In 30 years of writing about television and media I have never seen that happen. And I hope I never do again.
And things went downhill from there.
I kid you not. After some empty welcome to San Diego Qualcomm Stadium talk from play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle and analyst Dan Fouts, the CBS Sports camera was focused in close-up on Ravens coach John Harbaugh as the ball was kicked. In the facial close-up, you can see Harbaugh’s eyes tracking the flight the ball – the thing the cameras were supposed to be showing us.
But viewers were never shown the approach or the kick.
And then, to make matters worse, instead of catching up with the ball in the air, CBS instead went to a shot of a two-color blank screen. Really.
Finally, the hapless director and his confused camera crew managed to track down the ball in the Ravens' end zone as the play ended. You go, CBS.
The network crew missed at least one other play Sunday. This one came with 14 minutes and 27 seconds left in the third quarter. Viewers did not get to see most of a run by Ray Rice, because CBS was showing a promo for the Army-Navy football game. I wonder how many plays CBS Sports will miss in that game while it’s doing promos for “2 Broke Girls.”
Beyond missing kickoffs and other plays, the production never got its cameras and calls from the booth in synch. For example, with two minutes and four seconds left in the first quarter, Joe Flacco threw a perfect strike to Jacoby Jones that went right through the receiver’s hands.
“See the reaction of Flacco?” Fouts asked Eagle rhetorically. “He looks like he smelled something bad."
Only the production team was showing us the reaction of Jones in replay instead.
And so it went all day long with the CBS Sports College of Clown Coverage. But I am going to skip the full catalogue of production sins -- which once again included an egregious lack of reporting on key Ravens injuries -- to get to Fouts.
While this one started out with the worst viewer pain being caused by the director and producer, by the end of the fourth quarter when the game was hanging by a thread, Fouts reached another new low for CBS Sports. He proved to be a worse analyst than Dan Dierdorf, something I thought I would never live to see. And if I did live to see it, would not survive.
I almost didn’t. My head almost exploded – in fact it might have – in the fourth quarter when Fouts alternated between openly seeming to root for his former team and taking gasbag, make-it-up-whether-you-know-or-not talk to a new level.
With five minutes and 48 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Flacco hit Torrey Smith for what looked like a key first down. But there was a flag on the play.
As the referees discussed it, Fouts first told viewers, “Not good for this San Diego team. It looks like it’s going to be on San Diego.”
Then, the folks in the production truck must have said something, because a few seconds later, he said, “They may call pass interference on the Ravens.”
As the delay continued, the fans started to boo.
“The fans are booing now, but they’re going to be clapping real soon.” And then after a brief pause, he added, “I hope.”
The actual call: unnecessary roughness on Boldin.
So, let's see, he was wrong on the Chargers being penalized, and he was wrong on the nature of the penalty on the Ravens. This is how you fail a multiple-guess test.
But the “I hope” line was the real show stopper. Was he hoping the fans would be cheering real soon because it would mean the ruling went in favor of his old team, which would make him a homer’s homer?
Or, did he say “I hope,” because he’s a gasbag who often makes predictions only hoping he’s right because they are not based on insight or knowledge?
As they say in the ads, you be the judge.
He did out-gasbag Dierdorf just before the Ravens' fourth-quarter field goal that tied the game.
“Norv Turner’s going to add a little ice to this,” he said by way of predicting that the Chargers coach would call time out before he would let the Ravens kick.
But guess what? Turner didn’t.
How about Fouts saying Rice’s knee was down on the 35-yard line on Rice’s miracle catch and run, even though the referees had spotted the ball at the 33 ½ yard line in the biggest play of the game? I thought I would go insane listening to Fouts and Eagle say stupid stuff while the referees reviewed the play.
The dumbest moment found both of them wondering how the refs could ever get an accurate measurement after the review, since they had called it first down on the field and moved the chains.
Easy, you fools: They looked at videotape and saw where the chains were when the play was run!
There is more, but I can’t go on. I really can't.
Honest, this telecast was almost too much to bear. I curse CBS Sports for giving us such dreck announcers and third-rate productions, but I thank the football gods for the saving grace of the Ravens winning 16-13 in overtime.