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Playback

Week 1: Kenny, Moose and Goose

For three guys who go by Kenny, Moose and Goose, Fox's No. 2 broadcast team is remarkably buttoned-down.

Don't get me wrong -- it's a solid group, comprised of veteran play-by-play guy Kenny Albert (son of legendary sportscaster Marv Albert), color commentator and former Cowboys fullback Daryl "Moose" Johnston and sideline reporter Tony "Goose" Siragusa, a former defensive tackle who split 12 NFL seasons between the Colts and the Ravens.

Albert and Johnston have a seamless rapport, Siragusa provides a sliver of comic relief -- something Albert should steer clear of, but more on that later -- and the result is good commentary that isn't distracting or extraneous.

But man, when the Philadelphia Eagles are leading the St. Louis Rams 38-3 in the fourth quarter and quarterback Donovan McNabb comes out for Kevin Kolb -- seriously, Kevin Kolb -- it's time for Albert and Johnston to loosen up just a smidge, because we all know how this one's going to end (for the record, the score remained 38-3).


The contrast between the man down on the field and the men up in the booth was striking. While Siragusa imitated contestants from Fox's new game show, Hole in the Wall ("Put your leg up, or something like this," -- extending his right arm and leg out to a 90-degree angle -- "and try to fit through it," -- folding his large frame in half, arm and leg still extended -- "It's tough to do. It's not easy. 'Hole in the Wall,' man."), Johnston and Albert agonized over the nuances of a 35-point game.

Let's backtrack for a minute, though. Overall, Johnston and Albert are truly better than any of the "higher-ranked" broadcasting teams at the textbook-type stuff; explaining and analyzing the game. So let's take a look at the highs and lows of the entire broadcast:

How the Announcers (Johnston, Really)
Expected It to Play Out

1. The Rams' decision to defer after winning the coin toss was smart, because "you don't want your offense out there early. Send your defense out there, try to get a three and out, establish field position early."
2. The Rams will be all over undersized Eagles rookie wide receiver DeSean Jackson from the line of scrimmage, and "they're gonna challenge his release all afternoon."
3. The speed of the Rams' linebacking corps will pose a major threat to the Eagles.
4. St. Louis running back Steven Jackson will "get a good test" from Philadelphia.
5. "Randy McMichael will be as important as anybody in [the Rams'] offense."

How it Actually Played Out

1. The Eagles scored on their opening drive. "Maybe that wasn't the best decision" by St. Louis to defer, Johnston said later.
2. The Rams were all over the field, but they couldn't come close to Jackson ("It's just 11 guys going in 11 different directions," Siragusa sagely noted late in the second half).
3. Do the Rams even have a linebacking corps?
4. It was a good test, and Jackson failed.
5. This is true, but probably not in the way Johnston intended. Nobody was important in the Rams' offense on Sunday.

Breaking Down the X's and O's

When the Rams got burned on a McNabb pass deep down the middle to Jason Avant:

Siragusa: "That looked like busted coverage from down here."
Johnston: "Hey, Goose, there's nothing worse than when you have a big play and all of a sudden you have three or four guys on defense looking at each other. I mean, the safety, the corner and the linebacker all stare at each other after this play. Quinton Culbertson, Corey Chavous and [hard-to-decipher name], they're all trying to figure out who's supposed to be covering Jason Avant down the seam."

As a contrast, ESPN's late Monday night dream team of Mike Greenberg, Mike Golic and Mike Ditka broke down most plays in the Broncos-Raiders game like this: "Ohhhhh!"

Try Not to Overdo it, Though

Albert, pointing out McNabb's signal before a short touchdown pass to Brian Westbrook: "He goes and taps his butt, right there. You see that?" -- circles McNabb's butt on the screen -- "Right there, in that area."

Highlighting the Changes

Upon kickoff, Albert explained the NFL's new rule for deferring kickoffs. Two and a half minutes in, he discussed the coach-to-defensive player helmet communication. Other broadcasters treated the changes -- which are important -- as asides and didn't mention them until after halftime.

Good Goose Moments

Siragusa on the Rams in the second quarter: "I'll tell you what, it's flat down here. Their sideline, I'm watching 'em now -- they're dead." (St. Louis Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz agreed: "I don't understand how a team can prepare for months to play its first football game, only to emerge from the locker room looking like dead men walking. No heart, no guts, no pulse ... nothing.")

With two minutes to go in the third quarter, Marc Bulger nearly got picked off for the third time. Johnston: "He just doesn't have any confidence in his guys up front."
Siragusa: "Well, he shouldn't after looking at that replay right there. I mean, they're just getting beat at one-on-ones. That's just -- that's just plain football, man."

'Funny' Isn't Your Thing, Kenny

Albert, commenting on a shot of a bird on the field coming back from a commercial break: "A bird of a different feather joins the action." Forced laughter.

Albert, upon seeing another shot of (presumably) the same bird following the very next break: "It's the bird's eye view." More strained chuckling. Ohh, it hurts.

They Still Love That Quarterback

He's not a Packer anymore, but the all-media man-crush on now-Jet Brett Favre hasn't diminished a bit.

Albert: "At least he's still wearing green."
Johnston: "The guy's amazing. Absolutely amazing."

After a Favre touchdown highlight, Johnston wonders aloud if Favre would line up and kick the extra point for injured kicker Mike Nugent, too.

Albert: "If anyone could, it's Brett. He's so dreamy."

(Okay, so Albert didn't actually say, "He's so dreamy." But he might as well have.)

Point Deductions

For all that was said about Rams offensive coordinator Al Saunders, there was not one mention -- by anyone -- of his last two seasons with the Redskins. Given, there's not much to talk about, but it might have been worth noting that while Saunders' schemes from his earlier days with Kansas City could translate well into the St. Louis offense ("Steven Jackson as Priest Holmes. Randy McMichael as Tony Gonzalez," Johnston suggested), they essentially fell flat in Washington.

Johnston: "[The Rams] are starting out in terrible shape. ... Couple of penalties now, sitting at, uh- What're we at now, Kenny, second and ... 17?"
Albert: ... (It was second and 16, for the record).

The mention of the late Gene Upshaw (who players are honoring all season with black "GU" uniform patches) was too glossy. Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players' Association who died of pancreatic cancer on Aug. 20, certainly left an indelible mark on the NFL, leading players through a strike in 1987 and negotiating with league owners to secure better salaries for players. But his tenure was also marked by controversy and criticism, which shouldn't have gone unmentioned.

Clichés in Football Are So Cliché

Johnston: "It's so important to get off to a good start in the opening week of the NFL, and in the opening month. I've always said, you don't win a championship in the month of September, but you sure can cost yourself the opportunity to compete for one."

Another cliché, this time a botched one, by Johnston: "Everything that was a concern coming into this game, [the Eagles] have passed with flying colors."

Lighten Up, Moose

When St. Louis wide receiver Drew Bennett fractured his foot on the Rams' first possession of the game, Johnston was inexplicably distraught: "This is really frustrating to me. Drew Bennett can't stay healthy, for whatever reason. But nobody wants to be on the field more than Drew Bennett."

With about four minutes to go in the first half, the Eagles had a solid 14-0 lead. This made Johnston nervous: "I'm starting to get an uneasy feeling about the Eagles. ... They're letting the Rams stay in this game when they shouldn't be here right now."

... Really? With zero points, the Rams are staying in the game?

Summing It All Up

Look, Albert and Johnston are a little bit too serious. It would be nice to see them have some fun, but that's okay -- they've got the rest of the gig down pat. Anyhow, it's not like they're Joe Buck-reacting-to-Randy Moss-serious. Albert and Johnston would probably laugh if Randy Moss fake-mooned them. And that, all else aside, is why Kenny, Moose and Goose are better than the higher-profile alternative.

By Lindsay Applebaum  |  September 10, 2008; 8:45 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: About Playback | Next: Chargers-Broncos: Blowing the Call

Comments

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Bonita, welcome back to the interweb. We missed your words of wisdom - or at least your humor. Can we count on seeing you more often?

Posted by: Papa Smurf | September 10, 2008 12:48 PM

Hey Applecheeks ... you want comedy? Break down Siri Lindley commentating on field hockey on CBS College Sports. High comedy. Thank Palin she was relegated to Triathlon during the Olympics!

Posted by: Geen | September 10, 2008 1:53 PM

I'll take moose over Troy Aikman any day. And to me, Joe Buck and Kenny Albert are exactly the same. I call it the Summerall effect.

I'll go wherever you go Bonita, but BRING BACK CROWD NOISE!!!

Posted by: Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) | September 10, 2008 2:01 PM

Wow. This is a great breakdown, and you picked up on sooo many of the things that were driving me CRAZY on Sunday. WHY oh WHY didn't someone correct the announcer when he couldn't get Kevin Kolb's name correct?? First it was Kobbs for the first 5 minutes, then Kobb for the remaining 15. And yes, their jokes were definitely NOT funny...but I'll take the football banter over Madden's banality any day!

Posted by: NewB45 | September 10, 2008 3:09 PM

Newb45, the announcers did eventually get his name right. (Going by what you've said here. I was in Boston, where the game was blacked out, so I didn't hear them.) Kevin Kolb's last name is pronounced exactly the same as Ty Cobb's, despite the spelling variation. The "l" is silent.

Posted by: dilbert719 | September 10, 2008 4:01 PM

That's why I and others turn the sound down and listen to the radio instead of these knuckleheads...though I must admit, this group is better than Aikman and Buck, who are THE worst, imo

Posted by: Homer | September 10, 2008 4:11 PM

Enjoyed your analysis - just one issue, and an important one: Johnston's statement on Drew Bennett wasn't "inexplicably distraught" at all to anyone whose job involves injuries that can end the career they've worked so hard for. Johnston clearly knows that this guy puts in the time and effort and desire, but he keeps getting hit with bad luck. That should generate strong emotions and should never be dismissed so blithely as it was in your column.

Posted by: John McGlothlin | September 10, 2008 6:23 PM

John, thanks for your comment. I definitely see what you mean -- it comes off as insensitive.

I was really just amused that Johnston said, "But nobody wants to be on the field more than Drew Bennett." It was so exaggerated that it made me laugh.

Posted by: Lindsay Applebaum | September 10, 2008 6:47 PM

I can't say that I disagree with anything that you wrote here. I think that's it's well reasoned and helpful. But let's turn, just for a second, to your colleague and the pitiful MNF line up. The second string guys at Fox make the ESPN announces look like amateur night. Does Tony Kornheiser actually know anything about football? It's like he comes up with three things to say before the game, and then just shouts them at increasing volume levels as the game goes on. Yeah, we get it, Brett Favre isn't playing for the Packers. Tell us something about the game. I'd love to read your take on the ESPN guys.

Posted by: Dupont Guy | September 11, 2008 12:31 AM

Hey Lindsay - I appreciate your reading and responding to the comment. I should say again that the column was excellent overall and I will definitely make it a regular read through the season. Thanks!

Posted by: John McGlothlin | September 11, 2008 3:09 AM

Nice Article, good reveiw hope to see one done on all the NFL guys. The Espn Guys are just fine actually it is a nice change of pace from the weekend. I mean how can you go against JAWS, the guy eats, sleeps football he is Great!

Of course the best of the best is none other then GUS JOHNSON, there is no doubt he should be the number 1 guy instead of NANCE and SIMMS ( almost threw up saying his name)
Anyways to add one final point, the college annoucers in football are WAY better then the NFL guys (excluding GUS of course)

Posted by: Ryan | September 11, 2008 8:07 AM

HAHA thanks dilbert719 for the clarification. I guess at that point I was so frustrated I wasn't listening close enough. Also, as a fan contented with the score I had started to fall asleep on the couch. Gotta love a blow-out for making the commentary more interesting than the game.

Posted by: NewB45 | September 11, 2008 8:09 AM

How about concentrating how Fox News lies about Barack, instead of things that don't matter like sports!?!?

Posted by: Big Walt | September 11, 2008 9:54 AM

How about concentrating how Fox News lies about Barack, instead of things that don't matter like sports!?!?
Posted by: Big Walt | September 11, 2008 9:54 AM

And why the heck is Big Walt posting this comment on a Sports Blog instead of using his time productively by commenting in the Politics sections of Wapo.com?

Posted by: Church of Cooley | September 11, 2008 3:01 PM

Maybe YOU should lighten up and try out some real journalism, instead of critiquing the announcers of a football game.

Get a life.

Posted by: Pot, Kettle... | September 11, 2008 3:21 PM

Thanks for all of the comments. To those who asked about the ESPN guys: No worries, we'll get to them, too.

Posted by: Lindsay Applebaum | September 12, 2008 10:26 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
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