This piece has been a long time coming, but ABC's telecast of the Celtics' well-played victory over the defending champs on Sunday finally brought one particular issue to a head.
Nope, this isn't about the announcing crew. Frankly, I'm a huge Mike Breen booster, and while Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson were by no means great on Sunday, liking color commentators is largely a matter of perspective. Jackson isn't a favorite of mine. Van Gundy is still growing on me. Perhaps you feel differently. Perhaps you don't. With the exception of the truly special announcing crews out there (ah, another chance to plug Breen and Frazier!), announcers shouldn't be able to kill one's enjoyment of a televised game. The mute button has been around for a while now, folks, and utilizing it while opting for music instead of the commentary is always an option.
It isn't about the halftime show. Having an extra 15 minutes to take care of non-basketball business -- or to fly around the 'Net to check stats and read game threads -- never hurt anyone.
Sure, there are probably quite a few complaints to be registered about the manner in which NBA games are broadcast these days, and chances are, we'll get to them in this space at some point in the days to come. But at least from this end, most of those complaints are matters of personal preference and convenience.
Desiring to be able to view the game with some reasonable semblance of an idea as to what's happening on the floor isn't. That would be a necessity for basketball observers.
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The use of the moving, tight-shot, low-angle camera for extended lengths of time needs to go, and it needs to go soon.
It accomplishes absolutely nothing for fans watching the game at home. In what seems like an attempt to give audiences more of a 'courtside' feel, all the camera serves to do is distort the view of the court for observers. With an image so focused on being close to the ground, it becomes virtually impossible to get a real feel for the spacing of the players on the floor and where figures in the foreground actually are in relation to the background. Understanding how someone made a particular play or whether or not a player should have been able to get to a certain spot -- or even comprehending the degree of difficulty of a particular shot -- become exponentially more difficult than usual because it takes so much more effort simply to figure out where the ball is in relation to the basket and where the players are with regard to each other.
Furthermore, on possessions with particularly quick ball movement, the camera simply isn't quick enough to keep up, which only leads to further trouble. If the ball goes from one wing to the opposite corner with any speed, fans are going to be stuck with a distorted view of the rest of the play. Trying to follow what's going on away from the ball is a joke.
These exact problems occurred several times at the outset of the Spurs-Celts game on ABC yesterday, with fans being left in the dark as to the entirety of what happened on multiple baskets early in the first quarter. This happens at some point throughout nearly every ABC telecast, and the network isn't alone. Affiliate ESPN engages in similar practices, and so does TNT.
This wouldn't be such a source of aggravation, of course, if not for the fact that there was never a single need to change the status quo. The standard high-angle camera that most basketball telecasts use with regularity does its job to virtual perfection all the time. It provides a view of nearly an entire half the floor at an angle close enough to easily follow the movement of the ball and to recognize the players but far enough to provide a view of everything that is occurring on the floor. Of ten players on the basketball court, only one has the ball at any given time. But being aware of what the other nine are doing is crucial to understanding the game. The same high camera angle that has been used for years continues to allow fans to see this and get the entire picture of how the game works.
Of course, varied angles and close-ups can be useful for replays and slow-motion shots, when one is looking to pay closer attention to a particular aspect of a play. But so far as watching a game live is concerned, there hasn't been any need for the changes that have been occurring throughout this decade with regard to cameras used during play, particularly over the past couple of seasons.
Just because something can be done doesn't mean that it should be.
So to the networks with NBA broadcast deals, please, please let us just watch and enjoy basketball games for the beautiful games that they are from an angle that makes sense. And please, save the razzle-dazzle for after the fact.