Notes for Wolf Wigo (and others)

Watching the Serbia-Croatia game it dawned on me that water polo needs its own John Madden. Wolf, you can be that guy, 90 pounds lighter and unafraid of jet air travel. You made some great observations (Jeff Powers’ mobilty at the center position helping the defensive counter attack, for example). But, as one of the great observers of water polo from the couch, here are my suggestions for you, and some other random TV-related thoughts which will also forever float in the ether.

  • Break out the light pen! Does NBC give you one of those? There are some situations that scream for digital diagramming.
  • Man up. There are gorgeous overhead shots of 6 on 5s that you could simply diagram and explain. My father-in-law was sitting next to me thinking that the extra-man situation was a disorganized mess. You can teach him! Show him how the perimeter slides back and forth in unison, how the shooters probe and shift for better shooting angles, how post players sneak behind their defenders.
  • Give a tutorial on center play. What the hell is all that white water for, anyway? Without your help my father in law will continue to think it’s all just a foamy cluster. Why’s the defender in front? Why’s he tying to push him out? You can ease his pain.
  • You’ve been very diplomatic about criticizing players, which is understandable. But there’s always more room for critique. Some of the defense in these games has been remarkably bad, and there’s been no shortage of poor shooting and very questionable goalkeeping. Don’t be shy; the good players will admit it as long as you are fair.
  • You were an elite international player. Don’t forget how good all these players are just because you are equally talented! Just watching some of these guys leg up and shoot reminds me how phenomenally gifted they are, and how really hard it is to play this crazy game. Don’t be afraid to share that amazement.
  • Both you and Bob are doing a fine job. Keep it up.

Some other observations

  • FINA and the national water polo organizations need to consider the following: what would it take to eliminate the glare on the pool so that the sport looks better on TV. Seriously. It sounds ridiculous. But the sport is singularly horrible on TV, unlike any other, with a playing surface that naturally alternates between distracting glare and an obfuscating churn. Color the pool bottom black? Some crazy green screen technology? Kelp beds? Something.
  • Speaking of TV production… Ok, the high def slow motion replays are absolutely gorgeous. But the directors, who all seem to have gone to the US School of personality-driven drama directing, show some highly annoying habits. Some simple suggestions:
  1. a close-up of the ejected player exiting the playing area does *nothing* for the audience, and in fact detracts significantly from the flow of the game. Don’t bother.
  2. it’s uncanny how often a close-up of the coach or the bench comes during an important counterattack or other important sequence of action. Again, knock it off unless it’s after a goal or something. Watch how the basketball games are broadcast. You’ll NEVER see an extraneous shot that interferes with the flow of the game like you do in water polo.
  3. same with those lingering views of the goalie waiting to make an outlet pass after a change of possession. Make it snappy. There’s usually something interesting going on in the field of play that you’re missing.
  4. to summarize: show the game. There are plenty of opportunities to show coaches, referees, animated players, fans, etc. after goals, during time outs, and between quarters.