When ancient armies lay siege to a city the populace assumed naught could get worse. Then, like lawyers parting the office, the rats came spreading the Plague. In this column just a few short days ago it was posited that the NFL Network is atrocious. After last nights broadcast, in this scribe’s opinion, the network is the principal embarrassment to the National Football League in its history.
Chris Collinsworth, the regular analyst, took the night off. Dick Vermeil, his replacement, is a superb analyst but he was unable to provide much due to the loss of his voice. In a bold move that rivals the Vichy Governments capitulation to Hitler, in the second half the NFL Network brought us Deion Sanders. Steady. Don’t spill your beverage. The commentary by Deion wasn’t ghastly but he’s always been a good cover guy — he just can’t tackle. No, even with Deion in the booth, Bryant Gumbel shattered the image of play by play announcers being sound.
Gumbel routinely bungled common phrases, missed down and distance, and embarrassingly committed so many errors that Alex Rodriguez thinks Bryant is in a slump. Question: Prior to the initial telecast did the NFL network work simulated games? Or did they allow Gumbel’s ego to trump practice? Even the best pilot needs simulator time. In fact it’s a requirement. Make no mistake, if Gumbel were a pilot, he’d be at the bottom of some body of water.
The NFL Network won’t dismiss Gumbel for two reasons:
1. He’s a prominent African American broadcaster with an extensive career behind him.
2. He’d play the race card.
It’s clearly not about race. Future revenue is at stake. Already reeling from the lack of viewer ship owing to an inability to come to terms with cable companies, the image of the NFL Network is dreadful. People reading newspapers or browsing the web are viewing articles eviscerating the coverage. If you think OJ has an image problem, for a corporation, the NFL is OJ plus Enron.
The Critic knows something the NFL Network apparently forgot. Namely, sports fans, once angered and put off, are dreadfully slow to return.