August is Here… Football Season Ahead!

Dick Stockton and Matt Millen
August is here.
Where has the summer gone?  And where is it heading?Well, it’s heading toward football season, and for your devoted correspondent, it’s getting here in a hurry.

Off to LA for my annual Fox NFL seminar.  It’s where EVERYBODY gathers for a short, two day meeting with our executives to discuss things we should know going into the coming season.

This year, all the on-air broadcasters, producers and directors will be on hand as usual.
But unlike last year’s confab, all of our college colleagues will join us as well.
What is neat about the seminar, is reuniting with friends we will never see all season.
I know that my particular group I’ll be working with, including Mark Schlereth, my partner for the second straight year, will be there. But others, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, and all of the other expert-analysts I’ve broken in through the years, and all of the production folks I’ve worked with, will be in attendance.We will discuss new technology, very likely new graphics which appear on your screens when you watch games, research, communication and everything new that is aimed at helping us put out a better product.

Perhaps the most significant time will be devoted to the rule changes for 2018.

This discussion unquestionably will have the greatest impact on our telecasts.

I am looking forward to two new rules in particular.
One, regarding helmet contact by players, and the other concerning new regulations affecting kickoff coverage.
These will be big changes.

At the very same time we get a heads-up on the rules changes, the players themselves, already at training camp, will be receiving the same information. It will be as new to them as it is to us.

As I write this, I realize I’ve omitted another rule change. Maybe the one that will decide most games. One that has tipped the scales of so many critical games in the past, including last season.

When is a catch, a catch?

This call has been the toughest for officials to make, in my opinion, because the rules have changed so much.

There are new parameters for determining whether a receiver has made a catch of a pass. And I am not about to delve into this issue until I hear what it is.

Fortunately for all of us at Fox Sports, we have the luxury of getting the word on all the new changes from the best: Mike Pereira, and Dean Blandino, two former NFL officials, you’ve seen countless times on our telecasts.

I’ve talked about many of the neat aspects of our annual meeting, but this year’s is special.

It is the 25th year that Fox Sports has covered the NFL.
When Fox outbid CBS for the rights to cover The NFC portion of the league schedule in 1994,  critics predicted Fox’ coverage wouldn’t approach the level of what CBS had established since the start of network telecasting of pro football.
As all of you readers know, CBS has returned to NFL coverage for many years, but at the time, the network which began it all in the television medium, was considered the epitome of the NFL on TV.
What Fox has done, in a quarter of a century, is bring innovations in covering the sport that has been copied by every other network.
The Fox Box, that small graphic that tells you the score, the time, time out remaining, and the quarter, was implemented by Fox. Add to that, the unofficial lines you see indicating what yard line the ball is and where a first down is, are just some of the production elements never seen before.I worked at CBS from 1967 to early 1994, with the exception of the four years telecasting Boston Red Sox baseball.

My time with CBS is worth a chapter, but my time with Fox Sports has been my career highlight in overall body of work. This is the 25th year for Fox NFL football and it is my 25th year with them as well.
There are eight on-air broadcasters who are originals and still on-the-air, and the group will hold a celebration panel discussion. The eight who have been there since day-one: Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, and Jimmie Johnson from our pre-game show. Joe Buck, Tom Brennaman, Kenny Albert, yours truly, and my partner when we started, Matt Millen, who work in the booth.

Howie Long

Ed Goren, who was Fox’s original Executive Producer will moderate.
By the time you read this, the highlights from the talk, and the rules clarification will be history. A brief review next week.A look back at a wonderful charity tennis tournament that benefits community betterment in Alexandria Bay, NY, and the teaching professional I wrote about a year ago.

The fourth annual John Russell tourney, in honor of a community icon who devoted his life to the game was a success.
Ryan Jeckel
It was good to catch up with Ryan Jeckel, who has been a tennis teacher in Lancaster, PA.
Now 34, Jeckel, who always knew teaching the sport was his life’s calling, now appears to be narrowing his focus.
At last year’s’ US Open, Ryan spent time with a coach of a women’s junior prospect who was playing in the tournament, and effectively analyzed her opponent’s strength and weaknesses, much of it having to do with her size and style.
It now appears Ryan Jeckel aims to either serve as coach of a college tennis team, or a coach of a young hopeful who has the desire and ability to become possibly a ranked player on the tennis tour.
So while we now see the likes of Boris Becker, as a coach, in the stands of a Grand Slam event, perhaps someday we’ll see and hear about Ryan Jeckel in a similar venue.
Following that dream.