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.
Do you miss Sunday NFL Primetime? Chris Berman certainly didn't mince words when ESPN lost the ability to air it in it's old format when NBC won the rights to Sunday Night Football.
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) January 22, 2018
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.