Monday, November 10, 2008

Al Michaels is Gollum, but for Timeouts

Al Michaels has always been the voice of conservative (not just politically) conventional wisdom.  If a team is down 17 points, and they are at faced with a 4th down and 1 yard to go within Field Goal kicking range, they should always kick the field goal, even if that 4th and 1 is on the 2 yard line.  You can't, they say, leave points off the board.  Which I (an admitted outsider to the rules and superstitions of the game of football) have never quite understood.  You can kick a field goal from 30, 40, 50 yards away.  Field goal position is easy to come by; being down by the goal line is tough.

But that's just a minor beef with Al Michaels.  And honestly, just about every NFL analyst.  They all assume the conventional wisdom, and it is in part why every coach does exactly what the conventional wisdsom says.  Better to lose by 14 points, having never gotten the ball back, then lose by 17, having never gotten the ball back, apparently.

But Al Michaels, of late, seems positively obsessed with the issue of timeouts.  He talks about them constantly.  Starting at the proverbial starting gun of timeouts:  which is whenever the first one is taken, no matter how legitimate that timeout is, Al is quick to note, "They are down to their last two time-outs."  

And God help you, Sunday Night Football Coaches, if you take 2 timeouts early on in either half, because you will have Al Michaels excitedly yelling, "And now they are down to just ONE TIME OUT."  As if the goal of the game were to hoard those timeouts, keep them close by, and unleash them in a furor of game-stopping fury.   If you lose a challenge, and use a timeout shortly thereafter, Al Michaels will swoop on you, like a Valkyrie, carrying your wasted stoppages up to Timeout Valhalla, whilst lamenting your feebleminded need to stop the clock at the present time, when you never know when you might need to stop the clock later.  Al Michaels clearly believes that every team should end each half with 3 timeouts, unless they are being used in a last minute, desperation drive.  Every other use of them is absolute bullshit.

You think I'm exaggerating to make a point.  You think that I'm being an overly critical blogger looking for an Old Unhealthy Media Scalp.  But you watch on Sunday night.  More importantly, watch on Sunday morning and afternoon, and then watch Sunday Night.  Al Michaels talks more about timeouts than any other commentator in the business.  He talks more about it than the score.  "Oh boy, this team is down 17 and having wasted 2 timeouts on challenges, they are in real trouble. "  

He says things like that.  Look--stopping the clock is nice; it opens up the middle of the field, and maybe allows an extra running play.  But for that team down 17 points, the major problem that they are facing is that they are down 17 points!  I know that seems obvious to you and to me, but for Michaels, the timeouts are The Precious; anything is possible if you can just stop the clock one more time.

We are about 2 years away from Al Michaels starting the broadcast in this fashion:  "New York kicks off to Carolina.  Carolina returns the ball to the 25 yard line, and they are down to just three timeouts."


Anonymous said...

He's the only commentator on television that knows exactly what he's talking about. Three weeks ago, he was totally onto Belichick screwing up his timeouts and IT CAME BACK TO COST HIM. Then, he was all over Andy Reid in the Philly-Giant game and it CAME BACK TO COST THE EAGLES. In a world full of mediocrities, you're on Michaels' case???
Stop being a dolt.

Big Blue Monkey 2: The Quickening said...

Dear Anonymous (Al Michaels?):

The thing that cost the Eagles the game was being down 12 points with less than 10 minutes left to play. The timeouts may or may not have contributed to the loss, but being in a 2 score hole with over 75% of the game had more to do with it.

As for the Patriots game against the Colts, I think such "dolts" as EVERYBODY disagree with your take. Here's the AP: "Of their four time-consuming scoring drives, three resulted in field goals, and Jabar Gaffney dropped a sure touchdown pass late in the third quarter. Then there was tight end David Thomas, who drew a 15-yard dead ball penalty that pushed New England out of field-goal range with 4:45 to go in the game. It sealed the Patriots fate."

You see, mistakes happen all through the game, and you can't predict when or will a timeout will help you. They have been known to hurt, like when a coach calls one to freeze a kicker who kicks a miss, and then comes back to hit the winner.

I stand by my point, Anonymous. And I suggest that you sir, are the dolt--and a bit of a jerk, too. No worries--that's your cross to bear.

Big Blue Monkey 2: The Quickening said...

Also, "The only commentator on TV who knows what he's talking about" is laughable on its face.

Clearly, Ron Jaworski is the best color man on the TV. I'll argue that Ron Pitts in the most underrated play-by-play guy in the Fox stable.