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Chad: Gumbel Stinks

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by heyabbott, Dec 4, 2006.

  1. heyabbott

    heyabbott Well-Known Member

    By Norman Chad
    Monday, December 4, 2006; Page E02

    When Bryant Gumbel made critical comments about the NFL before this season, outgoing NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue suggested that Gumbel might be relieved of his new duties as play-by-play broadcaster for NFL Network games. As it turns out, the NFL shouldn't have fired Gumbel for his remarks, it should've dumped him because his play-by-play work, well, stinks.

    Gumbel once was lord and master of "The Today Show." He might be -- next to Ted Koppel -- the best live interviewer in television over the past generation. He is smarter, sharper and more studied than most every sports broadcaster.
    And, at the moment, he makes Homer Simpson sound like Al Michaels.

    (Of course, many of you probably haven't heard Gumbel doing games because you don't have NFL Network yet. As Gumbel instructs, you should contact IWantNFLNetwork.com. How about CantBryantGoBackToMorningTV.com?)

    Gumbel is unspectacular and uninspired -- his play-by-play voice flat, his play-by-play sensibilities pedestrian. He is wordy and windy, seemingly without emotion or care.

    It's like listening to an insurance underwriter giving last rites to the family gerbil.

    (I'd like to take a moment here to speak directly to Gumbel's NFL partner, analyst Cris Collinsworth. Cris, you're good, often very good. But you don't have to prove how much you know about football after every play. Ease up here and there. Smell the autumn air. Let the broadcasts breathe -- we need a break now and then. Heck, last week I hit the mute button so often, it filed workmen's comp charges against me.)

    Beyond Gumbel's stylistic shortcomings, there are substantive flaws in his game mechanics. See if you notice a trend in Gumbel's play-by-play:

    "Johnson finds running room off the left side."

    "Plummer looking downfield as he rolls right."

    "The give is to Lewis, who tries the left side."

    "Palmer will throw on first down, looking right."

    "Green swings it to the left side."

    On almost every call, Gumbel tells us if it's the left or the right side, an inside carry or an outside carry, the near sideline or the far sideline. On almost every call. Uh, Bryant, IT'S TELEVISION. We can see left, right, inside, outside, short or deep. That's why the late Ray Scott, when Bart Starr pitched to Jim Taylor and Taylor ran 13 yards over left tackle for a score, would simply say, "Taylor -- touchdown."
    Sure, if you're doing play-by-play on Apollo 11, I guess you want to tell us, "And Neil Armstrong has walked out onto the moon!!!" but if it's second and eight and Rudi Johnson runs right, you don't have to say, "Rudi Johnson runs right." IT'S TELEVISION.

    (By the way, who designed NFL Network's on-screen score graphic, Hermann Rorschach? I defy most viewers to glance at the TV and see who's winning the game -- you've got a better chance of reading an eye chart through a stained-glass window.)

    When Gumbel calls rushing plays, a running back usually is "fighting for yardage" or "working his way back to the line of scrimmage." Again and again. And don't get me started on how Gumbel needlessly qualifies every call, saying stuff like " perhaps a loss of two," "he gets to maybe the 24-yard line," "McNair tackled at about the 36." Viewers understand it's not exactly the 36-yard line; why doesn't Gumbel?

    (I'm also curious about another Gumbelism, or lack of it: When he hosts "Real Sports" on HBO, we often see him writing on a pad between segments. So if he's scribbling notes furiously during a taped telecast, wouldn't you expect Gumbel to be scribbling notes extra furiously every time he's on camera during NFL Network's live telecast?)

    Anyway, I know this is less heady work than, say, interviewing the Saudi Arabian defense minister, but shouldn't the guy doing the job have the basic fundamentals down pat?

    What was NFL Network thinking?

    Besides, wasn't Greg Gumbel available?
  2. Trouser_Buddah

    Trouser_Buddah Active Member

    Pay the man, Shirley.
  3. leo1

    leo1 Active Member

    great column. but i think some of the criticisms about the directions and the like could apply to virtually all but the top broadcasters of each network.
  4. heyabbott

    heyabbott Well-Known Member

    But Bryant Gumbel is the Michael Vick of journalism.
  5. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    Columns like this are why I appreciate reading Norman Chad.

    Bryant Mexico?
  6. The biggest problem I have with BG is that he gets paid to hang out on HBO with that useless charlatan Bernie Goldberg.
  7. heyabbott

    heyabbott Well-Known Member

    It's an even exchange in that Goldberg gets paid to hangout with that preening, pompous paragon of pretension.
  8. Pancamo

    Pancamo Active Member

    Fen, not a fan of Goldberg's books?
  9. Almost_Famous

    Almost_Famous Active Member

    Does anyone have a logical answer as to why Norman Chad isn't bigger? I'll never understand the fascination with Bill Simmons over Norman Chad. The only guy that can rival Chad, IMO, is TJ Simers.
    After that, there's a considerable dropoff.

    (Though Tony K, back in the early 1990s, was right there with them)
  10. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Agree, A_F. I'm a big Chad fan, whether it's in print or making fun of movies on ESPN Classic. But I kinda like that he's not overexposed, though one could argue he's on ESPN more than anyone with all the poker reruns.
  11. Boomer7

    Boomer7 Active Member

    Chad was great at the National, infinitely funnier than Scheft at SI, and his book was pretty good, too. But I don't think he translates all that well to TV, and his NFL picks columns are generally uninspired.

    As for Gumbel, SI did a feature on him before the '88 Seoul Olympics that's worth digging out of the archives. The guy comes off as perhaps the biggest dick ever.
  12. daemon

    daemon Well-Known Member

    Simple: platform.

    If he had the back page of SI every week, or a spot on ESPN.com, he'd be pretty big.

    That said, if you ask the everyday reader/sports fan, more would know Norman Chad than T.J. Simers or most other non-syndicated newspaper columnists.
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