PFT Ten-Pack: Week one prime time games
POSTED 8:44 p.m. EDT; UPDATED 10:14 p.m. EDT,
September 12, 2006
WEEK ONE PRIME TIME GAMES
As promised, we've followed our Ten-Pack of takes from the early games on Sunday with another Ten-Pack focusing on the Sunday night and Monday night prime-time games, and the coverage thereof.
And thanks so much to all of the readers who have offered up e-mails confirming our beliefs regarding certain issues, and at times raising with us things that we hadn't previously noticed.
At the risk of getting all sappy, the e-mails we receive from readers have significantly improved the overall quality of the site by giving us prompt notice of breaking news, and by bringing to our attention interesting nuggets that we otherwise might have missed.
Okay, enough of that crap.
Time to get back to being smart asses.
Marlee Matlin Is Blushing.
For anyone who thinks that Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson is a good ol' country boy who says "please" and "thank you" and "yes, ma'am" and "no, ma'am" and "excuse me" after he farts in church (we're still working on that one), you should have been keeping a close eye on Johnson's mouth after he threw a third quarter touchdown pass to Marcus Robinson.
Though we're not licensed lip readers ("How about six? . . .
Six is good. . . .
You got a problem with six?"), it seemed pretty clear to us that Johnson's exact words were:
Of course, we didn't need to use the TiVo remote to confirm this, since ESPN replayed the image at least five times throughout the balance of the broadcast.
"Dad, what's he saying?" Florio Jr. asked at one point.
"Um . . . um . . . I think he really likes Mother Hubbard."
We Hate Anyone Named Manning (And Anyone Who Ever Had A Pony).
We almost didn't watch the game between the Colts and the Giants because we've developed a condition that results in projectile upchucking whenever we hear the names "Peyton Manning" and "Eli Manning" within 10 seconds of each other.
Needless to say, the official PFT football viewing room was looking like a Roman vomitorium on Sunday night.
The most depressing aspect of the constant hype regarding the so-called "Manning Bowl" was that even old-schoolers like John Madden lost all sense of history by focusing primarily, if not exclusively, on the fact that the game presented the first occasion on which two brothers played quarterback against each other in an NFL game.
Did anyone at NBC bother to notice that the game was also a rematch of the the event that launched the modern era of the NFL?
Colts versus Giants.
Televised by (you guessed it) NBC.
It's possible that at some point during the game or the awkwardly-named Football Night in America someone made reference to the significance of a Colts-Giants contest that had slightly greater meaning to the season in which it was played, and to the sport.
But if it happened it was only in passing, and it was by no means a point of emphasis.
In our view, NBC blew a great chance to herald its return to broadcasting "real" pro football by embracing its role in what knowledgeable NFL aficionados call "The Greatest Game Ever Played."
In contrast, Sunday's game likely will be remembered as the first meeting between two guys who eventually will be able to compare Super Bowl rings with Fran Tarkenton and Dan Marino.
Man, Do We Wish ESPN Hadn't Gotten Screwed By NBC.
We've previously noted that NBC pulled off a major coup by securing the rights to the Sunday night games for roughly half of the annual fees that ESPN will pay.
Making the Peacock's prize even more impressive was NBC's ability to score flexible scheduling, which will insulate it against broadcasting late-season snoozers.
Also, NBC has wrested from ESPN the ability to televise an early evening highlight show on Sunday nights.
And just as Monday Night Football no longer feels special due to the move from network to cable, Sunday night pre-football feels less significant due to the move from cable to network.
With all due respect to Dorian Gray and Cris Collinsworth and Sterling Sharpe and Jerome Bettis, none of them is Chris Berman, whose 20-year run as the voice of the definitive highlight package should not have ended.
Sure, Boomer and Tom Jackson still do their thing on Sunday night's SportsCenter, but it's not the same.
Maybe we'll eventually get used to the new routine.
Or maybe we won't.
Frankly, we can't recall Berman or Jackson ever uttering anything as inane as Sterling Sharpe's observation that a drive-extending catch by Seahawks receiver Darrell Jackson "saved maybe Seattle's season."
Sterling, are you retarded?
4. Football Fans Don't Give a Sh-t About Celebrities.
We received plenty of complaints from readers regarding the decision of ESPN to spend so much time during the Vikings-Redskins game tracking the whereabouts of Tom Cruise -- and allowing Jamie Foxx to hang out in the booth.
Though some NFL observers believed that the move of MNF from an entertainment network to a sports network would result in less pop-ins from people with projects to promote, Foxx parked his caboose between Mike Tirico and Tony Kornholer for a big chunk of the second quarter.
And what's with the propping up of Tom Cruise?
We're not suggesting that the broadcast crew should have talked about couch jumping or any of the other objectively bizarre behaviors of a guy who has allowed his quirks to consume his career.
But whether Cruise was at the game -- or Foxx, for that matter -- had zero relevance to the matter at hand.
Indeed, the last thing true football fans cared about was anything Foxx had to say, and anything that TomKat were doing in the front row of Dan Snyder's box (although we'll admit that in one shot of the happy couple it appeared that Tom believed Katie was full of helium, and might float completely out of the stadium.)
Our guess is that ESPN embraced the presence of Cruise and Holmes and Foxx because it enabled the network to push the notion that MNF on ESPN on ESPN is still a "big deal."
In our opinion, however, it's the game and the coverage of the game that will determine whether MNF is still a big deal; whether we get to see and hear actors and other celebrities who appear on the channels we aren't watching during a football game is meaningless.
Then again, it could be that Cruise was present at the game solely for the purposes of researching the role he'll play in the first film financed by Redskins owner Dan Snyder.
Based on Cruise's current haircut, he's the perfect guy to star in the life story of former 'Skins G.M. Charley Casserly.
Suzy Makes A Joke.
We're not big fans of Suzy Kolber.
She's too perky and too positive, and her information is usually the kind of obvious stuff that anyone who reads a newspaper could come up with.
She rarely has anything to say about the events unfolding in the game, and instead parrots the pre-planned puff that she picked up prior to kickoff.
But on Monday night she made an excellent dig at Joey Sunshine.
In discussing Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell's adjustment to the complex Al Saunders offense, Kolber made reference to the "verbiage" involved -- and she then threw it back to the guys in the booth by suggesting that Joey Sunshine might know a thing or two about verbiage.
The line was even funnier because the terminally humorless Theismann didn't realize that she was ribbing him about his penchant for pomposity.
Instead, he assumed that she was referring to the realities of digesting and repeating an NFL playbook.
Even after Tony Kornholer and Mike Tirico chimed in, Theismann still didn't realize that he was being dissed.
So good for you, Suz.
Now tell your camera man to take a step or two back.
With the First Pick In the 2007 Draft, The Oakland Raiders Select . . . .
Man, are the Raiders terrible.
We posted a story earlier today regarding some of the ugliness arising from Monday night's game, and we currently believe that the Raiders have the inside track to the worst record in the NFL.
And thanks to ESPN's inflexible scheduling, we'll get to suffer through another shellacking of the Raiders on November 6, when they travel to Seattle.
Come April, look for the Raiders to select Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn.
And for Quinn to refuse to play there.
Our Weekly Joey Sunshine Complaint(s).
You know, we probably could do a weekly Ten-Pack based exclusively on the contradictions and other maddening statements offered up by Joe Theismann of ESPN.
Here's a summary of our favorites from Week One.
First, Theismann blurted out that Antwaan Randle El came to Washington because he'd get more touches in the Redskins' offense.
Yeah, Joe -- the fact that the 'Skins paid him far and away more than what the other team pursuing him (the Bears) offered probably had nothing to do with the decision.
Second, Sunshine elaborated for a while regarding the extent to which the zebras go out of their way to protect the quarterbacks, mentioning some of the flags thrown on Sunday for shots to the signal-callers.
Of course, he made no reference at all to the fact that no penalty was called when Bengals defensive end Robert Geathers nearly gave Trent Green the guillotine treatment.
Third, Theismann launched into full-blown hyperbole mode when proclaiming that Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson hadn't made a bad decision all night, only one drive after Theismann noted that Johnson was lucky that a ball thrown into triple coverage wasn't intercepted.
("But that wasn't a decision," Theismann might explain in response, "it was a pass.")
Fourth, Theismann showed off his research skills by explaining that Brad Childress is the only new coach in 2006 to inherit a team with a winning record in 2005.
Apparently, Joe hasn't heard that Herm Edwards is coaching the Chiefs, who were 10-6 last season.
Finally, Theismann made a comment regarding cornerback Fred Smoot's loquaciousness, opining that Smoot just likes to hear himself talk.
Joe, we figure you can't stand guys like that.
Neither can we.
Call Up Vermeil.
Our advice for ESPN?
Fire Joe Theismann right now and give his position to Dick Vermeil.
In fact, we'd dump the whole crew and move up the "B" team (with the exception of Bonnie Bernstein) up to the grown-ups' table.
As several readers have noted, it makes far more sense to use former coaches over former players for analyst jobs.
First, the coaches have a much better understanding of all aspects of the game.
Second, they're not as concerned about criticizing current players because pissing off people was simply part of the coaching territory.
Third, they're generally far better at communication because it was a central aspect of the job of a head coach.
So we were impressed by Vermeil.
Even more amazing is that he made it through three consecutive hours of his life without crying.
With that said, play-by-play guy Brad Nessler and analyst Ron Jaworski were better than their 7:00 p.m. EDT, counterparts, but they weren't ideal.
Nessler's voice conjures college football, so putting him on a pro game is like asking Adam West to play Superman.
And Jaws uses that goofy radio voice too much, e-nun-ci-a-ting every freakin' syllable of a word.
And by the way, Jaws, when a team commits a personal foul on fourth-and-seventeen, it's an automatic first down, not fourth and two.
When Did Al Saunders Become The Pope?
We weren't counting, but we think we heard "Al Saunders" and "$2 million offensive coordinator" in the same breath on Monday night as often as we heard "Peyton Manning" and "Eli Manning" spoken in direct proximity on Monday night.
But yet there wasn't a single mention that the undisputed genius of pro football had served for several years as the offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs, who gave him no consideration for the job vacated by Dick Vermeil.
It would have been a great point for Tony Kornheiser
Really, what does it say about Saunders when the team he turned into an offensive juggernaut won't even give him a sniff to be the head coach?
Regardless of whether Tony missed it because he was being nice to the 'Skins or he simply isn't sufficiently knowledgeable of the dynamics of the league, it was a disappointing omission.
The Return Of Playmakers.
The most surprising aspect of Monday night's broadcast was an introduction featuring film-quality scenes of players like Michael Huff, LaDainian Tomlinson, Darren Sharper, Dwight Smith, and Antwaan Randle El getting ready for the game.
It immediately reminded us of ESPN's Playmakers, the fictional football show that nearly cost ESPN its relationship with the NFL.
So it was fitting that one of the guys featured in the opening segment was Smith, who was deactivated by the Vikings for Monday night's game after getting busted on August 26 for getting freaky with a female acquaintance in a public stairwell.
We don't recall anything like that from the Playmakers show; as we've said before, it really was an unrealistic depiction of life in the NFL.
In depicting the excessive and indulgent behavior of players, it didn't nearly go far enough.
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