Posted by MATT JONES
Technology and innovation are wonderful things. They give us the ability to see our favorite things in a new light and attempt to broaden our horizons in previously unforseen ways. But sometimes technology and innovation go awry and don't add to our experience, but rather subtract. The result isn't an improvement, but simply change for change sake. In those circumstances, one should hide the women and children because complaints and anger are sure to come.
Take for example the attempts by ESPN to "innovate" via their SEC basketball coverage. Likely due to the fact that SEC basketball fans are really just the mass of Kentucky followers and other teams' supporters biding their time until spring football, ESPN has used the league as a guinea pig for its new ideas in college basketball production. And, well...they have failed miserably.
The change began with the addition of in-game interviews with coaches, a gimmick that has been executed unsuccessfuly for some time in its NBA coverage and is not being migrated over to the college game. During SEC telecasts, each coach is expected to do one interview during a timeout in the first half to answer mundane questions about the state of the game. The questions are inevitably awful ("Hey coach, tell us what is going on out there") and it becomes clear that not only do the coaches not want to be talking, they affirmatively believe the interviews are a hindrance to the game preparation. The entire process hit its nadir last night with this talk with John Calipari:
The interview started late, was ongoing as the game began again and led to the great visual of a coach walking away in the middle of an answer. While we are more accustomed to halftime interviews, they are equally as worthless. But at least the halftime chat fests don't disrupt the flow of the game and simply take a minute away from an otherwise substantial mid-game break. These in-game interviews give no substance and seem to do nothing but put the poor reporter in a position to take a verbal scolding. They are a change definitely worth forgetting.
But even these interviews have not been the worst of the ESPN SEC "innovations". Last night during the Mississippi State-Kentucky game, ESPN debuted the "sky cam" as the primary view for its game coverage. The odd overhead angle, which gives the viewer the ability to know what a basketball game would look like if they a spider hanging from the roof, has previously been used for replays during basketball and football games. But last night, ESPN decided to make it the primary feed, allowing viewers to see plays as they develop and watch a game almost as if it were being drawn up on a clipboard.
The experiment was a complete failure. Immediately fans began flooding Twitter and various in-game live blogs to complain that the new view was not only inferior, but even making some like Xavier coach Chris Mack, nauseous and sick. The scorn was universal and caused some (ok, well me) to say it was the worst decision made at Kentucky since Billy Gillispie was made the coach. The response was so overwhelmingly negative that ESPN basically switched the game back to the regular angle in the second half, causing the fans of the two teams to put away their Dramamine and rejoin the telecast.
Complaints continued today, leading Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart to tweet out:
The awful camera angle did allow some to come up with good comedy lines (I liked the one here in which Thomas Beisner of KSR asked if Renardo Sidney ate the other camera angles). However, it generally was a complete bomb and is likely never to be repeated. One hopes for ESPN's sake that the next innovation it attempts to push on its SEC basketball contract will have more success than the two that preceded it. The network would be hard pressed to do much worse.