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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Christopherson Column: The sounds of silence? Not during NFL broadcasts

  • Mike Christopherson...he’s a guy who just can’t stand to watch National Football League games on TV anymore.
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  •     Mike Christopherson...he’s a guy who just can’t stand to watch National Football League games on TV anymore.   
        Why? Because NFL fans who watch games on TV must stomach former NFL players and coaches who are teamed with professional broadcasters to provide play-by-play and commentary/analysis.   
        It's probably not entirely their fault. It's clear these guys have been instructed to talk non-stop from the second a play ends until the ball is snapped for the next play.    
        It's what makes football so difficult to endure on TV. It's a 60-minute game, yet your average NFL telecast lasts around 3 1/2 hours. Yes, there are boatloads of beer, cars and smartphones to peddle during the commercials, but it's the nature of the game itself that has knowledgeable fans like me wondering if I could somehow turn on the microwave with my head inside.   
        I figured out the problem back in January 2012, the 30-year anniversary of "The Catch,” which took place in the closing seconds of the 1982 NFC Championship Game between the Cowboys and 49ers. San Fran quarterback Joe Montana threw a pass to the end zone that appeared to be sailing toward an incompletion and a Dallas berth in the Super Bowl, before Niner receiver Dwight Clark leaped out of nowhere to snare the ball.   
        I stumbled across a re-broadcast of the 49ers' winning drive, and I found myself wondering if there were technical difficulties. It was too quiet. The two announcers called the action and, beyond that, they were for the most part blissfully restrained.   
        NFL broadcasts have become such ultra-slick, in-your-face, we-all-have-ADHD productions that the networks and cable channels that have paid big bucks to broadcast games simply won't tolerate any silence. There are noisy graphics to fill the screen between plays, and statistics so obscure and facts so mindless to gurgitate and regurgitate and re-regurtitate that pausing to actually articulate a thought, or at least catch one's breath, is grounds for firing.   
        For that, we can thank the "sit-downs" that the play-by-play people and former-player/coach commentators now conduct in the days leading up to kickoff with almost every single coach and player who will roam the sideline or strap on a helmet in the upcoming game. During the sit-down, the play-by-play person and the commentator lob mindless softball questions at every player and coach who strolls in, one after another, and plops into the studio chair.   
        Then, during the actual game telecast, the broadcasting duo, in the 40 seconds or so between every play, happily spews every mind-numbing thing they heard during the dozens of sit-downs. Chris Collingsworth, Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock and others start about 200 sentences per game with "When we talked to (insert name) last night..." and then we get to hear about how much said player loves the game, how much fun he's having, how hard he works, how much film he studies, how much he just wants to win and hates to lose, how his motor never stops running and blah...blah...blah.   
    Page 2 of 2 -     Mayock had a sit-down with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh prior to a recent game. During the telecast, as he shared all of the coach-speak and clichés shared by Harbaugh during their verbal love-fest, Mayock referred to him as “Harbs.” As I looked on in horror, I reached toward our 20-pound, fully-clawed beast of a cat laying on the floor nearby and started grabbing his tail aggressively in the hope that he would get mad enough to tear my face apart.   
        But it gets worse, thanks to a single, short, seemingly innocent phrase, which you read in the first sentence of this column.   
        Let’s say you’re an ex-NFL player or coach providing commentary about Vikes running back Adrian Peterson during a broadcast. You wouldn't just say Peterson has huge hands and an incredibly firm handshake. You'd say, "Adrian Peterson, he's a guy with huge hands..."  You wouldn’t simply say Peterson gallops like a horse busting through a corral fence, you'd say, "Adrian Peterson, he's a guy who gallops like a horse..." You wouldn’t say Adrian Peterson treats his body like a temple and trains like a warrior. You'd say, "Adrian Peterson, he's a guy who treats his body like a temple...”   
        If I’ve ruined your NFL-watching experience on TV, I’m sorry. If you’re now going to find yourself keeping track of how many times you hear “he’s a guy” instead of how your under-achieving fantasy football roster is disappointing you yet again, my sincerest apologies. Then again, if you drafted the Vikings defense, you were miserable to begin with, and this could be a happy distraction for you.

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