The Wise Guy’s Media Watch: Lockout Hangover Edition
After months of intense negotiations, The Wise Guy is happy to report that The Football Girl has agreed to end her lockout of my services and, well, let me back into the office. Contract terms are undisclosed, but let’s just say I’m earning well over three feet of Subway sandwiches per week.
In exchange for this generous offer, I’ll be bringing you, each Wednesday, a new Media Notes segment, chronicling the latest developments, gaffes, and network blunders in the world of NFL media coverage. First up, Pre-Season Week One, the lockout hangover edition.
(And, later in the year, be to check out my weekly “Positively Gruden” columns and recaps of the The League)
Lockout Coverage: Before we turn the page on the lockout, let’s pay our respects to NFL Network workhorse, Albert Breer. The lockout was a career-changer for Breer, who previously toiled away in relative obscurity on the network. Breer provided the most detailed and up-to date coverage of the back-and-forth between the players and owners, literally tweeting at all hours of the day on important matters like what kind of pizza the two sides were ordering and the sweltering heat outside the NFLPA offices in D.C. More significantly, Breer handled a very difficult conflict of interest in coverage (given that he’s employed by the owners) with complete professionalism and became a trusted source providing much more accurate information than, say, opportunistic interlopers from other media outlets.
Week One Coverage: Speaking of which, let’s just stop the competition and award the Pulitzer this year to Jason LaConfora and his omnipresent whiteboard. While others have covered this first week with, for example, reporting and analysis, LaConfora’s post-modernist homage to Tim Russert’s 2004 Presidential election coverage gives you all you need to know in a simple, stripped down fashion. Just like the man himself.
All kidding aside, the NFL Network has been my clear go-to this past week. I honestly cannot comment on the coverage provided by other networks because with the NFLN doing it so well, there’s really no need to go to another source. It’s the perfect combination of news, analysis, and entertainment. Sure, they have Michal Irvin acting like a buffoon, but there’s only one of him and he’s buttressed by a slew of serious analysts who ensure he’s not too grating.
Broadcasting Shake-Up: This really doesn’t qualify as “breaking” news, but it might be the most important for fans. Buried in this lockout coverage this past offseason were some pretty big shake-ups for this season’s broadcasting teams. First, let’s review the network teams in place end at the of last year:
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 Beuerlein
8. Spero Dedes/Randy Cross
(Play-by-Play/Color Analyst/Sideline Reporter)
1. Joe Buck /Troy Aikman/Pam Oliver
2. Kenny Albert/Daryl Johnston/Tony Siragusa
3. Thom Brennaman/Brian Billick/Charissa Thompson
3. Dick Stockton /Charles Davis and Jim Mora/Laura Okmin
4. Sam Rosen/Tim Ryan/Jennifer Hammond
5. Ron Pitts/John Lynch/Nischelle Turner
6. Chris Rose/Kurt Warner
(Note: Chris Myers was a “utility” play-by-play caller filling in multiple spots)
(Play-by-Play/Color Analyst/Sideline Reporter)
Al Michaels/Cris Collinsworth/Andrea Kraemer
(Play-by-Play/Color Analyst/Color Analyst)
Bob Papa/Matt Miller/Joe Theisman
The big story from the offseason is that Gus Johnson is out at CBS. Apparently, the geniuses running the network got sick of all the publicity, excitement, and cult following Johnson brings to the NFL and college basketball. All of this goes to support my new theory: that Jim Nantz has sold his soul to the devil in order to remain CBS’s lead NFL and college basketball announcer for the rest of his life. Enjoy the time, Jim, because once you die, you’ll be spending eternity in your own personal hell where each cheesy pun you say will elicit 20 mean-spirited whip lashings from Billy Packer.
Johnson was quickly scooped up by Fox, but the only word we’ve received is that he will be Fox’s lead college football announcer, alongside Charles Davis. It would be a huge shame if we lost Johnson’s organismic calls on Sundays. Say it aint so!
Meanwhile, Tony Siragusa still apparently has job, which makes complete sense.
On the bright side, CBS replaced Johnson with the legendary Marv Albert, so all is not lost. While Marv is primarily a basketball guy, he’s been doing yeoman’s work alongside Boomer Esiason for Westwood One’s radio coverage of Monday Night Football. Albert can do football better than 90% of the announcers out there; it’s just a shame they had to let Johnson go to bring him into the fold.
Finally, in what is no surprise to anyone who is not hearing impaired or a close family relative, the “all-star” duo Joe Theisman and Matt Millen got the boot as the NFL Network’s Thursday color analysts after one-year of complete and utter inanity. Both were smartly replaced with no-nonsense draft guru, Mike Mayock. What’s slightly surprising is that serviceable play-by-play man, Bob Papa, was replaced by Brad Nessler. This Mayock-Nessler team is a complete wild card and should be interesting to watch once Thursday Night Football rolls around.
Hard Knocks: The only real casualty of the lockout (the Hall of Fame game only counts for gambling addicts) was HBO’s disappointing, yet expected, announcement that it would not be showing new episodes Hard Knocks this year. As awfulannouncing.com aptly put it, Hard Knocks was like “foreplay for the regular season.” And frankly, sometimes that foreplay is better than the real deal (am I right, ladies?).
HBO will, however, air a 90-minute “anniversary” episode on August 31, featuring clips from old seasons, plus outtakes, interviews, and a “where are they now” segment. To continue the metaphor, looks like we’ll at least get to hook-up with an ex-boyfriend (but we’ll know all his moves).
The League: Finally, it’s would be a stretch to call this “media” related, but FX recently announced that The League is back for a third season, picking up a 13 episode run starting Thursday, October 6. If you haven’t watched the show, it’s ostensibly about fantasy football but has a Seinfeldian quality of intertwining plots (with a “gotcha” ending) and extremely witty dialogue. This is unsurprising considering co-creator, Jeff Schaffer, was a former writer for both Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Like last year, I will be continuing my weekly series of capturing the best lines from each episode, so please check back TFG for that each Friday morning.