Leader Blues

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

SPORTS >> Of robots, football and more football

By TODD TRAUB
Leader sports editor

What does a dancing, guitar-playing robot have to do with football?

That’s one of several things I wondered as I watched the NFL playoffs on television over the weekend.

The FOX network, that shelter for out-of-work politicians that also airs NFC games, seems to have fallen in love with the gladiatorial robot it uses at the outset of its broadcasts.

Apparently, the robot is named Cleatus. Apparently, he has helped FOX win an Emmy.

But explain why, during Sunday’s Minnesota Vikings-Dallas Cowboys playoff, the robot could be seen doing karate kicks, dancing and playing guitar in a corner of the screen during promos for FOX’s upcoming programming?

What, again, does this have to do with football?

All the networks are guilty of using some sort of overwrought imagery in their broadcasts, and the explosions and jets and robots and dancing girls and Hank Williams Jr. song retreads are an insult.

I can just see FOX executives in a meeting: “Football fans aren’t smart, and their attention span is short; let’s give them robots and shiny objects. It works for Palin.”

However, Fox did a neat thing by showing a clip of the 1975 Cowboys-Vikings playoff and the winning, last-ditch bomb Roger Staubach threw to Drew Pearson. It was the play that gave us the term “Hail Mary” in football, but Sunday’s clip proves again Pearson pushed off.

Just think, if the officials had called the penalty and the Cowboys lost, a Hail Mary might still be just a prayer and the Cowboys might not be America’s Team.

And by the way, when did America vote on that? I guess I missed it.

Anyway, it looks like Brett Favre’s four-touchdown performance for the Vikings has made that preseason, “Will he or won’t he?” soap opera look pretty worthwhile.

For me the highlight was seeing Tyrell Johnson of Rison and Arkansas State hit former Arkansas Razorback Felix Jones for a minimal gain just before Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw a second-half interception.

The meeting of the two players may be as close as we’ll ever come to an Arkansas-Arkansas State football game.

On a serious note, in the wake of the earthquake tragedy in Haiti, it was interesting and sobering to learn Sunday of the 20-plus Haitian-American players in the NFL. You would think this would have made former Monday Night Football broadcaster Rush Limbaugh more sensitive in his recent comments about U.S. aid to the stricken nation.

Then we moved on to the New York Jets-San Diego Chargers game on CBS.

Before it started, studio analyst Boomer Esiason said quarterback Mark Sanchez and the Jets had to play “a perfect football game” against the Chargers.

That’s key, since football WAS the game they were playing. If they had played a perfect football game while bowling, they would have had problems.

When quarterback Phillip Rivers led the host Chargers into battle, I shuddered with horrible memories, as I do every time I see that guy.

I covered Rivers’ first game when he was a true freshman starter for North Carolina State against Arkansas State in Raleigh, N.C., in 2000. It was a great game, played in intermittent rain and won by N.C. State in double overtime.

I left the stadium as the rain really began to come down, only to reach the parking lot to find I’d left my keys in my rental car, locked it AND left it running. Before the night was over I would also lose my satchel with my computer and airline tickets in it.

To this day I wake up expecting to find myself still stranded in Raleigh.

With the Chargers leading 7-0 at halftime, studio analyst Dan Marino said the “football teams” were similar and “can run the football.” Good, because if they were lacrosse teams trying to run the badminton shuttlecock, they would have been in trouble.

The game resumed and I learned during a commercial timeout one of the CSI shows had a sexy, golf-themed episode coming up.

Golfers and hanky panky? The public will never buy it. Not enough like real life.

Then color man Phil Simms said Jets kicker Jay Feely was “a football player,” which disabused me of my notion he was a platform diver.

The game, one of the better ones this postseason, ended in heartbreak for the Chargers as the Jets scored a 17-14 upset, but when it ended, I was left disconcerted by something I’d read online during a break in my two-day, football funfest.

The article said NFL games contain an average 11 minutes of real action.

Eleven minutes? Then what was I doing for six hours a day all weekend?