Monday, October 11, 2010

Amateur Hour

I heard from a few sources that the Islanders had moved their radio broadcasts to a new outlet (or outlets).  Their night games will now be on WMJC, 94.3 FM, while the day games will be heard on WHLI, 1100 AM.

That, friends, is a college radio station.  Read that again.  College.  Radio.  Station.

Have a look at the official press release from the Islanders.  Let’s highlight a key element:
Former color commentator, Chris King will move over to the play-by-play position and various Hofstra broadcast students will have the opportunity to serve as the color analysts and sideline reporters throughout the season.
Yes, you read that correctly.  Students will be the color analysts.

Now have a look at the thoughts of Eric Mirlis, who worked for the Islanders at one time, and gave all of this significant thought.

I don’t agree with everything he said.  First of all, I have no issues with the idea of a simulcast.  Sure, it’s the cheap-o approach, but the Dodgers use it in LA with some bum named Scully (granted, it’s baseball and much different than hockey).  There are other hockey teams that use the simulcast approach also.  So I don’t think that’s as terrible as Eric points out.

I also quarrel with the idea of students hosting the non-game elements (pregame, intermissions and so on).  Maybe not as much as I object to them serving as the color commentator, but I still think it’s laughable.  Have you ever listened to college radio?  I get to listen to some of the very best, on WFUV (Fordham University) in New York, and they produce some wonderful sports broadcasts.  Yet, sorry to say, they still sound like college students.  Young.  Inexperienced.  Raw.  To be clear – not unprofessional per se.  To an extent, that’s OK for college radio.  But not for the NHL.  Not for a so-called “professional” organization.

College students do not have the savvy.  They don’t have the instinct at that point.  They’re not ready for the pros.  Sure, I’m generalizing, but my point stands.  I know there is the rare diamond in the rough.  They’re students and they sound like it.  I see the same thing when I teach at CSB.  I hear the same in the productions from WFUV (and again, they’re on the high end of the scale).  In Syracuse, the Orange (and they should still be the Orangemen, but I digress) broadcast both via a student station and with “pro” announcers.  In other words, they get it.

Also, I understand that Hofstra has a top flight communication program.  No question about that.

Full disclosure – WGCH carried some of Hofstra’s basketball games last year, which I found odd, and considering my unapologetic dedication to our true LOCAL sports broadcasts (you know, like GREENWICH sporting events), it struck a nerve.  Yet we’ve been expanding our sports for years (the Red Sox…blech…the Patriots…blech…along with Fairfield basketball and Hofstra) and I get it – these are business decisions.

Yet for the Islanders to go this route shows me that they accept that they are metro New York’s least important franchise (I understand that they had a nice comeback to beat the Rangers on Monday, and I still have a fondness for the teams that I watched as a kid).  Still, the media ignores them, and they have definitively a minute fan base at best.

I wish them well.  That includes the broadcasters (including the students).  Because if this story finds some legs, these broadcasts will be heavily scrutinized.  Otherwise, it’s the Islanders, and no one will care.

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