Several area viewers, who requested anonymity in order to keep their names a secret so that their identities could be protected because they don't want anybody else to find out who they are other than people who already know, have asked me to ask local news stations a favor:
Cut the banter. Forget the happy talk. Let the sportscasters sportscast without needless interruption from other folks.
It's become a tradition, particularly on hour-long 6 p.m. newscasts when time is more available than on 11 p.m. newscasts, for sportscasters and anchorpersons to exchange chitchat before, after and sometimes during the sportscast.
There are two irritating aspects to this: 1) the chatter cuts into the sportscaster's air time and 2) it's often poorly done, with a lot of stilted and awkward exchanges. News shows try to create personalities, partly with a down-home, conversational approach. Personalities are fine, but we hate to see the studio shtick at the expense of information.
In Washington, the stations fall into two categories -- those who pull off the banter fairly well (WDVM-TV-9 and WTTG-TV-5) and those who should be condemned for ever varying from the script (WRC-TV-4 and WJLA-TV-7).
Channel 9 succeeds largely because Glenn Brenner, the funniest man on Washington television, and anchorman Gordon Peterson, the classiest newsman on by far the classiest news operation in town, get along so well. Their repartee seldom is forced. Likewise, Channel 5's Bernie Smilovitz and anchorman Maury Povich work well together, helped by their obvious friendship and Povich's sports background.
At Channel 4, the rule should be simple: let George Michael alone to do his highlights. All else is meaningless. In fact, the only reason I ever bring my team to their team is to watch Michael because the rest of the team is bogus; Channel 4 resembles quality news as much as Slim Jims resemble steaks. Over at Channel 7, Frank Herzog is forced to mingle endlessly with Wes or Renee, and even after he starts his sportscast, Herzog keeps glancing back toward his anchors as if he's talking to them rather than to us.
Recent exchange between Mel Proctor and Wes Unseld during a Bullets-Chicago game on WDCA-TV-20:
Proctor: "If you were playing against Manute Bol, how would you approach him?"
Unseld: "I'd break him in two."
Proctor: "You did that with everyone."
One of the pleasant things about Bullets broadcasts this season has been the blossoming of Unseld as a sometimes funny, sometimes insightful color analyst. Paired with a solid professional in Proctor after spending the last two seasons with less capable play-by-play men, Unseld has improved remarkably.
When Unseld first replaced James Brown during the 1983-84 season, he seemed a bit uncomfortable in his new role. His comments often were incoherent, and his blind loyalty to the Bullets tainted his ability to analyze strategy and officiating fairly.
Unseld still argues with referees' calls too much -- which is consistent with how he acted as a player -- but occasionally these days he'll acknowledge bad calls that favor the Bullets. In addition, he's become adept at dissecting the team's weaknesses. For instance, he has criticized forward Cliff Robinson for poor defensive positioning, and he took Coach Gene Shue to task for having a rookie, Kenny Green, inbound the ball in a crucial late-game situation.
For NBC's Marv Albert, there's no broadcasting high quite like boxing. Sure, the NFL, NHL and NBA each has its merits, but team sports are so predictable -- two opponents meet and, when the clock expires, whoever has the highest score wins. In boxing, opponents sometimes fight past the final gun, the winner isn't always clear-cut and the sport attracts enough eccentrics to fill several John Irving novels.
"I've always enjoyed boxing so much," Albert said, "because it feels good to be on the fringe of the type of thing that could blow up at any moment. There's no other sport like it. There are no controls. It's constantly bizarre. They say they're going to change it every couple of years, and it never changes.
"We'll do a fight where the manager says his boxer is 36-4. The record book would say he's 19-2. Can you imagine the Green Bay Packers coming to town having a disputed record?"