Sean McDonough not afraid to call out the NFL officials on 'MNF'

For someone who has spent his broadcasting career putting the games and viewers first, the headlines made Sean McDonough blush.

One even referred to him as “The Bravest Man in Broadcasting.” All because he said: “If we’re looking for reasons why TV ratings for the NFL are down all over the place, this doesn’t help. The way this game has been officiated is not something anybody wants to watch.”

This was back in October. Jets-Cardinals on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” Nineteen penalties were called during Arizona’s 28-3 win.

“I don’t think what I said (that night) was particularly courageous,” McDonough, who will work Bengals-Giants on “MNF” with Jon Gruden, told me during a telephone conversation. “I made the point and moved on. I’m not in the business of haranguing people over and over again… I’m not out there making a statement to call attention to myself or hammer the league.”

This makes him different from other play-by-play cats who would have gone on a promotional tour after getting the kind of pub McDonough received the night he went Blue Monday on the officials.

Anyone who has followed McDonough’s play-by-play career knows he’s always displayed a certain candor while playing it straight. This is part of a long-held core philosophy that guided him to a marquee role on one of the NFL’s primetime stages. Get this, it has nothing to do with catch phrases or volume.

“My attitude has always been when I’m in the booth watching the game, I try to think as if I was watching it at home. What would I be thinking as I watch it?” He asked. “That particular night I would be thinking: ‘Oh my gosh, you called a penalty on a play like that?’ If that’s what the viewer is thinking about, that’s what I should be thinking about and talking about.”

McDonough said some of the media used his words to leap to a grand conclusion. “I saw one headline: ‘McDonough Blames Officiating For Drop in Ratings.’ That’s not what I said,” he explained. “What I said was if you are lining up all the reasons why this (the NFL’s declining TV ratings) is happening this (the ways Jets-Cardinals was officiated) is another one.”

The NFL Rule Book is no Harlequin novel. The margins of McDonough’s Rule Book contain many “?” or “what does that mean” or “Ask (ESPN Rules Analyst) Gerry (Austin) or (NFL VP/Officiating) Dean (Blandino).” The complex nature of the rules, combined with the sheer volume of calls, makes bringing clarity to a penalty like assembling a jigsaw puzzle while balancing a hot cup of coffee on your head.

Fortunately TV suits have responded by having guys like Austin and Mike Periera (Fox) on call to guide the voices. “When pass interference is called, instinctively we will look at Jerry as if to say: ‘What did you think?’ It helps,” McDonough said. “Especially if he supports what’s already in your head.”

The NFL didn’t provide McDonough with any negative feedback following his October soliloquy. It’s not a reach to suggest the powers that be agreed with his take.

It’s tough questioning the truth.

Even for the National Football League.

THE REALITY OF IT

As America awoke Wednesday morning to the stunning results of its presidential election, ESPN Radio’s Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic punted.

Greenberg opened the show saying there were dozens of other outlets to access to hear about Donald Trump’s win over Hillary Clinton. Then the Mouths proceeded to talk NFL and college football.

Contrast M&M’s approach with the one taken Thursday night by TNT’s NBA pregame crew. They spent their time offering perspective, hope, and concerns on what the election results hold for America. Ernie Johnson Jr. even voiced his thoughts on religion, acknowledging it’s a topic not normally discussed on a sports program.

A tale of two shows. One offered escape. The other reality. Something we all needed a huge dose of.

BACK TO THE RATINGS

Those obsessed with the NFL’s declining TV ratings will be be on the edge of their seats over the weekend.
Especially those who pinned the ratings slide on eyeballs defecting from football to follow the election. Well, now it’s over. If the ratings take off the theory will be blessed by the numbers crunchers.

If not, the NFL can look forward to four years of competing with Donald Trump’s Washington D.C.-based reality show.

FRICK ’N FRACK

The esteemed selection committee for the Ford C. Frick Award obviously has loose and wide criteria for its 2017 finalists.

The winner will be enshrined in the broadcast wing in baseball’s Hall of Fame. On one end of the spectrum you have Mets voice Gary Cohen, a no-nonsense voice not inclined to yuck it up while calling a Mets game on SNY.

On the other, there is Ken (Hawk) Harrelson the White Sox voice. Harrelson is a homer’s homer who, in comparison, makes John (Pa Pinstripe) Sterling sound like a fountain of objectivity.

As a matter of fact, if Harrelson wins the Frick why not Sterling in 2018?

A-GONG?

Once again, A-Rod had critics going gaga following his Tuesday appearance with Kelly Ripa on “Live with Kelly.”

A-Rod had a few good lines and yuckle-bucked it up with Ripa, a former colleague of Michael Strahan. But watching Rodriguez, we were struck by a vision — A-Rod’s new gig.

ABC is bringing back “The Gong Show” for a 10-episode run. Rodriguez would fit right in with the bad talent featured on “TGS.” We’re not kidding. This could be big for A-Rod.

He could become the modern version of the Unknown Comic, wearing a pinstriped grocery bag over his head. With what’s left of his quickness, he could be the new Gene Gene the Dancing Machine.

And if ABC brings the Popsicle Twins on “TGS,” A-Rod could make googly eyes at them.

Sounds like a plan, right?

* * *

DUDE OF THE WEEK: MARSHALL FAULK

For his persistence. All season long Faulk, the NFL Network analyst, has been pushing the theory that referee Ed Hochuli is responsible for Cam Newton not getting roughing calls following questionable hits. Faulk claims officials are looking the other way because Newton, in 2015, claimed Hochuli told him he was “too young” to get those kind of calls. Even under intense cross-examination by his colleagues, Faulk does not waiver. No matter the relative merits of his Newton spiel, Faulk is the kind of guy you want in your corner.

DWEEB OF THE WEEK: DOUG GOTTLIEB

San Diego residents, on Tuesday, turned down the initiative to have public funding and hotel tax revenue support a new stadium for the Chargers. Gottlieb, the CBS Sports Radio mouth, reached down for the lowest common denominator and ridiculed the locals. Attention Mr. Gottlieb: It’s not your money. And you don’t live there. It’s not your deal. Team owner Alex Spanos is a billionaire. NFL teams split $7.3 billion in revenue sharing last year. If the NFL really wants to stay in San Diego it can find a way.

DOUBLE TALK

What Norman Julius Esiason said: “ Yoenis Cespedes is a unique, mercurial personality.”

What Norman Julius Esiason meant to say: “Yoenis Cespedes is a nut job who might start mailing it in if he is the recipient of a long-term contract.”

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Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News

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