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Volume 24 No. 159


EA Sports enhanced the franchise
mode for "Madden NFL 12"
EA Sports' "Madden NFL 12" hit stores today, and this iteration "offers no new game modes from Madden 11, instead focusing on adding to the pre-existing," according to Lang Whitaker of the N.Y. TIMES. The video game's franchise mode "has been deepened, with additions like the ability to trade picks from future drafts," while a "bidding system adds suspense to the free agency period." Some "graphical updates make the look of the game more realistic." This year's game includes "green stickers on helmets wired for sound, plus a new 'degradation system' that accurately displays wear and tear on uniforms." When the "weather is bad, small raindrops occasionally land on the camera lens." In addition, "game presentation has been pumped up, particularly pregame introductions and the coin toss," and other adjustments "add realism to the game play." Whitaker notes "Madden 12" has "such a commitment to replicating the NFL game that even gamers who are experienced with the franchise may find themselves struggling to catch up, at least initially." In a game "so focused on realism and without any glaring errors, it is only the little things that detract from the overall experience." For instance, the game's announcers -- Gus Johnson and Cris Collinsworth -- "get locked into talking points, and the commenting frequently lags behind the game play." While it is "not an evolutionary leap from Madden NFL 11 to 12, there is no escaping that Madden 12 is a game that both gamers and NFL fans will want to play" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/30).

UNDER REVIEW: YAHOO SPORTS' Matthew Darnell reviewed "Madden 12" and writes the commentary from Johnson and Collinsworth is a "crime against the video game community." Johnson will sound "completely different from one statement to the next, with his soundbites clearly having been recorded at different times and at different levels." Darnell: "It's inexplicable that this happened in 2012." Furthermore, the "pregame camera shots and in-stadium player intros seem like something the Madden people were really proud of this year, but to be honest with you, they have failed." The game presentation is "really good," but when "you're playing the game in franchise mode, and half your games are in the same stadium, it just loses its appeal really quickly." Meanwhile, EA Sports "promised a significant" upgrade to the franchise mode, "which they haven't had in quite some time." Darnell: "I don't feel like I was shortchanged. There are changes, there are upgrades, and I like them. They're maybe not as polished as they should be, but they're there, and for the most part, they work." Overall, the game "looks and plays brilliantly." Player movement, and the "individual ways that different guys do different things is outstanding" (, 8/30).'s Jason Schreier writes "Madden 12" "raises the bar set by its predecessors in several ways." Running the ball is a "much smoother, more elegant experience," while zone coverage is "no longer a joke." However, Johnson and Collinsworth are "subpar" in the game, "dishing up the same tired lines we've heard for several years now" (, 8/30).

NOTHING BUT A GOOD TIME:'s David Pierce wrote "Madden 12" is a "gorgeous, fun-to-play game that should keep even the most ravenous Madden fans happy." The newest version is "by far the most realistic Madden game, with improved graphics in nearly every aspect of the game." Johnson and Collinsworth do their job "extremely well," as there is "emotion to match the plays on the field." There also are "far more calls ... and the calls fit the plays much more than the vague statements Madden games previously tried to apply." Pierce: "My favorite feature of Madden 12 is how much attention is paid to individual players' oddities. Philip Rivers has a bizarre release on his throws, as does Mike Vick, but they're always thrown more or less the same as everyone else. Not so in this game" (, 8/26). 

In Boston, Monique Walker reports Patriots coach Bill Belichick "will be featured in a two-part documentary that will air on the NFL Network next month." Belichick became the "first ever coach to be wired for an entire season in 2009 by NFL Films and that footage will be included in a two-part series called 'Bill Belichick: A Football Life,' which will air" Sept. 15 at 9pm ET and Sept. 22 at 10pm. The on- and off-the-field footage "will be a look back at the Patriots 50th Anniversary season, and Belichick's 35th consecutive year in the NFL" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/30). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote it is "odd that Belichick would agree to do it, given that it's widely assumed that he'd never allow the NFL Films cameras and microphones into training camp for the popular 'Hard Knocks' series on HBO" (, 8/29). YAHOO SPORTS' Matthew Darnell wrote, "I find the man to be an interesting figure, partially because he is so guarded about himself and his methods" (, 8/29).

CANDID CAMERA: Belichick appeared on WEEI-AM's "The Big Show" and discussed the project, saying when NFL Films "came to me about it with my 35th year in the league and the Patriots' 50th anniversary season, we talked about that aspect of history and decided that we would try to accommodate them." Belichick said, "I don’t think I can ever remember one time during the season where I actually consciously thought about it, like, ‘I better not say this,’ or ‘I better not say that.’ I have so much trust in NFL Films and the people down there and what they’ve done, I have the trust and confidence in them to just do what I do and let them present it.” Belichick: "When we did it initially, the thought was that it would be used for another day, that it wasn’t going to be a highlight film of the ’09 season and it wasn’t intended for specific ‘this is what it’s going to be.’ It was, ‘We’ll get some footage from the season,’ and somewhere along the line they felt like they would be able to use it." He added this project will be a "one-time thing." Belichick: "It's really something I don’t have anything to do with or know anything about. I’m a coach, I’m not a film producer” ("The Big Show," WEEI-AM, 8/29).

In N.Y. Richard Sandomir noted Fox Sports announcer Joe Buck’s “improvement since his first baseball game this season, on April 2, is noticeable.” Buck, who is recovering from a virus that struck his laryngeal nerve, said last week, “It’s leaps and bounds better than it was in the middle of February.” Still, his voice “strains when he becomes excited or tries to raise his volume quickly.” Buck will not work again until the NFL regular season alongside Troy Aikman and he said that “football took less out of his voice than baseball did.” Buck: “Football is more rhythmic: play, catch, tackle, how many yards, Troy. Play, catch, tackle, how many yards, Troy.” He said that Fox “offered him time off to recuperate, but he has chosen to keep working, at most calling one game a week.” He added that he “was 90 percent better.” Buck: “If you listened to last week’s game, the normal stuff sounded pretty close to normal. But when I get to the volume and high-energy parts, I have to maneuver around them” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/28). NFL Network's Rich Eisen wrote on Twitter, "I honestly can't understand the venom I see on my Twitter feed towards Joe Buck. On this, we will have to agree to disagree. Love the guy."

HISTORY LESSON: Sky Sports’ Tony Cascarino “has sparked outrage by describing a player as having a ‘holocaust’ of a game.” Cascarino made the comment on Sky Sports News during Sunday’s Arsenal-Manchester United EPL match, which resulted in Arsenal refunding ticket prices to fans who made the trip to the game. Cascarino said of Arsenal D Armand Traoré's performance, "Poor Traoré at right-back is having a holocaust because he's finding himself against (United winger) Nani, who's literally running him from everywhere and (Arsenal midfielder Andrey) Arshavin's just not tracking his runners." Angry fans “immediately responded to his comment on Twitter” (PA, 8/28).

CHANGE OF PACE: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth noted Gus Johnson is “set to call 14 games involving Pac-12 and Big 12 teams this season for Fox and its FX cable channel, including the first Pac-12 championship game in December.” Johnson said of his recent departure from CBS, “Everybody kinda understood this was a new opportunity to be a lead guy at a great company from the ground floor, which will eventually be a penthouse.” He added, “I felt like I needed a fresh start. To challenge myself again. I'm happy where I am. I appreciate where I came from. I'm finally at peace. That was a big deal for me” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 8/28).

NO LOOKING BACK: The Knicks recently hired former Lakers play-by-play announcer Spero Dedes to the same position, and Dedes said, "The way I made my decision was: If I pass up on this opportunity in New York with the Knicks and with CBS, would I be able to live with myself? And the answer was no." Dedes said, "I knew I would just go insane, wondering for the rest of my life: 'What if I had chased it and gone after it?'" In California, Kevin Ding noted the Lakers had “refused to allow Dedes ... to moonlight elsewhere if promoted from their radio voice to TV voice.” Dedes’ responsibility now is to “develop his brand -- which he'll do in a newly expanded role of eight-to-10 NFL broadcasts with analyst Steve Beuerlein on CBS” (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 8/27).

JET SETTER: In N.Y., Bob Raissman noted former NFLer Kris Jenkins reportedly “will be landing at SportsNet New York.” A Jets source said that Jenkins, who “announced his retirement last month, is nearing a deal giving him a featured role” on SNY’s Thursday “Jets Game Plan” preview show. He “likely would make appearances on other Jets-related programming” as well (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/28). Jenkins played for the Jets from '08-10.

PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio cited a source as saying that NFL Network "made a run at ESPN's Trey Wingo," but Wingo ultimately "decided to stay put in Bristol." Florio wrote Wingo's "non-move makes sense." Rich Eisen "will be the top dog at NFLN until he leaves the network," and at ESPN, Chris Berman "will serve as the king of the NFL coverage for as long as he's there." Florio: "It therefore makes more sense for Wingo to position himself to have a shot at replacing Berman, who is considerably older than Eisen" (, 8/29).

SUNDAY NIGHT SMACK DOWN: NBC earned a 5.6 final Nielsen rating and 9.27 million viewers for the Saints-Raiders "Sunday Night Football" matchup, marking the second most-viewed NFL preseason game for '11 to date. The game only featured 95% coverage among U.S. markets due to effects from Hurricane Irene. The telecast was also blacked out in S.F.-Oakland-San Jose after the Raiders failed to draw a sellout for the game (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Phil Mushnick wrote at a "time when everyone recognizes the NFL has become inexcusably brutal -- leaving players physically and neurologically impaired for life, lives often shortened -- NBC's 'Sunday Night Football' telecasts feature the 'Hewlett Packard Hit of the Game,' tape of some excessively violent shot." Mushnick: "Is there no one at NBC who recognizes the difference between a brutal shot and a great tackle?" (N.Y. POST, 8/29).

: MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds notes Tennis Channel has added former tennis players Mats Wilander and Jim Courier as analysts for this year's U.S. Open. Wilander was in the booth for yesterday's Marin Cilic-Ryan Harrison match, and he took Harrison "to task for his boorish behavior and ultimately his lack of coming up with the goods when it mattered most during his straight-set loss." Wilander is "expected to make a return engagement" tomorrow. Sources said that Courier was scheduled to be on air today and could work Thursday and Friday (, 8/30).