Rookie mistakes hound Fox in ballyhooed kickoff

ON THE AIR

September 05, 1994|By MILTON KENT

So, that was some thrilling quilting bee on Fox yesterday, eh?

Just kidding. In perhaps the most significant single day in sports broadcasting since the premiere of "Monday Night Football," Fox kicked off coverage of the NFL yesterday, and let's just say it's a work in progress.

After spending $1.58 billion for four years of NFC telecasts, Fox delivered a lot of sizzle, but not so much steak on opening day.

To start, the one-hour, Los Angeles-based pre-game show, "Fox NFL Sunday," was 30 minutes too long, as analysts Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson had lots to say, but little of value.

Bradshaw, in particular, was all over the place, so bent on being entertaining he forgot to inform, the only real function of a pre-game show.

Once the games began, things improved, as the network's No. 2 crew -- announce team Dick Stockton and Matt Millen, producer Richie Zyontz and director Arnie Kempner, all CBS holdovers -- did a credible job on the New York Giants-Philadelphia Eagles game, though the vaunted on-screen clock periodically vanished due to a modem problem.

(Two requests to Channel 45, our Fox affiliate: We know you have to identify the station periodically, but please shrink the whopping on-screen ID in the lower right. Players actually get lost behind it, and could you run the ID maybe every 30, not 15, minutes? The audience's collective train of thought doesn't derail that often. Thanks.)

Fox's second game -- Dallas-Pittsburgh -- featured the best things the new guys have to offer, Pat Summerall and John Madden.

The game itself wasn't that great, but Summerall and Madden were, as always, with the proper blend of information and humor to keep the viewer listening long past the point where the game is interesting, which where the NFL is involved is just after the opening kickoff.

But even there, on the network's top crew, with its best announcers and production talents, there were gaffes, particularly on the sound end, with Summerall's mike occasionally dropping out and the crowd noise sometimes drowning out Summerall and Madden.

To be sure, it is a little unfair to rush to judgment on Fox's performance after only one week on the job. It is, after all, a long season, and it'll have plenty of time to iron out the kinks.

It'll need all the time it can get.

NBC livelier

Save for Mike Ditka's garish teal jacket and ghastly tie, NBC's "NFL Live" pre-game show was a hands-down winner over "Fox NFL Sunday."

Greg Gumbel and Ahmad Rashad moved the show along at a crisp pace, and each had fine pieces on Joe Montana and Dan Marino, respectively.

And Jim Gray, another CBS exile, scooped Fox with word that newly acquired Minnesota quarterback Warren Moon had a sty over his left eye that was drained before the game by trainers, but still was affecting his vision near game time. Moon threw three interceptions in the Vikings' loss to Green Bay.

A net plus

On its first September Sunday without football in 38 years, CBS did a fine job in counter-programming with its U.S. Open tennis coverage.

There was an especially priceless moment after doubles partners Murphy and Luke Jensen, the 1993 French Open champs, were ousted in straight sets by Patrick McEnroe and Jared Palmer.

Thanks to a well-placed crowd mike, Murphy was heard to say, "We got smoked," followed by "I'm only 25. I've got 10 good years left at least. CBS is going to get tired of me," to which Luke fired back, "They're already tired of you."

Get set for 5 1/2 hours of coverage today, starting at 12:30 p.m. Channel 11 will air today's proceedings, but is inexplicably skipping the 15-minute, late-night roundup all week for "Ar-shill-nio Hall" reruns.

Go figure.

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