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Fox up to challenge of telecasting epic Ravens victory in the snow

FootballCollege FootballPro FootballBaltimore RavensNFLMedia Industry

Maybe it’s because I grew up in Wisconsin watching Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers on all those snowy Sundays. But watching a great NFL game played in the snow is as good a TV experience as there is in my book.

And I can’t think of many NFL TV moments I’ve experienced that can compare with the final minutes of the Ravens 29-26 victory over the Minnesota Vikings Sunday. Five touchdowns in the last two minutes and five seconds — are you kidding?

You can hardly blame Fox play-by-play announcer Chris Myers for losing track and saying there were only four touchdowns scored in that crazed, final stretch. Who was counting as the lead swung back and forth?

You are not going to hear many harsh words from me about the Fox telecast, led by Myers and analyst Tim Ryan Sunday.

For starters, unlike CBS, Fox gave us a sideline reporter, Jennifer Hale. And she is a good one. When Vikings running back Adrian Peterson went down with a leg injury, Fox not only had her and a camera right next to him when he came off the field, she followed Peterson and the medical staff into the tunnel and waited outside the locker room. She was the first to report that Peterson left the stadium for an MRI at a “nearby medical facility” and would not return to the game.

That might not sound like much to Ravens fans. But given Peterson’s injury history and his importance to his team, I bet Vikings fans were hanging on Hale’s every word.

And Hale gave us another important report early in the game, when she and a Fox camera crew showed Ravens players changing from shoes with molded bottoms to cleats because of the field condition.

“I counted six players [changing to cleats] so far,” she said giving fans the kind of information about conditions on the field that no one in the booth could.

Bravo to Hale and Fox, and boo to CBS Sports and all the local viewers who have let Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, brainwash them into thinking sideline reporters aren’t necessary — at least, not in small market cities like Baltimore. CBS Sports does use them on SEC college football games.

Myers and Ryan are nobody’s first string broadcast team, but they were prepared. Outside of Myers losing track of the touchdowns at the end of the game, I didn’t catch any major mistakes.

I loved their clean, fast table-setting at the start of the game. They quoted Terrell Suggs saying the Ravens know they can’t afford to lose even one game the rest of the way.

“The playoffs actually start today,” they quoted Suggs as saying.

How’s that for getting Ravens fans amped for the game?

Myers even made me laugh, which is rare with any play-by-play announcer. Myers was kidding with Ryan, a former NFL defensive lineman, talking about players standing in front of the heaters on the sideline, when Myers said he stood so close to a heater during his days as a sideline reporter that he “almost caught on fire.”

Ryan was clear and loud in his assessments all day. He trashed the Ravens’ offensive line, and he said at least two calls that went the Ravens’ way were “bad” calls.

But, you know what? I think he was right. His greatest weakness was not taking us inside many big plays and showing us who and what failed or who and what went right, especially at the end. He is no Cris Collinsworth in that regard, but who is? And in Ryan’s defense, things were happening so crazy fast at the end, who had time for analysis?

Given the conditions, I thought the direction and production were stellar.

Fox opened the telecast with a great overhead shot that showed M&T Bank Stadium looking like an ice rink. The producer, director and camera teams gave me all the snow shots I could ever want. I felt like it was 1967 and one of the great, original CBS Sports NFL crews was doing the game.

And while I have contempt for much new TV sports technology, I love it when someone flipped a switch early in the first quarter and the field that in reality was a blanket of snow suddenly had yard lines and markers superimposed on the screen. I love technology when it actually enhances the viewing experience.

In the final analysis, I have to be honest. Given the snow, the ending and the Ravens heart-stopping victory, I would probably be feeling good about almost anyone who brought me the pictures of the game and didn’t mess up the telecast the way CBS usually does.

That is, unless I was watching on Verizon Fios and wanted to watch the telecast in HD and in English.

If you were a Verizon Fios viewer watching in HD, at first you had no sound Sunday. Then you got audio in Spanish. Then audio in English.

But it didn’t stay there. The audio kept flipping back and forth between Spanish and English.

Through it all, though, the ads were English.

That’s television: They always get the ads right, don’t they?

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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