Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch
cbertsch

I Could Watch This Sort of Thing All Day

When I watch college basketball from the 1970s or early 1980s, the absence of the shot clock is the most prominent feature of the game -- as opposed to the fashion -- and that of the three-point line a close second. I think most observers would agree with me. But I'm also struck by the innocence of its televisual presentation:
It's striking how little effort is made to create drama through interruption of the game's flow. The concluding seconds of this 1976 NCAA tournament contest are a great example. It goes by so quickly, before the gravity of the situation even has time to register. As college basketball became a big-money sport, the length of time needed to complete a game increased even as the use of the shot clock was said to speed up play. I suppose that seeming paradox would make a good place to commence an ideological analysis of the sport's transformation. Sports that the majority of the American public -- or at least the corporate types who speak for that public -- deems boring to watch, such as soccer, are sports in which the divergence between game time and real time is smaller.

That college basketball turned from a sport in which twenty minutes took thirty minutes to play into a sport in which twenty minutes takes forty-five minutes to play speaks volumes about the role television has played in its development. As a side note, its interesting to see the changes in broadcasting between this 1976 tourney contest and the famous 1979 final between Michigan State and Indiana, where, although the feel of the game itself had changed little, the announcers had definitely learned to hype it more effectively, for better or worse.
Tags: media, nostalgia, sports
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