Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Preseason football commentators

I finally got to see the Steelers first preseason game against the Lions yesterday (again thanks to the marvels of TiVo -- and the fact that Comcast has signed a deal to televise the NFL Network) and I will spare you my attempt to dissect the season based on a handful of plays, a lot of rust and a bunch of marginal players who won't be around in September.

However, there is one thing I want to discuss. Is it just me or is every local commentating crew awful? The Steelers game was from the UPN Detroit station and they had former Lions wrecking ball Chris Spielman teamed with your typical vanilla color guy. And let me say straight-away that Spielman wasn't mean-spirited or disparaging in his remarks, but he just wasn't very good. He'd stumble over his words, make really obvious comments (kind of like Joe Theismann but a lot better), repeat himself and whenever possible make reference to his playing days (update: as I watch more of the game, Spielman starts to grow on me. He's self-deprecating, candid and funny in a meathead kind of way).

Anyway, my intent wasn't to lambast Spielman, but just to point out that while MLB teams have their own traveling circus of commentators, the NFL really has no such thing -- sans preseason. With the "networks" doing every regular season and playoff game, the local guys never really get a chance to hone their skills unless they also double as the local radio guys (which isn't the case in Pittsburgh. And by the way, I'm a big Edmund Nelson fan, but I can do without all the negativity of Bob Pompeani).

I guess the funny thing is that I think I prefer someone like Spielman, who although often misspeaks, he does so in a very unassuming, aw-shucks manner. At the opposite end of the spectrum are uber-dopes like Theismann, and to a lesser extent Deion Sanders and Sean Salisbury, who are convinced that they are unequivocally right, even as they contradict themselves.

By the way, is it bad that John Clayton who looks eerily like E.T.'s distant relative, has forgotten more football that Salisbury ever knew? Fact or Fiction: Salisbury is a meathead -- Fact!