Only on TV are Montana heroics surprising

January 17, 1994|By Phil Jackman

The TV Repairman:

It must produce a constant source of wonderment in Joe Montana when, after doing what he's been doing for 15 seasons, a sportscaster will come up after a game and fall into rapture about his latest exploits. What, it's a big surprise what a "Joe Montana offense" can do in an NFL game?

Maybe it's just that, as the playoffs proceed, different announcing crews are assigned and they think they're delivering some sort of fresh news flash about the guy who's the only one still adding evidence he may be the best ever at the position.

And Joe always treats the accolades pretty much the same way: Uh, the idea was for us to score more points than the other team, which we did, so let's not make too big a deal of it, huh!

A true old-time type hero, gang, more than a match for 99 percent of the false gods thrust before us in the arena these days.

It was after Marcus Allen had snaked his way 21 yards through the Oilers' defense to give Kansas City its 28-20 lead in the late going that viewers couldn't help but wish for one more scene from the floor of the Houston Astrodome: Oilers offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride walking up to the team's defensive coordinator, Buddy Ryan, and laying a right cross on one of his chins.

How could this self-described genius of a defensive wizard possibly allow 28 points in a big game like this? Any attempts to get such a question answered were thwarted by Ryan himself, who, predictably, avoided on-field reporters after running his mouth since last August.

NBC had a solid telecast covering the second half of the AFC semifinals, and this was never more apparent than when it had replays and slo-mos of a half-dozen players scuffling in a corner about 8 yards out of bounds.

Perhaps it's only an impression, but it seems AFC coaches are more prone to taking their network announcers into their confidence before the game as NBC analysts always seem to have a better grasp of what's going on.

That even goes for Paul Maguire, who usually has a tough time getting his point across as he becomes almost apoplectic while covering his beloved Bills. A former Buffalo player who has long lived in that city, one would think NBC wouldn't assign him there just to save a couple of bucks on expenses. But then, who would be there to over-react to Marv Albert's painfully predictable attempts at levity?

From a pure competition standpoint, the Chiefs-Oilers contest was the best of the weekend's four with different type interest and happenings flowing from all matches.

After the customary it's cold in Buffalo in January nonsense, the 29-23 win by the Bills over the Raiders proved that offenses can indeed function if the wind is reasonable.

Viewers are probably still waiting for an explanation of how Buffalo's winning touchdown was successful, Jim Kelly throwing late down the middle, when the experts have been telling us for years that is a no-no and a rookie mistake.

After a week of advance publicity sounding as if the 49ers had no shot against the Giants despite being an eight-point favorite, Frisco strolled 80 yards on eight plays at the outset. It wasn't long afterward that John Madden of CBS noted, "The Giants defense is sleepwalking."

It was a tough way for the network to go out, its beloved Giants getting pounded, 44-3, on this one of its last broadcasts after covering the NFL for nearly four decades.

But Madden and Pat Summerall have worked together so long they've become expert at filling up the time with endless foolishness about who among his family and friends would be receiving footballs from five-touchdown scorer Ricky Watters and just what goes on on the sidelines during a rout.

After flashing about 75 shots of Giants coach Dan Reeves studying his catechism, it was sporting of CBS to work in a late shot of victorious coach George Seifert. Or maybe it reasoned he will be all over the screen Sunday when Frisco goes to Dallas for the NFC Championship.

Incidentally, Phil Simms played a positively rotten game at quarterback for New York, a fact that somehow never was mentioned but must have been noticed by at least a few of the 8 million people watching back in the Big Apple.

The Cowboys and Packers ended up sounding reasonable competitive, 27-17, but you never got the feeling Dallas felt really threatened or Green Bay truly thought it could win.

Once again, the best studio patter was produced by NBC, Jim Lampley rapidly becoming expert at posing queries to Joe Gibbs and Mike Ditka that draw snappy and interesting rejoinders from the ex-coaches.

However, someone should remind Ditka that it's not true "Houston has never been able to run" as he claimed. Yeah, the Oilers had this guy a while back, uh, No. 34, Earl Somebody, moved like an out-of-control 18-wheeler coming down a steep hill.

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