We all had a good laugh when Washington Wizards play-by-play man Steve Buckhantz dusted off his patented "dagger!" call despite Trevor Ariza's (very nice looking) airball to end the Wizards' game on Wednesday night. The misplaced enthusiasm was funny but, as we noted at the time, you couldn't really blame Buckhantz—from his angle, it sure looked a swish.
So why exactly does the guy whose job it is to watch basketball and describe the action at game-speed sit in a place where he can't see the home team's hoop in the second half? Awful Announcing asked an anonymous veteran NBA announcer, and he gave an answer that, in retrospect, we should have guessed: team owners want more money.
Philadelphia was the first, Washington this year was the second to move TV off of its traditional courtside location. More will be coming in future years I have no doubt. Both have been used as radio locations for years. This dates back to 2006, on what we call "that black day" when teams (lobbied by owners) were allowed to convert their radio broadcast locations into premium seating for big money.
Some arenas were equipped with space at suite level, giving you a long view, but unobstructed. Others were not, so the broadcasts were moved either way up high, off to an angle, or both. It started with about ten teams doing it, now I think we're at 22 or 23 who've done it.
So for TV, yes, Washington is the absolute worst, Phily is high and pretty off center, but the angle isn't as harsh. For radio, Dallas, Denver and New York are high, so is Washington. Places like Atlanta and Miami offer a decent view but you're in fan aisles and there's no security.
He goes on to note, "Management can do whatever they want to make as much money as they can. I just don't like to see my colleagues take the fall for it." Buckhantz himself spoke to the DC Sports Bog and made similar, if more diplomatic, statements about the recent changes:
"It helps in the sense that you're elevated," he said. "When you're on the court, you're right down there. You're low. So the positive is that you're elevated. Where you're at a disadvantage are certain angles, and also the disassociation with the game. You don't hear the coaches, you don't hear the players, you don't hear the referees, sometimes you don't hear the calls on the court. So you are disengaged quite a bit. And what I'm learning is, which I didn't offer very much last night, is you have to try to be a little bit more patient, because there are times when you see something that you thought you saw but you didn't see it."
It seems like a classic example of cutting off your nose to spite your face— the quality of the broadcast suffers for the sake of a few more courtside seats, and over time, viewers at home could lose interest—except that owners can enforce the shift without alienating fans because of the talent and perseverance of their broadcasters. We weren't even aware of the cumbersome new seating arrangements until Buckhantz (and George Blaha, the Pistons play-by-play announcer who called the shot the same way) slipped up on Wednesday.
Who'd have thought that top-level management would be able to line its pockets by progressively squeezing employees and relying on their workers' dignity and professionalism to save face for the company? Oh, right.