Friday, November 30, 2012

A&R: Expect Another Big Number in Birmingham

The outcome of the SEC Championship Game between Alabama and Georgia might be in doubt for much of Saturday, but the biggest certainty related to the game should come in terms of TV ratings.

Expect Birmingham, Ala., to pull the nation's biggest number among TV markets for the game.

That's hardly a surprise, though. Birmingham viewers watch college football, especially Alabama, more passionately and regularly than anyone else in the United States. While the game might be in Atlanta, with Georgia involved, it'll still be Birmingham that moves the needle the most.

Some not-surprising decisions, two mistakes and one bit of appropriate sports PR chutzpah provide other points for this edition of Act & React. Please follow along ...

Act: The San Antonio Spurs take a no-stars-on-the-floor approach for their game against the Miami Heat and NBA commissioner David Stern promises appropriate actions from the league.
React: Some might consider it much ado about nothing because Spurs coach Gregg Popovich can certainly put whomever he wants on the court as he, from his perspective, keeps his eye on an eventual championship at the end of the season as compared to a regular season game in late November. After a series of road games, the Spurs' decision to rest some players might seem logical to some.

But, it was a nationally televised game against the defending champion Heat for a league that likes to promote the star power of its individual standouts.

So, it's much ado about TV -- and a league's relationship with a broadcast partner. With his stance, Stern is protecting an NBA partner that pumps some $400 million a year into the league.

While Popovich's decision is not surprising, neither is that of Stern. But, you have to think the commissioner would feel differently if the game involved other teams with different stars and the game was not on TV. Interestingly, the game still pulled a decent 1.7 overnight rating.

In terms of the protagonists in the little drama, Stern correctly and invariably protects his league -- that's his job, even if he seems like a bully, petty or even pugnacious at times -- while Popovich's strong will sometimes does not get viewed regularly nationally simply because he works in San Antonio. If he'd coached all these years in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, fans would certainly react to/view him in much stronger terms.

Act: TV color commentator Solomon Wolcotts talks about Steelers DB Ryan Smith wearing a larger, supposedly safer helmet and compares him to Great Kazoo.
React: Good idea, but while that might be the name of a some sort of giant musical instrument it's certainly not the correct cultural reference. It should be the Great Gazoo, from "The Flintstones."

Act: The broadcast team for last week's Notre Dame-USC missed an obvious storyline last week.
React: First, it was an inexcusable mistake for a top on-air tandem (Brent Musburger-Kirk Herbstreit) supported by two sideline reporters and a team of production personnel. While viewers clearly saw Nortre Dame quarterback Everett Golson go out of bounds, get hit and lose his helmet -- necessitating, by rule, that he miss at least one play -- the broadcasters only focused on his absence.

They speculated about an injury to Golson. They wondered if a quarterback rotation was part of the game plan.

All the while, cameras had caught the action and the director even had a shot of Golson on the sideline working with an equipment manager to check his helmet.

Still, Musburger and Herbstreit rambled on about the situation. And nobody corrected them. It was a mistake that should not have happened -- especially with that much talent on site and viewers seeing the entire story themselves but being told something else by the folks in the booth.

Act: The wording of choice at Penn State has become "on-field record."
React: Although NCAA sanctions stripped the Penn State football program of 112 victories -- requiring a re-write of record books and, at least officially, changing what happened during games that multiple thousands of people saw in person, listened to on radio or watched on TV -- the athletic department admirably and wisely found a way to refer to those games and the records related to them on social media and outer outlets as the season progressed. On Twitter especially, references were made to the program's "on-field record" in those games, or in series against other teams. That's a nice move, as they follow the letter of the ruling and make changes where necessary but acknowledge reality for fans who care enough to follow the program on social media.

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