A fool and his football are soon parted.
The first act of national self-humiliation as per premature touchdown celebrating was not Leon’s Lett’s in the 1993 Super Bowl. The Cowboys already had it won when Lett played the check-me-out-fool in front of 91 million viewers — including Bills receiver Don Beebe, who caught Lett in one-handed showboat mode just short of the goal line.
The first of its kind likely occurred on Oct 18, 1971, in Kansas City. Dave Smith, a Steelers receiver, was about to score, untouched, but stylishly spiked the ball — at the 5-yard line. The Chiefs, 38-16 winners, recovered the “fumble.”
As cautionary tales go, this one was out there for the learning as it occurred on ABC’s “Monday Night Football.” Thus reasonable people might’ve concluded, long before Lett’s infamy, that the first of its kind was also the last.
Fat chance. The inexcusably stupid premature TD celebration has grown to be a semi-regular occurrence, especially in televised games, college and NFL.
Last Sunday, the Bears blocked a Steelers field goal try. The ball was picked up by Bears cornerback, and Rutgers man, Marcus Cooper, who ran 70 of the 74 yards needed to cross the goal line. On CBS, Greg Gumbel logically announced that Cooper would score a TD.
But logic and modern football too often have nothing in common. At the 5, Cooper slowed to “style” his way in.
What he didn’t know — what they never know, never consider, never learn — was that he was being closely followed. Tackled from behind by Pittsburgh tight end Vance McDonald, Cooper, surprised, fumbled into the end zone, from where the ball was batted through for a touchback. Steelers’ ball.
Perhaps he was only adhering to Roger Goodell’s encouragement for yet more “spontaneous fun.” Regardless, Cooper’s lasting infamy as a cool fool was rescued — barely — as the Bears won in OT.
And there are plenty more to come. That Cam Newton was lost to the Panthers with a concussion last season was a big story. But what went widely and politely ignored was that Newton was walloped on his QB-keeper run toward the end zone when he slowed too early to showboat his way in.
Though such episodes seem too impossibly stupid to recur, 46 years after Dave Smith demonstrated the difference between touchdown-stupid and touchdown-smart — and on national TV, no less — the former not only still exists, it has become common.
It’s all a con, all a hustle. And here we go again …
With the Yankees ready to open the postseason on ESPN on Tuesday, Optimum, formerly Cablevision, is threatening to eliminate Disney channels, including ESPN, from its 2.6 million area subscribers as early as Sunday.
It’s the usual stuff, marinated in soulful we’re-on-your-side partial truths and carefully concealed facts. Yes, Optimum’s right: ESPN, suffering subscriber depletion and already expensive, wants a lot of money to be renewed, and it isn’t fair that all subs be forced to pay for it, and blah, blah, blah.
But sports, lest we forget, drove the birth and growth of cable — not cooking, sitcom rerun, travel and other niche channels that everyone also is forced to pay for.
But the galling thing about these “we’re-on-your-side” sells is that the systems almost don’t reduce their monthly fees after dumping “too expensive” sports channels.
What we would need from Optimum, in order to believe it, is an honest amount that every subscriber last month was charged for ESPN and other Disney channels, followed by that cost being deleted from this month’s subscribers’ bills if those channels are dropped. And that amount should remain deleted until those channels return, if ever.
Recall what Comcast, which owns a piece of Mets’ home SNY, did in 2015 in dropping YES, with Yankees telecasts, for 16 months. Comcast sold this decision stuffed with larded baloney:
1) YES is too expensive for our loyal, financially downtrodden customers to suffer such avarice.
2) There’s such little interest in the Yankees among our subscribers to burden them with the expensive costs of unwanted programming.
But at the same time, Comcast was raising its rates while pocketing the savings for no longer carrying YES. Like most everything else, these days, it was a con, a hustle.
After three regular season games, the verdict’s in: Tony Romo, CBS’ new No. 1 NFL analyst, talks too much, so much you begin to hear noise, not words.
But that stands to senseless logic, as every national network includes at least several analysts who talk far too much. And no executive producer — not at CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC/ESPN, to name a few — seems the least bit interested in fixing what greatly grates viewers.
Or do the shot-callers believe we tune in, not to watch the games, but to hear people babble throughout them? Can TV bosses be that out of touch with their audiences?
Eight years after joining ESPN as its Monday night analyst, Jon Gruden’s value as a know-something remains diminished by his say-anything presence that apparently meets with ESPN’s approval.
During Monday’s Cowboys-Cardinals, he clearly had nothing to add or was willing to add to the Ezekiel Elliott case, so he said, “I just hope the whole thing gets resolved, quickly.”
Standard artificial Gruden issue filler. How could it be resolved quickly when it had been going on for months?
And for all the English-as-second language he speaks, as if we would know “the ol’ Tampa Two” from the double-hitch ink pen windmill Topeka hammer, he eschews genuine teaching moments.
Two Mondays ago, when the Lions jumped the snap, Eli Manning had “a free play,” thus Gruden said it was “worth a shot” for Manning to throw deep.
But how could Manning and the rest of the Giants run a play different than the one called before the presumed offsides call? If only Gruden had explained that rather than confuse it.
Troy Aikman, 16 years FOX’s lead NFL analyst, always sees the game well, but continues to speak it to us in uncomfortable style, unable to express himself in anything better than hackneyed idioms he wouldn’t speak anywhere except on the air. Last week he couldn’t tell us that someone had a good year, but rather, ugh, “an impressive 2016 campaign.”
Sunday for Giants-Buccaneers, FOX will include two analysts — ex-Giant Tiki Barber and ex-Buc Ronde Barber.
Though the Brothers Barber won’t boost viewership, we can expect this creative plan will create unneeded, unwanted and forced distractions, because that’s what TV’s shot-callers now do best. Enjoy!
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