Game tele­cast needed more in­sight, less of Simms’ inanity

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS INSIDER - David Zu­rawik david.zu­rawik@balt­ twit­­rawik

Carter Black­burn, Chris Simms and Jenny Dell are not ex­actly house­hold names. But when you have two smaller-mar­ket teams like the Ravens and Cleve­land Browns play­ing each other, don’t ex­pect the ‘ A’ team in the booth.

That said, I was just about to start writ­ing a mostly pos­i­tive re­view of their call of the Ravens’ 25-20 come­back win when Simms, the an­a­lyst, went off on a taunt­ing call against Browns wide re­ceiver Ter­relle Pryor. The penalty negated a catch that would have put the ball on the Ravens 10-yard line in the clos­ing sec­onds of the game.

The call was huge and maybe ques­tion­able. But it is im­pos­si­ble to know whether it was a bad call with­out know­ing what Pryor said.

Nev­er­the­less, Simms de­clared it “a lit­tle too ticky-tack” for that cru­cial a sit­u­a­tion late in the game.

“I just don’t agree with the call,” he said af­ter ac­knowl­edg­ing the dif­fi­culty of be­ing a ref­eree. “To me, it al­most looked like he was just hold­ing up the ball and was go­ing to flip it to the ref­eree and it al­most slipped out of his hand. He wasn’t talk­ing trash.”

I don’t care what it “al­most looked like”: If you don’t know what might have been said, how do you know what Pryor was or wasn’t say­ing? There was no hes­i­ta­tion with the flag or dis­agree­ment among the of­fi­cials, so what made Simms think he was a bet­ter judge of the call?

And that’s when it hit me: Simms had been ir­ri­tat­ing me in a low-level way all after­noon with lit­tle things like his view on which col­lege foot­ball con­fer­ence is the best (the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence) or that he likes Ravens kicker Justin Tucker be­cause they both played for the same univer­sity (Texas).

Who cares? The most suc­cess­ful ex-jock an­a­lysts are the one who get over their on-field ca­reers and get into their jobs in the booth in a hard­work­ing, I-have-to-prove-my­self way.

The job of an an­a­lyst is to make the game be­ing played that after­noon or evening more en­joy­able for the viewer, to open their eyes to things they might not oth­er­wise see. It’s not to talk about them­selves or go off on calls when they don’t have the in­for­ma­tion to of­fer an in­formed opin­ion.

On the other hand, Simms did have some good mo­ments in the booth. He saw a Cleve­land re­ceiver step out of bounds and come back onto the field to make a catch be­fore any­one else did. He saw one-on-one cov­er­age open­ing up for a Ravens wide re­ceiver when the play had hardly started to de­velop and pointed it out to view­ers be­fore I think even Joe Flacco saw the open man.

Simms could turn out be re­ally good. His re­flexes and in­stincts in the booth are ex­cel­lent.

I don’t think he and Black­burn make the best match, though, sim­ply be­cause it is some­times dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine who is talk­ing. Their voices are too much alike for my ear. I had to re­play my record­ing of the game a cou­ple of times to try to make sure it was Simms crit­i­ciz­ing the fi­nal call.

One cause of that might have been the au­dio. It sounded to me as if the sta­dium noise was too loud, and it mud­died the con­ver­sa­tion in the booth. I hon­estly don’t know whether that is the fault of CBS Sports or of Com­cast. Last year, I com­plained about the same thing, and CBS Sports con­vinced me it was the fault of the ca­ble provider, not the net­work.

Over­all, I liked Black­burn’s call. He started a lit­tle slowly and flat. But the in­cred­i­ble first-quar­ter play of the Browns got him juiced, and his en­ergy level went through the roof. That’s the level I want ev­ery play-by-play an­nouncer at, whether one team is play­ing phe­nom­e­nal and un­ex­pected ball or not.

Dell’s up­dates on the in­jury to the left arm or shoul­der of Browns quar­ter­back Josh McCown were fre­quent enough, but I would have loved to get some­thing more de­tailed. Was the shoul­der sep­a­rated? She did say at one point that he couldn’t lift it, so she clearly was watch­ing and work­ing the bench, try­ing to get that de­tail. She put in an hon­est day’s work on the side­line.

The best thing about the tele­cast: the video re­cap pack­ages. I know they are hard to turn around, but I would like to see a lot more. I loved the one they showed of McCown get­ting ham­mered by Ravens de­fen­sive line­men on each of the first three big passes he threw. You saw the re­plays and you in­stantly un­der­stood how and why his left shoul­der was hang­ing from the first quar­ter on.

Give me more of that, CBS Sports, and less of the an­a­lyst talk­ing about where he went to col­lege.

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