SBD/January 21, 2011/Media

Should NFL Conference Championship Games Be Played On Different Dates?

Networks could get better ratings by moving both title games to primetime
The NFC and AFC Championship games, TV's "highest-rated shows after the Super Bowl," will be played at 3:00pm and 6:30pm ET, respectively, Sunday afternoon, but it "would be better to have one in Sunday prime time and have the other in Monday prime time," according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. Playing the games on separate days would "fit the game plan of today's big sports: stretch out playoffs to milk them for all they're worth." It also would "allow for more than just more hype and hours of TV pregame and postgame shows," as it would "likely deliver a democratic thumbs-up: higher TV ratings." But USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy writes fans "get infuriated when TV manipulates sports for its own benefit, such as moving the World Series from afternoons to prime time." Sunday is the "ideal time and place for these games," as "more people are home; more people are watching TV." The Sunday on which the two championship games are played "is better than Super Sunday in some ways because there are two games, not one, and there is less pregame hype passing as programming." McCarthy: "Don't mess with success" (USA TODAY, 1/21).

: In Boston, Chad Finn writes the reaction to ESPN studio analyst Tom Jackson saying that he picked the Patriots in last Sunday's Jets-Patriots game "so he would -- and this is still hard to believe -- motivate the Jets" was "swift and universal in tone ... on radio and other media." Jackson, "who was not reprimanded by ESPN management," said on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" Monday, "It was done premeditated. I played a bit of a psychological game with the Jets." But Jackson Thursday said, "I've been on air for almost 25 years and I have always prided myself on being impartial. Every time I've made a pick on TV or anywhere else, it reflects what I believe will happen based on my research and what I've observed as an analyst." Finn writes, "It's open to interpretation whether Jackson is better at explanations than he is at predictions. But one question remains: Why would someone as accomplished as Jackson jeopardize his credibility?" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/21). In Orlando, Mike Bianchi writes he has "always liked Tom Jackson," but Bianchi "lost a lot of respect for him" after hearing Jackson's explanation of his pick. Jackson is a "national analyst for ESPN; he's not writing a picks column for the high school newspaper." He is "supposed to give us credible analysis of who he thinks is going to win." Bianchi: "He's not supposed to be making his picks based on motivating the team he WANTS to win" (, 1/21).'s Kirk Minihane wrote under the header, "Tom Jackson And The Death Of Credibility." Minihane: "If I'm the guy in charge of ESPN, I suspend Jackson for the rest of the playoffs, or at least as long as the Jets are alive. And then I make this clear to him: You pick the team that you think is going to win the game. That's it" (, 1/20).

COOL CUSTOMER: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will call the Packers-Bears NFC Championship Sunday for Fox, and in Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley noted Buck "has been criticized for being too understated, too cool in his call" and has been "scolded at times for being unplugged from emotionally dramatic moments." But Wolfley wrote the criticisms "are not flaws, but strengths." Wolfley: "I'll take the guy who is enhancing a dramatic moment rather than taking it over" (, 1/20).'s Anna McDonald noted Buck calls "some of the biggest moments in sports," but he said that he is "there to set them up and move out of the way, making the memories about the players, not himself." Buck: "I'm more into what is happening on the field than to hearing myself talk." McDonald noted Buck "wants to be remembered as someone who just has fun during a broadcast and never minds being the butt of the joke" (, 1/20).

BEST & WORST SO FAR: In Miami, Barry Jackson lists what he has not "liked about NFL playoff coverage," including "obvious, repetitive analysis." Fox analysts Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa were "by far the most egregious, repeatedly telling us things we already knew (or saw on replay)" during Seahawks-Bears last Sunday. There also was "lazy commentary from CBS' studio analysts" last Saturday following the Ravens-Steelers game. The analysts were "quick to blast" Ravens QB Joe Flacco and the officials "for the Ravens' loss, but why no criticism of the receivers?" Meanwhile, Jackson writes the "things we liked" included CBS' "SuperVision slow-motion replays, especially on big hits and great catches." Also, CBS analyst Phil Simms' "preparation was evident throughout" the Patriots-Jets game, "especially when he correctly predicted New England's first onside kick attempt would be up the middle" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/21).
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