Friday, August 30, 2013

Improving Sports Coverage in Today's Global and Social World

The Cincinnati Bearcats have brought some of the fun back to sports coverage.
In a post last month, I suggested some questions that might make the dreaded post-game interviews a little more compelling. But there are bigger changes, that in our global world of social media, could take professional sports coverage to the next level. Here are three:

Native Tongue: The face of athletic competition in the U.S. has been changing for a while, with international athletes excelling in sports traditionally dominated by Americans. But instead of embracing the athletes' nationalities, we have asked them to be more like us. Why do pre- and post-game interviews have to be conducted in English? Foreign athletes and coaches can express themselves better in their native languages, and provide a better sense of their cultural identity to fans around the world. Interpreters can quickly translate questions and answers, and even know how to shorten athletes' responses if airtime is running out. Just look at the highly skilled interpreters used during and after boxing matches on HBO and Showtime, and check out this excellent article in The New York Times.  

Inside the Huddle: It's hard for athletes to describe what they were thinking during a sporting event. So why don't we cover more of the conversations they're having with their coaches and teammates in locker rooms, huddles, and meetings at the mound? I know. There's the fear of strategies and plays being given away to the other team; or worse, of the conversations actually being boring. But the reality is the opportunity far outweighs the risks. As the world of social media continues to grow, people are not just sitting on their coaches, yelling at the TV; they're joining fantasy leagues and  tweeting to the world what they think their teams must do to win. Wouldn't it be great if, with thirty seconds left in the game, we could always go into the huddle and listen to the coach explain the play to the team? Or, if during a tennis match, we could hear what the doubles players are saying to each other before each point? We already hear what the corner men tell boxers between each round. Getting that same access in other sports would make the coverage far more engaging.

Have Fun: Sporting events are entertainment. So why are athletes so serious all the time? Understandably, it's how they make a living and they need to be focused to excel. But now more than ever, that is not enough. Athletes need to be more like kids -- having fun, being honest, and not taking themselves too seriously. Whether it's Muhammad Ali, Allen Iverson, or Gael Monfils, it's those that are comfortable being themselves that create the most memorable moments. Instead of training athletes to offer cliched responses in interviews, teams need to encourage them to be more entertaining. It's not that hard; but it is so rare today that those interviews or performances that make the grade tend to go viral. And don't worry: athletes don't need to go as far as the Cincinnati Bearcats to have fun:)

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