Reality Ruins Hollywood Ending

Tony Kornheiser assesses the legacy of Joe Gibbs 2.0, the BCS championship game and Mr. Blackwell's worst-dressed woman.
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By Leonard Shapiro
Special to
Tuesday, January 8, 2008; 1:17 PM

In a perfect Hollywood world, the Washington Redskins would have held on to beat the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday, then won three more playoff games to honor the memory of their murdered teammate, Sean Taylor, and give Joe Gibbs his fourth career Super Bowl title before he walked off into the sunset, heading toward a NASCAR garage just on the other side of a rainbow.

But as Gibbs himself demonstrated Tuesday in announcing his resignation as team president and head coach, this is the real world, despite the impression NBC play-by-play announcer Tom Hammond would have had us believe when the Redskins tied the game at 13-all on a Santana Moss touchdown catch. At that point, Hammond just had to say "and Sean Taylor watches from the heavens above!!!"

Only a few minutes earlier, the usually far more rational analyst Cris Collinsworth, arguably the best in his business, informed viewers that "there are guys on the sidelines talking to Sean Taylor, and whether you believe it or not, they do. The magic with Sean Taylor is starting to happen again."

Clearly, this was not CC's best work.

Later on in the broadcast, when the Seahawks regained their composure, and a comfortable lead on their way to a wild-card round playoff victory, Taylor's name was rarely mentioned again. The Hollywood ending story line was over and done with, and it was time to abandon that heaven-sent theme and move the broadcast in a different earthly direction toward some frozen Wisconsin tundra.

The broadcasters focused instead on Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren's return to Green Bay, where he once took the Packers to a Super Bowl title, and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who played for him there as a back-up to Brett Favre. The Sean Taylor magic was gone, and quickly forgotten, as if he'd somehow stopped watching "from the heavens above."

By no means is any of this meant to denigrate the memory of Taylor, or the Redskins remarkable late-season run to the postseason in the four games following his funeral in the Miami suburbs. It was a story you had to write and talk about all along the way, because the Redskins were playing such spirited football down the stretch, no doubt inspired by Taylor's memory and Gibbs' Hall of Fame ability to do his best work in times of crisis.

"If your team is not in the playoffs, you have to root for the Redskins," NBC's Keith Olbermann said in the pre-game show. "It's the best story in football."

But NBC's production Saturday started with a predictable pre-game piece every media organization in the country had already done focusing on Taylor's teammates talking about their fallen comrade. That was followed by the above mentioned remarks during the game from Hammond and Collinsworth, and it all seemed just a tad over the top, and even a bit exploitive.

As Olbermann said, the Redskins already were a great story, with no further heavenly references necessary.

Rocket Man Fizzles

Talk about must-see TV, it doesn't get much better than Monday's live broadcast of Roger Clemens's first news conference since he was mentioned as a steroid abuser in the Mitchell Report on the use of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.

There was Clemens in such full fury at the injustice of it all that at one point his attorney, Rusty Hardin, had to pass him a note that read "lighten up." Clemens never really did, and if he'd had a baseball in his hand, he might have beaned every reporter in the room for not at least giving him, in his words, "the benefit of the doubt."

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