Monday, March 28, 2011

28 MAR 11: March Mad

TV news departments have several things in common. One of them is the idea that severe weather always takes top priority. You'll notice the Columbus stations employ more meteorologists than sports reporters -- even though tornado season tends to be shorter than college football season.

Some local sports fans were left frustrated over the weekend, by what WRBL did during one of the regional men's college basketball finals. A severe weather alert blocked their view of the telecast -- but not enough that they couldn't view the blocks of shots.

One annoyed viewer posted a picture of the problem on Facebook. WRBL put a "crawl" about severe weather warnings at the bottom of the screen, covering the score of the Butler-Florida game. When it was all said and done, Gator fans probably wished it had remained hidden....

The Butler-Florida showdown went to overtime, but this viewer said he couldn't follow the score without calling up the closed captioning on his TV. As you might guess, this covered up even more of the screen - especially with Gus Johnson doing play-by-play on CBS, requiring dozens of added exclamation points.

WRBL finally moved the weather crawl to the top of the TV screen, but the damage had been done. It was one time when the news staff probably was thankful to have no Saturday newscasts, so no one had to take calls from upset viewers.

Part of the problem probably resulted from the fact that WRBL's "master control" area was moved out of Columbus several years ago. A regional control room in South Carolina now oversees several Media General stations - and if it's nice outside in Spartanburg, shouldn't it be nice everywhere else?

But this complaint also reminds me of how spoiled TV sports viewers have become. The continuous "score box" on the screen started in 1994. Watch rebroadcasts of older games on ESPN Classic, and you may wonder why no one did it earlier. But those were different times - when networks expected viewers to pay closer attention.

It turns out the severe weather was no joke. A tornado was confirmed in the Georgetown area Saturday. But it apparently caused minimal damage - and far less attention than that man who was upset with Charlie Sheen kissing Jimmy Kimmel.

Dangerous weather returned to the area Sunday night, and the computerized voice at the National Weather Service in Birmingham warned of potential trouble in Tuskegee. Except the city was pronounced "TUSK-uh-jee" - as if it was founded by a British big game hunter long ago.

When it's a matter of weather versus entertainment, some TV viewers sadly have their priorities mixed up. I'll never forget the angry phone calls I heard in March 2007, when live coverage of deadly tornadoes interrupted "American Idol." That's why you may have noticed President Obama is speaking on Libya tonight before "Dancing With the Stars" is scheduled to begin.

A few viewers have suggested storm warnings only air in the counties affected by them -- for instance, only in Harris County if a warning is issued there. But that's not technically possible for broadcast stations to do. After all, it's not called narrow-casting. That's what Spike TV on cable does for guys....

So please be considerate when TV and radio stations interrupt programs for severe weather messages. The alerts they give could save your life - unless you're one of those people who have decided if you're going to go, there's no better way than while watching a NASCAR race.

Let's move on from there to other.... what? What's that some of you are asking? What about the Kansas game Sunday? Uhhhh - I'm glad the Columbus Lions were able to beat a team from Richmond, Virginia.

I'm inclined to believe the online comments which say my beloved Kansas Jayhawks looked ahead too much to the Final Four, and let themselves get vanquished in the Southwest Regional final by Virginia Commonwealth. The deficit was so large in the first half that I walked out to pick up my car from the shop - and told the screen the Jayhawks had better clean up that mess by the time I came home.

But you have to admire the endurance of Virginia Commonwealth and youthful coach Shaka Smart. If VCU can win next Saturday, we could have a fantastically funky final - with a Shaka-Conn. matchup.

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BLOG UPDATE: New details emerged over the weekend about Books-A-Million's future in Columbus. I'm hearing the bookstore does NOT plan to abandon the area completely, but is looking at new locations. So if you don't find many local maps on sale, that could explain it....

Cross Country Plaza quickly found a replacement for Books-A-Million - announcing Freedom Furniture and Electronics will open at that spot later this year. You'll understand the delay, while employees remove all the Kinder's and Georgia Freight tags from the merchandise.

THE BIG BLOG DUCK HUNT moved into a second round Sunday night. We're still not naming names, but "Duck #1" gained two-thirds of the votes in our initial three-duck derby. Now that voice faces someone new - and not only do your votes determine the winner, but you can enter your voice in the contest. At this point, I'd say your odds are better with us than with Aflac's contest.

Let's see what else had people quacking (or talking) over the weekend....

+ WXTX reported Hollywood Connection was evacuated for a short time due to a small fire. It only seemed larger, after people watched movies on digital screens.

+ Phenix City Central High School held its spring prom at a surprising place - the Port Columbus museum. Those aren't ghosts making noises in the museum walls, they're senior pranksters.

+ Hilton Terrace Baptist Church held a "biker blessing" service. I wonder how deep the theological discussions were at this event. For instance, do you show more faith in God by not wearing a helmet?

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths finished fourth in the Southern League standings, and will face Huntsville in the first round of the playoffs. The Ledger-Enquirer reported Huntsville will have to play its home games at a practice rink, because the Von Braun Center is booked for a rodeo. Maybe the Cottonmouths will show up early, and get ready for fights by watching steer wrestling.

+ Instant Message to WLTZ: OK, opening day I could accept. But when the top story on "Alabama First News" is the second day of Auburn University's spring football practice, I think you're a little too addicted to sports.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Daily blogging may diminish over the next few weeks, due to our annual Serious Spring Cleaning.)

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