Column: Sports media: Jumbo serving of weekend football viewing left a bad taste

Among the riveting coverage from the NFL combine: defensive linemen like Northern Illinois' Sutton Smith ripping their way through an obstacle course.
(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

We phoned in an order for the Pan-Sauteed Pigskin Platter, but were handed a steaming-cold combo of the NFL combine and Alliance of American Football.

Why, yes, we would like to speak to your manager.

The combine is exactly what social media says it is: #UnderWearOlympics. ABC preempts its Saturday morning kids TV lineup so we can watch all 5 feet 10 1/8 inches of Kyler Murray look down on every other quarterback running 40-yard bursts, for Pete Carroll’s sake.

The AAF is nothing more than a glorified pipe-fitters union. It’s the arena league without a roof. You’ve captured a look at professional football purgatory with no prayer of exiting.


If you’re convinced this faux football is the answer to a nation caught in a post-Super Bowl malaise, you’re mistaken. Programming like this should require a mandatory FDA warning read aloud by Rich Eisen:

“Caution: Side effects may include loss of common sense and a profound inability to accept college basketball, golf or exhibition baseball as a viable TV option.

“Should an unnatural adrenaline rush create an unnatural urge to place wagers on incidental outcomes, cut up your credit card immediately.

“If uncontrolled sobbing during this telecast lasts more than four hours, seek Al Michaels for Dr. Jerry Punch’s pager number.”


The comic relief at the combine comes from the broadcast teams that treat it as if they’re describing a triple-option bypass heart operation. The decision for ESPN to move its coverage to ABC for a few hours Saturday only made it more awkward when Trey Wingo, winging it on the opening voiceover, told us that this warehouse-looking building in Indianapolis is where “dreams can take one step closer to being reality … and hopefully no dreams will be shattered.”

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This was nothing more than a mashup of “The Bachelor” and “Project Runway,” with your host, Mel Kiper Jr., assuring us that Dwayne Haskins’ horrible 40 time doesn’t really matter because of the Ohio State quarterback’s “tremendous field command,” and Missouri quarterback Drew Lock was a first-round lock because, well, just look at him fill out those leotards.

If you came away profoundly hoodwinked by the 1.6% body fat and 4.33-second 40 of 228-pound Mississippi receiver D.K. Metcalf, you likely had no use for the AAF.


CBS did the predictable oversell coming out of its Super Bowl coverage, filling its opening-week AAF telecasts with a decent assortment of broadcasters, cameras, graphics and sound equipment. But if an Emmy exists for Outstanding Special Effects of A Live Presentation That Could Possibly Cause Shingles, watch Adam Archuleta run to the stage to graciously accept the award from Erin Andrews and sprint away before someone changes their vote.

The AAF remains a hedge-funded football experience that gets media attention only if something generates a viral video clip.

One week, it’s a San Diego quarterback throwing a ball backward over his head, a play that Bryce Miller of the San Diego Union-Tribune described as resembling “a drunken, Scottish caber toss minus the kilt.” The next week, it’s a dog catching an 83-yard Frisbee pass during a halftime show in Orlando that USA Today headlined as “awesome.”

This weekend’s highlight will be anyone slipping around during a snow-pelted game in Salt Lake City.


Laugh it up, AAF. You’re one letter away from fans clamoring for an “ALF” revival.

The ol' ball coach, Steve Spurrier, coaches Orlando in the Alliance of American Football.
(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)

Ultimately, this is all one spread-out game show, as we try to guess the broadcasters’ identity based on their excitable play call. If you had Dan Hellie, Ben Holden, Andrew Siciliano or Mark Malone on your bingo card, pray they find rewarding jobs someday.

As the NFL Network morphed Sunday afternoon from combine conversation to AAF awkwardness, we were startled to see coach Rick Neuheisel in the Arizona locker room, trying to pump up his team for its game against … let’s see … oh, right, Atlanta.


“You feel that nervous energy? You feel it?” said the former UCLA coach and current “SEC on CBS” studio analyst, not at all playing to the camera. “You can only get that here. That doesn’t exist anywhere else. That’s why every one of you put your hands in the air when you heard of the Alliance of American Football. …

“This is not artificial. So don’t squander it. We are not scoreboard watching. All we are doing is playing our asses off for 60 minutes. Everybody got that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“OK, Hotshots on three … one, two three, Hotshots!”


Oh, did we mention that Neuheisel is coach of a team called the Hotshots? There might have been a player or two trying to suppress a smirk.

Tune it in

* IFC has pegged April 3 as the launch date for the third season of “Brockmire,” the Hank Azaria-driven dark comedy about the flailing life of a baseball broadcaster trying to drink his way back to the big time. A non-spoiler alert: Episode 2’s storyline features Bob Costas’ discovery that Brockmire is responsible for giving him pink eye during the Sochi Winter Olympics.

* The “Jason Witten Error,” as it has been dubbed by Forbes media columnist Barry Horn, has ended at ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” with his decision to go back to running routes instead of talking in circles. has posted 2-1 odds of Peyton Manning replacing him. May we suggest: It’s an opportune moment to dismiss Joe Tessitore as well. Circle back to Boomer Esiason as the main voice with recently retired tight end Greg Olsen joining “Booger” McFarland to create a players-only lineup.


Tune it out

* Dan Patrick’s contract to simulcast his AT&T Audience Network national radio show with NBCSN ended Thursday, and we doubt any of us who’ve already cut our losses from a DirecTV subscription will adjust our morning routine to seek it out now as a video stream on Turner-based Bleacher Report Live. KLAC-AM (570) is one of some 330 radio affiliates, but we’ve come to appreciate the visuals and between-commercials side chats. Disappear into the AT&T abyss, if you must.

* First impressions of newest Dodgers play-by-play man Tim Neverett, based on his radio and TV work this past weekend on exhibition contests: spectacularly average, with a haunting similarity of the late, bland Skip Caray from the Atlanta Braves’ TBS days.