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Stormy night on airwaves

Monday, August 15, 2005

Take heart, Cleveland Browns fans. The product on the field is no longer the most embarrassing part of the organization.
That honor now goes to the 2005 preseason broadcast production team.
And it may be a lifetime honor that is never surrendered.
Anyone who saw just five minutes of Saturday's disastrous telecast of the Browns/New York Giants game from stormy Cleveland Browns Stadium knows what I'm talking about. (The lucky ones were the fans in the stadium dodging thunderbolts who didn't have to hear and watch such an amateurish production).
The production was horrendous, from uninformed announcers and sideline reporters to the technical background chatter most professional broadcasts eliminate.
The most hilarious five minutes came at half-time when they showed the field with no one talking. The suspicion here is that WOIO took a newsbreak and Youngstown's WYTV Channel 33 was caught offguard and didn't have a news report prepared.
So they showed the stadium.
For about five minutes.
Credit Lernerfor this mess
The blame starts with Browns owner Randy Lerner and whoever on his staff gave the green light to Cleveland's CBS affiliate WOIO Channel 19 to produce such a mess.
Let's start with the sideline crew. Brian Duffy was fine -- his reports during that thunderstorm that delayed the game for about 75 minutes were concise and informative.
Chuck Galeti, the former WFMJ Channel 21 anchor, was better than he's been in previous Browns telecasts.
Remember when Don Henley wrote, "I just have to look good, I don't have to be clear" in his song "Dirty Laundry?" Sideline reporter Sharon Reed is living proof.
Sideline reports advised viewers about the NFL's half-hour rule where 30 minutes must pass after lightning is spotted before players can return to the field.
Oops. That's the Ohio High School Athletic Association's rule. The NFL rule, as we later discovered, is that players can return once lightning has stopped for 10 minutes.
What was most disturbing about Galeti and Reed were their wardrobes -- straight out of the Browns team shops. Does working on a Browns preseason telecast mean you must surrender your journalistic objectivity?
It appears so.
Galeti even feels he's part of the NFL team, the way he kept referring to the Browns as "we."
Turn out the lights,the party's over
And then there were the words from the announcing booth.
In years past, the Browns have hired the likes of Jim Donovan (the team's radio play-by-play announcer who once did the same for NBC) and Don Criqui (another NBC veteran) to call play-by play.
Not this year.
Someone in the Browns organization or at WOIO decided to go with two former Browns to call the game, none with play-by-play experience, plus a guest analyst (again, another former player).
Saturday's guest was former Browns wide receiver Reggie Rucker, who once lied to his NBC audience by sharing a "dinner conversation" he had the night before with a player.
This season's other guests will be Paul Warfield (this Saturday when the Browns play at Detroit), Jim Brown (Aug. 26 against the Carolina Panthers) and Boardman's Bernie Kosar (Sept. 1 at Chicago).
This preseason, the analyst is another former Browns wide receiver, Brian Brennan, who is actually pretty decent. It was obvious he had done some homework and preparation.
The problem? Former Browns nose tackle Bob Golic making his debut as a play-by-play announcer.
It's not that Golic doesn't have broadcasting experience -- he's part of a weekday radio show that ESPN affiliates broadcast. The problem is that Golic doesn't know the first thing about being a play-by-play announcer.
And doesn't appear to care. He's too busy hosting a party.
Most play-by-play announcers will take a routine running play for 5 yards and describe it like: "Dilfer ... hands off to Green ... he goes through the line and is brought down after a 5 yard pickup."
Golic's take on the same type of play: moments of silence punctuated by "Wow."
Sometimes he identifies players by their number (we can see it's 21 with the ball -- who is he, Bob?)
Utterly embarrassing.
Several times in the penalty-filled first half, Golic complained that it's hard to see anything from this position.
Really. How come ABC's Al Michaels, FOX's Joe Buck, CBS' Dick Enberg and ESPN's Mike Patrick don't have such trouble.
Actually, the guy to blame in this fiasco might be Butch Davis, whom Lerner is paying $12 million not to coach his team the next three seasons. Lerner must not have any money left for a quality production team.
Just as Myron Cope was a broadcasting icon in Pittsburgh whose appeal was lost on many listeners outside of Allegheny County, it's possible that Golic, Rucker, Reed and Galeti are worshipped in Cuyahoga County.
If so, their charm stops at the county line.
And this time it's the Cleveland Browns organization with egg on its collective face.
XTom Williams is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write him at