Always innovative, Fox has made one sharp move and another horrible one this season.
The decision to hire former NFL director of officiating Mike Pereira has paid big dividends. The network has used him judiciously, plopping him in the Los Angeles studios and having him chime in on game broadcasts when needed.
Entering Week 15, Pereira was 45-for-46 in predicting the outcome of replay challenges. He also has told viewers what plays cannot be challenged and pointed out incorrect calls.
For example, Pereira noted, "You can tackle a guy by the hair" and a horse-collar penalty should not necessarily be called. When Troy Aikman said a "leverage" penalty should not have been called against the Colts on a Dallas field goal, Pereira set him straight, saying it was the right call.
But why would Fox experiment with background music on NFL games? The project is still in the early stages; Fox has used the music on select plays (and replays) in two December games. But the fact that Fox has spoken of using it more, including possibly on the Super Bowl, is alarming. Crowd noise should be the only background sound over announcers at sporting events. This isn't a movie or TV sitcom.
AROUND THE DIAL
• Kudos to Fox for smartly leaving its cameras rolling inside the Metrodome the night before the Giants-Vikings game that was postponed. That's why Fox was able to capture that incredible audio/video of the Metrodome roof collapsing.
• Terrific point by NBC's Cris Collinsworth: "I never understood why teams use shotgun on 3rd-and-1. You're giving up what you have to defend most."
• Fox's Terry Bradshaw said the Steelers' pass-heavy approach "is not how you win a Super Bowl." Huh? That's exactly how Indianapolis, New Orleans, St. Louis and others won Super Bowls in the past decade, though they obviously could run when they needed to.
• But Bradshaw was dead-on when he predicted the Patriots' Tom Brady would flourish in the snow at Chicago because "30-mile-per-hour winds don't bother teams with short passing games and tight spirals."
• Fox's John Lynch was full of baloney when he said, "There's not a lot of difference between 1 and 32 in the league." Has he seen Carolina and New England?
• For several minutes, Fox mishandled the final minute of the Week 14 Tampa Bay-Washington game, when it appeared the Redskins were given an extra down. (Washington scored a touchdown but missed the extra point.) Daryl Johnston made a quick reference to it, but it took Kenny Albert nearly five minutes to even mention it. And Tony Siragusa spewed his usual clichés — "Anything can happen. It isn't over until the fat lady sings." — before telling us that Washington was, in fact, not given an extra down, but that Fox had not realized that the Redskins had achieved a fresh set of downs a few plays earlier.
• Does CBS know how obnoxious it sounds when it repeatedly tells us that its pregame show was the highest-rated the previous week? Every time it happens, James Brown mentions it. Who cares?
Barry Jackson covers sports media for the Miami Herald.