A former colleague of mine flagged this story on Facebook — from the Philadelphia Daily News, about the ruination of NFL Films, the production arm that made the “America’s Game” series, which you might not watch, but you almost certainly know.
I have zero interest in football and an above-average interest in filmmaking, and even I can see the genius of the classic, ol’ skool NFL Films oeuvre — its irony-free presentation of games with portentous narration and tympani-and-brass orchestral scores, which can make any given Sunday into a clash of gladiators that will be sung in song for centuries. I haven’t watched them all, but I’ve watched enough to know that their signature is as distinctive as Miles Davis’ trumpet playing or Martin Scorsese’s camera technique. Which of course means the new guys have to be brought in to screw it all up.
The story is about how new leadership did just that:
“The thing that has always set NFL Films apart, the thing that has been its trademark, is the slow spiral in the air,” said Comcast SportsNet’s Ray Didinger, an Emmy-winning producer and writer at Films for 9 years before leaving in 2008. “One shot lasting 45 seconds. The ball leaving the quarterback’s hands and being caught. That was the kind of stuff that made NFL Films great and helped make the league so popular. That was their signature.
“But you’ve got these guys [at NFL Network] now with ADD, they’re watching that ball spinning and they’re saying, ‘OK, let’s catch it already. Go, go, go. Catch the ball, will ya.’
“The term that we used to get kicked back at us from time to time was, ‘dinosaur television.’ They’d say, ‘That stuff is dated. Been done before. People have seen it. We’re going to change the way football is presented on television.'”
The usual litany of complaints followed, and you can see how it happened — NFL Films operated without a thought to cost-containment, so someone sold the owners on a plan to save money, etc. (The fact NFL Films was, as Sports Illustrated called it, one of the most effective propaganda organizations in the world, instrumental in building the league into a powerhouse — eh, who can put a dollar figure on that, right?) Then someone else came in, and wondered about those 45-second slow spirals, and the rest is infamy.
It made me think, though. A number of petty annoyances have been piling up — and when that happens, I tend to get a little testy. I’m also aware that some have accused me of being ranty lately, so I want to be sensitive to that. But still, I have to ask:
Is every company in the goddamn world broken?
Two weeks ago, we tried to watch a movie on demand on cable. It froze. (Pause.) Repeatedly. (Pause.) Throughout. (Pause.) Playback. I tried to call Comcast that night. We are experiencing high call volumes at this time, and customer wait times are longer than usual. If the matter is not urgent, please call back at a later time.
I called back on Monday to ask for a credit on my bill. We are experiencing high call volumes at this time, and customer wait times are longer than usual. If the matter is not urgent, please call back at a later time. Tried again Tuesday. We are experiencing high call volumes at this time, and customer wait times are longer than usual. If the matter is not urgent, please call back at a later time.
Forgot about it for a few days, tried again. Guess what? And so on.
If I were posting this on Twitter, I would hashtag it #firstworldproblems. Still. I pay a fortune to this stupid company every month; is it so much to expect a non-Soviet customer-service experience?
(I just tried it again. Huzzah! An operator credited my account $4.99, “as a courtesy,” not because the service I paid for wasn’t delivered. Here, pleb, have a few shekels.)
Meanwhile, if you’d like to watch a classic of the NFL Films genre on your very own computer, try America’s Game: 1968 New York Jets, featuring Joe Namath’s Fu Manchu mustache, the Heidi game and narration by Alec Baldwin.
OK, we’ve gone on too long. Any bloggage?
Via Eric Zorn, how wealthy divorcing women justify asking for $46,000 a month in child support.
Journalism inside baseball, but might be of interest to others: When is it appropriate to state the race of a criminal suspect in a story? For what it’s worth, I generally follow the Society of Professional Journalists standard: When it’s a key part of a detailed description of a suspect at large, yes. When it’s part of a too-general or vague description, no. So, to use the example from the story, this would be a yes: “The suspect was described as a white, between 19 and 24 years old, around 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighing 180 pounds. He had short blond hair and tattoos on both arms, according to police reports.” A no would be “a black man of medium height and build, wearing blue jeans.” One of our competitors goes for the sneakier variety of racism: “The 16-year-old was released to his 32-year-old mother.”
And while we’re briefly on the topic of editing, see Kim’s comment from late yesterday, about outsourced copy desks.
And now I gotta go. I can almost taste the weekend. Hope you can, too.