Sideline reporters: Best or worst job?

Is there a better or worse gig in sports than being a sideline reporter?

On the one hand, a sideline reporter gets to spend the majority of time close to the action and has a degree of access to coaches and players. On the other hand, a sideline reporter gets very little camera time and is viewed as a nuisance by some coaches.

I?ve got mixed feelings about sideline reporters. Much of what they tell us, such as anecdotes about players, brief talks with a coach coming out of the tunnel or on to the court at halftime, could be passed along to the announcers and said by them.

There?s also some truth to the fact that if you have sideline reporters at the sporting event, you feel obligated to use them. Some network executive is probably thinking, ?Here I?ve spent all that money on sideline reporters and they are just sitting there. I guess I had better use them.?

Jim Lampley is considered to be the first sideline reporter. Lampley says the job grew out of the wreckage of the 1972 Munich Olympics, when new wireless technology was used in ABC?s coverage of the Israeli hostage crisis and subsequent massacre.

Months later, TV execs wondered if reporting would also work in a football stadium, which was first done when UCLA played Tennes?see in 1974. The rest is history.

Sideline reporting isn?t limited to football anymore. It has expanded to most major sports, including basketball, baseball and golf. Football can justify having a sideline reporter for injury updates alone.

The best case scenario is for a sideline reporter to be the eyes and ears for the broadcasters high up in the announcing booth. The best sideline reporters are constantly communicating information to the booth, even if they don?t get on the air.

There?s little doubt that the quality of sideline reporting talent is wildly uneven. CBS has even gone as far as eliminating the position during the NFL regular season.

Coaches can help or hinder the process. Coaches should understand that TV pays big bucks to broadcast sporting events. Nowadays that means TV has the right to have sideline reporters talking to coaches at halftime and even during some sporting events.

Can you imagine if there had been sideline reporters during Vince Lombardi?s era? Talk about a scary thought.

It?s easy to be cynical and ask, ?When is the last time you learned something useful from a sideline reporter or an interaction they had with someone??

Some of the information gleaned is quite useless, such as how many cups of water quarterback Tom Brady had on the sideline during the previous timeout. Never mind that a game-changing turnover has taken place on the field. At least we knew Brady was well-hydrated.

The halftime talk with coaches is frequently uncomfortable. The coach wants to hurry to the locker room but has to wait while a reporter asks two or three questions.

A few shrewd coaches take the opportunity to show a little personality and have fun with it. Others give bland answers to obvious questions.

Reporter: ?Coach, the other team is shooting the ball very well. How can you slow them down??

Coach: ?We have to quit letting them take open shots.?

Reporter: ?Thanks, coach.?

I remember watching Kansas State coach Bill Snyder doing a halftime interview on TV once. He barely slowed down, but as I remember it, he kept walking and talking.

Don?t television networks understand that there are halftime speeches being delayed?

Then there?s the inevitable obvious question asked of the winning coach after a game.

Reporter: ?So how important was this win to your team??

Coach: ?I would say it was pretty important. If we had lost, we would have been out of the NCAA tournament.?

Talk about insightful.

But I have no doubt it?s a tough job. How do you conduct an interview in 30-45 seconds with people who would rather be somewhere else?

The best sideline reporters are probably like the best game officials; you hardly notice them.

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