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Termination: Having a Ball

Having a Ball.

By

24 February 2015

Text:/ Graeme Hague

There’s something wrong with my television. It appears to have been infested by bugs. Not software bugs, but real ones – and crickets in particular. Again, not the chirpy kind that get squished on your windscreen. I mean the cricket with lots of sun cream-covered chaps dressed in Star Trek uniforms, standing around in a large paddock for five days until it all gets a bit much and everybody goes home with nothing to show for it. It’s on the telly all day, all night, every channel.

To be honest sometimes there’s the shorter type of game that only lasts an entire day and the even shorter games that merely run the whole night, but it’s still cricket and to an AFL footy tragic like me it turns summer into one long, televised grind of voiceover hell, and annoying, so-called expert commentators scribbling crayons all over the screen like Mr Squiggle on too much caffeine.

Although I have to say that part of the broadcast is kind of interesting. The on-screen graphics: the Sharpie doodlings in front of our very eyes; the total computerisation of Noel Coward’s mad dogs and Englishmen getting toasted under the midday sun.

STAYING FRESH

Each year, broadcasting sport on television is bit like re-inventing the toothbrush. Think about it: “We need a new kind of toothbrush”. Okay, let’s put the brushy bit on one end and we’ll make the handle at the other end and then… hmm, hang on, it’s been done before.

Which pretty much sums up the problem faced by the networks whenever a new season of sport kicks off and the fans on the other side of the screen are expecting – everyone assumes – something new. What makes it even more of a challenge is the immediacy of the vision and the desired special effects to dazzle and impress the viewer. When you think about it, the latest audiovisual technology really gets to shine on live television. This is where it’s all happening in real time. Steven Spielberg and his ilk might be able to blow our collective minds with all the CGI stuff and furry ogres driving flying saucers, but don’t forget they’ve got something like five years to cobble together those images – not to mention an enormous team of nerdy Dungeons & Dragons players to create the animation.

For live television and sport, it’s all done in the space of a googly – whatever the hell that is.

HOLO COMFORT

The passing reference to Spielberg and Wookies behind the wheel isn’t entirely gratuitous. Have you seen the latest trickery by the network cricket commentators? They sit around a kind of three-dimensional, holographic table. The players’ positions and the tactical implications are revealed in scenes reminiscent of… well, if one of the virtual cricketers were to get down on his knees and say something like, “Please help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Bowl a yorker,” no one would be surprised.

Don’t get me started on the tennis (you just did). A wise man once said – it might have been me – that the worst thing to ever happen to the sport was the discovery that a tennis court is the perfect shape to fit on a television screen. Now look what’s happened. All that grunting and screaming, it’s worse than my mum trying to get the cap off a bottle of sherry.

While the game drives you nuts, you’ve got to be impressed by the AV technology that allows the commentators to analyse the fall of the tennis ball to within an nth degree in relation to the fault lines, or whether or not the player’s big toe crept over the service line. Why do they even bother having umpires anymore? I suppose boy wonder, Nick Kyrgios, needs someone to abuse…

If the actual summer sports don’t float your boat, you must at least be partially gob-smacked by the enormous logistics behind all these outside broadcasts. The gazillion kilometres of cabling, the countless cameras, the tons of egg sandwiches. Between the cricket, tennis, golf and that weird game with the funny-shaped football (come on, a round ball? Anyone can kick a bloody round ball), spare OB vans must be as readily available as hen’s teeth at the moment.

BEER: INSIDE KNOWLEDGE

Okay, for the cricket fans I’ll agree it is kind of addictive at times. It’s almost impossible not to keep watching until the end of an over – maybe a few overs just to see if some bloke makes fifty. And the Big Bash League always threatens to seriously injure someone in the crowd with all those sixes hit into the stands, which is entertaining in its own macabre way. Catching a cricket ball without dropping your beer and bucket of chips is always good for breaking a few fingers. All good clean fun.

But don’t get the idea I like this summer sporting rubbish, because I’ve been watching it so much lately. This is purely lounge room research into the latest AV broadcasting technology and I’m not enjoying it at all. That’s why I have to drink beer and eat potato chips while I’m doing it – to ease the discomfort.

By the way, thanks to the beer, I’ve figured out what new AV innovation will happen in sport next year. They’ll put a camera inside the balls. Ingenious, right? As always, you read it here first, folks. Please send congratulatory emails during lunch intervals or whenever bad light stops play.

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