After nine months away from Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf, I forgot how maddening it was to watch the second-string unit from CBS Sports try to telecast a Ravens game.
Players misidentified, random images inexplicably popping up on the screen, key injuries missed or ignored, and announcers sticking to pre-game story lines long after they should have been abandoned, based on what was actually happening on the field. These are a few of my least favorite things when watching TV football.
And CBS Sports committed all these sins and more Sunday as the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Ravens on Michael Vick's game-long grit and final-minutes execution.
As if the loss wasn't enough to bear in its own right, I had to watch a telecast of it that was almost as incompetent as the officiating. But I don't review officials, only the folks bringing it to us on TV, and they were plenty bad enough.
Start with the injury to Ravens safety Bernard Pollard. It took more than four minutes of play in the second quarter before Dierdorf and Gumbel informed viewers that Pollard had been replaced by James Ihedigbo. While they showed Pollard getting injured, they never followed up.
I had to go online at baltimoresun.com during halftime to find out that Pollard had been taken to the locker room, X-rayed and returned to the sidelines without his pads. And I wasn't the only one concerned. There was lots of talk on Twitter from Ravens fans who understood the implications of losing someone who hits as hard as Pollard and makes big plays.
The injury to Pollard, who stopped the Eagles' first drive with an interception in the end zone, was a big story line that CBS Sports failed to come close to reporting properly during the game.
And why did they fail to report it properly? In part, because when you get this CBS team, you don't get a sideline reporter, who in a first-rate broadcast should have been all over Pollard's injury and status. And the analysts -- that would laughingly be Dierdorf, in this case -- should have been all over it explaining what impact having Ihedigbo instead of Pollard would likely have on the Ravens' fortunes. Just in terms of chemistry, with Pollard staying home in coverage as Ed Reed roams, I would suspect it was big -- especially with as mercurial a quarterback as Vick.
And why does Baltimore often get the second-string production team? Because it is not one of the nation's Top 20 markets in size.
Hey, here's an idea for Sean McManus, the president of CBS Sports: Have one of your aides call up a first-rate campus newspaper like the one at Penn State or Towson University, ask for the sports editor and offer her or him $50 and all the pizza they can eat to sit in the production truck and monitor The Sun's website and social media for some real information on injuries and unexpected developments in the game.
And then, let the student reporter share that information with an associate producer, who can feed it to Dierdorf and Gumbel. It couldn't be worse than what you have now with this backup crew and no one providing that crucial service.
Yes, I'm being a wise guy, but do you really think CBS Sports can't afford a sideline reporter -- or some systematic way of tracking injuries and informing viewers of the severity and possible impact on the game?
I started out hoping things had improved with the second-string CBS crew, but by the second quarter, it seemed headed for a new level of incompetence. By the end of the game, that fear was realized and then some.
There were little maddening things, like with 9:16 left in the second quarter, the camera focused on No. 24, Nnamdi Asomugha, on the Eagles bench. Why? I have no idea. The announcers never explained. I don't recall his name ever being called on the field. Just another random shot in TV hell from the production team at CBS. It wasn't the only one Sunday.
There were bigger maddening things, like Gumbel crediting DeSean Jackson (No. 10) with a touchdown catch when it was actually Jeremy Maclin (No. 18) who made the play. Gumbel did correct himself.
But later, the boys in the booth confused DeSean Jackson with LeSean McCoy (No. 25). Look at the numbers, guys, not the similarity of first names. Come on, this is network TV -- at the network that seemed to invent Sunday NFL coverage once upon a time.
Most maddening was the general lack of clarity and command in their analysis and overall call of the game.
Near the end of the contest with the game up for grabs, the referees seemed to go into a meltdown every time it came to spotting the ball after a penalty.
At 5:29 left, an incorrect spot had John Harbaugh screaming on the sidelines.
"There's a lot of Ravens fans, going, 'What?'" the boys in the booth said as they chuckled at Harbaugh's outrage.
First of all, there is nothing funny about referees destroying the integrity of the game this way.
And second, instead of laughing about the situation and saying how confused Ravens fans must be, why don't you actually do your job and try to explain what's happening instead of laughing like two high school boys watching the gym instructor get hit in the head with a volleyball?
Here's an idea: Try to be on the side of information, accuracy and clarity next time, instead of adolescent yuks. And that extends to the production truck as well, with the random shots, missed altercations, lack of visual game plan and inability to craft new story lines on the run.
Really, CBS can and should do much better than this.
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