Analysts

A thorough overview of football voices this past season; Too many trite phrases can be overkill

 

Solomon

Good & Bad Jottings From My Note Book About Football Telecasts and Announcers During the 2023 Season:

Last November, on this website, I wrote an essay about Jottings From My Notebook: Good & Bad About Baseball Telecasts and Announcers During the 2023 season, I also kept a notebook during the football season about my impressions about football announcers during the recently concluded season. Like my baseball column, I found that the use of trite expressions by football callers is as much a part of the game as are tackles and touchdowns.

Now that the final snap of the season is behind us, here are a few of the phrases that many used:

Trite Offensive Play Phrases

  • “It depends on the spot.”
  • “He’s running hard.”
  • “He’s got to make that play.”
  • “It’s now manageable.”
  • “He has to get rid of the football.”
  • “They gotta generate some offense.”
  • “He’d like to have that one back.”
  • It took a long time for the ball to get there.”
  • “He has great hands.”
  • “He made something out of nothing.”
  • “They really came to play.”
  • “You can’t do that.”

Trite Defensive Play Phrases

  • “It’s a big hit.”
  • It’s enough to move the chains.”
  • “Someone has to make a play.”
  • “You can’t do that.”
  • “He has to make that tackle.”
  • “He’s the heart and soul of the defense.”
  • “He’s never had a more important sack.”

The most trite phrases are used by announcers when they describe offensive situations. It’s because the days when New York Giants’ linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who some consider the greatest defensive player ever, would continuously dominate a game has largely disappeared. By 2024 it’s become a quarterback’s game.

Trite Phrases That Are Used During Offense and Defense Situations

  • “They’re fired up today.”
  • “He’s one of the great stories in the league this year.”
  • “He’s looking for a flag.”
  • “We have to tackle better in the second half” or “We have to establish the run game” (reported by sideline reporters as if it was important news).
  • “The momentum has changed.”
  • “It’s a game for the sages.”

Trite Phrases Not Used As Often As Those Above, Which Are Confusing To The Novice Viewer

  • “He. has a long yard to go” and a few minutes later, “He has a short yard to go.”
  • “He knows the game”
  • “He came to play.”
  • “There’s still a lot of game left.”
  • “He really knows who he is,” which can be used to describe an offensive or defense player or one who has suffered a concussion.

Perhaps less trite phrases would be used if as a punishment play-by-play announcers were forced to continually listen to other announcer’s trite commentary.

There are also scratching your head happenings:

  • During the AFC divisional playoff between the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens on Jan. 20, did Joe Buck think he was announcing a basketball game when he said that Texans’ running back Devin Singletary tried to “bounce it to the outside?
  • Jim Nantz, used similar verbiage during the Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills the following day. I’ve seen hundreds of football games. but I’ve never seen a player “bounce” himself or the ball.
  • NBC used actor Jeff Daniels do the lead-in to the Jan.21 NFC divisional game between Tampa Bay and Detroit made as much sense to me as when Fox had Mick Jagger do the lead-in to last year’s World Series.

Question: How come in the year 2024, are females limited in most assignments to just sideline reporting, instead of being in the announcer booth?

Since I have a life other than watching every football game played during a season, there might be some announcers who don’t overuse trite phrases. But I can only report on the ones I see on a continual bases.

Of those, I view Cris Collinsworth, the color commentator on NBC’s SNF is the best. He uses his airtime to analyze plays so that even novice viewers can understand what’s happening. Collinsworth doesn’t execute through trite phrases.

Along with play caller Mike Tirico, whose Olympic coverage for NBCUniversal I find faulty, because of his glossing over controversial subjects, I find his partnership with Collinsworth a plus, because Cris limits his analysis and does so with a chuckle.

Tirico is no Al Michaels (few are) and when Michaels teamed with Collinsworth, I thought that there were few who are. I also like Troy Aikman, but I don’t think he explains field activities with the depth of Cris. Still, some people disagree and think Aikman is the best, which I can understand.

Aikman also deserves kudos for being unafraid to criticize officials, and his pre-game analysis is top notch, and when it doesn’t pan out he’s not afraid to admit it. And, while Joe Buck is no Al Michaels, I always thought the criticism of Joe is overblown. Rounding out the top three in my opinion are Greg Olsen of Fox. He’s in the same class as Collinsworth and Aikman and deserves to stay on the job. His analysis during the Detroit-San Francisco playoff game might be the best I’ve heard all season.

In  addition to trite expressions, there are other comments by game announcers that I find ridiculous, especially why they make such a big deal over minutia, like when a quarterback says “Omaha” or “Here we go” before the snap of the ball. I also can’t decide if the most over hyped comments by announcers were their zeroing in on the Taylor Swift- Travis Kelce relationship or the New York Giants QB Tommy DeVito living at home with his parents, or being nicknamed Tommy Cutlet.

But a special congratulatory shout out to NBC’s Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge, who teamed for the wild card game between the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans. They went the entire game using proper English without one trite expression or resorting to histrionics. In my opinion the best called game I’ve seen this season. Let’s make note of the fact that Noah is all of 26 and Todd is 62.

Throughout the season meaningless stats were a staple of most all football broadcasters (as they are with announcer of all sports). During the wild card playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys on Jan 14, Fox announcers made a big deal of Packers’ running back Aaron Jones gaining more yards against the Cowboys than any other running back. Meaningless because the make-up of past Cowboys teams were completely different than this one, as were their opponents. There’s s a race track saying that announcers should remembers about record-breaking stats: “Different horses for different courses.”

I’ve long believed that comparing athletes of different eras is as ridiculous as comparing the Wright Brothers airplane with today’s jets, or when Mike Tirico said that the Detroit Lions coach was a teenager the last time the Lions were in the Super Bowl, or when he said in the January 14 wild card playoff game between the Lions and the Los Angeles Rams and after the successful conversion of an extra-point that the kicker “just sneaked in it.”

Question: Do veteran play-by-play announcers really get excited after describing a better than average play they’ve seen hundreds of times, or is the raising of their voices just another show biz shtick?

Question: In the Kansas City-Baltimore playoff game what did analyst Tony Romo mean when he said after a fumble that “In games like this the ball matters more than any game?”

It’s not just the use of trite expressions and meaningless stats that annoy me.

It’s also how some broadcasters – Tony Romo in particular – fall in love with a word and use them to describe different situations. In his English usage column in the Feb. 17-18 Wall Street Journal, Ben Zimmer wrote that Romo uses the word “leverage” so often that Esquire writer Charles P. Pierce tweeted, “Archimedes (Greek physicist) did not say ‘leverage’ as much in his entire life as Tony Romo has said it in the last  10 minutes.”

And one last note from my football notebook before it’s tossed into my fireplace: During MNF’s December 11th  telecast, ESPN and ABC used a split screen showing both the Giants-Packers and Titans-Dolphins games, reducing the pictures of the games to the point of almost needing a magnifying glass to watch them. Bad and annoying television.

Of course no column about trite phrases would be complete without using the ones spoken by players or a coach after a football win: “We take it one game at a time.” And after a loss, “We have to regroup and prepare for next week’s game.” And there’s always, “It was a team effort.”

Finally, I’d rather see a cutaway of Taylor Swift joyfully whooping it up after Jason Kelce makes a play, than those way too often meaningless shots of coaches on the sidelines looking at a play sheet.

Oops. Just as I was about to end this column, I got a tip from a source in the New York State governor’s office. Due to the consistent poor play of the New York Giants and Jets, the clubs will be sued for using false advertising and continuing to identify themselves as New York teams. As such, they are actually New Jersey teams, not New York!

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Arthur Solomon

Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications and consults on public relations projects. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com.

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Michael Green
2 months ago

I’ve been waiting for New York to demand that they change their names …. My next choice would be Los Angeles demanding that the Angels quit referring to themselves that way since, first, they are not in LA and, second, if translated into English, they are calling themselves the Angels Angels of Anaheim.