Third Down Virus epidemic infecting football’s watchability

As reader Mark Morley reminds us, “It’s not rocket surgery.”

I don’t need to explain, not here, how third-down plays are often the most important throughout most games.

Thus, unless someone or something in the stands, on, say, third-and-three, is doing something significant — stealing mustard packets, brandishing a nuclear warhead, a pterodactyl about to seize a child or Fireman Ed playing with matches — TV directors should logically stick with the game by, get this: staying on the field!

We’re in the throes of the latest mindless epidemic, as if all football networks again have conspired to do the same things at the same times in order to obstruct our vision and minimize our grasp of what’s going on in games — games we were begged by the same networks not to miss.

Now Third Down Virus — TDV — attacks the central nervous systems causing anxiety and involuntary shoulder shrugs with hands open and flat to form the international sign for “Wha?”

They often appear attached to graphics that totally muddle the issue by comparing a team’s previous third-down success rates to this coming play, despite the fact that there has never been a previous circumstance that mirrors the coming one.

Examples of TDV from Sunday’s NFL telecasts into New York:

Texans-Giants, 2:30 left, Giants up, 21-10, Houston third-and-8 from the Giants 11. Big play.

Davis Mills #10 of the Houston Texans passes the ball off to Dameon Pierce #31 of the Houston Texans during the second quarter.
Who left the field and who came on for Davis Mills and the Texans? No way to tell thanks to CBS’ broadcast.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

At this point, it’s incumbent on the director to stay on the field in order to show us who’s in and out on both teams, the directions they head on offense and corresponding defense before the ball is snapped.

But that was when CBS’s director chose to present three consecutive crowd shots, meaning, at that point, at least three CBS cameras were assigned to shoot the crowd!

And two of those shots were of fans beating the down-low padding in PSL Stadium, the most mindless of shots that have become monuments to empty-headed formulaic TV.

CBS returned to the field just as Houston QB Davis Mills took the snap. Allow us to watch the game as if we’re there? Not anymore. That was before all of TV’s technological advancements.

Fox, Sunday, coming off another World Series—Word Series, with John Smoltz driving sales of replacement mute buttons—was no better.

The Vikes, down, 17-10, in Buffalo, had third-and-one from the Bills’ 28, two minutes left in the half.

That’s when Fox chose to cut to a close-up of a guy wearing a dressed-for-TV-attention goofy hat, then to a guy in a cowboy costume banging a guitar against down-low stadium padding. The return of El Kabong?

As the Vikings came to the line, going for it on fourth-and-1, Fox bolted for consecutive crowd shots, one of a guy holding that tired defense sign—the letter D beside a picket fence.

And to exacerbate matters Fox’s vapid video aerobics were conducted to the incessant sound of Moose “Speech! Speech!” Johnston in full bluster. Let us plead as one: Nurse!

A little less talking would do announcers lots of good

On the subject of epidemics, why does TV continue to become radio?

Charles Davis, Ian Eagle’s partner on CBS NFL telecasts, is a good, intelligent listen who fades by the second quarter because he eventually talks too much to be given our full attention.

Can’t anyone at CBS encourage him to take a few plays off? Why can’t an incomplete pass just be self-evident rather than a self-defeating invite to hear a lot about nothing?

Fox Sports Greg Olsen Lead NFL Analyst during an NFL football game
Less of Greg Olsen and his ilk, more football, please.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Same for Greg Olsen, Fox’s new No. 1 NFL analyst who speaks so rapidly, excitedly and endlessly you’d think he badly needs to make No. 1. As Olsen tries hard — much too hard — to win favor until Tom Brady arrives to likely take his spot, Fox can’t point him in a better direction?

Of course not. How many analysts improve? Not many? Any? The answer is in direct correlation to how many are provided good advice: Not many, if any.


Sunday, with the Bills leading the Vikings, 17-10, seven minutes left in the first half and the fact an hour ago reestablished and sustained that the crowd in Buffalo makes it tough on opponents to hear signals, Fox “sent it down” to Pam Oliver for this “breaking news”:

“For the Minnesota Vikings, this will be their fourth away game of the season. That’s worth mentioning because they believe this will be the toughest environment yet. Head coach Kevin O’Connell says success will depend on how well his team handles the harsh setting.

“He told us, ‘We haven’t faced an environment like this, yet.’ Despite that, he’s excited for it, he’s excited to see if the Vikings can remain efficient and execute at a high level …” And on and on. She should have started with, “Back up to you guys.”

US sports leagues must stand together in support of unjustly punished Griner

I don’t care where you line up politically or how you feel about her pre-arrest conduct — I found her insufferable — but Brittney Griner’s nine-year sentence to a Russian labor camp is inhumane, sick and likely a case of extreme anti- American geopolitical vindication, nothing to do with justice.

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner
WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner has been held in Russia for a 9-year prison sentence for drug possession.
Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

With Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine a major point of contention in allowing Russian federation-controlled athletes to compete in international events, all American sports bodies should play return hardball to have Griner released or at least have her sentence — for a vape pipe and cannabis oil — reduced to under a year.

This one is no longer about ideology but the life of an American woman sentenced to a decade of extraordinarily harsh cruelty for a minimal crime.


The most astonishing thing about Vikings’ WR Justin Jefferson’s performance in Buffalo, Sunday, was that the better the coverage the more extraordinary the catch. Early, he actually sorta, kinda dropped a pass against light coverage. So why wouldn’t Kirk Cousins ​​throw directly into coverage? And Jefferson delivered the get-away block on a 71-yard TD run by Dalvin Cook. Sensational. Unforgettable.


Keepin’ it real: College football telecasts should provide viewers added rooting interests by noting the number of player arrests each program has been “distracted” by, the last five years.


A fourth quarter “moment replay review” stoppage in Texans-Giants ran 4:30 before the right call was made. Perhaps.


Memo to new Devils’ MSG TV play-by-play man Bill Spaulding: Go easier on the stats. Hockey is played on ice, not paper.


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Reader Henry Blaukopf has a good question for Kyrie Irving, Adam Silver, Nets’ owner Joe Tsai and the NBPA: If all truly believe that Irving is not anti-Semitic, why did he post that link to a crackpot anti-Semitic movie in the first place?


Damn it! Devils at Montreal on MSG, Tuesday. Montreal—the Montreal Canadiens, for crying out loud—in powder blue uniforms. Anything for a nickel.


Reader Jay Cummings has inside word that this week President Biden will declare up to $20,000 per person in debt relief to sports gamblers.

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