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BG’s Showtime Pitch and Week 12 Picks

Anyone who doesn’t pay for Showtime is sleeping on — hands down — the best football show out there: Inside the NFL. Each week James Brown hosts (and mediates) a forum of Phil Simms, Chris Collinsworth and the inimitable Warren Sapp. The show, formerly of HBO, accomplishes everything NFL fans are looking for on a program. It’s insightful, edgy and laugh-out-loud funny.

You see, football fans are quite simple in their needs. If you make them laugh, succinctly interpret the game and say a few borderline inappropriate things, they will be happy. Which is precisely why it baffles me that so few are tuning into JB, Phil, Chris and Warren. Oh right, the whole Showtime thing. Well here’s my pitch to every football enthusiast out there to upgrade their cable to the silver package for the next couple of months. (Showtime, you can thank me later.)

Seriously though, these four are the perfect pigskin quartet. Simms and Collinsworth understand and can relate the game as well as anyone in the business. Simms, a former quarterback, is adept at giving us the perspective of the field general. Collinsworth, who spends inordinate amounts of time in the tape room, is always pointing out things the average fan simply isn’t equipped to notice. The two also happen to loathe one another, and that mutual contempt fuels their frequently divergent opinions.

Sapp, meanwhile, is a one-of-a-kind personality. His knowledge — which equates to raw intelligence from the trenches — is invaluable considering the voice of the lineman is generally the least heard (save for Fox’s Tony Siragusa and his live reports from the end zone) but arguably the most vital to grasping the game. With Warren, the mood is always light because he’s in a perpetual state of giddiness and is unrelenting in his shameless pleas for votes on Dancing With The Stars (DWTS has been a great running subplot on the show).

Then there’s Brown, the mercenary moderator of NFL roundtables. He was the point man on Fox for over a decade, feeding the likes of Terry Bradshaw, before jumping ship to CBS in 2006, where he now tosses to Shannon Sharpe. I tell you, the man has seen it all.

JB’s true genius is always revealed when the feuds between Simms and Collinsworth reach a boiling point, at which time he’ll cut in with some sarcastic patchwork comment (“These guys really do get along well off-camera”) just as they’re about to start giving each other backhanders. He’ll then seamlessly segway to Sapp for his take on the topic that previously had both white fellas sporting loony ear-to-ear grins as they traded personal insults.

The big fella always has something to say, and it’s often so outlandish that viewers quickly forget that Simms and Collinsworth are arm wrestling off-camera. A few highlights: His reaction to hearing about ex-teammate Keyshawn Johnson’s pending interior design show on A&E (“Keyshawn, I knew you were a [rhymes with snitch]”); his response after Ray Lewis told him the Ravens were playing the pass against the Giants last week (“I dropped the phone, I dropped the phone”); and most recently, his take on Donovan McNabb not knowing there are ties in the NFL (“When I heard him say it I almost passed out”). It should be noted that Sapp has since apologized to Johnson for stepping out of line, but in my opinion that’s just another reason to watch the show.

What’s most important — and what ultimately makes the show a success — is their collective ability to get beyond the jokes and jabs and give the viewer bona fide insight and analysis. Take for instance their handling of Dallas‘s huge win in Washington on Sunday night, a victory that essentially saved the Cowboys’ season. Collinsworth was enamored with the effect Tony Romo’s return had on the Dallas defense, how upon seeing their leader back the unit played with renewed inspiration and passion. Simms pointed to the fact that Romo put only 14 points on the board and threw two picks. He wanted to know why a defense with eight first-rounders couldn’t have found that next gear when Romo was out. Sapp built on it all by agreeing that in the absence of the starting quarterback, a defense must take the burden away from the offense and dictate games — which the Cowboys D didn’t when Romo was down. Sapp talked about the 1999 season, when his Bucs’ lost Trent Dilfer and were forced to do more in order to make life easier for rookie Shaun King.

They all might have had varied takes on the game, but their contributions were individually and collectively valuable, and flowed well together in spite of any personal issues between them. That’s all it takes to create a successful product.

To sum it up: For ten bucks a month you get a guaranteed 12 rounds of Simms-Collinsworth, countless sound bytes from Sapp and lots of sardonic wit from JB. You get a show about football, rife with humor, tension and drama, yet complemented by an abundance of substance. And don’t forget about the unparalleled game footage provided by NFL Films.

It’s all there waiting for you. So grab the phone and dial up Showtime. You won’t regret it. I promise.

Just tell them Ballgame sent you.

Here are the Week 12 picks (Home teams in CAPS).

CLEVELAND over Houston

DALLAS over San Francisco

TENNESSEE over NY Jets

Tampa Bay over DETROIT

Buffalo over KANSAS CITY

Chicago over ST. LOUIS

New England over MIAMI

JACKSONVILLE over Minnesota

DENVER over Oakland

BALTIMORE over Philadelphia

ATLANTA over Carolina

NY Giants over ARIZONA

Washington over SEATTLE

Indianapolis over SAN DIEGO

Green Bay over NEW ORLEANS

Last Week/Thursday: 11-5-1

Overall: 103-56-1

Finally, I have to shout out my high school alma mater, BB&N, where the football team’s kicker just set a state-record by booting a 58-yard field goal. Pretty ridiculous, eh? The accomplishment got him a feature story on the ABC affiliate in Boston. In case you were wondering, we didn’t set any state records during my two seasons on the squad.

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