What can I tell you, it's one of those opinionated days… (ANGLE ON: DAVID CARUSO REMOVING SUNGLASSES) ... media-style!
Let me just start by saying if NBC's Clash of the Choirs doesn't make the world realize it needs its TV writers, then it's over, Johnny. Over! Of course if that doesn't get it done, watching Jay Leno work without jokes might. I mean, what's left -- the incisive interviewing skills?
I just want to remind the NFL studio shows that nowhere is it written that everyone sitting at your desk must narrate highlights. More specifically, there is no law that says Shannon Sharpe has to voice over game footage. He's got a lot of personality, why not let that be enough? Please. The man has had plenty of on-the-job time to improve, and this is officially a disaster. I have heard more coherent broadcasting in dementia wards. ...
On the other hand, Saturday night's NFL Network game was a revelation. Sure, watching the Bengals underachieve vs. the Niners was fairly gruesome, but it says here that Deion Sanders and Marshall Faulk are the best thing to happen to the booth of a prime-time football game in a long, long time.
Imagine -- two first-ballot Hall of Famers with organic personality and chemistry who aren't afraid to tell it like it is. Yes, they praised, but they also called out coaches and players to a fair-thee-well. It was like listening to two ex-pros kibitzing during a game the way you know they do, but you never get to hear on the air. Honestly, I'm trying to remember the last time I enjoyed this kind of interplay in the booth. And if you think that's a homer call here on NFL.com, please note how I have yet to write a word about Bryant Gumbel and Cris Collinsworth all year long. Sanders and Faulk actually drew Bryant out of his persnickety shell and challenged him, chided him, forcing a real dialogue. If we don't get to enjoy these two doing more games, then something is very wrong.
As for all this Dewey Cox promotion, despite the fact that this movie's being rammed up our rumps relentlessly, I assume I'm not the only one who was taken aback at the laughter-free zone -- a.k.a. the endless music video that delayed the kickoff of the MNF tilt. Everything about this one screams "on the nose."
Greed is good ... NOT!
When is enough enough? With all this talk about New England showing zero conscience in any game they win by 40 points, I think I have isolated a showbiz equivalent for you. No, not the "we want it all, here's a nickel, kid" stance of the studios that forced the Writer's Guild to hit the bricks -- that one speaks for itself.
This time I'm talking about one of the more subtle moves. The next time you see a Budweiser ad during a game, take a listen to the actor who provides the voice-over for the tag lines -- yep, it's George Clooney. He even says "from our family to yours" in the Christmas versions. Not to single George out, he's always impressed me as a talented and cool guy, and huge movies stars have done this for years -- from Harrison Ford to Gene Hackman. Fellas, when is enough enough? I know it's easy money, and I know Madison Avenue has a need to pay huge stars huge money for uncredited voice-overs, but do the powers that be ever factor in the percentage of the listening audience who react with a thought balloon along the lines of "What the hell is Jeff Bridges doin' sellin' batteries?"
Okay, bad example -- that one may be more along the lines of "What the hell is a battery company doing shelling out big money for Jeff Bridges?" but you get the point. Once you've succeeded to the point that you are paid tens of millions for your art, does that Bud money really help? Is it worth it to subliminally place your voice inside the collective heads of a nation to the point that we all associate it with words like "Gillette," or "Beechwood aged," to the point we no longer trust it with the dialogue from a scene in an important movie?
And yes, I made a fine living for seven years as the disembodied voice of a talking TV cat -- and that actually makes me all the more credible on this point. I am fully aware that the subliminal twang of my cattitude might create an issue if I am suddenly cast in a thriller as a bomb expert -- and people get the nagging feeling that they don't trust a guy who sounds like a cat to cut the correct wire and disarm the situation. On the other hand, if I ever run for office, I will have a huge subliminal edge when every female voter who was a teen during the Sabrina years feels strangely compelled to vote for me.
Then again, this might be exhibit "A" of NB out of touch with the times. I am carbon-dated back to a beautiful era when the thought of any rock 'n roller with a shred of integrity allowing a publicly-traded brand to sponsor their world tour was unthinkable -- an irrevocable step to ruination, thanks to a shattered trust in a world where the music was all that mattered. Now we suffer in a time that sees a huge logo over the stage as the ultimate validation. Hey, the Rolling Stones are older than I am, and their last tour was proudly sponsored not by beer or booze, but by a mortgage company. Sexy.
No such worries on the current Van Halen world tour -- David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen are finally back together where God and Priapus intended them, and the results, I can say with authority, are nothing less than spectacular. Robin and I had the great pleasure of seeing them play Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center twice -- the tour is getting better at every stop. Purists are now officially warned: It's even better than you hoped. Dates are being added as we speak -- run, don't walk. This one is not to be missed.
Back to the bitterness: Newest TV convention run amok? How about hour-long dramas letting a sad song do all the work for them in the last three minutes of an episode. The three-minute "play off" ending is like a ref forcing a football game to end on a clock roll-off. Really, who needs to either write or act a thing if it's all drowned out by some cry-baby Ben Folds Five song?
Sorry, maybe it's my bitterness talking. It was that kind of football weekend ...
Mistakes, they've made a few
I never thought I'd say this, but last Sunday the Buffalo Bills lost a shot at the playoffs because they couldn't play in the snow. It's not just that the Browns figured out a way to do it -- which they sure did and long may they ride -- but all those young Californians looked pretty lost in the white stuff. Marshawn Lynch and Trent Edwards went to Pac-10 schools, and it showed.
Not that my fantasy teams faired any better. Like many of you, I watched no less than five of my seven teams lose playoff games in the most maddening of ways. It seems that no matter how early a league schedules its playoffs, you can't avoid weird stuff deciding the outcomes and final pairings.
Brian Westbrook takes a knee -- praised in the mainstream for a remarkably unselfish and heady play by forgoing a sure touchdown in order to keep the clock running. I have never in my life seen a fantasy star so vilified. It's the Fantasy equivalent of people with other "sporting interests" watching a QB take a knee on the 3-yard line of a three-point game.
Tom Brady: 'Membah him? The guy who took many of you to the top, including yours truly all the way to the playoffs in the NFL.com fantasy magazine league, only to leave me heinously vulnerable to none other than Gil Brandt! Look, when you go head-to-head with a man who has actually drafted championship NFL teams, you don't need your bell cow to suddenly decide to impersonate David Carr! But that's what Brady owners got, thanks to lousy weather and a strange offensive day in which Laurence Maroney owners finally benched him only to see him finally come up big. Admit it -- you were salivating at the prospect of Belichick humiliating Mangini -- no such luck. And to think -- you'd have been better off with that kid up in San Francisco starting!
All I can say is, I feel your pain. Rub some dirt on it, ignore the championship game featuring your former best friend and your accountant, and remember -- next year you will forget all the hurt as you draft a winner.
Ah, who am I kidding? It sucks, it stings, and I am ready to punch Santa.
Cue Ben Folds Five song ... As this column ends with three solid minutes of Nick looking forlorn as he walks down an abandoned alley, haunted by memories of Tom Brady netting him a lousy 3 points.