Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Out-Foxed In Sunday Coverage

Obviously the NFL on television is big big business. We all understand that, and that's while we prepare to enter into a post-season with multiple high quality story lines.

The final day of the regular season (Dec. 30), including the Sunday Night Football telecast of Dallas vs. Washington, produced the highest ratings for a primetime NFL game in more than 25 years in Washington D.C. and was the highest rated game of the season for NBC nationally.

Fox, of course, did great with their doubleheader of games, at least in terms of ratings. The move to switch many of its viewers away from the early game in which the Giants were down by four touchdowns over to the much more competitive Chicago at Detroit matchup certainly helped. However, those who were not able to see the early portion of that telecast did not see how Fox mishandled a crucial play on Chicago's opening drive.

Bears QB Jay Cutler was ruled to have fumbled at the 50 yard line, although Cutler initially appeared to be attempting a pass. The Lions had recovered, it was ruled, but the play was up for review. So what did Fox do? They went to a commercial, as is their policy for a change of possession. While I certainly understand policy, and that Fox needs the commercial time to generate revenue, in this instance the quality of their coverage suffered for it. By the time Fox returned to the telecast, and immediately went to a quick replay, the referee was already walking back to announce the result. Play-by-play voice Kenny Albert brought in Fox's Mike Pereira (the former NFL referee) to analyze the play, but Pereira was not through his first sentence when he was interrupted by the game ref announcing that the play would stand.

Clearly, Fox should have awaited the result of the review before going to a commercial. Had the play been overturned, it would not have been a change of possession. Instead, fans lost out on the opportunity to see multiple replays and hear the usual analysis of why the call would be upheld (or changed). Otherwise, this was an excellent telecast, as was the prime doubleheader game between Green Bay and Minnesota, with one noteworthy exception.

Over the years, I sometimes hear from fans wondering why I very rarely acknowledge "sideline reporters" as part of the play-by-play broadcast team. Pam Oliver provided a huge example of why after the Vikings' victory.

For those who missed it, the Vikings' last second win had just put them into the playoffs (while a loss would have eliminated them). Vikings rusher Adrian Peterson, as it turned out, missed the all-time single season NFL rushing record by only nine yards. We know as "serious" sports fans, that Peterson and the Vikings had to be concerned about winning this game. Had the Vikings been eliminated or clinched a berth, and had the game been meaningless for Green Bay, then the only story would have been Peterson, who probably would have been given the ball every play until he got the yardage he needed.

The game ended, and the Vikings were celebrating. Viewers were switched over to "sideline reporter" Pam Oliver who was standing by with Adrian Peterson. So what does she do? She asks him about "nine yards" first. Peterson, on camera, expressed that he had no idea what she was asking him about. Oliver then told Peterson, on the air, that he missed the rushing record by nine yards, and was seeking his reaction. Of course, Peterson went on to comment that winning the game was more important.

How could Oliver have possibly thought that Peterson knew how many yards he had? How could that have been the first question, coming seconds after a last second win with the whole season on the line? And this is supposedly from the "top" sideline reporter. Gee, thanks.

Sorry, but we as fans are paying more and more money to watch these games on TV (cable/satellite bills), and we're entitled to telecasts that give us the information we want all of the time.

The upcoming weekend's first round of playoff games will include an NBC-TV doubleheader on Saturday. Cincinnati at Houston starts it at 4:30 ET with Dan Hicks and Mike Mayock on the call, followed by Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth calling the immediate rematch of Minnesota vs. Green Bay after 8 PM.

On Sunday, CBS brings the Colts at Baltimore (a fun pairing for long-time NFL fans) with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms at 1 PM ET. The Seattle at Washington game airs on Fox after 4:30 with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.

Elsewhere, the start of CBS Radio's Sports Network brings some changes to sports radio affiliations around the country, the majority of which we have covered over recent weeks. While New York, Philly, Baltimore, and Detroit are among the large markets now with AM and FM sports stations separating so that one can carry the new network, some other large markets will not be impacted very much.

For now, all is quiet in Chicago where WSCR The Score 670 continues its emphasis on local programming. In San Francisco, CBS' Network has taken to the low-rated KTCT 1050 The Ticket. ESPN Radio has been moved to KGMZ 95.7 The Game, which has also struggled big time in the ratings since its inception, even with the Oakland A's broadcasts this past season.

Other stations being switched to the CBS feed this week include KFNQ The Fan 1090 in Seattle (which dropped progressive talk), Boise's KTIK 93.1 The Ticket (from ESPN Radio), and KARN Sports Animal 920 in Little Rock (from Fox Sports Radio).

CLEVELAND: Fox Sports Media Group has finally acquired SportsTime Ohio (STO) after weeks of rumors and speculation, thus acquiring the TV rights to the Cleveland Indians telecasts. Fox Sports Ohio already has the Cincinnati Reds telecasts for southern Ohio, as well as the Columbus Blue Jackets if and when the NHL returns.

CHICAGO: With the proximity of Notre Dame to the Chicago area, the radio stations are taking the Notre Dame vs. Alabama national championship broadcast quite seriously for next Monday (1/7), as two 50,000 watt AM stations will each be airing separate radio broadcasts.

WLS 890, as the Notre Dame radio affiliate, will air the Notre Dame broadcast with Don Criqui and Allen Pinkett. In addition, WLS will have Chicago area sportscaster Chet Coppock in Miami to host special pre-game and post-game shows only for WLS. He will also host a 3-hour special on Sunday night (1/6). In addition, Coppock will be guesting on the station's drive-time general talk shows on the days leading into the game.

WMVP ESPN 1000 will air the national ESPN Radio broadcast with Mike Torico and Todd Blackledge, after its local afternoon sports talk show airs live from Miami on Monday afternoon. WMVP made a clear decision to air this game locally, moving its Chicago Bulls broadcast against Cleveland to WGN Radio for the evening. The Bulls had to give permission to WMVP for this move, since the Bulls have priority. WGN Radio usually has Blackhawks hockey, or now airs its "Sports Central" on weeknights without play-by-play from 7 to 10 PM.

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