Our city has no sports media critic. So, for one day, I’m it:
Digging in for 14 hours of playoff coverage this weekend made me realize how difficult it is to watch NFL games through the onslaught of ads.
The typical NFL contest has at least 20 breaks packed with 100 commercials. Or, put another way, it’s a Sunday afternoon of car, beer and pizza ads, with a game sprinkled in.
In Saturday night’s Seahawks-Lions snoozer, there was a field goal followed by a break, then a kickoff downed in the end zone followed by another break, then an injury on first down, leading to a third break. Essentially it was 10 real minutes of time with three actual plays.
The reason, of course, is the huge fees made by the networks to air the Monolith of Sports. Those billions are only recouped by exposing you to all those Viagra ads. Maybe shrinking ratings will prompt everyone to relook at the presentation — but I wouldn’t count on it.
People smarter than I have learned to DVR the games, start watching at halftime and fast-forward through all the ads. For me, old habits die hard — but the idea of seeing the contest in one hour sounds attractive.
Best to Boomer
It’s easy and fashionable to mock Chris Berman these days, as his role with ESPN dwindles. And, for sure, Berman became a caricature of himself over the years, milking his old bromides (“Back, back, back …) to the point most viewers scrambled for the mute button.
But we shouldn’t forget Berman’s role in building the brand and shaping — for better or worse — how sports are covered on TV today. Berman’s use of nicknames (Frank Tanana “Daiquiri,” Bert “Be Home” Blyleven) made him among the first to inject humor into highlights. And, long before the Red Zone and Twitter made every big play instantaneously viewable, Berman’s Sunday night “NFL Primetime” showed the way to package the best of the NFL.
The man deserves respect on his way to the easy chair.
And to Burke
Also due a salute is Ron Burke, who’s leaving Comcast SportsNet and, apparently, local TV after nearly three decades. Burke never flashed the huge personality of others, but he’s sharp and likeable. In a business where too many try to fake it, Burke put weeks of solid research into his annual NFL draft previews — and it showed.
Burke follows CSN stalwarts Neil Hartman and Leslie Gudel out the door. There’s no way our local sports station is better for losing them.
Look out for Sadak
The top play-by-play man today — in any sport — is hockey’s Doc Emrick. But I heard a rising star while driving Sunday, listening to John Sadak call Steelers-Dolphins on Westwood One. The 37-year-old Rowan University grad was evocative and engaging, pulling me in with his description of “the hypnotic swirl of terrible towels.”
Sadak does most of his work calling games for the Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre RailRiders. Remember his name. Within a few years, he’ll be big time.