Despite early loss, local media holds torch for Rays
Watching Channel 10 anchor Reginald Roundtree getting his head shaved into a "Rayhawk" during the station's special World Series coverage Wednesday, two thoughts surfaced simultaneously:
Are they going to shave his hair to the scalp? (no, as it turned out)
Is there a journalistic dimension to this?
Expecting local media types to avoid cheerleading for the home team during singular sports events like a World Series is nitpicky in the extreme. But watching a lead anchor get his hair shaved into a novelty haircut seemed a bit much -- even if Roundtree's 'do was less a mohawk than a close cut to the sides of his head, done to fulfill a promise he made on air earlier this year. (Before the trim went down, one friend wondered what might happen if real news broke out and Roundtree had to anchor a report about a fire or train accident in his blue-tinged rayhawk.)
Still, at a time when readership and viewership is sliding for print and broadcast outlets, a World Series berth is a heaven-sent opportunity to get commemorative editions and special reports before the fans. Roundtree's WTSP-Ch. 10 offered an extra hour of coverage at 7 p.m. despite the fact that the CBS affiliate wasn't airing the game. Fox station WTVT-Ch. 13 even created a new web site, www.cowbelltime.com, to house all their reports on the Rays and encourage viewing of the game.
Emblazoned with the logo "All the way Rays," WTVT's reports after the game included the obligatory live shot from partying fans -- this time, at St. Petersburg's legendary sports bar Ferg's. At times, reporter Craig Patrick seemed on the verge of losing control of the shot as enthusiastic fans crowded around the camera showing off their cowbells and jerseys.
Indeed, all the big local news outlets were bursting with Rays reports available online, onscreen and in print. From stories on the international press to features on the history of the cowbell as a team totem -- the information available for the dedicated fan Wednesday was significant. WTSP, in keeping with its 10 Connects theme, even encouraged fans to submit their own pictures for their site -- as did the St. Pete Times.
Surprisingly, I didn't see Fox stars popping up in the stands during the game, though the obligatory flood of commercials promoting November programs left me seriously jonesing for the new two-hour 24 movie. And who knew the Backstreet Boys could still sing well enough to get through the national anthem -- led by Tampa expatriate Nick Carter.
To be sure, after all this pre-coverage and anticipation an opening night loss was disappointing (and sleep depriving; i know Fox wants to clean up in prime time, but a 7:30 p.m. start would make a lot of parents, kids and early risers a lot happier).
I just hope I've seen the last local TV anchor to sport a Rayhawk in a while.