The television jockocracy is alive and well on NFL broadcasts. Decades after Howard Cosell coined the phrase to describe how television networks exclusively hire ex-athletes and coaches for analyst positions, every single NFL booth on CBS, FOX, NBC or ESPN includes an ex-player or coach. When it works (John Madden, Cris Collinsworth) it's a good thing. When it doesn't (almost everyone else), the jockocracy is an infuriating, baffling mandate that damages the quality of the NFL on TV.
Just because somebody is good at football doesn't mean they're qualified to talk about it on television. They're two different skill-sets. Newspapers don't hire athletes to write about sports because it's accepted that writing isn't easy. Bad writing is also instantly recognizable. (Commenters, let me save you the trouble: "I know, Chase, I read it under your byline every day!")
But, for some reason, television networks assume that clearly, accurately, cleverly and insightfully describing the action in a sporting event and disseminating that information to viewers of varying knowledge levels is so easy that somebody like Jon Gruden can dive right in without any problem.
It isn't. Just listen to 75 percent of NFL broadcasts for proof (or 100 percent of NFL broadcasts involving Tony Siragusa).
With the way the networks require announcers to dumb-down their NFL analysis, it wouldn't be hard for somebody with a background in broadcasting to thrive as a color analyst. Yeah, Jon Gruden would know more about football than anyone like that, but so what? Broadcasting is about conveying information, not possessing it. Plus, when's the last time you heard anything insightful on an NFL broadcast? (Collinsworth, again, being an exception to this rule.)
The jockocracy isn't going anywhere though, mainly because anytime the networks try to go in a different direction, they end up hiring someone without any football OR broadcasting experience (like Tony Kornheiser and Dennis Miller). In the meantime, Gruden should be a fine addition to the MNF booth. On the bright side, he's not Tony Kornheiser. On the brighter side, he's not Tony Siragusa. For now, that'll do.
Posted Jul 2 2012
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Posted Jun 21 2012