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Years ago we were doing a baseball game in Japan. The Detroit Tigers were playing an all- Japan team. We thought it would be a great opportunity to put a camera in the dugout and have Bob Scheffing, who was then the Tiger manager, work as a kind of commentator. As it turned out, the Tigers had been partying all night and were tired as hell come game time. Jim McKay would say, "Now we'll show you the excitement in the dugout," and you'd see a bunch of people yawning or falling asleep. Prior to the game, we told Scheffing that although he'd be wearing a mike, he should do just as he normally would. Well, Bunning is pitching, and he gets in a very slight jam. Scheffing figures he'll help us out, and goes out to the mound. But when he gets there he can't think of anything to say. "Jim," he finally tells Bunning, "I want you to get this guy out." Bunning almost fell off the mound laughing.
Some promoters act like they are guarding their virginity when we come into town. They're afraid we are going to ask them to fix the outcome. But the sports that are overly eager to cooperate work against you, too. A promoter who lets you do everything you want is like a girl who gives too much away too readily—it cheapens the reputation. An event gains stature when it stays the way it is. Of course, the reductio ad absurdum would be to set up house leagues and play in a television studio. It might be a lot cheaper.
The wise use of television has to stimulate attendance, as it has done in golf and pro football. If it's a good attraction people would much rather watch it in person. But television can hurt the gates of less successful enterprises. Now that CBS is going to telecast at least one NFL game every Sunday in every market there may be a problem in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, where they don't sell seats.
The networks need something to distinguish themselves. CBS's image doesn't depend on The Beverly Hillbillies, nor is NBC's based on Get Smart. The image is built on news and sports. Having exclusive rights to the NFL or the World Series or the Army-Navy game is damned near like owning a space shot or the Pope's visit. It has transcended the normal concept of a sports event and become nearly a national institution. Which brings up the question of exclusivity. In England the top four or five sporting events are available by law to anyone who wants to cover them. This, of course, is what occurs in news, most vividly on election night. In theory, people watch the network that is doing the best job. Eventually, I'm in favor of free access in sports as well, but the '68 Olympics, which ABC is going to cover live from Mexico City, will be better served by exclusivity. If none of the networks had purchased the rights to the Olympics, it would not get as thorough coverage, since it would be competing with the presidential campaign, which occurs at the same time.
The concept of exclusivity will have to be reexamined because of the use of other than live telecasts. If NBC has the rights to the World Series and if we want to do a two-minute recap on the 11 o'clock news, NBC doesn't really care. It's traditionally free. But suppose we're televising the Prix de l' Arc de Triomphe and suppose a U.S. horse wins and we plan to use the race on Wide World the following week. If NBC uses a minute, or even 30 seconds, of the race on their 11 o'clock news, they have the whole thing, yet we paid for it. Of course, we're prohibited from getting together and saying you take the NCAA and I'll take the NFL, which is restraint of trade and collusion. As for pooling, pooling's for losers.
Overexposure isn't simply television eating up material but sports promoters and organizations trying to drain every last cent out of a product. A network doesn't make much money on big packages, but they set up the other sports, and advertisers like to be with a winner. The only way CBS could get the money back it spent for the NFL was to expand the number of games, but they don't want to sell a million games to break even. To amortize the money we spent to buy the rights to our major golf tournaments we've gone from an hour to an hour and a half on Saturday, and from an hour and a half on Sunday to two hours.
Baseball is a game that was designed to be played on a sunny afternoon at Wrigley Field in the 1920s, not on a 21-inch screen. It is a game of sporadic action interspersed with long lulls. Last year we tried rerunning plays in slow motion. It was redundant. On the other hand, even if nothing is happening in football, there is an aura of anticipation. The huddle is intellectually stimulating. What are they going to do next? You get a semblance of this when the manager goes out to the mound to talk to the pitcher, but how many times does it happen? And the pace and rhythm of football create an instant aura of action. Everyone in baseball walks everywhere. In football, even when nothing is happening, there is the appearance of action. Guys run.
The unique thing about baseball is that it is the only major sport where the function of the principal figure—the pitcher—is to inhibit the action. He is a defensive, anti-action kind of personage, who is, perhaps, analogous in football not to the quarterback but to the middle linebacker. The quarterback stimulates and motivates the action. If the pitcher is doing his job well, nothing happens, which, from the standpoint of television, is deadly.
The geometric beauty of the baseball field doesn't record on the television screen. It's oddly shaped, its ratio is wrong for our purposes. Television has to cover sectors of the diamond. Instead of being able to watch a player, you see him only in the middle of a play, so you never get to know him well unless he is particularly distinctive.
Athletes have a way of understating their achievements. In baseball this is almost a fetish. When a guy hits a home run, he puts his head down, jogs around the bases and then hides in the dugout. When a team wins, it rushes off the field as fast as it can. When Don Larsen pitched his perfect game in the World Series he would have disappeared in two seconds if Berra hadn't jumped into his arms. The moment of exultation is denied to the fans. The excitement takes place out of view of the crowd.