If Rick Sanchez’s debut as FIU’s radio analyst was designed to be a parody of Rick Sanchez and awful announcing, it would have been dead-on --- so unspeakably bad and unintentionally amusing that it sounded, at times, like a Saturday Night Live skit.
FIU fans, with a rising, talented team, deserve a better radio product. And when the Panthers play at Louisville on Friday, they can only hope Sanchez -- a skilled albeit polarizing news anchor -- isn’t as woefully miscast in a football booth as it seemed in his first game on WMCU-1080 AM.
Many FIU fans will be spared Sanchez’s radiocast because Friday’s game is also on ESPN, with Bob Wischusen and Bob Davie on the call.
So where do we start with Sanchez? Do you have a few hours?
### He seemed determined to sabotage play-by-play man Tony Calatayud’s call of last week’s opener by interrupting him repeatedly or shouting childbirth-type sounds over him. Even more galling: Several times Sanchez shouted over Calatayud to give an inaccurate description.
On an FIU fumble, Sanchez yelled, “Wesley Carroll gets it back! Wesley Carroll gets it back! No, he didn’t!” Or this one: “What a catch! It appears to be a no catch!”
Then there were the times Sanchez interrupted Calatayud to shout a North Texas player “got nothing” even when the ball-carrier gained a few yards. He said North Texas was going for it on fourth down even when the punt unit had been sent out.
### A few times, Sanchez said “wait until you see the replay” or “watch the replay,” which suggested he forgot he was broadcasting on radio.
### Sanchez’s call was a carnival of clichés. The running back “is going to live to play another down.” The game “is what it is.” And “if you look in the dictionary, the definition of versatility is [FIU running back] Kendrick Rhodes.”
And “this team is moving the ball like a machine. That’s what it’s about.” And it’s “21-0 before the blink of an eye.” And “he didn’t get into the end zone but you know he wanted it.” And T.Y. Hilton “is lightning in a bottle,” but “one player does not a team make.” And on and on, enough to induce nausea.
### Much of Sanchez’s commentary was master-of-the-obvious stuff. On a play that gained no yards, Sanchez said, “Just goes to show, every once in a while, it’s not going to work.” Or, “experience counts for something. That’s important!”
He enlightened us that the running back’s “mission there was make sure you get the yardage.” (As opposed to all the other plays.) And North Texas giving up large chunks of yards “is not what you want to do.” You don’t say?
### Sanchez was big on hyperbole. “Wesley Carroll made a pass as well as anyone throwing on Sundays!”
And “Carroll’s throw was as good as any I’ve seen all season.” (Hey, Rick, it’s the first quarter of the first night of the season!) That line especially amused us, as well as Sanchez oddly saying that one FIU run “was up the center’s butt,” which sounds painful.
### Sanchez also spewed a lot of nonsense. “Lateral movement is the key to a good team,” he declared. Never heard that one before. The lateral movement topic fascinated Sanchez. “You find it only in very special backs in this league,” he said later. (The Sun Belt?) Sanchez also wanted us to know “finesse is a wonderful thing in football.”
On one play, FIU didn’t set its defense in time “because it’s hot out here” at 8:15 at night, Sanchez explained.
With FIU way ahead, Sanchez observed, “They’re getting conservative. I don’t know if it’s pre-designed or just the way it is.” Memo to Sanchez: The coordinator is calling the plays. It isn’t a coincidence.
### He never let the broadcast breathe. Sanchez talked and talked, as if he feared oxygen would be cut off to the booth if he stopped.
Positives? Sanchez was energetic and prepared in the sense that he could, in general terms, discuss the skills of several FIU players.
Some advice: Think before you open your mouth. Don’t feel compelled to speak if you don’t have something meaningful to say. Stay away from eye-rolling clichés. And don’t even think about talking before Calatayud finishes calling the play.
Sanchez, who lost his job at CNN last fall after saying that Jews are not an oppressed minority, has said he is not getting paid for the FIU gig.
He has two sons enrolled there and said in a previous phone interview, “If in some way my being there helps them sell an extra ad, then great. It helps them brand a little more.”
NEW NFL DEAL
The NFL on Thursday extended ESPN’s Monday Night Football deal another eight years, through 2021, with ESPN agreeing to boost its annual rights fee from $1.1 billion to $1.9 billion. The NFL reserves the right to give ESPN a wild card playoff game whenever it chooses.
Also new in the deal:
### Sunday NFL Countdown will start an hour earlier (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and add a second set with Suzy Kolber, Bill Parcells and Merril Hoge.
### NFL Live expands to one hour a day (4 p.m. on ESPN). On some nights, it will continue to re-air at midnight or 12:30 a.m. on ESPN2.
### ESPN2 will debut a new interactive weekday show, NFL32, in which Kolber and Chris Mortensen discuss news of the day. That will air at 6 p.m. weekdays on ESPN2.
AROUND THE DIAL
Joe Rose said he and Bob Griese have not discussed how they will split up analyst duties alongside Jimmy Cefalo when Griese joins them for the first time Monday on WINZ-940’s Dolphins broadcasts.
“It will happen on the job,” Rose said. “We haven’t worked together and it takes time.”
Rose said he will good-naturedly rib Griese at times, and Griese has been a good sport about that when Nat Moore teases him on preseason games. Griese is replacing the late, great Jim Mandich in the Dolphins’ radio booth.
### Dan Le Batard’s new weekday ESPN2 show debuts at 4 p.m. Monday. But because it will air on same-day tape, he will not miss segments of his 3-7 p.m. radio show on 790 The Ticket.
### NFL Sunday Ticket, featuring CBS and Fox broadcasts of all games, will be available for free Sunday on DirecTV. The NFL’s RedZone channel also will be free Sunday on DirecTV and cable systems that carry it, including Comcast and AT&T U-Verse.