Everything is not awesome!
It is Labor Day weekend in America. Time to drink American beer, eat American cheese and watch American college football. Saturday found me doing the latter while drinking a cold Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough wine growing region. The game featured Stanford vs. Northwestern, two all-American programs known, amongst other things, for being wildly boring.
Like, good fundamentals-style boring.
So there I was watching, or half-watching, when the Stanford quarterback scrambled forward on a third and long play. He gained five yards before starting his slide, like American quarterbacks do to avoid getting hit, but Northwestern’s defense player went in hard anyway, leading with his forearm, smashing it on the chin of the quarterback, who was laying back in slide position, knocking his helmet off and likely knocking him out.
The announcers, one blonde, one brunette, both boring, jumped into action. One said, “That is going to be a personal foul and there is going to be an extra fifteen yards thrown on for targeting a defenseless player.” The other agreed. The play repeated over and over in slow motion while the announcers went back and forth, discussing the egregious nature of the hit, while Stanford’s quarterback was carted off the field.
And then the official on the field issued a simple personal foul penalty. The blonde announcer flew off the hook, calling it an atrocious, unforgivable missed call and lit into the officiating crew for a solid thirty seconds, invective after invective, until the game cut to commercial break.
When it came back on, a few minutes later, the blonde announcer was still incensed and said, during the break, that he had marched into the officials replay office, next to the announcers’ booth, knocked on the door and demanded an explanation. They gave him one that was unsatisfactory and he simmered down with a, “We’ll just have to agree to disagree.”
Now, this is a very long story and I apologize but it was an amazing display of how announcers’ can be on the side of the viewer, on the side of interest, intrigue, fun, opinion and information and I wept for what we, as professional surf fans are forced to deal with.
Remember, these college football announcers were corn-fed midwestern jocks and CBS, the station airing the game, has a multi-multi-million dollar deal with the NCAA, an organization so greedy, so authoritarian, as to give Kim Jong Un a run for his money and yet they felt it was not only their duty, but right, to elucidate.
Professional surfing is supposed to be the “youth sport.” It is supposed to be untamed, raw and “cool” and yet all we get is a Wall of Positive Sound. Cotton candy stuffed in our ears. Zero critique, zero disagreement, zero opinion besides the opinion that everything is awesome.
What the hell.
Imagine, just imagine, if Pete Mel stormed the judging tower after a botched call and demanded an explanation. Just imagine if Joe Turpel said how a professional surfer made a bad choice. Just imagine if the 1989 World Champion Martin Potter turned his naturally grouchy dial up a notch and let them all have it.
But no. The World Surf League has decided to build the safest space on earth where good feelings are allowed to flourish and all those grouchy grumps can leave and go to frown town all by themselves.
Moreover, that damned Wall of Positive Sound seems to be the way the League is trying to push surfing writ large with happy little stories about happy little men and women drawing happy lines upon the happy sea. Everything is the awesomest.
And my stomach hurts from all that pure saccharine. Well, as long as I’m alive BeachGrit will be anti-depressingly cranky and I really think it’s time to pull the best and brightest from Silicon Valley, or at least Silicon Beach, and figure out how to run a pirate stream.
I once tried, with the great Sterling Spencer. We set our computer screens up face to face, one playing the World Surf League broadcast, the other recording the feed with its little camera, us talking. It was not, if you can believe, a “high quality” production.
Silicon Valley, are you reading? Silicon Beach, any advice?