If you heard screams of anguish emanating from your local broadcast outlet last week, it was just the guys in the Sports Department doubling over from the NFL’s latest gut punch. You’d holler too, if the makers of the marquee event in your town revoked your backstage pass. That’s pretty much what the National Football League's 32 team owners did last week when they decreed television affiliates could no longer position photogs along the sidelines of all NFL games. Since the inception of the press pass itself, local stations have sent their own cameras to capture game day footage - footage they use to flesh out the many profiles and highlight reels that so make up the weekend sportscast. But that habit is history if the gridiron bigwigs get their way. Now, only the NFL’s TV cameras will be allowed to perch their lens just out of bounds and it’s gonna effect the way you follow your favorite team.
Basically, it’s a power grab. Eager to bolster its own network, the NFL seeks to control every frame of imagery captured on field. Who cares, you might ask. Well, a lot of people and not just my lenslinging buddies who are used to viewing the gladiatorial clashes from just feet away. They may not be straight-up newsies, but most of those cats can really shoot. You try zooming in tight on a spiraling pigskin as it rockets in real timer from one goalpost to another. When you’re through catching unfocused sky, come back to the shop and we’ll conjure up some anchor banter to make up for all that fuzzy blue stuff onscreen. Meanwhile the pros with the all-access passes hanging from their lockers can gather about and tell you how we did it back in the day. Maybe then, you’ll get the undiluted scoop on your uniformed lunkhead of choice. You damn sure won’t get it on the NFL Channel…
Why? Because the arbiters of professional athletics are in the game to entertain; they’re not about to sully the waters with anything near the truth. They’ll just crank out gauzy tribute with fawning slow-mo shots and slather the whole thing in solemn baritone. That way you’ll pay less attention to the scandal of the week, be it the defensive end with the nose candy in his glove box or the running back with a penchant for adultery, automotive excess and armed bodyguards. Your local news station will still fill you in, but without the b-roll to back it up, they’ll have a much harder time dropping that knowledge. Instead, you’ll be forced to watch the same stale game highlights they’ve been playing since before the last Astro-Turf divot was replaced. Sure, it won’t make me turn in my TV, but it’s just the latest body-blow in the heated street fight between local sports broadcasters and the rest of the known universe.
Hopefully though, this deal is far from done. The NPPA, NAB, RTNDA and even the KGB have cried foul over the floated plan to oust all unsanctioned cameras. But the NFL holds all the cards and they seem to enjoy watching the other players squirm. Despite how much the local affiliates may threaten to stop covering sick kid visits and off season fund-raisers, your neighborhood news station cannot afford to ignore these operas of offense that foster such rabid allegiance among ad-watching viewers. You’d think the National Football League would want to enable all those hype-dispensers, but they appear more intent on embracing Gestapo tactics in order to alleviate ‘sideline congestion’. You really wanna thin the hash-mark herd? Try kicking out the fattened pack of still shooters clamoring for a close-up, or better yet do something about the fat cats, well-connected Shriner types and high priced call girls who so populate the edges of America’s athletic infatuations. Then maybe, we’ll sacrifice a few rookie shooters to appease the Lords of the Press Pass. Until then, GET OUTTA MY SHOT!