Sportscasts need to shift focus to score


Abort sports? That's avoidable.

Alter sports? That's advisable.

As in demoting the 'roid revelations of Manny Ramirez while upgrading the sweet swing of UNLV's tennis team.

As the status of sports slips at stations nationwide -- remember Fox-5 benching weeknight sports? -- viewers continue consulting Blackberrys, iPhones, Web sites and sports nets to nourish their national sports needs. "Highlights at 11" teasers in which local newscasts promise the national sports lowdown are hurtling toward irrelevancy.

Under such circumstances (also plaguing newspapers), survival demands localism in both quantity and placement. Channel 33's "Sportszone" produced by Channel 3 -- its quarter-hour yielding eight minutes of sports -- is an instructive scorecard monitored over two nights recently. And "local" could have commanded coverage more commensurate to the shifting landscape.

One night, rather than local leads, "Sportszone" defaulted to Ramirez and the firing of Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin before a brief, footage-free mention of the 51s loss to Fresno. Following were NBA pieces -- Hawks vs. Cavs and two player suspensions -- before a substantive local story, the Wranglers vs. the Alaska Aces in the conference finals, was shoehorned in. A preview of the Hard Rock's Dawson-Tarver rematch was dropped in near broadcast's end.

Another night, Randy Howe's first-rate feature on UNLV's tourney-bound women's tennis team was relegated to "Sportszone's" second block, behind the PGA Tour and just ahead of the dead-last Wranglers-Aces story. The leads: Lakers-Rockets, Celtics-Orlando and Alex Rodriguez.

Coulda-woulda-mighta stories: CSN's Coyotes in the NJCAA baseball tournament, the Plaza's boxing card and potential cuts in Nevada high school sports ... or the 11th helping of yelping over Manny since that day's breakfast.

"Manny was the big story that night, whether it was local or national," says anchor Kevin West. "If we did an all-national show, then you could poke holes in it. But people are watching because it's sports and you have good stories."

Traditional thinking -- good stories are good stories, whenever or wherever -- now dangerous to sportscasts slowly fading to viewer blackout. West rightly claims local sports aren't ignored -- high school/college competitions do merit coverage -- but neither are they optimized under a new paradigm demanding local emphasis even at the expense of sexy steroid scandals. Viewers awaiting those stories are not awaiting "Sportszone."

About 70 percent of Southern Nevada homes are hooked to cable/satellite, and it's likely serious fans figure hugely among them, having purchased sports packages, and with no need of a "Sportszone" amen of national headlines.

Sportscast salvation isn't around the country, but around town. Now if only we could book Rodriguez/Ramirez at Cashman Field for Steroid Sluggers Day. (Imagine the promotional giveaways.)

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

 

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