Fox’s Jekyll and Hyde game: Showing it all one minute, getting squeamish the next


Ndamukong Suh received plenty of air time for his stomp against the Packers. (Carlos Osorio/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Fox needs to decide what kind of network it wants to be. Is it a serious NFL network that’s going to give us the good with the bad and show us what’s really going on, or is it going to whitewash the game for its NFL overlords?

Last weekend, it seemed like it was doing both, sometimes in the same game.

Thursday, during the Lions-Packers game, the network had no trouble showing Ndamukong Suh’s stomping of Green Bay’s Evan Dietrich-Smith repeatedly. And as unappetizing as that was, that’s also as it should be. Suh’s actions were wrong — as was his postgame “explanation” (lie). He finally told the truth and admitted he was at fault, but then appealed his two-game suspension. That’s one confused dude.

Sunday, the Redskins and Seahawks began exchanging words and shoves during the pregame coin toss, and the jawing and shoving continued throughout the entire first half. Yet Fox’s cameras were often elsewhere. Viewers could see players on the sideline reacting to what was happening on the field — but not what was happening on the field. Once during a skirmish, Fox sent us to the studio for a really important “game break” to show a touchdown from another game.

The announcers — Jim Mora and Ron Pitts — weren’t ignoring the scrums. That’s what made it particularly annoying; they kept talking about how the coaches would take care of the shenanigans at halftime. Okay, I think we’d all grasped that concept. I think what we didn’t grasp was 1) what shenanigans and 2) why the heck they were happening.

Since when did the Redskins and Seahawks become the Hatfields and McCoys of the NFL? They aren’t in the same division. Neither team is in danger of making the playoffs, although for once the Redskins’ division is the easier mark. Are they angry in Seattle over the way the Redskins treated Jim Zorn?

At the end of the half, Fox finally gave in and showed us a montage of what we’d missed — and it was an eye opener that included players from both teams being slung all over the field, in bounds, out of bounds, everywhere but into the stands.

I’m not complaining about the montage or the slinging it showed, mind you. Without the harmless slap fights, that first half was as enervating as an Ambien smoothie. I just don’t understand why Fox starts each telecast with giant animated robots slamming into each other, but gets missish when two large men go helmet to helmet and yell at each other.

This is the same network that, in its pregame intro, lists all the Very Important Events it covers in a deep, important voice — NASCAR, the NFL, the World Series — and it tucks the UFC in there like perhaps we won’t notice. Fox has tried some cross-promotion between the UFC and the NFL with what I thought were mixed results. (Frank Caliendo may have set mixed martial arts back a few years by showing a clip from Jay Glazer’s workout video during one of his bits.)

I’m no fan of mixed martial arts, but I understand its popularity is growing and Fox Sports is committed to showing UFC on its various networks (including Fox) next season. Like anything else on TV, I may not like it, but I’m not being forced to watch it, either. It seems mild in comparison to some of the video games I’ve seen, and even in comparison to what some shoppers will do to purchase consoles on which to play those video games.

But if I choose to watch an NFL game, or a UFC match, or whatever is on offer, I’d like to see the whole thing, warts and all.

If Fox has the stomach to televise mixed martial arts, surely it can show us the standard extracurricular activity you find in any NFL game.

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