Buck, Aikman Provide Dynamic Connection for FOX
Their FOX successors, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, admittedly, have a ways to go to achieve the staying power of Madden and Summerall. But Aikman and Buck closed the season -- their fifth -- with a brilliant performance in Sunday's NFC title game between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints, a showing that sets them solidly atop the list of NFL broadcast teams.
That Buck is superb should come as no shock. The No.4 play-by-play announcer in the Super Seven of 2009 has proven adept at saying as little as the moment requires.
On Garrett Hartley's game-winning field goal, Buck smartly laid out and let the sounds and pictures of the Superdome as illustrated by producer Richie Zyontz and director Rich Russo tell the story. It was a baseball announcer's play that paid off handsomely.
Buck's only significant miss of the night was mentioning that Hartley had been suspended, but not telling the home viewers why.
Aikman, in the meantime, has grown by leaps and bounds as an analyst, since Cris Collinsworth left FOX's three-man lead booth to go to NBC. The former Cowboys quarterback is self-assured and forceful without being overbearing and a know-it-all.
And Buck and Aikman can disagree honestly without the contrivance of phony anger, or without using pistols at 10 paces. When New Orleans' Anthony Hargrove was flagged for roughing the passer late in the fourth quarter, the two men staked their positions – Buck agreeing with the call; Aikman saying the penalty was wrong.
Miraculously, their differences, as stated, were presented reasonably. The world kept spinning and the game went on.
Where FOX slumped badly was with its pre- and postgame programming. While FOX NFL Sunday has been the ratings leader since it premiered in 1994, and its formula of guy talk and jocularity has not only influenced its competitors at ESPN and CBS, and, to a lesser degree, NBC, but has filtered to sports talk radio.
That's not necessarily a good thing, and the worst aspect was evident Sunday night after the game, when analysts Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Michael Strahan and Jimmy Johnson seemed as interested in showing off their Super Bowl rings to Reggie Bush and Drew Brees as in breaking down the game with the Saints players.
Pam Oliver's postgame interview with Adrian Peterson left a lot to be desired. It seemed more like a pep talk than a trained media professional asking an athlete questions.
Oliver also failed to get an interview with coach Brad Childress or better yet, Brett Favre, though, in fairness, host Curt Menefee did explain that Favre refused a postgame interview.
The Ratings Game
Imagine the room of your favorite electronics store with, say, 100 television sets. Now, imagine if 82 of those sets were tuned to the same program.
Now you know what it was like to be in New Orleans Sunday night, as, on average 82 percent of all the TVs that were on watched the Saints beat Minnesota. Add that share to the 63.2 rating -- which reflects the percentage of households watching -- and you have the highest local rating for a postseason NFL game ... ever.
In the final 15 minutes that led up to and included Hartley's field goal, the rating went up to 67.2 and the share peaked at 86.
In all, nearly 58 million people nationwide watched the Saints and Vikings, making for the second-largest audience for any conference championship game, trailing only the 1982 match between the Cowboys and 49ers, when San Francisco's Dwight Clark caught a pass from Joe Montana at the back of the end zone to win the game. You might have heard about it.
The Minnesota-New Orleans game was, excluding Super Bowls, the most watched television program of any kind since the series finale of Seinfeld in 1998 and is the most watched FOX show ever, taking the network's five Super Bowl telecasts and two Super Bowl postgame shows out of the equation.
Meanwhile, Indianapolis' win over the New York Jets in the AFC championship game, drew nearly 47 million viewers, the highest viewership for an AFC game since 1986's Patriots-Dolphins game.
Two of Rick Barry's four sons, Jon and Drew, will go head-to-head Tuesday night for the first time since they quibbled over possession of the last dinner roll at the supper table.
Actually, Jon, who does NBA studio and game analyst work on ESPN's NBA telecasts, and Drew Barry, who works the college basketball studio on ESPNU, will team up to deliver color on ESPNU's telecast of the Miami-Maryland basketball game tonight at 7 p.m.
Rob Stone will play the role of dad/referee as play-by-play announcer, with the power to send either or both to their rooms without dinner if they don't break up the fighting.
When Coining Words Goes Bad
Were we all out of the room when the word "decommit" was coined, supposedly to cover high school athletes who back out of going to one college to attend and play at another?
What's wrong with saying that Johnny Jones -- who technically can't commit until signing day -- changed his mind about Bo Diddley Tech, and will now attend dear old State U.?
English is mangled badly enough on sports broadcasts without having to resort to making up new words to save a couple of seconds.
Radio Call of the Year
Pigs have flown! Hell has frozen over! The Saints are on their way to the Super Bowl!
New Orleans Saints radio play-by-play announcer Jim Henderson after Hartley's field goal.