kottke.org posts about markbowden

The NFL on TV

posted by Jason Kottke   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)

1958 NFL championship game and modern football

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 18, 2008

Writer Mark Bowden sits down with Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid to watch film from a classic football game, the 1958 NFL championship game. At several points during the session, 1958 football and contemporary football don't even seem like the same game. Perhaps the biggest disparity is the difference in pay:

Most pro players in the 1950s held down full-time jobs off the field. Huff was a salesman for the textile company J. P. Stevens. Unitas and many of his teammates worked at Bethlehem Steel. Art Donovan, the Colts' hilarious defensive tackle known as Fatso, was a liquor salesman. Most of the men earned less than $10,000 a year playing football. The highest-paid stars made between $15,000 and $20,000 — enough to support a middle-class lifestyle in 1958, but nothing like today's hefty paychecks. Players who took off from their full-time jobs to play were often expected to make up the time by working long hours in the off-season.

(via df)