David Zurawik

Fox hits bottom with Sunday telecast of Ravens game

I take it all back. All the complaining about CBS Sports scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of the announcers sent to small-market Baltimore for Ravens games — I take it all back.

Never did CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus go as low on the depth chart as Fox did Sunday in sending the team of Justin Kutcher and David Diehl to call the game.


When they popped up on the screen prior to kickoff at M&T Bank Stadium, I thought I had punched the wrong buttons and landed on a regional cablecast of a college football game — a Division III college football game between, say, Muhlenberg and Juniata.

Then, I decided it must be a stunt by Fox. Kutcher was an actor from one of their sitcoms, I was thinking, and this was the network's latest obnoxious way to promote its prime-time schedule by having one of its new and unknown sitcom performers pretend to be a play-by-play announcer at the NFL game.


But, sadly, I was wrong. Fox was serious about Kutcher and Diehl, and they were really going to ruin my Sunday by calling the game.

Here's the point at which my head started to explode: With 13:28 remaining in the game, Kutcher said to Diehl: "OK, tell me, your best Halloween costume ever. Go."

In case anyone in the universe cares, Diehl said it was when he dressed as a jockey. (I can't believe I am writing this).

But the official explosion came about a minute later when Kutcher continued this vapid line of chatter by asking Diehl what his daughter was dressing as this Halloween.

Who cares? Who bloody cares? There's a football game down on the field, remember?

Can you imagine Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth engaging in such empty-headed chatter?

Meanwhile, among the many things Kutcher and Diehl weren't saying while they filled the airwaves with meaningless, personal trivia was that this was the first game back after a six-game suspension for new Ravens safety Will Hill. They called his name twice on plays, but gave absolutely no background on who or what he was and seemed to have no sense that some think he might be the final piece of the puzzle in forming an outstanding defensive secondary.

Or, how about the injury with 3:52 left in the game to Morgan Cox, the Ravens long snapper? The Fox cameras did show Cox grabbing his knee, and Kutcher did ID him.


But I did not get an update on the injury when the telecast came back from commercial despite the crew having a sideline reporter, Laura Okmin, on the field. Instead, she did a canned piece on coach John Harbaugh warning his team all week about complacency.

When the Ravens scored again on a fourth-down pass with just under two minutes left in the game to make the final score 29-7, Cox's injury appeared to be affecting the game in several ways. But it was all lost on the Halloween boys in the booth at the time.

Later, Kutcher told viewers that a Fox statistician suggested to him that Cox being out of the game might have played a role in the Ravens going for it on fourth down. And only after the Ravens had already kicked an extra point and the telecast came back from commercial, did Kutcher say, "I think it was actually Haloti Ngata who was the long snapper on the extra point attempt."

You "think" it was Ngata? Do you guys have replay? The kick had taken place a minute and half previous to Kutcher's "I think."

How about having your sideline actually confirm such facts? How about having anyone from Fox confirm anything?

By the way, I don't think I ever got an update on the Falcons center who went down either — or a focused analysis of how that might have hurt the offensive line play.


In fairness, Kutcher and Diehl were not bad in the same way as Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf, who regularly got facts wrong. Remember Gumbel getting the day wrong and mixing up the kicker from the Carolina Panthers with Justin Tucker of the Ravens two weeks ago?

But with Kutcher, in particular, you get the sense that you are watching someone imitating a real play-by-play announcer and not quite getting it right. It is like watching Chelsea Clinton pretend she was a real network correspondent while appearing on NBC the past two years before mercifully resigning.

My earlier analogy to a college broadcast was not out of the blue. Kutcher sounded like someone who had studied NFL play-by-play calls and was trying to mimic them without any sense of letting the game on the field organically drive his words.

Early in the telecast he said, it was a "spectacular" day in Baltimore.
No it wasn't. It was windy and kind of cold. There was nothing spectacular about it either on or off the field.

And because he and Diehl seemed to have no sense of NFL history or larger perspective, instead of rich or even merely amusing anecdotes, they filled with trivia, like the embarrassing chit-chat about the analyst's daughter would be wearing this year as opposed to last year's costume.

Did you know C.J. Mosley's favorite show is "Family Guy?" Yeah, that came after the 10,000th promo for "Family Guy," which just happens to be on Fox.


Man, I never thought I'd miss the fourth-string crew from CBS, but I did Sunday. And, have mercy on my soul, but I missed Brian Billick, too. Compared to what I heard Sunday, he really did sound like a genius in the Fox booth.