It’s probably not entirely fair to immediately single out the incontestably worst element of Fox’s first broadcast featuring two AFC teams in its 21 years as the television home of NFC games.
Guess what? Forget fair. Fox lost all rights to a fair and balanced critique of its broadcast because of one lousy conscious decision that offset any appealing aspects of Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston’s call.
Sunday’s Patriots-Bills broadcast, which was “cross-flexed” from CBS to Fox under new guidelines that permit a limited number of games in Weeks 5-10 to switch networks if the league perceives it to be under-distributed by the original rights holder, was fine. Nothing was lost in the translation from one network to the other.
But Fox made one mistake so aggravating, so callously typical of what the league deems important, that it must be immediately denounced.
With approximately eight minutes remaining in the first half, Albert and Johnston welcomed a guest into the booth — new Bills owner Terry Pegula.
A cameo in the booth by Pegula? Well, sure, that’s understandable, if uninspiring. It was a day that served as his official introduction to Bills fans as just the second owner in franchise history. His vow to keep the Bills in Buffalo when Toronto is beckoning has already made him something of a local hero.
There’s no problem with saying hello. The problem is when no one — Pegula, a handler, Albert, or anyone in charge of Fox’s broadcast — has the good sense to say goodbye when something far more relevant than a Meet The New Boss moment is occurring on the field.
Pegula, wearing a No. 1 Bills jersey roughly 3½ sizes too large, was three questions into the especially tedious interview when it became apparent to viewers that something of note had just happened during the game.
A circle of Patriots players surrounded an injured teammate while he was being tended to by the training staff. Albert identified him as Jerod Mayo, the Patriots’ essential inside linebacker.
But Fox didn’t linger. It followed protocol when a player is down on the field. It went to a commercial, seizing the unexpected opportunity to move some product.
Four commercials and a promo for the night’s National League Championship Series game later, Fox returned just barely in time to show a quick live shot of Mayo being carted down the tunnel, followed by a quicker wince-inducing replay of how he was injured. Then Johnston offered some banalities on how an athlete knows his body.
You can almost hear the voice in Albert’s headset: All good? Got this covered? OK, back to the important stuff.
Ask him the next question: Say, Mr. Pegula, any of the other owners give you advice?
Yep. The multibillionaire in the No. 1 jersey was still there, hovering around for a second segment, even after a key injury that could have changed the tenor of the game, just as awkward and out of place as he was before the break.
“Uhhh, enjoy it,’’ he said, responding to Albert’s question. “That’s . . . pretty much what the guys said to me . . . It’s an exclusive privilege . . . and enjoy it.”
Enjoy it. Now there’s an easy deep-thought for him to share. Chances are he’ll never be hauled off the field on the back of a cart.
That’s a perfect microcosm of the corporate coldness of the NFL and its broadcast enablers, isn’t it? A relevant player is hauled out of sight with an injury, drawing cursory mention, while the newest member of the exclusive ownership club of 32 is propped up as an important man we should care about.
I should note that when Albert and Johnston focused on the game, they were fine, even insightful at times. But there is absolutely no need for Tony Siragusa’s bellowed inanities from the sideline.
A two-man broadcast is ideal under all circumstances, actually, no matter how loud Siragusa yells, and no matter how many owners want their third-man-in moment.