OPINION: Please Stop Talking!
Enough is enough! Why can't they take a breath for two seconds and stop talking?
During the third quarter of the second Patriots preseason game. Back-up New England quarterback Brian Hoyer was in the midst of a nine play scoring drive capped by a 20-yard touchdown run by Sammy Morris.
Instead of hearing a discussion about that drive -- or any other pertinent Patriots-Falcons game topics -- the discussion by the often dull Joe Buck and usually boring Troy Aikmen centered on Donovan McNabb playing in Washington. Who cares about McNabb? This was a Patriots-Falcons preseason game and the discussion about McNabb meandered on ad nauseam.
But wait, there's more! The commercial tease! After the break, Buck announced the discussion will switch to Jay Cutler and his situation in Chicago.
Unfortunately, this is just a microcosm of most NFL television broadcasts. It's a good thing TV remotes have mute buttons. How else can anyone get through an entire NFL season with such nonsensical play-by-play or color commentators? You name the broadcast: Monday Night Football, Sunday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, Thanksgiving Day football, any day football; you are bound to yell at the commentators to "shut it!"
There's the incessant public love fest with the star players. We all know that Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are great. During a football game, we don't have to be reminded of this fact between every snap of the ball. Either talk about the game or don't talk at all; and enough about Brett "bleeping" Favre already!
In actuality, dead air can be refreshing. I long for the broadcasts with Al Michaels. He's a play-by-play announcer who does not try to draw attention to himself; or try to fill every space on air with his voice. It's not about who is in the booth; it's about what's happening on the field that matters for Michaels. An example of Michaels' expertise in the booth is, when Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field in Super Bowl XXV. Michaels simply said "no good! Wide-right!" and let the visuals tell the story. It's television! Unless you are blind you don't need to hear anymore descriptions.
In their prime, announcers like Dick Enberg, Pat Summerall, Don Criqui, Merlin Olsen, along with Michaels, could call a game with great distinctive voices while enhancing the calls of games without becoming the attraction. The game is the attraction.
Perhaps the most annoying broadcaster was the master of the obvious, John Madden. He was quoted during one game saying "If the quarterback throws the ball in the end zone and the wide receiver catches it ... It's a touchdown." When someone makes a tackle "Boom!" is his in-depth analysis. Madden was all bluster and virtually no substance.
Sadly, Madden's popularity has paved the way for many current broadcasters to be equally lacking. During key plays in games, viewers usually get minimal real analysis from the booth, and without a teleprompter, even less.
During a recent Monday night game, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez threw a pass to LaDainian Tomlinson in double coverage. The ball was deflected into the air allowing New York Giants cornerback Antrel Rolle to pick it off and return it to the Jets' 1-yard line.
So what happened on the play? Surly there's a former NFL coach or athlete in the broadcast booth capable of giving a quick and succinct description of the play; someone to help the viewing public understand why the play ended with a Sanchez interception. Just some insight on what was really happening on the field.
Immediately following the play, Super Bowl Champion coach, Jon Gruden said "Well it's second and 9, you're gonna want to throw the ball to your new toy (referring to the newly acquired Tomlinson, information everyone already knew). Here comes Tomlinson out of the backfield (he was in the slot not the backfield) and Sanchez forced it into traffic. Tip balls in the middle of the field are a problem."
You don't say coach. Tipped balls in the middle of the field are a problem?! Great insight.
Ron Jaworski, a former NFL quarterback and a fantastic analyst on the ESPN NFL Match-Up program, weighed in with equally underwhelming analysis. Jaws knows how to break down NFL plays. He was sure to give something to enhance this broadcast. Immediately following Gruden's brilliant analysis, Jaws added his two cents. "You design a play and you want to get a play to your new toy LaDainian Tomlinson (sounds familiar). But Mark Sanchez, you got to be judicious with the football. If it's not there, don't try to squeeze it in."
It's nice for Jaws to try to give Sanchez some coaching tips, but he's talking to someone who can't hear him. My advice to Jaws; your audience is listening to you at home, it's not Mark Sanchez. Talk to your audience.
The analysts (at least that's how they're promoted to the audience) should share insights which could have gone something to this effect: Tomlinson ran a three-step slant route from the slot position. Giants inside linebacker Michael Boley read the play and undercut the route causing the deflection and turnover. Sanchez might have had a completion by simply looking off the linebacker, however, he stared at Tomlinson the entire route allowing Boley to read the quarterback's eyes and jump underneath the route for the deflection.
Boom! There's an immediate insight on a big play which enhanced the broadcast.
It could have been worse. Someone who has a penchant for blustery commentary could have been doing the broadcast. Again, maybe it's just me, but entertaining people with pet nicknames for players and overzealous impressions is not my idea of a real football announcer. When people like Chris Berman are involved it's more about their personality than the action on the field. From an off-key John Facenda impression saying of "the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field" to references for big lineman running with a football as "stumbling-bumbling," those diversions detract from the game. During highlight recaps we're bombarded with nicknames of players like Jeff "Philadelphia" Feagles, Joseph "Live and Let" Addai, Jake "Daylight Come and You Gotta" Delhomme, and Mike "You're In Good Hands With" Alstott. I don't find this creative, entertaining, or even funny anymore. It's like fingernails on a chalkboard, especially when you just want to watch a football game.
The problem is when one subpar announcer leaves, another one takes his place. Prior to Gruden on Monday Night Football, we were tortured by Tony Kornheiser's Madden-esque emphasis on the obvious; prior to Kornheiser, there was Madden; prior to Madden it was Dennis Miller and his esoteric references. You needed an encyclopedia just to understand Miller's comments, which rarely led to any insightful analysis.
The parade of poor substitutes goes on and on, and isn't limited to just one network. Others who have found ways to get under our skin: Cris Collinsworth, Dan Dierdorf, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Theismann, Tony Siragusa … etc. Sure they were great football players, but to listen to them talk can be stomach-churning
Both Fox and CBS recently released their top broadcast teams for the football season. For Fox, the number one broadcast team consists of Buck and Aikmen with Pam Oliver on the sideline. I have nothing against Oliver; I just find sideline reporters to be virtually useless in any broadcast. Few of them can actually add substance to the broadcast other than what's available in the booth. Some do find a way to mine an injury update nugget not passed down from the team's PR staff. Mostly though, the reports sent up from the sidelines lack insights or even interesting quotes from the players or coaching staffs.
Fox's number two team includes Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston a surprisingly solid pairing. No complaints for these two guys, except Tony Siragusa who does sideline reporting. The "Goose" is loud and often overbearing with his commentary. Rarely does he add value to the broadcast. Dare I say he's best suited to being a pitch man for meat products?
CBS's number one pairing of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms may be the best team of the lot. Rarely dull and never over-the-top, Nantz and Simms do the job well and, best of all, no sideline reporter. Greg Gumbel also is a good play-by-play man, but unfortunately he's paired-up with Dierdorf who has a tendency to blather on. Big Dan hasn't improved much since moving to CBS from the Monday Night booth.
The following chart shows the broadcast pairings in 2010 courtesy of Yahoo Sports:
1. Joe Buck/Troy Aikmen/Pam Oliver
2. Kenny Albert/Daryl Johnston/Tony Siragusa
3. Dick Stockton/Charles Davis/Jim Mora Jr.
4. Thom Brennaman/Bian Billick/Charissa Thompson
5. Sam Rosen/Tim Ryan/Chris Myers
6. Ron Pitts/John Lynch/Nischelle Turner
7. Chris Meyers or Chris Rose/Kurt Warner
CBS 1. Jim Nantz/Phil Simms
2. Greg Gumbel/Dan Dierdorf
3. Ian Eagle/Dan Fouts
4. Kevin Harlan/Solomon Wilcots
5. Gus Johnson/Steve Tasker
6. Bill Macatee/Rich Gannon
7. Don Criqui/Steve Bueurelein
8. Spero Dedes/Randy Cross
Fortunately in New England, Patriots fans can listen to Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti on the radio. For nearly two decades, Santos has been painting detailed descriptions of games while Cappelletti provided in-depth game analysis as it happens on the field.
Unfortunately, bad announcers don't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. In the words of the immortal Gil Santos, it's time to "turn down the TV and turn up the radio."
Kevin Saleeba is a frequent contributor and columnist to Patriots Insider. A former beat writer for local media, Kevin has extensive knowledge of the team and experience covering the Patriots. Share your thoughts on this article, or send your questions to Kevin ( here.