Things happened at the Australian Open this past week. Significant things. Historic things. Wondrous things. All narrated with customary tennis broadcast dryness and pomp, and occasionally the aural thrill of a Prius exhaust note. I mean, seriously, how can the narration of any major tournament that begins with BBC rumors of a gambling scandal be so blinkin dull sometimes? And yet, it was. Sometimes. To which we might all ask, what happened to the big scandal? And why did the allegations all stem from a match in Cleveland in 1427? Anyway, big things happened. Angelique Kerber beat Serena Williams in a high-quality women’s final. Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray in a one-sided men’s final that proves we should all give up gluten. And the announcers proved once again that you can take a worldwide sport with high-energy action and make it into an episode of Touch. Which at least had Kiefer.
All of which is fine, I guess. Isn’t it? I mean it has to be. It’s been a proven formula for the last five hundred years. Like the two camera angles. Except there’s more competition now than there was in the 1600’s. Now our sport is up against viewer must-see’s like the Pro Bowl, the NHL All-Star Game and of course college hoops, with its 4-minute shot clock and 31-point game totals.
So here’s an idea. Next time there’s a big scandal or even just your garden variety grand slam tournament, get funnier announcers. Like the NBA has. Like the NFL has. Like Golf on TNT has, but not on purpose. Who cares if they know anything about tennis? Who cares if they shook Budge Patty’s hand? Who cares if they had a cerveza with Osuna? I want to be entertained. I want a sport that’s mired in fringe frivolity and on-court joy to be funny. Even Olympic ice-skating, a sport so staid that it makes Tennis look like Arena Lingerie Ultimate Frisbee by comparison, hired Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir. Why can’t we have funny, irrelevant announcers who dress outrageously? Bud Collins’ pants notwithstanding.
Second-serve return stats are only going to bring in so many average sports fans to tennis broadcasts anyway. Maybe four of five if we’re lucky. But humor, or the possibility of humor might bring in six or seven. Which is more. It’s been said that baseball announcers get good at their craft because not much happens in baseball and the games are long and they have to talk. But not about baseball. Tennis matches are long and the announcers talk too. About tennis. Couldn’t we please have a bunch of funny, irrelevant diversions having nothing to do with reaction time to the ball, total inches run in a seventy-five shot rally and what you, the announcer, did back in ’72 every now and then to keep us listening? Sure, right, TV is a visual medium. And isn’t that all the more reason to add some jalapenos to the mix with the commentary?
The answer is yes. Amy Schumer, for instance, could come up with something to say that had absolutely nothing to do with the match we were watching. So could Ellen. So could Tina Fey. So could Kevin Hart. So could Kiefer probably. Look, we know when dude hits a forehand. Or that the first serve that just hit the baseline wasn’t in. Or that 4 – 6 in the third set tiebreaker is a big darned deal. But what about who the players are dating? Or what they’re wearing? Or not wearing? Or who they’re suing? Tennis is too pristine. Too reverent. Too Augusta National. We need some innuendo, conjecture and unsubstantiated rumors. And jokes. And non-sequitars. Like a FOX NEWS debate.
And there’s this to consider too. Comedians being not necessarily tied to the sport wouldn’t have to shill for the players or their own tennis academies or their sponsors either. Not mentioning any names here by the way. They could just be entertaining. And get new viewers to watch. And old viewers to turn up the sound. And maybe say something wonderful and informative. Maybe. They wouldn’t know a forehand from a serve or a tiebreaker from a foot fault, but would it matter? They wouldn’t have to do every match. Just the ones people might watch.
There’s time before the French Open to get everything in place. Long live tennis. Long live Kiefer. And if they can’t get funny announcers, could we maybe get the old ones a piece of bologna for each shoe, and a scandal that lasts at least a week-and-a-half?