Airwaves: ESPN keeps scoring with its college coverage 

ESPN’s coverage of college football is sensational. This past weekend between ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and their mother station, ABC, viewers were treated to a total of 18 games.

Two games on were televised Thursday, one on Friday and 15 on Saturday. Other cable outlets are trying but no one is in the league of ESPN.

A genius move last year was to integrate ESPN’s cable coverage with over-the-air network ABC. Presently, all games on ABC are titled ESPN on ABC. This has allowed tremendous synergy and the ability, without confusion, to employ talent crossover.

Super analyst Kirk Herbstreit and veteran Brent Musburger are the lead broadcast team and they do a great job. Herby has a dream job because in the morning he is an analyst on the studio show, “College GameDay,” with host Chris Fowler and analyst Lee Corso. The show airs from 7 to 9 a.m. every Saturday.

These three guys have become rock stars on college campuses throughout the country. The show is broadcast from the stadium of the main evening game. This week, it was from the L.A. Coliseum, which obviously was the venue for the super-showdown between Southern Cal and Ohio State. The two-hour show is informative and fun, and it really captures the college spirit with students and fans constantly in the background.

I could do without Desmond Howard on the show. He is a fourth member who really does not add much to the wisdom of Corso and Herbstreit.

> Rookie observations: Michael Strahan had a great debut on “Fox NFL Sunday.” The game plan was to obviously get the gap-toothed one involved as quickly as possible.

Fox did and he delivered with poise, good thoughts and solid football knowledge. Warren Sapp was not as polished as he made his inaugural appearance on the NFL Network’s “NFL GameDay.”

The usually talkative Sapp looked nervous and unsure about things. Live TV is much different than a taped segment or some newspaper person asking a question about what just happened in a game. For the 100th time, studio work and game analysis is hard work that requires a great deal of detailed preparation.

> I just finished a new book on the market about Bill Walsh. Author David Harris has really captured the real Bill and the all the behind-the-scenes interaction when he was the coach of the 49ers in the appropriately titled “The Genius.”

Mike and Mike are not capable of being gamers

Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic were greatly miscast Monday night during the Raiders-Denver Broncos game.

The pair has become nationally known for the “Mike and Mike” show on ESPN Radio every morning. However, ESPN, when it has an NFL doubleheader like Monday, will use them as the play-by-play announcer and the analyst, respectively.

It does not work!

Being a play-by-play announcer is a skill, not something you can do part-time. Greenberg does not have the voice or the background for this role. Golic is too silly at times. Mike Ditka was the third man in the booth and, if nothing else, he is very candid. Ditka offered strong opinions on the present state of the Raiders numerous times late in the game. After blasting team management he said, “You’re seeing self-destruction here. They don’t have many good players. Although the faithful of the Silver and Black don’t want to hear it, this will become the norm until they start winning again.”

> The Raiders-Broncos game drew a 7.3 rating with 9.7 million viewers watching. The first game of the doubleheader, Minnesota at Green Bay received a 9.3 rating with close to 13 million viewers. This was the largest audience to watch a cable program in 2008. In addition, real announcers Mike Tirico and Ron “Jaws” Jaworski were in the booth with the cynical but entertaining Tony Kornheiser.

> Niners radio color analyst Gary Plummer made a great point during Sunday’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals. With the game essentially over with seconds to play and the Niners with no chance to score the needed 10 points to tie the game, Plummer questioned the coaching staff as to why the team’s best player, Frank Gore, was still in the game. On top of that, he was catching a pass over the middle, which put him in danger of getting injured. Great point by Plummer — he will get no argument here on how dumb that was.

> When the Raiders kick off today at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, it will be interesting to get Rich Gannon’s take on the state of the Raiders. Gannon and partner Kevin Harlan will call the game for CBS (KPIX, Ch. 5). The former quarterback is a rising star at CBS as an NFL analyst. He is smart, observant and never shy with his opinions.

Who said it

Steve Mariucci

“He is not only the face of New England Patriots, he is the face of the NFL,” the ex-49ers coach and current NFL Network analyst said of the season-ending knee injury to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. He is also a loss to the fantasy football gamers, who estimate this injury will cost fantasy players $150 million in lost revenues.

Jimmy Johnson

“You have good officials and bad officials. This official is an idiot for making that call,” the Fox studio analyst said of the horrible, unsportsmanlike penalty call by an official at the end of last week’s BYU-Washington football game. The 15-yard penalty led to BYU blocking the extra-point kick, which would have sent the game into overtime.

One to watch

EAGLES AT COWBOYS

Week 2 of “Monday Night Football” (ESPN, 5:15 p.m.) features two NFC East rivals coming off big wins last week. The Eagles looked super against the hapless St. Louis Rams, and the ’Boys — led by Tony Romo and Jerry Jones, of course — showed the Cleveland Browns that Dallas is a Super Bowl possibility. The Cowboys will win by seven in a very entertaining game.

Life by the numbers

Dallas Cowboys who weigh 300-plus pounds, most in NFL:

16

NFL players who weigh 300-plus pounds:

356

NFL players who weigh under 200 pounds:

295

ON TARGET: Great radio on Gary Radnich’s 9 a.m. to noon show Wednesday on KNBR (680 AM). It had two levels of program content. For most of the show, Gary fielded calls and conducted an open and honest discussion on what’s wrong with the Raiders. In a change of topic, the Tony Bruno segment added fabulous humor and, as always, genuine laughs.

Artie Gigantino spent 25 years as a coach at the major-college and NFL levels, was lead college football analyst for Fox Sports Net for seven years, was with CBS for one year and was an executive with the Raiders for three years. E-mail him at agigantino@sfexaminer.com.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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