TV Commentator Rankings (cont.)
Posted: Thursday February 7, 2008 12:25PM; Updated: Thursday February 7, 2008 10:19PM
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.
Dick Stockton and Brian Baldinger, Fox
Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon, CBS
Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf, CBS
Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, CBS
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, Chad Pennington goes down with a sprained ankle on a sack by Jarvis Green. Next day, N.Y. Daily News columnist Bob Raissman, who's always loudest when he's the most wrong, takes a rip at Simms for not mentioning that the departure of guard Pete Kendall caused an inferior guy to man his spot, thereby causing the Pennington injury. Except that Green beat a different guy, LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, not the guard. But why be right when you can be loud?
Ian Eagle and Solomon Wilcots, CBS
Ravens-Niners, Week 5. Lots of talk about the ineffectiveness of Frank Gore. Hey, guys, the O-line is getting killed. It's one of the worst in the business. How about a quickie montage of the big guys getting driven into their own backfield? Or even mention of it? And then the way Ray Lewis once again is protected. Gore catches a little swing pass and Ray misses him clean. "Makes one man miss," Eagle tells us. Hey, the man has a name and it's Lewis. You've spent all day puffing the guy, as everyone does, so don't chicken out when it comes to his whiffs. C'mon, Ian. C'mon, Sol. You can do better.