Are sports on TV becoming more like a TV reality show? That's what at least one coach is suggesting.
TV critics complain that massive editing help give reality TV the "drama" it needs to draw in viewers. But business gets in the way as well. Cast members may need to talk up a makeup brand on "America's Next Top Model" or a new Burger King meal needing marketing help on "The Apprentice."
"Cast members" on sporting events might have to do their part as well when not enough of those 20 some-odd commercial breaks get into a telecast. Could ESPN have been asking the coaches during the Tennessee Titans 23-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on "Monday Night Football" to slow things up, call some late-game time-outs so the network could work in more commercials?
Titans coach Jeff Fisher seemed to suggest this was going on. He said in a TV interview that "it's the first time" he'd heard of coaches being asked to call timeouts.
ESPN and Disney executives said that was not the case. Fisher clarified in a radio interview, "What happens at [the] two-minute warning, the NFL gives you the status of TV, and with commercials they said 'we're two behind.'" He added: "ESPN never came to me and said to call a timeout." Okay, we get that. But why is ESPN even telling Fisher that "we're two behind"? What does that have to do with Fisher's running of his football game? Further explanation is needed.
Television is all about managing content, and sports leagues want to put on the most dramatic stuff available. Big rivalries, major media markets going head to head, and Brett Favre returning to play his old teams, Green Bay Packers, or the New York Jets, for example -- make for good stories.
But the league also needs to conduct advertising business. Do coaches need to be cognizant of his? If anything, the alleged ESPN action seems to breach those communications lines between business and content, in this case unscripted sports content.
A fumble, for sure, in the eyes of football fans. The league says it's looking into it.