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TV coverage is bad for cycling...revisited(7 posts)

TV coverage is bad for cycling...revisitedmr_spin
Sep 10, 2001 11:04 AM
Anyone remember the post "OLN coverage of the Tour is Bad for Cycling?" I watched the San Francisco race on TV yesterday and was wondering what people would think of this silly sport based on what they had seen.

The main announcer was the local ABC sports guy, and he knew just about NOTHING about cycling. The other two were experienced riders and commentators, John Eustice and (I forget her name, I think it's Jessie Grieco? She was on OLN at the tour, also). There were local reporters around the course for fluff pieces, and a former bike racer on a motorcycle on the course.

Anyway, it started out painfully. The guy who knew the least was talking the most, and of course, getting most of it wrong. Over time, he at least figured out how to pick out Lance from his teammates. John and Jessie, as best they could, did pretty good commentary, although Phil and Paul they are not.

Eustice was explaining tactics pretty well, and about two hours into the race, it was like the light suddenly came on for the sports guy. Ding! He got it. You could tell, he became really excited when he discovered that he was watching a pretty good race. Instead of the wild stabs in the dark, he started predicting moves and countermoves. He really seemed to enjoy what he was watching. And Eustice, who had been incredibly patient with this guy all day, finally seemed to relax a bit. He sounded like a teacher who had finally gotten through to a tought student.

By the end of the race, I was certain that there was at least one convert, and I wondered how many other neophytes became cycling fans. I'm sure anyone neophyte viewer who thought anyone could ride a bike gained a new appreciation of how hard cycling is watching the riders climb Fillmore street. That was one of the few times when the camera didn't lie, and you could really see how brutally steep the climb was.

I'll be there in person next year, but it will be interesting to see if big cycling events like Paris-Roubaix get coverage in the future on the local station. If George ever wins PR, I guarantee it will make the news in San Francisco!
re: TV coverage is bad for cycling...revisitedVW
Sep 10, 2001 11:35 AM
Unfortunately, the neophytes have long abandoned the broadcast and gone out to lunch! The converted local broadcaster had to stay because it was his job, but I doubt any non-cycling fan would stay on for 5 1/2 hours. I watched the whole 5 1/2 hours but boy did I wish I was out riding especially during the first 3 hours (I was sick and bedridden on Sunday). A baseball game can lasted up 3 to 4 hours and there's a lot of "fans" complaining about the game being too long. I just hope a few tune-in late, and caught the exciting ending and got converted in the process. Even OLN limits their live coverage to a little over 2 hours per day. Putting out a product that a "true" cycling fan (probably doesn't even include me) love will just bored the rest of the world to death. If that the goal ... no problem!

re: TV coverage is bad for cycling...revisitedraboboy
Sep 10, 2001 11:41 AM
Well, I can't comment on the coverage for the SF race because I didn't see it (not sure if it was on out here in the northeast), but I think it is tough for people to get that interested by watching cycling on TV. As you mentioned above, it took the 'sports guy' 2 hours to get into the race and understand it. Do you think most Americans can or will spend that much time trying to figure it out? Probably not unless they are forced.

My mother-in-law was visiting for a week while the TDF was going on. I made her watch the OLN rebroadcasts each night. The first 2 nights she complained a bit, day 3 was mild interest, day 4 and 5 was spent cheering for Lance and feeling bad for Ullrich (she got to see the L'Alpe d'Huez battle). It took her some time, but she got into it. She even finished watching the tour after she flew back home.

So, to sum up. 1. TV coverage is good as long as the commentators do a decent job. 2. People will watch if you keep showing it. People just need to get used to it and learn the sport. Cycling isn't drilled into children's heads like football, baseball & soccer is. 3. I ramble.
Thank You!Roxy
Sep 10, 2001 3:18 PM
Jeez!! I was there yesterday and everytime I ran up to the hotel room during the race, I'd flip on the tellie so as to not miss a trick. And all I kept yelling was "Who are these guys, and why do they have to relate cycling to football?!?!?!" Sheesh!
I guarantee they could have yanked someone from the LBS to give better commentary!
So, for next year (things I should have done this year!)...bring your bike and ride the course before the race, bring a camera, hit Gordon Biersch earlier to watch the end of the race on TV!
Oh, and...Roxy
Sep 10, 2001 3:20 PM
Way to go George!!! Good to see him win.
This year SF, next year PR-
re: Thank You!Roxy
Sep 10, 2001 3:21 PM
Scuze me, Rabo...meant Mr. Spin.
re: TV coverage is bad for cycling...revisitedWayne
Sep 12, 2001 4:33 AM
I get to watch the U.S. Pro Championships every year since I live near Philly, and they use the exact same people (Eustice and Greico, some ex-pro on a motorcycle), except they substitute the local sports guy. Most annoying is the weather guy/gal running around the course interveiwing people (usually drunk on the Manyunk Wall), the topper was when they cut to one of these interviews just as the decisive moves were being made on the the Wall this year. I don't think cycling on TV will ever significantly affect either participation or viewer (fan) numbers. Like any sport you have to understand it to appreciate it, most people who ride road bikes do so recreationally and have at best a poor understanding of what is going on in a race so how can you expect Joe Sixpack to watch it and get anything out of it. That being said, I think there is definitely a "right way" to cover cycling. The live stuff on OLN is great, but when they tape for the Classics they're hit or miss. You have to give a synopsis of what happened early in the race and then show the finale continuously so watchers get hooked in on what is a happening tactically. When you show disjointed clips of racers with gaps of time inbetween it makes little sense because you don't know what has happened to bring this or that group of riders together. It's as bad as watching mtn bike racing on TV where they have 2 or 3 cameras at selected sites on the course and all you get to see is riders going by each lap, which allows no appreciation of tactically what has happened. The U.S. races that are big "spectator" events have achieved that status because they are big parties and that is probably what draws more than three-quarters of the people there, not the cycling per se.