The Post

Bloody Horns 8: Wisconsin’s Most Sadistic Scramble Continues!

If you play golf, chances are, you are entered into at least one or two charity scrambles every year. Either by choice, or by conscription by lesser players who know you can actually, you know, put a ball in play and thus are crucial to the foursome. There is nothing wrong with these events. They raise millions upon millions every year for very worth causes, without so much as a squeal from participants who are too drunk/sunburnt to even care about the money.

In fact, I’m playing in the biggest one of those in the state of Wisconsin the day before my event: The Bob and Brian Open.

So when I started this event 8 years ago, I decided I wanted it to be the “un-scramble.” In other words, I wanted it to be HARD. Like, psycho-bitch hard. But in a fun way. I said: “Let’s play somewhere awesome, and go all the back to the back of the back back tees! And tuck all the pins!”

And let’s get GOOD swag to give all the players. And let’s make the first prize very cool (2 nights lodging in Vegas next spring with me and the crew for CzabeVegas and gambling on college hoops!). And let’s make it so you never worry about getting cheated by making it a 2-person scramble, not four. And let’s say once you make a double, you pick up (the horns!) and move on, so it doesn’t take 6 hours to get around.

Well, I pretty happy with how this thing has grown and evolved. It’s a fun day. A different day. And I appreciate everybody who has played in the event so far. But I need to make a good hard push to get to a “full field” of 100 players. (I could jam more of you guys out there on a shotgun start, but I don’t want to make this a death march.)

Right now we have 43 out of 50 teams signed up. So let’s go!

It’s really easy, just swing by www.bloodyhorns.com and click the button!

If you want any more inducement, look at the cool custom coin/ball marker we have commissioned for this year: Captain America! Patrick Reed! All you and your partner need to do to get this coin, is to wear matching shirts. Not “close” but matching! Why? Because you are a team, dammit! You look sharp, and my pictures of the event really pop!

Also, everybody who hits a par-3 in regulation gets this custom logo mug! Let’s see if anybody can “hit for the cycle” and take home all-4!

You get a insulated logo tumblr with a Vokda/Red Bull to get you going!
You get a buffet dinner afterwards.
You get a photo with me (smile!)
And the top-7 teams get to take home a game used pin flag suitable for mounting on your trophy wall!

Thanks for supporting the event! Tell a friend or two at your club, and I’ll see you on Saturday afternoon July 28th at The Bull at Pinehurst Farms!

 

 

 

 

Patrick Reed Wins Masters: Recap & Nine Quick Thoughts

In a perfect world, Patrick Reed would be talked about today almost exclusively as a tenacious bulldog of a player, who has backed up his early-Tour-days bravado (“I think I’m one of the 5 best players in the world”) with a nails-tough final round 71 to fight off hard charging young superstars Ricky Fowler and Jordan Spieth.

But the world is not perfect, and neither is Reid. Nor are or were any one of the previous 80 winners of this event. So there will be talk of the complicated backstory of his career. Getting kicked off Georgia’s team, the cheating allegations, and the family freeze out.

The usual template of golf writers explaining “who is this new guy” who has just won his first major, is both tried and true, and honestly the only thing worth writing about. Winning a major is like scaling a treacherous mountain, that only very few get to enjoy. It’s a life accomplishment and requires filling in the backstory of how that person got there.

As such, I have no problem with balanced pieces of reporting like this one from Alan Shipnuck of Golf.com that flesh out the how and the why behind the stunning fact that Reed essentially told his parents to stay home, rather than come enjoy his moment in person. It’s fair game, and necessary as part of the story.

But “flesh out” is about as far as anyone can go, because while the basic shape of the dispute is clear – Reed has disowned his family, and is “all-in” with his young bride Justine and her family now – there are always details and specifics that we don’t know about, and we’ll never know.

I’ll only go as far as to say I hope Patrick Reed and his wife’s side of the family can find a way to melt this embargo in the future, because life is too damn short, no matter how bitter the feelings may be. But let’s not label Reed a “bad guy” just because he hasn’t chosen blood over marriage. We don’t know what actually happened, what was actually said, and everything else. Families are complicated. Ever been in one?

Now for my Quick 9 Thoughts on the 2018 Masters

1 Never listen to the weatherman when playing golf. Saturday was supposed to be a complete washout, and they didn’t even stop play once. I too used to be a “fair weather” golfer, easily scared off of a forecast that looked grim. Go play. Weather is weird, and the rain only has to hit your tiny slice of acreage to ruin the round.

2 The Masters has to be held to the fire by the golfing public to release the rest of Thursday and Friday’s action on live TV. I’m okay with not showing live early golf on the weekend. Those guys aren’t likely to win. But on Friday we missed all but about 4 holes of Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Rory McIlroy’s rounds. UN-ACCEPT-ABLE. Don’t sell me on the limited on-line coverage. Not good enough. The sport demands it. Grow the game, Augusta, and lose your stodgy sense of tradition on this one.

3 Jordan Spieth has incredible golfing resolve. I once joked about a guy on our golf trip having “no resolve” when things got bad, and as such I didn’t want to partner with him. Spieth has such a deep well of grind, it’s amazing. The BEST moment of the weekend, occurred while CBS’ main feed was showing front-nine highlights of the leader. The Amen Corner channel shut up and let us listen to caddie Michael Greller talk him out of a “soft 4” and into a hybrid. Cleared the creek by about 5 feet! Awesome. Spieth can wear me out at times because he’s so serious, but I’m still a fan. Meanwhile, my gay golf lover Rory, sigh… I still love him, what can I say? When his wheels fall off, they are OFF. Which they clearly were with his putter on Sunday. He’ll win at Augusta, it just might take throwing away another one or two along the way.

4 Tiger Woods is a changed man. And it’s a beautiful thing to see. This now “Tiger 3.0” version is his best yet. He’s so happy to be healthy and blessed to be out competing, it’s like all of the external asshole has melted off of him. I can root for him now! When he finally cleared the water on #12 Saturday, he threw his arms in the air in mock celebration. The crowd (errrr.. PATRONS) ate it up. Good stuff.

5 That said, I watch Sunday and think: “Geezuz… Tiger is SO far away from doing what these young bucks are doing on Sunday.” It’s a touch depressing. And remember: all of these 20-somethings ARE Tiger Pups, of the Tiger Revolution. We all thought it would include more minorities, but it hasn’t yet. Still, these fearless kids are ALL the product of Tiger Woods 1.0 and his televised brilliance.

6 I don’t care how much money Nike paid me, I wouldn’t wear that pink shirt on Sunday. Word is, since Reed just signed with Nike in January, and because Reed has always mimic’d Tiger’s Red-on-Black Sunday power outfit, Nike told him that combo is only for the Big Cat. “And he’s back this year. So take this pink one.” Amazingly, Darren Rovell reported Nike didn’t even have Reed on their website, until this past weekend.

7 CBS has never had a worse lineup of announcers for golf. Frank Nobilo is a drone, who takes 3 sentences to say something that should take 6 words. And it’s rarely compelling. Must be the accent. I don’t get it. Ian Baker-Finch is nothing more than a syrupy drizzle of sweet words and nice things. Zero sense of the moment. No drama. No actual critical eye. He also said two of the dumbest “golf things” I’ve heard in a while. On Friday he marvelled at Henrik Stenson’s swing and how simple it was, telling viewers: “That’s a good one to copy.” Oh, really? How do I go about doing that? Why don’t I start copying LeBron’s dunks, while I’m at it? He also said on Sunday about a short putt on 17: “Straight in Ricky, or maybe just an inch right to left.” Uh yeah, those are two different things. Peter Kostis belongs permanently in front of the Konica-Minolta Biz-Hub Swing Vision screen at the FedEx St. Jude. Not on a major. Thank god for Nantz, Faldo, and Uncle Verne. They saved it. And while I do like Dottie Pepper, she’s misplaced at the crucial 13th. You need a former PGA Tour player on that hole, who has played several Masters, to really give the viewers the best analysis of a tricky hole from start-to-finish.

8 That said, I liked how CBS backed away from over-using the sleepy David Loggins Augusta “theme” and instead used the more driving Masters “march” bump music. Shot tracer was a GAME CHANGER on 13 and 18, and should be used on almost every non-par-3 tee shot. There was some really tasty looking production pieces coming in an out of break with super-slo-mo and drone shots of the course.

9 I know this might be blasphemy, but how about some new pins on Sunday? Anybody? Is it just me? Watching old Masters footage you remember they used to do that. I would be in favor of a total Sunday shake up one year, and see how it goes.

 

The 2018 “Gargantubracket” … Has Arrived!

 

It’s the most incredible, stupendous, audacious, amazing NCAA bracket ever invented!

And by “invented” I mean… well one day, I said a good NCAA bracket should have… well… EVERYTHING on it! Then we began to list what “everything” is… and all of a sudden, we had so much “everything” that I was certain, there was NO way it could all fit on ONE bracket!

Well, that was when an enterprising listener, and former UVA baseball player living in Richmond by the name of Brad Turner, said…. “… hold my beer.” Now, this sheet is the wonder of the sports world come March! You will never want for another nugget of info again while following your tournament picks!

Now… all you have to do little kid… is follow me into THIS NICE WHITE VAN FOR A PIECE OF CANDY… and you can have the bracket all for yourself.

Come on, it’s not too scary. I promise. Click here to get your GARGANTUBRACKET!

Jamaica, Mon. Irie…..

Bob Madden responds to the crowd, egging him on!

For the last four years prior to this trip, the morning show that I am fortunate to be a “cast member” of out of Milwaukee, WI – “Bob and Brian In The Morning” (Complicated title, eh? Makes you really wonder what the show is all about.) – has led a group of about 200 listeners to Cancun/Riviera Maya for a week of middle aged drinking and a desperate attempt to turn the clock back on father time.

This year, we were sent to Jamaica instead, because of increasing drug cartel violence in the Quintana Roo state of Mexico where all the Yucatan peninsula resorts are located. Apparently the station’s parent company said insurance on the trip was going to be through the roof. Mexico, sadly, was closed.

And I don’t think we’re going back anytime soon. Something about one tourist ferry boat getting blown up, and another one being found wired up and ready to go ka-boom will do that kind of thing. Pity. I liked Mexico. But I think I’ll warm to Jamaica if it becomes our home for the next four years (fingers crossed!)

Not that Jamaica isn’t dicey in it’s own ways. In fact, some gang-bangers started shooting up downtown tourist mecca Montego Bay at the start of 2018, and so they put in a state of emergency which featured roadside checkpoints designed to catch the bad guys driving around the island (I was dubious of their effectiveness, but hey, what do I know?)

I do know this: the Jamaican people who work the resorts, could NOT be any warmer, nicer, or damn funnier. Man, what a people. And look, I know. It’s a resort. It’s not like every Jamaican would greet you the same way if you decided to go walking around Kingston on your own. (In fact, I was told that was akin to a suicide stunt, but what do I know?) Still, to call Jamaicans warm and joyful, is an understatement. The men. The women. The old dudes driving our buses. All of them. The best.

And it’s not like the Mexicans were rude. Hardly. They too were excellent at the resorts. But the Jamaicans cracked me up. All day long.

The trip was, as expected, awesome. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you get to be my age (49) or older, and you have to start reminding yourself every chance you get: “THIS…. is as YOUNG… as I am EVER, going, to be, again. So you better start acting like it!”

The group (most of us, at least) gather one last time on “The Staircase of Death” in the lobby.

The people who go on this trip, are the ones who make it so special. You can book any number of great resorts in the Carribean on your own, get a great price, have great weather, be with someone you love dearly…. but you can’t be part of what is like a drunken family reunion for an entire week. In fact, we hooked into a couple from Great Britain, who stumbled by the radio show’s beachside set location one morning. He was instantly smitten with Bob and Brian and the show. “Those chaps are…. SMASHING!” the husband said to everybody who would listen. By the end of the week, he had a Packers hat and jersey, and about 50 invites to come to Lambeau this season.

I’m lucky to be a part of it. Sure, I’ve been doing a sports segment with them for 24 years now, which I started back in my single days living in Northbrook, Illinois working for the “One On One Sports Radio Network.” So they wouldn’t think of NOT inviting me. But still. I take nothing for granted. And I try to jam in as much of everything as I can with the group during the week, and somehow keep up on the drinking (it’s hopeless, they are basically professionals!).

So with that said, here’s a recap and rating on Jamaica vs. Mexico.

Flying into Montego Bay was a joy compared to Cancun. Much smaller, much easier to get through customs. That said, if you are going to the other side of the island’s resorts, you’ll be on a bus for 2 more hours. Not ideal. Our place (Iberostar Rose Hall Suites) was only 15 minutes. Easy peasy.

The pool/beach set-up was perfect. Easy walking distance for whatever you prefer, but not jammed in too close. The resort was NOT adults only (which many of your peeps harumphed at) but the kid factor was minimal. Maybe 5%. Pool and beach chairs were ample. No need to wake up at dawn to claim one. The reefs around Jamaica made for a safe, and gentle ocean swim. Drink service (all inclusive) was good and friendly.

The resort’s activity staff (or “hype crew” as I call them) were hilarious. “Peaches” (his nickname) held court with us one afternoon poolside explaining everything we needed to know about his native land. He also rode the inflatable bull with us, did cannonballs with our Go-Pros while claiming he can’t swim, and joined in the footrace on the beach at the end of the week (as did 4 other Jamaican staffers. They finished 1-5. Shocker!)

The buffet food at our section of the resort was EXCELLENT. Much better than I had expected. Although there was a “lower-tier” part of the Iberostar we had access too, where you could tell they got a slightly lower cut of grub. The reservation dining was just “meh.” I said it was simply a buffet you had to wait for at the table. No big deal when you were with friends and having drinks.

I missed a catamaran trip where a bunch of our people went snorkeling. The next day we went to a Margaritaville atop the water in Montego Bay. It was shockingly well run, and getting food and drinks took very little time. The main attraction was the massive 3-story waterslide, welded to the side of the restaurant’s edifice above the ocean. It looked like it was ready to rust off and crumble into the ocean at any moment. But again, what do I know? A bunch of us swam out to some giant trampolines in the water, and pretended we weren’t exhausted by the modest exercise. I tried – and failed badly – to climb the inflatable iceberg. Several of our group did however. It’s my mission next year, to conquer it.

El Baldo comes shooting out of the slide like an ICBM launched from a submarine!

Speaking of next year, if we end up in Jamaica I will certainly re-visit the “World Famous” Rick’s Cafe in Negril. Oh man, you have to see it to believe it. The most spectacular cliffside amphitheater where any dumbass tourist can jump from 25 or 35 feet off a cliff into the crystal blue waters. A full service restaurant, bar, and music stage. Sunsets off the western side of the island that make your head melt they are so lovely. It’s become a bit Wallyworld now, due to tourist poplularity, but I didn’t feel like it had been ruined – yet. Give it 10 more years.

The gals came ready to drink, and jump. But not quite in that order!

I jumped off the 25 foot ledge, and then promptly chickened out on the top-shelf jump. What a pussy, AMIRITE? Of course Bob had done such a good job of painting a picture of me getting paralyzed and “going home in your new wheelchair for life!” prior to our bus ride over there, and the warning signs make no pretense about the fact that people DO get hurt there (if not all the time, then certainly more than “rarely”) that I just couldn’t get my mind right. And it was stupid, because all you had to do was just step off the damn thing. A platform of 35 feet isn’t really THAT high anyway for a cliff jump, feet first. There’s stairs and a handrail, and a level textured surface to stand on. Simple. Old ladies and kids were doing it. I choked. Since my first jump didn’t quite score a perfect 10 (I leaned back a bit much before impact) I was spooked about my natural athletic instincts to fall straight down in the water. And since I was hell bent on getting my jump on camera with my GoPro in hand, I knew I would be pre-occupied with THE SHOT and not the landing. Before you know it, I was questioning whether my wet bare feet might somehow slip on launch. I seriously just got the yips, on what was a 6-inch putt. I picked up the ball and put it in my pocket. I’ve got something to look forward to next time.

I played golf at a place called “Cinnamon Hill” less than 3 miles from our hotel. It was fun, and the layout was wild. It had a lot of par-5’s and par-3’s and somehow I played great and shot 74. The conditions were not great, but not enough to actually complain about (“…it’s Jamaica, mon!”) The greens were slow, but puttable. Had they been much faster, some of the more severely canted complexes on the back-nine would have bordered on unplayable. The BEST part of the round – and I would have never expected it – was the local Jamaican forecaddies you were required to take. I’m not lying when I say they KNEW the game, could start clubbing you accurately by the 3rd hole, and made great reads on the greens. Best of all, they were funny and INTO IT the entire round! My guy would once every 4 or 5 holes bellow out a “WHAAAAAT!” whenever somebody hit a truly superior shot. And he knew which ones deserved it. I somehow lofted a feathery 60 degree flop shot over a greenside bunker to a tight pin on #8 to about a foot…. “WHAAAAT!” Classic. The other caddy was a woman named Carrie. She too knew exactly what the game was all about. And she was rooting hard for everybody’s ball to the bitter end. Best caddy experience I’ve ever had playing golf. I kid you not. In Jamaica.

Carrie the Caddie. Don’t let the nails fool ya! She could read greens like a fortune teller!

I was going to play the other course which is well known around there called the “White Witch” but passed to go to Rick’s Cafe that day. I was told it was similar, but maybe a bit more dramatic. Jamaica is not much of a golf destination, but it did the trick for me at least for one day.

I was able to get my Mavic Pro drone in the air a few times on the trip, but the resort security was pretty quick to shut me down two of the three times I launched. From what I understand, non-commercial drone usage in Jamaica is no big deal, but the resorts I am sure clamp down for liability purposes. I was able to launch inconspicuously from a large flat balcony above the main lobby one still morning. Once airborne at that early hour, I sat down in a leather chair and flew at will all up and down the coastline. Even if the beach patrol could see the drone, they had no way of finding me. I brought it back in after about 20 minutes, and had it packed and folded in under 60 seconds in a small sling bag. The Mavic did well in quite windy conditions. As good as the full-sized Phantom line is from DJI, I still think the smaller size is king. My Mavic was packed in my Sony camera bag along with my A6300, two lenses, a GoPro and the Sony RX100 V. I desperately wanted to fly it at Rick’s Cafe, but the sign at the from explicitly said “NO Drones.” Still, somebody on a nearby yacht launched a DJI Spark, and I am sure got some sweet footage. They can only control so much.

Speaking of “spark”…. let’s have a frank talk about ganja, mon. Geezuz, the good folks of Jamaica would offer it to you just about everywhere we went. Technically, it’s still illegal in Jamaica but almost never policed, and the fines are literally like $3 if you get caught. I said to our group that it was too bad I’ve never smoked ANYTHING in my life because if you are into getting high, Jamaica is a weed-head paradise, I would imagine. (Remember, I’m a sissy! See the diving story, above!) As for the quality of the product you get down there, I have no idea. Ask your friendly local rastafarian.

Thankfully, we had a group of almost 200 Bob and Brian listeners (and friends) ranging in age from the late 20’s to the late 60’s, and we brought everybody home safely (although one guy burned his ankles so badly on Day One, that he got puss blisters the size of mini-hot-dogs.) I say this not to be snarky, but because if this trip continues long enough into the future, with as many hard-partying old dudes as we bring each year, chances are….

Tommy the jeweler jumps the bull, and hangs on for dear life!

Our bus driver to one excursion dropped us off at the boat dock to go swim in the luminescent bay (very cool) and proceeded straight to the bar while we were gone. When got back on the bus, it absolutely reeked of ganja. Then as we drove home, he made aggressive passes while frantically thumbing through his fanny pack of Bob Marley CD’s because he felt he OWED it to us to play “the good shit.” Thankfully, the ride was uneventful. But it wasn’t coming home from Rick’s. About a mile backup stopped us dead about 10 minutes from our hotel. As we approached the cluster of police lights and ambulances, we saw one of the worst 4 or 5 car wrecks you could imagine. And yeah, right there, in plain sight under a car that looked like it had been dropped from a helicopter, was a dead man. No sheet. No police telling people to back up and get away. About 15-20 motorists who had pulled over and got out of their cars to… gawk.

All in all, I highly recommend Jamaica to anybody who hasn’t been. And a big thanks to the entire Bob and Brian show for bringing me, and Colleen at Fox World Travel in Wisconsin for being the most dutiful and diligent den mother a monster group like this could ever have. It would be my dream to get something like together for my 980 listeners here in D.C.

After all, life is short and unpredictable. And this is as young, as we are ever going to be again.

 

Kelce’s Speech Was Good, It Just Wasn’t Quite This Good

Probably not, but it was still highly entertaining. I would have edited it down to about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes (the outer-limits of our modern attention spans) instead of the 6 or so that it went on for. That said, I was highly impressed that he rattled off so many player names and past fan grievances against them, in such a flawless rat-a-tat-tat style.

And of course the volley of expletives kept the speech from being heard entirely on live TV, because NFL Network was on delay and ended up dropping out huge chunks of audio. Still, impressive.

So I was thinking about “sports speeches” and what would be an all-time great list? I am still compiling, but certainly Lou Gherig’s has to be near the top, if not the greatest ever.

I came across this excellent short from the Smithsonian Channel that is worth your eyeballs for a few minutes. What an amazing man, and an amazing moment.

Philly Tries to Shake the “Lazy Narrative” of A Savage Fan Base

As I was realizing that I had a “digital diet” that was as bad as my real diet, I came across a story that was a big ol’ nothingburger in terms of relevance. It involved a national media member arguing with a lifelong Philadelphian about bad fan behavior in the wake of the Eagles Super Bowl. Fine, whatever. But let’s not pretend the “narrative” came out of thin air.

Also in today’s CzabeCast me and “the boys” Bob and Brian kick around Super Bowl commercials, “cultural appropriation” and shit eating. Yeah, you heard me. All that plus, what if you only had “one shot” like Eminem once rapped at asking out that cute girl at work?

Here’s today’s CzabeCast just waiting for you to click PLAY. Or better yet, subscribe via iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

The Hall of Fame Case For Joe Jacoby

I just wanted to make this document available for fans to see that every effort was made to get Joe into the Hall this year. It’s a shame that we had pay for an expensive, full color brochure to explain it to this gaggle of dummies – and it still didn’t work! Anyway, I thought Redskin fans would at least appreciate this since it wasn’t circulated publicly.

 

 

 

 

An Underdog Fairy Tale Comes True

They finished the story. Closed the sale. Slayed the “Two Goliaths.” An underdog city, with an incredible underdog run, finally won the most important City championship of any place that has all-four pro sports: The Super Bowl.

They have the whole set now. Something very rare. (And don’t ask me how to “score” cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco who have double-teams in some leagues.)

The Flyers: 1974, 1975
The Sixers: 1983
The Phillies: 1980, 2008
And now… the Eagles.

The statue could be Nick Foles, he played with the icy calm of a white walker once again. But I would vote for a fan in an Eagles jersey with a dog mask. That would be a cool and appropriate statue.

I married a Philly girl (tho not a huge sports fan) so I am up there 6x a year or more to see family. There’s nothing wrong with any of the Eagles fans that I PERSONALLY know.

It’s the rest of them who can die in a garbage-and-mud slide if you ask me. Hey Philly, here’s an idea: now that you’ve won one, see if you can do something to change your well earned rep as the most drunken, violent fan base in the league.

I know, I know. You say every team has that “un-redeemable 10%”. It’s just that YOUR 10% is the undisputed worst. And it’s more like 20%.

But hey, props to the champs. And it’s calamitous for the rest of us in the NFC East. This team brings back a better QB, an All-Pro LT, and Pro Bowl LB.

My gut hunch that this game would “break form” for Patriot Super Bowls, and be a comfy Patriots win turned out to be a bad burrito, not a good hunch. What my brain was telling me – that this was the weakest team Belichick has taken to the big show – turned out to be correct, at least defensively.

While Foles threw nifty bullets into drive-thru sized windows, and deft-touched fades that his wideouts made incredible finishes on, the Patriots did little to make him uncomfortable. Coverage was disorganized, and tackling sub-par.

Belichick’s decision-making wires got crossed and were all smoke and sparks early on. Fourth and 1 inside the 10, and he decides to kick? (Then of course, they botch it! Karma never lies!) Then later a throwback pass to Brady who drops it? Followed by a 4th and 7 instead of a 53 yarder indoors?

The benching of Malcolm Butler will be a story to watch in the coming days, as we find out what really happened. And losing Brandin Cooks to a dump-truck hit, surely limited some of their field-stretching options.

It was enough of an opening to help Philly believe they could win, even if they already did.

The game had lots of offense, and only 1 punt. It also had zero holding calls on either O-line, which I would die to know what the global % of NFL games feature that rare stat. It had some cool trick plays, a relentless Patriots comeback, a splash of “controversial” instant replay reviews.

(For the record: I approved both plays as “touchdowns” as I understand them to be in the game of football. I resent having to spend 3 minutes to litigate them, but whatever.)

Was it a “classic?” Was it a “great” Super Bowl? Meh. Not sure. Could just be my Redskin bitterness showing through. Since I was at the game in person – and stayed to the end! – I will need to watch the broadcast when I get home to get a better sense of it.

Quick Hitters

US Bank Stadium: A masterpiece. A natural light, angular gem of a building. It hurts me to think the Redskins are going to build an outdoor dump. Every new NFL stadium should be an indoor facility. It’s a crime to spend that much taxpayer money and make people sit out in the elements. And in DC we have ALL of the worst elements starting with sweltering August-like summer to start, and bitter wet cold at the end.

Halftime Show: I’m not a Timberlake aficionado although I think he’s fantastic. I know his hit songs, and not much else (save the entire Lonely Island catalog which is hilarious!) I had a hard time sorting out the songs and his lead vocals from the stadium mix. Not sure how it sounded at home.

Commercials: Gonna have to watch them online tomorrow sitting in the airport before I declare my faves. I saw some people say on Twitter that the virtue signalling and preachy-ness of last year’s crop of spots was absent this year. If so, I’ll call that a win.

Kevin Hart is a douchebag. I used to like him. I’m out.

I did not like Darrell Green getting tabbed to handout the Lombardi. I don’t know how that was decided.

Tom Brady was the NFL Season MVP. Those MVP’s are now 0-9 in the Super Bowl. #statoftheday

Bud Light promising to give every 21 year old Eagle fan one free beer along the taverns on the parade route seems like a sound idea. What could possibly go wrong? Dilly dilly!

The stadium replays were very late compared to TV. And when Cooks got flattened they didn’t show it. That is so fucking mindless. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO MAKE HIM ANY BETTER BY NOW SHOWING IT! HE’S NOT DEAD! It’s an important play that deserves at least ONE second look. Christ. Whatever. It’s on twitter. I’ll go there.

Finding the stream of the NBC broadcast on my phone was a joke. It took me realizing that I needed to UPDATE my Yahoo Sports app, and then enable “location services” in order to find the link to click. It was absolutely maddening. But I finally found it.

Finally, the folks of Minneapolis were great hosts and did the best they could with the event. But sorry, this madness has to end with cold weather Super Bowls. If you are ever here as a fan of your team, you want to get around and go places and do things, and not wear a damn thermo-survival-suit inside of cold saloons, with slush-and-mud covered floors. Trust me on this. The Superbowl is headed next to Atlanta, Miami, Tampa and Los Angeles. Thats a good start. I say knock Atlanta out of the mix (sorry, not warm enough in Feb!) and then add Dallas, New Orleans, Arizona, and Las Vegas… and you are done! THAT is your official, permanent, Super Bowl host city rota!

Mr. Smith Comes To Washington

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 02: Quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs is chased by outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan #91 of the Washington Redskins during the game at Arrowhead Stadium on October 2, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

I’ll give my football team this much: we don’t do anything subtle.

The bolt-from-the-sky news of the Alex Smith trade on Tuesday night has put a jolt into not just the DC market for sports radio (“Take” Forecast: Snowmaggedon!) but it has energized the upcoming free agency period and put the Super Bowl below the fold (at least for a day).

On the whole…. it’s… well… okay. I guess.

Grading the trade, depends entirely upon your backstory narrative on how we got to this point. Whose “fault” was it that Kirk Cousins refused to sign a “reasonable” deal for the last two off-seasons?

If you think the Redskins did their level best to keep a “Good+” QB coming into his prime, but were stymied by an obstinate (principled?) firebrand hellbent on being the “Tag-Slayer” – then this deal was a reasonable escape.

If you think the Redskins blindly refused to accept market realities for starting QBs, and cynically kept moving the goal-line on Kirk’s big payday – all the while reminding him in subtle ways about how he still disappoints them – then this deal was another panicked Redskins debacle.

Your choice.

Alex Smith is a high character guy, who I think will play well in this league deep into his 30’s. Any comparison of the last time we bought a horse from The Andy Reid Ranch, should stop right now. Donovan McNabb lasted less than one year here, was traded to Minnesota for a 6th (Alfred Morris! DING!) started 6 games, went 1-5, and then was OUT of the NFL at 35 years old. McNabb then ballooned up to nearly 300 pounds, racked up two DUIs, and was fired from ESPN for allegations of sexual harassment.

This is not going to be Alex Smith.

Smith means the Redskins will have a season next year, and a team to care properly about for the foreseeable future. This should not be discounted. Hell hath no waiting room of misery, quite like an NFL franchise without a bonafide starting QB.

That said…. this deal by Bruce Allen is almost exactly like something “Jerry from Arlington on Line 3” could have proposed to me on my radio show. It’s a retail-price-plus lateral move, that reeks of fantasy football. Sure, Alex’s stats looked almost identical to Kirk this year.

Good luck replicating that with our guys in a darker shade of red. Heck, odds are Smith’s career season last year, will remain just that until he’s no longer in the league: a career season. Smith had Kareem Hunt, Tyreke Hill, and Travis Kelce last season. Kirk had Fat Rob, Josh Doctson, and an injured side portion of Jordan Reed.

The money for Smith is not insignificant. Sure, it’s likely 15% less than the ransomware number Kirk was going to ask for, but you aren’t gaining much salary cap speed with this move.

The kicker – and kick to the ribs – was losing slot-corner up-and-comer Kendall Fuller. While we shouldn’t over-react as if we are giving up Deion Sanders 2.0, it hurts to take your best value pick in many years and shipping him to KC just to salvage Bruce’s 2 year losing streak at the Kirk Roulette table.

Ultimately, as a Redskins fan, I’ll fall in line behind Alex Smith because what choice do I have? As for Kirk himself, my goodness. It’s breathtaking. He has pulled off the NFL equivalent of Ocean’s 11. Two years at $44M, and now unfettered free agency at age 29, with  no less than 5 teams who will load the boat to go get him. And GOOD TEAMS TOO! (Think: Denver, Minnesota, Jacksonville!)

As Walter White said after blowing off Gus Fring’s face in Breaking Bad: “It’s over… I won.”

On Michigan State, ESPN, and Our “Scan and Scroll Society”

I’ll admit. I’m as bad as the next guy. Maybe worse. I scan my Twitter feed, dozens of times a day. Same for my email in-box with headlines of stories people forward to me. My attention span – MINE! – that of a grown-ass 49 year old man, is probably only a few clicks better than my teenage daughters.

The internet has done this to me. To us. To everyone. The much written about “feedback loops” that the tech giants have engineered into the social media platforms we all use, make us constantly hungry for the NEXT thing. Next story. Next photo. Next response. Next, next, next…

So what happens then, when a complex story with layers, comes washing past us? Like anything else, we scan, and move on. Scan, and draw judgement. Scan, and forget. Or quite often, scan and get the whole story WRONG!

I committed just such an error yesterday, on a subject I normally consume with voraciousness, and on something very simple. I had seen in my twitter feed that golfer J.B. Holmes had taken an absurd 4:10 to hit a single golf shot at Torrey Pines on Sunday at the par-5 18th.

I could have sworn it was that he had to wait 4:10 for a ruling!

Nah. He just couldn’t decide whether to hit 4-wood, or 5-wood, finally decided to lay-up, and started to get roundly heckled by the annoyed gallery.

I went on a rant on-air about this Monday, only to be quickly corrected by listeners. Why had I assumed it was a ruling? I guess because 4:10 to hit a shot is so absurd that I just assumed that couldn’t be correct. Why didn’t I stop, read the article/watch the video of the incident when I saw it scroll across my feed?

Pffffft. Maybe later, man. I’ve got new mentions to look at, bro.

Now take the so-called “Michigan State Scandal” and apply the same dynamic. How many of us have dug through all of the reporting, from all of the outlets, to draw our own conclusions about what is going on now, what went on before? I know I didn’t, until I forced myself to dig through it.

Magnifying the problem, is known bad actors like ESPN with their OTL division swooping in for a well timed hit piece on Michigan State football and basketball, awkwardly strapping it to the Larry Nassar case with bungee cords and duct tape. “See, LOOK! It’s all one big story! We are BREAKING NEWS here, everybody!”

Except they aren’t. ESPN just resurrected a few cases at Michigan State from a decade ago, added their own “narrative sauce” and served the plate up hot with a side of subtle, muted outrage.

Detroit radio host Mike Valenti, is not a neutral observer. He went to Michigan State. He’s the guy who delivered the most epic extended rant in sports radio history (yes, ever!) when his Spartans blew a game against Notre Dame years ago.

But his opening segment the other day could not be more spot on.

It’s as if ESPN thought: “Hmmmm… this Nassar thing is now basically over. What can take this story that just generated our highest pageviews in 8 months, into a new realm?”

Ahah. Football. And Basketball. Boom.

And so the phrase “Michigan State Secrets” is born, interviews that were taped in the summer and kept in the can are suddenly released, and 10 year old cases which were both investigated by police and forwarded to prosecutors, are then re-animated for public consumption, and outrage.

This is not news. This is sensationalism, and storytelling. Longform clickbaiting.

Furthermore, where is the perspective on numbers? Let’s say there were 16 reported sexual assaults involving football players over 10 years. Round it up to 2 per yer, per 125 players on MSU’s roster. What’s the campuswide rate of reported sexual assaults among NON athletes at Michigan State? If that rate exceeds that of the football team, should the headlines read: “Michigan State Football Leads the Fight Against Sexual Assault on Campus?”

This scene in the movie “Neighbors” pretty much sums up how headlines can be spun in many directions depending on what side of the desk you are on.

And to expand it even further, can we get some context as to Michigan State’s number of reported sexual assaults by football and basketball players, as compared to all similar D1 programs across the country. What if it’s in the bottom 3rd compared to everybody else?

Do you still have a story? Does ESPN even care? Hell, they spent time and money interviewing people for this piece back in August. What are the chances they’ll just delete the tape? Right.

Lastly….  a quick thought on D1 college hoops coaches.

Personally, I think Tom Izzo is an egomanical asshole. Or to put it another way, a necessary trait for any successful D1 basketball coach. Sorry to paint with a broad brush, but I’ve come to accept the fact they are all basically millioniare hoop bosses, living on the razor’s edge of recruiting rules, and frantic to keep Johnny (who maybe can’t read) or Jimmy (who abuses his girlfriend) eligible long enough to make one more Final Four. Whether it’s Slick Rick Pitino, Calipari The Con Man, Coach K the Rule Bender, Ol’ “Easy Course” Roy, “What’s the Take” Calhoun, Bobby “The Chair Slinger” Knight, they are all different shades of awful.

It’s only the constant shine from Dick Vitale’s on-air worship of them, that glosses over the warts.

If Tom Izzo or Mark Dantonio did something wrong, then make that charge clearly. Now that I’ve done some reading, I am yet to see it.

NFL Shark Fins Beginning To Surface on Kirk Cousins

The NFL off-season has predictable patterns. You can’t help but notice them as one year fades into the next. The kind of things that are just “theory” in December as teams are eliminated from the playoffs one by one, begin to harden into action come January and February.

Case in point: I distinctly remember how Cam Newton was talked about coming out of Auburn as a mid-first-round pick. Yes, MID. You can look up the news stories, and the early Mel Kiper Jr. mock drafts. This despite the fact he would go on to win a National Championship in spectacular fashion over Oregon.

By the time his workouts came, and once Carolina began to ponder their future with Jimmy Clausen, Matt Mooore, and Brian St. Pierre under center (yes, those three all started at least 1 game!) Newton rose right to the top of the draft like a helium balloon that had slipped out of a little kid’s hand.

It also helped that ESPN’s Trent Dilfer came away from watching a private workout with Cam, and was absolutely enthralled at how Newton could drive the ball with ooomph! all over the field.

Cam Newton went #1/#1 come late April, like it was never a doubt.

Just like 2 years ago, when both the Rams and Eagles traded significant assets to move up to take both Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, 1-2. That was an absurd notion back in December. I would know this. I take calls for a living from fans with the most VIVID imaginations.

Nobody was talking about that in December. Come draft day, it was a done deal.

Which brings me to Kirk Cousins.

In December, there was talk about the supposedly “shrinking” pool of possible suitors for his services. San Francisco and Los Angeles (landing spot 1A and 1B we speculated over the summer) had slammed shut. Jacksonville made it to within 3 minutes of the Super Bowl. The Steelers fired Todd Haley and Big Ben said: “Retire, who me, retire? Get outta here!”

And the dysfunctional Browns were just capping off an 0-16 farce, while deciding to keep Mr. 1-31, Hue Jackson. Bah! Kirk to the Browns? Never. He’s not an idiot!

But take a look out on the smooth glass water, people. The shark fins are circling and you can bet that teams are coming for Kirk.

The first shark I think will be on the scene is Denver. They are still my bet to get it done. My hunch goes like this…. and it’s just a hunch.

My hunch is that Kirk will get franchise tagged by Bruce Allen and told to “go find a team you like.”

My hunch is that Kirk will talk to Denver first. They will make him feel like the best quarterback on earth. They will offer him something very nice, but not mind blowing. Think $24M AAV, $75M guaranteed. Maybe more. Denver will need to shed some blood to make it work. They’ll find a way.

My hunch is that Kirk will like that alot. Some scoff when Kirk says it won’t be about making the most money. My hunch is that he’s going to prove you wrong on that point, too.

The appeal of Denver for slightly less, will be powerful. They remain a “Tiffany Franchise” and Kirk would go from an Arena League Legend QB in Jay Gruen – a guy who likes to second guess Kirk’s on-field risk-aversion – to being wooed by a Team President who is a bona-fide Legend and Hall of Famer in John Elway. The pitch will be persuasive and include many highlights of Denver’s formidable defense.

My hunch is that Denver and Washington will then haggle over compensation.

My hunch is that the best the Redskins can hope for is a 2019 1st (it’ll be lower, Denver assumes) and a 3rd now.

My hunch is that the Redskins will take it, “declare victory” and move into the Colt McCoy/Baker Mayfield era.

My hunch is that the 2019 1st will be used to move up to get Mayfield.

My hunch is that many glossy ticket brochures with Mayfield’s face will be printed and mailed out.

My hunch is that a stream of anonymously sourced quotes about how Kirk “fell short” of expectations will be leaked.

My hunch is that Kirk will be fucking FABULOUS in Denver right away.

My hunch is that the “Never-Kirkers” will never admit they were wrong, and make new excuses for how it didn’t work out.

But then again… these are all just hunches. I’m wrong a lot, like anybody trying to see the future.

But should Denver fall through, look at the other shark fins now circling the boat. Cleveland will be a real contender. They have so much cap space, it reads like a misprint. Should the Redskins get cute and try the $28M restricted tag on Kirk, Cleveland will capsize the boat with a massively front-loaded deal that nobody can match.

Cleveland’s present, it’s recent past, and most of it’s longterm history is nothing but misery. But that doesn’t mean the future is doomed to be the same. Never before have we seen an NFL team sitting on such a staggering arsenal of picks & cash.

They could buy Kirk at an exorbitant price, not blink, then turn around and draft Saquon Barkley and sun-blocking DT Bradley Chubb on top of it. Pro bowler Joe Thomas has already called his shot on that. Or you could flip the #1 or the #4 for multiple picks down the line. They could have 4 first round picks under 25 years old on defense, plus Cousins throwing to first-rounder Corey Coleman and a (hopefully) sober Josh Gordon.

Sick.

Don’t think Minnesota isn’t lurking either. All three QB’s come off their books this winter, and since they have to spend on somebody, why not spend on somebody who’s a dependable upgrade?

Now we have Arizona breaching the surface. At his introductory press conference, new head coach Steve Wilks met the biggest issue head-on and said they would have “an active and aggressive” plan to find a veteran QB.

The NFL winter has it’s own gravitational pull, that erases the tepid assumptions of December. The good news for the Never Kirkers is this: if Bruce Allen plays his cards shrewdly, the Redskins won’t just walk away from the Cousins’ era with only egg on their face.

NFL Primetime Reboot With Boomer and T.J. Still A Delicious Drink

As a sports fan, I am aware that time ripens all things. Luck might be the most powerful force in the sports universe, but nostalgia is a close second. Nostalgia as a sports fan, makes the olden days always seem better. Always. Probably because you remember sports through the lens of a much younger man. With more hair, smaller pants, and fewer worries.

Even still, I have to say how much of a delight it was to see a mini-reboot of the great sports highlight show of all time: NFL Primetime. ESPN brought back Chris Berman and Tom Jackson (with a splash of Keyshawn, who.. meh… you can have) on Sunday night after the AFC and NFC championship games. They brought back the old music. Berman brought back the stupid, hackneyed nicknames.

It was glorious.

To this day, I bitterly resent the fact that the suits at NBC murdered this great show with a knife in the back at the negotiating table at the 11th hour. NBC, having just bid for the rights to Sunday Night Football, insisted that this beloved NFL institution be burned alive – ala Shireen Baratheon in Game of Thrones – because “Football Night In America” needed the stage to itself from 7-8 p.m. eastern in advance of kickoff.

ESPN suits, just didn’t care.

Berman was 1000% right, and Shapiro was like virtually every suit in media who just never “get it” when it comes to what constitutes QUALITY and what truly MATTERS to the customer. The average NFL fan didn’t give two shits that ESPN had the rights to Monday Night Football for 8 years. Or Spanish language rights. This was like CBS throwing “60 Minutes” in front of a moving train just because they had won the rights to another network’s soon-to-fade sitcom.

NFL Primetime was 60 minutes of virtually wall to wall highlights. And not just “highlight.” The show included “lowlights” and “transitionlights” and “don’tforgetthisplaylights” in any given NFL game. Screen time for Berman and Jackson was minimal. Their commentary was usually applied on top of rich, thick cuts of video. There were no roundtables. No vanity interviews. No chuckle-fests.

It was the biggest all-meat crabcake in sport television.

NBC’s version was – and remains – pure shit. A cursory package of highlights on some games, lasting literally no more than 3 or 4 plays. Needless live reports from the site of the game coming up. Slow moving pre-taped player interviews. Needless Costas.

NFL Primetime allowed fans who maybe didn’t see their favorite team, get a real sense of what the hell happened that Sunday. They would show you a backbreaking WR drop on 3rd and 10. Try getting that now. The media suits like to say “nobody watches TV for highlights, you can get those on your phone.” Oh, sure. The same handful of great plays you’ve already seen all day. NFL Primetime gave you the how, the what, and the why of a game.

And Tom Jackson was old school and did his homework. The caliber of modern retired NFL studio analyst is dismal, to say the least. A bunch of camera preening and cliches.

There is no show like NFL Primetime anymore, despite the fact many of us football fans would actually pay money for it. A rock-solid starts-at-7-no-matter-what, intelligent and thorough recap of the games. ALL the games. Not just the handful of sexy matchups. The NFL used to apply some real production weight and talent to their post-game. But then a few years ago, they shifted Eisen & Co. into being pre-game ponies, and relegated the highlight show to being Mooch and TV Dude In Nice Suit #3 sitting at what looks like a bistro table.

Oh yeah, one last thing. When ESPN suits bought MNF they paid $1.1 BILLION for it, and were promptly given the best remaining game after CBS, Fox, and NBC got their pick of the litter each week. NBC was only paying $400 for SNF, and YET, they still had the audacity to tell the NFL to murder ESPN’s baby, NFL Primetime. ESPN should have stood up and said: “Hey, look how much we are paying you compared to them. We’re not doing this. Period. And if there’s another cable outlet with a $1.1 billion check waiting outside the door, then maybe you should let them in.”

It remains one of the greatest crimes in sports TV history.

It was nice having you Back-Back-Back for one night, Boomer. Everybody misses that show. Everybody.

Skol-Blooded: The Aftermath, and Images From the Minneapolis Miracle

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 14: Stefon Diggs #14 of the Minnesota Vikings leaps to catch the ball in the fourth quarter of the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the New Orleans Saints on January 14, 2018 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Diggs scored a 61-yard touchdown to win the game 29-24. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

If you want as many hi-resolution images of the play, then Sporting News has you covered here. If the Vikings make the Super Bowl, there will no doubt be one of these shots hanging in every Vikings fan’s woodpanelled basement mancave.

Here’s the best multiple-angle reel of the play. Note how one killjoy ref actually threw a flag at Diggs for the helmet celebration. Which, sure. Is *technically* a celebration penalty, un-sportsmanlike conduct. Funny though, they never actually assessed it, which is weird given the obsession with the fake extra point.

A super-slow-mo NFL Films version of the play. Pure football porn. Or, if you are a Saints fan, it’s football porn that you find out stars your teenage daughter. The kind that will make you vomit.

This was the explanation from Pereira about the utterly stupid exercise of fake-not-kicking-an-extra-point-you-didn’t-need-or-want. It’s a rule that is easily fixed. “Any team which scores a touchdown, can decline their try for two, or decline to attempt an XP, for any reason, at any time, with no penalty.” Boom done. Who in the flying fuck cares if some team gets “screwed” by a single point on the 7th tiebreaker? I mean, really. (Oh wait, excuse me. It’s the NINTH fucking tiebreaker. My bad!) True story: when I was in elementary school, we had a band teacher named “Mr. Engle.” Bless his heart. Listening to awful elementary band “music” for a living. Probably drove him mad. He had a helmet of jet black, dapper-dan slicked 50’s hair, and didn’t put up with any bullshit. When my buddy Donnie Riegle would forget his snare drum on band day, Mr. Engle made him walk around the cafeteria where we practiced “looking for it.” No matter how many times Donnie pleaded that he LEFT IT AT HOME, Mr. Engle’s punishment was for him to do something utterly pointless. Goodell and Mr. Engle would hit it off great. Change this fucking rule. Now.

The play has already been “Tecmo-Bowled.” I am skeptical that this was actually done via the game’s authentic software, or rather a “controllable software” type of “hack” that allows you to script any play you want. Either way. I dig it.

Was Jon Gruden an eerie sooth-sayer about Keenum? Or does he say this about every QB prospect he ran through the Gruden QB Camp?

Sean Payton is, uh, honest with his feelings toward the men in stripes.

Here’s a video clip from my afternoon drive show on ESPN980 in Washington, D.C. If you go to Redskins.com and/or download the Redskins mobile app, you can watch me flail around like this for the 1st hour each day, from 4-7 p.m.

And lest anybody forget, here’s your matchup for Sunday night. Get horny for it, people. If only Jeff Fisher was available for the coin toss!

It all makes perfect sense.

Alabama’s National Championship Stunner In Tweets

I think this was the greatest college football game ever. Not the “best played” but certainly one of the most dramatic. Sure, Tua Tagovailoa may be a well-known 5-Star stud among the high school recruiting nerds of America, but to everybody else he was a “who the HELL is this kid?”

Alabama, college football’s ultimate “BOSS” team was getting its face kicked in. Trailing 13-0, Nick Saban pulls a bold move and pulls his 26-2 starting QB for a lefty Hawaiian wearing #13. Who has never started a college game.

And it worked. But not before a million crazy moments happened. If you missed it, you missed it. Here’s your cheat sheet!

The greek kid missed his 1st kick.

Body Control!

Everybody in the pool!

Hardman Jr. Flies Like the Wind

Look How Close it Was!

Tua Escapes To Help Alabama Off the Mat!

Mekhi Brown Loses His Mind

Mekhi Brown’s Punch

Two picks in 8 seconds

Georgia Has TWO “Get Back” Coaches

Tua improvises and Ridley helps save his ass!

The greek kid blows the Championship winning kick.

Coaches React to Missed Kick

The lefty freshman from Hawaii, ol’ #13, slings a legendary dart.

The Nantz-Romo CBS Booth Runs Away With Wildcard Weekend

When we as fans, watch an NFL game from start to finish with rapt attention (i.e. the playoffs) it’s easy to get annoyed with the highly paid broadcast tandem assigned to the game we are watching. After all, we have allowed them into our living room as guests for 3 hours, and what they say, and how they say it, can have a direct effect on our enjoyment. (Regardless of our rooting preferences). The worst announcers leave you more angry than if they had eaten all your food, drank all your beer, and started making out with your girlfriend. The best ones make you say: “Hey, that was fun! See you next week!” as they walk out the door.

So with that, let me rank the four different “A-Team” broadcast booths from the Wildcard Weekend.

CBS: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson
Earlier this year, I said that my initial impression of the rookie Romo was good, but that he was “a little chatty.” Now after watching him slice and dice play after play in the Jags-Bills game, I am not afraid to say he’s best TV football analyst in my lifetime. Note: I said “best” which is an important distinction from “favorite.” For many, John Madden will always be your favorite, and you can still argue he’s “the best.” I won’t quibble. I will just say that Romo has cracked the game open on TV in a way that is revolutionary. No, it’s not just him occasionally trying to blurt out a play before it happens. It’s the fact that he is both telling you WHY a play did or did not work, while at the same time thinking about broader game/time/drive strategic decisions. Romo is also funny without trying, genuinely self-effacing, a little bit smart-assy, and best of all – genuinely excited to be watching football! I can only imagine how re-invigorated Nantz must feel, as I said the last few years that Phil Simms was the anchor threatening to drag both of them down. And you can cheap-shot Nantz all you like as the sotto voce voice of the Masters who doesn’t belong in an NFL booth – but you’d be wrong. Nantz’s calls are crisp, energetic, on point and on time. He’s now doing his best work yet on the NFL next to Romo. Oh, and Tracy’s great. Grade: A+

Fox: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews
For some, Buck is too stentorian in his delivery, and just a bit reeking of overconfidence. I disagree. I think Buck is fantastic. He has great command of the game, understands and gets ahead of strategic moments to help set them up, and always delivers a perfect shot of announcer adrenaline on big plays. His partner though? Oooof. Aikman isn’t quite as bad as Simms was in the last few years, but it’s close. Contrasted to Romo, Aikman is great at repeating what you just saw happen in real time, although Aikman merely narrates the slow-motion replay. The how-what-why of any given play – i.e. the stuff we on the couch have little ability to decipher on our own – is almost never revealed. And when a point made with just 4 or 5 words will do, Aikman makes sure to use no less than 50. Worse yet, is that Aikman is a drone. His plodding cadence to every play, is so repeatable that I bet if you stacked his waveforms in an audio editor, they would look virtually identical. He leans on crutch phrases with no nutritional value (“great job” and “excellent play”) and has one of the least critical eyes you’ll ever see when it comes to penalties. (Hint: virtually all of them are “good call.”) And if Troy Aikman has ever said a single funny thing while calling a game, I’ve yet to hear it. Erin Andrews? Still a 10, in my book. Grade: B

NBC: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya
My annoyance with Michaels and his elongated “whine-calls” is well documented at this point, so I will try not to pile on. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then listen to all the times he groans, growls, and extends a nasally syllable while he waits to see if a catch is made. Al’s saving grace is that he seems to hate replay as much as I do these days, and he loves sliding in a subtle point-spread reference on late game bad-beats. It still doesn’t make up for the fact that on obvious game-breaking plays, Michaels will often call them as a matter of fact 1st-and-10 play in the 1st quarter. The Mohammed Sanu screen pass that broke the Rams back is a perfect example. (You’ll either have to find it yourself, or take my word for it.) On the Collinsworth front, I have grown to be a (mostly) un-apologetic fan. He really peels back layers of the game that are not readily apparent, and doesn’t take himself or the game too seriously. He too could benefit from a less-is-more approach to word count, but so could they all. If only we could do something with that voice. Michelle is great. Whatever she does. Grade: B-

ESPN: Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters
Most people simply don’t have a taste for McDonough as a lead-voice on a big weekly national TV game. I get it. He’s like a cup of steaming hot black coffee. No frills. But gets the job done, and done right. I’m okay with him, because his preparation is first rate, and his calls have all the appropriate “punchiness” for the moment. That said, it was unfortunate that he seemed to transcend through his pre-pubescent years on the Kansas City fumble-TD-return-that-never-was, although I can understand how such a play might wreck an announcers vocal chords. Had it stood, it would have been the modern day Joe Pisarcik fumble, only with higher stakes since the “Miracle at the Meadowlands” happened in November, not the playoffs. As for Gruden, well, he played his character reasonably well all these nine years on ESPN. From the very start, it was obvious Gruden was pulling punches on teams, coaches and players while up in the booth. I think I said just a year or two into his stint: “He sure sounds like he doesn’t want to burn any bridges back to the sidelines.” And sure enough, that approach never stopped. Every now and then, Gruden would let some hot truth spill out into his headset. Most of the time, however, it was just giving Frank Caliendo more source material to work with. I don’t know who ESPN thinks is a front-runner to replace him, and I think it would make sense to re-configuring the entire booth (assuming McDonough doesn’t have some insanely huge buyout). And Lisa Salters gives short updates from the sidelines. She’s not Sergio Dipp. Grade: C-