When you’re not working every week broadcasting NFL games you have an opportunity to observe other broadcasts and form opinions of what impacts you as you watch the games.
So, I have opinions on a some things I truly wonder about.
How things have changed in what I hear and see.
Maybe, I am old fashioned. But if I am, it’s about the simplicity, basics and the straight-forward approach I am used to.
So here goes.
A good deal of what I’m about to say deals with the new terminology I hear, the senseless comments that I’m sure I’ve been guilty of, and the actions of players on the field.
I hear the term, complementary football.
What does that mean. In today’s jargon, it’s how the defensive side helps the offense during a game, and vice versa.
Well, what else is new?
If the defense clamps down on an opponent’s drive and forces them to punt giving the offense good field position, that’s a good thing isn’t it?
If the defense “can’t get off the field” that’s not a good thing, right?
That means the other team is controlling the game.
Why not just say it that way?
How about when a receiver elevates to make a catch?
What else does he do? He jumps.
Why come up with new-fangled ways of saying the simple thing?
Another way they say it now, is vertical leap.
Well, sometimes a receiver goes horizontal to make a play, but when he does on those rare occasions, it proves to be a play nothing short of spectacular.
How often have you heard announcers describe a ball carrier as “running downhill”? The answer is, quite often.
Whenever a running back turns on the speed and is hard to tackle he is ”running downhill”. Actually, the field is on a level plane. So there is no such thing as downhill. Now, if we were describing a ski race in the Olympics, everyone of them is downhill. There is a difference.
I’ve always told my expert-analysts, breaking into broadcasting, that if a viewer would react to his comment saying, “no kidding”, the comment was superfluous, unnecessary.
Here are a few. “They want to score touchdowns in the red zone (inside the 20) not settle for field goals”.
“They’re going to have to force turnovers”.
“They can’t afford to turn the ball over”.
“The quarterback would like to have that throw back”, after throwing an interception.
There are so many more of these comments, but you get the idea.
I think broadcasters, and I also include play-by-play yakkers, feel they have to say something, so they say the obvious.
What should their comment be? Maybe what the challenge is looking ahead. Maybe I’m being too critical. Again, I’m sure I’ve done the same thing. But I just happen to notice it more.
Then, there are the actions of players who do things that weren’t done back in the day.
Like celebrations after making a sack. Their team may be down three touchdowns, but it’s time to say “look at me”.
“I gotta sack!”
I know the performances exhibited by players in end zone after a touchdown look choreographed and rehearsed.
The fact is, they are.
I once attended a Friday practice of the Denver Broncos and witnessed the maneuvers by receivers and quarterbacks, after a score.
They practiced one move four times. Probably countless more times in the locker room.
These actions are replayed several times on TV, with the impression being that viewers love to see the show.
Perhaps they do.
If I’m old school, I like I when the touchdown-maker simply hands the ball to an official. Like Jim Brown the great running back with the Browns used to do. He was in the end zone often. But he acted like he was there before.
Nothing special for him.
Lately, there’s been the practice of players pointing out the result of a fumble or interception immediately after a turnover.
It doesn’t matter that they’re ten yards from the turnover, their team has recovered the ball.
I’m waiting for the time the actions indicate the opponent has possession.
It’ll never happen.
You’ve seen a lot more examples of the kinds of comments by broadcasters and actions of players I’m talking about.
Amusing is what it is.
Not everybody does it, certainly not a colleague of mine who was elected into baseball’s broadcasting Hall of Fame, known as the Ford C. Frick Award.
He’s Al Michaels. Whom I think, to put it simply, is purely the best.
Many people might not remember Al as a brilliant baseball announcer.
Most younger viewers identify with him as the voice of NFL’s Sunday Night Football on NBC.
Most recall his iconic exclamation, when the United States defeated the Soviet Union in that classic 1980 Olympic Hockey semi-final showdown in Lake Placid.
The words, “do you believe in miracles? Yes!” will never be forgotten.
Al began his career broadcasting the AAA Hawaiian Islanders of the Pacific Coast League. He quickly advanced to the major leagues first as the voice of the Cincinnati Reds, then the number one man for the San Francisco Giants.
He became the lead voice of ABC’s baseball coverage in the 1970’s and 80’s.
Michaels called seven World Series, including the 1989 series between the A’s and the Giants that was interrupted by an earthquake which struck the Bay Area. Al quickly reverted to becoming a newsman when the earthquake struck, with his keen knowledge of the San Francisco- Oakland area was a major factor in the reporting of the incident.
I’ve always felt good sports broadcasters would be excellent on breaking live news because that’s what they are trained to do.
Describe what they see at live events and make sense of what’s going on.
Al Michaels unquestionably proved that to be the case.
I got to know Al during the time we happened to be at the NFL Pro Bowl.
He was working, I was vacationing. We played golf and established a bond that will never diminish, even though, for some reason, we have not stayed in touch.
I have been a tough critic of broadcasters through the years, including myself.
Believe me, I am aware of the plusses and minuses of what I do.
I admire many of those who toiled before me, and during my time.
There are those, like Vin Scully, Marv Albert, and Mike Emrick who have been the best at the sports in which they specialize.
But the most consistent, knowledgeable, and cliche-free sports announcer I ever heard is Al Michaels.
Already an NFL Hall of Famer, now adding baseball to his long list of accolades.