Tuesday, November 29, 2005
A STICH IN THE GASH
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Whether the World Wide Leader or its corporate overseers will be even aware in any significant way of the bitch slapping they took Tuesday (see below), the blog-piling on of these shameless hucksters is iminently justifiable. Why is a sports channel spending every nickel to make sports more appealing to people who don't like sports? "Maybe if we downplay the athletic aspect of sports, more people will watch!" And from a business standpoint, that's smart: sports fans are watching no matter what. But through teeth clinching tighter and tighter with every "Boo ya!" and pregnant pause by Jim Rome.
But we do watch, and we'll continue to watch, so it must be for something. SMQ struggled and strained, and managed to come with ten features - a meager ten, uncomparable to the dozens upon dozens of atrocities chronicled elsewhere - he still finds acceptable about the network.
In no particular order:
1. Ron Jaworski. Rightfully earning his props from people who actually enjoy football. Monday night, the guy went back to a defense Cincinnati ran successfully against Chicago in Week Three, then showed how Peyton Manning recognized the alignment and exploited it for a touchdown against the Bengals eight weeks later. And the guy doesn't have his own two-hour show? College football could use an equivalent - and no, Bob Davie's old ESPN.com "Football 101" columns don't exactly measure up.
2. Kenny Mayne. Brian asked where he'd gone. Answer: he's doing "The Mayne Event," far and away the best part of the dismal two-hour commercial that is "Sunday Countdown." Unlike the rest of the on-set foolishness, which SMQ never watches intentionally, Mayne's canned, satirical segments - the only part of the show actually intended to be foolish - are witty and original. Dragged down only by the consistently woeful performances of athletes attempting to act (the exception, on Halloween: Randy Moss, who vastly outperformed Brandi Chastain).
3. Tom Jackson. Comes across like a grandfatherly sage surrounded by the Three Stooges on the "Countdown" set. More professional than anyone else at an NFL desk, and also does a good job of diagnosing what's going on over the course of a game after a Berman-butchered highlight, though this talent is underused. Stock is dropping with uncharacteristic, Stu Scott-encouraged "jacked up!" nonsense on Monday nights.
4. Chris Fowler. A little wishy washy, a little hemmed in by an effort to stay objective. But what can SMQ say? Guy's the consumate pro.
5. SkyCam. Regular sideline cameras don't come close to showing the amazing speed of the game, or the split-second precision required to diagnose a trap or complete routine passes. This is like being on the field, and a good reminder to the viewer why they're on the couch instead. Underused.
6. Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday/Friday Night Football. You don't have to watch it. But it's there. And that's better than it not being there. Think of the number of teams, players and great finishes you never would have seen otherwise.
7. ESPN.com Team Pages. One-stop shop; probably the best college football resource all in one place on the Web (SMQ only checks out CFB pages; presumably, it's the best for most other sports, too). Easily navigable and extensive: you can follow a non-televised game as it happens and look up drive-by-drive, play-by-play summaries of any game over the past four seasons in seconds! If it kept better team stats, a la the otherwise inferior NCAA stat pages, there'd be no need to go anywhere else for game/stat/score info at all.
8. "This is SportsCenter" Spots. Maybe not "Cherokee! I have a watch," or "Follow me to freedom!" any more, but anything involving the Western Kentucky Hilltopper blob is still funny.
Scott Van Pelt's finest hour.
9. The NFL's Greatest Moments at 2 o'clock - a.m. or p.m. It's always an education, and one of the best time wasters anywhere on TV. Lump in those cheesy old "Super Bowl Memories" efforts for the perfect NFL Films nostalgia trip, for events SMQ wasn't even around to be nostalgic about. Plus, the theme music is "What Would You Do With a Drunken Sailor."
10. Stump the Schwab. Stu Scott is prominently involved and still can't keep SMQ away from this downtime delight - if he can find it. Why the sketchy schedule? In lieu of a less gimmicky, Jeopardy-esque sports trivia game, the Schwab is good enough for now.
You may now return to your regularly scheduled vitriol.
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