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NFL TV broadcast teams peddle image, not substance

Posted: Friday February 8, 2008 9:40AM; Updated: Friday February 8, 2008 11:08AM
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In two years of broadcasting games for the NFL Network, Bryant Gumbel has yet to put a smile on the faces of many NFL fans.
In two years of broadcasting games for the NFL Network, Bryant Gumbel has yet to put a smile on the faces of many NFL fans.
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Announcers first. Keith of Seattle believes the league is so intent on "selling the spectacle" of the game that "actual facts get in the way of the sales job, hence, revenues." And that, he feels, accounts for the decline in quality of announcing. I get your thought and I agree, kind of, but here's the way I'd put it. Networks appeal to image, hence they hire image people and push them hardest. Once upon a time they weren't afraid of hiring big, earthy guys with a sense of humor ... Matt Millen, John Madden. Now they seem to be more interested in pretty folks who aren't as glib or as incisive.

Nathan of Savage, Minn., wants me to do a column about the coverage of games by various networks. Nah, there's not enough there. A couple of paragraphs would do it, I think, but I'm too tired to launch that project now.

Sean of Wales, Wisc., wonders if I ever watched a game with the radio turned on and the TV sound turned off. Yeah, I tried it. It works in theory, not in practice. With only the radio on, I never knew when the replays were coming, and it's important to catch them.

Three letters scolding me for not taking a heavier shot at Bryant Gumbel. The three, in order of appearance, are Mitch of Mequon, Wisc., Fadi A. of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Dave of Hoboken, N.J. Maybe I should have, but most of the complaints about Gumbel are mistakes in names and facts, and those aren't as bad as deliberate errors, such as inordinately pushing the super stars, or belaboring an obvious point forever or neglecting to call a game fairly. Yeah, I know, he's weak, but I can move on quickly from his failings.

Ken of Atlanta wants me to rate the pregame shows. I did it one year but I found that it cluttered up the column too much. That column is long enough as it is.

Dave of Hoboken again. "Z, you're not always bright, but at least you're honest." Huh? "What's the matter with you?" says the Flaming Redhead, who came over when she heard my groans. "That says not always RIGHT!" Oh. So what was the question again? Why wasn't I tougher on Tony Siragusa, who actually detracts from the game, "because Fox seems obsessed with what he's doing ('Look, Goose is trying to stay dry because it's raining,'), etc." Wow, that was a tough one to punctuate. Yeah, you're right. I should have hit his role as part of the landscape, but frankly, at that point I was getting a little tired of that team and Goose and everything, and I was eager to get to my yearly ESPN rip.

OK, E-mailer of the Week is David of Gilbert, Ariz., and he owes me a last name, which can be mailed in at any time. Why, he asks, does my top team of Rosen and Ryan get stuck with lesser games every week, such as Cardinals? An excellent question, and the only reason I can come up with is that the people who make the network decisions, and I would assume it's David Hill for Fox, are more interested in glitzy names than excellence on the job.

W. Shedd of Portsmouth, N.H., can't believe my na´vete in believing that other teams haven't done the same thing the Patriots are accused of, namely taping the Rams Friday walk through before the Super Bowl. Maybe they have. Perhaps I'm na´ve. I can still feel that it puts the game on a bit of a downer for me. You raise a good point, though, when you ask if the league had a rule prohibiting it then, even though it's not exactly the question you asked. If the videotape rule is something new, then there was no violation at that time. Hooray! Your Patriots are clean. Open the champagne.

And on to the Hall of Fame. What are my thoughts on Richard Dent's failure to make it? Well, there were four edge rushers who came up, Dent, Andre Tippett, Fred Dean and Derrick Thomas. I thought Thomas was a shoo-in, and then, in order of probability I had Dent, Dean and Tippett. It came out exactly the reverse, and why is a mystery to me. I thought Dan Pompei made an excellent presentation for Dent. A lot of things surprise me in that room.

Chuck of Athens, Ga., says that Jerry Kramer, whom I mentioned in my Diary piece, should be in but isn't. Why not? In the 17 years that I've been a selector, there have been maybe four senior candidates who didn't make it. Kramer was one of them. I voted for him, and if I remember correctly, someone from Detroit spoke out against him. The Lions' Alex Karras always had great games against Kramer.

Eric of Providence would like to know about my anti-Tagliabue stance. He helped rich people get richer. That, to me, is not what I call making a lasting contribution to the game. His instinct about the new TV contract was all wrong. He wanted to approve givebacks. Jerry Jones said nothing doing. Jones was right. The new contract zoomed way ahead of what Tagliabue was willing to settle for. He always had great disdain for members of my profession and took little pains to hide it. Every matter we brought up for consideration, such as our problem with assistant coaches being put off limits to us, was either tabled or ignored. Whipped dogs lick the boots that kick them, but I don't want to make it my style.

On to the Super Bowl, past and present. Robert of Chicago asks "Oh my, Z, could you be any more of a homer? Four of your top eight Super Bowl teams involve New York teams. How Jersey can one get?" The literal answer to that question is, "A lot more. I could have included the other one." The actual answer is that it never even dawned on me, but maybe you're onto something. The games involving New York teams were more meaningful to me because I was closer to them during the season. And after all, I did explain that the list was purely a personal one. Your question bugs me, though. I try not to lean toward this area in my regular writing during the season. I hope I do. Now you've got me going back through the clips and checking it out. Damn! I knew this day was going to be a bummer.

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