In a Word, Wordy

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By Norman Chad
Monday, December 4, 2006

When Bryant Gumbel made critical comments about the NFL before this season, outgoing NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue suggested that Gumbel might be relieved of his new duties as play-by-play broadcaster for NFL Network games. As it turns out, the NFL shouldn't have fired Gumbel for his remarks, it should've dumped him because his play-by-play work, well, stinks.

Gumbel once was lord and master of "The Today Show." He might be -- next to Ted Koppel -- the best live interviewer in television over the past generation. He is smarter, sharper and more studied than most every sports broadcaster.

And, at the moment, he makes Homer Simpson sound like Al Michaels.

(Of course, many of you probably haven't heard Gumbel doing games because you don't have NFL Network yet. As Gumbel instructs, you should contact IWantNFLNetwork.com. How about CantBryantGoBackToMorningTV.com?)

Gumbel is unspectacular and uninspired -- his play-by-play voice flat, his play-by-play sensibilities pedestrian. He is wordy and windy, seemingly without emotion or care.

It's like listening to an insurance underwriter giving last rites to the family gerbil.

(I'd like to take a moment here to speak directly to Gumbel's NFL partner, analyst Cris Collinsworth. Cris, you're good, often very good. But you don't have to prove how much you know about football after every play. Ease up here and there. Smell the autumn air. Let the broadcasts breathe -- we need a break now and then. Heck, last week I hit the mute button so often, it filed workmen's comp charges against me.)

Beyond Gumbel's stylistic shortcomings, there are substantive flaws in his game mechanics. See if you notice a trend in Gumbel's play-by-play:

"Johnson finds running room off the left side."

"Plummer looking downfield as he rolls right."

"The give is to Lewis, who tries the left side."

"Palmer will throw on first down, looking right."


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