Total Pageviews

Thursday, January 10, 2013

You Are Not His Friend. Deal With It!

The longer you are a sportscaster the more you find out disappointing facts about your place in this world:

1. Whatever fame you gain comes from showing other people accomplishing things.

2. As crazy as the people you are about sports, there truly are people who simply do not care.

3. You are not the first person to use song lyrics to describe a play.

However, the disease that truly seems to run through the hearts of sportscasters from the very top to the smallest television markets.

This is what I call "Berman-Wingo Syndrome".

It is named after ESPN broadcasters Chris Berman and Trey Wingo. Something courses through these two that overwhelms any appearance they make on television. There is that need to somehow get the message to the home viewer that the guy in the suit is friends with the super cool athletes they cover.

Their belief is that if they call the player by his first name in a borderline loving way, we will sit at home and think, "Did you hear that? He called him 'Ben'. They MUST be friends!"

Most people with a brain should realize that a guy who sits in New York or Connecticut throughout the year probably is not really friends with Mr. Manning or the other Mr. Manning (or 'Peyton' or 'Eli' as they call them.)

Honestly, it is kind of like back in high school the dweebie guy would maneuver his way into being a partner in Biology class with the cheerleader and believing that everyone would really believe they were going out. It turns out the only one the kid got to hang out with after the project was a sliced-up frog.

Now, for the most part this seems harmless. Pathetic, but harmless. However Berman-Wingo is at its most dangerous not because the sportscaster seems like an "Entertainment Tonight" anchor swimming in Matt Damon's wake and believing "Well, I am a star, too," but because of what happens when something scandalous happens to the athlete.

As sportscasters coast-to-coast did everything but climb into Lance Armstrong's bike shorts (and, in some cases, while he was wearing them), how do they now look as Lance (whoops, I just did it!) has been exposed as what appears to be quite the fraud?

The ultimate is in the way Berman-Wingo sufferers bowed at the altar of Brett Favre for the first fifteen to eighteen years of his career. Sportscasters thought they were putting themselves into the cool clique by saying, "Brett the Gunslinger", "As only Brett can do", and "This is why we all love Brett!"

That is all great until scandal strikes. When your identity is based in part on desperately trying to convince people you are friends and then people sour on him, what do you do? Wisconsin sportscasters had to deal with people remembering that they worshiped the guy under center for more than a decade. So, now you look bad when their hero retires and unretires and then eventually winds up with the hated rival.

That was a blip compared to the danger of begging people to associate you with someone by kissing his feet and then having a picture of that someone's feet, along with at least one other body part turn the hero into a national joke. You just look like a moron.

Berman-Wingo Syndrome also hit with sportscasters when Mr. Bryant, 'Kobe' to his close sportscasting friends, Mr. Roethlisberger, 'Ben' to his BFFs on the anchor desk and, historically, Mr. Simpson, 'O.J.', or "Juice" became pariahs, whether temporarily or permanently.

There is even the danger of doing the "buddy-buddy" thing such as when a very well-known sportscaster had great radio exchanges with athletes Jason Giambi and Jayson Williams and put the "bro-mance" out there for everyone to hear.  Then, he had to walk it WAY back when Giambi was caught up in talk of Performance Enhancing Drugs and Williams was involved in a shooting death.

I say these things as a sportscaster who did get the lesson several times that you are not really tight with these guys because, while you are performing for the cameras, so are they. It does benefit them to give you the impression you are tight so they will let you think you have "a moment" as you stood and talked while you were waiting for him to get his microphone on. The lesson will come when you see them out away from the field and you, at most, get a head nod before he talks to the four women he is hanging out with.

Sadly, even then, the sportscaster will try to use that as proof "'See, we're friends. No, really!"

Luckily, Berman-Wingo is not fatal. Usually, what a "talking head" says is so inane and we are so interchangeable that people probably have forgotten us by the end of the show anyway.

Researchers are still trying to come up with a name for the very sad condition that causes sportscasters to think they sound hip and happening by saying "R-G-Three" at least twenty times each time they do Redskins highlights.