Posted: Thursday January 26, 2006 12:11PM; Updated: Thursday January 26, 2006 5:21PM
TWO AND A HALF **/
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, FOX -- Well, I hate to do this, because Troy was one of the most honest and informative players I've ever talked to. He really helped me throughout his whole career. But what can I say when the area of line play, particularly on defense, is so ignored by this team? OK, Aikman's strength is the passing game, patterns and coverages, and I can take an overload in this direction, but I can't take what seems to affect so many young announcers after a few years -- plugging the stars.
Packers-Bucs, Week 3. Favre throws an interception on the first series. His fault? My goodness, no. It never is. "The receiver didn't get separation." (Then don't throw the freakin ball, Brett!). I'm even hearing organizational copping out, as the Packers sink to 0-3. "They're in a little bit of their transitional mode with their franchise," Buck says, and, yeah, I'd expect it from him, but I think Aikman has to think through the whole idea of whether he wants to be a dead-on analyst or an industry flak.
Oddly enough, Frank Gifford, when he first started with CBS, was highly critical, almost a ripper. Then a year or two later he blanded it out and lost his bite. I asked him about it. "I played alongside some of these guys," he said. "Now they're mad at me. Their wives don't talk to my wife. It's just not worth it."
I have a lot more notes about the Aikman-Buck team's constant lauding of the stars, to the neglect of people who actually do the work, but I'll bag 'em and hope that things turn around. And, of course, this being the No. 1 team, their shows are all cluttered up with all sorts of technical, artsy craftsy crap that merely obscure lineups, formations, yard lines, etc. Once I mentioned this to their director, Artie Kemper, and he kind of went off on me.
"You might know your X's and O's and how to chart a game," he said, "but you know absolutely nothing about our business." What I do know, though, is how many times I have to look at a closeup of the quarterback's head, barking signals, instead of the start of a play.
Sam Rosen and Bill Maas, FOX -- I have never dropped a team a full star before, but Maas never has been so full of himself as he is now. Good things first. He appreciates and likes to talk about the work of the guys with the 70's and 90's on their backs, the ones I also favor. And Rosen, as I've mentioned, is meticulous about letting you know exactly which group of fellas is on the field. But for God's sake, Billy, let poor Sam catch his breath once in a while.
"You got that, Sam? Let me explain it one more time." (Yeah, I got it already). "You see, Sam, this is the way they lined up for that play. Sam, are you awake? Hey, somebody bring that ice over here." Poor Sam. He's not exactly an eedjit, ya know. But the worst of this is that Maas has gotten so dogmatic that even when he's dead wrong about something, he'll continue to flog it.
Bears sitting on a lead against the Panthers in Week 11 and Thomas Jones runs out of bounds with about six minutes left. "Don't go out of bounds," says Maas, who does not know that at that stage of the game the clock keeps running on an out-of-bounds play. "That's the last thing you want to do."
Even worse was his call in the Panthers-Falcons game in Week 13. "The Panthers are in their Rhino Package," Maas says. "No. 47, Davis, [Thomas Davis, a 231-pound combination linebacker-DB] is in for Chris Gamble, the cornerback." Well, Sam is a guy who calls what he sees on the field. "Davis in for linebacker Brandon Short," he says, and I thought Maas would start pounding his shoe on the table.
"No Sam, it's the Rhino, the Rhino Package is what it is. They took out Chris Gamble is what they took out." And as he's saying it we see No. 20, Chris Gamble, come walking across the screen, on the way to his position.
Maas' malaprops? Is it fair to mention these howlers, or is that not playing fair? This is the third year I've heard him say, "Time to button down the hatches." How about, "The story here is the Bills' run defense or lack thereof it?"
Finally, my last complaint, and I promise I'll move on. Week, 16, Green Bay vs. Chicago. On Week 14 (Green Bay-Detroit) we heard the entire "will he or won't he?" Favre debate on ESPN. A week later on Monday night (Green Bay-Baltimore) we had to hear it again. And now, for the third week in a row, it's whipped to death by Maas and Rosen. I held up a white flag. Mercy, have mercy.
Whoops, one more nasty thing to say. It concerns Jay Glazer, the sideline guy for this team, and general FOX scoop-man. One of his scoops was about Tiki Barber's Giants contract and how a special bonus would kick in if he'd gain over 900 yards. That led to the speculation that the Giants were holding back on his carries to stiff him out of his bonus. A wire service actually picked up this junk and ran with it. Right. Got that coach Coughlin, and GM Accorsi, and you too, John Mara? Never mind about winning games, we're going to save the club some money. And guys like Glazer actually earn applause for this kind of journalism.