Thursday, November 30, 2006

NFL Network draws intense fan reactions

Jim Williams, The Examiner
Nov 30, 2006 3:00 AM (4 hrs ago)
Current rank: # 6 of 8,694 articles

WASHINGTON - The NFL Network’s Bryant Gumbel and Cris Collinsworth have become the most talked about duo in sports broadcasting. And they’ve only done one game.

I have never seen a reaction quite this interesting. Fans either like or hate them. I know it was Thanksgiving and your relatives were driving you nuts, but talk about snap judgments.

As many of you may recall last summer I interviewed both NFL Network president Steve Bornstein and Bryant Gumbel about their plans. Bornstein said the game broadcasts would be “conversational and not your traditional play-by-play and color team.”

Said Gumbel: “I have never done play-by-play and I don’t intend on doing it. I was hired to observe and to react to what is going on and Cris is there as the football analyst. Those are the roles we have been asked to do and we hope to do them well.”

It is different, edgy and won’t suit everyone’s taste. We need to give them some time, much like fans did for the Monday Night Football crew.

This week I spoke to Rich Eisen who with Deion Sanders, Steve Mariucci, Marshall Faulk, and Adam Schefter handles all the pre game, halftime and post game duties from the game sites.

Eisen spoke to the charges that some have made that the NFL Network never takes on the tough issues that face the league:

“That is something that drives me crazy,” Eisen said. “Clearly the people who say or write those things have never watched the network. We started our show off the other night with Michael Vick making an obscene gesture to the crowd, followed that up by talking about Eli Manning’s sudden fall from grace and we also did a story on the inconsistency of the officiating in the league. That is hardly taking the easy way out.”

Eisen on the Network’s growth: “We are the fastest growing cable network in history and that just goes to show you that fans want football information 24/7/365.”

The network takes its second shot at game production tonight as the Ravens take on the Bengals in Cincinnati.

The NFL Network can be seen on both Comcast and Cox digital services as well as via DirecTV and Dish Network. For those in the northern suburbs or in the Baltimore metro area you can also see the game on WMAR TV 2.

Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. E-mail him at


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