It is the end of an era for Fox Sports. The man that brought NASCAR and Terry Bradshaw into the American consciousness has left the sports division. David Hill, the Chairman of Fox Sports since 1993, announced that he was leaving after being promoted to a new position with News Corp. For better or worse Hill revolutionized the way networks broadcast sports and was truly an innovator in sports media.
His triumphs included the continuous on-screen clock and score, as well as cross cutting shots during baseball games (it is hard to imagine watching sports without any of this). His failures include a glowing hockey puck, a dancing robot, and Terry Bradshaw; the worst failure being Terry Bradshaw. Regardless of how you feel about the way sports are broadcast, to be sensationalized rather than rational, there is no questioning Hill’s influence on the medium. Like Fox News revolutionized the modern cluster that is the 24-hour new cycle, Hill did the same for sports broadcasting.
Hill and Fox Sports created the modern blueprint for sports broadcasting. They made sure fans never had to ask “what’s the score” before the internet was a thing. Everything we see as standard, like the round-table pre-game shows, the ditzy on field reporters, the ridiculous graphics packages, and knowing what the score is at all times, came from Hill’s tenure at Fox. The man brought the UFC to network TV, helped expand the NASCAR brand, expanded the use of technology to enhance on the field action, and created the modern sports television viewing experience.
Whether you like what sports broadcasts have become or you long for the days of Howard Cosell and having no idea how much time was left in the game, there is no doubting Hill’s influence. He is the kind of forward thinking executive that you idolize while simultaneously giving him the middle finger behind his back as he walks out the door. So much of what he accomplished at Fox Sports is simply things that we fail to notice but most likely could not live without.
The problem with sports news and the modern sports game broadcast is the same problem the 24-hour news networks have. The distinct lack of real information and real analysis in sports programming is a migraine-inducing frustration. Even when these networks uncover a nugget of golden truth they manage to bury it inside a pre-determined narrative. Despite this, I’d be lying if I said I harken for the days when the sports news was a five minute segment at the end of your local news broadcast. Any sports fan who truly hates the changes spearheaded by Hill is probably the same person who thinks we should do away with the three point line in basketball (ahem-Bob Ryan). Thanks to Hill’s affinity for technology we have things like the K-Zone in baseball, the yellow super-imposed first down line in football, and up to the second statistical graphics.
Hill’s legacy will always be creating what we’ve come to know as the modern viewing experience. He never shied away from using technology when it wasn’t trendy and now the networks can’t seem to deploy new tech fast enough. He understood that watching a game could be more than the action on the field and that most of the American public would enjoy a dancing robot with their football.
(Photo Courtesy of PalmSpringsLife.com)