by David Hershorin

Friday September 6, 2002
Hawaii at Brigham Young – ESPN at 7pm
Coverage Team: Jeff Hullinger, Todd Christensen, Alex Flanagan

Another Friday game in prime-time. Friday night television is getting a shot in the arm with these additional games early in the season. If we get too spoiled with games on new nights we aren’t used to, won’t the divorce rate go up? As long as this crew is chewing our ears off, no. Any insightful comments were offset by inane banter that went nowhere. My favorite bit-o-ignorance was when Todd claimed “west-coast offenses need small, speedy receivers to work well”. Everyone in the booth agreed. I don’t - big, possession-type WRs can give QBs confidence when quick-slants are needed. Their size allows for a margin of error unavailable with smaller targets. Jerry Rice seems small, but… And things went further south when Hawaii’s end-run went out of bounds at the one yard line. The home office pulled out to show us a baseball highlight instead of running a timely replay. The rain, along with this rivalry and its MWC implications, carried the quality of this broadcast. Otherwise, the production itself lacked. The booth team gets a C- for consistently being on a different page than the viewers. The truck and producers faired somewhat better in the challenging weather, but nothing to e-mail home about…a C+ seems generous.

Saturday, September 7, 2002
Alabama at Oklahoma – ABC at 3:30pm
Coverage Team: Brent Musburger, Gary Danielson, Jack Arute

This game wound up being the best game to watch from a production POV and as a sports fan. Brent & Co. had their hands full with this stellar match-up of two teams on divergent paths. But, as usual, the announcing team was sharp, seeing subtleties of the game way before replay confirmation. Some of their shinier nuggets…Gary saw Sooner QB White’s knee buckle on a keeper, knowing it wasn’t an opposing player…in the 2nd quarter, explained how Bama’s new QB Brent Rawls hadn’t played a down since he was a high school junior (nearly two years)…Brent quickly informing us how Oklahoma’s 3rd quarter fumbled punt return was caused by another Sooner, not a halo infraction…interviews of Tide players explaining why NCAA sanctions/probation didn’t deter them from playing out their eligibility in Tuscaloosa. The Xs and Os were drawn often and effectively, especially with all the big plays on special teams. Brent wasn’t overly amped – he conveyed the game’s excitement, but employed no more energy than was necessary. Give their football savvy talk an A with the production itself close, but an A- for a few missed replays (especially penalties).

Saturday, September 7, 2002
Miami at Florida – CBS at 5:00pm
Coverage Team: Verne Lundquiste, Todd Blackledge, Jill Arrington

This game’s play-by-play announcing easily qualified itself as more insightful than the color comments. Blackledge wasn’t missing too much; he just seemed overmatched with the demand of this haughty game. Even replays often gave us visual insight(s) sooner than the booth could provide comment. Why wasn’t Miami’s first FG (54 yard) highlighted, even though it sailed through with 20 yards to spare? The good parts…spotting the Cane’s DE #95 Jerome MacDougal stalking Grossman early and often…a tracking shot of Florida’s 2nd quarter TD, incredible camera placement and technique…interview with Mike Kaplan – he lettered for Florida in ’42 and then Miami in ’43 & ’46, playing both ways (T/LB)…piece on how Grossman nearly followed Spurrier into the NFL. The bar was set high for this stellar match-up, so the problems don’t reflect too badly on the announcers’ pigskin profiles. But with the national audience keenly focused on the title implications this game carries, it seems now they should have sent Jim Nantz to anchor the booth. Never the less, it wasn’t too bad – a B-/C+ depending on your definition of ‘hanging chad’. The crew in the truck fared much better…a B+ earned for timely replays and informative graphics. Hopefully Miami/FSU and FSU/Florida will get better treatment(s).

Saturday, September 7, 2002
Colorado State at UCLA – Fox Sports Net at 10:15pm
Coverage Team: Steve Physioc, Tom Ramsey, John Jackson

Fox hasn’t put together any superior announcing teams as of yet. This cross-conference rivalry, though, received respectable treatment. Too often, today’s talkative hosts supply us with banter that (when not competent) can take the focus off the action. But these guys knew when to let the football speak for itself. We comfortably never had to deal with episodes of over-talking. This novel effect is a welcome alternative to the standard glib approach. Though enjoyable, their ‘give and take’ didn’t always penetrate the surface of many needed issues (like CSU’s poor halftime clock management or the Ram’s intimidating road record under Coach Lubbick). Lucky for us, the producers covered all the game’s angles, so play-by-play comments easily matched the replays supplied. But these slip-ups are nit-picky at best. Their modest approach merits this entire crew a B for solid coverage other networks need note. It all begs the question: might we rather have a split screen (2 games at once) with no commentators? It seems like more football would be a good thing, more talking a bad one. Hmmm……………………………