Archive for November, 2007

Surreality
November 19, 2007

13 years in the business, more than a thousand post game interviews, and I thought I had seen it all. Been cursed at, spit on (accidentally I think), endured smells that had to equal those of Saddam Hussein’s little rat hole bunker, been cried on, and enjoyed side splitting laughter. But never had I conducted any at midfield before the game was actually over.

The protocol for covering NFL games allows reporters onto the sidelines for the last two minutes of the game, and to then access the field of play as soon as the game ends.

So Sunday afternoon, Phil Dawson misses a 51 yard field goal off the upright and cross bar, and it’s on to the field in search of really fresh interviews (the ones on the field are better than in the locker room. So close to the end of the event, emotions are raw and filters often not yet working). I get to Matt Stover who’s always good for a sound bite after a game winning field goal and he’s right on cue. How great it feels, how badly they need a win.. and then lightning strikes.

Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson, in full view of the camera lens, runs up to us and says

We’re going to overtime fellas. We’re going to overtime.

Stover’s face frowns and he says,

Yeah. Yeah.

The camera then pans left and Devard Darling, with arms spread wide in confusion belts out,


What
happened?



Great question. You see, being down the field is great because you see things you can’t see from the press box or on television. You however also miss things. All we saw of Dawson’s field goal attempt was it bouncing back onto the field. And common sense rang out, telling us the only way that happens is if it hit the cross bar and was no good. Common sense though apparently has loopholes.

Replays of course showed the field goal actually broke the plane and took a crazy bounce off the the goal post beyond the cross bar. What could be more fitting for a team constantly pummeled by the football gods for any and all grievances past.

Brian Billick’s pained expression while hearing the explanation from referree Pete Morelli spoke volumes. Amazingly, the coach that so favors profanity laced tirades, simply turned began imploring his players to get ready for overtime.

They of course could not get ready. In a game so bathed in raw emotions, the Ravens could not recover from the celebrations that proved premature.

Looking then for more post game interviews, the only ones on the field to be found came from the Browns. I talked with Derek Anderson and he equated the day to that of a movie ending. Care to name it? I’m going with the Departed. Had the same kind of happy ending.

Laughter Hurts
November 8, 2007

Did you catch the end of the Ravens game in Pittsburgh Monday? Of course you didn’t. You left after the second series of the second half. Once it became evident that the half time adjustments worked like Bill Belichik’s new best seller “How to cheat in the NFL and not get caught”, you went to bed or cried into your beer watching home videos of your Super Bowl Party from 1/28/01.

I had to work, had to keep watching. Rarely will I complain of my job but seriously Monday night left my head aching till Thursday morning. But not everyone seemed too distraught.

Obviously Mike Tomlin thoroughly enjoyed his first game of the rivalry. He laughed himself silly like a teenage girl after a Ravens 3rd down incompletion late in the game. It seemed a bit much, but he’s only 16 so what do you expect.

No, the painful laughter came at the 4:23 mark of the 4th when the ESPN cameras caught a fairly boisterous chuckle on the sidelines between Steve McNair, Kyle Boller, and Todd Heap. The next shot pictured Jonathan Ogden also with a look of bemusement on his face.

I know that a four second moment of time caught on camera hardly defines the mood of a sidelines. For all we know Kelly Gregg broke wind while stretching to keep loose. And I certainly know football isn’t life and death, that a little more laughter in the world probably makes it a better place.

But that doesn’t mean the gestures didn’t sting Ravens fans, or that they made you wonder just how much these guys cared about the worst loss this decade. The last place amusement seemed appropriate was on the face of Steve McNair.

For weeks the players kept saying that a win is a win and that this team is fine. When we saw the Ravens play with focus and purpose that could never be described as fine, the last thing to see on the sidelines was humor.