There is a disturbing trend in sportscasting that is both worrying for existing professionals and aspiring sportscasters, and it’s the increasingly large presence of former players moving from the playing field to the media booth to cover high level games. Alex Rodriguez, Michael Strahan and most recently Tony Romo are among some high profile names to move from the playing field to the media booth, making high profile changes in career that is sold as a way to provide audiences inside information unavailable elsewhere.
Now to the defense of the the names listed above, the feedback and reaction to these players media moves has been largely positive. Alex Rodriguez surprised many by being incredibly well prepared, Michael Strahan has moved from sports to entertainment and morning TV, while Tony Romo has been getting rave reviews for his early work on with some saying he’s the best analyst in the NFL.
However there seems to be only a few exceptions to the rule.
In late September, there was the preliminary (or semi) finals of the Australian Football League. One game featured Richmond (a traditional team) taking on Greater Western Sydney (a relatively new team) broadcast across the country by Network Seven. Take a look at the closing minutes of the game:
The voice you hear proclaiming “can you believe it? I can’t!” is former Richmond player Matthew Richardson. He suited up for the Richmond Tigers for 17 years between 1993 and 2009. He’s one of the team’s beloved figures and he found himself on air when his former team secured their first trip in a long time to a championship game.
The other voice at the end of the video above is Luke Darcy, who is a former player himself and covered his team winning a championship last season.
What troubles me is that while both Darcy and Richardson, along with the others mentioned above, provide quality broadcasting and insider knowledge, what they’re doing is taking away a position and an opportunity from those who have worked their entire lives to get into that position.
It’s a troubling trend. Experience on the field and answering questions from media, qualifies you for a spot in a press box seemingly right after you retire. What if the opposite was also true? Experience calling games for a team qualifies you to start at quarterback in week 1 after you decide to hang up the headset.
So what can be done? Ultimately it comes down to networks looking at talent, dedication and devotion over the quick name recognition. It comes down to sportscasters networking and pushing themselves and their brand as far as they can and it comes down to audiences wanting a professional, someone who has worked to fine tune their craft much in the same way players do through their career.
What are your thoughts? Are you bothered by the increasing number of former players taking high level jobs in the media? Do you think it adds to the coverage or does the lack of a seasoned pro who has worked their way into that job detract from the final product? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.