Monday September 28th, 2009

Each week,'s Richard Deitsch will report on newsmakers from the world of TV, radio and the Web.

After a morning tennis match with some friends in Southfield, Mich., Scott Bell listened to the first half of the Lions game while driving back to his apartment in Royal Oak. The 23-year-old was like most other Detroit football fans yesterday: Nervous as hell and unable to watch the game on television because of the blackout. Bell pulled off the highway to stop at a Burger King during the second quarter, but the tension of the game was so great he refused to get out of his 2008 Saturn Aura until halftime. "I didn't want to turn off my radio to order in case I missed something," said Bell, a sports Web producer and writer for the Detroit Free-Press.

Like most Lions fans living within 75 miles of Ford Field, Bell lived yesterday's game through the radio and the words of Lions play-by-play announcer Dan Miller and analyst Jim Brandsteter. Forbes Magazine recently dubbed 2009 The NFL's Blackout Year and the league has experienced three blackouts in three weeks, including the Jacksonville market in Week 2, and Oakland and Detroit on Sunday. The NFL blackout rule mandates that a game must sell out within 72 hours of kickoff or it won't be televised within 75 miles of the stadium. Last season, nine of 256 regular season games were blacked out in the home team's market, according to the AP, but that number is likely to increase drastically this year. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told a handful of national NFL writers three weeks ago that as much as 20 percent of the NFL's games this season could be blacked out in the home team's local television market.

About 15 miles south of Royal Oak, as Bell listened intently to the second half on a couch in his apartment, Miller was feeling the tension himself inside Ford Field. He has called Lions games since 2005, but as the game got deeper, he knew this was no ordinary game. "I can't imagine what guys go through calling the final drive of the Super Bowl," Miller told late Sunday night. "I guess what was running through the back of my mind was, 'There is just no way this could end in catastrophe. Man, this just can't end the wrong way.'"

It did not. The Lions held on for their first victory in 20 games and Miller's game-ending call (which I heard thanks to Sirius Satellite Radio) was excellent:

Three receivers to the right side. They'll flood the right. The Lions showing three down linemen. [Jason] Campbell out of the shotgun. Fourth-and-10. Eight seconds left. Campbell back, throws underneath. It's a hook and lateral and they get it to [Ladell] Betts, and Betts is going to be taken down. It's going to be a first down but it doesn't matter. Three zeros on the clock. Game over. Losing streak over. Nightmare over. The Lions win it, 19-14!"

Dan Feldman, a 21-year-old reporter for the Flint Journal, listened to the radio broadcast from his home in Flint via the Internet broadcast of of 97.1 The Ticket. "The call after the game ended gave me goose bumps," Feldman said. "The Lions haven't played in many big games in my lifetime, but this was one."

Miller said he received 12 texts immediately after the game as well as a handful of calls from friends and family around the country. Making the 25-mile drive to Ford Field from his home Sunday morning -- he is also the sports director for the local Fox TV affliate -- he admitted he was thinking hard about what to say in the event the Lions won. The broadcaster wrote out something at the end of last season after Detroit became the first team to finish 0-16 in the regular season. Said Miller: "I did not write anything out in long form on Sunday but in my mind these were the three things that were happening: You were winning a game, you were ending a streak and you were putting that whole nightmare behind."

Miller said he did not feel more responsibility or pressure because of the blackout but he was certainly cognizant of it. He is one of a handful of NFL radio play by play announcers (including Brian Sexton, who calls Jaguars games, and Greg Papa, the voice of the Raiders) who will surely be heard by a larger audience this year. But given the ignominious 19-game losing streak, Miller might not call a bigger game in 2009. "For the coaching staff, the players, management, and the fans, a victory is just going to allow them to start life again," Miller said. "It's a new beginning. It doesn't mean the Lions are back and contending but a lot of that negativity goes away from awhile."

• All the free-agent money, and still a 1-2 start. Just when we thought Cash 4 Clunkers was dead, Jim Zorn gives us his Washington Redskins. -- Yahoo! Sports NFL writer Charles Robinson, Sept. 27, 10:12 PM

• Let's go to Tiki Barber, who is reporting live from Siberia. Tiki? -- ESPN's Bill Simmons, continuing his weekly onslaught of NBC Sports, Sept. 27, 8:35 p.m.

• Announcers should stop using the phrase "bell rung" when they mean "possible concussion." Euphemisms that disguise danger are a disservice. --San Diego Union-Tribune columnistTim Sullivan, Sept. 26, 10:58 p.m.

"It's many problems dealing with the Washington Redskins. One problem in particular is Jason Campbell, the quarterback. I don't know what they see in this guy. To me, he's a back-up quarterback that's been elevated to a starter. He's a guy that's unpredictable. He's inconsistent. He's not a guy that defensive players look at and fear." -- NBC Football Night In America analyst Rodney Harrison

• Fox play-by-play announcer Sam Rosen did a smart thing after Brett Favre's game-winning touchdown pass to Greg Lewis: He shut up for 25 seconds. His call of the touchdown ("Favre rolls. Wants to throw deep and does. To the end zone for Greg Lewis. Touchdown! Touchdown! Favre did it!") captured the moment beautifully. Rosen's has earned a terrific reputation in New York as the NHL Rangers longtime announcer and it was nice to see him come through on a last-second sequence watched across the country.

• During a guest spot on Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay's radio show, ESPN baseball analyst Peter Gammons admitted to listeners that he was close friends with Buck Showalter before offering his opinion on whether Showalter would get a crack at a future managing job. That's appreciated in this space. The fact is uber-insiders such as Gammons are friends with people they've covered -- especially at ESPN where fired coaches such as Showalter frequently come and go. Viewers and readers deserve a sense of the relationship between broadcasters/reporters and their subjects. For example, ESPN's Chris Fowler has been open about his friendship with Lance Armstrong (Their families have spent private time together). Same with Fox's Jay Glazer about Matt Leinart or Jared Allen. You can question whether such relationships produce a lack of objectivity, but at least such disclosure gives you the context to make that decision. Alas, one of the biggest disappointments here is ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, who has personal friendships with college coaches around the country. We rarely hear Vitale preface one of his soliloquy's on the greatness of college basketball coaches with a simple, "We are close friends but here's my opinion of him as a coach...

• ESPN2 anchor Erik Kuselias found himself all over YouTube and the sports blogosphere last year when some technical difficulties occured during a taping of Jim Rome is Burning. But the anchor handled a similar situation with aplomb Sunday while hosting ESPN2's Fantasy Football Now. Not knowing exactly the moment he was throwing it to NFL reporter Rachel Nichols, Kuselias said, "Let's bring Rachel... uh...let's bring in Rachel... uh... let's go out there... give me one second here...Rachel Nichols. She's at the Titans and the Jets. There were go. Sorry, Rachel. I'm glad to have you here. First question..." Kuselias plowed ahead like Willis McGahee. Well done. He also nailed it on Niners tight end Vernon Davis (seven catches for 96 catches and two touchdowns on Sunday). "That's a guy who is starting to find his way," Kuselias said, a couple of hours before Davis lit up the Vikings.

• In a ham-handed attempt to strong-arm CBS, the Raiders asked the network to remove game analyst Rich Gannon from Sunday's broadcast crew -- the second time such a request was made by Oakland management. To its credit, CBS declined. The NFL later informed the Raiders that part of the billions CBS pays the league includes cooperation in production meetings with network talent. Raiders executive John Herrera told the San Francisco Chronicle that Gannon was not welcome at the Raiders facility because he had "attacked the team" on a regular basis and resorted to name-calling. "He seems to be a guy who can't get over the fact that he played the worst Super Bowl game in the history of the game and he wants to blame everybody but himself," Herrera told the Chronicle. "I guess it's our fault he threw five interceptions." (Judge for yourself: Here's Gannon on Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

• In a scene straight out of the Fonzworth Bentley files, Fox Sports cut to one of its production people dutifully holding an umbrella over the head of sideline reporter Tony Siragusa as rain flooded the field during the Giants-Bucs game in Tampa. We remind you that Siragusa was once on the cover of SI arm-wrestling Michael Strahan. Tough guys hold their own umbrellas, Goose.

• NFL Network analyst Michael Irvin offered up this opinion on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady a couple of hours before New England's 26-10 win over Atlanta. "The reality is Tom Terrific isn't Tom Terrific," Irvin said. "I saw him missing guys on the goal line last week." Brady finished 25 of 42 for 277 yards and a touchdown against Atlanta.

• I like having NBC's Football Night in America host Bob Costas appear at the site of NBC's Sunday night game. For starters, he's the best interviewer in sports. But one of the downsides is the potential for production glitches if you are going to have Costas interview a subject not at the stadium. During a halftime interview Costas conducted with Jets coach Rex Ryan, NBC was plagued once again with a satellite delay, something they expereinced last week when Costas interviewed Jay Leno.

• The e-mail interaction between Sean Salisbury and last week was theater of the surreal, prompting the Los Angeles Times to ask: "Has Sean Salisbury Lost His Mind And His Ability To Spell? Or is there an imposter out there?" Rather than ponder that question, I'll simply provide the links here and here and let you judge.

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