Yesterday, Deadspin published a pretty great piece about how Sunday Night Football has become the Number 1 TV show in America, and how the shift in sports-presentation came about so that a network's jillion+ cameras are all trained on critical battles during football games.
They highlighted an October game between our Steelers and the Bengals, just days before the teams meet again to determine which AFC North team makes the playoffs.
And please, do go read the story at the link, there's a ton of information on how the camera guys prepare, mostly due to scouting reports from booth guys like Cris Collinsworth. Now, a healthy majority probably has hate for the NBC Sunday Night Booth team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, but they do a tremendous job in relation to guys like Phil Simms, or Solomon Wilcots. Cris had sent tape to the NBC guys on Willie Colon, asking them to make sure the cameras picked up his trench battles.
Anyway, the Bengals had the early lead that game, and it was looking like the Steelers might fold before half. And then something happened. The Bengals blew pretty much every chance they had for the rest of the game after the opening 3 possessions. Remember this drive summary we published:
The defense stepped up bigtime, allowing no drive longer than 32 yards, and that ended in the only 3 points the Bengals would get the rest of the way.
This coincided with the Steelers run game establishing itself behind 122 Jon Dwyer yards. And Chris Rainey had that nice little TD run to boot. So the moment Dwyer was able to break free for a 20-yard scamper, Collinsworth had his story. Willie Colon, playing Left Guard well rather than his usual crappy Right Tackle. And don't get me wrong, Colon opened a few nice holes, and played about as well as I can remember.
Only guys like Willie Colon and Max Starks are the guys the Steelers have put up with as Ben's protectors for most of his career while the team refused to draft franchise linemen prior to Pouncey/DeCastro. We've learned to bite our tongues at the 4th Colon hold of the game…4 seasons ago. In years prior, Colon and Chris Kemoeatu would pretty much split the false-start-and-holding-penalty-getting duties, and now Colon has that spotlight himself.
Was Collinsworth right to point out Colon's contributions that night? Definitely, and the videos at Deadspin show a nice part of the game when Colon made a few things happen. And you could just hear the smarm in Cris' face without even seeing him. As if he was completely validated. Only when you get one right about a team's routine scapegoat, it speaks more of luck than skill. I'm not going to pretend Cris Collinsworth is magical, when we don't know how many times he's asked to spotlight Colon for a potential in-game storyline, and come up with nothing but footage of pre-snap moves. I especially won't give Collinsworth credit when I've already shown that the defense was an equal, if not greater contributor to the team success. The Steelers have had 4 NBC night gamesthis year (3 regular season, 1 preseason), I'd like to see how many of those times Cris asked to spotlight Ike Taylor before him getting toasted by Demaryius Thomas or something. See?
So whatever. I appreciate how NBC makes its sausage, as every network has to have player battles or spotlights ready to go. When you make Willie Colon your story-getter though, you should rethink your stories.