. In fact, my middle son is happily and quite successfully taking German in high school, a move my little guy can’t wait to make.
So I guess I’ll find a new plan, sitting alone on a chilly fall night, fiddling with the remote, hoping, in my journey through endless drop-down menus, of stumbling upon “Old Teutonic.”