Monday, January 14, 2008

Diarrhea of the Mouth

   Like just about every other NFL playoff fan, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the four divisional games over the weekend.  The two Sunday contests went down to the wire, while on Saturday Jacksonville played evenly with unbeaten New England well into the third quarter, and Green Bay entertained all of us with a one-sided win in the snow at Lambeau. 

   And yet, I missed John Madden.  Not as much as John missed being at one of those games, the snow in Green Bay most notably.  But I missed John, as the pre-eminent analyst in the game. Some critics think he's not as sharp as he was when he was younger, but I disagree.  His ability to understand and dissect a game is second to none.  Moreover, whereas John revolutionized the job of the NFL network analyst, leading to generations of imitators, beginning (as I recall) with Matt Millen, very few if any of them really understand what it is about John that makes him so special.  

   John Madden is funny.  He's irreverent.   He's entertaining.  Most other analysts just aren't. Hey, that's a lot to ask for.  But Madden is also marvelous at analyzing key plays.  Key plays. And that's where virtually all the Madden imitators over the years come up short.  Take Phil Simms.  Please.  The man does not know when to shut up.  There were approximately 120 plays from scrimmage in the New England-Jacksonville game, and Phil Simms analyzed approximately 120 plays.  One yard up the middle, and a cloud of dust.  Is such a play really necessary to analyze?  Of course not.  But that's the crux of the issue.  Somewhere along the line, beginning with Matt Millen I believe, the networks all paraded "the next John Madden" on the air, and erroneously believed that one of the necessary requirements was to analyze every damn play, as soon as the poor play-by-play announcer finished with his description.  CBS obviously considers Simms one of the best in the business, because they've got him paired with Jim Nantz as their number-one NFL broadcast team.  I understand why.  Simms is bright, he's articulate, he understands the game.  

   But what Phil Simms and CBS do not understand is that sometimes less is more.  Sometimes it's not necessary to take apart a play.  Sometimes it would be nice to hear nothing but the crowd.  After all, we can see what's going on.  And sometimes it would be nice to hear a little more from Nantz.  It's the same for nearly all the broadcast teams on CBS, and on Fox as well. Throw in NBC and the NFL Network.  They're all suffering from the same disease.  Shut the hell up, already!  And, in the process, be more spontaneous and less predictable.