By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
7:36 PM EST, November 4, 2012
I cannot remember watching a football telecast and learning less than I did from the CBS crew Sunday in the Baltimore Ravens 25-15 win over the Cleveland Browns.
And the reason for that is simple: Rich Gannon is almost as lazy in his commitment to explaining what's happening on the field as my other favorite CBS Sports analyst, Dan Dierdorf.
In fairness, Gannon didn't have stretches where he seemed to be asleep or totally out of it as Dierdorf does, but I can't think of anyone in any booth covering football, or baseball or basketball, for that matter, who seemed less interested in taking me inside the game than Gannon was with the Ravens on Sunday.
I'd blame it on a sense of entitlement from the jock-ocracy gang that thinks because its members once played the game they are entitled to scholarships for life jobs as announcers, but Cris Collinsworth doesn't show a lick of that at NBC. He is always breaking the game down and taking viewers deeper and deeper into the action. And even though he might be third or fourth string at Fox, Brian Billick is consistently making the telecast more interesting with his X's and O's.
But not Gannon on Sunday. On average, he seemed to explain only about one out of every three penalties, and he rarely -- if ever -- showed why a play succeeded or failed. It was astounding -- truly astounding. I wondered if he really wanted to be somewhere else.
In fact, the only thing Gannon showed any hint of enthusiasm for was ripping Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden. To his credit as an analyst, Gannon wasn't afraid to call a player out, and he did it well and often with Weeden.
With 13 minutes and 49 seconds left in the first half, CBS gave us a replay of an incomplete Browns pass play that showed the tight end wide open. Gannon drew a circle around the open receiver and said, "Throw it. He's open," as if he were talking to Weeden.
With 13:52 left in the third quarter, he followed another key Weeden incompletion with: "I'm not going to pick on the quarterback, but this is getting ridiculous."
But outside of calling out Ravens defensive back Jimmy Smith for holding a tight end on a play late in the game, that was about it. He never took me inside line play on either side of the ball -- or explained what the Ravens linebackers were doing right this week as opposed to two weeks ago in their game with the Houston Texans. And by the end of the game, I would have killed for some assessment and isolation replays of Terrell Suggs.
Why does CBS seem to have more lazy ex-jocks in the booth than the other networks -- at least, when it comes to the Ravens?
The production values Sunday were nothing to get excited about either. Typical of the lack of synchronicity between audio, video, booth and producers was the replay of a short run by the Browns' Trent Richardson that came with 2:20 left in the first half.
"There's some hard hitting going on," play-by-play announcer Marv Albert told viewers. "Listen in on this run by Trent Richardson."
Only when they replayed the run, I heard nothing out of the ordinary -- absolutely nothing!
Their best packaged moment came when they showed videotape of Suggs going over to the stands before the game and asking Browns fans if this was the "legendary Dawg Pound."
"You know, I make my living off the Browns," Suggs said teasingly to the fans.
The brightest spot for CBS was Albert who brought energy to the overall telecast with his call of the game. He was especially good at setting and re-setting the table for viewers as the game constantly seemed to be coming back from one ad or promotion or another.
The ad level in general is through the roof on all networks because of political spots, but that didn't stop CBS from overloading with promotional messages for its own shows during breaks. And if that wasn't enough, CBS had Albert reading spots during the breaks in the action during the game itself.
"Barney has a new wing man. Catch a new episode of 'How I Met Your Mother,'" Albert urged viewers with 7:40 left in the third quarter.
I swear, the promotional clutter was so over the top Sunday that I wouldn't have been surprised to see one of the referees turn on his microphone after a play was reviewed and instead of telling us the call on the field stood, saying, "Don't miss Cedric the Entertainer on this week's '2 Broke Girls' on CBS.'"
Maybe that did happen Sunday, and I just missed it.
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