In some ways you can’t begrudge Jim Nantz for asking for the bag. He probably looks to his right most Sundays, sees the Jerry Lewis soundboard that is Tony Romo, and figures A) Just by having to sit next to that overrated, handsome gas bag for four hours a week is worth $17 million a year. And B) If someone who has trouble putting a thought together is worth that, then so is Nantz.
That’s what Nantz apparently is going to ask for from CBS to remain their lead NFL, Final Four, and Masters announcer. And if you don’t think about it, you probably say to yourself, well, he’s the leading sports broadcaster on one of the networks next to Buck and Michaels, so he should ask for whatever.
But dig any deeper, and does Nantz ever feel like a presence? He’s just there. His whole existence is the perfect metaphor for CBS programming as a whole. It’s nondescript, basically scenery, and its sole purpose is to not offend old people. That’s all Nantz has ever been.
When Al Michaels is doing your team’s game, it feels like an event. For all the shit he gets (only fractionally deservedly), Joe Buck feels like an event. Go down the list of leading play-by-play guys for every sport and it’s the same. Doc Emrick was unique, you know his style the minute you hear his name. Mike Breen has a sense of authority, though not in the same way that Marv Albert did back in the day. Nantz’s style is that he hasn’t belched on air.
Nantz is in the big chair because no one at CBS has honestly cared enough to find anyone else to do it. You could put Ian Eagle or Mark Jones or a dozen other people in Nantz’s spot for any of the things he does, and you wouldn’t even notice he was gone. There’s no signature to him. He’s done every Final Four I’ve been alive for essentially, and the only thing I can remember about CBS broadcasts of them is that Billy Packer was a raging asshole.
The only time I noticed Nantz is when CBS made him the studio host for the NFL at first, which for some reason made him think he had to attempt to be “cool.” Every time Nantz ended a sentence with “man,” Jesus cut himself. And that’s it.
These positions rarely change hands, and only do either because the original guy retires, dies, or pulls a Brennaman. You could find anyone to do the Augusta wankfest and no one under the age of 72 would blink. You have to whisper, describe some fucking trees, and try to not let Dustin Johnson’s brain drip out his ear on camera.
I suppose Nantz is a good representation of the country as a whole. A mediocre white guy who rose to the top simply by standing still and doing nothing, and no one ever bothered to question why he was there at all. And the longer he was there, the more everyone figured he should remain there or move higher, because he couldn’t possibly have been there so long without doing something. And yet no one knows what. And the cycle repeats.
Speaking of Michaels, one of the many downsides of crowdless games is the field mics clearly picking up the QB’s calls, which Michaels feels the need to comment on almost every play. And his comments on them are either old man whiffs on comedy, or a remark about how obscure they seem. Which is exactly the fucking point of these calls. It wouldn’t do much good if they weren’t weird and hard to decipher, given that they would give away the play otherwise. Maybe one day Michaels will figure this out before he croaks, though that’s becoming a tighter and tighter race.
Michaels’ Sunday night game between the Chiefs and Raiders came down to the last drive again. The Chiefs pulled it out, 35-31, in Las Vegas. Does anyone else get the feeling that these two-minute drills to decide games have basically become fait accompli? Given that the rules are so bent against defenses already, and then on top of that they play to give up yards and keep things in front of them until it gets down to the red zone, it feels like an upset when a team doesn’t drive down for a tying or winning score. Defenses already struggle to keep offenses at bay with three downs to counter, and on these it’s four, which is a near impossibility. And there’s always a pass interference or roughing the passer call to bail the offense out should a defense manage it.
Not that Patrick Mahomes isn’t the best going, and he made it look elementary enough last night to be laughable in winning the game, but every QB does this, it feels like. Matt Stafford’s entire career and reputation are built on these, and the Lions suck every goddamn season. Maybe it’s just not that hard?
Give any QB with the requisite oxygen intake, four downs, no huddle, and these circumstances, and it feels like at least 75 percent of the time they can find a field goal at least. At some point, even the announcers won’t be able to pretend this is special.