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The Inside Track | COMMENTARY

Note to ABC: More Game, Less Graphics

January 04, 2006|Bill Dwyre | Times Staff Writer

I have a request of Mark Loomis, producer of ABC's telecast of tonight's national championship college football game, the long-awaited USC-Texas matchup.

This is football, not a video game.

Leave me alone.

Stop shouting and screaming at me.

Stop sending a barrage of graphics and gadgets and noise and nonsense at me.

I am fine if you have a few interesting story angles, but stop trying out 50 on me, all in the same quarter.

I like the yellow line for first downs, but I don't need red red zones. The whole "red zone" terminology is already a cliche, but your fellow producers at ABC have now managed to do the impossible. They have dumbed down a cliche.

They even superimposed a kicker's profile between the uprights he was facing. All we needed was orange crayon.

I like to know the time, down and distance, but more than a millisecond before the ball is snapped. Nor do I want it delivered by a spinning, whistling graphic. I'm not 6 years old. Just put it on the screen.

I know you were not responsible for all of your network's lead-up BCS games, especially the Fiesta Bowl, where the deluge of graphics and promos and profiles and stats boxes and sideline interviews selling network dance shows and shots of yelling cheerleaders and crying mothers and boozed-up fans had me in full migraine.

I also know that you said at a recent news conference that ABC "can't lose sight of the fact that the game is the most important thing." Some of your fellow producers certainly have. To them, the game is merely a vehicle to showcase new gimmicks. I have this image of a grand planning meeting months ago at ABC, where somebody in an expensive suit stood up and solicited new ideas, and 47 eager computer geeks, all trying to make vice president at age 31, each threw out five or six.

And ABC used all of them. In the same game.

Apparently, nobody on a decision-making level at ABC Sports knows how to say "no."

I understand what a big deal this is for ABC Sports. This is the final year of a six-year deal with the BCS for which your network paid $400 million.

And even though Fox takes over the bulk of this next year and may actually attempt to tone down the screaming, you still have the Rose Bowl and two national title games in Pasadena between now and 2014, for which you spent about $300 million more in rights fees.

So that's $700 million for the right to be annoying.

I am aware that I'm not the demographic you and your advertisers want to reach. I am not in the 11-14 age group and actually don't own an Xbox 360. Matter of fact, I don't own any of the Xboxes 1 through 359 either.

I think I have a right to be old and annoyed by constant, meaningless, self-serving chatter. I think your marketing gurus ought to ponder that maybe there are more people watching than they think who have actually reached the age of puberty and, like me, do not agree that an abundance of noise translates into an abundance of information.

These same viewers may be as nauseated as I was after your fifth or sixth interview/sideline shot at the Fiesta Bowl of Laura Quinn, sister of the Notre Dame quarterback and girlfriend of the opposing star linebacker from Ohio State.

Nice angle the first time. Report it, maybe revisit it once, then let it go. You ABC guys made it into "War and Peace."

Some adult viewers may roll their eyes, as I did, when your network makes a circus out of a soldier's girlfriend at halftime, pretending that you actually thought she could throw a football through a hole in the wall for a big-money prize and then having her boyfriend walk around the wall and propose marriage on national TV as she cried.

By now, I had a sore arm throwing things at the TV screen. But this halftime soap opera left me limp, speechless. It was so hokey, it made Geraldo look like Walter Cronkite.

A moment of hope flashed through my mind as the young soldier knelt before his girlfriend to propose, unknowingly furthering the schmaltz for ABC.

I wished that, somehow, out of some momentary inspiration, she would have seen this for what it was and said to her boyfriend: "No, not here. This is too private a moment, too personal a thing."

What would have followed would have been a handful of ABC producers, jumping out of the press-box window, prompting this question:

Would not the world then become a better place?

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