by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

And now — after two straight days of TV football — random thoughts from my brain:

“Like a rock . . . Mike Ditka, thanks for joining us . . . It’s one tough motor oil! . . . They’ll start from their 20 . . . Mike Ditka, thanks for joining us” . . . “four-wide, three front, two-deep, one back” . . . I was 18, didn’t have a care . . . Mike Ditka, thanks for joining us . . . they have to respect the run . . . they have to respect the pass . . . Like a rock . . . they have to respect the special teams . . . Have you driven a Fooorrd . . .
“TOUCHDOWN!” . . . lately?”

Pull over. Who’s driving? My brain feels like electronic oatmeal. So confused, dazzled, disjointed, and overstimulated am I, that I will now do something I have never done before, and hope to never do again: Admit my boss was right.

He said, “You should go to a playoff game.”

And being the tough, no-nonsense, investigative journalist the world has come to know, I, of course, replied, “What cities are they in?”

He said, “One’s in Pittsburgh.”

I said, “Keep going.”

He said, “One’s in Dallas.”

I said, “Keep going.”

He said, “One’s in San Francisco, but the weather’s bad. And the other’s in Miami, where the forecast is for showers.”

I said, “Showers? Isn’t that what they said before Hurricane Andrew?”

He said, “Well . . .”

And I said, “Boss! I have a great idea! I never watch NFL playoffs on TV. I’m always there in person. How about a switcheroo? I watch four games on the tube, and write about the experience?”

And he said, “No expense account?”

I heard this drooling sound. Yikes! Mike’s behind all the mikes!

Soon I was planted before the screen, ready for a weekend of electronic bombardment. Let’s begin with the Pittsburgh- Buffalo game on NBC. I remember that one distinctly, because it didn’t have a Mike Ditka interview.

Other than that, Pittsburgh blew the first half, Buffalo stormed the second, and now the world has another week to wonder if it’s Levvy or Leeevy.

Outside of two turkey sandwiches, it was a wholly unsatisfying experience.

But wait: In Playoff Land, there is always . . . Game 2, on CBS, Washington and San Francisco. Should be great, right? Also, we had Pat Summerall on one microphone, and on the other, Master of The Queen’s English, John Madden.

MADDEN: Look at that mud! Now that’s football . . . some mud, some dirt, water, dirt stuff running all over, muddy, dirty, yuck, now that’s, I like that . . .”

Mothers, fear not for your children. They are being well educated here in the United States.

Madden — who should definitely switch to decaf — left me dizzy. I knew he talked a lot, but he even did analysis on a player’s mouthpiece. “Hey,” he yelled, “you gotta get that thing in your mouth!”

Even worse, when you tire of him live — BOOM! (to quote John Madden) he’s in a commercial.

Still, Madden is nothing compared to Ditka. Did he get enough air time this weekend, or am I Betty Boop? Here was Iron Mike on CBS one day, in a
“Saturday Night Live” skit that night, and in the NBC studio the next day. What, no Nickelodeon? During one half hour I saw Ditka in three different commercials. The question is not what will Mike do without the Bears. The question is: How did he ever find time to coach them in the first place?

TIME-OUT. Close up. Player pulls clump of sod out of helmet. Madden offers analysis.

I ate three more sandwiches, two bags of chips, a liter of Coke, and fell asleep. Hey, Bob, how would you like a rock?

WAKE UP! To the sounds of the Philly-Dallas pre-game show on CBS. Terry Bradshaw, doing “Terry Vision;” Randy Cross, who looks like a pit boss in a Vegas casino; Greg Gumbel, offering an “exclusive” with the Raiders’ Al Davis,

who seems to be wearing (rub eyes) a black bathrobe, hair mussed, looking like Hugh Hefner. Nice Brooklyn accent, too. GUMBEL: Al, what about Boomer Esiason?DAVIS: We like Boomah, but a lot of playahs wanna play for da Raidahs.

I ate corned beef. In his honor. TIME-OUT. Commercial medley: “Like a rock . . . The best never rest! . . . Alka-Seltzer? You bet it’s tough! . . . It keeps going and going . . . Nupe it! . . . I was 18, didn’t have a care . . .”

I like Bob Seger. But if I hear that song one more time, I’m gonna put a rock through the album.

Oh yeah. Dallas crushed Philly. Miami crushed San Diego. Eight hours of playoff football; the combined score was Winners 65, Losers 10.

And look! Mike Ditka! He keeps going and . . .

Whoa. My eyes were bleary, my stomach queasy. The last thing I remember was Dick Enberg saying, “The only way Miller could catch that ball is if it went through Troy Vincent’s head.”

And I thought, hmmm. Where’s the graphic?

That’s it. I surrender. Obviously I had no idea what the TV fan endures, while I sit in a freezing press box, with only stale hot dogs and being dumped with a bucket of ice water to worry about. This week, I’ll return to that cushy life, missing planes, sold-out hotels, while you watch Jimmy Connors tell you he doesn’t like body odor. A fair deal?

I won’t even ask where they’re playing.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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