NFL TV views from the couch:
### Opining on social issues, during NFL broadcasts, can be quite dicey for sportscasters. But that slippery slope hasn’t deterred several NFL voices from speaking out, in the wake of the murder/suicide committed by Kansas City Chief Javon Belcher and Josh Brent’s drunk driving incident that left Cowboys teammate Jerry Brown dead.
Many of you know that NBC’s Bob Costas precipitated a firestorm when he implied, during a halftime essay, that gun control would help prevent situations such as Belcher’s. “If Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kassandra Perkins would both be alive today,” Costas said.
But CBS’ James Brown elicited virtually no reaction when he linked violent behavior to profane language in music videos, because well, that topic isn’t nearly as explosive or controversial or polarizing as gun control.
“Three women per day – on average – are being killed by their husbands or boyfriends,” Brown said last Sunday on The NFL Today. “That means that since Kassandra Perkins’ death last Saturday [Belcher shot her], at least 21 more women have met the same fate. Respecting and valuing women should seem to be a no-brainer, but profane language in music, the locker room or anywhere else that degrades or devalues women could contribute to attitudes or beliefs that are destructive and potentially violent.
“A 2006 study demonstrated that with proper coaching and leadership, teenagers can successfully change their attitudes and behaviors toward women. By why can’t more of us grown men do that as well? Three more women will pay with their lives today and they don’t have to. I certainly pray that we men are fed up enough and hurt enough to do and say more about these critical issues, because right now, the silence is deadly.”
Some who criticized Costas suggested that commenting on a social issue wasn’t appropriate for an NFL broadcast. But would they also say that about Brown’s essay? Or would their perspective be skewed because they agree with Brown but not with Costas?
The view here: There is nothing objectionable with venturing outside the box and addressing meaningful social issues in a thoughtful way during NFL coverage, provided the matter is timely.
Where Costas self-admittedly erred is leaving his comments “open to misinterpretation” and not having enough time to specifically explain and justify his position.
But giving an opinion? No problem with that here, no matter what stance Costas took.
### Unfortunately, Rob Parker’s analysis on ESPN’s First Take was neither thoughtful nor enlightened when he commented this week about Robert Griffin III saying he did not want to be defined as an African-American quarterback.
“My question,” Parker said, “is: ‘Is he a brother or is he cornball brother?’ He’s not really. He’s black, he does his thing, but he’s not really down with the cause. He’s not one of us. He’s kind of black, but he’s not really like the kind of guy you really want to hang out with.” To defend his argument, Parker foolishly mentioned that Griffin "has a white fiancee."
Stephen A. Smith, the voice of reason in this case, said: “I’m uncomfortable with where we just went” and his “ethnicity… is none of our business.”
FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE: ESPN has suspended Parker indefinitely for his comments.
### For all the fanfare about NBC’s flexible scheduling, it will end up having a very modest impact this season.
For the first six weeks when flex scheduling is permitted, only one game (Chargers-Jets on Dec. 23) ended up being replaced, by 49ers-Seahawks. The league also chooses a game for NBC on Dec. 30.
ESPN, without a Monday night flex option, is stuck with Jets-Titans on Dec. 17 and Lions-Falcons for its Dec. 22 finale (a Saturday). ESPN pays nearly twice as much a year as NBC does, but the league says it would be too difficult logistically to flex games from Sunday to Monday.
### South Florida’s ratings for Dolphins games remain the worst in the country for the home team; Sunday’s 14.6 for Dolphins-49ers was easily the worst for any team in its home market. Next worst: 17.2 percent of Phoenix residents watched the Cardinals’ 58-0 loss at Seattle.
### ESPN’s Stuart Scott has become practically unwatchable when he’s anchoring Monday Night Football SportsCenter postgame shows. Either he’s overhyping and overselling everything – “you won’t believe what we’re going to show you next!” – or he’s saying things like this: That touchdown pass by Colin Kaepernick “was straight out stupid. Stupid! Stupid! That means good, Steve [Young].”
### Nobody butchers names in highlights more than CBS’ Dan Marino. He called Jacksonville’s Rashad Jennings two names, neither correct: Rashard Jennings and Reshad Jenkins, referred to Arizona quarterback Ryan Lindley as “Leyland,” and Colts tight end Coby Fleener as “Fleenery.”
### Kudos to ESPN president John Skipper for telling his producers to pull back coverage of Tim Tebow. Unfortunately, it came about a year too late.
### Still wondering what Fox’s Troy Aikman meant when he said he “would not have been as accommodating as Alex Smith was” after being replaced by Kaepernick. Aikman should have elaborated, or Joe Buck should have asked him to.
### When Bill Cowher is the subject of coaching rumors, CBS asks him to address them on the air. ESPN either can’t be bothered to do that with Jon Gruden or is afraid doing it might upset him. Gruden, in fact, has never said he will definitely stick to television during the length of his four-year ESPN deal, and his employer – for whatever reason – isn’t willing to ask.
### Best retort of the season: ESPN’s Ron Jaworski, making a guest appearance on Showtime’s Inside the NFL, told Phil Simms to listen to something Jaws was saying because “it may help your broadcasts.” Snapped Simms: “At least I’m still doing broadcasts!” Jaworski was removed from Monday Night Football before the season.
### Oddest response: Fox’s Terry Bradshaw, asked by Curt Menefee to name the most surprising team of the year, responded: “It doesn’t matter what I think.” Then why are you there, Terry?
### Amusing to see Cowher mock Steve Spurrier for saying Alabama could beat a couple of NFL teams. Spurrier’s “record in the NFL speaks for itself,” Cowher said. That would be 12-20.