Let me make it clear, right from the start, that Dennis Krause, who was fired a couple of years ago by Channel 4, is the best local television sports guy in this market.
He's smart and very credible. He's patched together a career at Time Warner's fledgling sports effort, some Bucks broadcasts and hosting Packers pre-game shows on WTMJ radio. He might be the best sports anchor this market has ever seen, even though the popularity research on him left something to be desired.
Although I wish he was still on the air, it might be a good thing for him that he's out of the business of being a local television sports anchor. The times have changed, and local sports anchors are treated like superfluous members of the "news team."
First of all, let's understand that the time allocated to local sportscasts has shrunk significantly over the years. The importance of sportscasters also has diminished.
Promotional materials for local television stations always focus on the anchors and the weather person and sometimes, but rarely, include the sports guy. When was the last time you saw a billboard or a television commercial about the sports guy? These people must feel like the Lost Tribe of Broadcast School Graduates.
In fact, these local sports anchors are victims of the times.
It used to be that the local sportscast was the place we all turned for sports scores, pictures and interviews. The guys who did the sports -- and there never were any women in this field -- were big deals. Some of the local broadcast guys were also play-by-play people, further enhancing their fame.
But that kind of sportscast is now obsolete. When we want scores, there's dozens of places we can look to get them right away. We don't have to wait until the 10 p.m. news anymore.
You want interviews? Sports talk radio. Post-game and pre-game shows. The Internet. ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3 and ESPN 700. By the time the newscast rolls around, there's nothing left for them to do.
So, where does that leave all the local sports guys and girls? Well, first of all, we've got the separate the wheat from the chaff. At the top of our pyramid, right behind Krause, are Lance Allan at Channel 4, Tom Pipines, Tim Van Vooren and Jen Lada at Channel 6, Dan Needles at 12 and nobody at Channel 58. Those people bring credibility and a sense of humor without being ridiculous. Sometimes, I'm amazed at how far the bad sportscasters will go.
About a week ago, Rod Burks, from Channel 4, and an African-American, was doing a piece from Green Bay. The close of the piece was him in the stands, using an exaggerated, phony African-American accent. It was like Porgy meets David Duke.
Almost every sportscaster in this town just shouts or sleepwalks through broadcasts, trying to create excitement over old news and unimportant junk. They all seemed to go to college to become broadcasters. Nothing prepares you less for the news business than broadcast courses in college. Those schools take your money tell you about being objective, show you how to use outdated equipment and then cut you loose on an unsuspecting public.
I talked to a news director of a major-market station who is very familiar with the Milwaukee market. He said that the key to success with sports is both what you do and what you don't do.
"More and more fans don't need to wait until your newscast for the score or highlights," he said. "If you have a good sports personality, you can create sports with an edge, not being afraid to call out the ‘how's' and ‘why's' of a game.
"I know ESPN can do that too, but they aren't local. More than ever before stations are returning to ‘local' because it really is the only true difference. I think a local audience is looking for perspective and context and local stations should be offering that on sports. The key is you need good talent to pull that off."
What this means, of course, is that the day isn't far away when the sports anchor, as we know him or her, ought to just disappear. We don't need them.
What we need in local television sports is probably a former jock who played the game and brings some inside knowledge to us. It's OK to have non-jocks working for the print media. In fact, it's preferable. But in television, with 90 seconds to give us something, somebody who has been there is probably preferable to the zombies who give us the sports now.
Anybody who starts their sports broadcast with "The Bucks (or Brewers or Packers) won tonight..." Should be banished to a television station in Rhinelander for life.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.