By Pat Imig
Cold, Hard Football Facts beauty school dropout
When it comes to the novelty of Harvard football players, the pigskin "pundits" and talking heads can't help themselves. It's the unwritten law of the football broadcast land: whenever a Harvard alum is involved in a play during an NFL game, the broadcaster must make pained, awkward efforts to mention the player's alma mater.
Now, we love the fact that Harvard is largely responsible for the invention of what we know now as football. We love their contributions to the game. And we realize they were a highly competitive top-tier team right up through the 1960s.
He'll, we'd even like to see the Crimson take the field one day in their awesome 1892 throwback unis.
But we don't understand the obsession the "pundits" have with obsessing over Harvard every time one of its alums makes a play in the NFL, often with the same tired old jokes.
During CBS's broadcast of the Chiefs-Raiders game Sunday, Kevin Harlan provided a great example when Oakland defensive tackle Desmond Bryant was called for an offsides penalty: "That's Desmond Bryant one of the few Harvard players in the NFL."
Harlan's broadcast partner Solomon Wilcotts seized the opportunity for a wide open joke: "He's one of the smart guys!"
That's great guys.
The Harvard prototype for the season, though, has been Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Terry Bradshaw knows this too, that's why he seamlessly flips this fact during halftime highlights on Fox: "The kid out of Harvard having a good year!"
And thus we begin the Fitzpatrick from Harvard Merry-Go-Round. The pundits can use it in a variety of ways.
You can use it as a light jab at the quality of Harvard football, for example:
Matt Trowbridge, Rockford Register Star: "No one brags about how hard or far Ryan Fitzpatrick can throw a football. That isn't why the former seventh-round draft pick from Harvard is the NFL's ninth-ranked passer."
You can also incorporate Fitzpatrick's Harvard brain as a reason he learned Mike Martz's offense in his rookie season:
Michael C. Wright, ESPN.com: "A sixth-year NFL veteran backed by a Harvard education, Fitzpatrick played a year for Martz at St. Louis, which originally selected him in 2005 as a seventh-round pick."
Hell, just drop it in even when the subject of your thought is the Bears defense:
Gene Chamberlain, Chicago Daily Herald: "Bears coach Lovie Smith admitted his defense was reeling at the time. They gave up 299 yards passing to Fitzpatrick, the third highest total of the Harvard product's career, and allowed 10 third-down conversions in 16 attempts (63 percent) by far their worst effort of the year."
You can also use the Harvard diploma to prove that Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't that smart:
Thomas Emerick, AOL Fanhouse: "His Harvard education booksmarts didn't quite teach him that it's usually not worth the risk to take on Ray Lewis in the open field, like he did twice on Sunday."
And finally, you can bring up the fact to prime the audience for an unfunny joke:
Sean Brennan of the NY Daily News: "Fitzpatrick's second pick came on the Bills' final drive and the dream of victory was dead for another week. Two killer fourth-quarter picks? For Harvard guy Fitzpatrick, that's so community college."
As the principal of pigskin, we hereby announce we will start fining pundits across the country thousands of dollars for excessive Harvard references.
WHEN PUNDITS INVENT NEW TERMS
There are only so many ways to describe a football game. So when veteran announcers strive to be original, we get the following from CBS' Dan Dierdorf:
"Why do footballs just fly to Ed Reed? This guy is a BALL MAGNET!"
Lest he use the use term ball hawk, Dan Dierdorf earns points for creativity and originality.
NBC's Al Michaels debuted his own creation with a new way to describe DeMarcus Ware and Clay Matthews: "Two of the premiere sack-meisters in the league."
Al Michaels, who is one of the top talk-meisters in the league, thought that phrase was totally hip and cool.
CURT MENEFEE FOR MAINSTREAM SPORTS FAN OF THE YEAR
Every week on Fox NFL Sunday, one of the talking heads rants during the Burger King "Fired Up" segment. What could be more forced than manufactured, flame-broiled analysis?
At the conclusion of the Week 9 pre-game show, Curt Menefee got to roast two head coaches who deserve it, and in the process, won over Pigskin Detention. Hey, sometimes it's good to let the unbiased, lead dog show a little opinion and personality.
Here's what Curt had to say:
"Among the five us sitting on this panel we have a combined eight Super Bowl Rings; needless to say I didn't win any of them. I never played nor coached in the National Football League, but I have been a lifelong fan.
"And speaking as a fan, one thing I know is that we hate to be taken as idiots. That's exactly what Mike Shanahan and Brad Childress took us all for this week with Shanahan's three different excuses in three days and Childress saying at a press conference that all was good with Randy Moss 15 minutes before telling his team he cut him. Either they thought we were idiots or were intentionally deceiving us as part of a cover up or worse yet, both.
"History is littered with examples of how the cover-up causes more trouble than the deed itself ... Don't treat us like idiots. No matter how you try to spin it, fans know better. Both those guys should too."
If only the annoying and overbearing mainstream pundits would follow in Menefee's path and stop treating the audience like morons. Then we'd be on to something.
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