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Sports Nights and Days

By RD Heldenfels Published: August 15, 2005

While I was the office this morning, I had the TV set on next to my desk -- but not because I was screening a show, or keeping an eye on a news channel. I was catching the end of the PGA championship. A co-worker (as you will see below, I work in a sea of sports fans) want to see it. And I was going to turn it on anyway, to see if Phil Mickelson could hold on for the win -- and if Tiger Woods was going to get to play a little longer.

Woods, after all, had recovered enough that just a little bit more of a slide from the leaders could have put him in the playoffs. And I became a devoted golf watcher because of Tiger. Yes, I appreciate other golfing greats. But the thing that keeps me coming back to golf is WWTD -- What Will Tiger Do? And then, because of that, I got to enjoy the exciting finish, including Mickelson's big win.

One gap in my golf education is watching a tournament without benefit of the TV cameras. I'm hoping to make up for that on Saturday, since my wife and I have tickets for the NEC at Firestone. I know it will be very different from TV. I've walked around Firestone before, so I have a sense of the massiveness of a golf course -- a massiveness I'm not convinced that TV successfully conveys. But I'll be curious any other possible differences.

The gap between live and TV sports was also clear to me again this past Saturday, when the bride and I went to the Indians-Devil Rays game at Jacobs Field. Great seats, close to the field on the third-base line. Not such a great game -- Indians went behind early, and not even a long rain delay could get them energized enough to make a battle out of it.

Still, it was a nice way to spend an evening, even if part of it was spent standing under cover, wondering when the downpour would stop, deciding which expensive food to eat and watching bits of a Red Sox-White Sox game on the stadium monitors. (Talk about proof that nothing is free: Every time that telecast on WGN went to a commercial break, the monitors went to an Indians logo -- so no one in the stadium would see the ads.)

It was still getting out, a chance to watch other people, and better than being stretched on a couch, channel-flipping until a rain delay ended.

Of course, being at the Indians game meant that I wasn't at home for most of the telecast of the Browns. Hey, it's an exhibition game. The NFL may want to inflate such games' importance by calling them ''preseason,'' but there's no real significance to any matchup where the starters are on the bench before the tailgaters have emptied their first keg.

I did get home in time to see some of it, though, and was unimpressed by what I heard from the gang of announcers WOIO had spread throughout the stadium. (The visual side was better, although some closeups on replays were not as good as you would expect from a network telecast.)

A co-worker stopped me in the hall today to comment on the awfulness of it. Another co-worker even called me during the telecast to wonder if the WOIO gang really thought the game was all about them. The answer is yes, in part because the games figure to bring an abundance of viewers to WOIO -- and the rating Saturday was more than respectable, especially for an EXHIBITION game on a Saturday night -- and the station wants to persuade them to check its news and other programs.

But the station's self-absorption doesn't just apply to football. WOIO is a bastion of first-person, look-at-us, we're-so-cool presentation. It's like watching bloggers compose.

And yes, I know I'm writing that in a blog. Which should tell you that -- unlike WOIO -- I am at least capable of feeling embarrassment.

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