Monday, September 15, 2008

Hail Mary answered

Kudos to NFL Network for starting to re-air entire classic games in their entirety. This past weekend the network showed several airings of the 1975 playoff game between Dallas and Minnesota that became known as the Hail Mary Game because of its dramatic ending; the Cowboys won on a last-minute long touchdown pass from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson.

These re-airs not only give us a chance to relive some great moments, but also to compare and assess interesting aspects of the media coverage. The technology and camera work were obviously limited, and replays were available mainly from one angle. There wasn't much in the way of chyrons and graphics, (it took awhile to get used to not seeing the score/time bug on the screen), but that may have been a good thing; CBS, which carried the game, didn't spend every possible moment cramming in ads or promos for upcoming shows.

Probably the biggest difference between 2008 and 1975 was the game analysis. John Unitas provided the color commentary for Gary Bender's play-by-play. Johnny U may have been a Hall of Fame quarterback, but his commentary skills were severely lacking and his descriptions of the action could be described as pedestrian at best ("That's a hard hit there," "He really had to dive to get that ball," etc.). Unitas missed several key moments in the action, including the famous winning score, in which neither he nor Bender mentioned that there was a penalty flag, that an orange came flying out on the field, or that a fan threw a bottle that hit the referee in the head. (It is possible that these moments were edited out of the NFL Network version, but why would NFLN cut up the most interesting part of the game; the part most people would want to see?). But again, in some ways this might have been a good thing. Every single play wasn't critiqued and analyzed from multiple angles; the announcers simply kept the game moving and let the action speak for itself.

Keep those classic games coming, NFL Network. Sure, the technology is a little rough, but they do remind us of simpler times when the game was the focal point of the broadcast and money didn't dictate every production decision.


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