How much is that doggie in the window? 

If you ever needed more evidence that sports TV executives — those who ostensibly know what’s best for viewers — operate on a wish consider this: 

The Giants-Cowboys game Thanksgiving Day on Fox established the record as the most-watched regular-season game since 1988, when such numbers were first recorded. 

It’s estimated that 42 million watched. 

If we’re to judge such a record by the hirings and spending habits of network shot-callers, that record number reflects a repudiation of Fox’s longtime team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, this season lured to ESPN for a staggering total of an estimated $170 million over five years. 

In turn, those numbers would also reflect a national endorsement of Fox’s bargain-basement rookie No. 1 team of Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen. Next season, Olsen is expected to be replaced by Tom Brady for a reported $375 million over 10 years. 

It seems that once CBS signed Tony Romo for nearly $180 million over 10 years, the race to treat network checkbooks as scratch paper has become a scene from “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” Also, NBC extended Cris Collinsworth with a $12.5 million annual salary, up from a reported $4 million per. 

Of course, on this Thanksgiving Day — on any NFL-on-TV day — no such viewer announcing team or individual preference activism was at work. Giants-Cowboys drew a big audience because it was Giants-Cowboys on Thanksgiving afternoon, with America largely indoors and likely, if part of a holiday gathering, barely listening. 

Joe Buck, left, and Troy Aikman
Joe Buck, left, and Troy Aikman
AP

There was no repudiation of Buck and Aikman because it didn’t matter to America if the game had been called by Trudy, the cashier down at Ernie’s Luncheonette. Commentators can enhance or diminish telecasts, but they can’t force us to watch, not at $250 million or at 25 cents. 

Will many watch Brady’s debut because it’s Brady? Probably. But a football game had better be attached. After his first telecast, it’s over; the novelty will be kaput. He’ll be an insanely expensive ornament. 

You and I know this. We’ve always known it. TV execs? Not a clue. Obviously. 

In the meantime, football, the televised product, has never been more devoid of fundamental football sense. 

Kevin Burkhardt
Kevin Burkhardt
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Greg Olsen
Greg Olsen
Getty Images

In a colossal waste of time, energy and money, Fox on Saturday, dispatched six pregame and halftime panelists to sit outdoors at the Michigan-Ohio State game, from where each spoke a barely discernible sentence. This was a prefabricated invitation to wait it out watching some other game. Brilliant! 

ABC/ESPN’s Notre Dame-USC game was made into a sensory mess by Kirk Herbstreit who figured we tuned in to hear him speak endless gridiron gibberish after every play in an attempt to impress only himself. 

In the second quarter of the Bears-Jets game Sunday on Fox, a fumbled snap on a field-goal try was knocked around several times. Whose ball was it? Great question! We found out after a bunch of commercials, preceded by a crowd-shot shown in slow-motion, and thus became the last to know. 

Then back to Daryl “Moose” Johnston who during that game decided to present another all-game, non-stop seminar, often on how good defenses prevent opponents from scoring. Johnston could make them open the bar at an AA meeting. 

Or do we have this all wrong? Had Buck and Aikman called Giants-Cowboys would the record audience have been even higher? And if Romo had called it would the number have been millions more? 

Whiffing on shots by Iran

That transparently political ambush of U.S. World Cup coach Gregg Berhalter and captain Tyler Adams by Iranian “journalists” — aka government setup men — was both aggravating and comical. The Iranian hit squad asked “questions” about American racism and even about U.S. inflation as pertinent to the U.S.-Iran match on Tuesday. 

Adams, 23, did well, stayed calm, poised, respectful, but unapologetic for representing our country. 

Berhalter, who seems to represent the Kingdom of Nike and treats 1-0 leads as if they’re insurmountable, whiffed. He actually asked forgiveness for the temporary removal of the Islamic Republic seal from Iran’s flag by U.S. Soccer as a show of support for the murderously oppressed women of Iran. 

Gregg Berhalter speaks to the media at the World Cup.
Gregg Berhalter speaks to the media at the World Cup.
FIFA via Getty Images

“All we can do is apologize on behalf of the players and the staff,” he said. He should have said something along the lines of either, “I think you know the reason” or “Get lost.” 

He could have pointed to the U.S. roster comprised of blacks, whites, Hispanics, immigrants, then asked the correspondents from the Iranian “free” media if that meets with their definition of racism. 

Not that Berhalter could be expected to be versed in such matters, but he might’ve asked in return: “How can you, representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran, ask questions about American racism? 

“Where did the hundreds of thousands of Persian/Iranian Christians and Jews go after it was made threateningly clear that after centuries they were no longer welcomed to breathe in the Islamic Republic of Iran?” 

Finally, why not ask if the safety of the Iranian players and their families are assured after protesting the sustained degradation of Iranian women and their life-risking demand for the most basic of human rights? Will they be eliminated from view? Beheaded or merely imprisoned by the Ayatollahs? 

Berhalter might’ve added, “Don’t you guys all have mothers?” 

Sacrificing easy scores for long shots

What’s the difference between unselfish and foolish? Monday on TNT, Shaq O’Neal and his “highlights” team presented an amusing indictment on how NBA games have been lost to 3-point heaves. 

In an uncontested 140-105 win over the Hornets, the Celtics’ Derrick White had an all-alone, running layup or jam for the easiest of two points. But as White neared the rim — not a defender in sight — he threw the ball out to a teammate who was loitering in 3-point land. 

It was ridiculous. And Charles Barkley’s three-word reaction — “Come on, man!” — nailed it. 


My baloney has a first name, it’s R-o-g-e-r … 

The NFL’s TV-money “flex” season is here, a time when paying customers — baited-and-switched suckers — can freeze at a game, arrive home at 1 a.m. and otherwise go to hell. Remember what Roger Goodell said, “It’s all about our fans.” 

Roger Goodell
Roger Goodell
USA TODAY Sports

Reader Bob Mantz sent a photo of a skeleton on a park bench, explaining it’s picture of a man waiting for Nike-enriched social justice activist LeBron James to support Chinese protesters beaten and arrested for advocating the same human rights James champions here. 


In Maryland’s 37-0 win over Rutgers last Saturday, four minutes were left when the Terrapins continued to throw into the end zone. Why just blow them out when you can humiliate them? On BTN, Jason Ross and Matt McGloin said nothing about it, not a peep. 


Memo to Fox’s Kevin Burkhardt: Stop the hollering. You’re too good for that. 


The only thing the Giants’ ownership and management must sacrifice in order to even reconsider Odell Beckham Jr. is their dignity. 


We lost comedian Freddie Roman this week at age 85. Freddie was a soft touch, especially at sports-related fundraisers. He’d gladly do 20 minutes of great stuff, his treat. Making people laugh was not just his job and gift, it was his pleasure. 



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Tyler Cowan