Saturday, January 22, 2005

Armen Keteyian--Another TV Sports Reporter Tells It Like It Ain't

I was listening to ESPN Radio early this morning. The show was something called "Sports Byline USA" hosted by someone named Ron Barr. His featured guest was TV sports football reporter Armen Keteyian. I think Keteyian is with CBS now, but he's been with ESPN, and like all of these guys, he seems to show up wherever sports are being discussed no matter what their affiliation. It's the Big Fraternity, don't ya know.

Keteyian seems like a reasonably intelligent guy. But like many a sports reporter, he's a legend in his own mind. Barr asked Keteyian set-up questions about his work, which gave Keteyian ample opportunity to wax on about how tough it is. Keteyian earnestly filled us in on the challenges of coming up with insightful stuff to spew in the 20-second chunks of time he gets as a sideline wonk. He further went on to inform us of the challenges of being outside when it's really cold. He kissed the ass of fellow sideline reporter, ABC's Michele Tafoya, talking about "what a great job she does." And then he went on to tell us about the book he's co-written with comedian George Lopez. Lopez' life story or something.

I don't know whether to yawn, laugh or cry. I hate to disabuse these guys of their highfalutin' notions--but someone has to do it. There seems to be this belief among sports reporters that theirs is a profession that requires incredible brains and skill, as if the Big Fraternity is justified because, after all, these are the creme de la creme of journalism. They want us to think they are an elite group. But they're only elite in that they are a tightly knit group, very cautious of how they're perceived and extremely protective of their turf. What these guys really know is that you could take any person with a reasonable amount of reporting experience (of any kind) and an average brain, and shove them in front of a camera and have them spew some crud about "Terrell Owens is headed to the locker room, Jim...We'll try to get the preliminary word on his injury as soon as we can, but clearly he won't be returning to the game. As you just saw, Owens was limping hard as he left the field, and the Eagles are going to have to have their other wide receivers step up and take up the slack for the rest of the afternoon. Back to you, Jim..."

The truth is that 90% of that sideline reporting stuff is crap. It's annoying show-biz is what it is. And if Armen Keteyian had the balls to tell it like it is, he'd admit that. But no, saith he, this is tough work. This requires special skills, special camera presence, special insights... Uh, no, Armen...It's just a job, one that probably pays pretty well and which you are damn lucky to have. Of course, Keteyian knows he's lucky and that there are probably a few thousand guys and gals all over the country who could step into that position. Oh sure, some of them wouldn't be as poised as he is. Not at first. But many would be. And those that aren't could probably be trained to do it. Give 'em a little experience, let 'em screw up for a while--like the networks readily allow for ex-jocks who want cushy broadcasting slots--and soon enough you'd have a reasonably competent humanoid who knows how to work on a 20-second demi-insight and then deliver it with tons of faux enthusiasm. Really, I don't mind that these guys have these dumbass insubstantial jobs. What I mind is them going on radio with other sports interviewers and trying to create this image of uniquely gifted pro. It's a crock.

And now, Armen, tell us what you really think of Michele Tafoya. I mean, if Armen considers himself a highly challenged professional journalist, then what does he think when Tafoya spews even less substantial crap than he does? Here's a fantasy sample of a Tafoya 20-second "report": "Al, John....Donovan McNabb looked up into the stands tonight and saw that his mother wasn't sitting in her usual seat in Section 43, Row 7, Seat 19. He became a little concerned, until an Eagles press aide came down to the sideline to inform him that she'd run into a traffic jam on the Schuylkill Expressway, where a tractor-trailer had overturned. Luckily, she had her cell phone with her, was able to call the Eagles front office, and got the message down here to her son. By kickoff time, she was sitting in her customary seat." (Go ahead, you may roll your eyes. I do.)

Tafoya's rap is no different than that of other sideline babes, like Suzy Kolber or Melissa Stark. I suppose she's somewhat better than her predecessor, Lisa Guerrero, who I guess kinda didn't make the grade for the ABC Sports execs. But the fact is that Tafoya, though older and supposedly a journalist projecting more seriousness, rattles on with a lot of mindless crap. And yes, like Keteyian, she's eminently replaceable. You don't need a genius to spew crap. And, while Tafoya is a pleasant-enough screen presence, she's no babe like Stark was. At least if we're destined to get nothing but crap, the networks could package it up with the foxy likes of Stark. If I've gotta look at the screen while I get this crap, I want to look at maximized "babishness." I don't think that's too much to ask.

As for Keteyian writing a book with George Lopez, all I can say is, "What does it feel like to be a journalistic whore, Armen?"

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