Fox's NFL director lets moment unfold

Media Watch

September 17, 1998|By MILTON KENT

NEW YORK -- To Sandy Grossman's way of thinking, the less the viewer knows, the better.

That is to say, if the home audience has a feel for how many cameras Grossman, Fox's lead NFL director, has at his disposal during a telecast, he feels he's not doing his job properly.

"If they say, 'Oh, that guy's got 18 or 27 cameras,' then I'm over-cutting or making them much too aware," Grossman said recently at a meeting of Fox's top NFL personnel. "The telecast should be seamless at home. You should be comfortable and be able to watch it and not be bothered by too much cutting."

What's odd about Grossman's philosophy is that as the director assigned to Fox's No. 1 team, along with announcers Pat Summerall and John Madden and producer Robert Stenner, he usually has the most equipment to work with.

At any given game, Grossman, an eight-time Emmy winner who decides which pictures get on the air and when, has 12 cameras at his disposal, the most of any of the Fox or CBS crews that work Sunday afternoons.

The difference, though, comes with Grossman's more than 30 years' directing experience. The years have taught him that it's OK to let a moment develop and speak for itself, rather than rush to something that might not be as powerful.

"Directors have a tendency not to let it play out," said Grossman, who has done hockey and basketball on a network level as well. "We're in such a hurry to get to the next shot that what they had to start with is probably better than anything they could have shown.

"They're busy looking ahead, then all of a sudden, maybe a guy took a swing at somebody right in the middle of your frame, but they're going somewhere else because they weren't watching that. You have to have the discipline to know where you are and make sure that's not where you want to be before you go someplace else."

You say to-ma-to

For those who believe that the kaleidoscope of numbers can bend light in multiple directions, try this on for size:

Through the first two Sundays of season-long coverage, ESPN's prime-time NFL package is averaging 7 percent below what TNT's first two games drew last year.

When that fact was made known yesterday, ESPN rushed out stats that show that its overall prime-time ratings for the month of September are up 56 percent and its 24-hour rating is up 50 percent from this time last year, thanks in no small part to having the NFL all year, rather than just half a season.

In addition, the presence of football, not to mention all the attention that the Great Home Run Chase has attracted, has driven up the ratings for shows like "SportsCenter" and "NFL Prime Time."

Trashy read

You would have thought that with all the heat Sports Illustrated took a few months ago for its cover story on deadbeat dads in sports that it would tread lightly through that minefield, right?

Well, there was Michael Silver marching right through the war zone in last week's edition, in a story on the San Francisco 49ers' offense, noting that it "already looks more potent than Shawn Kemp with a fistful of Viagra."

Yes, Kemp apparently has shirked his paternal duties, but what did that have to do with the 49ers' offense? It was a gratuitous and cheap shot taken by the same writer whose paean to the physical attributes of tennis player Anna Kournikova belonged in a girlie magazine, rather than a heretofore respected sports weekly.

History lessons

If you have access to CNN/SI, or know someone who does, it will be well worth the effort to gas up the VCR for tonight's 9 o'clock airing of "Hank Aaron: Chasing The Dream," an Academy Award-nominated documentary of the career home run king's pursuit of the record.

By the way, former welterweight champion and Maryland native Sugar Ray Leonard has joined ESPN Classic as a commentator. Leonard, a 1976 Olympic gold medalist, will make his first appearance in November and will talk about his and other fights.

Week's ratings

The ratings for the top 10 most-watched sporting events on broadcast television in Baltimore last week:

Event, Day, Ch., R/S

Ravens-Jets, Sun., 13, 12.9/31

Ravens postgame, Sun., 13, 11.6/26

49ers-Redskins, Mon., 2, 10.1/16

Orioles-Angels, Fri., 13, 9.4/17

Cowboys-Broncos, Sun., 45, 7.7/16

Orioles-Angels, Sat., 45, 5.7/15

"Mon. Night Blast", Mon., 2, 5.7/9

U.S. Open, Sun., 13, 4.6/9

U.S. Open, Sat., 13, 4.2/11

Orioles-Angels, Sun., 54, 4.1/9

R-Rating; S-Share.

Pub Date: 9/17/98

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