CBS, Ian Eagle almost made the Ravens-Chiefs game watchable - almost

Anquan Boldin with another incpmpletion Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs
Anquan Boldin with another incpmpletion Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs (Christopher T. Assaf/Baltimore Sun)

Let's be frank, life is too short to waste much time on a sports telecast as boring as Sunday's football game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs.

First, much of the blame should go to the two teams: They were awful. The Ravens easily could have lost by two touchdowns against a competent offense.

I only offer that bit of game review to argue that not all the criticism I am about to offer should be directed at CBS Sports and the team of play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle and analyst Dan Fouts.

In fact, I will take the work that Eagle did Sunday over the work of CBS Sports play-by-play announcer Greg Gumbel any day. I say that, because I am told Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf are the second string CBS football team, while Eagle and Fouts are third. Eagle's work was vastly superior to Gumbel's last Ravens telecast. If I were CBS Sports, I would rethink that depth chart.

At least Eagle brings some energy to the game he calls. In fact, he brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm. It sounds like he's prepped and excited to be there -- as opposed to Gumbel who seems incredibly slow in his call and anything but excited to make it.

Five minutes into the game, I realized that Eagle was telling the audience on every play who made the tackle. Sounds obvious, doesn't it? But Gumbel doesn't do that.

Eagle also told viewers immediately when a player limped off the field or went to the sidelines looking like he might be hurt. And shockers of shockers, he actually told viewers who replaced the possibly injured player. Guess who doesn't do that? Neither Gumbel or his fabulous analyst, Dierdorf.

Now in fairness, the production team supporting Eagle and Fouts seemed much better as well -- at least, at first. Just as Eagle seemed far more energized, so did the opening of the telecast Sunday.

Instead of the director holding a static shot of two burly, grumpy-looking guys in blazers, as is done Gumbel and Dierdorf, the director of Sunday's game quickly moved away from the establishing shot of Eagle and Fouts talking to the camera and went to a skillfully-produced video package that illustrated many of their key points.

The screen was constantly popping during the opening moments -- going from an overhead of shot of planes flying low in formation over the Kansas City Stadium to a fast-paced, click-click-click photo gallery of Ravens and Chief still photographs.

It took a little planning and a little work to do that video package that illustrated talking points and story lines, but it told me as a viewer that this crew didn't think it was enough just to show up, point the cameras at the field and let two self-important guys blah-blah-blah their way through an afternoon of hip-shot and often wrong-headed observations.

That's the good news.

And then, there's Fouts who has the same disease a lot of the former NFL players who find life in the booth after football seem to have. They act like they are on the sports banquet circuit where showing up, flashing a championship ring of some kind and slapping the civilians on the back are enough. Really, most of the ex-NFL jocks on the second and third broadcast teams in the booth are lazy. Yes, L-A-Z-Y, and Fouts is one of them. And they bring down the whole broadcast.

One of the things Fouts stressed in his analysis of the two teams was the improvement of Joe Flacco. The theme was illustrated with a "JOE COOL" logo. (Come on, CBS, the "Joe Cool" label is beyond lazy. That's not even braindead cliche any more.)

As to the Fouts' analysis itself, Flacco was not exactly the story line of the day, was he? At least not in a good way. Before the end-of-the-game first down Flacco picked up with his legs, the only guy on TV last week who looked flatter and more distracted than Flacco was Barack Obama in his Wednesday night debate with Mitt Romney.

I started out planning to say some nice stuff about this CBS Sports broadcast team. I really did.

But then, I went back over my notes, and thought about what I had actually seen. And this is the best can I say: For every good thing the crew did, they did at least one or more wrongheaded things.

But it's a doubleheader day for Z on TV. And I can't wait for TBS, Cal Ripken and the Orioles to come on. Stop back later for my review of that.


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