Television isn't like being there, Washington's TV sportscasters agree.
"How can a guy say concretely, 'This is it,' " questions Glenn Brenner of Channel 9, "when you gotta spend ninety percent of you time in this building?"
Nick Charles of Channel 4, who says the most concrete things of the incumbent group, agrees that the logistics of the medium make "building rats" of sportscasters. "Even with Capital Centre games coming in on closed circuit," Charles says, "I have to depend on other people's information, other people's opinions."
"I have no beef with newspaper people," says Dan Lovett of Channel 7, "because I admit they have the edge. They can see the games."
Lovett agrees with Dave Sheehan, WRC-TV's sports anchorman for a year and a half, that, for sports news, TV is necessarily a "shallow medium." "Many times I'd like to spend three minutes on a story at 11 o'clock," Lovett says," but all we have is a half-hour and all I get is three minutes. At 6 o'clock, when you don't need it, you can have seven minutes."
Prime-time exigencies, in other words, give sportscasters the opposite of their temporal needs. At suppertime they fill the surfeit of minutes with tape of games concluded as long as twenty-seven hours earlier, verbal posters advertising games to be played in the evening and dissertations of inconsistent merit. The need for stuffing material leads inevitably to mauling of the obvious and to dubious expertise.
For example, the vespertime vacuum affords Sonny an opportunity for good works, prodigal applause for the fining and reprimand of an NBA referee, thus edifying area youth who might be blindly accepting whistle-blowers as constituted authority. The same empty air, however, seduces the new young man on Channel 9 to promiscuous issuance of "my opinion" before his disciples have learned his name.
Then at 11 o'clock they have to read fast and get out of the way for the weather show. If TV had the time, would the sportscasters have 11 o'clock news that would bust this town wide open? Probably not. "If you went to a hockey game that starts at 7:30," says Brenner, "you'd have to leave in the second period. In basketball you could barely catch the first half. What you saw might be more misleading than informative. You're better off back in the office with ten or twelve hours' worth of AP and UPI copy, trying to make sense out of the news. trying to tell it better.
"Doing," Brenner concluded, "the best you can."