Wednesday, May 14, 2008

So much for the human drama of athletic competition

It seemed like a good idea on paper.

I was listening to the 7:00 (Pacific time) hour of Dan Patrick this morning, and he repeatedly referred to the fact that William Shatner would be a guest. (Shatner's hawking a book.) Patrick noted that he would have Shatner recreate some dramatic sports calls in his Captain Kirk voice.

It sounds like a good idea, doesn't it? The Kirk character is known for drama, and Patrick was going to choose some dramatic sports events, so it would be interesting, to say the least.

It wasn't.

Before he did the first item (Captain Kirk's version of Vin Scully's call of Bill Buckner in 1986), Shatner pointed out something about the character. Kirk had traveled to a number of galaxies, and had seen incredible things. The sight of a ball going through someone's legs wouldn't, in Shatner's terms, "faze" (heh) Kirk.

So Captain Kirk called the game, then called Al Michael's "do you believe in miracles" hockey segment, but it just didn't work.

Why? Because, in most cases, a sports competition is not a life and death situation. When the Captain Kirk character faced a problem, it usually was a threat to the lives of himself and his 400-plus crew members. When the Americans scored a goal in hockey, the Russians weren't immediately taken outside and shot. (Although perhaps the Soviet coaches considered the possibility.)

In addition, the Enterprise event didn't take place in a few seconds, because that wouldn't make sense in a TV script. Certainly the random explosion or two would take a few seconds, but the script required an hour (or, in the movies, a couple of hours) to develop the tension. Baseball and hockey do not lend themselves to that pace and flow; something happens on the field or in the arena, and the announcer reacts to it. A few things about this:

  • The announcer is not talking to his second-in-command; he is talking to an audience of millions.

  • This audience of millions is not as engaged in the event as the announcer. In Kirk's case, the threat to Kirk was often a threat to Spock, Scotty, and the rest.

  • The announcer has no control over what takes place on the field or in the arena. Vin Scully or Al Michaels can't do something to change the outcome of the game. Captain Kirk can.
So for these and other reasons, it doesn't make sense for Captain Kirk to call a baseball or hockey game - even a dramatic one.

However, if it were a chess competition - with long pauses - and if the loser in the match were required to forfeit his or her life, then perhaps a Captain Kirk call would make sense.

But only if Spock were playing.

And it was three-dimensional chess.


It's dead, Jim.

To be fair, not everyone agrees with my negative assessment of the exercise. Here's what Andrew Perloff said on the Dan Patrick Show "blog":

Shatner is so cool

05.14.08 | William Shatner is awesome. I love how cool Cpt. Kirk is playing these classic sports calls. And if you're a fan of the DP Show, you have to listen to Shatner's "Poochie" call. | Andrew Perloff

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