Hosts Forget Who Stars Really Are

By Jason Menard

It happened at about 5:35 this morning. It was the 1,374,913 th Austin Powers non sequitur that did it, but I’m finally ready to declare war on that most nefarious pox on our society – the television sports highlight show host.

Let me set the stage – although you’ve probably seen this play many times before. In recounting the events of last night’s baseball action, the immaculately coiffed – and slightly unctuous – host prefaced a home run with by shouting, “I’m a Sexy Beast!” and then proceeded to get to the part that mattered: a Randy Sexton home run.

Now, the image on the television continued to show the highlight, but you just know that the living bobblehead who uttered that line was on the verge of dislocating his shoulder in his attempts to pat himself on the back for such a stellar bit of witty repartée. Either that, or he was twisted in internal debate as to whether he should have broken out the ol’ Right Said Fred “I’m Too Sexy” reference. After all, that’s comedy gold.

I know I sit in a precarious position here, as – in hosting a radio show – words are the only tools I have to simultaneously inform and entertain. Yet the question has to be, when is enough enough?

Humour has a wonderful place in all aspects of life and sports, by no means, is immune to its presence. In fact, one could argue that sports of all of life’s follies, is most open to moments of laughter, ridicule, and levity simply because we are talking about – in essence – a game. Yet I’m a firm believer in allowing humour to come naturally from the setting, whether it’s a witty observation, or a clever comment.

But a random outburst based on nothing but someone’s name that has nothing to do with the action on the field? What’s the point?

Unfortunately, TV highlight shows are geared towards a particular demographic and hire accordingly. On-air personalities are trying to hard to be just that – personalities. Vague pop culture references and snide asides are peppered throughout a broadcast as if to allow the host to say, “You see kids, I’m down with you…”

The problem is that each and every bit of allegedly witty repartee diminishes the focus on the game and the real stories therein. Insightful analysis is sacrificed at the altar of lazy writing. After all, it’s much easier to shout “Duncan Hines you do make good cookies,” when someone scores a goal than to explain the how’s and why’s of the action.

Every sports broadcaster has their catch-phrases that are tossed out with semi-regularity. I still remember Howie Meeker semi-screeching that, “You’ve got to put it upstairs!” And play-by-play men like Buffalo’s Rick Jeanneret and Pittsburgh’s Mike Lange are known for their creative ways of describing highlight-reel plays.

Unfortunately, the highlight show desk jockeys try to make every highlight and every opportunity a time for an extraneous comment. Whether or not those comments are appropriate or needed is besides the point. And any value that these aside add to the on-field or on-ice action is accidental at best.

Maybe I’m showing my age. Maybe I’m pining for a show that’s targeted at someone beyond their teen years.

I like a little insight with my sports. It’s why I have trouble with the “he-who-shouts-loudest-wins-the-point” analysis of certain televised NFL pre-game shows and tend to favour the quieter depth provided by radio, print, and on-line pundits.

I don’t need the person on TV to be quick with the catch-phrases. What I need is for him to catch the intricacies of the action and present it in an entertaining fashion. And although the argument may be that highlight shows are too tightly packed and don’t offer the time for this type of commentary, but doesn’t that make the waste of that precious time on self-indulgent non-sequiturs all the more tragic?

Each of us remembers that kid we grew up knowing that wanted so desperately to be funny. He’d try and try to punctuate every situation or comment with a joke – most of which fell flat. And heaven forbid he or she would actually get a laugh – they’d milk that line for life. The kid from my youth spent a year shouting “Soap on a Rope” at every occasion following one serendipitous moment where that phrase proved to be funny.

I always wondered what happened to those types of people. Now I know — they grow up to host TV highlight shows.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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