Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ignorance in Tennis Media Nominee: NBC Sports

Today’s nominee is NBC. The Peacock network, the former gold standard for tennis coverage, which has been in freefall for a decade, has now entered a phase of steep decline. (Does it have anything to do with firing Bud Collins last summer?) 

Now the coverage is all but unwatchable. ESPN and The Tennis Network are garnering more coverage hours and more praise. ESPN was once in the wilderness in tennis, speaking for endless hours about Americans and only showing American matches, or matches featuring popular players. But starting about four years ago the four-letter left the jingoism behind and showed an acceptable variety of players and matches. But NBC is a horror show.  That was obvious this past Sunday when they inexplicably showed Nadal v. Verdasco in its entirety. With no Americans left to show and the beauty queens not playing, NBC chose to showcase Nadal. That would have been fine if the match lived up to the hype, but it didn't. 

It was a total beat down, it was hard to tell if Verdasco was on a tennis court or home with his feet up watching tv. The coverage was so rotten that Ted Robinson (criminally overrated), John McEnroe and Mary Carillo spent hours chattering about Nadal eating just the tops off of several bananas (insert joke here), having blisters on his feet, calling the trainer, getting mysterious tennis bags dropped off during the changeovers and chaging racquets.

What’s next, a discourse on the ways Nadal picks his wedge?

I know the action was sparse in the rain-filled first week but there were plenty of matches the network could have featured that would have shown us high quality tennis. This was a waste of time and what's worse, the match was tape-delayed, so the network knew it was a turkey and went with it anyway. That is just giving up, so I gave up on their coverage.

Compare NBC’s lackluster (and now mostly taped) tennis coverage to the slobbering it does over the US Open of golf and it’s nauseating. I told you that bumping off Bud Collins and installing Resident Hobbit and Golf Gnome Jimmy Roberts in his place would sound the death knell for NBC tennis. And so it has come to pass.

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