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Monday, December 26, 2020

the party's over
Yes, tonight’s the night: Monday Night Football, the NFL’s signature show, is leaving broadcast TV after 36 years. Appropriately enough, the final game, between New England and the New York Jets, is as meaningless as MNF has become.

I didn’t particularly make time for tonight’s game. I caught the beginning and the first quarter at The Hub — luckily (or not), the place was empty enough that I could actually hear the game while sipping my booze. But once I saw the archival footage of Howard Cosell, I was set.

I’m too young to have seen MNF in its glory days, when the Cosell-Meredith-Gifford troika made the show an event regardless of what happened on the field. The proliferation of satellite packages, ESPN’s Sunday Night Football, league expansion, and general oversaturation of the NFL led to the Monday night showcase becoming beside the point. As much of an NFL fan as I am, I’ve found myself passing on the week’s final game more often than not over the past few years; it’s simply been overkill, in my mind.

I will note, though, that it’s still a ratings powerhouse, even as it bows out. As is often the case, so much has been made of the decline in ratings over the past half-decade that people forget that the numbers are still better than most of what’s on the air. Sports programming is still as close to a sure-thing prospect as television has.

I’d also point out that part of what made MNF such a success was the way ABC branded it as its own little football universe, almost apart from the rest of the NFL. Chief way this was branded: Note how often the booth announcers referred to various Monday Night player performance records: Who had the most rushing yards in Monday night games, who appeared in more MNF games than anyone else, etc. Every time I heard one of these milestones announced, it struck me as sort of phony; and yet, I saw how effective it was to highlight these. You couldn’t really do that in any other sport. It punctuated how much MNF was an entity unto itself, that it could claim proprietary historical landmarks. Really, part of what sustained it for so long.

The game goes to ESPN next year, whilc the broadcast TV sheen shifts (somewhat) to NBC’s Sunday Night Football venture. In realistic terms, not much changes: ESPN and ABC are practically indistinguishable corporate sisters, so the money and infrastructure aren’t shifting much. And it’s not like the cable/broadcast divide is particularly significant anymore. Still, it represents something of a change. The uniqueness is gone, and I’m interested in seeing what will supplant it in the future.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/26/2005 11:47:48 PM
Category: Football, TV
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Saturday, December 24, 2021

There’s no BCS juice flowing at either the Outback Bowl in Tampa or the Capital One Bowl in Orlando. But both cities are hoping that enough eyeballs are watching to make their 60-second economic development pitches — tourism for Tampa Bay, tech company relocation for Orange County — effective.

Let’s hope Orlando’s new TV spots draw from a deeper talent well than past efforts:

As for the Capital One Bowl, which pits Auburn against Wisconsin, stuffing an economic development message into a 60-second ad is not easy, even when your pitchman - as was true for last year’s spot - is comedian Carrot Top. His fans, like the game’s, skew young and male.

Carrot Top… Wow. Hard to believe O-Town isn’t already a high-tech mecca today! (Please tell me the Metro Orlando EDC braintrust wasn’t swayed by Chairman of the Board…)

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/24/2005 02:17:45 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Florida Livin', Football
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Sunday, December 18, 2021

first down
I’ve said this before, but it struck me again tonight during the typical parade of erectile dysfunction, prostate remedy, and even (though this is more abstract) body spray/deodorant commercials on NFL Sunday Night Football:

Marketers assume that if you’re watching the NFL, you must have some sort of problem with your penis.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/18/2005 11:39:06 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Football
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Saturday, December 17, 2021

lost in the shuffle
This year’s edition of the Super Bowl might be XL, but there’s nothing “extra large” about the game’s ad sales so far. Direct competition from February’s Winter Olympics, and indirect competition from wireless and online media, are keeping the TV commercial pricetag flat, and even that’s not enough to keep perennial participants Visa and McDonald’s from passing this year.

Last year’s $2.4 million rate was a record for a Super Bowl 30-second TV spot, despite generally flat viewership for the past 10 years.

Assuming ABC and the NFL have a calendar, they should have known the Turin Olympics were coming, and were close enough to the big game to drain off some advertising dollars. I’d like to see the pertinent numbers from past years’ Winter Olympics/Super Bowl proximity, and see if this is or isn’t par for the course. I’d guess it is: As much hype as the Super Bowl gets as a primo ad bonanza, the Olympics attract a far broader audience (more women and kids than football does), and their lesser frequency would seem to merit more attention from national advertisers.

I think McDonald’s reason for bowing out is pretty funny:

Sources said McDonald’s was particularly miffed last year when its “Lincoln Fry” spot got spectacularly poor reviews among critics and consumers. The company had decided last year that if its spot didn’t make the top 10 in the USA Today poll, it would not be back in the ’06 game, sources said. McDonald’s had no comment.

It’s hard to believe McD’s put so much faith into that lame Lincoln Fry gimmicky ad, whose failure can be partly attributed to the employment of a fake blog. They should be miffed at the boneheads who greenlighted a really dumb concept. (Then again, this is probably a convenient excuse: McDonald’s traditionally puts a lot of resources into both Summer and Winter Olympics marketing, so I’d expect to see them really double-down on Turin.)

Could we see markedly less buzz this coming Super Sunday? Probably not, but at least there’ll be a little more variety in the lineup. And since ABC has the game, we can expect some really spectacular Disney movie promos.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/17/2005 02:35:56 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Football
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Monday, December 05, 2021

So with John Madden heading to NBC for next year’s Sunday Night Football broadcast show, who’s going to join him in the booth? Richard Sandomir makes a case for Chris Collinsworth:

A Madden-Collinsworth pairing would be a fascinating opportunity to hear two of the best analysts engage in the ultimate football conversation without a third voice between them (although one might argue that Buck nicely mediated the differing styles of Collinsworth and Aikman).

It’s kind of a default selection, though: The other best candidates are tied up at other networks. Nor is Collinsworth polished enough at play-by-play to be ready for a pairing with Madden. Frankly, I don’t think it’s a good choice: You’d basically have two color guys calling the game. I’d bet NBC finds a second-tier but experienced play-caller and have him do the heavy lifting, all the better to let Madden’s schtick shine through.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/05/2021 09:07:18 PM
Category: Football
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Tuesday, November 29, 2021

When your most noteworthy municipal characteristic is as a strip club mecca, it’s a constant challenge to top yourself.

I’m happy to see that Tampa is up to the challenge: A motorhome strip-club-to-go offered lap dances and booze near Raymond James Stadium on Buccaneers gameday this past Sunday, before the cops busted it down.

“We determined this was the fourth game this season where they had done this,” [Tampa police Sgt. Bill] Todd said. “I don’t understand what justification they think they had, bringing this to a family environment like a Bucs game.”

A Bucs game as a family environment? Yeah, right — stands filled with obnoxious louts getting drunk, scantily-clad cheerleaders, violent action on the field… Perfect place to mold young minds. Stripping action would fit right into this environment. (And yes, I am a football fan.)

In addition: It took the Tampa PD four games to figure out this was going on? Crack detective work there.

All that said, it was particularly stupid of the operators to think they would be able to pull this off. Established clubs operate under fairly constant threat of crackdowns, even when they’re following all the laws; a stunt like this had no chance of being allowed a free pass.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 11/29/2005 11:42:54 PM
Category: Florida Livin', Football
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Monday, November 21, 2021

in berman we trust
Yesterday, while plugging for tonight’s Monday Night Football tilt between the Packers and Vikings, Chris Berman unleashed his nickname for came-out-of-nowhere Packers RB Samkon Gado: Samkon “In Gado We Trust”.

Not bad, but certainly not a Berman best. Personally, I’d have gone with: Samkon “In-A-Gado-Da-Vida”. I’d think an Iron Butterfly reference would have been right up Berman’s alley.

Gado’s Nigerian heritage, and his position at running back, naturally prompts the question: Whatever happened to Christian Okoye, “The Nigerian Nightmare”?

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/21/2005 08:17:17 AM
Category: Football, Pop Culture
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Sunday, November 20, 2021

While watching the Browns’ 22-0 win over the Dolphins today, one fan near me kept cheering on Cleveland QB Trent Dilfer. She gave him a nickname: “Dilf”.

Upon hearing this, the first thing that came to mind was a scene from Paper Lion, where the George Plimpton character, when asked about his previous pro football experience, made up a semi-pro team in Canada called the Newfoundland Newfs. Dilf, Newf — the “f” closing sound is a bit unusual (unless you’re a dwarf or elf, I suppose).

Dilf. I suppose it’s nicer than my years-old nickname for the journeyman quarterback: “Dill-hole”.

(I posted something about Dilfer last Sunday; I hope this doesn’t become a trend.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/20/2005 09:52:36 PM
Category: Football
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Sunday, November 13, 2021

I realize I should know better than to listen to anything the ESPN Sunday Night Football crew say, but I couldn’t miss a curious comment just now, at the start of tonight’s Cleveland-Pittsburgh game.

One of the talking heads — either Joe Thiesmann or Mike Patrick — was ruminating on Browns QB Trent Dilfer. He was talking about how often he interviewed Dilfer during his draft year in 1994, and dropped a quip about how Dilfer had been coming out of Fresno State on the heels of dealing with a substance abuse problem.

Substance abuse? Dilfer? I don’t remember a thing about that, and I think I would. Dilfer was drafted sixth overall in the ‘94 draft by Tampa Bay; that was right at the time that I started working at the St. Petersburg Times Sports Department. I heard just about all the early buzz about Dilfer, and don’t recall a single thing about any sort of issues with him when he came out of college. In fact, he never would have been drafted as high as he was if he had drug/alcohol/performance enhancement baggage.

If you knew anything about Dilfer’s background, the idea of him as a doper is even more ludicrous. He’s Mr. Clean, a practical choirboy. He married his high school sweetheart while young, wears his cross on his sleeve, and is generally a straight shooter. It’s highly unlikely that he ever abused himself with anything more potent than a warm beer.

I think the Sunday Night crew had Dilfer confused with someone else. Easy slip of the tongue. But it’s important to cut something like this in the bud, before it gains life as a rumor.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/13/2005 09:08:04 PM
Category: Football
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Thursday, November 10, 2021

Man, you’d think two (now former) NFL cheerleaders never had sex in a public bathroom before.

But at least Renee Thomas and Angela Keathley are in good company:

- Percent of Americans who’ve engaged in some sort of public sex, according to a 2002 survey: 21

- Percentage of British people who’ve engaged in public sex, according to a 2004 survey: 60

- Percentage of couples who said they’d made love at a party, according to a 2002 survey: 32

- Percentage of couples who said they’d gotten frisky at the movies, according to the same survey: 18

- Year in which George Michael was arrested for lewd behavior in a public restroom: 1998

- Peak chart position of Digital Underground’s Humpty Dance, which includes the lyric, “I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom”: 11

Brilliant touch, invoking the Humpty Dance

What struck me as the funniest aspect of this whole thing was that they weren’t even in Tampa to work: Like any other travelling team, the Carolina Panthers don’t bring their cheerleading squad on the road. So this was purely extracurricular fun.

Personally, I think the Panthers were nuts to fire the pair. They should build a halftime show around them!

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/10/2021 11:56:00 PM
Category: Florida Livin', Football, Women
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Wednesday, November 02, 2021

I don’t check out the sports transaction wire as much as I used to. I was always primarily interested in the hockey moves, as that’s my favorite sport (and, with all the minor leagues and former CBA structure, afforded the most interesting player transaction moves). Therefore, last season’s lockout lessened the need for me to scan that little pile of agate type each day.

Hockey’s back, of course. And so my eyes are back to doing the spotcheck for trades, waives, releases and whatnot. And I’m glad, because today’s lineup brought this fun fact:

GREEN BAY PACKERS - Signed LB Atari Bigby.

I wonder if his middle name is “2600″ or “5200″

FURTHER THOUGHTS: It’s too bad the Packers don’t play Tennessee this season. We might have seen Atari Bigby tackle Titans first-round pick Adam “Pacman” Jones (yes, they’re both on defense, but there’s always special teams).

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/02/2021 02:00:19 PM
Category: Football, Videogames
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Sunday, October 30, 2021

the earth is our moon
During yesterday’s 46-15 Michigan State win over Indiana, the camera caught a funny crowd shot: A group of 15 or 20 Spartan fans, all dressed in lime green tshirts with Ignignokt’s face on them, with afro-wigs of the same color on top of their heads.

Always brings a smile to my face to see an “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” outcropping.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/30/2005 05:43:23 PM
Category: Football, TV
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Thursday, October 27, 2021

going hollywood
Only the NFL could manage to piss off not just one, but two cities while engineering a franchise relocation back to Los Angeles.

“We’re going to try to ride out the rest of this year the best way we can,” a source involved in the discussions said. “[The Saints] could very well spend another year in San Antonio. If you’re looking at it long-term, L.A. is a no-brainer. But I also think we need to give New Orleans and Louisiana a shot. We have absolutely no obligation to San Antonio. None.”

Way to kick the Crescent City while it’s down. Not that it should come as any surprise to New Orleanians; they’ve known for years that team owner Tom Benson has been itching for any excuse to move the team. It was going to happen eventually anyway, Katrina or not.

As for San Antonio, I guess it’s learned that it doesn’t pay squat to play gracious host to an NFL club. Where’s the motivation to court a future franchise? Not that it’ll stop boosters from continuing to mount future efforts…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/27/2005 09:28:32 PM
Category: Football
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Sunday, October 16, 2021

exciting and new
If you’re unsettled from reading about the Minnesota Vikings’ recent bye-week sex-scandal cruise, perhaps it’ll help to look at the incident as though it were a “Love Boat” episode.

I have to say, I’m severely disappointed in Bernie “Doc” Kopell’s behavior:

“No one’s bitching about Isaac and he was serving stiff drinks all night,” Doc hic-cupped. “But I serve a few stiffy pills, and people act like it’s malpractice!”

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/16/2005 09:45:18 PM
Category: Football, TV
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Thursday, October 06, 2021

run vinny run
It’s as though it were scripted: 41-year-old Vinny Testaverde, on the verge of retirement after going unsigned this season, returns as the Jets starter this Sunday versus the Bucs, the team where he started his career.

If there’s such a thing as karmic justice, Vinny will throw for 300 yards and a bunch of touchdowns in a trounce over Tampa Bay. It’s small compensation for ruining his career — all those INTs he accumulated in the orange creamsicle uniform pretty much blow his chances at entering the Hall of Fame — but it’ll provide momentary respite.

No, there’s not much chance of that. It’s doubtful the Jets can even beat the Buccaneers, and if they do, Vinny probably won’t be the reason. But here’s hoping.

UPDATE 10/10/05: Karma, baby. No 300 yards, no touchdown explosion, but Testaverde provided just enough stability to get the Jets the win, 14-12. Fitting.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/06/2021 09:11:25 PM
Category: Football
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Sunday, September 18, 2021

turn up the audio
It’s been awhile since I’ve heard Sterling Sharpe on the air. He’s doing color commentary for tonight’s Raiders-Chiefs game, paired with Mike Tirico, while the regular ESPN Sunday Night Football crew do tomorrow’s Katrina-rescheduled Saints-Giants game.

Sharpe sounds downright weird tonight. His voice has a pinched, nasally quality to it. I don’t remember him sounding like this during his old ESPN NFL Primetime studio gig.

In fact, I’ll go as far as to characterize Sharpe’s announcing voice tonight as nerdy. It reminds me of a cross between Steve Urkel and the Art Instruction Schools president (who’s top-of-mind, because his commercials are running during tonight’s game).

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/18/2005 10:53:55 PM
Category: Football, TV
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Monday, September 12, 2021

I’m wondering: Could “Monday Night Football” have come up a tune even more redneck than Tim McGraw’s “I Like It, I Love It” for its halftime week-in-review recap?

It’s not like it’s even a current song — it’s nearly ten years old, for crying out loud. Can’t be any sponsorship money behind it. And the song flat-out sucks, football-jiggered lyrics or not.

I guess I should thank ABC. Between that crap, and utter inanity of Jimmy Kimmel, I can safely switch channels as soon as the second quarter expires every Monday.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/12/2021 11:22:00 PM
Category: Football, TV
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Sunday, September 11, 2021

I’m sure Florida State University wideout De’Cody Fagg has heard it all before.

But now that he’s starting for the Seminoles and making plays, the play-by-play announcements of his name is making me double-take a bit more.

Maybe I should keep in mind the British colloquialism for cigarette. “Fagg is smokin’ ” would be an appropriate declaration during his more noteworthy performances.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/11/2021 10:37:23 AM
Category: Football
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Friday, September 09, 2021

displaced day
The NFL has been doing the Thursday Night Season Kickoff Extravaganza for a couple of years now. I should be used to it.

But I’m not.

And John Cotey agrees, for pretty much all the right reasons:

Pro football is the scroll, the scoring updates, the switch to another game where a touchdown has just been scored.

Pro football is the halftime show, Bradshaw lauding Brett Favre for his first two quarters, Jimmy Johnson criticizing time management, James Brown and Greg Gumbel whipping us around from game to game.

Pro football is the 1 p.m. game, followed by a 4 p.m. game…

We get none of that on a Thursday. There are no highlights to report, there’s nothing to analyze, nothing to build on. In many ways, these are very same elements that plagued Monday Night Football, which had lost its timeliness to a football-exhausted nation before the kickoff.

For Monday Night Football, it was a day too late.

For Thursday night football, it’s three days too soon.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/09/2021 08:43:53 PM
Category: Football
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Thursday, September 08, 2021

start your engines
I guess I knew about the wide-ranging sponsorship agreement between the National Football League and General Motors’ GMC division for this football season. But actually seeing it in action, as I am during tonight’s Raiders-Patriots kickoff game, is a different experience altogether.

Generally, I don’t have a problem with product placement and other embedded advertising. But, still… It seems over the top. GMC logos were everywhere during the Hank Williams Jr. opening number, and the whole car assembly line motif really looked out of place. I guess it would have made more sense had Lions been playing, since they’re from the Motor City. But for this game, it just hit me as overly blatant.

The extended conventional GMC commercials that debuted on the first break really came across as overkill.

On the bright side, it does appear that all that auto-overload shunted out the by-now-usual penile dysfunction ads.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/08/2021 09:56:20 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Football
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Tuesday, September 06, 2021

Nothing like a sea chanty to stir widespread interest. After penning my contention that “What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?” is more of a hockey song than a football ditty, I shot off an email on the subject to the New York Times‘ Stuart Elliott, who wrote the original piece about the (separate) Toyota advertising-campaign controversy.

I’m happy to say he was impressed enough with it to include it in his weekly email newsletter (not available online, unfortunately):

Q: Dear Stuart: Being a pretty avid sports fan, I can tell you that linking “Drunken Sailor” and football simply never occurs to me. However, there’s another sport that comes instantly to mind whenever I hear the tune: hockey. If that tune (really just the melody, not the lyrics) is associated with any sport, it’s the one on the ice, not on the gridiron.

(This reader included a link to an entry on his blog, written in response to the item here last week. An excerpt: “Am I crazy or is ‘Drunken Sailor’ not more closely associated with hockey? I can’t ever recall hearing the tune at a football game, but I’d bet it has been played at every single N.H.L. game I’ve ever attended. It is a natural on the electric organ, after all. Could it be that the N.H.L.’s recent lockout also took out the memory of ‘Drunken Sailor’ at the big-league rink?”)

It’d have been nice if he had included a couple of links back this way, but no biggie.

I maintain that “Drunken Sailor” is a hockey song. Screw football. They can have that lame-assed “Rock and Roll, Part II”, if they want it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/06/2021 10:16:25 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Football, Hockey
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