ESPN makes a dizzy choice for UK game

I felt nauseous watching the Kentucky-Mississippi State basketball game last night on TV. Not because of the Wildcats’ sluggish play that allowed the Bulldogs to dictate the game for the first half, until MSU coach Rick Stansbury went nuts and helped the Cats cut into the Dogs’ five-point lead.

No, I got sick to my stomach trying to figure out what I was seeing on my TV. It seems ESPN, in all its wisdom, fastened a camera to the ceiling, apparently because the sports broadcasting giant thought viewing the game like a pigeon on a rafter is a breakthrough.

As a former M-I sportswriter for 30-plus years, I’ve seen over a couple thousand games at all levels and never once thought – or had someone tell me – that the game would be better viewed from a blimp.

ESPN’s overhead shot was intended, I guess, to allow the home viewer to see how plays developed. Hmm, I thought that’s what instant replay and slo-mo was for. Watching a game looking down on players’ heads is just plain stupid.

And these ESPN folks are the best and brightest in their field? Did they not give Vertigo Cam a look-see ahead of time? If they did, did they not realize that humans weren’t meant to watch ballgames that way?

There was absolutely no perspective. I couldn’t tell what was going on, and trust me, I’ve seen sports on TV before. Maybe there’s a reason why putting a camera about 15 rows up and viewing the game like a fan in a seat, not on a cloud, has been used all these years. Because IT WORKS. It’s just that simple.

But ESPN didn’t just show us long stretches of the game from directly above, they compounded the problem when they switched off of that camera to what I assume was a floor camera. OK, now I was really getting dizzy and vomity.

The problem with floor-level cameras is that they like to follow close-up movement, including the flight of the ball. The camera is always jerking one way or the other in split seconds. I don’t watch ballgames on TV to see simulated thrill rides.

You might say, well, when you’re at a game, your eyes move rapidly and take in a lot of stuff in split seconds. True, but I’m controlling what I look at and I do it at my own speed, not like some camera goof trying to make watching a game at ground level look like a ramped-up chase scene.

Finally, in the game’s last few minutes, we saw more of the traditional view of the game. Thank you, ESPN, for regaining your senses.

I’m not against change. But being different doesn’t mean being smart. Last night in Rupp Arena, ESPN tried something different, and it was way wrong. At that, they succeeded.

Oh, and one more thing, ESPN. We don’t need games in 3-D.

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