The NFL on TV  FEB 06 2009

Football season is over but if you still want your fix, Mark Bowden wrote an interesting piece for The Atlantic about how NFL games are presented on TV. The camera operators and directors seem as talented and under pressure as the players on the field.

The television crews don't just broadcast games, they inhabit them. They know the players, the teams, the stats, and the strategies. They interview players and coaches the day before the game. They brainstorm, anticipate, plot likely story lines, prepare graphic packages of important stats, and bundle replays from previous contests to bring a sense of history and context to the event. They are not just pointing cameras and broadcasting the feed, they are telling the story of the game as it happens.

Just this morning I was thinking about how successful the instant replay rule has been for NFL broadcasts. TV instant replay predated its use by the referees, but now the review process has some weight behind it and provides extra drama, particularly in exciting moments of the game. The Santonio Holmes touchdown catch in the final moments of the Super Bowl is the perfect example. From the perspective of "telling the story of the game", the catch was amazing. But what the review process does is delay the release of tension for a minute or two...it's a mini-cliffhanger inserted into a sport that doesn't have any natural cliffhanging moments. Showing the replays over and over while the ref makes his decision also brings the viewer into the story itself, as though he is playing the part of the reviewing referee. (thx, john)

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