Greetings from Captain Video:
Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, Steve Young. Without the dangerously hyperactive 49ers quarterback to turn what looked like an easy victory into a semi-thrilling game, the Loyal Order of Armchair Quarterbacks and its auxiliary would have had little to interest them during the weekend of NFL playoff-watching.
Forgetting the dramatic comebacks of recent vintage, one of the drawbacks of postseason football is that too often once a team grabs a lead, its good fortune multiplies, the other team disintegrates and all semblance of order and keen competition is lost.
Exhibits A, B, and C: Miami 31, San Diego 0; Dallas 34, Philadelphia 10; Buffalo 24, Pittsburgh 3. What was this, opening week of the exhibition season?
All talk about the San Francisco 49ers being "Young's team" figures to be just that, talk, if the lefty proceeds to botch things in the NFC title game against Dallas Sunday as he did Saturday against the Washington Redskins. Joe Montana will be behind center before he can get his jacket off. 49ers coach George Seifert is loyal, but he's not stupid.
While Young was doing everything right as his team built a 17-3 halftime lead on Saturday, he obviously saw no need for caution as the condition of the Candlestick Park field worsened and the football became a heavy, gooey mess.
While Young's two fumbles and interception brought Washington back to a respectable 20-13 loss, the preponderance of passes dropped by Mark Rypien's receivers was just too much to overcome -- although the once-astute announcing team of John Madden and Pat Summerall barely noted same.
If Madden had his way, heaven and earth would be full of "big ol' linemen" and nothing else. These are the only guys on the field who seem to matter to John as his commentary becomes more and more predictable and scripted.
He does offer up a gem every so often, however, as, for example: "There should be a rule you can never bring an umbrella to a ballgame. You play in weather; people should be able to 'fan' in weather."
A replay by the CBS cameras reminded one of the infamous "snowplow" game in Foxboro, Mass., when a guy with a plow would come out and push snow aside only when the Patriots had the ball. As the 49ers' offense moved down the field, Madden noted of the grounds crew, "These guys aren't packing down the field where the 49ers have been, but where they're going." It was bush league.
The first game Saturday, in Pittsburgh, became a drag shortly after the third quarter started, when the Bills moved ahead, 14-3, and analyst Bill Parcells promised, "This is going to force Pittsburgh to open up its offense." Which, these days, amounts to a run right instead of run left.
This game was sufficiently dull to occasion a check of two local Washington shows leading up to the Redskins game, and what a mistake that was.
Silly, giggling hosts like Warner Wolf, Frank Herzog and Sam Huff and clueless players performing in front of usually 'u reasonable people dressed up as if on the way to a Halloween party is sobering, considering it is taking place in the nation's capital.
The worst studio stuff Saturday was network hosts Bob Costas of NBC and Greg Gumbel of CBS going live to the stadiums for reports from the bumbling O. J. Simpson, the smug Todd Christiansen, the breathless Lesley Visser and the comatose Pat O'Brien. A distinct waste of electricity.
Parcells, who reportedly has a big future as a broadcaster, provided a proper cap for the first day, when, in his infinite wisdom as a former coach, revealed, "If Jim Kelly can't start for Buffalo next week, I'm pretty sure Frank Reich will return [at quarterback]."
Easily the best job out of the booth in the four games was the one turned in by Verne Lundquist and Dan Fouts handling the Cowboys-Eagles massacre. Despite flags flying on nearly every play for the first half-hour, the talk was interesting and directed at the subject at hand.
If the action soon became one-sided due to the all-around proficiency of the home team, viewing became all the more enjoyable upon remembering this was the trash-talking Eagles who were getting their comeuppance.
Lundquist reminded us of this when Philly got a late and meaningless score by receiver Calvin Williams, who went into a shameless act of showboating and flaunting. "I wonder if Calvin Williams knows the score was 34-3 [when he scored]?" Verne mused.
As much as everyone tried, no amount of nostalgia concerning the San Diego's legendary 41-38 overtime playoff victory over Miami a decade ago could dissuade viewers from concluding the Chargers were a lucky bunch who ran into an astonishingly easy schedule this season. Imagine showing up at a conference semifinal game without an offense. But, then again, so did the Steelers.
The Cheap Shot Award among announcers goes to Bob Trumpy, who, after replays, scouts out undetected infractions, climbs aboard his white horse and bellows righteously, "That's absolutely inexcusable that an official didn't call that."
Of course, ol' Trump did point out that "San Diego does not have a particularly sophisticated pass offense," as it attempted a second-half comeback from a 21-0 deficit.
Mike Ditka, the deposed Chicago Bears coach, was brought into the studio by both networks in order to help boost ratings in Chicago and the Midwest. Costas gave NBC a wide edge in his use with an expert interview of the rough-hewn but thoughtful ex-coach.
Another fine feature was a review of the turnaround season in San Diego and the architect of the program, Bobby Beathard. As half-expected, though, it served to cast a spell upon the Chargers, and their efforts approximated those of persons and teams who have been jinxed immediately after appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Hey, somebody get O. J. Simpson's mike fixed, huh? The guy has a tough enough time whenever he has to do anything spontaneous and live.