LONGSHOTS: Ripping key to Rodney’s broadcasting success?
by Dave Long
Well, it didn’t take Michael Felger long to get under my skin again. This time it came with news Rodney Harrison would be leaving the Patriots for NBC’s Football Night in America. News that was met with an awful lot of homerism in these part as to how good Rodney will be in the job.
Felger for one lauded Harrison because, unlike most other ex-jocks, he won’t be afraid to “rip” people. Like that’s a key skill. That followed him goofing on the struggling Julio Lugo, who he said “sucked” with a certain smug delight a few days earlier. I’ll admit I’m on a crusade about this sort of thing after not being able to last more than three full seconds these days with the 8 and 9 p.m. guys on the fair and balanced network without wanting to fire off blankety, blank, blank. Those guys are against the president not because they disagree with him (as I do on some things, like the deficit) but just because he’s on the other side. I mean if he actually could walk on water, they’d criticize him for polluting it and getting the carpet wet when he came inside.
If you’ve read here enough you know I am not shy about, to use Felger’s word, “ripping” someone. Check anything I say about José Canseco. But I confine it to how people act off the field in being selfish, self-centered, violent, criminal or abhorrent in some way. Like Plaxico Burress shooting himself with his own unlicensed gun in a crowded bar. Not only for the stupidity, but for how it may have derailed his teammates’ changes for a second straight Super Bowl title. I also do it for guys who don’t give 100 percent, because with the emotion fans invest and the money they pay to see a game, they’re owed that. Although I’ll admit bias here, because as a competitor, I’ve hated when heads and hearts weren’t in the game since I was in Little League.
But Lugo doesn’t fall into this category. Since the day they signed him I’ve said he wasn’t as good as the price tag indicated. That’s not his fault, is it? It’s Theo’s for overpaying on his fourth shortstop in four years, right? But of course we all make mistakes and since he has won twice already in his reign as GM, which, given the history, is like walking on water, it’s a small one. If Lugo was yakking about not playing, being disruptive or having a public feud with the manager, then he’d be fair game. But the way I see it, he’s trying, but hasn’t regained his burst, which limits what he can do.
I’ve got no problem with saying he shouldn’t be playing, but reveling in it seems low-rent. In fact Felger can take a page from the column written last week by (of all people) Dan Shaughnessy on struggling Dontrelle Willis. After seeing him yanked (with a no-hitter in progress) after hitting Jacoby Ellsbury and walking four of the next five batters it would have been easy to say he “sucked.” But he didn’t. Instead he wrote of a guy who’s baffled by his problems, is working on them and is still facing the music after it. I like that approach much better.
I’ll acknowledge beauty is in the eye of the beholder in announcers, but I’m going to wait and see on Rodney before I have an opinion. After all, the last “natural” to retire early to join that show was Tiki Barber and he was so bad he’s now on the road reporting from the field. What I want from Rodney is four things. First: tell me something I don’t know or make me think about something I haven’t — which isn’t easy. Although the guy who’s been writing me about how wrong I am about Joe Namath being overrated has done that. Second: flow with the emotion of the game. Mostly that’s the play-by-play guy’s job, but new guys have a tough time with that. Third: make me laugh, like Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, and Mark Jackson have done in the NBA playoffs. Finally: if someone should have had it, say so. Don’t pound it into submission, but say it. Because when it comes from someone who’s been drilled by a 300-pounder many times, like Phil Simms saying Tony Eason has happy feet, it has more credibility than it does from the easy-to-criticize Mike Felger who’s never been with 500 yards of a collapsing NFL pocket.
With that out of the way, here are some recent related broadcaster notes.
Sports 101: Name the two guys who each finished first and last in an annual fan poll for the best broadcaster in the same year. The answer is below.
Here’s my Mt. Rushmore of Play-by-Play Broadcasters: 1. Keith Jackson. 2. Marv Albert. 3. Jim Nantz. 4. Mike Gorman. See the glossary for why.
When the aforementioned Jackson talks about how guys like Dwight Howard should be better in the low post, don’t dismiss it because he was a point guard. When he played for Larry Bird in Indiana they’d regularly bring 7’3” Rick Smits out inside to clear space for Jackson on the block when he was very good. Especially against the Celtics, where he owned Kenny Anderson.
And while we’re on the Finals, guess who gave ABC sideline reporter Doris Burke her first on-camera job? You’re looking at him. Did it as Executive Producer of the ECAC Game of The Week. NYU-Brandeis was the game if memory serves me. If you don’t believe me, ask all-world Monarchs broadcaster Ken Cail — he was on play-by-play.
And if you don’t believe him, ask hoop-playing Central alum and local beer baron Chris Schneider. He was there hoisting a few up from all over for Brandeis that day.
I’m giving retiring John Madden a thumbs up. What people who don’t like him today don’t get is along with Don Meredith on Monday Night Football and the quirky, late Al McGuire in college basketball he brought humor into the booth that then was a pretty solemn place. It’s much better now.
Sports 101 Answer: No real surprise for either as Howard Cosell did, probably a few times, and Dickie V did for his work with college basketball in another season.
Not that it has anything to do with broadcasting, but with Harrison defecting to NBC it means just 12 of the 54 players on the field when the Patriots last won the Super Bowl in 2004 are left.
And finally, how does Rodney going after the Colts and lack of leadership by Peyton Manning, who’s his friend Tom Brady’s biggest rival for top player in football, in his opening press conference count as anything BUT homerish since he’s defending his friend and criticizing his biggest rival? Just wondering.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.