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Players Only, Broadcast Baloney

For last night’s Golden State Warriors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder game, TNT favored us with a novel approach to a game broadcast, a twist in the game coverage they call “Players Only.” Meaning, it turns out, that the only people working the game for the network were former players, in this case meaning a broadcast team of Greg Anthony, Kevin McHale, and Rip Hamilton on the call, with Dennis Scott serving as sideline reporter.

Let’s break it down: Players Only = only former players…

which means, Players Only = no professional announcers…

and, no professional announcers = amateur hours

Imagine my surprise, then, when the broadcast turned out to be insightful, informative, and an all around excellent viewing experience.

Of course, you’ll have to imagine that, because that wasn’t the case at all. Naturally, it was the broadcast equivalent of a dumpster fire.

This space has never been particularly admiring of the general crop of broadcasters; there are some favorites out there, but for the most part TV’s announcer population leaves much to be desired. But at least most of those guys are professionals, and there is a difference in what you get from pros versus amateurs–if nothing else, for the fact that pros generally know what they don’t know, and have the good sense not to open their mouths and prove it. The team of Anthony, McHale, and Hamilton demonstrated just how much difference you get when the mikes get handed over to the non-professional set.

It goes without saying that the game call featured a torrent of babbling. Most of those guys are more suited to the studio show format, in which babbling is the coin of the realm. Letting a bunch of non-professional announcers loose on a game broadcast was going to have predictable results, and overtalking the game had to be tops on that list. But you would have at least expected these guys–remember, former players all–to understand the dynamics of a team’s season a little better; in the case of the Warriors, no such thing was on display.

The group made much about the Warriors’ recent struggles, particularly against good teams, since Kevin Durant’s injury. They credited, in general consensus, the fact that Durant has rejoined the team on the bench for recent games with the fact that the Dubs have started to revive the level of their play. Having “big brother” out there encouraging everyone worked wonders for the team, according to the night’s headset crew. They made this claim multiple times, along with the general prescription that the Dubs were just tired during their poor streak.

Huh. Interesting theory. I would have thought that Golden State’s revival–they’ve now won four in a row after pasting the Thunder last night–had more to do with them having just come off a three-game homestand, their first lengthy stretch at home since Durant’s injury. After all, for NBA teams, it’s only when they get extended time on home ground that they can really run practices; and it’s only in practices where a team can make the kind of adjustments the Warriors needed to make in KD’s absence and thereby raise the level of their game.

That seems like the sort of thing that former players would know. Particularly a former player like McHale, who also happens to be a former coach. Yet, none of the Players Only crew said even a peep about that factor in the Dubs righting the ship.

Such insight.

Oh, and the Players Only format applied to the halftime show as well. The less said about that the better.

Hey, TNT: just show the damn game. Don’t try to be “innovative” about it. Yes, I know you’re missing your regular broadcast teams because they’ve been sucked up by the Tournament–but you couldn’t come up with anyone better than last night’s crew, a guy or two who are actual professional announcers?

And people say the Warriors don’t have a deep bench!

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