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MEDIA SCOPE - Sept. 16
Preseason (Aug. 24)
Week 1 (Aug. 31)
Week 2 (Sept. 7)
Week 3 (Sept. 14)
Week 4 (Sept. 21)
Week 5 (Sept. 28)

Week 6 (Oct. 5)
Week 7 (Oct. 12)
Week 8 (Oct. 19)
Week 9 (Oct. 26)

Week 10 (Nov. 2)
Week 11 (Nov. 9)
Week 12 (Nov. 16)
Week 13 (Nov. 23)
Week 14 (Nov. 30)

by David Hershorin

Friday October 25, 2002
Hawaii vs. Fresno State - ESPN at 9:00pm
Steve Levy, Rod Gilmore, Heather Cox

There was no where to go. Only one game was on, and even though it was a good one, reasons abounded for changing the channel, or in this case turning down the sound. Hawaii-Fresno State proved a challenge to ESPN's announcing crew. They produced just as many boners as they did sharp insights. Their potential is far from realized as ample shortcomings prove how far this talk-team has to go.

Replays should be like hindsight, a 20/20 perspective of ambiguous events needing further inspection to gain clarity. These guys (and gal) seemed to be one step behind the replays produced, just catching up with things finally when seen again, never ahead of this curve (I may be able to call a better game from my couch in New Orleans). Many subtle facets were glossed over or totally missed. Obvious 2-deep coverages were labeled man-to-man. A Fresno State punt with about ten minutes left in the fourth was downed and spotted on the 1 yd line after replays showed the player downing the ball had gone into the endzone without reestablishing himself inbounds. This no-no eluded officials but should have been easily caught with replay. The booth did hit the mark many times, too, but never thoroughly or for any extended period. The announcers knew about the card Fresno State coach Pat Hill had with each referees name on it, so he could call them out at will. Hill even pointed out penalties, often before they were replayed. Coupled with interchangeable play-by-play and color commentary, these guys showed their chops, somewhat. Yet deficiencies stood out often. The Bulldogs rotated six defensive backs at CB, a good observation at face value when playing a team that passes like Hawaii. But the announcers then showed their worth by asking, when Hawaii had only 16 points early in the fourth, if this CB scheme was working. Well, I should think so, as did every other armchair coach like me who can decipher this simple situation. So went the viewing experience of anyone attracted to this prime-time match-up.

The drop off of quality from ESPN's top crews to their B and C teams is significant enough to warrant closer quality inspection. Just because FSS's B and C crews still come up short in comparison doesn't preclude ESPN's problematic nature in this area. The quality of the production truck(s) doesn't displace this either. Something has to give if ESPN wants to stay atop the quality (as well as the quantity - ABC is under their umbrella) game of producing college football. So give the booth a C for a balance of extremely good and bad moments. The replays and angles were better, with ample graphics abounding, timed well, too. Only a B for production as the booth's miscues limits an otherwise strong broadcast.

Saturday October 26, 2002
Notre Dame vs. Florida State - ABC at Noon
Bob Griese, Brad Nessler, Lynn Swann

A good game decided by enthusiastic kids playing better than their counterparts? Nope…The referees stole this one. Griese nailed it early as officiating faux pas piled up. The Big 10 zebra crew missed an early FSU fumble, followed then by a marginal unsportmanlike conduct penalty, causing Griese to express "I think these officials are a little jumpy." So went the viewing experience this game delivered.

It just seemed like quality announcing never overcame this choppy flow the refs established. Griese and Swanny both uncharacteristically missed a second quarter goal line call when replays confirmed a facemask penalty on the Irish never came to light as Greg Jones helmet actually came off when the Irish defender wouldn't let go. But…oops. The booth also came up short when they failed to question the Noles choice of only going for a one-point PAT instead of two late in the fourth when behind by 24 (three TDs along with three two-point conversions means OT). They got two out of three, yet trailed by 10 instead of 8, therefore deflating an otherwise motivated Nole comeback. These guys have set the bar high for themselves, covering games more than adequately until now. The announcers seemed to parallel FSU's plight, never hitting their potential, falling short of expectations. But the booth's flow was also reflected in the refs' inconsistent calls. Too many bad calls distracted the talking enough to disrupt any continuity established by these observant minds. More than adequate replays and graphics did come early and often, making for some consistency as we watched. Let's hope this isn't a trend with which ABC is happy. Odds are good that next week's effort will show this game was an isolated incident for these guys. Motivation should come with an unusual B- for the talk-team. The usual A for ABC's best production crew should also spur the other half back to their usual selves. It was too bad these guys hit their season low at such a huge game. Even more criminal was the official's performance, needing much more attention than any tweak these commentators do.

*Added coverage of ESPN+'s (that's ESPN Plus) BC-Pitt OT tilt was a pleasant surprise. Maybe the big boys at ESPN read MEDIA SCOPE last week and made the right decision, knowing the exposure they would get here. Yeah…

Iowa State vs. Texas - ABC at 3:30pm
Ed Cunningham, Tim Brant, Sam Ryan-Herbst

To be honest, I have to say right off that this was not the game I wanted to see. Out of the four ABC was covering, I wanted to see Penn State-Ohio State. Oh well…this game was rather exciting, too. So in hindsight, after experiencing this 'other' quality broadcast effort instead of the Brent Musberger-hosted Buckeye-Nittnay Lion contest, I am happy for the watching experience I had.

The professionalism these guys displayed showcased insights and gutsy calls that rivaled Griese & Co on a good day. They called players out for penalties sooner than replays could confirm their stabs. Cunningham identified Texas' rotating coverage schemes that kept ISU Hiesman hopeful Seneca Wallace from getting into any rhythm. Also astute was the booth's uncanny knack for spotting which Longhorn's offensive linemen were responsible for the gaping holes often created. They spotted these beefy brawlers and called out their names quicker than Santa with his reindeer leaving off a rooftop. Putting yourself in the trust of these commentators made for an enjoyable football-watching experience. I respectfully give Brent Musberger his props for years of quality announcing. But make no doubt that this crew calls a better game than Brent & Co most any given Saturday. Why they aren't the B team to Bob, Brad and Swanny we'll never know. And make no mistake about the production's ability to keep up with such savvy. Replays constantly produced video to confirm the booth's quick observation making. My favorite sequence was the video and subsequent commentary when Texas QB Simms got mad at the sideline because a play went wrong due to poor substitution(s). Brant went on to point out how Major Applewhite's departure has made Simms into the vocal leader he now is. Not every broadcast could uncover such vignettes. With the play-by-play and color portions of the commentary practically interchangeable, these guys get an A for an unexpected gem. The production was a step below, but still top-notch…A-.

Alabama vs. Tennessee - ESPN at 7:30
Ron Franklin, Mike Gottfried, Adrian Karstan


My journeys kept me from catching the first half of this fabulous SEC clash. But from what I saw, this broadcast came off as well as any this past Saturday. The talking portion was well covered. Ron and Mike were rather sharp, but did miss a few. One strong point - they noticed CB seals offensively and defensively. Experienced seniors on both sides meant the corners could cheat as eighth and ninth men in the box or as run-blitz containment on the outside - a fact we understood thanks to great observation and replay telestrations. One big miss - when replays confirmed that 'Bama QB Brodie Croyle was down before he pitched the ball to RB Santonio Beard, who also was established as "downed" (with one knee seen touching on replay) when he got the pitch. The problematic play wasn't caught by the refs or the announcers (until obvious, after multiple viewpoints). Make no mistake - these guys did a good job most of the time. But it is hard to judge an entire broadcast if many of the first half set-up comments aren't heard. To hear what these guys prognosticated before the game's conclusion would have been to see their worth. One judgement I will make is that Adrian needs to work on his sideline reporting. His staggering delivery broke up any decent flow established. Otherwise, I'm looking forward to their next effort, production crew and all. Instinct like these can't be taught.

Washington State vs. Arizona - FSS at 10:00pm
Barry Tompkins, Warren Moon


Again, something stood in my way to make me miss the first half, namely the Angles' World Series comeback. Oops…but sports nonetheless, right? Whatever the reason, this game's coverage was worthy of only second half attention, from both an action and a quality standpoint. The second half was indicative of the entire flow - WSU wore down Arizona, proving their #9 ranking correct through superior line play on both sides. Telestration proved these points quickly. But shortcomings arose when penalties needed investigating. Player miscues in college ball may not warrant individual identification by officials, but announcers need to point out the impact(s)/effect(s) on team results. Individual mistakes costing the entire squad mean too much to be ignored. These guys also whiffed when they failed to see WSU sacks being the result of Arizona's poor speed at QB. Most other svelte QBs (the majority of today's crop) would have given their teams more through scrambling. It wasn't only WSU's superior line that turned the tide in this close one. This announcing crew earns mid-grade marks for a mixed bag of unpredictable fodder. FSS seems to make these late games rather quality broadcasts…they need better chatter to match the quality technical ends. Give them a few years, and look for them to possibly reach Fox's superior NFL quality if they try hard enough…maybe.



Editor: Dave Hershorin