New BWW Series: TRANSLATING SPORTS: Sports Headlines for Theater Fans
Growing up, I had three passions, theatre, sports, and pro wrestling; today, in my inaugural "Translating Sports" column, I am going to discuss all three. You can either look at this as the culmination of all of my childhood hopes and dreams, or as proof that my tastes and maturity level has not progressed since I was 12-years-old. I will let you decide after reading the column.
First thing's first, what is "Translating Sports?" In this space each week (or thereabouts), I will discuss sports headlines in a way that non-sports fans can understand. The goal is to provide you with enough information and context so that your eyes don't completely glaze over and roll into the back of your head when friends or coworkers start discussing the increased use of instant replay in baseball, the negative impact of helmet-to-helmet hits in football, or Lebron's receding hairline. While there are many types of people who have no interest in sports (Dungeons and Dragons Grand Wizards, Renaissance Fair beer wenches, guys who obsess over their Linux operating system), this is a Broadway World site, so I will try to cater my allusions to the theatre dorks amongst us.
And yes, perceptive Twitter users might recall that Tony and Grammy winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (@lin_manuel) occassionally tweets theatre-sports comparisons when he is not otherwise engaged in creating awesomeness, but just because Lin did it first (and better) doesn't mean that I'm not allowed to disscuss sports and theatre at the same time. No one accused Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, and Stephen Sondheim of 'ripping off' Shakespeare when they wrote WEST SIDE STORY. So if it makes you feel better, you can just consider this an adaptation of the same source material.
Now that we've got the intros out of the way, we will be discussing two major issues in the sports world this week. The first is the August 17th launches of two new sports broadcasting endeavors that look to take a bite out of ESPN's on-air dominance. ESPN, which not so humbly refers to itself as "The Worldwide Leader," is such a behemoth that there hasn't been an attempt to dethrone them in over a decade.
The, thusfar, more successful of the two launches saw NBC, and its cable NBC Sports Network, become America's home for soccer's English Premiere League (which, thanks to a $187 million product placement deal, is also known as Barclays Premiere League). Now you might think, "This is 'Merica, we like real football here, why would we watch that sissy Euro-football?"
Well, I have five reasons for theatre people to watch soccer:
1) Soccer fans love coordinated chants and songs. Right up our alley, right?
2) Listening to the entirely British announcing teams, led by the fantastic Rebecca Lowe, will give you plenty of opportunities to practice your various British dialects. From Shakespeare to OLIVER! all theatre people think that they can do perfect British accents.
3) Theatre people tend to be outsiders, we tend to look for ways to stand out in a crowd; whether it is with goth makeup, or bursting into song in the most inappropriate times and places. And frankly, soccer is the black trenchcoat of American sports, so liking it just kind of feels right.
4) Despite our insatiable need to have people staring at us, theatre people are also debilitatingly and incurably self-conscious. Therefore, watching the EPL will allow us to fit in with the estimated 4.7 billion worldwide viewers the league has every year.
5) Finally, British soccer fans wear scarves, colorful scarves. And theatre people love scarves, right Julia Houston?
One final bit of soccer advice, if you are watching a game with other people, and the opposing team scores, just yell, "He was offsides!" 90% of people have no real idea how that rule works anyway.
The second broadcasting story of the past week was the launch of Fox Sports 1, Rupert Murdoch's answer to the mammoth ESPN. Think about it this way, ESPN is the Shuberts, Jujamcyn, and Nederlanders combined. All other cable sports networks are fighting for the Circle in the Square, Foxwoods, and New Amsterdam scraps. ESPN so dominates that market that previous attempts to compete have either been quickly abandoned, or relegated to niche organizations.
FS1 is attempting to appeal to a younger audience, promising a "fun" approach to sports. The two most hyped shows on the new network are the Regis Philbin (yes, that Regis Philbin) led Crowd Goes Wild and SPORTSCENTER-lite FOX SPORTS LIVE. Now, I love me some Regis, but I really thought that a nearly 82-year-old man would feel very uncomfortable on a panel with five 20 and 30-somethings; unfortunately, Regis was the only thing about that show that was even remotely watchable. Reege was in visible pain watching the inane antics of his co-hosts. During their first episode, the other members of the show bought Regis a harness raising horse (not so cleverly named Regis the Horse) and spent 15 minutes comparing him to his namesake, before watching his first race, which he won.
Now, Fox Sports Live is a slightly different story. They hired two beloved Canadian sports anchors (Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole, pictured left in top hats and mink coats) to helm the show, and like I said on Twitter while watching their premiere, I heard they "were gonna be good, but didn't realize they were Dan Rydell & Casey McCall good! #SportsNight" And anything that makes me think of an Aaron Sorkin show (other than STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP) is a really good thing.