Sunday, December 21, 2008

I've had it with Football Night in America

Okay, I can't stay silent anymore. I can't stand NBC's Football Night in America. When NBC took the Sunday night slot away from ESPN I liked a few things about the deal such as the flexible schedule that gave us better national games late in the season but when the contract essentially killed the far superior wrap up show ESPN NFL Primetime, I was pissed but decided I'd do the mature thing and give NBC a shot at this type of show. 
It's been several years now and I think it's time to stop holding out hope that they will fix this wretched hour of television. I have to speak up. NBC, you suck at this.
First off, you gotta decide what you are - a pre-game show or a highlight show for the day's games. I'm like most people in the country - I have a life. And that means I can only afford the time to watch one, maybe two games on a Sunday if I am lucky. Unfortunately on most Sunday's there's a long list of other things I need to do and don't even get to a single game.
That's where you come in. We all need a show that fills us in on the day's games. That should be your first priority. And do me a favor, stop treating highlights as something you have disdain for. Every game you recap includes somebody's team. No matter who they are or how meaningless to you that game might be. Nothing irks me more than when you gloss over a game you think is boring or unimportant by showing one, maybe two highlights and moving on.
Second, please cut the sarcasm. I don't know what happened in the game and don't need you making fun of the game that I'm sincerely interested in knowing about.
What I want from your highlights is an understanding that I didn't see the game, am interested in it and want you to tell me about it in a compelling way. Where's the drama? Where's the build up? Could you at least put together enough highlights to tell a story?
Also, every game has meaning to somebody and in some way. Maybe a player has a chance to set a record for tackles, maybe its the last meeting of the year between two long rival coaches, maybe there's a playoff spot on the line. Wouldn't you think that that warrants telling the story of that game with a little drama?
When you read through every miniscule highlight package (why are they all so short!) by making fun of all the plays, you convey the fact that you really don't care for this sport and think doing a comedy routine is far better television. You're a football show!
I thought you guys were journalists? 
Third, enough with the stupid magazine style player profiles, interviews and league news packages. Save those for during the game. You will have plenty of stoppage of play points to throw these things in. Shift Peter King to inside the game, too. I've gotten into the habit now of skipping to the 15 minute point of your show on my TiVo so I don't have to sit through this drivel and can get right to the highlights.

I know you think you are sick of people telling you about how much better NFL Primetime was but clearly you aren't listening. Yes, Chris Berman and Tom Jackson are better than you (and no, more players and news readers aren't making your show more compelling). NFL PrimeTime gave each highlight package a sense of drama and suspense. They described the plays like they were the biggest games of the year and Tom Jackson provided great insights into the thinking of the players and the coaching mistakes he saw and delivered them succinctly.
ESPN also peppered their highlight packages with compelling stats from the game that really ratchet up the value.

All you do is insult every other team. Lions suck, let's make fun of how inept they are. Kansas City can't seem to win, what losers. Enough. Chris and Tom explain why these teams are struggling and suggest ways they can get better. Instead of simply showing how Indy pulled off another incredible comeback they show complete drives that made the difference and talk about position players that help explain why they are where they are.

Enough already! You guys need to remove about half the personalities on the show. Fire Dan Patrick and Keith Olberman, hire a true sports enthusiast who has a passion for the game rather than for his own witty prose and get the players involved, during the highlight package, not have them jaw at each other and pontificate from the cone of silence. 
Dedicate at least 10 more minutes per show to the highlights and show us that you care about the games and fuel our passion with compelling delivery and did you know facts that make us wish we'd seen all the games and are super glad you could bring them to us. Right now, I'd rather wait until 8:45 PT, cut away from your game and catch a real highlight show during SportsCenter.

ESPN, you're not blameless in all this either. Get some cohones. Dedicate a full hour to Chris and Tom instead of weaving them into SportsCenter. Chris and Tom are your A players on football highlights yet half the games are conveyed by the very inferior Sunday crew of news readers. I'm sorry, but they aren't even close to being as compelling And like NBC, I often find myself wondering if they even like football. 
Sure, you lost the coveted 4pm PT timeslow NFL PrimeTime occupied for years but for a good recap of the day, I will totally wait until 8, 9 pm PT to catch your show. I know that's close to midnight for the East Coast but that's the contractual hand you were dealt. Make the most of it.

Roger Godell, if NBC won't fix this problem, you should step in, for the benefit of your league. No one, outside the news media, is ever going to successfully catch every game on a Sunday so you need a strong, compelling highlights show to keep the passion and excitement brewing.  

Here endeth the rant. Someone please, please answer my Christmas wish.