Dr Z
Friday February 8th, 2008

Announcers first. Keith of Seattle believes the league is so intent on "selling the spectacle" of the game that "actual facts get in the way of the sales job, hence, revenues." And that, he feels, accounts for the decline in quality of announcing. I get your thought and I agree, kind of, but here's the way I'd put it. Networks appeal to image, hence they hire image people and push them hardest. Once upon a time they weren't afraid of hiring big, earthy guys with a sense of humor ... Matt Millen, John Madden. Now they seem to be more interested in pretty folks who aren't as glib or as incisive.

Nathan of Savage, Minn., wants me to do a column about the coverage of games by various networks. Nah, there's not enough there. A couple of paragraphs would do it, I think, but I'm too tired to launch that project now.

Sean of Wales, Wisc., wonders if I ever watched a game with the radio turned on and the TV sound turned off. Yeah, I tried it. It works in theory, not in practice. With only the radio on, I never knew when the replays were coming, and it's important to catch them.

Three letters scolding me for not taking a heavier shot at Bryant Gumbel. The three, in order of appearance, are Mitch of Mequon, Wisc., Fadi A. of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Dave of Hoboken, N.J. Maybe I should have, but most of the complaints about Gumbel are mistakes in names and facts, and those aren't as bad as deliberate errors, such as inordinately pushing the super stars, or belaboring an obvious point forever or neglecting to call a game fairly. Yeah, I know, he's weak, but I can move on quickly from his failings.

Ken of Atlanta wants me to rate the pregame shows. I did it one year but I found that it cluttered up the column too much. That column is long enough as it is.

Dave of Hoboken again. "Z, you're not always bright, but at least you're honest." Huh? "What's the matter with you?" says the Flaming Redhead, who came over when she heard my groans. "That says not always RIGHT!" Oh. So what was the question again? Why wasn't I tougher on Tony Siragusa, who actually detracts from the game, "because Fox seems obsessed with what he's doing ('Look, Goose is trying to stay dry because it's raining,'), etc." Wow, that was a tough one to punctuate. Yeah, you're right. I should have hit his role as part of the landscape, but frankly, at that point I was getting a little tired of that team and Goose and everything, and I was eager to get to my yearly ESPN rip.

OK, E-mailer of the Week is David of Gilbert, Ariz., and he owes me a last name, which can be mailed in at any time. Why, he asks, does my top team of Rosen and Ryan get stuck with lesser games every week, such as Cardinals? An excellent question, and the only reason I can come up with is that the people who make the network decisions, and I would assume it's David Hill for Fox, are more interested in glitzy names than excellence on the job.

W. Shedd of Portsmouth, N.H., can't believe my naïvete in believing that other teams haven't done the same thing the Patriots are accused of, namely taping the Rams Friday walk through before the Super Bowl. Maybe they have. Perhaps I'm naïve. I can still feel that it puts the game on a bit of a downer for me. You raise a good point, though, when you ask if the league had a rule prohibiting it then, even though it's not exactly the question you asked. If the videotape rule is something new, then there was no violation at that time. Hooray! Your Patriots are clean. Open the champagne.

And on to the Hall of Fame. What are my thoughts on Richard Dent's failure to make it? Well, there were four edge rushers who came up, Dent, Andre Tippett, Fred Dean and Derrick Thomas. I thought Thomas was a shoo-in, and then, in order of probability I had Dent, Dean and Tippett. It came out exactly the reverse, and why is a mystery to me. I thought Dan Pompei made an excellent presentation for Dent. A lot of things surprise me in that room.

Chuck of Athens, Ga., says that Jerry Kramer, whom I mentioned in my Diary piece, should be in but isn't. Why not? In the 17 years that I've been a selector, there have been maybe four senior candidates who didn't make it. Kramer was one of them. I voted for him, and if I remember correctly, someone from Detroit spoke out against him. The Lions' Alex Karras always had great games against Kramer.

Eric of Providence would like to know about my anti-Tagliabue stance. He helped rich people get richer. That, to me, is not what I call making a lasting contribution to the game. His instinct about the new TV contract was all wrong. He wanted to approve givebacks. Jerry Jones said nothing doing. Jones was right. The new contract zoomed way ahead of what Tagliabue was willing to settle for. He always had great disdain for members of my profession and took little pains to hide it. Every matter we brought up for consideration, such as our problem with assistant coaches being put off limits to us, was either tabled or ignored. Whipped dogs lick the boots that kick them, but I don't want to make it my style.

On to the Super Bowl, past and present. Robert of Chicago asks "Oh my, Z, could you be any more of a homer? Four of your top eight Super Bowl teams involve New York teams. How Jersey can one get?" The literal answer to that question is, "A lot more. I could have included the other one." The actual answer is that it never even dawned on me, but maybe you're onto something. The games involving New York teams were more meaningful to me because I was closer to them during the season. And after all, I did explain that the list was purely a personal one. Your question bugs me, though. I try not to lean toward this area in my regular writing during the season. I hope I do. Now you've got me going back through the clips and checking it out. Damn! I knew this day was going to be a bummer.

Richard of Corunna, Ontario, and I thank you, wonders whether Belichick, in shunning the field goal, wasn't just following a season-long pattern of distrusting his kicker. It's logical to assume so. I wasn't in their locker room after the game, and even if I'd have asked that question, it wouldn't have been answered, along with almost all the others.

Chris of Williamsburg, Va., wants to know if the Patriots coaches deserve most of the blame for the loss. Why must blame always be assigned? Can't we just give the Giants credit for playing better? It was a magnificent contest. Why go around looking for scapegoats?

Brian of Salem, Ore., would have liked an "I told you so," for picking the winner, also some measure of analysis. Sorry, but no I-told-you-so's. Leave that to others. As far as the analysis, well, you had a case of two teams that were committed to an active pass rush, although the Patriots gambled more, brought more people, took more chances. It was refreshing to see two teams bringing heat and not laying back and giving stuff away. Losing RG Stephen Neal was big for New England. He was what scouts consider their second best offensive lineman, and it created a little pocket of two lesser athletes side by side, Russ Hochstein and Nick Kaczur, and that's what the Giants attacked. It's one thing to get pressure on a passer, another thing to get gut pressure, and that's what Brady faced.

Wes Welker kept them alive not only by getting open but by getting open quickly, which was important because Brady wasn't getting that much time. That's why I wrote that he'd have been my choice for MVP, although I've got no problem with Eli's selection because he made some great plays. Don't forget, his receivers dropped a few, which accounted for his only interception. Brady was having problems with his guys, too, notably Randy Moss, whom I saw giving up on patterns from time to time. I wouldn't be surprised if he were somewhere else next season.

The Giants' defense was magnificent, I thought, not only on its pass rush but the way it keyed the running game as well.

In the postgame locker room, Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride very candidly laid out what he was trying to do with the passing game ... a lot of numbers and play calls and formations, many of them coming so fast that I had trouble understanding them. But the bottom line was he got big performances from unlikely people, Steve Smith, Kevin Boss and David Tyree.

At the end it came down to courage. The Giants' offense just had to outplay a defense that never stopped coming. I thought it would wear down, but it didn't. A lot of things could have halted that final drive. They didn't happen. New York was tougher. The Patriots were a proud team in defeat.

Gil of Raleigh felt that a defensive Giant should have been MVP. Kevin of Norwalk, Conn., asks, "Did Justin Tuck just redefine the defensive tackle position?" Tuck was the best defensive player on the field. In my midweek matchup piece I wrote that he and the Titans' Albert Haynesworth were the top interior pass rushers in the league. The big game he had was no fluke. Redefine the position? No. There have always been quick guys inside, Alan Page types, to go with the bonecrushers. Tuck's great value is that he can play tackle or end.

Part II from Kevin. What do the Giants have to do to keep the momentum going? Hold onto their prime free agents. Don't ask me which ones. I haven't recovered from this season yet. I get the feeling, though, that Ahmad Bradshaw is going to loom very big next season. Brandon Jacobs is a battering ram, but I don't know if he'll ever learn to stop running into the heart of the defense.

Hima K. of Marlborough, Mass., wrote a poem commemorating the Giants' triumph. The title is XLII, which leads me to believe it's A Roman poem. It starts as follows:

You are the ones The Gods of the field, unbesmirched by the ground The living legends, favored by the crown Relentless pursuit and prodigious fate In happy circumstances do meet ...

OK, that's a sampling, and in all honesty I must tell you that if you are going to salute the Giants in rhyming type of verse, I feel that it must be correct in both meter and rhyme. The emotion is to be praised, but it needs a little more work.

From Jonathan of Colorado Springs: What is my take on the Bills playing a game in Toronto? My take on this can be summed up in three words. Greed, greed, greed. I don't like hometown fans deprived of their game by the desire to bring NFL football to the world, to England and Toronto and China and Mars. Translation -- to bring in more money.

From "Bills Fan" in Buffalo: What can be done to keep the Bills from leaving Buffalo. I don't know. Once again, fan support competes with the almighty dollar. It happened in Cleveland and Baltimore and Oakland, although the Raiders came crawling back. Never having made much money myself, I don't know how to keep other people from chasing after it.

From Matthew of Ann Arbor, Mich.: "Shame on you for perpetuating the myth that the officials decided Super Bowl XL."

Now Matt, I must tell you, "Desist from admonishing," Your take on my words I must say is astonishing. The reffing was bad, that's all that I said, Didn't win it for Pittsburgh -- get that out of your head. Just another display of a game ruined by refs And that's why I placed it, alongside the F's

From Gil of Raleigh ("Hey, didn't I know you from someplace?" Alfonso Bedoya line in Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Yeah, Gil asked me about Super Bowl MVP). Anyway, here's another Gil -- What's my favorite part of the football season? In the old days it was the training camps. Now that the access is so severely limited, I'd say the start of the postseason.

Rob of Makati, Manila, takes some heavy shots at the league and its Spygate cover-up, and I thank you for finding time, in the midst of the thrashing, to shoot me a compliment. "What kind of investigation," he writes, relies on the accused [accused of cheating, no less] to provide all the evidence?" Oh, almost every time the CIA gets investigated, I'd say. But you're right. The whole thing stinks. As the Redhead's daughter, Heather, a former Phoenix Policewoman says, "One thing you never do is destroy evidence."

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