Fox's coverage is better, but still mild and wacky

ON THE AIR

October 24, 1994|By MILTON KENT

Say this about "Fox NFL Sunday," the network's one-hour football pre-game show: It has improved over its eight-week run.

Also say this: It still has a way to go.

Like the rest of Fox's ballyhooed NFL coverage, the pre-game show premiered with promises from network officials that it would be different from anything that had been seen before.

When co-host Terry Bradshaw opened the first show by riding into the Hollywood studio on a horse, the promise of originality had been fulfilled.

But change isn't always good, and neither was that first program, which expanded 30 minutes of solid material into 60 minutes of exasperation.

Seven weeks later, "Fox NFL Sunday," which consistently leads in the weekly ratings, is still too long, but things move much more smoothly.

Chalk that up to the growing presence of lead host James Brown, who seemed a bit intimidated in his first program, but has grown steadily in stature.

One slight but potentially significant move that could help Brown even more would be if he and Bradshaw swapped spots at the desk, moving Brown to the middle of the set, rather than flush left, where he looks out of place.

Fox has a real keeper in former Raiders defensive lineman Howie Long, who, with Bradshaw, serves as the attention-grabber of the show. Long has a genuine affability and communicates well, making his points effectively without dragging them out.

However, it's still unclear what former Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson's role is, except to provide the occasional dig at the current Cowboys hierarchy. His piece with Bradshaw on conflicts between quarterbacks and head coaches yesterday added little insight, but gave him a chance at comic relief with Bradshaw.

And speaking of Bradshaw, someone needs to tell him that there is a fine line between being entertaining and going over the top.

Bradshaw was terrific at CBS' "NFL Today" because host Greg Gumbel, now at NBC's "NFL Live," was great at reining in Bradshaw.

It appears, however, that Fox officials want Bradshaw to be wacky, because it makes for a more entertaining show, though, in this case, not a better one.

Sad-sack performance

The season is about half over, but Fox's Jerry Glanville is more than halfway home to clinching the title of the NFL's worst analyst.

Glanville, who did the dishonors for yesterday's Washington-Indianapolis game, turned in an absolutely putrid effort, filling the airwaves with cliches and mistakes and imparting hardly any information.

For instance, Glanville repeatedly drew with the telestrator after the replays had begun, mangled Redskins offensive lineman Ed Simmons' last name, calling him "Simons," and bungled the name of the city the Colts play in, which, all things considered, may not be such a bad thing.

Play-by-play man Kevin Harlan constantly had to fill in the gaping blanks left by Glanville's rambling and pointless discourses. And though it's interesting Glanville doesn't think a rookie can be called great immediately, did we need to hear that point over and over?

Here's a question that should be asked over and over: How could Fox let a superior talent such as Dan Fouts sit at home, while Glanville makes a mockery of his new profession?

The air up there

ESPN's Tom Mees went to Lorman, Miss., two weeks ago with doubts about all the attention being paid to Alcorn State quarterback Steve McNair.

Now that's he has seen McNair play twice, including Saturday, when he racked up 649 yards of total offense, Mees is a believer.

"I don't have a Heisman vote, but if I did, he [McNair] would have it. That was one of the most incredible individual displays I've seen in 25 years of covering college football," said Mees.

McNair was 32 of 58 for 587 yards and four passing touchdowns, and ran for 62 yards and the game-winning touchdown -- a 1-yard dive with 10 seconds left -- in Alcorn's 41-37 win over Southern, which aired on ESPN2.

"The Heisman is a popularity contest. It's supposed to go to the best college football player," said Mees. "Most of the time, it goes to the player with the best numbers.

"I mean, [former University of Houston quarterback] Andre Ware won it while his team was on [NCAA sanctions] and couldn't be on television. People loved his numbers. All they talked about were his numbers. They browbeat those voters into giving him the trophy, and this kid has better numbers than Ware."

So, with McNair having broken the NCAA career mark for total yards, why don't we end the Heisman race now and give it to him?

Because Alcorn State is a Division I-AA school, and there is rampant skepticism, as voiced by ESPN's Lee Corso and ABC's Keith Jackson, that McNair's accomplishments, though impressive, come against inferior talent.

Horsefeathers, says Mees, who attended I-AA Delaware.

"He was recruited by the big-time Division I-A schools, like Miami, Florida State, Florida and Nebraska, but they all wanted him to play defensive back," said Mees. "He played quarterback in high school in Mississippi and he wanted to play there in college and he's been incredible."

OK, we're convinced.

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