Tuesday, June 1, 2010

TV programs and ratings I don’t get – NFL and Redskins in the offseason; Duke wins lacrosse national title

On Monday, I made my weekly appearance on Washington Post Live, which is a daily show broadcast her on Comcast Sports Net in the DC area. I enjoy doing the show because I really like the people involved; because it often gives me a chance to see colleagues from The Post I don’t often see and because doing it Monday works perfectly for me since I need to go into the studio to tape my weekly Golf Channel essay.

So here’s what we led the show with on Memorial Day: the Redskins—or, as it is called on the show, ‘Burgundy and Gold Daily,’—which is code meaning that the bit is sponsored.

The Nationals played on Monday afternoon, trying to get back to .500 (they did), a pretty remarkable feat for a team that lost 103 games a year ago. One week from today, Stephen Strasburg, the most touted phenom to hit baseball in years, makes his Major League debut.

The Maryland women’s lacrosse team had won the national title on Sunday and the men’s national championship game was going on in Baltimore as we took our seats to start the show.

Here’s how much mention those stories got—not to mention Roy Halladay’s perfect game on Saturday and anything baseball—during a one hour show: zip, zero. Nothing. We did manage to talk about the NBA playoffs and the Stanley Cup finals. But the first 20 minutes of the show was all NFL.

Seriously. On Memorial Day.

In fact, the first question host Ivan Carter asked to Rick Maese, one of The Post’s 11 or 12 Redskins beat writers was something like, “I know there’s nothing going on right now but what are the Redskins doing right now?”

Look, it’s not Ivan’s fault. It isn’t the fault of the people putting on the show either. A few weeks ago I asked Scott Taylor, who produces the show and would (like me) do Navy football all the time given the chance (his dad played at Navy) why in the world we had to lead the show with the Redskins in the middle of May.

“The ratings people tell us that everything spikes when we talk Redskins and spikes almost as much when we talk NFL,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter if anything is actually going on. If we’re talking about the Redskins people watch.”

I actually wondered if the reason it was so hard to EVER talk about the Nationals was that their games are televised on MASN and not on Comcast. Scott said that wasn’t the case. “It’s the ratings thing,” he said. “When we talk Nats, unless it’s Strasburg maybe, we lose people.”

I swear to God I don’t get it. Look, I like watching the NFL on Sundays as much as anyone. I spent an entire season hanging out with an NFL team when I wrote, “Next Man Up,” and enjoyed the experience. So this isn’t about me being anti-football. Okay, I may be anti-Redskins because the owner is three of the most arrogant people who ever lived and no amount of spinning to try to convince me there’s a “new,” Dan Snyder is going to make me think differently.

I have no problem talking about or writing about the NFL or the Redskins when there is something going on. But when you open the show by saying, “there’s nothing going on,” and then spend 20 minutes discussing preparations for mini-camp? I mean OMG as my daughter would say. At one point we switched over to talk about the Ravens. You know what we revealed to the audience? That Anquan Boldin was a good pickup. Pretty insightful stuff, huh?

There are certain people in sports and certain teams in sports and I guess certain leagues in sports that completely fascinate people no matter what. Tommy Roy, who produces golf for NBC, once told me that an informal survey of golf fans had shown that more people would rather watch Tiger Woods lean against his golf bag than watch someone else actually hitting a golf ball.

The same is true in this town of the Redskins. There’s a truly awful show that airs on Comcast called ‘Redskins Nation,’ which is a daily infomercial on the wonders of the team. If you were to watch this show—and staying in the same room with it for five minutes is a major challenge—you would think the Redskins were about to begin their quest for a fifth straight Super Bowl title. Anyone—ANYONE—who criticizes anyone or anything about the organization is labeled, “a hater,” by the ineffable host.

I asked once WHY the show was allowed on the air. The answer was simple: It’s the highest rated show Comcast has.

Talk about the apocalypse being upon us.

At least now I have the next six days to watch golf, baseball, hockey and basketball. And to write and talk about them—especially golf with “Moment of Glory,” now out all over the country, Eldrick T. Woods playing this week and The Nationwide Tour coming to DC. Of course next Monday it will be more, ‘Burgundy and Gold Daily.’

Maybe we can talk some more about what the Redskins haven’t been doing.


Wanted to thank the poster, ‘Bevo,’ for absolutely proving my point about people in academia on Friday. If I had tried to make up a fictional character to prove what I was saying about the existence of people like him at colleges around the country I couldn’t have done any better. And thanks to those who responded on my behalf. No need for me to add anything to what they’ve already said.

And finally: I felt a little torn Monday when Duke won the NCAA men’s lacrosse championship game. The ending was certainly dramatic and you had to feel good for the players and for Coach John Danowski, who I’m told is a good guy. To say that he took over under trying circumstances is putting it mildly. And there are people out there who still refer to the ‘Duke lacrosse scandal,’ without mentioning that not only were the charges against the three players dropped but the prosecutor who brought them was disbarred.

I’m always hesitant to even bring this topic up because it makes people on both sides SO angry.

That said, I’ve never bought the argument that the players were martyrs as some people have made them out to be. There WAS bad behavior going on that night, including racial slurs that have never been denied. Beyond that though, there were fifth year players on this Duke team granted an extra year by the NCAA because DUKE decided to shut the program down in 2006. While it is impossible not to feel empathy for the young men who weren’t part of the incident at all, you can’t help but wonder why the NCAA felt obligated to bail Duke out after its administration completely mishandled the entire situation.

I guess, in a sense, some things will never be resolved. But Monday should give the school—and more important the players—some kind of closure and a legitimate reason to celebrate.


John's new book: "Moment of Glory--The Year Underdogs Ruled The Majors,"--is now available online and in bookstores nationwide. Visit your favorite retailer, or click here for online purchases

To listen to 'The Bob and Tom Show' interview about 'Moment of Glory', please click the play button below:


Mr. X said...

I caught part of the story about "Duke's Pat Tillman" and then heard one of the announcers say he had been lobbying the NCAA to rename the Men's LAX MVP trophy after him. Is this just NCAA be glassbowls, or is there more to the reasoning?

Where were all the subway ND fans? This would have been their first team championship since FENCING in 2005.

case said...

why don't you add tennis to your list of sports to watch this week ?
yesterday's sam stosur's upset over henin at the french open was great drama
if the final is another rog-rafa, it could be memorable

Tim said...

Basketball seems to be in its 'silly season' at this point too. Its laughable that this free agent 'summit' is getting attention for multiple reasons. First of all, its not like these guys are taking less money to play together - no way it happens at this stage in their careers. And secondly, how funny is it that these guys are SO competitive and cut-throat (being sarcastic) that they will let others dictate their careers. These guys are supposed to be the best of the best, and they are acting like entertainers, and not guys willing to win at all costs. Could you ever see Jordan, or even Kobe, hinting around at 'summits' like this?

And LeBron seeking his inner A-Rod and doing a Larry King interview trying to supercede the Finals is just plain awful strategy. He gets as bad advice as good ole Tiger.

And I agree with Case...the French Open tennis has been very watchable.

charles pierce said...

In re: ND fencing. Kerry Walton was a great epeeist on that team and, later, was one of the coaches at Brandeis when my son was the captain there. Kerry skipped Junior Worlds once because they conflicted with the ND athletic banquet. Say what you will about Our Lady Of The Plains, and I've said a lot, they are one bunch of loyal people.

Anonymous said...

JF.. I'm no "Dukey" but why are Duke Alumni always apologizing for superior play and National Championships. There should be no "yeah buts" or asterisks.

Push your chest out dude..that's two National Championships well deserved.

Congrats to the Lady Terps.. most of those girls are locals..well done Ladies

bevo said...

Too bad about station management's devotion to ratings. It reminds me of newspaper decisions dictated by circulation people. Stories were covered because it would increase rack sales. Where did that mentality get newspapers?

I stopped listening to sports radio a long time ago. That said, I wish politics and policy were covered to the degree that sports are.