In Redskins-Cowboys Game, NBC Overcovers Romo's Pinkie

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By Leonard Shapiro
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, November 17, 2008; 3:00 PM

If it wasn't Romo, Romo, Romo on NBC's Football Night in America on Sunday, it was promo, promo, promo as the Redskins lost their second straight home game in front of a prime-time national television audience.

Of course, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's busted right pinkie was the main story line of the night, but after a while, there were only so many ways the broadcasters could say he was wearing a splint on his hand and it was probably going to have some effect on how he would throw and hand off the football.

My own choke point came in the second half, when John Madden put on a similar splint -- size XXXXL, no doubt -- and went off on a typical Madden riff that added nothing more to the discussion. And as the game wore on, it also became increasingly obvious that Romo was having little difficulty throwing the ball exactly where he wanted, including a 25-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter that eventually doomed the home team.

The Redskins also came into the game with an injury to one of their best players. But far less time in the booth was devoted to Washington running back Clinton Portis's wounded knee.

It might have helped to show a diagram of the knee joint showing exactly what the problem was and how it might affect his ability to run and cut. Where was the pregame interview with Portis to talk about his state of mind, like the chat sideline reporter Andrea Kremer had with Romo a few minutes before kickoff?

Why not try to get a trainer or team doctor on camera to describe what Portis had to go through over the last two weeks to get ready to run, and whether he was risking further serious injury by playing? (They could have that for Romo's injury, as well.)

And why was there no taped footage from that critical 15-minute pregame warmup, held 2 1/2 hours before kickoff and watched closely by Redskins coaches and medical men? Madden said at the start of the game that Portis "looked real good in the pregame warmups," but why not let viewers decide for themselves?

All of this is not to say that NBC's Sunday night football extravaganza is not without great merit. As long as you've got Madden and Al Michaels in the booth, you're going to get the most entertaining two-man pro football announcing team on television. And sideline reporter Kremer, arguably now the best in the business in a very tough job, always asks all the right questions and offers newsy nuggets whenever she gets a chance.

The production crew headed by veteran producer Michael Weisman covers games from all available angles, with multiple replay views on every critical play. My own personal preference would be to eliminate the clich├ęd shots of politically incorrect Chief Zee and the camera-hogging Hogettes in the stands, not to mention not always pointing a camera toward the owner's boxes to watch Jerry Jones stand there and fret, or Daniel Snyder sit there and scowl (a perfectly understandable look considering his team was unraveling down below).

Those shots are now all standard procedure for every network, but used to be a lot more fun back in the day at RFK Stadium, when the late Jack Kent Cooke and all the sparklies in his owner's box loved having their mugs on national television.

But back to the present.

Madden has plenty of critics out there carping that he's lost his fastball, and there are times when he really does state the obvious. At one point, he said of the Cowboys, "if you're going to be a championship team, you have to play like a championship team." So who didn't know that?


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