A sequence in the second quarter of the BCS national championship game won 34-14 by Florida on Thursday night said much about how viewers should judge Fox’s Thom Brennaman and Charles Davis. When you can’t tell the difference between second down and third down, or between third and fourth down, you’re in trouble.
“Brown on third and goal sniffing the end zone, but apparently just short,” Brennaman said with confidence (on what was actually second down).
He thought the next play was fourth down, as did Davis, who advised Oklahoma: “Go, go, go!”
Fox’s graphics stripped across the top of the screen had it right: third and goal, but the announcers evidently were not looking. When the Sooners did not rush to the line of scrimmage, Davis seemed to believe that coach Bob Stoops was having second thoughts about going for it on fourth down.
“Surprised they’re even hesitating,” Davis said.
But it was third down. Fox’s scoring strip and on-field graphic said it.
“Brown did not get there!” Brennaman said as Chris Brown was stopped. “A huge stop for the Gator defense on fourth and goal.”
(But really, third down.)
Belatedly, Brennaman acknowledged his error, but it was too late; from then on, every time he said third or fourth down, I checked his claim against the screen.
Minutes later, he giddily said: “I got so excited I thought they were going on fourth down twice.”
He laughed, as if such a failure of the basics of sportscasting were a minor matter.
“I should have been there for you, partner,” Davis said.
But where was their producer to correct them?
On another play, earlier in the game, no one was paying much attention either.
With time running out in the first quarter, Florida was penalized for a false start on a first-and-15 play. The last shot before a commercial break was of the referee picking up the flag and saying something inaudible. When the next quarter started, Fox’s on-screen graphic said Florida still had a first-and-15 play, but it should have been first-and-20, unless the referee had rescinded the call. Neither announcer mentioned it.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Davis mentioned the phantom penalty, wrongly saying it had not been called when the real mystery was why it had not been assessed.
Fox split the screen in half, and then in fourths, far too many times. It became the bowl game equivalent of the network’s penchant for post-season baseball close-ups.
Having to pay attention to two or four shots at once, live, with a play about to begin, is needless. Sometimes, Fox lingered too long in a four-shot, almost missing going to a full-screen for the snap.
There was also the ill-timed commercial: A Bud Light ad was inexplicably inserted, with 10 seconds left in the first half and the score tied at 7-7 and Oklahoma on the Florida 6. Yes, there was a timeout, but this was a break for Davis to discuss the Sooners’ options.
Brennaman is well-suited to the rah-rah side of a college bowl game; he is an unabashed fan, a promotional voice, a starry-eyed, corny guy. I’ll accept his extravagant profusion of praise for Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, a model citizen. But if Al Michaels said: “When Major Wright hits you, you feel it in a major wrong way,” his producer would rush from his truck to smack him.