Night shift: Cowboys-Saints is `poster game'


The Kickoff

December 08, 2006|By RAY FRAGER

Oh, the glories of the NFL's flexible schedule. For years, Al Michaels wanted it on Monday nights. He had to change networks and nights, but now he has it.

This Sunday night, NBC's Michaels and John Madden get to see the Dallas Cowboys vs. the New Orleans Saints, and Michaels called the matchup "the one most people would want to see" (though one could make an argument for Ravens-Kansas City Chiefs).

Fred Gaudelli, producer of NBC Sunday Night Football, went even further.

"If you ever looked at a poster game for flexible scheduling, this is it," Gaudelli said in a conference call yesterday.

Gaudelli was joined by Michaels and Madden on the call. Here is a sampling of their thoughts on matters NFL:

Madden on the Saints: By beating the Cowboys, "the New Orleans Saints could go from a feel-good team to a legitimate contender."

Madden on the Indianapolis Colts: "If they get in a situation with a lot of turnovers, their defense would have a lot of trouble bailing them out."

Michaels waxing cultural on part of the enduring appeal of the Cowboys to a national audience: "The American cowboy is an iconic figure." As for the name of the team itself, like New York Yankees, Notre Dame Fighting Irish or Montreal Canadiens, "It rings."

Madden on the Cowboys' popularity: "I really think that they are America's Team. ... When we go to their games, there are more people in the hotel lobby" than for any other team.

And Gaudelli weighing in on the same topic: "They're that kind of team like a Frank Sinatra or an Elvis Presley."

Madden on Saints rookie Reggie Bush: "He's the kind of guy who in tag never was `it.'"

Madden on the Chicago Bears' quarterback concerns: "I wouldn't make a change there in personnel. I would make a change in what they're doing. ... They have to give [Rex Grossman] a little more help, and by that, I mean in game planning."

Madden on the San Diego Chargers' biggest star: "LaDainian Tomlinson is the best player - not just the best running back - in the NFL."

Madden on the stretch run of the NFL season: "You're drag racing toward the cliff."

Game-time decision

Some listings - including The Sun's - had Minnesota Vikings-Bears as the Fox game on WBFF/Channel 45 on Sunday. That was the original choice, but, early in the week, the network decided it would be best to send Baltimore the Detroit Lions vs. New England Patriots instead. Fox considered the market's keen interest in one of the AFC's top teams in making the change. Smart move: As it turned out the Lions and Patriots played a surprisingly close game.

Rest it, bay-bee

Did you notice how Dick Vitale was starting to sound pretty hoarse during the second game of the Jimmy V Classic on ESPN on Tuesday? Not only did Vitale work both games, but he also spoke to the Madison Square Garden crowd about cancer research and made SportsCenter appearances. I'm sure Maryland fans would suggest he rest his voice by cutting back on references to Duke.

Wrong word

I didn't hear Anita Marks' use of "juice monkey" in referring to the San Diego Chargers' Shawne Merriman on her WJFK (1300 AM) talk show, nor did I hear her apology, but this is apparently a phrase she has applied to other steroid-connected athletes of various ethnic backgrounds. And when I've heard her show, I've never detected any signs of racial bias. However, "monkey" is a loaded word in any context when applied to black people, and she shouldn't have used it.

Demand performance

Comcast will offer its digital customers a chance to see this weekend's state high school football finals at M&T Bank Stadium.

Starting Wednesday, the four finals will be available through the On Demand service at no additional charge.

Comcast is producing the telecasts. A team of announcers who have called Frederick County high school sports and Frederick Keys games will work the game: Bryan McLean, Jay Combs and Jeff Wachter.

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