Friday, October 25, 2013

The absurdity of the pregame show

I grew up watching sports on television. From getting to stay up late on an October Saturday night to watch the World Series when I was six or seven to spending Fall weekends watching football to lazy summer afternoons watching the Cubs, it’s pretty much how I can mark time in my life.

All that sports viewing also means I’ve spent hours and hours watching pregame shows. “Experts” who would analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each team and then try to predict what they thought the key matchups would be. Then they’d make a pick for who they thought would win. Sometimes they’d be right. Often they’d be wrong. But ultimately it didn’t matter because it was sports on tv and it’s what I was interested in.

I really hadn’t given much thought to pregame shows until a few weeks ago when I had on an NFL pregame show while doing some things around the house. At one point there were highlights on the screen and my son said “Is football on?” I told him it was about to be, but this was a pregame show.

“Pregame show?” he asked, slightly confused.

“Yeah, it’s a show that talks about what they think is going to happen in the game,” I told him.

“So they’re just talking?” he asked.

“Well… yeah, they’re just talking about the game,” I said.

And that’s just it. That’s all they’re doing is talking about the game, and yet they are huge. CBS and FOX dedicate an hour each week to previewing the games. ESPN takes it a step farther with their three-hour NFL Countdown show.

And people watch. They watch people just talk about games that haven’t happened yet. They watch people who are no better at picking games than anyone else. Yet we believe these experts have insights that can tell us how the game will unfold.

I can’t back this up with any stats from anywhere, but I get the feeling that someone who is going to sit down and watch a 3-hour pregame show probably has spent a little time during the week reading, watching or listening to other NFL news and notes. I’m not even a huge NFL fan and yet I spend between four and five hours a week listening to a daily podcast about the sport (well, it’s more about fantasy football, but it’s NFL related.)

I’d never stopped to think about pregame shows until the conversation with my kid. It was always just something that was a part of being a sports fan. But that was in a time when we didn’t have 24/7 access to information and entire television networks devoted to covering one sport. Maybe there was a time when you needed a primer for the game, some of the key players and who is or isn’t hurt. That time has long since passed. I have access to more detail and more team (or game) specific information in a minute of searing online. I don’t need to wait for a pregame show to hopefully spend 10 minutes on the game I want to see.

And as my son astutely points out, they’re just talking. Thinking about all the time I’ve wasted on these shows makes me sad. But now I turn on games when they start. The football game starts at 1 p.m., I’ll turn on the tv at 1 p.m. The World Series game starts at 8:07 p.m., I’ll turn it on at 8:07. I’ve been freed from the shackles of the pregame show.

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