Z on TV: ESPN a strong Ravens' telecast, except for Gruden

September 14, 2010|By David Zurawik | Baltimore Sun reporter

As annoying as he can be in his anti- Ravens analysis, I was sure glad that Jon Gruden was in the booth Monday night and not officiating. He did not seem to agree with one call that went in the Ravens favor in the first half.

The former Tampa Bay coach reached a kind of anti-Ravens fevered pitch when the Ravens were awarded a first down on a field goal attempt when one of the Jets landed at the kicker's feet blocking the downward path of his leg.

"Whoa, I don't know about that [call]," Gruden moaned.

"Well, you might not like the ruling, but that's what the rulebook says," Mike Tirico, the smooth and skilled lead broadcaster of the announcing team, said to Gruden.

There was only silence in the booth until Tirico broke it by saying, "Don't look at me like that, Gru. I didn't write the [rule] book."

Gruden really was letting his bias show Monday night. But beyond that, I enjoyed the telecast a lot. Thirty-two cameras, excellent production values, deft direction and a ton of energy. I love the energy of Monday Night Football on ESPN when they are hitting on all cylinders.

The instant camera work and multiple angles were on great display when Ravens punt returner Tom Zbikowski made the incredibly bad decision to try and return a punt by running laterally along the Ravens goal line. I thought he fumbled or was nailed for a safety. But the cameras showed neither to be true; Ravens ball on their own one yard line.

You also have to admire the cut-ins and split screens. The ESPN producers kept viewers abreast of the U.S. Open, managed to continually hype the gate for the Chiefs-Chargers game that was scheduled to start after the Ravens-Jets, and never gave me a second of worry that I was going to miss any action in New York.

Now if the producers would just take Gruden in a room, sit him down and tell him to shape up and perform like a professional -- not a hot dog giving vent to likes and dislikes. But he was always a hot dog as coach -- an even bigger hot dog than Brian Billick, and that's saying something.

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