Thursday, November 29, 2007

The other game of the century

Long before "Peyton Manning Can't Beat The Patriots," the dominant NFL meme was "Brett Favre Can't Beat The Cowboys." Much as Manning's Colts lost to New England in the 2003 and 2004 playoffs, Favre and the Packers saw their season end in playoff frustration on the Texas Stadium turf every year from 1993 to 1995. The difference, of course, is that Manning eventually beat New England en route to the Super Bowl. Favre, however, never beat Dallas when it counted. In 1996, the Panthers upset the Cowboys, and the Packers beat the Panthers in the NFC title game. By 1997, the Cowboys were a 6-10 team.

Well, Favre still can't beat the Cowboys in a big game, it seems.

But it's all good. The Packers played far better Thursday night than I expected them to, hanging in until the bitter end and proving that they can go toe to tow with the cowboys. Green Bay fans can feel good about Aaron Rodgers taking over when Favre finally does retire. And Ryan Grant is for real.

But holy shit, if the NFL Network is going to take big games like this off of free TV in its effort to extort 10 bucks a year out of every cable subscriber in the country, the least they could do is get themselves a play-by-play man whose incompetence isn't raging like a case of herpes. Bryant Gumbel was so horrid he left me speechless. So horrid he left me wishing for Mike Patrick. So horrid that even Joe Theismann might not have been so bad. Gumbel, to put not-too-fine a point on it, has no business in the booth whatsoever. At least four times in the first quarter, he referred to the Cowboys as the Packers. Not once but twice, he told a long story about his conversation with "Mike McCarthy," who is the Packers' coach, about how Cowboys running back Marion Barber III is "the heartbeat of the Packers' offense." The first time, he told this story, I assumed that McCarthy had said in the production meeting that Barber was the heartbeat of the Dallas offense, so the Packer defense was going to focus on stopping him. Only after Gumbel stumbled through it again did I realize that the conversation wasn't with McCarthy at all, but with Wade Phillips, the Cowboys' coach. When I shouted at the screen, "What the fuck are you talking about?," it wouldn't be the last time.

Speaking of Barber: At one point late in the game, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo handed the ball off to a running back who was stuffed at the line. Unable to tell whether it was Marion Barber or Julius Jones, Gumbel split the difference and called him "Marion Jones." Hey, she's probably stronger than both of them.

And speaking of Tony Romo: As the game ended and the teams poured onto the field, Gumbel urged us to stay tuned, because after the commercial break, Adam Schefter would hopefully have an interview with "Rick Romo."

On and on it went. A Green Bay defender was very clearly blocked into the Dallas punter, and Gumbel and boothmate Chris Collinsworth howled over the flag that (correctly) wasn't thrown. A Green Bay defender very clearly grabbed a Dallas receiver -- the very definition of pass interference -- and Gumbel and Collinsworth howled some more over the flag that (correctly) was thrown. Gumbel alluded to the list of quarterbacks who were drafted ahead of Romo -- but never actually named them. He said things like "he's still on his feet" long after a guy was tackled. He just talked and talked and said nothing. Please. Make it stop. Where's Dick Vermeil?

1 comment:

3000 said...

Gumbel's incompetence last night was only rivaled by Wayne Larivee's (et tu, Wayne?) season-long bungling of the Badgers' players' names during BTN telecasts.

Gumbel wins out, though, because confusing the TEAM NAMES multiple times is inexcusable.