Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tropical Storms and Super Bowls

Tropical Storm Edouard crawls toward Texas

The Assman lives in the Houston area, and Tuesday the big news was Tropical Storm Edouard. It was supposed to hit Galveston and then tear across Houston and destroy property and create havoc. Many businesses downtown (including my employer) told their employees to stay home, just to be safe. You may have read about the storm, but it turned out to be largely unimpressive. We live west of Houston and we got about three inches of rain, but no wind. It was not really any different from a normal spring or summer storm. But what struck me about the storm was the intense media coverage. As you might expect, there was wall-to-wall coverage on all local networks (there's nothing else on daytime TV anyway). All the networks had reporters stationed throughout the area, undoubtedly hoping for some horrific footage and spectacular visuals. Tuesday, however, the field reports were quite lame.

It was not too dissimilar to coverage of the Super Bowl. It can be divided into three categories:

1. Before the storm (The Pre-Game Show)
While waiting for the storm to make landfall, the reporters were standing by at various gulf coast locations. Reporters told us that it was getting windy, but you couldn't really tell until they showed the bushes moving. "Steve, the wind is starting to pick up a bit, and if the cameraman will pan over here you'll be able to see the leaves on this small bush start to move. See that? Now, if you'll pan to the harbor you can see the waves have started to pick up as well. See how the surface is moving? Our wind gauge is now showing about 20 mile-per-hour wind gusts." Granted, a lot of Houston area residents were concerned about the storm, but the constant "pre-game" stuff was unnecessary. The weathermen in the studio with their fancy radar, mega-doppler, and what-have-you was very informative. The on-site reporters? Not so much.

Similarly, the the Super Bowl pre-game shows tell us all what they think is gonna happen, but like the weathermen, they are usually wrong. In addition to telling us what's going to happen during the game, the pre-game team, led by several on-field reporters live from inside and outside the stadium, will tell us what the current mood is: "Well Joe, the mood during warm-ups was quite loose. The defense really was intense and focused," or "The Giants just got off the bus." Like the on-site weather dudes, these guys generally provide no insight. Like the pre-game show for the storm, the football pre-game show is full of hype and hyperbole, and does not really add anything to your enjoyment of the game. They have to throw in the occasional Erin Andrews interview to keep things interesting.

2. During the storm (The Game)
After the storm made landfall, the networks were looking for their money shot. Shots of reporters being pelted with rain drops are not so dramatic when the winds are only 40 mph, as opposed to the hurricane footage where reporters are struggling to stand against the 120 mph winds. The best we got from Tuesday's storm was something like, "Steve, the raindrops are falling diagonally from the sky, and the drops are actually stinging my face." Whoop-de-damn-doo. Just as much information could be gathered by showing footage from the various traffic cameras that are positioned throughout the area.

This is the only important part of the Super Bowl experience - the game itself. Just like with the weather reporting during the storm, what happens in-game is what the audience is looking for - the money shot, if you will. For the storm, it's flying debris, reports of heavy damage, and pictures sent in from camera phones. For the football game, it's hard hits, a beautiful spiral nestling into the arms of a receiver in the back of the end zone, a great block by a pulling guard, gratuitous upskirt shots of cheerleaders, finding the hottest chicks in the crowd, showing the stars of the new Fox sitcom sitting together in the stands.

3. After the storm (The Post-Game Show)
After the storm had mostly passed through the area, the "post-game show" began. Where is there flooding? Who's lost power? How much rain fell. How injured are the on-site reporters? How does it rank with previous storms? And the inane cell phone calls from ordinary citizens. Yesterday's storm, being rather lame, did not yield too many breathless calls from local residents fearing for their lives.

Much like the weather post-game show shows the aftermath of the storm, the football post-game show shows the aftermath of the game: highlights, stats, injury reports, on-site retrospectives/recaps. Usually, they both have the same ultimate result: disappointment. The storm and the Super Bowl rarely live up to the pregame hype. Every storm is going to cause MAJOR DAMAGE, and every Super Bowl is going to be the BEST EVER.


scrodnals said...

Strong move going with a weather post. Next time, please include a button that plays Weather Channel local forecast music. I can only imagine how much better the post would have seemed with a hot jazz flute solo in the background.

Anonymous said...

Hey, what's wrong with a hot flute solo?

-Jethro Tull

scrodnals said...

Notwithstanding the apparent sarcasm in my prior comment, I am actually a huge fan of the Weather Channel local forecast music. Check out this sizzling setlist:

Assman said...

Wow - I had no idea that the Weather Channel published a setlist. Scrodnals, you are a fountain of useful(less) information. Good stuff...