My hatred of ESPN has sunk to almost unfathomable depths these days, but I must give them credit for yesterday, and the innovation represented by their "Full Circle" coverage of the Bulls-Heat game.
This is the future of sports broadcasting.
Specifically, I'm referring to the coverage on ESPN2, with the above-the-rim cams and (most importantly) the commentary provided by the studio crew. I realize the above-the-rim cam is dizzying and not for everyone, but the type of commentary provided by the studio crew, which eschewed the conventional play-by-play in favor of a more opinion-heavy approach (the closest thing I can compare it to is a directory's commentary on a DVD, or even an MST3K atmosphere).
For example, they commented on Shaq's approach during the game (not running downcourt on offense a few times), the inability of the Heat guards to get Shaq the ball in a mismatch, the most effective uses of this Shaq rather than the old Shaq; these topics would have never gotten time to breathe under normal play-by-play, they did so here, and the use of the iso-cam to underscore their points was fantastic.
While the commentators themselves weren't the most compelling parts of it (I'm looking at you, Greg Anthony and especially Tim Legler), the concept was fantastic. I think that the standard play-by-play/color guy approach to sports coverage is becoming increasingly outdated with the proliferation of sports knowledge and sources, and that the meta-commentary approach is an amazing improvement.
I remember that ESPN went with this "Full Circle" approach for a Duke-UNC game a few months ago, which I didn't get to see for more than a few minutes without sound, although I was fascinated by the above-the-rim and 360 cameras.
I vaguely remember hearing last year about a cable system providing baseball games (I want to say the White Sox) with another channel offering the same game but with a similar approach to the broadcast. And I think that is the future, a second audio track to go along with the game (the technology already exists with SAP).
Also, I am coming out and begging TNT to use this approach at least once during the playoffs with Ernie, Kenny and the Chuckster.
I'd be curious to know if anyone else watched this presentation on ESPN2 and what they thought?
I liked the camera views, but would have preferred using the play by play guys...although sometimes they'd get caught off guard with an early pass, and have to catch up to the action, but all in all, it was pretty cool, almost like the views if you play NBA Live.
I felt like they kept missing the action while talking about stuff that was unimportant. Sure, I can see that Shaq just scored, but why is the guy telling me how ineffective Shaq is going to be on this drive as he is putting the ball down after rebounding it?
Pippen (I think it was Pippen) seemed to keep repeating the same thing over and over again. It was stuff that would have been OK one time in a 2 minute segment on Sportscenter but it was pretty bad after the fifth sound-bite of it in a row.
I don't know that I needed a fashion report on Zo during gameplay.
They've become an even more interesting soap opera than usual lately... first off the incident with Rafer Alston and Sam Mitchell, and GM Mike Babcock taking Alston's side: http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Basketball/NBA/Toronto/2005/02/08/924624-ap.