Many people romanticize baseball on the radio. Football is something else entirely. On Sunday, while I was driving home from the Big Red Machine reunion in Cincinnati, I listened to the entire Kansas City Chiefs-New Orleans Saints game on my brand new "Best of Sirius" radio package. I cannot even remember the last time I listened to an entire NFL game on the radio. It was probably when I was a kid listening to the Cleveland Browns game through radio static.
The Sirius package, though, comes in clear as an air horn, and listening for three hours reminded me there are forgotten joys to football on the radio. Sure, everyone understands football, at its core, is a television game. Or more to the point, it's a
After a while, as a football viewer, you come to rely on replays, even when you're at the game and watching live. In fact, there are few things more infuriating as a fan than watching a play and noticing something (it looked like he fumbled at the end; it looked like he might not have caught the ball; it looked like the receiver set a pick) and them
And that's different. Baseball replays can come in handy -- sometimes replays clarify a close play or finalize a fair/foul ball or show you just how badly a pitcher missed his spot on the home run -- but I don't think it's the same thing. In baseball, replays simply validate what you saw or, in rare cases, contradict what you saw. But football, because it involves 22 men, all with their own unique jobs on every play, every replay tells a whole new story, it's like watching a whole new play.
And so I have grown used to that football-watching rhythm, grown used to seeing a play and then immediately looking up at the television to see what actually happened. I have grown used to appreciating the specifics of football, the smallest things, to observe where the Steelers blitzes are coming from, two see how
Football on the radio strips the game down. It isn't about specifics anymore. It's all about the main thing. Baseball on radio opens up other worlds, there is time between pitches to tell stories, to relive history, to imagine trades, to get out of town scores, to throw out a little bit of trivia*. It's all very relaxed and friendly and slow.
In football on radio, the exact opposite is true, it's all football in the moment -- there isn't
*OK, so if I write, "This has
So, anyway, listening to the Kansas City Chiefs on the radio clarified something I already knew but had never quite seen from the radio angle: Wow, they stink. It's one thing to watch the Chiefs lose in person, to see the various close calls, to appreciate the small improvements, to see the individuals in action and appreciate how slight the difference is between a successful play and an unsuccessful one, to view things sympathetically through the eyes of coaches who are working hard.
On the radio, it's so much plainer. The Chiefs defensive line gets
Also the Chiefs get
Let's focus on that for lack of pressure for a minute. You want a statistic that will blow your mind? Here goes: The Kansas City Chiefs have played 10 games. They have six sacks. That would be as a team. Six sacks. There are 19 individual
So as you can see, this year's Chiefs team has a chance to be the least intimidating defense ever. And by quite a lot. And while that kind of historic ineptitude is hard to watch on television or in person, it's absolutely staggering on the radio. Every single time the quarterback drops back, you hear the announcer -- in this case, the very informative
And it's just plain, it's stark, the voice on the radio will not negotiate. In person, on television, you might see that a defensive lineman got held, or you might feel a little bit of the tension, but on the radio that defensive line is just a dead battery. On the radio it feels like
There are other things you get listening to football the radio, such as the "Real Men of Genius" commercials which, I sense, may have run their course. There is also an astonishing Pizza Hut commercial where, if I got the plot right, a man is taking his wife out for dinner. And she says, "Wow, this is great, we never go out." She actually says this. And then she says, "Hey, why are we back home, did you forget something?" And he says, "Nope, surprise!" And it turns out that instead of going out, he has invited some people over to have
I find this to be the single least believable commercial in the history of the world, and let's face it, there have been some remarkably unbelievable commercials through the years. I keep waiting for the follow-up commercial where the couple gets divorced and she gets the house and the car but he gets the leftover pizza. I mean, is
When the game ended and the Chiefs had lost again, I turned to the Pittsburgh-San Diego game and listened to the Steelers broadcast for a while. I really started to enjoy the rhythm of radio football. Plus those Steelers guys are very entertaining, though half the fun was just listening to people with Pittsburgh accents talk for three hours. Also, I got to hear what a sack sounds like.