The Man Who Rooned Sports

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I've been waiting all week for a Roone Arledge piss take. Unfortunately, now that one has arrived, it's a snooty neo-Chayefskyan lamentation about television's lethal powers, courtesy of Allen Barra:

Roone Arledge made TV sports into an entity that seemed to exist only to be broadcast: to be broadcast, commented on, edited, replayed, replayed and replayed. And then replayed the next day. The viewer became bombarded with so many images, so many angles of a particular play, that it no longer seemed as if television was creating the illusion of reality. More and more, the message that came across was that reality itself was an illusion, simply the result of which camera angle filmed the replay you saw.

A trip down Implanted Memory Lane shows how all our hoariest Great Sports Moments—Notre Dame's Four Horsemen, Red Grange's Rose Bowl, and presumably Achilles' slaying of Hector—would only have been soiled by the presence of tv cameras. In the end, of course, the real tragedy is what's happening to the children:

All the replays and camera angles haven't made us more knowledgeable; they've only succeeded in undermining our faith in the officials who call the games. A generation of fans has grown up without knowing how to watch a game unfiltered through the sensibility of Roone Arledge's vision.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the most memorable sports moment of my lifetime was Bill Buckner's letting a ground ball go through his legs at the 1986 World Series. And without endless replays isolating and accentuating Buckner's doofusy expression and Beckettesque immobility, the moment wouldn't have had nearly the same effect.

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  1. Anyone who reaches a certain level of proficiency in any sport already knows that officials are fallible. Slow motion and instant replays only serve to make the artistry of the athlete more accessible to the non-proficient. I think any disrespect of officials (and there is a lot) is coming from another direction, and replys and enhanced viewing probably inspires more potential athletes than it discourages.

  2. How about Joe Theisman’s leg, snapping over and over again. I will never forget that.

  3. “All the replays and camera angles haven’t made us more knowledgeable; they’ve only succeeded in undermining our faith in the officials who call the games.”

    That’s the thing about having knowledge of something, you don’t have to have “faith” that it is true. The same applies to replays that disprove the infinite wisdom of sport officials; it isn’t a valid criticism to say that finding out what actually happened in a certain situation is a bad thing.

  4. best sports moment for me was when whats his face exploded that pigeon with a fastball. that was so fucking awesome.

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