Editor’s Note: We have another column debuting today, Brandon Forsyth’s “Media Watch.” (In case you missed it, click here for Katie’s Quibbles.) Brandon has been a contributor to Emails From Doug Whaley for quite some time now, but has decided to take on a more prominent role, because he can’t live in a world where Katie Phillips is a more prolific NFL writer than him. It’s moments like these that truly inspire. Anyways, enjoy!
Welcome to Media Watch, where I will (more often than not) rake the media over my linguistic hot coals for their fawning coverage of NFL players and the league in general. Today’s offender: NFL AM.
A sure-to-be frequent target of my unhireable-BFA fuelled rage, NFL AM is the NFL Network’s attempt at a morning show in the vein of NBC’s TODAY. Call it GOOD MORNING, FOOTBALL AMERICA. It’s where you’re just as likely to hear a discussion of Boyz II Men’s discography (as I did this morning) as opposed to anything approaching football news or analysis. When the show premiered in July of last year, Mark Quenzel, the NFL Network’s senior vice president of programming and production, said, “We know that our fans are looking for more football and we are excited to provide a personality-driven show which focuses on football and everything around it. There will be no better way to start their day.” There are several problems with this quote, starting with the fact that it comes from the NFL Network, “the only television network fully dedicated to the NFL and the sport of football” according to their own mission statement. What else is the NFL Network going to show, other than “more football”? Also, there’s no better way to start my day? That’s pretty damn preten-
“We know you want it, so let’s get to work! NFL AM! It’s goin’ down, right now!!!”
Oh shit. Let’s dive in.
The biggest problem with NFL AM is how long it is. Or maybe it’s their incredibly tiny Burger King coffee mugs.
But it’s definitely how long it is. Four hours is a hell of a long time for anything, other than an actual NFL game. Host Nicole Zaloumis does a great job keeping things moving, but there’s a sense of desperation underlying pretty much everything in the show. The Verizon Wake Up Call can only take so long. The ‘Caption This’ segment is cloying to begin with. As the show stretches on, and you realize you’re seeing a graphic called “Suh to change style of play?” for the fourth time in two hours, you can almost feel everyone staring at the clock, counting down the hours until they can get out of there.
Being a crass promotional tie-in to your network’s flagship programming (Thursday Night Football) can also have some unfortunate consequences. In today’s ‘Burning Questions’ segment, the panelists were asked (while a ticker at the top of the screen counted down the 13 hours until you could see the NE-NYJ game live on this very same network!), “who, besides Tom Brady, will be the offensive star tonight?” via @jrock5158. Steve Wyche answered with Legarrete Blount. Eric Davis selected Kenbrell Thompkins. And Mark Kriegel started his answer by saying, “As you know, uh … I don’t want to engage in any sort of racial profiling…” before taking Julian Edelman as his pick. On top of being vague (is Kriegel hoping to defuse any claims of racism that may fall on him for selecting a white player, or merely calling Tom Brady a racist?), it’s also a needlessly provocative lede for 6:46 in the morning. Or, as Steve Wyche put it, “Oh God. That is really taking the long road to Julian Edelman.”
This is not the only regrettable thing Mark Kriegel will say this morning. Far from it. Discussing a Lisfranc injury (a horrifying thing that happens to football players when the bones in their feet shift), Kriegel comes up with this gem: “I knew Liz Franc’s sister, but I don’t know her too well!” Tip ya waitresses! (Ed. Note: I was really worried for a second that he would make a “I knew her sister joke. Thank God.) Wyche is all over him again, this time with a sarcastic drumroll and even Zaloumis chiming in with a cymbal crash. I don’t blame Mark Kriegel. I blame Mark Quenzel, senior vice president of programming and production, who thought it would be a good idea to trap people in a closed studio at 6 in the morning and force them to talk about any trivial bit of football news that crossed anyone’s radar, ever.
As if you couldn’t get enough NFL AM, the program also interrupts your commercial breaks, the one refuge you have in this 240-minute onslaught. Designed to simply show the genuine chemistry of the cast, we get a quick 10-second hit of the unscripted and off-air hijinks going on behind the scenes. Now, if we got to see Steve Wyche taking Kriegel to task for being a racist, that might be some engaging television. Instead, we get Eric Davis bragging about … something. It’s hard to tell when you’re staring at a large graphic that says ‘Still To Come…More NFL AM’. It’s almost a taunt.
I make it an hour into the broadcast before I hear a repeated bit of script, and it’s during yet another promotion for tonight’s upcoming game. Did I mention it’s on the same network? Another discussion of how it’s “advantage Belichick” when faced with rookie QBs, followed by the same highlight pack of interviews.
I make it four more minutes before we head out to Providence, Rhode Island for MORE on the big game tonight. It’s an exclusive interview with Paul Brunelle! Don’t recognize the name? That’s because Paul is a member of the End Zone Militia, the guys who dress up in revolutionary garb, hang out in Gillette Stadium, and shoot off their rifles when the Pats score a touchdown.
I turn off the TV. This show should be an hour long. Max. (Ed. Note: problem is, they would just loop that one hour. Given the choice, I would go with water torture.)