By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
10:19 PM EST, December 9, 2013
There was lots of mail on the Fox telecast of the Ravens' epic win Sunday over the Vikings.
In the interest of getting more reader reaction into this post, I'll keep my words to a minimum. I'll try anyway. I've noticed the "Z responds" part is sometimes longer than that to which I am responding. What can I say?
Let's start with Kitty, who writes:
Dear Z, I thoroughly enjoy your column in the Sun. I must comment on the last 4 paragraphs of your column today (12/9/13). I am a FiOS customer and was totally frustrated by the audio of Sunday's game.
As you described, I heard no sound, then English, Spanish, English, etc. for the entire 1st half. I thought something was wrong with my TV.
You seem to have enjoyed Fox's coverage, but a graphic on the screen explaining the audio difficulties would have been greatly appreciated. I listened to WBAL , which was difficult as they are a few minutes ahead of the video. I would have loved to have heard from Hale, Myers, and Ryan on the broadcasting team, but I COULDN'T UNDERSTAND anything being said!!!!!! BOO, Fox Broadcasting!
Z responds: Thanks Kitty. We were all over the Verizon FiOS Spanish-language mix-up Sunday, with a post at baltimoresun.com at halftime and explanations on Z on TV in print Sunday and Monday.
As to your "boo" for Fox, you have the wrong culprit. The audio was fine on Comcast cable and DirecTV satellite service, for example, as we reported.
So, that says don't blame Fox, which was originating the signal. The problem was with the distribution of it by Verizon through its system.
There were also a few audio problems reported by area viewers not using cable or satellite service -- but rather receiving over-the-air signals via digital converter boxes.
That introduces the possibility that WBFF-TV (Fox 45), the Fox affiliate in Baltimore, might have been transmitting the Spanish-language version by mistake, since there were no problems reported in Minnesota.
But even if that is the case, you still should not blame Fox. The owners of Fox 45 are Sinclair.
Again, if the problem was with Fox everyone receiving the game in Baltimore and Minnesota would have had the issues you had with HD.
But I definitely understand and appreciate your frustration. Let's just be thankful it wasn't flipping in and out of Spanish, English and no-audio the last two minutes and five seconds.
How good was that telecast of the Ravens game today, when compared to CBS?
The sideline reporter went into the tunnel leading from the field, to track down injury information about a key Minnesota player (Adrian Peterson).
Z responds: Dear Joe, If you saw my review, I agreed about the Fox telecast being superior to CBS. I also praised the solid work of Jennifer Hale, the Fox sideline reporter. She reported that Peterson was headed to a "nearby medical facility for an MRI" when everyone else was tweeting about his return to the game being "questionable." And her camera crew had Peterson on the bench in street clothes as soon as he came back to the stadium.
In your TV review column in the 12/9 issue of the Baltimore Sun your opening sentence “Maybe it's because I grew up in Wisconsin watching Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers on all those snowy Sundays.” brought up a memory.
Born and raised in Maryland, still a “Baltimore” Colt fan – have to ask you and I hope you did - did you see the Colts-Packers game played in Green Bay that the Packers were given because the official could not clearly see that their field goal attempt did NOT go through the uprights?
On TV, you could hardly see the ball in the air and, at times, the players. But – it could be seen on TV that the ball was NOT thru the uprights but close enough that the only official monitoring could not clearly see..
That game resulted in the height of the uprights being raised to their present height and having an official stationed under each upright instead of just one standing in the middle between the uprights. Another first was a play card taped to the quarterback’s, Tom Matte’s, wrist. Tom was the Colt’s halfback playing quarterback because both Johnny Unitas and his back-up were both injured.
Like Sunday’s game, that also was a game for the ages...
Z responds: Dear Bob: Even though I was only 8, I remember the game. But I have absolutely no memory whatsoever of the Packers being "given" anything or any controversy about any call. The correct call was absolutely made and it resulted in the Packers being given what they deserved for outplaying the Colts. At least, that's what the Milwaukee papers said. (I'm kidding. I have enough people threatening me for the Ray Lewis column I wrote. I am not about to trash a sacred Colts memory.)
And here are a couple more on the Spanish-language Ravens telecast.
I found your article interesting. Our bedroom TV (used only briefly each day) has only one of those small converter boxes they gave out for free a few years ago to convert airwave signals for non-cable TV's.
A couple of years ago I happened to go upstairs during a fall Sunday and turned to CBS to watch the game for a few minutes while putting away some laundry and, lo and behold, the announcers were Spanish. This has happened numerous times subsequently (it might be every time, just never checked). I have reconfigured the box twice and even did an entire reset one time - still the same (I can't find anything in the menus for language).
Now here's the good part. The spring/summer after I first encountered this I happened to venture upstairs again on a Saturday or Sunday and turned on the golf tournament (again on CBS). I wasn't watching closely but even though I heard the birds, I heard no announcers. Assuming there was a network technical issue, I waited but they never came on. Instead all I heard were the course sounds, the gallery applauding, and golfers' conversations near the greens.
Move to the NCAA Tournament (again CBS) - same thing - crowd cheering, sound of ball dribbling, sneakers squeaking, no announcers. Many would find this a plus (like when MASN has Mike Bordick on) but I just find it amusing.
This began at least 2 years ago but I am certain that prior to that, all was normal. It only happens on CBS and only during certain sports broadcasts.
Z responds: Two things, Bob.
First, I think you need to quit sneaking off to the upstairs bedroom to watch sports on weekends. It isn't working out so well, is it?
Second, I know I tend to attribute everything bad that happens with the Ravens on TV to CBS, but Sunday's game was on Fox. And I don't think it was the fault of Fox, since the vast majority of viewers in the area who had cable or satellite TV experienced no problems.
But savvy readers have offered explanations of issues stranger than yours. So, here's hoping someone writes in with a hypothesis, which I will publish next week.
At this point, my highly scientific explanation is that you've got a Spanish-speaking poltergeist living in the bedroom upstairs and it doesn't like you changing the language setting on the box.
I would definitely stop messing with the box before the poltergeist starts getting really mad.
David, I follow your column on game broadcasts and find myself catching the same things you do. I thank Dan Dierdorf for retiring.
What's your take on the Spanish language broadcast of today's Ravens/Vikings game? The first quarter and a half of the broadcast on FiOS' Fox HD channel was in Spanish, although the commercials were in English.
I checked with some friends on Facebook who also have FiOS and not all of them were receiving the Spanish broadcast. Some reported having Spanish while others had English.
Was this a Fox glitch or a FiOS problem?
Thanks and keep up the great commentary.
Z responds: Thanks, Gary. See above explanations to Kitty and the guy with the poltergeist in his bedroom.
David, in Annapolis, writes:
I really enjoy your columns and observations on the poor quality of the CBS NFL coverage. My son and I have noted many of the same deficient qualities as you, but perhaps most galling is the difference between their collegiate coverage and NFL coverage. For instance, every college game they cover has a sideline reporter, multiple replay angles and such a refreshing lack of redundant, mundane insights. What gives??
Z responds: Hi David, I could go off for a week on this one. And I usually do. The short answer: money. Because we are small market, CBS treats us like dogs. Even though we have the defending Super Bowl champs, we don't deserve a sideline reporter, according to the CBS bottom-line guys.
We started getting more cameras during the last two CBS telecasts, but I really believe that was only because CBS got pounded in The Sun week after week for the third-rate resources the Ravens games usually get.
Thanks for reminding me about CBS college coverage. That just makes me angrier. It makes me almost as angry as the beaten-down and brainwashed fools who say we don't need more cameras or sideline reporters -- we should be happy with whatever CBS gives us.
Here's Finton on Sunday's Fox telecast:
Z, Very good assessment. I thought that it was the best telecast so far this season.
And finally, I want to thank Jim, from Phoenix, for correcting my grammar in a review I did of "NBC Sunday Night Football." Jim says he was "trained and brained" in such matters by nuns, which is why he can't help noticing when someone gets it wrong.
I thoroughly enjoy and agree with most of your analyses of the NFL "chatter boxes". . . . But, getting to the subject matter. [You wrote] "The most surprising thing about 'Sunday Night Football,' after you’ve been subjected to CBS, is the chemistry between Esocoff, Michaels, Collinsworth, the cameras and the replays. I didn’t see NBC miss a replay in the first half." . . . I think "among" is called for in place of "between".
Z responds: You are absolutely right, Jim. The nuns did good... Wait, no, that's not right. Well. The nuns did well.
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