A Football Sampler

*I was reminded early on why I don’t watch Monday Night Football when the Bucs aren’t on it, which is almost never. Last week’s Bucs-Carolina Panthers game – and its continuity – became subordinate to NASCAR talk for a lengthy stretch in the first half. That’s when race-car driver Jeff Gordon joined everybody else in the ESPN booth for too long. It’s part of ESPN’s show-biz outreach shtick. Thanks for nothing, including Joe Theismann sharing his experience – complete with video footage — of driving a race car.

Too bad such irrelevant intrusions can’t be confined to halftime – but that, or course, would run afoul of the insightful world of Michael Irvin and friends.

*Anyone else of the opinion that football referees increasingly need to be reminded of a basic rule of thumb: Some of the best calls are no-calls. If it’s that close – notably pass interference or a punt-return clip – then don’t call it. Let the players determine outcomes.

*For a while, player celebrations – especially group choreography – was way out of hand, unless you were among those who liked cheap, lounge-act theatrics with your football. What’s now getting out of hand, however, are the penalties being called for same. They give arbitrariness a bad name.

The best way to deal with the sophomoric, look-at-me antics? A crackdown in high school by coaches who must underscore that winning and playing with some class is not some old-school incongruity. Nobody knows the difference between enthusiasm and showing off better than coaches. Then continue that discipline at the university level. And then get the networks on board so that cameras don’t linger on swaggering boors who can’t control themselves.

*Gov.-elect Charlie Crist got some voice time on the telecast of that infamous Florida State-Wake Forest game. That’s because the FSU alum also attended WFU and actually walked on as a quarterback. It was also because that woeful game actually needed some kind of diversion.

ABC play-by-play announcer Brent Musberger eventually piped in with some trivia, saying Crist is known for being wonkish about school mascots and nicknames. Whereupon color analyst Bob Davie inquired: “So, what’s the nickname for Youngstown State?” Crist didn’t know, but faster than you can say “the people’s governor,” he unflappably (and correctly) offered up the “Rockets” as the nickname for another Ohio school, the University of Toledo. Close enough.

Youngstown, of course, is the “Penguins.”

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