Long, long ago, in a lifetime far, far away, I used to work in TV sports production. My husband still does, although he doesn’t work on live events any more. When we watch TV sports at home, we’re not just watching the action. We’re watching “the show.” In more recent years, I’ve become more aware of the storytelling thread running through live events, both the short stories and the larger plot arcs, as well as the “characters” involved.
Anyway, here are some of the things I liked in the TV coverage of the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Maybe you noticed some of them, too?
Wider shots in the Post Parade
Cameras this year have been framing horses so we could see their more of their hooves and legs during the post parade. In the past, the lower third graphic covered much of a horse’s legs. Horse people and armchair handicappers who know horses like to assess a horse’s condition. The old saying is, “No hoof, no horse.” Actually, I noticed those wider shots in the post parade on all the Derby prep race coverage, too, so don’t think it went unnoticed.
Realistic Call to the Post
During the Derby undercard, I noticed the call to the post sounding poignantly haunting, as if it were rolling across the hills to the distant barns, a grace note for this race that’s just as much about tradition and emotion as the record books and the purse. Then, my TV action froze. Footsteps pounded up our basement steps. My TV sports engineer husband stood in the doorway of the living room. “Did you hear that?” he said with a beaming smile. “That’s exactly how it sounds at the track. They did it!”
The goal of TV sports broadcasting is to make you feel as if you’re there on the scene. So, NBC audio team, ya nailed it. He’s a tough one to impress. We’ve got Emmys on our sideboard, and they’re not mine, ya dig? So, great job!
Your next live audio coverage challenge, should you decide to accept? The crowd roar Kentucky Derby jockeys call “the wall of noise,” when they ride out of the tunnel to the track. However, home consumer technology may have to develop a household version of “Sensurround.”
Michelle Beadle dared to wear black leather to the Kentucky Derby, usually a sea of pastels. Actually, her outfit was a wise choice for the day, considering the chill. Mostly, though, I appreciate how game she is, the lengths she’ll go to tell a story and the fun she seems to have. She’s willing to wear a hazmat suit and “shake hands” with Derby contender Oxbow, plus call a race to show how difficult it is. I loved her “horsenalities” story, if I may borrow that term from Pat Parelli. Thanks, Michelle!
I also enjoyed the wide variety of feature stories, including
- what the horses originally sold for and their baby pics.
- Donna Barton Brothers demonstrating that a sloppy track isn’t sloppy all the way across. She’s another game reporter because she sank almost to her ankles about where Orb later hammered through to cross the finish line. He made it look easy.
- the four World War II veterans who’d been part of the Normandy Invasion then watching the horse Normandy Invasion run from their aerie in Millionaire’s Row.
Happy at last
For several years, Gary Stevens rocked that TV commentator’s suit, but he always appeared on the edge of his seat. Now that he’s back in racing silks, goggles and body armor, his smiles reach his eyes, even in a post race interview after a Kentucky Derby in which his horse finished just out of the money. I also suspect he’s back where he’s happiest – making split-second decisions on the back of a horse running 40 mph with his face in the wind.
In one of my favorite feature stories, as Goldencents jockey Kevin Krigger mentioned in his feature interview, horse racing can be a sport that invites new faces. The Kentucky Derby is when racing dusts off the welcome mat and allows you to choose your door, your gateway to the sport. Will you come to the race for the action? The traditions? The stories? The party? The fashion? The interactivity? To match wits with the handicappers? Or to marvel at the horses and jockeys? Take your pick. You don’t have to settle for just one thing, either. It’s all there.
TV coverage now gives us a peek at each aspect of the sport.