Tip your Cowboy hat to NFL Films

The Baltimore Sun

The NFL Network is running a series of programs, produced by NFL Films, on Super Bowl champion teams, called America's Game: The Super Bowl Champions. With NFL Films involved, it comes as no surprise how high the quality is.

Each of the 20 shows - telecast in reverse order of the 20 best as chosen by a panel assembled by the NFL Network - is driven by extensive recollections by three members of the team. For example, the piece on the 1992 Dallas Cowboys features Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Ken Norton Jr.

(Most of the Champions episodes air Friday nights at 8 or 8:30.)

You want to know how good NFL Films is? The program manages to make Irvin sound lucid and thoughtful.

Along the way, a viewer is bound to find little nuggets that he might not have heard before or that just induce smiles. In the Cowboys show:

Irvin talks about how, shortly after his old University of Miami coach, Jimmy Johnson, was hired in Dallas, Irvin gave Johnson a list of Cowboys who had told Irvin not to worry about wins and losses but to just be glad about getting that check each week.

Norton, in recalling the craziness of Charles Haley, recounts how one of his stunts would be to grab a teammate by the crotch and pull him around.

Aikman sings. Success meant stardom for Aikman, who recorded a country album, from which the producers play a mercifully short sample.

Irvin compares the team's reclaimed fame to being like the Beatles, complete with coming home to find women in his house and perhaps asking them, "Where are your clothes?"

What's their line?

In its first regular-season telecast last week, the NFL Network had a glitch here and there. Most notably, the first-down line didn't always appear. Remember when that line was a novelty? Now we've come to expect it.

Into the lineup

All-sports WNST (1570 AM) has added former Ravens offensive lineman Spencer Folau to its on-air crew. Folau, who has remained in Baltimore after retiring from football, will be on this morning from 8 to 10 and will join Drew Forrester's morning show on Mondays after games at the same time. Though his schedule might vary, next week he will appear with Bob Haynie between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Wednesday and Rob Long between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday.

Words to the wise

Around this time of year, when baseball's free-agent market is in full swing, you'll hear lots of folks in the broadcasting world jumping the gun by saying Carlos Curveball "signed" with a particular team. Most of the time, the initial report of a signing is actually the news that the team and the free agent have agreed to a deal.

Though the actual signing of the contract may be a formality - dependent on a physical, perhaps - it's important to realize this isn't always the case. Recall what happened with pitchers Xavier Hernandez in 1998 and Aaron Sele in 2000 with the Orioles. They and the club had agreed to contracts, but they fell through when the Orioles decided they didn't like the results of their physicals. ...

Along those lines - and this comes up with contracts and with college commitments - the word "verbal" often is substituted for what should be "oral." Sonny Slugger verbally agreed to a deal or Billy Bluechip gave a verbal commitment to Ivy-Covered State U.

Verbal - in the first and second meaning, according to dictionary.com - refers to words, so any contract or commitment, signed or unsigned, has to be verbal. Oral refers to spoken communication, which is what we're talking about. Agent Bob Bleedemdry shakes hands with general manager Tommy Trader and says, "You've got a deal."

(OK, I know that "verbal" can mean "oral," but we're trying to be more exact here. And don't interrupt me while I'm nitpicking.)


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