Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Fiesta Bowl: A Taste of Things to Come, and Bob Stoops' What-The-Hell Face

I resigned myself to watching the Fiesta Bowl, more out of a sense of duty than any eagerness to see the actual game. Since this was essentially the warm-up game for the national championship, I wanted to see whether the broadcast team was any good, whether Fox would do anything annoying with the cameras, and whether the field was any good. Basically, I was scouting Fox and the field for the OSU-Florida game; watching Boise State get crushed by a far superior, yet still boring Oklahoma team was something I was resigned to as a result, not something I was excited about. But then the game actually turned out to be pretty good, and when Boise State put on a trick play clinic at the end of the game, it became straight-up awesome.

The Broadcasters
But first, the broadcast team. I, and everyone I know, was worried that Joe Buck would be calling this game. The last thing I wanted was that smug jackass ruining the bastion of purity and essential goodness that is college football. The football gods took pity upon us, though, and gave us Thom Brennaman instead. He's a baseball guy, and kind of a jackass himself, but he is better than Joe Buck because he is not Joe Buck.

But the football gods giveth with one hand, and taketh away with the other. While I associate Brennaman's voice more with calling double plays and complaining about Manny Ramirez than football, he's at least good at his job. The same can't be said for the combo Fox picked to do color: Charles Davis and Barry Alvarez.

Davis is just annoying. It's one thing to point out the obvious from time to time; it's standard broadcast procedure. It's another thing to point out the obvious, stalk it, learn its daily routine, videotape its every movement, and watch the video over and over in a dark room. Davis is a stalker of the obvious. When Boise State, contrary to what Davis expected, continued to occasionally pass the ball and try to pick up first downs and score touchdowns (basically what had been working for them all game), rather than just say, "Well, Boise State isn't content with this lead," or maybe "Wow, Boise State is taking some risks late in the game. I guess you gotta stick with what's been working," Davis launched into a lengthy explanation about how he doesn't know everything about football, about how the Broncos had done this all year, and about how he's a big believer in Team DNA (which was definitely not covered in any of my biology classes). He was pretty consistently wrong, he only pointed out the obvious, and he would not shut up. He's my worst sports broadcasting nightmare.

Barry Alvarez, ex-Wisconsin coach and current Wisconsin A.D., is the third man in the booth. I'm under the assumption that when there are three people in the booth, one is supposed to do play by play, one is supposed to provide basic commentary for casual viewers, and one is supposed to provide more in-depth insight for the more hardcore fans (that's you and me, amigo). Alvarez is our voice in the booth. He's okay, but he's pretty clearly new at this. He offered some decent observations, but he'd stutter, he'd spend time looking for the right word, he'd just act like a guy who's still new to this broadcast stuff. Even worse for Alvarez, with Davis going into repeated thirty second discussions about the differences in clock rules between college and the NFL, among other inane ramblings, Alvarez had trouble getting a word in edgewise. There would be long stretches where you could forget he was even there. And maybe he wasn't; he might have gone searching for duct tape to shut up Davis.

So, in conclusion, if you're willing and able to make jokes about the broadcast team, these guys will be acceptable. But if bad commentators can ruin the game for you, you're better off listening to the game on the radio and muting the TV.

Oh, and a memo to Brennaman, re: your late-game comments - the whole BCS-versus-playoff debate has been done do death. We all know the BCS sucks, we're sick of talking about it. The new clock rules are the talking point we expect you to beat to death. Please adjust your commentary accordingly.

The Field
It was alright. They had apparently replaced the middle section of the field (between the hash marks, plus a little more) at some point, and judging by the remains of the old field, it was a good call. I guess that between the Cardinals and high school playoffs, the field had received some heavy use. What they ended up with wasn't very photogenic, but it seemed to work well enough. It wasn't pristine, but it wasn't Horseshoe in '06 bad.

The Game
If you missed it, Boise State beat Oklahoma in overtime, 43-42. But the game was so much more awesome than that. Boise State surprised me (and just about everyone else) by leading for much of the game, achieving it not through tricks or fluke plays, but by going toe to toe with the Sooners and winning. Then they blew the lead, Oklahoma took the lead on a pick-six, and Boise State had to stage a comeback. They ran into a little trouble with that, and faced 4th and 18. No problem, they just ran a hook-and-ladder to perfection to tie the game up. Fox cut to a shot of Bob Stoops, whose look said very clearly: "What the hell?"

The game went into overtime, and on the first play, Adrian Peterson cruised through the Boise State defense for a touchdown. Order was restored, and it was maintained up until 4th and 2 for the Broncos. That's when they ran a WR pass that resulted in another touchdown, and another "What the hell?" shot of Stoops. Boise State then lined up to go for two, and Oklahoma called a time out, presumably to allow Stoops to explain to BSU coach Chris Petersen that that's just not how things are done in big time football. Petersen evidently ignored him, reached into the jar of trick plays, and pulled out a Statue of Liberty play, which also worked to perfection. One last "What the hell?" shot of Stoops, and game over. Bob's press conference didn't consist entirely of profanity and confused looks, but regardless of what he said, we know what he was thinking: What the hell?


Jack Fu said...

RE: the field and the clearly-replaced sod

I think it was all about logos. They had a new set of sod that ran down the middle of the field and featured three(!) "Fiesta Bowl" logos, while no such logos existed outside the hashes, which seemed odd to me because I think "sideline at the 25" logos were always outside the hashes. I bet there's another batch of sod there next week with new pimpage.

Sean said...

Oooh, good point. Knowing what we know about the BCS and the NCAA, maximum brand exposure would make more sense than concern over quality of play. Still looked like the field needed work, though.