*NOTE* Beginning this year the Fox network will have exclusive broadcast rights to three of the four BCS bowl games (Sugar, Fiesta, Orange) in addition to the inaugural BCS Championship Game. Most recently, ABC had deals with the major bowls while Fox owned the rights to just the Cotton Bowl. No more.I’ve never been a fan of Fox’s NFL coverage, as its games are always diluted with too many bells and whistles, in-game promo packages that literally overlap with play by play coverage, and generally poor announcing teams. (With the exception of the crew that includes Daryl “Moose” Johnston in the booth and Tony “the Goose” Siragusa on the sidelines. The great thing is, Goose is the only sideline reporter who is always mic’d up. Combined with the fact that he is, well, “the Goose”, a viewer is guaranteed to have some entertaining and inappropriate inter-jargon between the boys upstairs and the behemoth chiming in live from the end zone. Always fun.)
Other than Moose and the Goose, the best you can hope for watching an NFL game on Fox is that Joe Buck will get peeved enough at a Randy Moss touchdown dance and proclaim it “disgusting!!”. In Fox’s defense, its NFL pregame show is bar none. Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, and Jimmy Johnson are all unique, amusing, and knowledgeable football personalities. Losing James Brown as the mediator of these wild boys was a tough blow for Fox, but the show must go on, and it has, successfully.
This leads me to Fox’s premier of the BCS Selection Show, which aired live on Sunday night from 7:50 to 8:30. When I tell you this was the most awkward, unintentionally hilarious network studio show in the history of sports, I’m not blowin’ smoke up your tail. Nothing about this show went right. “Murphy’s law” was in da house.
First off, the show was hosted by Chris Rose. Now I consider myself pretty well-schooled in the who’s who of the sports broadcasting business but I’ve honestly never seen (or at least registered) this guy. However if I ran into him on the street and he told me he was in the business I could’ve guessed in one breath which network he was affiliated with. He looks like the less-attractive, slightly older brother of Ryan Seacrest with the voice of a nerdier Adam Corolla. (Yes, I can understand that image may be a little much to comprehend within the context of sports. I apologize.)
Anyways Rose opened the show and introduced his two in-studio analysts, Barry Alvarez (former Wisconsin football coach) and Charles Davis (former Tennessee defensive back). Before I had the chance to realize how uncomfortable these guys were, Rose had spewed off the bulk of his first segment, which included the phrases, “post a bagel in the loss column” and, “all that and a bag of chips”. (I believe these comments were in reference to Boise State’s undefeated season, but I was still in a mini-trance, fearing I had accidentally tuned into the season premier of Bizarro American Idol.)
When I saw video footage of football players everything was aright again, but weird. Rose had tossed his first question to Davis, who, incidentally had a moderate case of laryngitis. His voice started cracking a third of the way through his first comment, and Rose appeared to have been completely oblivious to the whole situation until that moment. Awkward? Sensing Davis’s lack of umm SPEAKING CAPABILITIES, Rose decided to seek the input of Alvarez. The coach looked genuinely uneasy to be in a room with hundreds of lights, not to mention slightly sedated (not sure if the two were connected).
He did his analysis bit and uncomfortably segwayed back to Rose. Rose proceeded to jump right into the announcement of Ohio State’s opponent in the National Championship, Florida. It was as if the producers weren’t divulging even to Rose the time of the super-secret unveiling, and just yelled “Now!” into his ear-piece and the teleprompter started rolling. Smooth? Not quite. In fact, once Fox cut to its first commercial break I was thinking it was one of the most uncomfortable segments I’d ever seen.
By the time they came back from break I was pondering if it would be less uncomfortable watching these guys slam doors with each others tooths tied to the knobs. It was that bad. But it got worse…
It was time to go live to the site of Florida’s selection-soiree. The whole team was assembled, on-camera, behind Fox reporter, Chris Myers, and the Gators head coach, Urban Meyer. Myers asked the coach how it felt to be selected, his take on a possible playoff system blah blah blah. Overall it was a pretty token, dull interview. Until Myers attempted to cite Meyer’s master’s degree from the University of Ohio, which was in, uhh, umm, hold on one sec and lemme Google this guy real quick…
Ah yes, education. It was Urban Meyer’s master’s degree in Education that Chris Myers nearly choked on, with a crew of giddy football players behind him cracking grins to boot.
Back to you in the studio Chris!
Next up? One on one with Ohio State coach, Jim Tressel. He loves the media! And there to interview him, lead play by play guy for the BCS, Thom Brennaman. After a few generic Florida/matchup questions, Brennaman asked Tressel about his feelings on a playoff system. Before giving his diplomatic response there was a instant when Tressel slipped into a Dick Cheney/Jim Mora-esque scowl of seething incredulity. Playoff?? Playoff?!?!?! We’re twelve and freakin’ oh!!!! Priceless.
Equally priceless was Rose’s face back on the screen. That seemed to be enough for me. With palpable awkwardness having invaded every facet of this show, I was ready to tune out, sufficient material for a column in hand (and note). Then I noticed something. As Charles Davis was wholeheartedly attempting to squeak out a comment, I saw someone over his left shoulder. Except it wasn’t someone on one of the many flat screen televisions behind the talent. It was actually someone in the studio.
Yes, there was a heavy-set, balding man seated somewhere off-set, yet in the camera shot. Either that or those characters at the pizzeria put some funky mushrooms on my pie last night. But then again, watching this show was truly a trip.
There were moments when I laughed; others when I thought I was going to cry. I was mortified, exhilarated and in disbelief, all at once. Hell, I was flat out entertained. For some reason though, I have a feeling the powers at Fox Sports didn’t share my sentiments.
From a production and operation standpoint the show was a disaster. But hey, there’s a first time for everything, and Fox was wandering into uncharted territory, its relationship to the BCS just beginning. The network will obviously refine its BCS studio presentation between now and the new year.
Though as a viewer altogether impressed with the pure squirmy-entertainment value of Fox’s first BCS Selection Show, I say if ain’t broke, why fix it? Okay, bad example. I guess what I’m trying to say is sometimes a bar set very low can make those precious ratings go very high.
(But Fox already knows that.)