Exclusive TV rights “journalism” often creates first-crack access to significant stories. But rarely are they served on a silver platter as the one on NBC on Sunday night.
At 0-0 in the first quarter, Seahawks-Eagles flipped on a single play, a flying, helmet-to-helmet hit by Seattle’s Jadeveon Clowney on Carson Wentz, a shot that removed the Eagles QB from the game with a suspected concussion.
No flag, but was it a clean hit? It looked more dirty than clean, but these days, the NFL’s rules adjudications and applications seem a matter of spinning a wheel or who’s on replay duty.
At game’s, end, with the Wentz-less Eagles 17-9 losers, sideline reporter Michelle Tafoya had first shot at Clowney’s take on the game-changing matter, as he stood with her on the field.
Holy Hannah Storm, Tafoya never brought it up! She asked him about playing hurt, then congratulated him for the win. Off he went. She didn’t just bury the lead story, she ignored it.
But this was a true-to-form end to a four-network, all A-teams wild-card weekend.
NBC’s Seahawks-Eagles host, Mike Tirico, several times said the Vikings beat the Saints “on a walk-off touchdown,” a slick phrase that swaps the clear for the vague.
Then Cris Collinsworth drowned the game with his surround-sound, endless faux-genius talk that included stretching speeches to include “players need to step up” and anything that ends with football — “throw the football,” “run the football,” “catch the football,” “season the football to taste.”
Earlier, Fox did its usual on Vikings-Saints: Joe Buck parroted any stat, and Troy Aikman stuck for anything worth saying as he talked his way through it.
The game did feature an episode that emphasized the NFL’s insufferable sides. Though the underdog Vikings were winning in New Orleans, Stefon Diggs, among the most demonstrably petulant, me-first WRs, threw his helmet and had a fit as he came to the sideline after again not being what’s now called “targeted.”
Aikman and Buck began to criticize Diggs but couldn’t quite pull the trigger. So Aikman pandered, complimenting Diggs as a “very competitive guy” rather than a repeated, selfish jerk.
Fox’s halftime featured six panelists in combat to be heard saying … who the heck knows.
CBS’ Saturday night Titans-Pats was produced for football fans unfamiliar with Tom Brady. Thus, instead of a playoff game, we had “This Is Your Life” narrated by Jim Nantz.
The weekend’s opener, Bills-Texans, appeared like a 22-man, full-contact mah-jongg match with multiple sense-defying replay stoppages, constant confusion and ESPN’s practiced inclination to wreck any sport it touches.
ESPN was particularly proficient at:
1) Endless video/audio sideline shots of J.J. Watt firing up his team until his team was so fired up it was losing, 16-0. Still, at game’s end, to fit ESPN’s theme, Watt was credited for inspiring Houston’s comeback.
2) Four first-half shots of the same four Texans fans banging on a mat covering a wall for the sake of ESPN’s camera. This shot, commonly seen in New Jersey’s PSL Stadium, is known as an “IP” — Idiots’ Picnic.
3) ESPN’s predetermined cuts to the insignificant, abandoning, by design, the significant.
After Houston linebacker Zach Cunningham made a superb play to swat a pass intended for Devin Singletary, the play and Cunningham went ignored as ESPN stuck with its post-play plan to post a large graphic on Singletary’s season-long rushing stats.
At the start of the third quarter, ESPN quickly — too quickly — presented a fabulous predetermined shot of sideline reporter Lisa Salters, in her obligatory halftime report, as she turned, surprised to hear something noise-worthy behind her.
That was the play when kick returner DeAndre Carter caught the ball in the end zone, then flipped it toward the nearest official. Next thing Salters and a national audience knew, the ball was ruled a fumble recovered by the Bills for a 22-0 lead.
That play again proved that the NFL now has so many rules and wholly unintended “getting it right” replay rules that no one, including the officials in a playoff game, know what’s going on.
The play eventually was ruled a touchback.
And a Monday autopsy revealed that similar to Romeo and Juliet’s suicides, the NFL and TV, hand in hand, had committed lunacide.
Fans receive cold shoulder
In an NFL Network hagiography, Roger Goodell addresses a roomful of Packers’ fans in Wisconsin with a solemn vow that his commissionership will be “all about our fans.”
Of course, from his “all about our fans” to his bogus claim that “PSLs are good investments,” Goodell, in exchange for his $40 million-plus a year, has been full of it — and especially good at suckering Packers fans.
In December 2017, because it’s all about the TV money, Goodell allowed a Vikings-Packers game to be switched from an afternoon game to a Sunday night game on NBC — in zero-degree weather.
As a graphic noted after three quarters on a frozen, cement-like surface, four players had been disabled. Then there were thousands left to travel home in the icy darkness.
Reader Allan Fredyn: “Had Goodell left his dog out on a night like that, he could have been arrested.”
Well, Goodell on Sunday will again show Packers patrons what his word is worth. Green Bay, at home and with temps in the teens, again have been ordered to kick at 5:40 p.m. local time, on the precipice of Sunday prime time, this time versus Seattle. The early game is Texans at Chiefs.
‘Thug’ will get ESPN shrug
While I never considered “thug” to be race-specific, Cavaliers coach John Beilein is in a racial stew for using the term in loose reference to his players.
Let’s see how ESPN handles this — I suspect it’ll play stupid — as it has regularly featured the work, posted credit included, of black rapper Young Thug.
The Texans voted Saturday’s game ball to Mike Francesa, who, with Houston down 16-0, tweeted they were kaput.
I blew it here Sunday, writing that NFL TV analyst Beasley Reece claimed to have dined with Bengals coach Sam Wyche the night before a game, only to have Wyche condemn that as a lie. That NBC analyst and ex-player was Reggie Rucker.
Had to laugh at Chris Russo’s rip of the Giants for PSLs. Where’s he been the past 10 years? Russo a consumer advocate? He once endorsed the Mets’ must-buy of five other games to buy one ticket to Yankees-Mets as “a good deal.”
Matt Rhule to be paid $62 million?! “Why,” asks reader Rich Wolfe, “should he be paid as much as a utility infielder?”
(Phil Mushnick’s column returns Jan. 24.)