Fair and balanced


By Joe Rector

For those of us who are UT fans, nothing makes for a better New Year than having the Vols play in a bowl and beat the opponent soundly. That’s especially true when the other team’s coach belittled our players a couple of weeks ago.

I used to attend games. A friend traveled to every home game from Memphis, and he told me that if he could drive across the state then I could travel across the city to watch Tennessee play. I sat through ark-building rains, toe-freezing cold, and alcohol-befuddled fans. At the same time, I’ve stood in a snaking line to use the restroom, after which I bought an overpriced hotdog and coke and returned to a one-cheek-wide seat. At some point, I simply put my foot down and said, “No more!” The crowds made my claustrophobia flare, and I couldn’t take it anymore.

Since that time, I’ve watched my favorite team on television. Because some games weren’t available, I paid extra for sports programming that aired games. My behind sat in a recliner that fit my body and allowed me to lean back when things didn’t go so well. Trips to the restroom took less time, and the facilities were much cleaner. Snacks were hot and much cheaper. The bottom line was that I became a better fan and enjoyed games more.

Over the years, watching UT play on television presented some problems. Sometimes the designated channels for the games were stuck on earlier unfinished contests. On occasion, games have been broadcast too late for fans.

The biggest obstacles that Tennessee teams face are the announcers who cover the games. For years, CBS has covered the SEC feature game. We fans listened to “Verne and Gary” in years past. Neither man cared much for the Big Orange, although Verne was a bit kinder than the other man. Gary made several comments that offended UT fans. He praised other teams while shooting darts at Vol players and coaches. Some were warranted, but most showed the bias that this announcer has against our state’s school. Verne has retired, but most folks wish Gary had left instead. His criticisms of UT have continued, even during a year when the team won 10 games and the Orange Bowl.

The dislike for Tennessee teams is just as apparent in games aired by sports channels. Most recently, Tennessee took on Clemson in their bowl game. One of the announcers was a former quarterback for Alabama, and he lavished praise on the Tiger’s quarterback throughout the game. Fewer good words were spoken for Joe Milton. During one segment, the two men in the booth oohed and aahed about Clemson while Tennessee moved the ball down the field. Positive words were finally uttered after the Vols soundly defeated Clemson. Still, the talking heads gushed again about the future of the Clemson team.

Tennessee fans don’t expect announcers to be perfect. We welcome criticism when the team performs poorly or individual players do the wrong things. The rest of the time, we simply ask that the broadcasters be unbiased. We don’t want to hear them discuss how lucky the team is or how the officials are helping the team.

UT fans are proud of the team and thankful for the coaches. What they are looking for is a team of announcers that present the game and other special plays. That shouldn’t be too difficult. Like the news, fans want it without editorial comments. Maybe networks can work on that for the coming year.