Essays from 116th Street

Self-therapy, since 2004...

Location: New York, New York

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Wednesday Extra: Bring Back John Tesh!

Peter Schrager over at FOX Sports is advocating that ABC bring back John Tesh's score, Roundball Rock (better known to the general public as the "NBA On NBC" theme song) for its playoff coverage. He contends that the main reason fan interest has been down ever since the NBA switched networks, is the simple fact that fans don't get nearly as hyped for ABC's dreadful music.
Does he have a point? Could it really be that simple? Actually, I think Schrager is on to something here. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes how the producers of Sesame Street, dismayed at their lack of success in creating a meaningful educational/entertianment experience for young children, made a relatively simple decision; they combined the segments containing puppets and live actors (who had previously been separated). Gladwell alluded to the concept of "stickiness" in this example; a relatively simple decision served as the hook by which kids could connect their imaginations to realty, thus keeping them glued to the set. The subsequent creations of Big Bird and Snuffalufficus only helped increase the "stickiness" of Sesame Street.
In the case of NBA telecasts, there is no question that Tesh's theme increased my personal anticipation of an NBA game. The opening notes, slow and regal gave way to the rush of excitement contained within the song's famous melody. As a viewer, the song helped me attach a sense of excitement (albeit artificial, but this is TV) to basketball games, making NBC telecasts into an event. Whether the game had more significance than the average game or not, when the NBC theme song was playing, it sure seemed more significant.
A few more notes on the NBA on ABC and the concept of "stickiness": when NBC did NBA telecasts, its production crew never toned down the crowd noise level for the sake of hearing the announcer; ABC does lower the crowd noise, which in my mind is incredibly stupid. What would you, as an average fan, rather hear: the roar of the crowd, or Brad Nessler telling you that the crowd is going wild? It seems to me that ABC would never dream of doing such a thing during a broadcast of Monday Night Football (of course, ESPN is now doing MNF, and they might be that stupid). Also, ABC seems to be mesmerized by the cult of celebrity when it comes to NBA music; we've had to deal with Justin Timberlake, the Black Eyed Peas and (the horror) Rob Thomas intro-ing our NBA telecasts, not to mention a brief experiment with Destiny's Child and their horrid "Lose My Breath" song; no wonder the ratings are down.
The good news, if you want to interpret it that way, is twofold; first, NBC does not own the rights to Roundball Rock, John Tesh does, so ABC can go ahead and give us what we want anytime they choose to (the fact that they are probably too proud and will forge ahead with sucky music has not escaped me). The second is that ABC's deal only lasts two more years, by which time the NBA will hopefully have heard the general public outcry, and switched back to NBC, who will re-hire Marv Albert, bring the crowd noise back up, keep Justin and Beyonce far away and restore order to the basketball universe. That's right, boys and girls, the NBA on NBC: alliteration, slanted fonts, John Tesh, and Marv Albert with Bill Walton and Steve "Snapper" Jones. Does it get any better than that?


Anonymous edward.quinones (at) yale (dot) edu said...

NBA on NBC was the best. The music, the crowd noise, the Knicks vs. the Bulls or Pacers, Ahmad Rashad, Marv Albert... uhh, childhood in the 90s.

Good post, man. Those small changes would probably reignite my interest in the NBA.

PS: YouTube has several "live" cuts of the NBA on NBC intro, with "Roundball Rock" plus Jim Fagan announcing "This is the NBA on NBC" plus whatever year and matchup. Def check it out

3:54 AM  

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