The high school football season is under way, and local TV coverage is ramping up — which is mostly a good thing.
It’s a great thing for the players. Few of them are going to be playing in televised college games; fewer still in the pros. So having games on TV or highlights on the news is a big deal.
Even if they sometimes take a back seat to local stations promoting themselves.
We’ve all seen it. Local sportscasters who frolic with cheerleaders and eat cakes baked in their honor instead of spending precious airtime showing us actual football.
So it was with some trepidation that I sat down to watch the recent Friday and Saturday editions of KSL’s "Game Night Live." Which both met my low expectations and greatly exceeded them.
Yes, there was the requisite self-promotion. Yes, there was some goofy, pointless banter between Rod Zundel and Jeremiah Jensen.
But there were good features, great highlights and, for the most part, a genuine respect for high school football.
Jensen had a very nice feature on former BYU/NFL running back Fahu Tahi, who’s now an assistant coach at Granger High. Saturday’s show did a good job wrapping up the Week 1 results and included a fantastic highlights package that could be a lesson on how to do TV sports right.
Not that all was well. One thing local TV rarely does well is comedy, and Friday was no exception.
Having cheerleaders chug soda was bad. But when AJ Carson said to a group of teenage cheerleaders, "By the way, it should be noted that as a disc jockey on 97.1 ZHT, it’s expected to be a little bit of a ladies’ man. So, did I do OK or what?" That was pretty creepy.
There’s something to be said for assuming your audience has some basic familiarity with high school football and not over-explaining everything.
On the other hand, "Game Night Live" repeatedly referenced the departure of former Timpview football coach Louis Wong without once explaining that he was suspended, fired and ultimately allowed to resign after a state audit that alleged fiscal irresponsibility and violations of district and state policy in the Timpview football program.
"He was let go, fired, resigned, however you want to call it, after a little bit of trouble last year," Zundel said on Friday. And on Saturday, viewers were told he was "forced to resign" without explanation.
That was a disservice to both viewers and Wong.
But the overwhelming impression after watching the Friday and Saturday editions of "Game Night Live" is that the latter was much better than the former simply because of when it aired. On Friday, Zundel and Jensen didn’t have a whole lot to talk about. And at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, aren’t a lot of the people who care about high school football on their way to their seats in the stadiums?
What nobody at KSL made clear on Friday until 26 minutes into a 30-minute show was that that edition of "Game Night Live" was a pregame for online coverage of the Timpview-Alta game.
Not that there’s anything wrong with streaming coverage of a game. But unless you knew beforehand, it sounded very much like a pregame for a telecast on Channel 5.
Promoting high school football is a great thing. Misleading viewers — even inadvertently — is not.
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