Here's an old rule of thumb I just made up: Never write a critical column about NFL announcers when you're in an ugly mood because every little annoyance will be magnified beyond reasonable proportions. Thus, as I spent the last two days going through the notes I meticulously made during the season, all the old resentments came back, the sneers, the head-banging frustrations, the wonderment at how we can stand still for the unbelievable barrage of crapola to which we've been subjected.
Each one of these idiotic clichés is a blade under my fingernail, and usually I just shrug and move on; but after many years of this stuff has turned me so bitter that I can hardly live with myself, it's time to take a stand. Thus what you will get is an announcers rating column, the Tenth Annual, I believe, or maybe Tenth Animal, that will make up for a lack of balance by its grossly unfair nature. Sorry, can't help it. This dark mood just won't go away.
None. Last year's only five-star team, ESPN's second unit, was broken up.
How good is Ryan? Well, how many analysts will tell you who the good BLOCKERS are on kickoff returns? Arizona-Washington -- "Watch
I've also heard them when their scouting report might not have been as incisive, or maybe they hadn't been paying as close attention to it. Deion made a big point of a delay penalty, coming out of a timeout, in the Steelers-Rams game. No, the penalty was motion. "Just put it up and give your receiver a chance," he advises Big Ben, even though his receiver,
Collinsworth impressed me last year with his attempt to get into a bit of the line play. This season, it became an afterthought. And one test, at least for me, is whether or not the team can carry on with some semblance of coherence when the game is either meaningless or a blowout. Both Cris and Gumbel flunked on that score when they ditched Colts-Falcons early and went through stretches when they failed to announce whole series. Even ESPN, during one of those maddening guest-in-the-booth horror shows, wasn't as bad. But when he's into a big game, Collinsworth can present a clear overview, which is almost like damning with faint praise.
Hammond, a smooth old pro, filled in when Gumbel went on injured reserve for a Houston-Denver Thursday nighter. Comfortable to listen to, with very little insight provided, but then again, we shouldn't expect that from a play-by-play man. OK, I'll tell you the best thing about the league's network. They give us the national anthems, a great upper for an eccentric such as myself, who times them all.
The worst is the search for the eternal "story line," a favorite device of production people but something I've always felt is a deadly trap. "Here's the story line," we hear at the top of the show, or "among the many story lines," etc. No, the story line is what develops from the game itself, and as an old handicapper, I can tell you that most of the time it differs from preconceived notions. So why bother with it at all? Why get locked into such a static device, instead of merely letting the game take its course?
Because, as Emerson said, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, and in this case it's the variety we find in the regular production meeting in which the guy at the top rubs his hands and says, "OK, what's the story line tomorrow?" And then when it doesn't work out, which usually is the case, the guys doing the game feel betrayed, and like drowning souls clinging to a life raft, they try to hold onto any remnant of that line that they can find. They are trapped.
And Simms, who is blessed by working with one of the smoothest, most competent play-by-play men in the business, feels compelled to constantly remind us about the things he predicted early in the show and how they're working out, etc., neglecting the stuff that he had wrong. Well, I'm sounding like Johnny One Note here, but it's something that's becoming increasingly irritating. Besides, Phil collects plenty of awards for excellence ... he really doesn't need the poor old Doc to join the line of back-slappers.
One word on Phil's behalf, though. I don't like to see him get cheap-shotted. First week of the season, he's doing Jets-Patriots,
Ravens-Niners, Week 5. Lots of talk about the ineffectiveness of
Another round of Plug the Stars.
Randy on the Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew: "A rolling ball of butcher knives." This one actually made me shout at the TV. The quote is more than 30 years old, and it's Texas coach
Randy on Cleveland rookie tackle,
Jets vs. Tennessee, LB
And the boys were on a roll this time, finding a very clear angle on the game ... Jets were killing the Eagles on cutback running in the first half, but then when Philly adjusted to it, New York still tried to push it and got stopped. And, obviously trying to avoid having Pennington put the ball up, failed when they had no choice. A good, neat little picture, and even Goose, who combines analysis with his sideline job, was on top of it.
I don't want to belabor their failures, incident by incident, in that nasty, nagging way, so I'll summarize. For a guy who did a lot of the down and dirty stuff on the field, Johnston seems more at home talking about coverages, etc., than the real meat-and-potatoes elements of the game. Come on, Moose, find a lineman to talk about every now and then, or one of the tough guys on defense. Presumably that job is left to the Goose, but he has had a strange metamorphosis in his career, from rebel to hack ... or flack ... choose one.
A couple of years ago, I practically cheered when he took a shot at that artificial device of recalling their Saturday night meeting with still another "fine young man," and telling us how swell he was. "Who cares?" Siragusa said, creating a stir on his team. "All it is is politics." Yeah! Wow! I loved it. But obviously someone at Fox did not, because it became apparent that they must have had a heart to heart with the Goose.
Thus, we must listen to drivel such as, "
The problem was especially acute during the telecasts by this No. 1 team because neither Buck nor Aikman is concerned with telling you much about defense, who made the tackle, who forced the play, etc., and the production style is to get off a play so quickly that you can't even see the uniform numbers of the people involved. Thus, it is always with a sinking heart that I approach a game this team is working, if I happen to be especially interested in it.
Aikman is very good in breaking down, right, matters of pass and catch, although he's too nice. Well, what the hell, he always was a nice guy, and I certainly didn't complain when he was playing and he made my job so much easier. But gosh, if I hear him say, "You are exactly right, Joe," one more time, I'm going to find someone innocent to yell at.
Buck? How can he be so knowledgeable about baseball and not about our own sport? Believe me, he wouldn't last, trying to bring the same knowledge to the diamond, where the announcing is on such a higher plane.
I have a whole bunch of platitudes I collected from a season of listening to this team. New England-Dallas contest ("I think that's going to be a heck of a game").
And when Macatee worked the Baltimore-Seattle game with Beuerlein, the nuances of line play were basically lost.
A blanket grouping, which I've never done before, but I'm getting tired of leveling the same criticisms at the same people, who are doing the best they can and make some errors, get some things right, don't really tell me anything I don't know. This group includes the following:
I thought that bringing in Jaws for
I love Jaworski's Sunday morning blackboard show with
The two biggest contests he worked in the regular season were both near-upsets that ended dramatically, Dallas-Buffalo and New England-Baltimore. Both had the same climax -- the favored team pulling it out at the end against a defense that had gone passive and allowed itself to get worked over. Surprisingly, none of this registered with Jaworski.
It was especially apparent at the end of the Dallas game, when the Cowboys recovered an onside kick and had only seconds left, and the only place they could work the ball was the short sideline, and yet the Bills didn't defend it. They pulled back and gave the Cowboys the game. Friends of mine were calling, wanting to know what the hell was Buffalo thinking. But all this escaped Jaworski.
And so did the situation at the end of the Patriots-Ravens game, when Baltimore defensive coordinator
Plus so many other dramatic elements, such as the way Baltimore's left guard,
The guests that are brought in are absolute abominations, with poor Tirico valiantly pleading to be allowed to squeeze in a brief mention of what's going on down on the field in between
And in Bristol, the ESPN guys smile at the incredible naiveté of one small voice in New Jersey that doesn't have a clue about how money is made via network TV.
I did, however, see moments when a dim flame seemed to animate Jaworski and lead him to lash out briefly at his broadcast partner. Such as the time when Kornheiser said, in all seriousness, that Jacksonville's QB,
Oops, I've forgotten a team, the one-shot threesome of