#IdeaMonth Day One: The Improv Meets Sports Commentary
April is #IdeaMonth, or so I’ve decided. Thus, in the spirit of spring, and in effort to challenge myself in a different way, I’m going to write about an idea every day for all 30 days of April. Will all the ideas be original? Probably not. But they’ll come from me, without the crutch of research, and with attribution to the extent any ideas are known spin-offs of existing ones. That’s my pledge.
I’ve been thinking about this idea for a while. On television, there are sit-coms, dramas, talks shows, game shows, reality shows, and everything in between. However, when it comes to sports there’s a clear line between live coverage and everything else. No one has dared to add a comedic layer to live coverage.
As viewers, we lament commentary we deem too quiet, too noisy, not smart enough, too smart, or just generally out of touch. Think Gus Johnson shouting over a soccer match, Dick Vitale being Dick Vitale, or one of the many adequate, but forgettable commentators that we've heard a thousand times.
The question isn't one of being "good" or "bad." It's about what fresh, interesting, and entertaining. For the longest time, we've settled for the same formula: a few people in a booth (one color, one play-by-play), a few people in a studio, and maybe one or two down closer to the action.
That's how we experience televised sporting events. So, it's no surprise that second-screen experiences—namely, Twitter—have become a thing. There's a significant group of people who want more than what they're getting from the broadcaster. Why not give it to them? Why not merge two of the great genres, comedy and sports? The best comedians and commentators are nimble improvisers, boasting knowledge, situational awareness, and timing. Why not give viewers this option?
This is what a Saturday might look like:
Option A: Chelsea v. Arsenal with two (probably English) commentators.
Option B: Chelsea v. Arsenal with Arlo White, one of the finest soccer commentators in the world, doing play-by-play alongside Coach Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis).
Switch to The Masters on CBS.
Option A: Jim Nantz and his team.
Option B: Bill Macatee with Key & Peele on the front 9 and Aziz Ansari on the back 9.
When that's over, flip to TBS.
Option A: NBA game with Marv Albert and Doug Collins.
Option B: NBA game with Rick Barry (or PBP commentator X) and Amy Schumer.
It could be offered as an alternative option: watch the "normal" broadcast on television or the fun version online, though I'd eventually like to be able to toggle between versions on the same screen (e.g. English, Spanish, Comedy, Normal, etc.)
NBC deserves credit for involving Sudeikis in their English Premier League promos, and for snatching up Men In Blazers, but, neither decision was really new. Saturday Night Live (and other comedy shows) have been spoofing SportsCenter, athletes, and leagues for decades. I'm talking about changing the way we experience live sporting events.
Give the best comedians the stage to improvise next to the best commentators as world-class athletes perform.