By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Oct 09, 2007 at 5:26 AM

In the old days, we had three television networks and a few radio stations. Our choices were pretty limited.

But now there are literally hundreds of television and radio channels for us to choose from, and the way that has changed the landscape of sports is almost hard to believe.

In the last week alone, without intent and just wandering through the broadcast-sphere, I watched the Milwaukee Marauders lose to the Wisconsin Bulldogs, glanced at a fishing show when most normal people were asleep and listened to the end of a high school football game between Whitefish Bay (my alma mater) and Homestead.

And I got to thinking how nice it is that these teams were on television and radio. But my next step was thinking about what was wrong with these broadcasts.

First of all, you've got the teams, themselves. These are athletes with shortcomings, to put it mildly.

The Bulldogs and Marauders play in the North American Football League, a semi-pro outfit that is better comedy than it is football.

The Marauders had a giant left tackle, and I mean a giant, who could barely move his feet. His tactic was to push his arms into the opposing rusher once and then wave as his man sped toward the quarterback.

After the game, the announcer asked the winning coach why he went for two points after a touchdown.

"Well, our long snapper had a wedding tonight," the coach replied, with a straight face.

A couple of nights later, I listened to Homestead at Whitefish Bay on WSSP radio. The game was, by all accounts, a thrilling affair with Homestead winning on the final play.

But that broadcast, and the Marauders game, proved the peril of giving this kind of exposure to these kinds of teams.

In this part of the country, we are used to Wayne Larrivee and Larry McCarren and Bob Uecker and Jim Powell and Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder. On a national level, we are used to Joe Buck and Al Michaels.

We are used to fancy graphics showing the score, down and distance and time remaining. We regularly see sexy cheerleaders and fans with face paint and loud band music and big, fast and highly skilled athletes.

On these local broadcasts we get none of these things.

Now, Time Warner Cable in Milwaukee is leading the way in the televising of local sports. That's where I saw the Marauders game. Time Warner does high school games all the time, and some college stuff as well.

I love the fact that they are trying to do this.

The problem I have with it is that it's kind of like watching somebody's home movies, with narration by the father who is holding the camera.

I could barely make out who had the ball; much less what the score was or what down it was in the Homestead-Bay game on radio. In the telecast of the Marauders game, I never knew who had the ball or who made the tackle or who centered the ball way over the unknown quarterback's head.

And the contrast with what we are used to is striking.

First of all, doing play-by-play is very, very hard. And there is a world of difference between radio and television. It's a whole different skill set. One of the very best radio play-by-play men ever in Wisconsin, Jim Irwin, could never make the transition to television and made his fame only on radio.

Let's face it. There is not much of a potential audience out there for these games.

The only people who want to watch Homestead at Whitefish Bay are parents, friends, relatives and classmates. And they all go to the game. That leaves a pretty small radio audience.

These local outlets deserve lots and lots of praise for trying to do this. If they are serious about it, though, they should spend the money to hire announcers and color commentators who have an idea how broadcasting works.

Just because somebody coaches high school sports, doesn't mean they'll be any good as a broadcast analyst. That's a tough lesson to learn, but it's better to learn it sooner than later.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

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 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.