Dierdorf, Gumbel and wretched Ravens make for special TV misery
By By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun|
Dec 16, 2012 | 9:15 PM
I did not think Sunday-afternoon football, one of the great pleasures of my life, could get any worse than watching the CBS team of Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf calling the game back in October with the Houston Texans whipping the Ravens.
But it got worse Sunday with Gumbel and Dierdorf at the microphone while Denver dismantled the Ravens 34-17. It was worse, because the offense and Joe Flacco now look totally lost. But I'll leave it to The Sun writers who cover the team to dissect the problems on the field and in the locker room.
I have more than enough meat on my media plate with Dierdorf, Gumbel and the sorry CBS Sports broadcast team led by director Bob Fishman and producer Mark Wolff.
How's this for openers? With 7:12 left in the first quarter, Jacoby Jones ran a kickoff back to the Ravens' 31-yard line.
"Bill, Jacoby Jones should return every kickoff," Dierdorf said in his best act-like-you-know voice. "I don't care if it's 8, 9 yards deep in the end zone. When you've got that kind of talent and explosiveness, I'd let him go every time."
Forget the fact that this is just the kind of hot-air, empty-headed, gas-bag statement Dierdorf is famous for. No coach in the world would let anyone run it out every time — or even the majority of times. This is the statement of a drunk sitting in a bar watching the game on an overhead TV, not an analyst in the booth for the sports operation that used to define excellence in NFL coverage.
And it wasn't that great a run to boot — just past the 30-yard line, and it was helped by a blocking-to-the-the-back penalty.
But forget all of that. What's really astonishing about Dierdorf's commentary is that on my recording of the telecast, it sounds as if he is addressing his partner of more than six years, Greg Gumbel, as "Bill."
I played it back six times, because I couldn't believe it myself. And there is some online discussion about what else Dierdorf might have said.
But the folks at Deadspin heard it as "Bill" as well. After six playbacks, all I hear is Bill. (And six playbacks is enough for anything short of the Zapruder film in my book.)
What can I say? Really? I have said everything there is to say about these guys — and they just keep delivering broadcasts that are not anything close to worthy of the league or its TV fans. From the truck to the booth, they seem incapable of the kind of concentration and focus it takes to deliver a quality telecast.
I am not going to make this a catalog of Dierdorf's sins. But what the heck? With 12:05 left in the second quarter, Peyton Manning hit Eric Decker near the Ravens' goal line with a pass. Decker reached for the pylon with the ball before going out of bounds.
As the first slow-motion replay was shown, Dierdorf said, "He sticks it out and hits the pylon. He sticks it out and hits the pylon. And that is a touchdown."
Dierdorf corrected himself later when the second replay clearly showed Decker's left foot was out of bounds before the ball touched the pylon. But that's Mr. Gasbag telling you it's a touchdown whether he knows or not.
OK, one more Diedorf act-like-you-know gas-bag moment. With 6:11 left in the third quarter, he assured Gumbel that, "The Ravens worked on the practice field just as hard as the Denver Broncos did this week."
I guess he was trying to suggest that the Ravens' miserable performance wasn't due to a lack of effort or preparation. But how would he know if they worked as hard as the Broncos? Could he have been at every practice all last week in Denver — and Baltimore? Of course not. He's just making it up.
Act like you know, baby. Act like you know.
As for the direction and cameras, how many years do you think these guys have been covering Manning, the master of the play-action fake? And yet, time after time, the camera followed the runner Manning faked the ball to through the line instead of the receiver to whom Manning ultimately threw the ball. It was almost laughable after a while.
I have been complaining about this crew for at least two years, and CBS Sports has been suggesting right along that I have some kind of animus to Dierdorf and this crew.
Fine, if I had a crew that pitiful, I would try to deflect the criticism with some crazy spin attacking the critic, too.
But here's a fast sample of what some others were saying about the telecast Sunday.
A tweet from actor and die-hard Ravens fan Josh Charles: "Only thing worse than your team about to get scored on is listening to Dan Dierdorf call the game ..."
And here's but one example of the kind of emails I get every Sunday when this crew calls the game.
This one focused on the play-action fakes discussed above: "I think CBS and their team hit a new low in their Bronco game coverage. They consistently missed the play with a tight zoom and then following the fake. Gumbel and Dierdorf were nearly 100 percent incorrect in their analysis of the calls. Makes one wonder if CBS hates Baltimore and that's why we keep getting this crew."