Welcome to Postcard from the Couch – Strikeforce: Destruction.
I’ve looked forward to this edition of P.C.F.T.C. because it’s the first one I’ve written that hasn’t focused on a UFC event.
Ironically, I came away from tonight appreciating the UFC more than ever.
Strikeforce: Destruction, which aired live on HDNet – and on my 42-inch high-def television with a surround sound home theater system – may as well had been telecast on a black and white TV with three-inch speakers.
And no, I’m not bragging about my television. I’m simply stating that I was adequately equipped to enjoy this telecast in its highest form.
Unfortunately, I spent two hours and 15 minutes watching a flat, unenergetic telecast that, quite frankly, served no purpose being broadcast in HD. You see, high-definition television doesn’t lie. Some of the “entertainers” in the adult entertainment industry say that they actually prefer NOT to see their movies in HD because it exposes their flaws, such as plastic surgery scars and other things that don’t need to be mentioned on this site.
How I know this is not important. What IS important is that my real name IS Lee Gerowitz and not Lee Hammerrod, and that my point is, HD television embraces beauty and exposes ugliness for what it is.
Tonight’s telecast was ugly. I’m well aware of the fact that HDNet/Strikeforce doesn’t operate on the same kind of budget that Zuffa/UFC does. Therefore, I need to make those of you reading well aware of the fact that I really don’t care. My job is to critique what I see, end of story.
And this is what I saw…
Kenny Rice and Bas Rutten called the action tonight. The best way to describe Kenny Rice in general, I think, is “professional.” He calls it like he sees it, for better or for worse, and he stays pretty level headed. Personally, I’ll take the hits and misses of the more energetic Mike Goldberg. As for Rutten, I don’t mind him on HDNet’s “Inside MMA” show. But on a live card, I’m simply not a fan because I believe he’s more about gimmick than substance. To me, he’s the Chris Berman of MMA on television: enough already with the shtick, thank you.
Rice and Rutten got off to a rough start during tonight’s show. As they were doing a preview of the co-main event, Bobby Southworth versus Renato “Babalu” Sobral, Rice intended to lead Rutten into discussing Southworth while Southworth footage was being played. Instead, Rutten spoke about Babalu almost the entire time over the Southworth footage. When Babalu footage was finally played, Rutten had nothing else to say and Rice wisely filled time. Still, it came off as a sloppy and ill-prepared bit.
Rice, perhaps sensing the overall dullness of the night, also reached when describing Scott Smith’s knockout of Terry Martin by stating, “You will not see a better knockout than that.” Really? I paid $50 to see one last week when Jeremy Stephens went Goose Gossage on Rafeal Dos Anjos’ chin during UFC 91. Smith’s KO was absolutely textbook, but I am sure MMA fans more experienced than I could name 10 knockouts better than that one.
Overall, the announcing was in-sync with the rest of the night. I give it a Blah-plus.
OVERALL PRODUCTION VALUE –
As I mentioned earlier, I looked forward to writing this particular column because it was a non-UFC event. Coming into tonight, I knew the biggest difference I would notice between a UFC event and one that airs on HDNet is the production value.
It’s hard to argue that the UFC, from the second one of their pay per views begins, doesn’t do everything in its power to make their telecast as high energy as possible, whether it’s Goldberg yelling, Bruce Buffer doing his Thriller dance/ring announcements, the lighting, the music, or their tremendous audio and overall presentation.
HDNet, on the other hand, really needs to step it up in this department, and tonight was a shining example of that. Again, I don’t care about how much money they don’t have. One thing I have learned in television is that you don’t always need to be a major network or high-budget production to make something look and sound good.
LIGHTING & AUDIO –
Was this a funeral or a mixed martial arts card? The lighting went hand in hand with the low energy output of the telecast. The crowd was too dark (possibly to cover up empty seats), and aside from several useless cutaways of them, the crowd almost seemed non-existent.
Which leads me into my biggest complaint: the audio. Wow. Paging Mark Cuban, paging Mark Cuban, can you hear me Mark Cuban? No? Well guess what? I couldn’t hear portions of your network’s telecast either.
Crap. I hope he doesn’t delete me as a friend on Facebook now.
Not only were there audio dropouts on several occasions, there was a constant issue with the audio levels in general. Besides being lit too dark, the crowd’s audio was also nearly non-existent. I live in New York City, and I’ve heard audio of neighbors fornicating three floors below me that sounded crisper than what I heard tonight. Also, when music played during fighter introductions, it was almost louder than the announcers. HDNet surely had a feed of the arena audio, so there was no reason why they couldn’t monitor it in a more professional manner.
During the Duane Ludwig-Yves Edwards fight, injured Josh Thomson joined Rice and Rutten to call the fight. Right away, his audio levels were so low that you could barely hear him speak about his toe injury that forced him out of this fight with Edwards.
They even disrupted an interview Ron Kruck did with the beautiful and talented Gina Carano. Kruck was asking Carano about possibly working for Strikeforce or the WEC, and as she was trying to answer, you could hear Rice and/or Rutten’s off-camera audio bleeding through. Thankfully, Carano is the kind of interview you can watch with the sound down and still enjoy it.
However, I will give props to HDNet for letting us see and hear WEC Featherweight Champion Mike Brown instruct Edwards from his corner during round two. I believe that this is a valuable asset to have in case a fight has some dead spots. Corner men are always talking, so it lets the announcers take a breather while giving the viewer another layer of insight to a fight. Otherwise, the audio was absolutely atrocious.
HDNet’s graphics, for an HD telecast, were completely underwhelming. Their graphics should use crisp colors and moving animation that pops out at you on an HD television. Instead, they bore you, and they would even bore you on a standard definition television.
Information-wise, I am personally a big fan of the CompuStrike stats. They don’t tell the entire story, especially in a fight that stays mostly on the ground, but I appreciate the effort as a viewer. I also thought that Rice did a good job incorporating them into his announcing, particularly during the Nik Theotikos-Luke Rockhold fight, when he updated the viewer on the CompuStrike stats during the first round.
HDNet also uses the standard “mini-facts graphic” for each fighter as they enter the cage. These quick facts generally give the viewer good, simple facts about each fighter. However, I didn’t need to know that Luke Rockhold’s “Brother is a Pro Surfer.” They may as well followed that up with a text messaging poll that asked, “Does anyone give a s**t?”
PACKAGES & PACING –
If you watched HDNet/Strikeforce’s show opens and fighter packages and compared it to what the UFC does, you would immediately notice the difference in energy.
Personally, I love the way the UFC kicks off any of their fight cards with their show opens/opening teases. Tonight’s open to the telecast, on the other hand, really set the tone for the rest of the night. It was voiced over and had low energy music – and most of all, you didn’t even get to hear from the fighters. You heard a bad voiceover, but nothing from the fighters. Huh?
The fighter packages completely failed to get a viewer amped for the upcoming fight. It actually made me miss Goldberg’s over the top voiceovers he does for the UFC’s pre-fight packages. But there’s also an obvious difference in the production value of these packages, from the music selections to the shooting and even the editing. This isn’t a money issue, either. This is a creativity and talent issue. These packages did absolutely nothing for me and seemed to serve more as filler than relevant content.
Pacing-wise, I like the idea of what HDNet does by having Jimmy Lennon, Jr. toss to a fighter’s pre-fight package, and then after the package, having the fighter’s entrance to the cage. However, there are a couple of problems here. One is Jimmy Lennon, Jr. He’s great with boxing. But I feel like he doesn’t supply the energy an announcer needs for MMA. I don’t need everyone to be Bruce Buffer. But at the same time, Lennon just doesn’t seem to fit in. The other problem with the pacing is that while the flow is good, once again, the lack of energy just kills it. Lennon is too laid back and you cant heard the crowd anyways due to the poor audio. Get a new announcer and improve the audio, then the pacing would seem even quicker.
QUICK HITS –
The Lina Kvokov-Kim Couture “fight” was disturbing. I truly felt sad for Kvokov, who would basically turn her back to Couture every single time she got hit. I respect anyone who enters a cage, ring or octagon. But this fight should have never happened. Besides general cage experience, I can’t imagine what Couture got out of it.
So Bobby Southworth loses his light heavyweight title in controversial fashion and we don’t get to hear from him? We heard from him at the top of the show before his fight, so why not after the fight? A champion loses his belt and we don’t hear from him? C’mon, people.
Finally, they interview Cung Le, but we never get to see him on camera? Not that I personally needed to see him, but it just seemed awkward. Matter of fact, we didn’t even see Rice and Rutten during their final wrap up of the show…we saw random shots of the arena instead as they spoke. What, they couldn’t find a camera to shoot their own talent with?
THE FINAL WORD –
This was obviously a big card and telecast for HDNet/Strikeforce, but you wouldn’t have known it by watching tonight. It doesn’t take network dollars to produce a high-energy show. As a viewer, I felt like the production was simply going through the motions. The bad lighting, horrible audio and overall low energy were unfortunately the highlights of this card for me.
I now realize why Zuffa/UFC doesn’t ever change its own production values, either. Not that they need to. But, if they can be the television giants that they are while networks and promotions like HDNet/Strikeforce produce cards like this, why should they change? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
Well, this one’s broke and someone needs to come fix it. Now.