Every year at about this time, I stop to consider whether the streak is alive. Not that anyone should care, but it is:
In the nearly 40 years I’ve written this column, not once have I received word from even one reader that he or she favors one NFL studio pregame show over any other, let alone all others. It has never come up. The only thing recognized is that the shows — on CBS, Fox, ESPN, NFL Network — grow longer, thus fueling their commercial value and viewer uselessness.
No network even tries to distinguish its pregame show from the rest. They are, in weekly form, forced laughter festivals, intentionally dull and flat, as if Roger Goodell holds the master circuit to cut the juice and burn the contract if someone dares detail why a player is out with “off-the-field issues.” The truth, in Goodell’s NFL, is an act of sedition.
“So Coach, who do you like in today’s Seahawks-Lions, to be seen right here on Fox?” “Well, they first have to establish the run …” Apparently we’re supposed to care about the answer, but we don’t, never have and never will. Yet the scripts never change.
There will be irrelevant stats thrown in to feign preparation and enlightenment, and perhaps CBS’s “Weekend” Boomer Esiason, the phony, will resume his role as a tongue-tied choir boy while Fox’s Jimmy Johnson still wears that look that he can’t believe he’s paid for this.
The panelists, while they come and go, have grown in per-telecast number, thus further ensuring that intelligent conversation will be lost to one-sentence in-and-outs. And even more forced belly laughs.
Fox’s Jay Glazer seems a strong source on late player scratches and rumors, but that’s it.
So how does a network attract then sustain loyal NFL pregame audience? How would any of them know if none have even bothered to try?
Early this season I saw a defensive back, stretched out on the field, nearly motionless after a helmet-to-shoulder-pad collision. His head was immobilized, and soon a gurney carried him to an ambulance that departed. The sideline reporter noted his arms were moving and said she’d keep us posted. Then what?
Who rides to the hospital with the player? What’s going on in the player’s mind as he stares at the inside roof of the ambulance? How are his personal belongings, including his street clothing, transported to the hospital? If he’s released in a vastly improved condition, who accompanies him home, especially by airplane from an away game?
Does the team employ a staff to provide such aid, comfort and services? We’ve witnessed the start of such dramas, but how do they play out?
This is where I’d include a six-minute piece within a pregame show.
What’s practice week like for a long snapper? That line judge also works at a penitentiary? Or at a reptile refuge? Show and tell us their stories. Give us more, give us something, anything better. Besides big, loud laughs at gags that wouldn’t naturally emit a grin, give us a chance to say to ourselves, “That was pretty interesting.”
But on we go, keeping it dull, keeping network hands safe and clean as they make nothing out of something. Rinse, repeat.
Shameful MLB past can’t just be erased
Now that Rob Manfred, with a single declaration, has radically and racially revised American history — eliminating decades of MLB segregation by decree — The Great Emancipator is working on a new result for the Crimean War.
So networks hire former football officials to prejudge replay challenges and they often provide nothing better than “maybe” or “perhaps,” meaning their second guess is no better than the field officials’ first guess and the official second guess. And they still declare that this is called, “Getting it right.”
Peer Pressure: Guaranteed, Mark Schlereth, now with Fox, never spoke of a QB’s “arm talent” until he became a TV football analyst.
Trouble magnet Dwayne Haskins, Washington’s QB, has lost his designation as a team captain, with an upper-case C. Makes one wonder who he be beat out for the honor.
Volume Alert: New York audiences will be subjected to “Hollerin’ ” Kevin Harlan on CBS’s Browns-Jets telecast.
Iowa State’s colors have been cardinal and gold since 1899. You could always narrow it down by choosing Iowa State, Arizona State or USC for instant TV recognition. Now it’s just another school whose football team, on Nike’s orders and purchased compliance, wears bad-attitude all black.
Monday night, despite the uncivil war between the Steelers and Bengals, was designated an NFL “Muppets Night” for those kids hooked on black coffee. Having always confused the Muppets with Sesame Street, I wanted to learn if Elmo is related to Venmo.
Holiday games confirm leagues worship $$$
If I were King …
So, Christmas Eve there again were no NBA games scheduled, which made no sense for game workers, broadcast workers and pre-COVID ticket-buyers who would much prefer to work or attend games on Christmas Eve than abandon their families and the holiday on Christmas Day. But on Christmas Day, the NBA, fully devoted to TV money, schedules five national game telecasts.
On Thanksgiving Day, thousands of folks who prefer to be with families and loved ones are ordered to work so the NFL can televise three games, one for CBS money, one for NBC money, one for Fox money.
And Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day for all Americans to solemnly reflect on his achievements and assassination, is now annually scheduled to be loaded with and devoted to NBA games — in somber salute to Dr. King, of course.
Is there a more media-certified myth than NFL teams “tanking” the season to improve their draft pick?
1) The likelihood that the head coach — an Adam Gase — won’t be back is such a given that to think he’d be eager to grease his own skid and lose as a favor to the team about to fire him, is ridiculous. Why not just punch yourself in the eyes?
2) That players, so many of them deemed expendable after a rotten season, would voluntarily feed their departure and diminished standing by playing conspicuously bad football is absurd. Wait for me! I’ll punch myself in the eyes, too!
But “tanking,” the NFL myth, is here to stay.
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